Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brown bear, brown bear...

Jacob's current favourite game is getting all his people and animals out, and lining them up, or standing them in a circle so they can play the 'hokey-cokey' (which is just too cute for words).

But when he's had enough of that, he gets bored and grumpy and sad pretty quickly.  I feel like I should be 'doing' more varied things with him, although if he wants to spend an hour constructing a precarious line of figures across the living room floor, all trying to pull a camel out of the mud, then who am I to suggest he should be doing something more productive?

We're getting right into the questioning stage, and his thirst for knowledge is already testing our intelligence.  This week's gems have included:

"Mummy, who knows what happened to toast?"
"Mummy, who knows what's in Quorn pieces?"
"Daddy, what's a website?"

Today he set up his own activity of matching animals: he got out a set of animal magnets, went and got out his tray of animals, lay out the magnets, and began searching through the animals for matching ones to lay down on top.  All unprompted.  As it turned out, we only had a few animals which matched the ones on the magnets, so it was a short-lived game, and he wanted to do more matching.

Casting around for inspiration, I grabbed our 'Brown bear, brown bear' book, and challenged him to find five Things of the same colour for each animal.  Results as follows:

Brown bear 

 Red bird

 Yellow duck

 Blue horse

 Green frog

 Purple cat

 White dog

Black sheep

(He ran out of steam when we got to Goldfish, so we'll have to save that for another day)

He had a great time, he was so inventive with the objects he found for each colour, and it killed half an hour of a freezing cold, rainy day.  It made me think that I should have some Montessori-type activities or similar out and available for Jacob to work with, when the mood strikes him.

A while ago, I bought the Toddler's Busy Book, which I really need to unearth for days like this.  I'll be back to report more on what takes his fancy, any suggestions for similar activities will be gratefully received ;)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Charlie Brooker isn't right about everything

A dear acquaintance of mine wrote a song which I would ordinarily agree with, which asserts that Charlie Brooker is right about everything.  However, in his recent article in the Guardian he compares cupcakes unfavourably to all other baked goods.  I have to disagree - although this is mostly because I could quite happily live off icing for the rest of my life and cupcakes seem to be the only desert upon which an unlimited amount of icing can be heaped.

I set off at dawn this morning for Ebbw Vale, heading up the Heads of the Valleys Road with the sun rising over the horizon in front of me.  It was the first frosty morning we've had since the cold weather back at the start of Winter, and it was just beautiful.

My lovely friend Claire had won a cupcake making class, and asked me to join her at B Cake Studio in Ebbw Vale, where Angela makes gorgeous cakes and has just started these 4-hour classes.  In a bizarre twist of coincidence, I was perusing the reduced Christmas aisle in Tesco yesterday, spied some beautiful Christmas cupcake napkins, and lamented the fact that they weren't reduced, as I would have bought them to put them away for next year.  When I got home after the class today, I read Angela's blog to find that she made those very same cupcakes.

In a beautifully appointed kitchen in the basement of her family home, we sat around a central square unit and chatted about setting up small businesses (I'm sure Angela didn't expect to be doling out tax advice at the same time as teaching us to make cupcakes!) while we cut and coloured icing, baked vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, and made vanilla and chocolate icing before attempting to assemble them into some sort of professional-looking array.  (The small business in question refers to the important question of What I Am Going To Do when I finish my job in July.  One option involves making things along the lines of bunting etc. [oooh, there's a good etsy shop name] for children's bedrooms and weddings and ting).

It was so much fun, and getting to the final moment and finding that actually, the cakes looked pretty damn awesome, was so cool.

Angela took a picture of us on her fancy camera for her blog, which I'll update to link to when it's posted.  We finished slightly early so that Claire could catch an earlier train back to Cardiff, and I set off for home (the drive was surprisingly quick and fun, especially as Jamie made me a mix CD to scream along at the top of my voice too).  Jacob was still napping, but my bouncing excitement when I got home woke him up, and his little face on seeing the box of cupcakes was a sight to behold.  I told him I'd been out making cakes with Amelia's Mummy all morning, and when I told him that he could have a cake he nearly exploded with joy.

The icing on the cake (see what I did there?) came in the form of a letter from the inland revenue, which I was too scared to open and made Jamie do for me.  I soon snatched it off him when he read the word 'overpayment', and after some careful analysis (WHY do they phrase it as "Amount you owe us OR amount due to you" on the same line?) I found out that they'll shortly be sending me a cheque for two and a half thousand pounds .  That'll be my start-up capital then...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Maybe it's Giants...

When I dropped Jacob off at nursery this morning, he went in with his customary shoegazing reluctance, where I have to drop a kiss on his head and leave before I persuade myself that we should really just go home again (I don't need very much persuasion).  I know that he's fine as soon as I've gone, he's always happy about going to nursery, happy while he's there, and reports happily upon his day; but those few seconds from me ringing the doorbell to him finding his best friends and diving headlong into whatever they're doing just tugs at my heartstrings, and make me wish more than anything that I could be a stay-at-home-mum.

This morning, the nursery manager laid her hand kindly on my arm (really, people shouldn't be allowed to do that, the gesture alone is enough to set me off) and reassured me by saying "Don't worry, he'll be singing happily to himself in a couple of minutes".

He loves music.  He gets into the car, and says "I want to listen to something please Mummy!", or we'll be driving along and he'll say "I loved that song.  What's it called?".  Although strangely, he's not at all keen on listening to music in the house, he does like to sing all the time.  He often sings in his sleep, and we have to wait to get him out of bed until he's been through his whole repertoire of songs.

Of course he loves nursery rhymes and theme songs for annoying CBeebies programmes, but he's also good at using snippets of songs he's heard in appropriate situations - for instance the "What's going to work, teeeeeeam-work" refrain from Wonder Pets gets sung all the time when he's helping us with a job.  He shunned most Christmas music except for the Glee Christmas album (the first one only, he wasn't having anything to do with the second one) and all he really wanted to hear off that was their reworking of Jingle Bells.

We've done a good job at forcing our musical tastes upon him, but we're trying to be remotely responsible about it and avoid songs with too much inappropriate content - of course Jamie likes to model himself on Adam Buxton and do volume control censoring - if you haven't seen this video then watch it, it's hilarious:

(And in a timely fashion, Jamie has just pointed me in the direction of this amazing site which reworks classic album covers using clipart and comic sans - it's awesome).

So Jacob's current favourites include Art Brut, and there's nothing funnier than being in another room and hearing the boy sing quietly to himself "Bang, bang, rock and roll / I can't stand the sound / of the Velvet Underground" in a very serious voice.  He also likes it when I play Scissor Sisters in the car, he thinks 'Take Your Mama Out' is funny because it has the word 'Mama' in it, and he generally loves Jake Shears' falsetto - "Listen to the girl songs Mummy, this your favourite song cos it's a girl song".

But top of Jacob's list of favourite bands for the last several months is undoubtedly They Might Be Giants.  It took us ages to work out what he was talking about when he kept asking for the "Little blue bird house song", but he's got the hang of most of the song titles now.  Our current difficulty is explaining the difference between band names and song names, he doesn't totally get it.  He can never remember how to say 'They Might Be Giants', so he refers to them in adorable fashion as 'Maybe it's Giants' ;)

Monday, January 9, 2012

When Santa got stuck up the chimney...

I know that technically, Christmas is over, but it's very difficult to convey that to a toddler.  Jacob's favourite topics of conversation are still mainly centred around Santa and Christmas, and he sings Christmas songs all the time.  He's developed a delightful habit of using the first line of a song to kick off a conversation, and to say each line of the song as though it were a question, while you prompt and question him about it.  It is hilarious.  And hasn't got old, even after the eleventy-millionth run through.

Prepare to melt at the utter adorableness:

For those of you who don't speak fluent Jacob, here's a translation:

"When Santa stuck up the chimney...
He began to shout...
The girls and boys won't have any toys...
No. My sack is... my beard is black, there's soot in my sack, yes, my nose is tickling too...
When Santa stuck up a chimney, he began to shout, achoo, achoo, achoo, and Santa's happy."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Holy comfort, Batman!

A friend referred to the week between Christmas and New Year as 'Chrimbo Limbo' - hitting the nail right on the head (although I had my sister to stay, so it wasn't all bad).  The week since New Year has been more of the same.  Working right up until Christmas was a nightmare, and now having these two empty weeks with little to do has left us being too lazy for words - sitting around in our pyjamas all day playing with Jacob's new toys (not that that's a bad thing).

The daft thing is that I've got a million jobs that need doing around the house - I feel like the weight of all the clutter and mess everywhere is going to topple down on me at any moment.  And yet, being a perfectionist (and a perfectionist who doesn't like to expend any energy to achieve perfection, at that), I can't actually start any jobs, because then the reality of how much there is left to do will crush me.  At just the critical moment, I read this post on the lovely Whozat's blog, which suggested that you should pick the one most annoying/in-need-of-addressing thing in your house, and Just Do It.

Easy.  The springs on our sofa went about 3 years ago.  With a creak and a ping, poor Jamie was sitting in a hole.  The rest of it was saggy and stained and uncomfortable, and we slowly built up the cushions with more cushions to try and ease the pain in our aching backs, until we were essentially sitting on a pile of cushions.  (I'd like to emphasise that Jamie fell head-over-heels-top-to-bottom down the stairs during this time, and I'm sure the lack of seated support contributed to how long it took his back to heal.

For Christmas 2010, my parents gave us a contribution towards a new sofa, but over the last 12 months we haven't been able to scrape together the remaining funds to buy a new one, however cheap it was.  On Thursday this week, we went to visit Jacob's girlfriend in Cardiff, and stopped off at Ikea on our way to Jamie's hospital appointment.  For the first time, Jacob cottoned on to the concept of 'trying out sofas', and he merrily ran this way and that, clambering into chairs and onto sofas, sitting still for half a second, before shrieking "Now that one!" and running off to the next.  This meant that we could actually try some sofas properly, and have a chat about finance and colours etc.  And, we chose one.  But being the indecisive people we are, we had to go home first to talk about it ... until we passed the clearance corner on our way out and spied the very sofa we'd just decided on, reduced by £150.  Better still, they would deliver it and remove the old one, for the same price our council would charge to collect the old one, and they donate the used sofas to charity.  Sold.

We then had a day to clear enough space to get the old sofa out, and the new sofa in.  Did I mention that we hadn't put away any Christmas presents, and the decorations were still up?  In one day we: 

- took all the Christmas decorations down and packed them away.
- made a 'November Box' of things to get out of the loft pre-Christmas time - things like Advent calendars and Christmas crafts.
- dragged all of Jacob's toys out of their boxes, got rid of all the ones he doesn't play with, reorganised the ones he does and added in the new Christmas presents.
- labelled all his toy boxes (we have Trofast, and found that using the tray sized ones for things like Playmobil, animals etc with stickers on the side to denote what's in there means Jacob can tidy by himself - woop!).
- culled half his jigsaws to live in his bedroom, then they can rotate down here and we won't end up with 21 open boxes of jigsaws at the end of each day.
- cut open the back of the old sofa and found loads of hairbands and phones and disgusting tissues   
- emptied the hallway of everything, to aid the moving men, and actually cleaned the carpets and skirting boards.

And just 36 hours after we paid for the sofa, we had a sparkling clean living room and hallway, and a beautiful, comfortable, supportive new sofa.  Which Jacob has given his seal of approval to...

Thanks, Whozat, for the inspiration (I know you wrote an additional post decrying your organisational skills, but take the kudos, because you kicked our arses into gear and we're very thankful).