Amazing Art

The Boy’s art work has been developing behind closed doors. That is, at pre-school. When he started in January, the only subject matter for paintings that was of any interest to him was, you guessed it, numbers. At home he would draw, stencil, paint and playdough solely to make more and more numbers. Then the numbers would need to be cut out and they could travel all over the house solving crimes and plotting world domination (I may be embellishing a bit here).

I still get a lot of large sheets of paper with numbers back from pre-school. However, other things have started to appear too. Sometimes he brings home a painting of me, or of his sister. Occasionally there might be a rudimentary animal/monster-thing.

Summer holidays now, and finally, one afternoon, I got to witness the New Art. The Boy sat down with his watercolours (LIDL’s finest) and set about making paintings for “everyone”. He spent a good hour or so, producing picture after picture, putting them all on the window sill to dry.

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He made rainbows.

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and a tiger…

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and more and more and more rainbows that got better and better, looking for “violet” and “indigo”, not boring old purple.

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He even tried new techniques, like flicking the paint from the paintbrush onto the paper.

The piece de resistance, which I sadly did not have a chance to photograph before he stuffed it into his tiny backpack for some undisclosed but of course totally logical reason, was a car with a sky above and a road below in appropriate colours.

I just looked on in awe at his flair, his imagination, and his colourful mind splashed onto a whole window sill full of amazing art.

Not My Year Off

Loud ‘n Proud: Independence is Messy

mummy's shoesTheoretically, this whole business of bringing up children is all about teaching them to be independent.

Is it bad that I kind of like them being dependent? Or rather, I would love them to be independent, but I severely dislike all the hassle of getting them there.

The other day I was at a friend’s house, and we fell silent when her nearly 3 year old wandered into where we were chatting, carrying a cup of milk.

“Did you get that yourself?” my friend asked him.

“Yeah,” he told her (to rhyme with “Duh”), sipping his milk.

When we had both finished having retrospective heart attacks, my friend told me that her sons do this more and more often now: they open the fridge, rummage around and pour themselves drinks.

Mine don’t, I thought. I squash that kind of initiative as soon as I see the thought developing in the Boy’s mind. I picture a lake of milk on the kitchen floor that I will need to clean up – and I hate cleaning. Carrying food or drinks around the house? No way, too much opportunity for spillage and breakage. Getting things out of cupboards? Nope. My cupboards are messy and precariously stacked – pulling the wrong item out in the wrong way will cause an avalanche. Let Mummy do it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that my children moving from stage to stage, gaining independence, doing things for themselves terrifies me. I get used to the status quo, fit my life around it, and then they go and change things up and mess up my systems. This goes for the Boy at pre-school age, and doubly so for my little girl, who is nearly two.

I like carrying the Girl up and down the stairs, strapping her into her booster seat at the table, putting her in a corner with her Mannies and letting her

Please. Just sit here and play.

Please. Just sit here and play.

play while I work. I like it when she drinks out of sippy cups and eats everything I put in front of her. I like dressing and undressing her, scooping her up and plonking her in the car so we can leave the house ten minutes before we need to collect the Boy from pre-school. I like her sleeping in her cot.

But the time for these things is fading.

Lopen! [walk]” she insists and wriggles out of my arms. She wants to walk herself.

“Stairs!” she shouts, and I am not even allowed to hold the doll or the big book she wants to carry down with her as she takes step by reckless step.

Klimmen! [climb]” she shrieks, and I have to put her down next to the car and tear my hair out as she first winds down her window, then painfully slowly, slipping and getting a better grip, she clambers into her car seat herself and we tear down country lanes and arrive breathlessly at pre-school, catching the teacher with the phone in her hand ready to call and find out where I am.

“Open! Juicy!” she commands, climbing onto the little stool that she has carried into the kitchen herself, plonking the sippy cup angrily onto the work surface. She keeps a close eye on me as I take the lid off, fill it with a dash of juice and plenty of water, and offer it to her, lid off, on one condition: “Sit down! Sit down to drink!” I tell her. She yanks the cup out of my hands again and drains it, standing up on the stool.

She can do it. She’s nearly two.

Tonight, it was like she offered me a choice.

She pooed in the bath.

“Oh! Poo!” she said, surprised.

“No! Poo! Quick, get out!” the Boy shrieked hysterically and climbed out of the bath.

While I cleared up the mess, I offered the Girl the potty to sit on. “Haha! Potty!” she exclaimed in glee. She stood up and sat back down several times. When I had contained the problem and cleaned the most urgent things I was ready to shoo her off the potty and get her back into a nappy.

“No! Potty!” she insisted and walked back and sat on it again. I let her and helped the Boy dry his hair. Then we heard a sound.

“She’s doing a wee!” The Boy exclaimed in delight.

We both hugged and praised the Girl for being so clever. She got to flush the wee down the toilet herself and as a special treat, got to wash her hands standing on the step by the wash basin.

I considered this little vignette she had presented me with: what do you want mother? Do you want to scoop poo out of the bath forever, or shall I grow up and learn to take care of myself, step by messy step?

Of course, like always in parenting, it wasn’t a real choice. She is going to become independent, whether I like it or not. So I will embrace it, and offer her the opportunities to learn and grow that she is so desperate for.

I put her nappy on, and tucked her up in her cot with Pop & her million other favourite cuddlies.

“Tomorrow,” I sighed. “Independence can begin tomorrow.”

klimmen

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Glowing with Pride: The Boy’s first Review

There are reasons why creative people are creative. We want to express ourselves, we want to share something with the world, we want to touch other people’s lives – and we love the satisfaction of standing next to what we have made and being proud of it. Positive feedback motivates us to carry on and do even better.

Yes, that is what I felt like standing next to my son – who I had some hand in shaping – as his keyworker at pre-school praised his awe inspiring academic abilities.

The Boy has been at pre-school for a term and a half now and last week was my first ‘review’ meeting with the teacher assigned to keep an eye on him. The idea was to share what they had observed of him and talk about what he could work on next.

I was prepared to hear that he was above average in his mathematical abilities. His teacher was amazed that he could tell you which number came before and after another number, that he could recognise at a glance that there were five objects on a table (2 or 3 is normal for his age, apparently) and that he recognises shapes and numbers in the world around him.

You barely know the half of it, I wanted to say.

I have bragged about this before and I am sure you are all rolling your eyes now, but even since my last post on the topic he has done more amazing things. He has started adding up, telling me at random moments (on the toilet) that 2 and 3 make 5 and that 6 and 3 make 9. Then the other day at about 6am we were playing with the Duplo, which somehow turned into a multiplication lesson. Before I knew where I was he was making towers of equal height, counting the number of towers and how many blocks that made in total. Also, on a trip into town with Daddy he pointed at the interestingly shaped paving and said: “It’s a hexagon! It has six corners and six sides!”

The teacher also reported he was well ahead on reading skills: he knows most of the sounds the letters make as well as the names of the letters.20140516-161442.jpg

Again, I could add more amazing feats: The Boy recognises all of the names of the other children in his class as well as his own when he sees them written down on labels around the school, as well as the names of all our favourite supermarkets on pots of jam and freezer bags. He has started recognising words in books and wanting to copy them with his letter puzzle.

Besides all this the teacher said the Boy was very musical, had amazing recall and picked things up very quickly.

What I wasn’t prepared for was his top astounding skill.

Apparently, most 3 or even 4 year olds don’t cut around things, just through them. Who knew? That same morning the Boy had been crying because he couldn’t perfectly cut around each petal of a flower and asked me to do the tricky bits where the scissors turn the corner. After the review I made sure the Boy knew how clever he was to even follow the petals at all.

So what does he need to work on? You’ll all be pleased to hear that socially and behaviourally the Boy is just your average 3 year old, who does as he is told for five seconds before testing out if the embargo on running indoors has been lifted yet. He has plenty to learn still at pre-school about being part of a group, respecting the rules and doing as he is asked.

While we talked, the Boy was helpfully stacking up all the little chairs, obviously getting straight on his action plan.

I looked at my bright little boy, bursting with pride. “Look what I made!” I was thinking. “Isn’t he great?”

 

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3 Children and It

 

I help you, Mummy

It was my friend’s son who defined for me exactly what it means to be three years old. One day when I was babysitting, he pushed a big dining chair up to the man-high toy cupboard, climbed up onto the chair and started pulling a heavy box out that was above his head. When I stopped him and suggested that perhaps I had better do that, he replied indignantly: “But I’m three!

As my own son’s third birthday is mere weeks away I can see this emerging in him.

He has a little child-sized chair that has become his ticket to independence. He has discovered, for instance, that rather than asking for snacks and risking the request being denied, it is much more effective to get them from the cupboard yourself with the help of the chair and then asking permission afterwards with your mouth full of raisins.

The chair also means he can reach the sink to wash his hands, fill up his watering can and get stuck into the washing up. I have had to add some more Code Red sounds to my parenting by sound handbook, such as the clink of glasses in the sink followed by “I really careful, Mummy!”

Any time I go into the kitchen now, I find the Boy at my elbow looking to see what’s going down and saying “I help you, Mummy?” Cooking dinner, washing up, hoovering, baking cakes – you name it, he wants to be involved. In fact, he’d really rather I just let him get on with it without interfering. If I try to do stirring, or stand in front of the sink where he wants to put his chair, he screeches “No! My do it!”

Although it can get a little irritating when you’re in a hurry or doing something involving sharp knives and hot stoves, he is really very endearing and often genuinely helpful. What a wonderful age, when you can make their day by letting them fetch and carry for you and the highlight of their week is handing you pegs when you are hanging out the washing in the garden.

But his favourite thing to help with is the barbecue.

Every morning this summer, the Boy has greeted his Daddy with the words: “Daddy, make a barbecue?” When, not immediately for breakfast perhaps, but later in the day, the answer is yes, Daddy’s little helper is right there, reverently handing Daddy ‘stones’ (charcoal) to build the fire and handing him a Tupperware lid so he can ‘flap-a barbecue’.

“Careful Daddy!” he warns helpfully. “Is really hot! Stand back!”

From the moment it is lit, the Boy wants to know if we can have barbecue-food. We keep him busy by giving him items to put on the garden table, one fork at a time to stretch it out.Then finally the sausages are ready and on his plate. The Boy, however, is dancing around the garden and cannot be persuaded to sit down and eat.

“But it’s barbecue food! Look, sausages!” we exclaim, incredulous.

He gets tearful as we insist he sits down, and finally he explains: “Want-a more things carry.”

Turns out it’s not really the food he loves so much. It’s the helping.

One year (almost) gone

A few more weeks and the Girl will be one. She is working hard on learning to walk, is climbing on top of everything and I am sure that by the time her birthday rolls around she will be looking at baby-hood in the rear view mirror as she speeds on towards toddler-hood and from there to world domination.

Contemplating her next move

Contemplating her next move

One year gone

First summer closing, streets returning
from languor-filled summer spaces
to the frantic thorough-fare
that busy generations share
now with hopeful hearts and faces
new start, new dawn, new time of learning

First summer gone and the world is turning
from sunshine lingering and delaying
sharing evenings with the moon
back to early bedtime soon
chill on the wind and colours greying
so nature keeps on turning and returning

Your first summer gone and you are learning
to stand, speak, walk, never slowing,
expert now, you’ve seen it all
one year gone, now back to fall
I mustn’t, cannot, stop you growing
As you run on, never turning or returning

Me and my girl

Me and my girl

Read more poetry and prose over at Prose for Thought, hosted by Victoria Welton.

The Baby updates on Life Game

Yo yo! It is me, the Baby, or the Girl, or DevourerofEverythingzzz (I have several accounts).

It’s been a while since I gave you an update on how things are going with Life Game, so here I am, updatin’.

I am on level 11 of the training module now.  I think I’m a few weeks away from getting to the end of the Candlekeep section and stepping out into the big world of adventure. I’ve read ahead on the Internet and it turns out that at Level 12 you graduate to a new, tougher system where you don’t level up as often and you have to start at the bottom again with Level 1. Hrmph.

Right, my amazing discoveries in this level. Hard to know where to start. First of all, it turns out that chewing is not the only way to interact with objects. This level I’ve unlocked a whole range of new options: “bang”, “bash together”, “throw”, “combine with”, “insert”, “remove”, “rip”, “draw”, “poke brother” or “poke cat”. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and I’ve had to start revisiting all the areas I thought I’d bled dry to see if there is more mileage to be got out of them.

Draw! How awesome is that! You can take a crayon and make marks on paper!

Draw! How awesome is that! You can take a crayon and make marks on paper!

New this level: you can get Knowledge from books. I’d seen them lying around before of course but I couldn’t click on them at first. Now that I can, I’ve found it helpful to spend several hours of game time per day Doing Reading. Here’s how it goes: you “open book”, then you “turn page” and “study pictures and scribbles”. Sometimes you can also “lift flap” to reveal hidden truths or “press button” to hear sound clues. So far I only seem to be able to drag one along with me at a time, but I’m hoping in time I’ll work out how to add them to my inventory.

Reading two book at once  and barely breaking a sweat.

Reading two book at once and barely breaking a sweat.

I have also acquired some new skills that make it easier to interact with the NPCs (Non-Player Characters of course, you n00bs). Last level I took “learn words” and this level I put more points into it, so I have now collected 4 or 5 words. “Da da” gets you +2 charisma with all Grown Ups and a whopping +5 Influence over the Daddy. “Da” combined with a wave gives you +2 social interaction, but only with Dutch speakers. The most useful words so far have been “ba” (gets you a banana) and “ja/yeah” (saying this in response to any question while you’re in the high chair gets you more food. Keep saying it until your health bar is back up to full).

On the subject of food, it’s like the better you get at the game, the more food it takes to fill up your health bar. I had a look at some walk throughs and there were some good suggestions. Underneath the high chair you’re guaranteed to find food, but be careful, if they glow green they’ll give you an upset tummy and your health bar will go into the red for a day or so. Same with the bin. I tried stickers and play dough too, but they don’t seem to give you any health points, just -1 to Influence on the Mummy.

Bit random, I know, but I one of my best discoveries this level is that hugging teddies gives you +2 happiness. And it’s +3 for hugging Dolly!

Dolly. She will prob turn out to be sentient later on and she'll be my henchperson

Dolly. She will prob turn out to be sentient later on and then she can be my henchperson

Best of all, though, is that I have acquired loads of amazing new movement skills. I can “Stand from Crouching” and “Walk while Holding on To Things” (these things can be on the floor or in your hand, they just give you that extra bit of confidence). Then there’s “Climb”. I’m pretty good at that one, but it’s a bit buggy. Usually, if you lift one leg in the air you can get up on top of things. Sometimes this works out really well, like on the stairs and on the Brother’s bed. But sometimes you just end up standing there with a leg in the air, a bit like a dog doing a wee against a tree. Yup, awkward.

And I’ve almost got “Walk”. I’ve managed up to 7 steps up to now before I had to sit down. I think I just need to bump up Confidence a bit more and perhaps put one more point in Balance and I’ll be there. Then, I will be UNSTOPPABLE!!!

Finally, I was hoping someone could help me out with this puzzle I am stuck on: this new object has appeared in the kitchen (when you hover over it it says “walker”) and sometimes the Mummy will put you in it just when you’re about to boost your health points with some cat food. The walker is irritating because it contains you, but it does allow you to zoom all around the kitchen at speed. You can use it to get to The Cupboard of Mysterious Amazingness. Problem is, once you have got the walker to the cupboard, the door won’t open. I have tried pulling at it repeatedly and shrieking with frustration but it doesn’t seem to help at all. Got any tips?

See? It doesn't open when you're in the walker. Help!

See? It doesn’t open when you’re in the walker. Help!

That’s it from me – keep playing, Babies! There is a whole world out there for us to explore and if anyone tries to stop you, don’t forget about your weapons! Earsplitting Shriek is my favourite, but maybe you’ve found different ones that are just as effective. If all else fails, I’ve found “Roll over and Crawl Away” gives you +2 to run away.

Spk soon,

xxxxxxx

The Girl

Communication at Eight Months

Having done the baby stage once, I was expecting to enjoy watching my daughter grow up, but perhaps not be quite so amazed by it as the first time around. My son at this age had my complete and undivided attention. I would sit and play with him and watch him, waiting eagerly for him to pass objects from hand to hand, swallow his first bite of finger food, pull himself up to standing, take his first step. My daughter does have an audience (her brother loves observing her and will keep me updated on her activities at the top of his voice), but life is much busier. I noticed that she was passing her spoon from her left to her right hand while in the middle of mopping up spilled milk, fielding requests for a fourth helping of Weetabix and trying to finally squeeze in a moment for a cup of tea.

“Hey!” I thought. “When did she start doing that?”

Was the Toddler doing eyebrow shaping at this age?

Was the Toddler doing eyebrow shaping at this age?

Perhaps because I don’t have the time to be watching and waiting for each milestone, she amazes me more. Every day I am startled by what she is capable of. I keep thinking: did the Toddler do this when he was her age? It seems very advanced.

She was eight months yesterday, and what I am most struck with is how well she can communicate with us. Yesterday at lunch time, the Toddler and I invented a new game to play with her. It is called Hands in the Air! We both stick our hands in the air and start waving them about, looking expectantly at the baby. She beams at us. Her breathing quickens with excitement. Then she lifts up an arm and flaps it up and down, looking from me to the Toddler. “I’m joining in!” her proud face is saying.

It occurred to me, as my son and I were sitting there with our hands in the air waiting for her to follow suit, that this is also her first experience of peer pressure.

Babies are of course well versed in expressing both displeasure and joy. When she sees her brother first thing in the morning she will screech and wave and kick her legs with excitement. If he hugs her a bit too forcefully (eg: puts her in a headlock) she will exclaim in protest. If I don’t keep her highchair tray supplied with titbits and her spoon loaded with food she will shout and cry.

But her communication is becoming more subtle as well. She is choosing what she wants to eat. A piece of banana she will fall upon with ravenous gusto. I put a piece of pepper in front of her next. She examines it. It is not yellow, therefore not a banana. She doesn’t even pick it up but turns back to me, waiting for something better. I put a piece of cheese down. It is yellow, so she picks it up and tastes it. She pulls a face. This is not banana! She throws it on the floor and turns back to me, now giving me a frustrated shout. Her little hand reaches out to the rest of the banana, which is lying in front of me.

I am constantly amazed at what she can communicate without words.

Yesterday she was sitting on the floor while I hung out the washing. She got a bit fractious, so I sat down next to her and we looked at a soft baby book together. It had a fluffy bird that you could hide away in its nest, and we played peekaboo with it for a bit. “Oh hey!” I thought as her hand went to the nest after I’d hidden the bird, “She is learning about object permanence.” When she seemed happy again I stood up, intending to go back to the washing.

From the floor I heard a friendly screech. I looked down. The Baby was beaming at me, holding up the book towards me with both hands. “That was fun!” she was saying. “Can we read it again?”

 

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