Schroedinger’s Dressing Up Day

So… next Thursday is Schroedinger’s Dressing Up Day (aka World Book Day).

How long does one wait to find out whether or not school requires the kids to dress up? I could ask, except the very act of asking makes it so.  (I’m so sorry, nursery parents, it’s all my fault!)

So, er, yes. Thanks to my enquiring nature, Hubble’s nursery is indeed dressing up. She will be going as Little Red Riding Hood, on the basis that we have a basket and I can easily adapt her clothes.  Should school be doing something similar, the boy will be going as The Cat in the Hat, courtesy of Uncle Amazon.

In Hubble news, I say it often but she has definitely reached some sort of cuteness apogee. It totally compensates for her being an evil destructobot.

img_2188She’s so very diddy that I am afraid cannot be held responsible for putting enormous oversized flower bobbles that look like pom-poms in her hair. Also she’s become much more cuddly and demonstrative recently. She likes to hurl herself at our legs and wrap her arms around them. What with that and the way she calls for another “chapcha” at bedtime and the sweet utterances of  “Night night, Mummy! Night night Daddy” wafting down the stairs from her bedroom, we are ded of cute on a daily basis.

This week she’s discovered the Echo dots that we’ve got squirrelled all over our tiny residence. Apparently “Echo!” is worth a try when nobody else is doing her bidding. (This morning I heard her telling Echo that she wanted to be let down from her high chair. Bless).

I tried to get a video of her with Echo the other day but this proved impossible without her emaciated, topless brother getting in on the act. (Um, kindly ignore the clutter pile-ups)

Meanwhile the boy has discovered pop music. He is especially keen on Shakira (Waca Waca) and Katy Perry (Roar) and likes to sing these at high volume whilst walking around St Margarets. Imagine my delight.  I’ve been trying to introduce him to the oeuvre of Lady Gaga, but so far he’s only been receptive to Bad Romance, because he recognises it from Sing (which he loved).

Apparently getting everyone up on the coffee table to dance is now A Thing.

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In less cheery news the boy has been scared of the dark ever since I foolhardily read him the opening chapter of a book without checking it first. I’d assumed it would be ok because the book (Mabel Jones) is intended to be riotously funny and features animal pirates …and in truth it made me chuckle quite a bit, but it turned out to be way too scary for a 5 year old as Mabel gets kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night by a silent and evil pirate loris, Oops. I have shelved that one for a few years.

In compensation I’ve resurrected an enormous stack of safe and cosy picture books that we’d temporarily stashed in a crate in the spare room. This has improved things considerably, as he now likes to sit up in bed reading these to himself after story time. I can usually tell when he falls asleep as I hear the THUNK of 17 books falling off his bed.

Matilda (of the much cuteness) has also developed a habit of looking at books while lying in her cot. I have to rescue those after she falls asleep. Otherwise there will be a cry of “HEAD!!!” when she rolls over and a fat board book topples over and lands 0n her sleeping head.

img_1753I’m tempted to move her into James’s bed soon and get a new one ordered for him. She loves James’s bed and we frequently wander upstairs and find her sitting in it all tucked up drawing or reading a book. Adorabubble. The down side is that she will become mobile, but you have to suck that up at some point. Also I’m not sure it’s any worse than the current situation in which she stands up in her cot at 3am bellowing “MUMMY!! DADDY!! JAY!! ECHO!!”  until some weary soul lugs themselves up the stairs to get her.

Last, but not least, I hung a few more pictures and an arched window mirror on the loft stairway…  (as you can see, I’m a ‘more is more’ sort of girl).

Hooray for Command Picture Hanging kits. A life saver on walls that conceal a hideous concoction of network cables, electrics and plumbing pipes.

I expect I will change the pictures every now and then as the kids’ interests change. For now I’ve chosen a selection of favourites from their most well loved books, along with a few drawings of my own and by a local artist.

For the top landing I’m undecided but I am considering one or two of Chris Riddell’s Hubble-a-like illustrations from  ‘A Great Big Cuddle‘….

chris-riddell-cuddle4

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Rewritten by machine on new technology

Ah, do you remember those simple times, when all one had to do was press a switch, in order to turn lights on and off?

I thought fondly of this the other night, when G and I were simultaneously bellowing at Alexa/Echo to turn the sodding bedroom/living room lights off.  It turns out our smart home gadgets are less obedient when we’ve both got streaming colds. We might as well have been speaking Klingon.

G had a particularly bad time of it.  I had to look at the app just to see what it thought he was saying.  Yes, we have a bedroom light called Spike. What of it?

G:  “Dim Spike to 20%”   (translation: Do you like to take a note?)
G:  “Dim Spike to 20%”   (translation: Turn swicord twenty)
G: “FFS. Dim Spike to 20%!!”  (translation: Do you know spike to twenty?)
G: “DIM SPIKE!!!!”   (translation: Do you spy?)

Ålso, this little beauty…

G: “Add baby wipes to shopping list”   (translation: Play ‘White Christmas’, by Bing Crosby)

Tee Hee!

But still, at least she’s not Siri. There’s a limit to how many always-listening corporate AIs I’m willing to cohabit with, and someone really needs to teach that relentless, cyberstalking, waste of space that “no” means “no”.  Ever since I disabled him on my new Mac, he’s been bombarding me with thrice-hourly pop-ups asking if I want to re-enable him. What does it take to get rid of the annoying bugger?

In domestic news, I’ve finally made some progress (with excellent hanging assistance from my big sis) on the much procrastinated wall of illustrations for the kids’ bedroom stairway.

It’s not finished but I’m v pleased with how it’s looking so far.  When the boy saw it he ran up and down the stairs and hugged every picture. Bless.

Alas, the rest of the flat is…  gargh!  Such daily tippage, I can barely cope. Even if I got rid of the kids and their unrelenting squalor, there’d still be a million unfinished jobs. Maybe we’ll get around to those in 2018…

As if to compensate for the scribble all over the bathroom door, Hubble’s deadly cuteness has reached critical pitch. It’s probably the only reason she’s still alive.  In the few moments per day when she’s not wrecking our residence, she tootles around like an adorable gremlin, giggling at her own cheekiness and saying “Dee-da!” (which I have only just worked out means “Tilda”).

Also, when I’m reading bedtime stories, she’s picked up on James’s eternal demands for “another chapter!” and has started popping her head over the cot side and saying “Mummy! Chapcha!” if I look like I might be about to slope off. Adorabubble.

The boybot has had quite a good run of bedtime stories lately. G’s been reading him the Pugly ones and Mr Gum, and I’ve just done A Piglet Called Truffle (very Dick King Smith) and the first of the Secret Seven books.  The SS one was a romping good read, actually.  It made us both laugh out loud a couple of times, when we weren’t too busy speculating on the mystery.  It’s not exactly a shining beacon of feminism, but I suppose you can’t have everything – and I doubt the boy picked up on such nuances.

Film fad of the weekend was Jumanji, which might have been bordering on a bit scary, but we watched it together and the boy really loved it.  Also Ponyo has joined the ranks of beloved Studio Ghibli films. (Thank you, P & T!)

Last, but not least, I am pleased to report that we are once again pox-free, and Hubble’s smooth little face has re-emerged from under the sea of spots. Hooray!

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So – all that remains is to wish you all a happy Year of the Cock, and brace myself for the on-going apocalypse. Toodle pip.

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He shall have no pie

Dear Microbe, how is it possible to lose a brand new mitten that has been threaded through your coat sleeves on a string that is safety-pinned to the inside of your coat as a double measure?  If you wish to develop special skills like this, kindly save it until you move out. Thank you.

In other boy news, I’ve come to the weary conclusion that we’re going to have to switch him to packed lunches for four days a week.  One of his teachers has been monitoring his eating at school and it is utterly woeful. I don’t know how he stays alive some days on a diet of half a slice of bread and three pieces of sweetcorn… and when you add a week of insomnia into the mix it is no wonder he’s a bag of overtired grizzle.

Fussy eating remains a source of general bafflement to me. I have no empathy for it whatsoever and can only wonder how a pair of greedy trufflers like G and me ever spawned such a meal-dodger. I ate everything I was given as a child, with the notable exceptions of

  • Mushy peas (ugh!)
  • School spam fritters (double ugh!)
  • A heinous dish called Rabbit Bake, cooked by my dad.

So yesterday evening I spoke to the boy about packed lunches and what I expect him to be eating every day and he seemed happy with the idea. His only interjection was to inform me, on the topic of puddings, that he does not like cake, even when it is a Mr Kipling Chocolate Slice. Oh, good. I shall add that to my list of 387 things that the boy does not like. Whilst he was telling me this, the girl was sitting in her high chair with cheeks bulging full of Mr Kipling Chocolate Slice shouting “Mummy! CAKE! Daddy, CAKE!”  This one I understand.

I must confess that something is niggling me about the boy’s relationship with food. For a while now, he’s been claiming that he has no sense of smell.  G and I haven’t taken him very seriously but I googled it the other day and discovered various forum threads in which people claimed that they or their child had the same problem and had been ignored or disbelieved until teenage years, when someone had finally checked them out and found it to be true. Hmm…  if you had no sense of smell, would tomatoes taste disgusting?  I think I want to test the boy at home but I’m not sure how to do it without him knowing that he is being tested.  Ideas on a postcard…

As for the girl, she is a dream, by comparison, when it comes to food. God love her eager little chubsticks that run to the kitchen whenever you ask if she’s hungry. And she claps in delight these days when you offer her food. She also seems to be settling much better in the evenings and is mostly staying asleep. Hooray for these mercies!

Alas she remains  a demon imp from Hell when it comes to wrecking the flat.  I am agog on a daily basis at the speed in which she can turn a room from moderately tidy (i.e. as good as it ever gets) to disgusting slurry heap. There are times when it feels properly evil… like when you take your eye off her for 2 minutes and find that she has used this time to go upstairs and empty out and mix up all of the underwear drawers, not forgetting to carefully unpair every single pair of socks along the way.

Or when you let her run around for 5 mins before nursery and, by 8am, discover that the living room floor is a car crash that can only be tidied by the careful, labour-intensive sorting of a pile that consists of:

  • Lego pieces (preferably multiple types that don’t go with each other)
  • Odd worn socks
  • Mystery Crumbs
  • 300 miscellaneous plastic animals/dinosaurs
  • Offcuts of paper that might be rubbish or might be carefully-snipped out parts of one of James’s in-progress craft projects
  • Odd jigsaw pieces
  • 75 hair bows and bobbles that have been filched from a bathroom drawer and spread out across the living room
  • A 30″ strip of glue dots
  • Random bits of plastic that look like they belong to, or have fallen off, a mystery toy
  • 43 coloured pencils, all blunt
  • Pages torn from books

Argh.

And when you’ve finished tidying that up, you pop to the loo to discover that the toilet bowl has been pre-filled by a packet of wipes, three hair slides and your most expensive eyeshadow palette.

Purest evil.

On a cheerier note, I’ve bolstered our stash of bedtime reading fodder this week.  We’ve just finished a book called Animalcolm by David Baddiel, about a boy who is magically transformed into a series of animals. You can imagine how much the Microbe enjoyed that.

january-10-2017-at-0716pmOur new stash seems to be heavy on daft comedies, including a couple of Pugly stories, the first Mr Gum book and a Wrigglesbottom Primary story – and some short stories for children by Terry Pratchett (am not sure what age these are pitched at). I also got A Piglet Called Truffle, which gets good reviews for the sort of kids who like Dick King Smith and I’m thinking of trying out the first of the Secret Seven books to see how it goes. I’m not sure how they’ll come across to a 21st century 5 year old but the word on the street is that they’re better for younger kids than the Famous Five series so we’ll suck it and see. Here’s hoping the boy will fall in love and start wearing an SS badge to school (hee!)

Well that’s all for now.  Toodle pip.

 

 

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Can’t rewind we’ve gone too far

Happy New year all.  Alas, I lack the inclination to post pics of the children in Santa hats. I am here instead to ramble on about exciting geeknews in which G and I bought each other Echo Dots.

I for one welcome our new Amazon overlords. Even if they are always listening…

Mine’s called Alexa and I think I love her a bit more than I should. She lives in our bedroom and wakes me up in the morning, tells me the weather, answers my inane questions and plays my spotify playlists on demand.  On Boxing Day I asked her to order me some AA batteries from Amazon and they arrived the next day.  The future is now, people. (Until Amazon takes over our minds and destroys the human race, obv.)

I also enabled a couple of games on her. One was a daft retro interactive adventure story that I played while lying in bed by saying “Alexa, open the magic door“. The other was a Guess The Animal game that the boybot LOVES, where he has to think of an animal and answer a series of YES/NO questions until Alexa guesses it. This works amazingly well, apart from the fact that she doesn’t consider insectivores to be predators, hence was unable to guess aardvark or echidna. (I think termites would beg to differ on that point, Alexa).

More pressingly, I linked Alexa to our shared family Google calendar. This means that when I tell her to add things to my to-do list, G’s smart watch pings up with an alert from Google. Guess how many seconds it took me to say “Alexa, add ‘Bring Sue some wine’ to my to do list“.

G’s one is called Echo and is currently set up in the living room, where we made her turn the Xmas tree lights on and off by saying “Echo, turn off Christmas.” Hee!  We’ve always wanted robot servants. For now she’s been left in charge of the living room lamps but this heady intoxication is not enough. I want robot slaves all over the flat, to save our poor, weary index fingers from having to press switches.

I might even research the wisdom (or not) of getting a dot for the boy’s birthday, so that he can play music in his bedroom and have little chats with Wikipedia and update his repertoir of jokes.

In Hubble news, she has decided to learn English via the Captain Caveman Method, in which all words must be bellowed at floor-cracking volume and with multiple exclamation marks. In such a method there’s no need to waste one’s breath on verbs, or even on complete nouns. The gist can be expressed clearly enough by bellowing the first three letters. Hence:

“Fee!!!” = feet
“Han!!!” = hand
“Coa!!!” = coat
“Mil!!!” = milk
“Jay!!!” = James (the adored)

Her favourite two syllable words are:

“Peppa!!!”
“Baby!!!”
“Poo poo!!!”
“Wee wee!!!”

Rather adorably, she calls Father Christmas “Ho! Ho!” and monkeys “Ha! Ha!

It’s all well and good until I remember that, by this age, we’d already programmed the boy to say “flux capacitor“.  But they’re very different children.  As G points out, the boy’s mouth has always been primarily an output device, whereas Hubble’s is an input device. She may not be verbose but she already wipes the floor with him at using cutlery.

I’m at my wit’s end once again over his lack of eating. I know I ramble on but I’d  given up worrying for a while as he was at least eating a varied diet. Unfortunately, ever since starting school, he’s become fussier and it’s frustrating because I’m not there to badger him into eating things.

It’s not just tomatoes and pizza any more. He seems to be rejecting most of the roast dinners, anything containing mince and all pasta dishes apart from macaroni cheese. And he’ll no longer touch any sausages unless they’re pigs in blankets. Fussy bugger! Then he goes to FFS and rejects whatever they’re offering for tea, unless it’s chicken dippers. (Dear god, I can’t believe I have ended up with the sort of child who just eats chicken dippers. I hadn’t even heard of chicken dippers until last term. Thank you for that, FFS!)

Yesterday I sent him to school with a packed lunch full of things that he likes (ham sandwich, apple, cheese and shortbread biscuit). But when I inspected his bag afterwards he’d only taken two bites of the sandwich and had left everything else apart from the biscuit. I honestly have no idea what to do with him. The only consolation is that he still seems keen on vegetables so I guess he won’t get scurvy.

In equally uncheering news, the girlbot has become a beast at bedtimes. Gone are the days when we could plonk her in her cot with a kiss and a bottle of milk and leave her to self settle. It’s all gone horribly wrong. These days she screams and rattles the cot bars as soon as we try to leave the room. Hence G and I are taking it in turns to sit up there for eons every night, reading aloud until she eventually falls asleep – an hour after the boy has gone. Then she wakes up again at midnight and yells like a banshee until we bring her downstairs. Suffice to say I am not keen for this phase to continue.

19 months seems to be the age of peak toddler OCD.  In Hubble’s case this means that she won’t even lie down in her cot until all of the following conditions are met:

1. Jay!!! must be lying in his bed. Not in the bathrooom or near his bed. IN. HIS. BED.

2. Mummy or Daddy must be sitting in the reading chair and physically holding a book in one hand. Woe betide the parent who stands up or dares to put the book down for a moment. (This causes instant sproingage and a yell of “Mummy!!! Booooo!! Boooo!!!”)

3. Mummy’s or Daddy’s other arm must be wedged as uncomfortably as possible through the narrow cot bars so that a hand rests on her chest or pillow. This hand will now be subjected to a lengthy ordeal of pinching while the story is being read. (Should the hand be moved or retracted momentarily due to pain, numbness or the wishful notion that she’s fallen asleep, instant spoingage will occur along with a bellow of “HAN!!! HAN!!!“).

Utter tyrant she is.

Ok, I will stop moaning and go away.  I’m sure there must be some commands I could be issuing to my electronic workforce…

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I don’t think you’re ready

I had a moment of parental bratitude this week over school jelly.  The dinner ladies had sent a message home via the Microbe to say that I should start sending a packed lunch on Thursdays because it’s always pizza and the boy refuses to touch it because of the demon tomato.  (Sigh).

So I set up a calendar reminder to make him a sandwich every Thurs morning and thought that was the end of it.  But this week he told me at bleary o’clock that I also had to pack a pudding for him because he’d been upset the week before when they wouldn’t let him have any jelly.  (I had v. naively assumed that kids with packed lunches would still be allowed school puddings). So I started raving on about “Mr Bumble” refusing to give my workhouse oik any jelly…   until one of my mum friends pointed out that it’s probably because kids with packed lunches are assumed to have allergies and the staff would be in trouble if they let them have jelly.  So, alas, I had to admit that I was being the worst kind of brat. We all have our moments.  (Obviously I am only confessing to it here as a wilful excuse to use this blog title.)

In other news, Hubble seems to be broken.  I remember bragging like an insufferable cow to my NCT friends about what a good baby she was – no trouble whatsoever at bedtime and always sleeping through the night. And one of my pals replied, like a voice of doom “Yeah … my daughter was exactly the same for 18 months, and then she started waking up every night and demanding to come into our bed and is STILL doing it.”

Damn you, Harps, you evil soothsayer.  She has turned, right on cue.  No longer can we put her in her cot and watch her nod off dreamily while we read to the boy.  Instead we get an hour of screaming at bedtime followed by a 3am siren call from above, demanding parental bed rights, which are usually granted on the basis of parental knackeredness.

And, on top of that, she is WRECKING the Xmas tree on a daily basis since she discovered that there are chocolates on it. (This is entirely G’s fault as he deems it a form of child abuse not to smother a tree with chocolates).  As far as Hubble is concerned, the correct word for Xmas Tree is “More!”  She’s even worked out her favourite route for climbing to the higher branches after she’s cleaned up the lower half.

Tsk!

So, today I am off work and was planning to get all of the presents out of hiding while the kids are out and to start some wrapping up.  This was a great plan until I found the boy ferreting about in my bedroom this morning, commenting on the secret wrapping paper that Father C had earmarked for stockings. There is no hiding anything from that boy.

Tsk!

Well, I’m sure I can think of some more FWP to moan about on here, but I’d probably better get on with stuff…

 

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Satan’s Little Helper

Here is Little Miss Hubble, looking as good as gold in her soon-to-be cousin’s nursery chair. You’d never guess what a fiendish little hell-sprite she is, would you?

hubble

Sometimes she’s so flagrant that my attempts to be cross are hampered by the effort of not laughing. Like when she throws her food wilfully onto the floor and I see red …and then she looks at me and wags a finger and says “NO!”

Or when I’m hunched on my knees, halfway through changing a nappy, and the little bugger jumps up and legs it down the corridor, naked, at top speed. Then she sees me chasing and shrieks with glee, which makes her fall over because apparently she can’t giggle and run quickly at the same time.

Or when she finally falls asleep in her cot and waits for me to tip-toe away before springing up like a jack in the box and giggling over the cot-side while I bellow “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LIE DOWN!

Far less amusing is having to refill her bath several times every evening after she lets the water out. WILFULLY. And I could do without her latest hobby of throwing shoes, books, hair slides and anything else she can find down the loo, preferably when it has been vacated moments earlier in an unflushed state by her brother. Gargh! Filthy animals, one and all.

In Microbe news I am thankful that several of his friends appear to be as Pokemon-obsessed as he is, right now. Otherwise I suspect I’d be on the receiving end of even more unintelligible rambling.  Not that I have anybody but myself to blame. Nobody forced me to make him this truly heinous hat.  The things we do for love.

pikachu-hat

In other news, the Fireworks are over and it looks as though grotto-dodging season is almost upon us. Where can I get a pair of child-sized horse blinkers?

It’s the same every year. From late Nov we can barely wander to the shops or nip to a garden centre without having to steer the children around 35 pop-up grottos full of Santas of dubious quality.  How is this supposed to add to the magic?  The Microbe was pretty quick to point out last year that ‘Santa’ had a different beard every time he saw him. I’d far prefer it if these annual lap-chats could be limited to one per year – and preferably not before mid-December. Sigh. Why am I even bothering to write this? I may as well stop railing against the world and embrace the red beardyman. Even if we ignore every single grotto, he’ll still turn up in a motor-sleigh at some point and knock on our door.

And don’t get me started on this business of letters from Santa.  Honestly, how long before we can all friend him on Facebook?  (Why, yes, I am one hundred and three, thanks for asking.)

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Another brick in the wall

Yikes…  Microbe’s school has suddenly ramped up the homework regime.  They seem to have an annual tradition of giving them an easy ride for the first 6 weeks and then introducing the new regime after autumn half term.

Until now we’ve had two reading books per week and occasional spellings. But suddenly we’ve got a book-bag full of maths, spellings and other stuff that they’ll be tested on – plus a log-in to an online learning tool.

The problem for us is that the poor boy goes to FFS for 3 hours after school, in which he wastes almost half a day failing to do ball sports. By the time we pick him up after work he’s totally knackered and hungry and almost ready for bed – and in no fit state to practice reading or spelling or anything else.  I tried reading with him the other evening and he was falling asleep after one chapter.

I think kids whose parents work full-time are at a real disadvantage. The ones who get picked up at 3:15 every day have hours of wide-awake time in which to play, eat and do homework. But we’re going to have to cram all of his homework into the weekends, and/or try to fit in a few minutes before school each day.

I raised it at parents evening the other day but his teacher told us not to worry because he’s a bright little cookie and showing no signs of falling behind as a result of it.  (Nice to know – but not really the point).  School is such a black box that we were genuinely delighted to find out that he’s doing well and seems to be happy, with a nice, close-knit circle of friends.  The slightly sad thing, for me, is that the only topics that appear to matter this year and next are maths and English. I got a very strong sense of this at the curriculum evening, too.  I don’t think it’s the teachers’ fault at all – they’re clearly being pushed extremely hard to get all of the kids to an officially assessed level of maths and English and, to a lesser extent, science. But, as a result, all other subjects seem to be treated as mere fluff, or ‘nice to haves’.

Having a supremely arty child, it seems a shame that art is not recognised as something to strive to be good at.  But they are at least doing arts and crafts, nevertheless. On parents’ evening the boy showed us an amazing portrait of Benjamin Zephaniah that he’d done, up on the wall. He also achieved his year-long ambition last week of being named ‘star of the day’ because of a drawing he did.  Bless him!  He has been dying to be star of the day for so long that he blurted it out to me the nano-second he got picked up.

I don’t suppose focusing on the arts will do him any long-term favours anyway, the way things are going. I fear increasingly for either kid’s chances of ever being able to move out from their mum and dad. The other day the boy reminded me of his wise plan to have two jobs when he grows up. Unfortunately the jobs he has in mind are zoo keeper and artist. Bless his cottons. I’m sure his banker friends will come and visit him occasionally in his squalid bedsit…

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