Tuesday, 20 November 2012

My little music man

I might have mentioned this to you already but the little man is completely dotty about music and musical instruments. Here is the extent of his obsession:
- He can name just about every instrument you throw at him from flute, bassoon (and even contra bassoons) to the more obscure sitar and balalaika
- When we drive somewhere I tune into Classic FM and he shouts out the names of the instruments he can hear from the back
- He likes to sing along to nursery rhymes replacing the words with names of instruments. Not easy fitting in "bagpipe" and "double bass" to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus
- I have had to buy a (rather chic) antique wicker hamper to store all his instruments in. I love it as he can lift the lid with ease and there is no danger of trapped fingers that you get from heavy wooden boxes. A ukelele, bells, drum and proper drumsticks (donated by his older cousin), recorder, harmonica etc all go in there at night to be fished out in the morning
- When he visits my parents the first place he heads to is the CD player (which they have had to replace once already) where he gets out a CD, puts it in the machines, plays a bit of it, then returns it neatly to the case before getting the next one out. DJ short pants we call him
- I have started a scrapbook where we cut out and stick in musical instruments. It is getting fuller by the day and is his most prized possession.
- His daddy has taught him all the names of the electric guitars - Flying V, Les Paul, Stratocaster, and the names of all the bits and bobs that are on them, like the tremelo arms and pickups (I am learning more everyday too)
- His favourite tunes at the moment are by Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel and, the top man, Bob Marley

So yes he is obessed with music. In the groups we go to, there is usually a bit of music making at the very end and he loves it but what he needs, I began to think, is a group that is all about the music. Which is where Jo Jingles steps in. And this morning, we went along to one of the local sessions.
He was unsure at first, asking to go home and loitering by the door, but as soon as the music kicked in he was off dancing around the floor. Out came castanets, scarves to wave about, streamers on sticks too, toy rabbits to sing to and other fantastic ideas (which I am nicking to add to my "what to do on a rainy day" list).
On the way home, he couldn't stop talking about it all. It was a hit and I promptly signed him up until the end of term. Thank you Jo Jingles. If you have a little music man, or lady, of your own, it is certainly worth checking out.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Hot tubs, lie-ins and a good book

November is great in our household as both the little man's parents have birthdays, two days apart, so we always make a bit of deal of it. Which is why I haven't posted for a while - I have been having too much fun!
We booked ourselves into a fabulous spa hotel in the New Forest, a short drive away from home so we could drop off our toddler with his doting grandparents knowing that if there was a to-do of any sorts, we wouldn't be too far away to come to the rescue.

Our mission for the weekend was:
- to sprawl about on pool loungers and read frivolous fiction
- spend so much time in the hot tub that we turn into wrinkled prunes
- eat our own body weight in naughty food and then manage to squeeze in a dessert too
- have a conversation with each other giving our full concentration without the usual little distraction pulling at our sleeves
- hold hands

Well, all I can say is mission accomplished. We drank fizz booze in our hotel room, got dressed up for dinner to a lovely, not-too-posh French bistro and even had time to mooch around the spa shop trying out the expensive creams infused with essential oils just because we could. Heaven it was.
But I did miss the little man. Annoying that. Before, we would not have had a care in the world booking into a luxury hotel for a spot of pampering but we did miss the small scrap of life that has followed us around since he was delivered into our arms two and a half years ago. It means long haul destinations are out really. Couldn't be apart from him for a week or two, however alluring the idea of a trip to the glistening sands of the Maldives might be. So for the time being, this will do us nicely. A one-night freshen up where we remember what it is like to be just the two of us, knowing that we will be three again very soon. Perfect.
Oh by the way, if this all sounds too tempting, we booked in to the lovely Careys Manor in Brockenhurst. If you are there in about three months time, you might very well bump into me and the other half in our robes, snoozing on the heated stone relaxation beds. Kindly do not disturb.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Postman Pat and guns? I don't think so

So I have just written an article for the parenting website Emma's Diary *shameless plug* about the dangers (and positives) of screen watching. By this I mean telly, laptops, games consoles. Research has shown that British children have regular access to an average five screens at home by the age of ten and that a child born today will have spent a full year watching the box by the time he or she reaches seven. 
The concern is, as you can imagine, that this could play havoc with our kiddies' attention spans, social skills etc. I reckon, everything in moderation. There's plenty of good, healthy educational stuff about that can enhance rather than detract and as long as any screen watching is kept to a limited period (as in not plonking your child in front of the TV all day while you paint your nails and surf the internet) and it is mixed in with other stimulating activities such as painting, puzzles, playgroups, music-making, then it all seems okay to me, nothing to worry about. 
Which means I don't feel too guilty admitting that watching YouTube has become a teeny bit of a favourite hobby of the little man's. I do keep a fairly tight rein on this, and the most exciting it gets is a particularly animated rendition of Jelly on a Plate. He also loves The Wheels on the Bus, all thirty versions of it, and he can't get enough of the Postman Pat episode someone has kindly uploaded where PC Selby learns to play the banjo so he can serenade Dr Gilbertson - very sweet those two although they never seem to get it together. The annoying ad at the start is admittedly something of a nuisance and I always skip over it as soon as I am allowed, however, the other day instead of the usual advertisement for curry sauce or Ikea, the screen was suddenly filled with buff men and women charging about firing guns, jumping off buildings and chucking explosives about. It was a high energy preview for an action film and clearly not suitable for a toddler to see so why was it attached to something as innocent as Pat? I quickly covered the screen with my hands to shield the little man until it was all over. 
It just shows you can't be too careful when it comes to the internet and what your children are accessing. I was reading an interesting post by fellow mummy blogger 3 Children and It discussing what age children should be allowed to start social networking. I find the whole thing rather scary and my little one is only two.  Heaven knows what sort of thing will be available to him when he hits those teenage years but until then I will be monitoring what he watches like a hawk - even if it is only Postman Pat.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

I'm sorry, just how much are those tiny shoes?!

I love the summer. Kids' shoes are so reasonable then. You can go into a shop, buy a pair of sandals and have enough change from a twenty for tea, lunch for two and icecreams all round. Not so in the winter. If you want decent footwear, in leather, you'll be lucky to get away with anything shy of fifty quid. And they are so small these pesky shoes - surely the smaller the size, the less it costs, no? No.
And they have you by the you-know-whats in the shop. Here is your precious little boy who you want the very best for. His tiny feet are newly formed and growing and need to be encased carefully, with room to breathe and expand, somewhere warm and watertight. You can't buy him any old cheap rip-off from Primark. Basically you need a pair of shoes that doesn't make you look like a bad parent, and that costs big bucks.
I was admiring another little girl's pink leather boots at playgroup this week and her mother admitted, in wincing tones, that they "cost a fortune". Turns out she didn't think to look at the pricetag until she got to the till when her daughter, pleased as punch, already had them on. "I don't spend that on my own shoes," she told me grimacing at the memory.
Another friend found the shoes she wanted for her two-year-old son but did a quick u-turn on finding out the cost, managing to back out of the shop empty handed while mumbling excuses about her husband having the family credit card. What tosh - her credit card was tucked safely in her wallet but she was going to need a quick lie down or a strong drink at the very least before she was going to wrack up such an enormous bill for such a teeny tiny pair of shoes.
It seems this kind of trauma is not a new thing for parents. My mum said she always found going shoe shopping something of an ordeal. She would go into the store with a perfectly normal child and leave with a freak of nature whose feet must never see the light of day for fear of scaring others. The shop assistant would take one look at me, take a sharp intake of breath and shake her head. "Your daughter has very wide feet at the front but very narrow heels at the back." In comparison to what? For the record, my feet are perfectly normal - what they didn't do was fit in with their company's idea of what a foot should be like, but who does? Goodness knows what my grandma did with my aunt, who has six toes on one foot. I know, six toes - how cool is that?
Anyway, I plucked up the courage to take the little man winter shoe shopping yesterday. He was very good while he had his feet measured, I found the perfect pair of navy leather shoes, steeled myself to spend the £42 it was going to cost to take them away, and they were out of stock. Typical.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Your child is about to get hurt - would you step in?

I have a question for you. When is it okay to step in and stop another child from hurting yours? Is it at the first sign of trouble? Or is it when you have given the other parent a decent enough chance to take control and you can stand it no longer? Or is it not at all?
I ask because I was faced with just such a dilemma last week at one of our regular playgroups. Actually, it was only after the event that I did any of the above soul searching because, as it turns out, when I saw the little man was about to be set upon, I got stuck in in a heartbeat. And it rather took me by surprise.
So here is what happened. I was watching the little man sitting happily on the floor beating out some notes on a xylophone. In fact, I was hovering close by as he had muscled in on the instrument while another boy was playing it and I was ready to intervene if there were any tears. Surprisingly the other boy had generously given up half his toy to my son and they were rather touchingly making music together. As I looked on, a third tiny fella came up behind the little man with a cymbal in each hand, raised them aloft and was in the process of crashing them down onto his head when, seeing what was about to happen, I threw myself forward and caught him by both arms.
It stopped the assault and the little man carried on making music with his new buddy completely oblivious to the danger I had just diverted but I was left a bit shocked. What would his mother think?
I immediately let go - I was in the middle of a large circle of other mums and dads and I dread to think what they thought - and my first reaction was to look for her. She was quickly on the scene (although being heavily pregnant she wasn't as quick as me) and far from being annoyed, she was actually relieved I had stepped in. Her son is a bit of tearaway at times and I could see she was tiring of chasing him around trying to head off disaster. In fact, she wished more parents would do the same. "I think they would let him run in front of a car rather than stop him" she told me.
While it felt right to stop my child from getting hurt, I did worry what others thought and I certainly wouldn't dream of disciplining anyone other than my own (besides a gentle, "it's nice to share" or, "perhaps wait until it's your turn" and even then I would do it in a whisper so no adults could hear).
So was I in the right? Would you do the same? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Bursting with happiness

Somtimes, having the little man is so brilliant I have to pinch myself. What a tiny joy giver he is. Last week, my parents visited in the afternoon and, as my lovely husband works from home, this meant that for those couple of hours, all my son's favourite people were in the same room. He loved it. In fact, by the end, he was dancing around in circles shouting "I'm so happy. I'm so happy". Isn't being a toddler great? To feel your emotions so vividly and express them so unapologetically. Perhaps I will take his lead and do the same next time I am feeling brimful with happiness - which is likely to be 6.30pm on Saturday when I collapse on the sofa with a glass of red wine ready to watch Strictly Come Dancing (okay, I will be recording it and putting the little man to bed at that time, but you get the sentiment). 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Getting to know you

I've been awarded a Liebster Blog Award by Meg at http://thelondonmama.blogspot.co.uk/. It's a great award that lets you find out a bit more about other bloggers you follow. Here’s how it works...

The rules are simple:
- post 5 random facts about yourself
- choose 5 other deserving blogs with less than 200 subscribers to nominate and link their blogs in your post.
- tell your nominees you have chosen them for this award by leaving a comment on their blogs
- answer the 5 questions the tagger has asked you and ask your own 5 questions to the people you nominate.
- no tag backs.

So, 5 random facts about me:

01. My favourite film is Jurassic Park. It’s the John Williams soundtrack that does it, plus the dinosaurs – those velociraptors scare the life out of me. Anything with Bruce Willis comes in a close second.
02. I play the violin and piano and am learning the ukulele. I would love to improvise jazz but I can’t shake off that classical training. I need to find my inner Oscar Peterson.
03. I write a regular interiors page for a magazine – I’m no interior designer but I do love talking paint and wallpapers.
04. I have got a fancy camera but not got around to reading the manual. I really want to take one of those pictures where a dew drop on a leaf is in clear focus and everything around it is fuzzy.
05. I lived in London for ten years which was great fun but quickly lost its appeal when a baby came on the scene. The three of us now live a 20-minute drive from the seaside.

Meg's Questions:

01. Of all your posts, which was your favourite to write?
I rather liked my post ‘I’m somebody’s mummy’ but more for the content than the enjoyment of writing it. I was talking about how delighted I was that, after a lot of ‘mamamama’ noises, the little man had finally said ‘mummy’. I was rather chuffed.

02. Have you ever met a blogger you follow in real life?
No, but I would love to. Reckon that would be lots of fun. Can’t see it happening though. Now if you all moved down south...

03. What's your favourite book - one for you and one for reading with your little one?
My favourite book is John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. The way he paints a picture with words is pretty impressive.  Not if I could write like him... My favourite book for the little man is Dogger by Shirley Hughes. It first came out the year I was born and it gives me that lovely warm feeling that comes with nostalgia sometimes. The message is lovely too.

04. What's your favourite blog, the one you read every post for and will skip reading others before you read this one?
I was rather addicted to Kelle Hampton’s blog, who is an American mum with a Down Syndrome daughter. She is an amazing writer and photographer but sometimes I have to have a break from reading her. She can be a little too perfect! Have a look: http://www.kellehampton.com/

05. Did you blog before you became a mother? and if so what was it about?
No, I only started blogging after the little man arrived on the scene, and I was rather reluctant to do it then. But I love flexing the creative muscles when I write, and I love the camaraderie between my fellow mummy bloggers. Everyone is so supportive.

My Questions:

01. Why did you start blogging? What do you get out of it?
02. What's your parenting style?
03. What is the best place in the world for you?
04. What has been your most exciting experience?
05. What has been your scariest moment as a mum?

The blogs I'm tagging:

It’s a bit time consuming but rather enjoyable!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

What to do on a rainy day?

Crikey, is it me or has autumn come around quickly? One week we were at the beach paddling happily in the shallows and applying Factor 50 as if our lives depended on it, and now here we are holed up at home with the rain trickling down the window panes while my beautiful hanging baskets take a right royal battering by the wind. I can see them now, two bright orange and yellow pendulums swinging about like a pair of Pat Butcher's earrings.
So here it is again, the conundrum of how to keep a toddler occupied when the sky is tumbling down outside. Thankfully, all our groups have started back after the summer so most weekday mornings are filled going to church halls or the local swimming pool, but what to do with the afternoons, or on a day with nothing in the diary?
Painting, stickers, playdough are the obvious choices. Activity Village www.activityvillage.co.uk is a wonderful resource for crafty ideas. Nursery rhymes and making music is good too. Baking flapjacks is great if my little helper is up for some serious oats and honey stirring and we love eating the fruits of our labour. Telly of course is an option, but always with the added guilt that there must be something more inspiring and educational we should be doing instead (although I am in the camp that TV can be both of these).
Playdates with other mums are ideal as you get to put the world to rights over a cuppa while your little ones learn to socialise and share toys (or not).
Soft play centres are an option although the hassle of driving to our closest one and knowing it will be chock-a-block always puts me off a bit (do any of you 30-somethings remember the kids' telly show Chock-A Block? Now that was perfect rainy day entertainment).
So there are my options and they've got to last all winter. Having written them down, the list seems pretty long although when one activity can only last ten minutes before his interest begins to wane, I need all the ideas I can get. Any other suggestions gratefully received. Now where's that cookie cutter?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The day I miscarried

Mother's Day, March 18th this year, was not a good day. I had been expecting to spend it with the little man and his daddy. A trip to the park perhaps, or lunch out. Instead while they were downstairs playing, I was upstairs having a miscarriage. On Mother's Day. As Alanis Morissette so eloquently put it, how ironic.
I had been bleeding for about a week before that and, concerned, we had arranged for an early scan. Looking back, I should have known the outcome before the technician gently told us. Without noticing, I had slowly stopped feeling pregnant. I love brocolli but can't stand even the smell of it when pregnant. I was eating it again, and the feelings of sickness had gone. But still it was a shock. I was coming up to nine weeks into the pregnancy and we were excited. I had even fished out some of my old maternity clothes.
Although it was early days, I had decided to tell family and friends our happy news and, despite now having to break it to them that things hadn't worked out, I knew my decision had been the right one. It was exactly as I had wanted it to be - I was going through this loss and I didn't want friends to ask how I was and have to reply with the usual "Oh fine" when I was anything but. I am not saying I was distraught - it was early, it happens to so many - but I was sad and disappointed. So very disappointed. And it helped being able to talk about it. I discovered I wasn't alone, by any means. Many revealed that they had been through the same, which was a comfort, especially as they had gone on to have more children.
And that is my main concern. We have a son. We love having a son and we want more like him. Having got so far only to have it taken away, the urge to be pregnant, to feel sick, to start hating my greens and to have the bump I was so looking forward to welcoming back again, is stronger than ever.
I was waiting to tell my story, hoping for the happy ending of a burgeoning belly to round it off nicely, but actually that isn't the point. The reason for sharing this isn't about future pregnancies but so that someone might read this who is going through the same thing and they will know that they are not alone. A fellow mummy blogger revealed a similar story and is now 30 weeks pregnant. That is the kind of shared story that lifts my spirits if they need lifting. I hope, one day, I can pass on the favour.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Resting mummys make ideal hiding places

I love the different phases toddlers go through. Where once Postman Pat was in his every thought and he simply couldn't get through the morning without his fix from Greendale, now Zingzillas are the big favourite (shame, I miss Pat). His love of books, once voracious and all-consuming, has dwindled too replaced with an obsession with music and musical instruments. Trumpets, bassoons, timpani, you name it, he knows it. My son can spend a good twenty minutes happily marching around playing a clothes peg like a tiny flute, loudly tooting away and holding it in the right position and everything.
The latest craze is hide and seek and I'm not talking the simple delights of peekaboo (which still gets a good laugh after all this time), this is full-on hiding objects, useful everyday objects, wherever he can snaffle them away.
After a day of play and with the little man tucked up in bed, probably dreaming about Zingzillas, I always carry out a fast and efficient sweep of the living room, clearing away kiddy things and transforming it into a grown ups-only haven for the evening. His daddy and I take great pleasure in heaving aside the footstool and reaching far under the sofa to see what treasures have been secreted away. If we want to turn on the telly, we don't reach over to the coffee table for the remote, we go on all fours and retrieve it from under the armchair.
Yesterday, while the little man was busy pretending to play the oboe with a plastic clip I usually use for keeping opened bags of nuts and whatnot fresh, I made the mistake of lying flat on the carpet next to him, just for a quick rest (these little ones can be tiring you know). Before I knew it, I felt a little hand gently pushing a rather hard and uncomfortable object in the small gap between my back and the floor. Pretty soon, I was providing a pretty effective hiding place for one plastic clip, a couple of small wooden shapes and the stereo remote control.
Since becoming a mum, I have been many things - an expert nappy changer, the only comfort for a grazed knee, a substitute horsey for riding around on, and now it seems I am the perfect hiding place. Serves me right for lying down on the job.
Must go, got a pile of wet washing that needs sorting. Now, where are all my clothes pegs?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Can you take a picnic to a restaurant?

I rarely take the little man clothes shopping. Like most men, he is not keen on retail therapy so it is usually best to go solo but last week I realised I hadn't bought any new underwear since said toddler arrived on the scene which is really rather enbarrassing, so to the shops we went. I presuaded my mum to come along for back up (she didn't need much arm twisting really, what with shopping and her grandson being her two most favourite things) and off we went the three of us on a mission to buy some pants.
After an hour of very satisfying credit card bashing - Marks & Spark's Per Una Perfect Fit Comfort bras and undies may not sound very sexy but turned out to be, like all the best marriages, the perfect combination of sexy and comfyness - we headed to their restuarant for a bowl of soup each and a cuppa.
As grandma queued, I got the little man set up in his high chair and started unwrapping his lunch. As I spread out all his favourites in front of him - cream cheese sandwich, avocado, grapes, smoothie - a large man in an M&S uniform plus apron and cap approached and told me that I couldn't bring food into the restaurant. I was completely stunned. It hadn't even occured to me that toddler food would be a no-no. I have been doing it since he was weaned and never batted an eyelid. I quickly explained the mini picnic in front of me was for my son not me, and pointed to my mum who was busy arranging bowls and pots of tea onto a tray. He wavered for a second, unsure of his ground, and I was just about to tell him I was going to feed my child and he could just try and stop me (the thought of snatching back the half eaten sandwich from his little hands would have been too much to bear) when he relented and moved on.
Now I can completely see his point of view - I had brought a lot of food for the little man and it must have looked at first glance like I might be about to happily start munching away with him, although I think it only takes a bit of common sense to work out what was really going on - and it did make me pose this question: at what age does it become unacceptable to bring food for your child into a restaurant? He is only two and to me that seems fine. By three, perhaps not? They did have kiddies' lunch packs which probably would have been fine for him but it is so much easier to bring along something I know he will tuck into and when I am out and about having a good time, I don't want the hassle of trying to tempt him to eat food he doesn't like or is unsure of.
Perhaps I will just have to keep doing it until I am finally chucked out of the restaurant in disgrace. Until then, happy picnicking.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hold your nose - it's nappy time

The other day, I was busy changing the little man after a particularly potent nappy, and chatting away to his daddy as I did so. Halfway through the conversation, I turned around briefly to emphasise a point and found him pressed up against the window, his face wedged awkwardly out of the open fan light through which he was taking in great lungfuls of fresh air.
I don't know how long he had been like that, or what the neighbours thought, but it was quite a sight. I asked him what exactly he was up to. Apparently, the fumes from his first born were just too much for my six foot two husband. In fact, he told me through watering eyes, he didn't know how I could do it. Funny thing was, the smell hadn't bothered me, not one bit. Never has in fact. And I am sure I am not alone.
I won't go so far as to say I find the odour pleasant - that just sounds a bit too weird, but it is certainly not unpleasant. Actually, I will confess that I like it. This is my son who I love dearly, and anything connected with him, even something as yucky as poo, is alright by me. I am not saying his daddy loves him any less because he has to stand three metres away when the nappy comes off. It just seems that Mother Nature, having given us ladies the ability to give birth and feed our babies, has also provided us with an inbuilt resistance to even the most stinkiest of situations. Which is lucky really considering the number of nappies that need changing every day.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Finally - a scooter for toddlers

It’s funny how trends come and go. When I was young, we all went about on bikes, with at least half a dozen marbles rattling around in our pockets. There was a brief period when the pogo ball was the only way to travel. Remember those? That nifty toy made up of a ball with a disc round the centre to stand on - once in position, you could bounce about all over the place, round the playground, all the way home and, if you were really skilled, up a flight of stairs.
Today, it’s the scooter. I should imagine, if you happened to be eight years old and without ownership of a scooter, your popularity would take a serious hit.
Having just turned two, I thought the little man might be a little young for this craze, then I spotted the Mini® Micro 3in1 Scooter. 

This clever little invention is aimed at one to five year olds and combines three toys – the traditional ride-on, the tiny first scooter and the classic Mini® Micro. Sheer genius? I was to find out as I was lucky enough to be sent one to review and here's the verdict...
How it works:
While it still has the bottom platform, the 3in1 comes with an add-on seat that can be height adjusted and clips securely onto the scooter handle. There is an O-bar handle ideal for little hands to cling onto which can be replaced with the T-bar for when they are taller and more confident. To increase stability and control, they have used a tilt-to-steer technology to make steering easier. Basically, if you lean towards the left, then it starts to magically float that way, far easier compared with the more traditional turn-to-steer of standard ride-ons or scooters.
The test run:
While the little man was not so sure of the seat (he avoids the trikes at playgroup), he loves pushing the scooter around and because it easily clicks on and off, I can take the seat away temporarily and put it back on after a few days for him to try again. The O-bar is the perfect height for him and he finds it easy to hold.
My friend was extremely envious when she saw it. She had bought a scooter for her daughter’s second birthday and it had proved far too big for her to use. As soon as she saw the 3in1, she immediately sat herself down on the seat and had great fun pushing herself around. 
The damage:
The 3in1 comes in at £74.95 which I think is good value considering it converts to a bigger scooter and will last for several years, and this brand is known for its durability and high quality. Better still, if the parts wear out, replacements can be ordered online with supporting YouTube repair videos to help with fitting.
Sound good to you? Go to http://www.micro-scooters.co.uk to find out more. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The battle begins

Yesterday Leo ran into the road.
The sun was shining and we were spending the morning in a beautiful park, picked especially as it only has one gate to get in and out - perfect for speedy toddlers. Still, before I knew it the little man had squeezed through the gap and was hot-footing it down the road. Thank goodness it was a quiet country road and there were no cars but the whole experience knocked me for six.
I ran to him (possibly at Olympic gold medal pace), told him off and carried him back to the park. The moment I set him down, he did a quick loop and started heading back to the gate. And here lies the problem. When it comes to discipline, I haven't got it sussed. That was why, mixed with nightmares of what might have happened if it hadn't been such a quiet road, I cried all the way home. I felt I had failed. All the other mums seemed to have control of their offspring - it was only mine running off without a backward glance.
I don't think I am a bad mother, it is just the terrible twos have taken me a bit by surprise. I thought the hardest part - interrupted sleeps, night feeds etc - was the hard bit and, having got through all that, I knew what I was doing. I realise now the learning curve is only just beginning.
So I spent that evening trawling the internet and was quietly soothed to discover that I am not alone. Far from it. There were hundreds of books and articles written by parents for parents advising the best way to get through this stage of parenting unscathed. I am devouring them as if my life depending on it.
To begin with I need a plan and it starts here. My aims:
- I will not be a walk over
- I will be listened to and respected
- I will be able to keep him safe
Now I just have to work out how to do it.

Monday, 23 July 2012

My son the budding organist

So we went to the wedding and I must say we all scrubbed up well.
I wore a hat which was a first. Bit awkward for kissing people hello but it gave my outfit that extra little something and that was what I wanted. The little man's daddy looked very fetching in a smart suit and tie and our son looked like an angel in suit, tie, waistcoat (with silky inside lining, buckles at the back and everything) and Doodle shoes with boats on that I had kept new for the day and took him about quarter of an hour to get muddy - perhaps not so much an angel.
This was our first wedding with a toddler in tow and as a consequence, I didn't see much of it. The last thing I wanted was our two-year-old loudly chatting about Postman Pat or announcing he was doing a poo and squirming with embarrassment as it echoed around the chapel while his auntie and uncle tried to make their vows sound above the noise, so we were able to see the bride's entrance and sing a hymn before it was time for a swift exit.
Our quick departure was not appreciated by the little man, who was really into the sound belting from the organ pipes and he kicked and screamed in the gardens outside, desperate to get back inside to hear it again. Which is why I must give a special mention to the lovely young organist who stayed behind after the service and let our son bash the keys and pull out the stops on his rather expensive instrument before playing one more piece especially for him.
The rest of the day was spent running around (not easy in heels) trying to keep him from getting lost or walking on the flower beds so unfortunately the only photos we managed to take were up in the organ loft. I know - not one of me in my posh hat. Tragedy.
But I LOVE this shot below and if I had to take one image from the day it would been this one. Sorry auntie and uncle but you have to admit, he looks cute. My grandpa played the organ and would have been so proud to see his great grandson in action. This one's for you grandpa. x

And here's one of my boys...

Monday, 9 July 2012

His first wedding outfit

On Saturday we are going to a wedding. The little man's uncle is getting married and the whole family will be there so I have got him the cutest outfit to wear on the day bought from Monsoon. I did well considering what there was to choose from. Most of the children's section was filled with beautiful outfits for pretty girls - silk dresses with big bows, tiny fur boleros and shiny bejewelled shoes for tiny feet. The boy's section in comparison was miniscule. Two rails if that. That's fine though as dressing up girls is a far more complicated business than dressing up boys (I know having seen the trouble I went through to get my dress/hat/bag/shoes sorted and then watching the 30 seconds it took my husband to pick out which shirt and tie he will wear from his wardrobe). But despite the small selection I found just what I was looking for.
In the shopping bag went: one shirt with smart button-up cuffs; one tie, plus discreet velcro fastening at the back; one snazzy waistcoat with shiny inner lining and buckle detail at the rear. The trousers were too stiff and starchy for him to spend a whole day in and at over £20, also too pricey but I found a lovely soft navy pair with elasticated waist from M&S that fit the bill perfectly.
I dressed him in the whole outfit when we got home and paraded him in front of his daddy. He looked adorable. In fact, he looked like he was ready for a hard day at the office. Now if I could find a little briefcase to match?...
Will post pictures of our smart little man after the big day.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Two and still having the bottle

You read a lot of advice when you are a parent. Want to know when he should be out of nappies or what toys are good for his age group? Pop the question into a search engine and you will quickly discover an endless source of tips from experts and parents telling you what to do.
Helpful as it is, I always think this sort of research should be taken with the bigger picture in mind. Yes, it might be that the general concensus dictates your two-year-old should have around 200 words in his vocabulary, but if he doesn't, putting yourself under pressure to conform to the norm is only going to have a bad outcome, for both of you.
Which is why the little man, having just hit his second birthday, is still having his milk from a bottle.
When he was 12 months, I did try giving him his milk from a sippy cup, having read this was the thing to do. While he happily drinks back the water this way, he would only take a few sips of milk before losing interest so I quickly reverted back to the bottle where he could polish off a good 240ml in five minutes flat.
The need for calcium outweighed the need to ditch the bottle and despite all advice telling me otherwise, we are happily carrying on as we are, and will do into the foreseeable future. Of course, I don't envisage him strolling round the playground still sucking from his beloved bottle, but I am confident that in time the transition will happen naturally.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Happy birthday my little man

Yesterday was the little man's birthday. Two years ago I was lying on a hospital bed, feeling a bit like I had been hit by a train, with this tiny scrap of life lying fast asleep next to me. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even think of changing his nappy until a midwife came along at 11pm, a good 15 hours after he arrived into the world, and asked me if I had yet. She offered to do it for me, that lovely angel of help, and I watched over her shoulder as she gently tore off the velcro strips and bathed him.
When it came to babies I really didn't have a clue, apart from what I had read. I had never changed a nappy before but it was reassuring to know I wasn't alone in that packed maternity ward. As I dozed in my bed recovering, I listened through the thin curtains as the new parents in the next cubicle engaged in high level talks on how best to change their tiny offspring's full nappy. Later on, as I shuffled to the nurse's desk in the early hours of the morning in search of painkillers, I passed by a midwife patiently showing a very young new mummy how to do the same. She must have been a good 15 years younger than me but, despite our differing life experience, we were the same. New mums and completely clueless.
Now I can change a nappy while the little man stands up, jigging about singing nursery rhymes to me. I know how to quickly distract him if he falls and begins to cry. If he isn't eating his dinner, I know the exact book to give him to read so I can shovel a few more mouthfuls in and make sure he doesn't go hungry.
Then again, at times I still feel as clueless as that first night in hospital. Like when he won't get in his pram and has a proper tantrum outside the shops. Or if he wakes in the night and he is still bouncing around wide eyed when all my tricks have been used up to coaxe him back to sleep.
I can imagine that the learning curve never straightens when it comes to being a parent - and who would want it to? I love this journey that I am on with my beautiful growing son. Neither of us have done this before and every day is an exciting new challenge with endless possibilities. And just think what I will be able to achieve when he reaches his third birthday, and his fourth. I can't wait. Happy birthday my lovely little man.

Monday, 11 June 2012

British with a capital B

There are many things that make us British - a love of sponge cakes, orderly queueing, our habit of apologising profusely in any situation however wrong the other person might be. And the weather of course.
Well on Sunday I don't think I could have got more British. It was our little town's annual folk festival and, being community-minded, I had wanted to venture out to show our support for the event and enjoy a spot of morris dancing while we were at it.
So despite the black clouds, we got our waterproofs on and set off. It didn't take long to find some dancers enthusiastically stripping the willow and waving hankies about. We valiantly watched, and enjoyed, some very exhuberant stick bashing and bell jangling but as the few light drops of water gradually turned into a persistent downpour, we could stand it no longer. Taking shelter in the next door cafe, we dried out while I tucked into a pot of tea and a toasted tea cake, the little man a hastily prepared homemade cream cheese sandwich and some healthy fruit snacks - no sponge cake for him, horrid mother that I am. It was only when I peered out through the steamed up window that I realised the morris men, far from giving up, were determinedly continuing to weave their merry way in and out of their set, each one holding aloft a bright red spotted umbrella like a small portable awning. Rain, teacakes and a good serving of stiff upper lip - a beautiful parody if ever there was one.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

My little joy giver

Of all the small daily developments the little man is showing us, my favourite one so far is the joy he gets from giving. It took a while to come but I love to see the flicker of quiet satisfaction that crosses his face and twitches at the edges of his mouth when he cuts out a playdough heart and ceremoniously offers it to his chosen recipient - daddy, grandpa, our friend Laura (much to her delight) and me when I am lucky.
We make a big fuss when he does and seeing our happy reaction he snatches up his cutter and busily starts work on his next gift. The more he does it, the more we praise - I want him to start giving and never stop his whole life.
Generosity, in my opinion, is one of the most attractive traits in a person. It is something his daddy has running through him, and if we can bring up our son to be one of life's givers rather than takers, I would consider my task as a mother done and done well - although if he also turns out to be tall and handsome, sporty, creative, good at public speaking, a whiz on the guitar and piano, financially stable with a dry sense of humour and always always holds the door open for others that would also be rather nice.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Poo is most definitely not a good replacement for playdough

The weather has been so beautiful recently and the little man and I have mostly been in the garden. I dusted off the paddling pool and he has spent many happy hours happily splashing about in the water, keeping cool and honing his pouring-liquid-from-one-vessel-to-another skills.
As he spends most of his days bundled up in a nappy, I decided this was the perfect opportunity for some toddler skinny dipping. It was lovely seeing him play, free from the constraints of undergarments although whenever he wandered bare-bottomed back into the house I couldn't help but tense up, fearing for our carpets and white sofa if an accident were to occur. When my nerves were unable to stand it any longer, I opted for a swim nappy.
The other day, he had been covered up like this for a good hour and, feeling guilty, I stripped him clear of all absorbent materials and sent him on his happy naked way. Before I knew it, he had run into the living room and proceeded to do an enormous poo on the carpet. I was close on his heels (but clearly not close enough) and  I picked up the little offender for a swift change upstairs (not before he had dropped another little present on the hallway tiles - always check to see if they have finished first before moving).
When I returned downstairs to clear up, I saw that somehow he had managed to push a good handful of poo into the bottom of a glass candle holder. That explained the grubby hands but how had he managed to get it so far down I wondered. Then I found the answer. We had been playing with playdough not long before and I had been showing him how to push it through a tube using a plunger. The little genius, on having deposited his goods onto the carpet, suddenly saw a whole fresh load of brown playdough and got to work as mummy had shown him.
I should imagine the panicked cry I emitted wasn't the reaction he had been after for all his hard work and now, with toddler and crime scene cleaned and disinfected, I am able to admire his ingenuity. Isn't it wonderful to be so free of constraints that you see everything as a potential source of play? More to the point, now he is preferring to do his do out of the nappy rather than in it, all the signs are there that potty training might be iminent, or I will be cleaning up poo from the carpets for months to come. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Our own little dawn chorus

The little man has always been a good sleeper. From six weeks old he had worked out that when it gets dark, the best place to be is in bed and often wouldn't stir before 8 the next morning (I can hear all you sleep-deprived parents grinding your teeth as I write this and I don't blame you - going without sleep is afterall a known form of torture in some countries).
So when he does wake up in the night, it is always a bit of a shock. It happened recently when our friends, who are trying to decide if they are ready to become parents, were visiting. They came down for breakfast the next day bleary-eyed and concluding they might delay any baby plans for a few more months at least.
And it happened again just last week. The first thing I noticed was a little voice in my dream saying "mummy, mummy" and gradually these croaky words began pulling me out of a blissful slumber and into the grim reality of a 3 o'clock wake-up call.
I stumbled into his room where, bright-eyed, my son stood singing to me. He was worryingly lively for such an early hour and no amount of warm milk and story-telling would persuade him to be otherwise. In the end I  broke all the rules and brought him into our bed.
While his daddy and I lay there, eyes closed and trying to sleep, he bounced about in between us having a wail of a time. We tried to ignore him, hoping sleep would eventually come, then clearly and with all the actions, he unleashed a perfect rendition of Wind The Bobbin Up all the way through. I have sung this to him pretty much from birth and he has never shown any signs of knowing the words let alone the accompanying moves. It was truly beautiful.
We might have suffered for it the next day but there wasn't anywhere else I would rather have been than lying awake at four in the morning listening to our clever little songbird. I just wonder what else he has been up to when we have been fast asleep next door.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Peace at last in the kitchen thanks to our lovely FunPod

I first came across the Little Helper FunPod at a friend’s house when my son was still just a bump. I thought then what a good idea it was and now, with a lively toddler running around my feet all day, it seems an even better one. So I was delighted when the lovely Kim, who came up with the idea, agreed to send one over for me to test drive.
Picture this. You are trying to make the dinner. Pots of boiling water are bubbling on the cooker, sharp knives are on the worktops and your little bundle of joy is hanging from your legs wanting to come up and see what all the excitement is about. Well that was me every mealtime – attempting to keep him safe and get the food on the table while feeling guilty the whole time that I was ignoring his attempts for attention.
And then the FunPod arrived.  I hate to sound like a PR machine but this thing is truly fantastic. I love it and so does the little man. The idea is simple. The pod is basically a solid wooden box with four feet at the bottom and a removable foot plate that slots into place and adjusts according to your child’s height.  The moment we finished putting it together I popped him in, pushed him up to the worktop and he stood there next to me, happily messing about with some playdough and watching me as I made his dinner.  The next day, he rushed into the kitchen, saying “FunPod, FunPod” and pushed it across the floor to where he wanted to go.
We have used it every day since. I have him with me stacking plastic cups, stirring bowls with my wooden spoons, or his favourite, transferring handfuls of teabags from the packet into a mug and pretending to make a cup of tea (we drink a lot of tea in our house). It has even become his little den. He sits down at the bottom, playing with a toy or hiding from us, emerging with a big grin and shouting “Peepo”.
It comes in a variety of finishes – white, black, red, buttermilk, maple, natural wood – basically something to suit all decors. Ours is walnut accessorised with Postman Pat stickers. Very fetching.
Here are the downsides. You do need the room in the kitchen. It is a sturdy piece of furniture – it has to be to stop it tipping over. It is fairly heavy although my 22-month-old has no trouble pushing it across the kitchen tiles, and it isn’t cheap. They come in at £112.99 on the Little Helper website (www.littlehelper.co.uk) although you can get it for less elsewhere. It might sound a lot for what is effectively a wooden box but it is well made, safe and it works. Kim and Sean Johnson came up with the idea seven years ago to keep their daughter safe in the kitchen and now their little invention can be found in homes across four continents. There is a reason why some things take off and some don’t, and this thoroughly deserves the success it is enjoying. 

Help with the washing up at last

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Young love

I have always found it rather amusing how babies and toddlers can be playing right next to, or even on top of each other but remain completely focused on what they are doing as if no-one else is there.
The little man has always been independent this way, showing no interest in interacting with children his age (he is mildly interested in older children but not much) and keeping them all at arm's length, quite literally. If one comes too near, he will hold out his hand full stretch to ensure they don't come any closer. That is until Lucy came along.
Lucy is two weeks younger and I have been firm friends with her mummy since we met weighing our little babies at the local community centre. It has taken a while for the love to blossom between them, although as the lady in the relationship, Lucy has always taken the lead showing her affection.
It began with her following him around, shouting his name and trying to feed him breadsticks. It was very sweet to watch as she tried to look after him, like a proper little wife. He wasn't keen for the attention but, lured by the promise of food, he tolerated her efforts at domesticity. Lucy has always been a quick learner and clearly she had already clocked that the quickest way to a man is through his stomach.
Then the little man began talking about her, even given her a cute nickname - Lucy-Lou. He would call it out when we were visiting somewhere we had previously been with Lucy and her mummy, and say it as we got close to their house.
So the other day, we took them on their first proper date - to the sealife centre at Weymouth. While they spent most of the time running up and down the small grass hills, and a disappointing amount of time looking at the wildlife we had paid to see, they were simply happy in each other's company. They danced to the music in the cafe, stood side by side to watch the penguins being fed, and the little man didn't even mind the occasional cuddle with his Lucy-Lou.
She just needs to bake him a cupcake or two and he is all hers.

Bonding over penguin feeding time

Dancing together at the cafe

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

DIY playdough

Wasn't the weather on Sunday horrid? The rain and wind was so strong our green plastic bin was hurled about the garden. I watched its unhappy course with fascination from the safety of our living room, happy to be inside. That said, being shut away does have its downsides, especially with an energetic toddler displaying all the early signs of cabin fever. Books read, puzzles done, Postman Pat watched and I was running out of ideas - so I decided to make some playdough.
The little man loves playdough - so much so that you have to spell out the word rather than say it otherwise he tends to get into an excited stupour before you have all the bits and pieces ready, and you end up getting all the bits and pieces ready with him following you around wingeing and trying to climb up your leg.
I realise I might sound a bit smug telling you I do DIY playdough but smugness didn't come into it - if anything it was sheer laziness.
I had two options that day - brave the elements and bundle a disgruntled almost two-year-old into the car to drive to the shops for some, or google how to make playdough and have a go myself. The latter sounded less wet with fewer tantrums.
And I am so glad I did. It was EASY. Everyone should do it. I found a recipe, bunged all the ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat, stirred for a few minutes and there I had it - an enormous ball of playdough, ready for some serious shape cutting. Far too much in fact. I gave some away the next day to a grateful fellow mum down the road.
The end product of my endeavours was beautifully soft and worked a treat, entertaining the little man for a good chunk of the day. And after he had finished, I popped the playdough into a tupperware box and shoved it in the fridge for next time. Job done.
If you haven't discovered the joys of making playdough yet, here is the recipe I used, and it was brilliant. Happy cooking.

3 cups flour
1.5 cups salt
6 teaspoons cream of tartar (yes, I did have some in the cupboard - they are well stocked)
3 tablespoons oil
3 cups water
Colouring as required

Stir play dough continuously over a low heat until mixture leaves the sides of the pan.