The first four years

As we watched the Olympic coverage on TV, I was taken back to the first days after my baby boy was born.  I spent long hours during the last Olympics sitting on our sofa holding my brand-new, first-born son.  I was still at the stage of working out feeding and sleeping and feeling exhausted.  The easiest thing was to sit there feeding then to hold him and watch him  fall asleep, wake-up, sleep again.

Four short years.  I think it is Amanda Soule who writes in her beautiful blog, Soulemama, that the days may be long with little ones, but the years are certainly short.  Already I miss the littleness of my boy.  His chubby arms and legs have strong muscles on them now.  He runs, jumps, climbs, rides his bike and makes a lot of noise.  He loves the familiar.  He has found his own strong voice.  His vocabulary amazes me.  He will do anything for sugar and almost anything for a story.  He builds and builds with little lego, modifying (as he calls it).  He loves being with people.  He loves playing imaginary games.  He loves taking things apart.  He is hardly ever shy.  He responds sweetly to his little sister’s cry of ‘help, me, nani!’  He is strong, mischievous. kind.

I want to encourage all that is good in him, everyday. These are precious moments, these short, short days of childhood.


Unseasonal activities

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: the sun’s been shining like it was the middle of July.  Outside temperatures have been over 20C in our garden every afternoon.  The earth is getting dry and dusty.  The children have been splashing around in the paddling pool wearing nothing at all.  Everyone has that relaxed look that warm weather brings – no more bundling ourselves up against the cold, we’ve been wearing tee-shirts and flip-flops without even the hint of a shiver.  Lunch in the garden and ice-cream cones all round.

All this, I reminded myself today, is before the buds are even out on the trees.  Its not quite right, this freakishly warm weather.  I take comfort from the fact that we’ll be back in our winter clothes before April is out and there will surely be rain soon in this part of the world.   Its been lovely though: just the shot of warmth and sunshine we all needed.  And I’ll pray we have some more summer days between now and September.

Conversations with a two-year old

Two recent conversations with Daniel

No. 1 – Blue sky thinking

Daniel (Sitting in the back of the car):  What’s that blue animal mean, mummy?

Me: I don’t know.  What blue animal?  Where is it?

Daniel: That blue animal far, far away.

Me: Can you see it?

Daniel: I can’t.  What does it mean, mummy?

Me: I don’t know which blue animal it is.

Daniel:  The blue animal far, far away in the new zoo (pause for thought.  Silence from me as I digest this.) The blue animal far, far away in the new zoo in a different world.  The world full of new zoos for blue animals. (I am still silent). I am going to sing a song about the blue animal at granny and grampa’s house… blue animal, blue animal…

Sing to the music-maker…

I was thinking tonight as I put D to bed about how much singing had become part of our family life.  Ironically so, as neither Ross or I have much (read ‘any kind’) of a singing voice.  Still, when your child is an extremely demanding and appreciative audience, it brings out the best in you.

It started when it took so many hours to get him to sleep – I would sing to him out of sheer desperation and to while away the time as I held in my arms, willing him to sleep.  I sang him the songs I remember my mother singing to me.   Continue reading Sing to the music-maker…

Not a cardboard box

Friday was a wet day and we spent it at home.  So Daniel and I went up to the loft, picked the biggest box we could find and turned it into… who knows?  It started as a house and turned into a train.  Daniel can stand in it and it has a steering wheel. I probably enjoyed sticking things on more than he did.  Its the kind of activity I want to do with him but we don’t often find time for.  Or maybe he’s just not quite ready for Blue-Peter style craft. Here is the result of our efforts yesterday.

Best toy for a two year old?

When Daniel turned two I really wanted some advice on what would make a good birthday present for a two-year old.  Advice from friends was quite vague.  So we bought him: some more wooden train track (courtesy of a work friend of Ross’ whose son had outgrown it); wooden vegetables that you can cut in half; a cook set with pots, pans and utensils; and play-do.  Friends and family were incredibly generous.  The presents that stick in my mind are a tractor and trailer; ‘Scoop’ (from Bob the Builder) with a front loader and back-hoe; a bubble gun; toy wine glasses.

Looking back, what has given him the most pleasure and kept him occupied for the maximum amount of time (my definition of  successful toy)?  Four pots of play-do from Tesco.  It is the most flexible and can be whatever he wants it to be. It also combines with almost all his other toys. So he when he ‘does play-do’ he might be making carrots with his pots and pans; making biscuits; making a trailer for a tractor; making bales to go in the tractor; or making a muddy road to drive his tractors on and make ‘tractor foot-prints’.  I’m sure other uses for it will develop – I’ll look forward to seeing what uses his imagination can come up with next.

Golden minutes

Do you ever wonder how other people spend their days – I mean every minute, when they’re at home and there is no-one else watching?  I’ve realised that stay-at-home mums have more of those kind of minutes than most other people.   Its very easy to dwell on the seeming futility of all the little tasks that make up the huge achievement of bringing up children.

For example, today I have been reading Alfie stories to my two-year-old in our ‘big bed’ while feeding Kirsten.  I’ve folded washing while Daniel watched photos of himself on the computer.  I’ve collected apples in the garden; bought things from Daniel’s shop (two chairs turned upside down on the patio); raked up leaves; recollected the apples which Daniel tipped out of the bucket (saying to himself: ‘Goodness me, look, what a mess.) We’ve eaten baked beans on toast for lunch and now both my children are sleeping.  I am about to mix up some cookie dough so we can make some cookies when Daniel wakes up (its too messy to make cookies from scratch with him).  And I’ve just lit the fire.

And then?  I try to go out for a walk in the afternoon with both children in the buggy. Daniel might run for a bit but the aim of that part of the day, is my sanity – I need some exercise and its relaxing to know exactly where they both are, know that Kirsten will be sleeping and Daniel will be quite happy to chat away to me from his seat.   Today, though, its wet, hence the cookie dough.

Sometime after playing with playdo or lego or books, Daddy will arrive home, I will cook, we will wash the dishes and the children then we will spend too long getting our children to go to sleep before we can sleep ourselves.

And so, since I’m not a man, my son, that’s how I fill each unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.

(Yes, I know, I’ve edited out those minutes I spend on email, facebook, internet shopping.  No-one needs to count those.)

Seize the day

“Remember then: there is only one time that is important – now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.” (Leo Tolstoy, Three Questions).

Having a one-almost-two-year-old makes me realise how quickly time passes. Every week, almost every day Daniel changes – learns to do something, to climb something, to say something, to copy something. I look back at photos from a month ago and realise that that time in his life has already passed and will not come back again.

The lesson I’m learning? Not to put things off til tomorrow, never to think: we could do this next year, or next month. If this is the right time, then this is the time, do it now. And this is always a time to treasure, to recognise as precious, because it will never come back again. Its an important lesson for someone as apt to procrastinate as me. Another favourite quote: To live in the past and the future is easy. To live in the present is like threading a needle. (Walker Percy.)


Most of the words Daniel uses are clear but the ones he pronounces in his own sweet way are sometimes funny. He talks about the ‘lawn moaner’ and his ‘tooter’ (scooter). He likes to go out in ‘air feet’ (bare feet).

His favourite adjective is ‘lovalee’ which he uses a lot. If you ask him: ‘how’s your tummy?’, he says ‘lovalee’. If you give you a bowl of yoghurt and honey he says ‘ lovalee’.

He still calls any deer / antelope that he sees a ‘din din’. He calls sheep ‘baas’ and sometimes ‘seep’. When we were away last week he kept pointing out ‘eagles’ to us (any big bird). He says ‘hi’ to almost anyone or anything – including bees, ants, woodlice and beetles. He’s always interested in bugs and animals having food, and if you ask him what they eat, he says ‘food’ or ‘oats’ or ‘stones’.

He’s learning to put -ing on the end of words, so he talks about ‘walking’ and ‘watching’ and also ‘upping’ (when he wants picked up). He also knows about making words plural with an ‘s’ which means he talks about ‘mans’ as well as ladies.

When we put him to bed at night he often says ‘bye’ and then ‘later’. He seems to be moving on to a new stage, linking words together. Last night as I was putting him to sleep, he said very seriously: ‘gas water peese’. Today he was in his cot saying over and over to himself: ‘tum in room’.

He has just learned the power of saying please so instead of saying ‘oats, oats, oats!’ or ‘bran flakes!’ he runs into the kitchen saying: ‘bran flakes, peese, bran flakes, peese!’

He loves being outside but we have trouble stopping him pulling the petals off our neighbour’s pansies. We must have told him so often that he sometimes tells himself: ‘no, no, no, Eileen’ (our
neighbour). In fact he seems to associate Eileen with anything he is not allowed to do and will often say ‘no,Eileen’ when we’re telling him not to do something.

He sometimes tells us stories – the other day he was talking about monkeys going up the mountain. Another day in the car he suddenly said ‘elephant’. I said: ‘where’ and he said ‘up tree’. He thinks
its quite funny when you sound surprised.

My sister calls him a ‘precious bundle’ and he likes repeating that.