Growing Up – Right Now!

A child running.We recently returned from a lovely holiday in France. Well, France was lovely but at times it didn’t feel much like a holiday. Our 2 year old seemed to use our break away as the opportunity to go through a huge emotional and physical growth spurt. So how much can one small(ish) child change in two weeks? Rather a lot, it turns out.

E was 2 in April and since then he’s become more and more independent. He wants to walk everywhere now and one of his favourite phrases is ‘I do it myself’, uttered with steely determination. He’s also very tall for his age which means we often find when we go out that highchairs are too small for him so we’ve bought one of those portable booster seats that folds down into a bag (Here’s one just like it)

Our gite in France didn’t have a high chair so we started using the booster seat right from our very first meal. I have to say it was so lovely having him sat properly at the table with us, rather than perched at the end like an after thought. Whenever we went out restaurants and cafes provided booster seats or even just extra cushions for E to sit at the table with us. I’ll never understand the misconception that the French are rude!

Goodbye Old Friend

After a few days I knew that this was it, no more high chair. Our faithful functional IKEA friend back home in the UK would not be used again – there’s no way E would go back into a highchair now. It felt like a momentous step, he was growing up into a big boy and leaving my little baby behind.

So Mr C and I accepted (and welcomed) E moving out of the high chair and we all enjoyed his new found freedom. However, while we were busy congratulating ourselves something else happened. Three nights and three naps into the holiday E climbed out of his (newly purchased and extra long) travel cot. Everytime I put him back in he would climb straight out and run riot around the bedroom! This was not part of the plan. There were no stair gates in the gite and right outside the boys’ bedroom door was a steep wooden staircase – perfectly placed for our little adventurer to take a nasty, midnight tumble.

We had to have a rapid rethink of our sleeping arrangements in order to keep E safe. We put a mattress on the floor and then each night stayed with him until he fell asleep. (Oh yes, all our hard work spent teaching E to fall asleep on his own was thrown straight out of the window!) If I left him while he was awake he’d turn all the lights on and start jumping on the bed! Once he eventually fell asleep I’d blockade the door with the now useless travel cot. Big brother L was moved into our bedroom with Mr C and I slept with E, in case he decided to go for a wander in the middle of the night. As you can imagine, any plans for romantic evenings once the boys were in bed rapidly vanished and early morning wake ups were inevitable.

Giant Leaps

E might have been ready to move from a cot to a bed but I was most certainly not! I’d hoped to be able to prepare for it and decide when was the right time (not in the middle of our holiday!) but the decision was taken firmly out of my hands. If you know me then you’ll know I’m a planner and like to organise everything. I was completely out of my comfort zone (Read a bit more about me here)

So, we went on holiday with a toddler who slept in a cot, used a high chair and could still be persuaded to get into his pushchair. I’m not sure if it was the lovely French air but we returned home with a ‘big boy’ whose resemblance to a baby diminishes everyday. During those two weeks you could almost see him growing and changing; it’s as if because we were somewhere different he wanted to embrace all these new experiences. In some ways it has made things much easier. When we go out now we just need a table for four.  There’s no need for a high chair, no extra space required to squeeze the pushchair in (he completely refuses to get into the pushchair too) and much less paraphernalia for us to constantly lug around.

What Now?

We really just have nappies left. I was planning to start potty training when we get back from a trip to Scotland in October but it seems that E has other ideas. He has started asking to use the potty and is pretty much training himself. But I’m not ready, I’m not ready for him to grow up just yet. Perhaps it’s because I know he’s my last ‘baby ’ but I can’t help wanting to hold onto these precious times. With every leap forward he makes, he needs me less and that is hard. I’ve spent the last 6 years devoting myself to the boys and looking after them the best I possibly can but as they get older and more independent they will start needing me for different things.  I’m beginning to think about what I’ll do next; I’m thinking about the next stage in MY life.  But that’s a whole new blog post…

Check out some more of my toddler related posts:

Tears Again… Really?

Soft Play, No Place for Softies

Dinner Time Dramas

Our Favourite Read… ‘Tabby McTat’ by Julia Donaldson

McTat CoverIf you have young children and are not already familiar with the name Julia Donaldson then I’m sure it won’t be long before you are acquainted. The ever popular author of ‘The Gruffalo’ and the 2011–2013 Children’s Laureate claims more titles on our bookshelf at home than any other writer, including the great Enid Blyton.  Her books are poetic joys that enthral both adults and children alike.

 

Okay, perhaps I am being a little over enthusiastic! While most of her tales are truly fabulous, one or two do give me that dreadful sinking feeling.  You know the one, when your child reaches for the same book night after night and you simply can’t bear the thought of reading it again. (‘The Smartest Giant’ fills me with despair every time I see it!)

 

But I’m not talking about the books we don’t enjoy, I’m talking about our favourites and there is no doubt that Tabby McTat is the Julia Donaldson book of choice in our house. My five year old loved it for close on three years and still tries to peek over my shoulder when I’m reading it to my younger son.

 

Tabby McTat is a scruffy but tuneful moggy who belongs to Fred, the busker.  The two of them happily earn their living singing of ‘this and that’ as ‘people throw coins in the old checked hat’ in a busy city square.  One day an unfortunate incident separates Fred from Tabby McTat and the musical moggy is left heartbroken and homeless.  What follows is the tale of McTat finding himself a wife and a new family and indeed ‘plenty of things to do’ now he isn’t busking any more.  However, eventually he realises something is missing from his perfect new life and goes off in search of his old friend Fred.

 

The book always reminds me of the wily tom cats we had while I was growing up.  Goodness knows what adventures they got up to when they stayed out all night! If cats are part of your family then the story is all the more charming.

 

‘Tabby McTat’ is an engaging tale and is completely brought to life by the wonderful drawings of Axel Scheffler. Each page is full of the tiniest details and has so much to look at.  If my two year old begins to lose interest (it’s quite long for younger children) then the pictures help carry the story through to the end.  And, as ever, it’s fun to search for the hidden Gruffalo that Scheffler sneaks among the pages of so many of his and Donaldson’s collaborations. The illustrations also truly reflect a big city.  The people drawn in the story are from all walks of life, all ages and all backgrounds.  You can spend ages just looking at the pictures, which makes it a great way to introduce the book to younger children.

 

As an adult who has read ‘Tabby McTat’ countless times I really appreciate the beautiful rhyme and poetry Donaldson has become synonymous with and the book flows beautifully. It is as lovely to read as it is for children to listen to – and let’s face it, that is a huge bonus with children’s books!

 

So whether you’re already a fan of ‘The Gruffalo’ or haven’t yet ventured into Julia Donaldson’s lyrical, melodic world then I can strongly recommend ‘Tabby McTat’.  A charming story, beautifully illustrated and suitable from around two years upwards.  Now I just need to get those catchy rhymes out of my head!

Our Favourite Read…  ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen

BearHunt Cover‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ is currently having a bit of a renaissance in our house.  My oldest son is now 5 and a half and it was one of his favourite books until quite recently.  As with many of the toys that he’s outgrown, he’s handed down his ‘baby’ books (his words, not mine) to his younger brother.  This means I’m getting to revisit and enjoy some of the fabulous books I’d almost forgotten we have.

 

Over the last couple of weeks my (almost) 2 year old has started to sit still at bedtime for long enough to read a story together.  We’ve always looked at books before bed but as he’s getting older and his attention span is increasing we are beginning to be able to read longer, more detailed stories.  I must admit I love spending this time with him, introducing him to the joy of books and watching as he starts to develop his favourites.  So, what exactly is it about ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ that has him so engaged?

 

If you’ve never heard of it before then, as the title puts it so eloquently, it’s about a Dad taking his young children on the hunt for a bear.  Perhaps a bear hunt would not be the first topic you’d think of for a children’s book!  Fortunately I can reassure you that there’s not a weapon in sight and the story is all about their journey to find the bear, rather than a gory massacre.  On each page there is a beautiful repetition of phrases that my son enjoys hearing as much as I love saying. This helps to build a wonderful level of suspense as the family battles through squelchy mud, long grass, snowstorms and a dark forest until they are faced with a gloomy cave, the home of the bear himself.

 

The reveal of the huge bear with his shiny wet nose, big furry ears and goggly eyes seems to delight my son more and more each time we read.  As the family gets chased home by the bear the story and narrative speeds up as they frantically retrace their steps, until they are all safely home and hiding under the bed covers… Sensibly deciding never to go on a bear hunt again!

 

The illustrations complement the story perfectly and the bear manages to give the family a fright without looking menacing to young readers.  My little boy even feels sorry for the bear at the end of the story as he trudges back to his cave alone after an unsuccessful chase.

 

As I have found with many of the books that become firm favourites in our house, ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ wasn’t a story I fell in love with instantly.  It probably took a couple of reads to really feel the flow of the words and to appreciate how much fun it is.  My boys have both loved it and if you haven’t read it with your little one I would definitely recommend it for children from the age of 2 onwards.  You should be able to borrow it from most libraries or order it online (cheapest details below) if you prefer.  I hope your children (and you!) enjoy it as much as we do.

‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ retold by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

ISBN 978-0-7445-2323-2

Best current price: £2.99 from The Book People

 

Little Miss Organised

organised_woman_wellbeing

I would definitely consider myself an organised person.  I never forget birthdays or anniversaries, I pay all the bills on time, organise L’s school and social life (no mean feat!) and generally pride myself on keeping on top of things.  My secret?  The List.  In fact it’s lists – plural.  I’m a compulsive list maker and at any one time I have several on the go!

 

Since becoming a parent and particularly since L went to school, the amount of everyday things to get done has become down right ridiculous.  On top of the mundane tasks like billing paying, car insurance renewal, etc. which are faithfully recorded on my kitchen calendar (yes, I know in this day and age I should be using an organiser on my phone), now I have to deal with birthday parties (for the children of course), hot lunch menus and deadlines, outdoor days, trips, special lunches and events, fetes, assemblies and school association events.  It is a seemingly never ending list of things to remember.

 

So alongside my faithful calendar (an ‘on trend’ cute owl design this year) I make lists.  Lots and lots of lists.  Sometimes in the morning Mr C informs me that I’m sitting at the breakfast table reciting my list of ‘to-do’s.  I mutter away to myself about writing in L’s reading diary, filling his water bottle and cleaning shoes.  (Just how exciting does my morning sound?!)

 

For those slightly less immediate tasks I write a list and keep it by the kettle – a sensible place as I’m often hovering there!  Currently on the go I have a holiday list of things to do before we go away including organising travel insurance etc. and a general to-do list which includes blogging (I try to set aside time!), an NCT book review to write, upcoming birthdays and house related stuff. Here are a few examples of my recent scribblings…

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Mr C mentioned a couple of nights ago how much he was looking forward to our holiday and was surprised I wasn’t more excited.  Believe me, I can’t wait.  But when he said it, all I could think about was the long list of things to do before we can get on that ferry.  Ordering a bigger travel cot, breakdown cover for the car, first aid kit etc. and that’s before the lists of clothes we all need and the things I need to remember to pack for the boys.

 

I’m aware as I’m writing this that I’m starting to sound like a slightly crazy person but actually all my lists help to keep me sane!  I sometimes feel like I’m drowning under a mountain of things that need to get done and ticking things off my lovely lists just reminds me that I’m in control.

 

While I do pride myself on being organised there are of course some items on my lists that I never seem to get round to.  They somehow never become top priority and linger at the bottom, lost.  I’ve been meaning to sell some of E’s baby things for nearly 18 months now.  I got as far as registering with eBay and PayPal but haven’t managed to actually put any of it up for sale yet.  Shocking for me, I know.  Perhaps when we get back from our holiday I’ll make a brand new list and put that right at the very top… here’s hoping!

Click here to find out more about me!

 

The Houdini Children

shutterstock_50792863To say my children are full of energy is an understatement.  “Mine too”, I hear you say.  Except my boys are those children who never stop running – be it across fields or escaping from playgrounds, and it’s generally away from me.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re not naughty boys; not most of the time anyway!  It’s just that since they could both move they have gone to great lengths to explore everything and everywhere.  When ‘L’ was a baby and discovered he could roll over he would wait for the second I turned away and roll across the living room to empty all the soil out of the plant pots.  When he started walking and we went to play grounds he would run straight off, without a glance behind him to see where I was.  I couldn’t get him into a swing (he couldn’t stand to be restrained for that long) and instead headed for the tallest slides and climbing frames, invariably climbing to the very top with no thought about how to get down.  I looked jealously at those Mums having a chat while pushing their little ones on the swings or watching as their child dug happily in the sand next to their feet.  A trip to the park was always a major work out for me.

Second Time Around

When ‘E’ was born I wondered if he’d be the same. He started rolling and miraculously didn’t try to escape from me.  Hurrah, I thought, this one’s going to be a bit easier!  How quickly I was proved wrong.  We started going to a Mum’s group and while all the other babies were sitting in a circle playing with the toys, ‘E’ was trying to find his way out past the parents and into the kitchen.  Again, absolutely no chance of me sitting down with a cup of tea.

At playgroup he is more interested in repeatedly trying the (locked) front door to see if it’s open, escaping into the toilets and wandering into the church.  He is the only child there that notices if a door or stair gate has been left open and he’s through it like a shot.  I wonder if any of the other Mums have explored the church yard and staff corridors – I have.  And talking of other Mums, I rarely get chance to speak to them at playgroup because E is always on the move.  It certainly takes away the social aspect for me!

Swings (or Not)

In the playground after we’ve picked ‘L’ up from school most of the toddlers wait for their Mummy to help them onto the slide or roundabout and don’t venture off too far.  Mine however, runs straight across the football field to see the cows and chickens on the far side – without a backwards glance.  Even now I still look longingly at the swings – why doesn’t he want to sit there while I stand and push him for just 5 minutes?  Children love swings don’t they?

It often feels like I’m the only Mum with ‘Houdini children’, everybody else stands chatting while their children happily play close by.  I’ve recently realised though that it’s very likely there are more of us out there; I probably just don’t see them because they’re on the opposite side of the field chasing after their own little monkeys.

Next Generation 

My MIL informs me that my husband was exactly the same as a child and could always be relied on to find the way out of a playground or the gate out of a field.  I know I was an adventurous youngster too so I think this is probably Karma for us both.  I also realise that I’m lucky to have 2 boys who are happy and secure enough to run off and play, knowing full well that they don’t have to look and check where I am.  They’re independent boys but if they fall or need me, they instinctively know that I’m right there behind them.

So, to my ‘Houdini children’, when you’re old enough to have children of your own I know they’ll be active, adventurous and probably as fearless as you are now.  And I will sit back, savouring a cup of tea, as I watch you chase after them – smiling and remembering your complete craziness at the same age.

Am I A Grown Up?

shutterstock_136930922Despite reaching the ripe old age of 38 I must confess that it’s taken a long time for me to actually feel like a grown up, a fully fledged adult.  As ridiculous as it sounds I’ve only recently realised that I’m not going to get asked for ID in the pub anymore, grey hair is becoming a very real possibility and I have a rather large mountain of responsibilities.  It doesn’t exactly sound fun.

 

The Five Signs

Here are the five things that have confirmed to me that I have reached ‘official’ grown up status:-

I have three different types of flour in my cupboard and I use them all regularly.  As Mr C is often keen to remind me, I used to tell him that making your own bread was a waste of time. Thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and one of his amazing cookbooks I can now whip up a fabulous focaccia and a perfect pizza base in no time at all.  How did that happen?

I hate the postman.  I never really understood why my parents didn’t get excited when the post arrived, after all it was letters with THEIR names on! Anything could be inside!  Except we all know what was inside.  On a recent episode of Peppa Pig (which I’m very familiar with) Daddy Pig picked the post up off the doormat and said ‘’Ah, a brown envelope for me’’. Let’s face it, if you’re a grown up then they’re all brown envelopes.  Despite registering to receive all our bills online some of the b****rs still seem to arrive and spoil my morning.  My dislike of the postman should not however be confused with couriers – they are usually bringing me something much nicer!

Green Fingers

I grow my own vegetables.  I would never have picked myself out as a gardener until we moved into our house two years ago.  We’re lucky to have a big garden and it’s got some raised vegetable patches built at the bottom.  My inlaws grow a lot of their own veg and brought round some potatoes and cabbage plants last year to get us started.  I wasn’t very keen but they kept asking if we’d planted them and letting the little seedlings die would not have been good for family relations. So, I planted them and honestly without very much TLC we had an amazing crop!  This year I’ve gone a bit crazy with potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, leeks, shallots, peppers and tomatoes.  I absolutely love being out there in the fresh air and watching everything spring into life.  The boys love it too – digging for potatoes is like finding pirate treasure!

On a much more painful note, my Mum’s death four years ago probably made me grow up the quickest of all.  I’m not sure there is anything like the death of a parent to punch you in the stomach, knock the wind out of you and make you realise that it’s all up to you now.  The person that has taken care of you, worried about you and always been there to pick you up is suddenly gone.  You’re on your own now, the top of the chain.  It’s your turn to do the looking after and the worrying. You’re in charge and it’s pretty scary.

The Big One

And talking of knocking the wind out of you, the big thing that turned me (and most of us) into an adult is having children.  The responsibility of caring and providing for them is huge.  A few months before L was born Mr C and I sorted out our first life insurance policy just in case anything happened to us.  We’re already saving for university for the boys (how American is that?) and if anything is going to keep me awake at night then it’s worries about them, not me.  When your first little bundle of joy arrives, your world is turned upside down. There is a whole new person to consider when you’re making so many of your decisions, big and small.  Whether it’s about where you live, choosing where you go on holiday or even what to do on a Sunday morning (and you can forget about lying in bed and reading the papers!) you always have someone else to think about.

So that’s it, I’ve done it.  I’ve turned from a relatively carefree ‘girl’ in my twenties to a full on grown woman in my late (yes, I’m actually admitting late) thirties.  And some of it isn’t fun but I’m coming to terms with the transition.  And if I’m happy in my garden, glass of wine in hand and a nice home made pizza cooking in the oven then so what? It sounds pretty good to me.

I Like Daddy Best…

shutterstock_154057526My 5 year old casually uttered these four words to me while he was sat in the bath last week.  I can’t deny it, I was absolutely devastated.  Despite Mr C’s quick reprimand, L was completely oblivious to how heartbreaking I found his off hand statement and I (somewhat ridiculously) had to fight back my tears.

My sensible head knows that L loves me and as a 5 year old of course he likes Daddy best.  Mummy is the one who makes him eat his vegetables, stops him picking his nose, makes him get dressed for school, reminds him about homework and hounds him about his spellings.  (I’m desperately trying to avoid using the word ”nag” here!)  Daddy takes him swimming, reads Harry Potter at bed time and is teaching him all about the magical world of football.  I am responsible for the everyday, mundane tasks and discipline; Daddy is fun.

L has been a real Daddy’s boy for the last few months.  He hates Mr C leaving for work in the mornings, even blocking the front door to delay him going.  He gets tearful and grumpy if he doesn’t make it home before bed time and wants to go everywhere with him at the weekend – even the supermarket!  He much prefers to do things with his Daddy at the moment and it’s lovely to see them together.

Four Little Words

Still, when he told me that he liked Daddy best, I struggled to control my emotions.  All I could think was “Everything I do is for you, every single decision I make revolves around you and I love you more than anything… How could you like someone else more than me???”. My heart was broken.

My (nearly) 2 year old is the complete opposite and still wants his Mummy to do everything for him.  Of course that’s down to his age but I’m feeling particularly grateful for it right now; at least one of them still needs me!  Watching my boys growing up is so much harder than I expected and knowing that L can (and will) choose other people over me is something I’m going to have to learn to handle.  I guess it’s the first step in letting go, and I’m definitely not ready for that yet!

So, I’m making the most of the cuddles he gives me and relishing every unprompted ”I love you” I hear from him.  As difficult as those four words were to hear (I won’t be repeating them again) I know that he loves me, regardless of which one of us he likes best this week.