Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Inner Artist

A new creative side has woken up in my son. Its arrival was heralded by a two hour tantrum, but all genius is born through pain and it was my eardrums that had to suffer.
He wanted the crayons and I couldn't tell what he meant, as his only was of communicating with me was to shout "Da! Da!" and point roughly to where the crayons were, at the back of the detritus on my sewing table. I hadn't let him play with them for a while as he'd not shown a lot of interest, had struggled to get them to make any sort of mark on the paper and had been more interested in trying to colour in the carpet. We've got a buyer for this house now (wehey, woo-hoo let's have a party) and the last thing we want is for them to change their minds because the the carpet has developed large purple marks.
Grandma has been letting him have a go with colouring pencils while she looks after him during my one working day of the week. It's obviously made an impression, but you have to watch him like a hawk or he draws on the walls. At least ordinary HB pencil can be rubbed off.
Now, at least, he's big enough to sit at the table. When we bought our nice Ikea table I also bought some plastic coated fabric and made a table protector to go under the table cloth, lest one of us should happen to be enjoying a nice glass of port and lemon and accidentally spill it on the table in a humorous middle class manner and the top of the table is ruined for ever.
The great thing about it is that it is wipe clean, even from the waxy lines left from large Crayola crayons. The best thing about crayons is that they're much softer than pencils and if he gets a bit carried away then it's the crayon that gives way and not the surface of the table.
So far all his works have been something akin to post-modern impressionism with a touch of post-pointilly abstraction (I studied some art history at college, not by choice). There's a great deal of energy in his work, perhaps showing the inner frustrations of what it's like to be a toddler.
At the moment all his work begins the same way.
A piece of plain paper is presented to him and he carefully selects a crayon. He looks up at me, looks at the paper, looks up at me again and smiles. Then he whispers his favourite phrase - "Go vroom!" and looks at the paper again. His left hand, clutching his crayon, slowly touches the paper and he draws -
A small ovoid shape object. It is carefully and gently done.
He looks up at me and points to the shape - "Voom." he states. Then he draws another one.
After that it gets trickier. A line is drawn on the paper, sometimes connecting the two bean-like objects, sometimes more random. Either way, he usually states "Car!" looking proudly up at me.
At this point it can go two ways. He gets bored and runs away or he selects another crayon and decided to express himself a little more energetically. Now we see bright swathes of colour appearing in big swiping motions across the page. It's now I'm glad of the plastic fabric as he's never totally sure where the paper stops and starts.
Eventually he has had enough. The paper is presented to me, sometimes still flat, sometimes crumpled. Perhaps he has a touch of the artists self-loathing and wants to destroy his work if he feels it's not up to scratch. Either that or he just likes the scrunchy noise.
Anyway, my fridge is starting to groan under the weight of accumulated paper.
By the way, if any of the brands mentioned in this blog would like to send me stuff then :-)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Last Day of Summer

Summer is now on the way out, indeed it has turned off the lights and left the building.
This weekend we were predicted a sunny Saturday. Going by the forecast for the rest of the week it was going to be the last time we'd have a sunny dry day for a long time and probably the last time the temperature would be right side of 20, or even in double figures for that matter.
If life gives you a sunny day - go to the beach!
To be frank, I'd spend the day in Weymouth even if it was tipping it down. I have spent a wet day in Weymouth, but it is nicer when it's warm and dry. It was a good day to pick, with the schools back it wasn't as busy as peak times and as it's the wrong end of September there's enough of a chill breeze coming from the sea that people keep their clothes on. Nothing spoils a nice day at the beach more than sharing it with people who seem to think that the whole world wants to see their blubber.
First stop lunch and the best fish and chips you'll find. The restaurant is called King Edwards, it's on the sea front right opposite the ornate clock tower. I don't know how they do it, but the fish is so very, very good. I like a fillet of plaice, but so many places over cook it and you end up with something that has the consistency of wet tissue and all the flavour. Not here, here they get it right on that nice balance, not underdone but still nice and moist in the middle so all the flavour is still there.
Joseph ate what I can only describe as a mountain of chips and followed it up with some ice cream. He wasn't so keen on the fish, but he'll learn. Eventually, I hope. He showed his appreciation by producing the nastiest nappy I have ever seen and King Edwards, though good with the food, have a lot to be desired for nappy changing facilities. You can either precariously balance your unhappy toddler on the narrow shelf by the sinks or lay the mat on the floor, as long as you don't mind that the only space to do it is right by the inward opening door to the toilet. Either way, injuries are a risk.
We spent quite a long time sat on the beach. Andy spent quite a lot of time putting up our wind break and Joseph went to have a good look at the sea. He was happy to stand getting his toes damp, he found the waves rushing up to him quite funny. We put him in his swimming nappy and Andy took him for a proper dip, but both soon concluded that it was really too cold and much more fun was to be had by building sandcastles and trying to bury a toddlers legs in the sand. Joseph found this very funny.
We took a walk along the beach and Joseph spotted some furry four legged animals that looked like fun. A few minutes later and three pounds lighter in the pocket I was walking up the beach behind Joseph as he had his first donkey ride. He loved it, he spent most of the time hanging on with one hand with a massive grin on his face. The donkey didn't seem to mind.
Alas time was getting on and with a two hour drive ahead of us we went home, but not before stopping to have a special hot chocolate which is like a normal hot chocolate except it has spray cream, marshmallows and a flake. Joseph ate quite a lot of flake.
When we got home we scraped as much sand off as we could and put the little lad to bed. All that fun really takes it out of you.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Toddlers and Viruses

I took Joseph to toddler play group for the first time last week.
You know things are off to a shaky start when the first thing that happens is that a woman who I'm pretty sure I've never met before says "Is he yours?" in quite a shocked tone as I walk through the door. Not "Is that your little boy?" or "I didn't know you'd had a little one, how old is he?" but a shocked sentence with the stress on the worst two words, giving me the impression that the idea of me having a child is somehow shocking and a bit wrong.
I could have replied "Well no, but you need a toddler to come in here so I just grabbed one wandering around outside." but my brain wasn't coping too well and I simply said "Yes?" with such a puzzled tone in my voice that she replied "Oh well, it's a while since I've seen you."
I still don't know who they are! I've been twice now and I don't know why she thought she knew me, she's not spoken to me since.
Joseph found the push along cars and got in one and wouldn't get out. He remained in the car for the best part of an hour, only wanting to come out to try a different car. When it was drink and biscuit time I took him out to join in and the mother of all tantrums kicked off. I thought he'd be happy with a snack, but he waited until I'd got myself a cup of tea and a piece of cake to manage before really kicking off. You can't handle a stroppy toddler when you've got a hot beverage in one hand. I tried balancing my cake plate on the mug and dealing with him with one hand, but it was no use. Back in the car he went and he did not stir.
I have to confess to feeling a little wobbly at this point. I crouched down by the car, sipping my tea and utterly mortified by my sons terrible behaviour. He used to be so good in public, and now I feel like I'm being judged by every woman in the room as having the worst son in the world. Uh-oh panic attack.
Remember to breathe, it's not all that bad! Mortified I may be and a terror my son may be but there's no sense making it worse by totally freaking out in the middle of the room. Breathe! Drink the nice cup of tea... ah that's better. Right you young terror, it's time to tidy up and we're going home.
A few days later I went to bed and from the door to the bedroom I could hear a funny sound. It was as if someone had taken my cute little boy and replaced him with a grumpy rottwieler. The cot was full of snorts and growls.
This means three things - Joseph has a head cold, he's going to be keeping us up all night for days on end and just when you think it can't get any worse I'll catch it.
Poor little mite, he was really snotty and uncomfortable and he had a cough that had me worried. The magic of calpol did help, but we were still regularly woken up and in the end we took it in turns to sleep downstairs on the sofa bed so only one of us was disrupted at a time. I went to work feeling quite spaced and high on caffeine, probably not making a lot of sense to anyone. Someone did have a go at me for not answering a summons to the tills. I don't remember hearing it, though I am told it was quite audible. I must have been zoned out at the time, probably as a result of lack of sleep.
He's on the mend now and well enough that I risked another attempt at the toddler group. There's no point letting anxiety get the better of me, for Josephs sake I must persevere and the cake's pretty good as well. I don't seem to have caught the cold in the end, although I've been a little sniffly. It must be the super-immunity I developed when I caught swine flu a few years ago. Don't laugh, it's a known scientific effect. I've caught a lot less colds since I had that.
He went straight for the car again. Here we go again, I decided. At least he hasn't worked out how to make it move about so I can sit down for a bit.
After half an hour he wanted to get out! He tried another car, got bored and started looking at other toys. I was shocked, but happy. He played with a toy farm, handed random toys to people he'd never met before and sat down quietly for a biscuit and a drink with the other children and he didn't even try and steal anyone elses biscuit which is usually his trick. I had a cup of tea and a nice piece of chocolate cake without any problems at all to disturb me. We tidied up, sang some songs and Joseph had a good run around and didn't want to leave.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Park

This has been a week of going to the park.
And why not? The weather is good and the schools have gone back so the childrens play area will not be over-run by school age children, many of whom are probably too old to be using the facilities anyway. I recently read a story about how a teenage girl had to be cut free from a toddler swing by the fire brigade. She was drunk, which probably explains it, but I did wonder if she'd be made to pay for a replacement swing for the little kids.
I'm struggling to get Joseph to like the swings. The very first go he had he seemed to like it. It was a snowy weekend back at the start of the year and Andy and I thought it would be fun to take him for a walk. We ended up at the play area and had a go on the swings and he seemed to love it.
I didn't take him again for a while, I wanted to wait for less inclement weather. When I did go, he hated the swings and cried when I pushed him.
I took him to the park on Wednesday and he hated the swings. He decided that he liked the slide though, as long as I climbed up with him and slid down with him. Eventually he slid down on his own, but I didn't like the idea of letting him run about on the top without adult supervision. It's one of this big multi-play gym things with a bridge, a climbing rope, a climbing wall and shallow steps to climb up. This means that there are a lot of places an unwary toddler could fall off, not to mention the slide itself which he liked, but needed help to use.
We had fun and we went home for lunch, before the sun got too strong it would burn. Joseph seems to be relatively sun-proof, but I go the colour of lobster thermidor very quickly if I don't wear the strongest suntan lotion you can buy. Ironically it's me slapping on the baby suncream and I hardly worry about Joseph. I do give him some cream as well, but he doesn't ever burn.
I went to the park on Friday as well. It was a nice day, I had done all my boring domestic jobs so we went. This time I spent a lot of the time stood at the top of the slide whilst Joseph climbed up the steps on his own, slid down the slide with me to help and then ran the long way round the equipment and climbed up again. I lost count of how many times he slid, but I did start to wonder about the state of the seat of his trousers! He still didn't like the swings, I had a couple of goes with him and on the last attempt he cried as soon as he realised we were walking towards them. Very odd, as this is a child who loves to be held by the ankles and swung round.
We went out on Saturday. We went to a local aircraft museum which Joseph loved - lots of engines to look at. In my opinion all it needed was an open cockpit for him to sit in. Having said that, if they had got one we'd probably never have managed to leave. He is a little boy who loves buttons and switches. We stopped for a snack and Joseph ate a large ring doughnut by sucking the icing off first and then eating the rest.
After that we went to a different park and Joseph showed his Daddy how to use the slide. I also noticed that he'd got the idea that you need to sit down before you slide and he was climbing up, sitting down and then waiting to be pushed.
We went to the park again this afternoon. I know, four times in one week! Still, there's a good chance we might be moving house quite soon so we might as well make the most of the good quality local facilities whilst they're still in walking distance.
Joseph excelled himself. He climbed up all on his own, sat down in front of the slide and then scooted himself forwards and slid without any help at all. Andy put him on the swing and got him to smile, even if Joseph wasn't fully enjoying it, at least he wasn't crying.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


I had thought that as Joseph is now a confident walker that there would be times when I could take him out without having to bother wrestling the buggy into the back of the car, wrestling it out again and then wrestling him into it. I do a lot of wrestling now, it seems to come with the territory. I have to wrestle him into his clothes and I have to pin him down on the floor to change his nappy sometimes. I've even had to wrestle him into his cot when he really doesn't want to go and this usually results in lots of cuddly toys being thrown on the floor and anything else within reach.
We popped out shopping at the weekend. We did not take the buggy.
We were looking for a pair of cycling shoes for Andy and some new cot bedding for Joseph. His current blankets are just too small to be of any practical use. It really did surprise me just how much places charge for a square of edged fleece that they call a childs blanket. I refused to pay that much and in the end we bought some fleece from a fabric shop and I will edge it myself.
The really big mistake we made was to go into Toys R Us. They do some baby stuff including bedding and they're not the most expensive place so it seemed a good idea. It really isn't when you've got a 21 month old who isn't restrained and a man who has a bit of a bad back. Joseph ran about and generally got under feet, which was bad enough, but then he found the aisle with the cars.
The proper toy cars, the ones that are big enough to get inside and play with the steering wheel. There were toy motorbikes and a toy tractor complete with trailer. Joseph loved all of these and really really really didn't want to stop playing with them.
Have you ever tried to extract a toddler from one of those cars when he really doesn't want to? We had to one before when we were at a garden centre and they had the kiddy trolleys that had the same plastic car shape underneath the basket. At least on that occasion we had been out in a quiet car park and not in the middle of a busy shop.
Joseph did not want to go. I could not keep hold of him and it looks pretty bad if you're walking along dragging a small screaming child along the floor by one arm. It also looks bad if you are holding a toddler having a tantrum under your arm like some sort of outsize clutch purse. That hadn't been intentional, but he just would keep wiggling and kicking. Andy managed to get him sat up on his shoulders which kept him a little more out of trouble, but didn't stop him crying and didn't do Andys back any good at all. Joseph kept trying to twist round and reach out to me, but I don't know why. When I'd been holding him he'd been very unhappy and I'd had the brunt of the kicking and flailing elbows.
We left quickly, vowing never to make the same mistake again. When I met Andy for lunch yesterday and we popped into a fabric shop I had the little terror safely tied down in his buggy. Andy made the mistake of letting him out and chaos briefly ensued until we wrestled him back into the buggy and got the straps done up. No, it's going to be a long while yet before I decide it's safe enough to go anywhere sans buggy, a long long while.