Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Weekend in the Garden

We've been waiting for months for the right combination of spare time, weather and materials to get a few jobs done in the garden (insert long story involving B&Q here). This weekend it all came together at last and, as E has broken out in some suspicious may or may not chicken pox type spots, we ended up spending the whole weekend out in our lovely sunny little city garden. Living in zone two doesn't mean we can't enjoy a bit of the outdoors!

The most pressing job was a rotten and worryingly wobbly fence post, fixing it involved Fred excavating half way to Australia, and breaking a spade and an angle grinder. E "helped" by making some massive mud pies then just throwing herself into the pile of dirt.

I meanwhile butchered more of the overgrown shrubs to produce a new bed - ready for veges in the summer and enjoyed our first little hints of spring - dozens of tiny purple crocuses

I also made a start on planting the shady "bed" under our horizontal pear tree (by bed I mean patch of bare earth) - first in Helleborus Niger.

 Evelyn mean while had moved on to Snail hunting, and producing much bigger flowers than Mummy!

A break from all the hard work - giant bubble wand!!

After all that, a complete change of clothes was required, and not just for E, I turned my back to change out of my muddy trousers and when I turned back someone had raided my wardrobe!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - Family Time

We have a  running joke about "tag team parenting" at the moment, Fred and I both get lots of time with E, but often very little as a family or with each other. On a few occasions we have literally high-fived as he came in the front door and I ran out of it. When we do find ourselves in the same room there are always other things to do, last night we decided to sit down and watch a bit of TV, but quickly agreed not to go for the subtitled Danish drama so that while we "relaxed together" I could do an online shop and he could replace the door handles! (we were briefly locked in the living room as a result). So this weeks reasons for me to be cheerful are family time:
1- A working family lunch:
Yesterday Fred was looking after Evelyn and they both came up to meet me at work so we could go out for lunch, E was quite excited to see where "Mummy does some science like Nina" but not nearly as excited as she as about ice cream!

2- Weekends with other peoples families:
We've had two weekends with other families recently, the first visiting my extended family for my Nan's 101st birthday (!!) and last weekend when some friends came to visit us. It was lovely having  other kids about, especially the older girls who E was totally in awe of and as she is now old enough that any trouble will be noisy trouble, we were able to let the girls romp about together while we got to talk to the grown ups for a change.
3- A family holiday:
I am counting the days now until our holiday! (16) We're returning to Coombe Mill farm in Cornwall for a week of wellies, getting muddy with the pigs and just spending time together. It's the sort of holiday I'd never have considered pre-E when I was always planning trips that would involve back packs, vaccinations and at least one hideous dose of food poisoning, but right now, it's just about ideal (just hope the weather is as glorious as it was last year!) See here for pictures of the farm's latest additions - the first lamb has just arrived!
Right that's Thursday nearly over - and that's another reason to be cheerful!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Horniman Museum

Adventures were needed yesterday! Last week we were stuck indoors for the whole of Monday, but with gorgeous winter sunshine and a strong desire to avoid that much mess* again it was time for an outing.

There are lots of good places to explore with a toddler in South London and one of our favourite local haunts is the Horniman Museum. The museum is an eclectic / slightly random collection of stuffed animals, musical instruments and anthropological artifacts. I assumed these to have been collected/shot by some wealthy Victorian chap on his travels around the empire and having now checked on the history that was basically right. Frederick John Horniman traded in tea and made it his life's work to "bring the world to Forest Hill". How terribly British.

There MUST be a frog in here...

 Anyway as far as E is concerned it has two main attractions - a small aquarium and an enormous stuffed walrus. Walruses are, I believe pretty big anyway, but this one was shot, sent home and apparently stuffed by someone who'd never actually seen a walrus and was unaware that they are supposed to have folds of skin - so they just kept on sticking in the stuffing until the skin was taught and the poor creature looked like an air ship with tusks. The mighty beast sits atop a fake iceberg and E always runs straight to him pointing and shouting "Alllwus!" as soon as we arrive (I believe he even has his own twitter account).

There is also a small hands on natural history section with little puzzles and things to listen to and touch (including a frankly rather manky looking stuffed fox - but then that is at least representative of it's local, living relatives). There is usually a bee hive between two sheets of glass so you can see right into their little honeycomb home but this is away for maintenance at the moment - it seems even bees need to call in the builders round here!

Finding Nemo

E's favourite thing this time though was the small aquarium, it has a nice selection of British freshwater and coastal beasties, a tropical tank for the Nemo lovers and (Evelyn's favourite) a variety of frogs. As ever we had to dodge the manic school parties - (funny how primary school children can seem enormous when you're trying to stop your two year old getting knocked over by them) but E had a lovely time and once we'd climbed the hill in the surrounding park to get back to the car (and admired the great views across London) she was happy, but exhausted and she (or perhaps that should be I) was ready to benefit from a very long lunchtime nap!

Visiting information:

Buggy friendliness - Excellent! step free entrance, lifts to all levels, large disabled/baby change toilet you can take buggy in with you, secure buggy storage area and lockers (for the aquarium you need to leave the buggy just outside but everything else has room to take it with you)

Website -

Opening hours - 10.30-5.30 daily

Cost - Free but there is a small charge for the aquarium for over 3's (a £6 adult annual pass is well worth it if you're local)

How to get there (you can park for free on streets in the area - but be ready to practise your hill starts!)

Food - cafe with high chairs and children's food, proper meals, snacks and cakes

*The no mess thing lasted until we made pancake batter today - there now appears to have been another snow fall, this time inside my kitchen

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful - Childbirth on the NHS

It's miserable old Thursday again so, as I enjoyed sharing my reasons to be cheerful last week, I'm going to do it again!
last week's (in truth every week's) reason number 1 was my wonderful, happy, healthy child, but she didn't come into this world easily. Ours could have been a very different story. That is wasn't is something I will always always be thankful for:

Reason 1: We are alive.
It's seems rather melodramatic to say that, typing on my iPad in 21st century London, of course I am alive, it's exactly what you'd expect. But in another time or place, my only experience of motherhood, and E's only experience of life would have been a long, painful and exhausting death. Not very cheerful that, except of course it didn't happen. I had a very long labour, all manner of interventions that I hadn't wanted, and in the end I lay shaking on the operating table as the surgeons performed the C-section I'd assumed would never happen to me. But I lived, E lived and there was never any real concern that we wouldn't. It was a truly hideous experience, but thank heavens that I live in 21st century London and that that surgical team were there when I needed them. In The london of 100 years ago I would probably have died. Today, in many parts of the world, I certainly would.

Not the best photo I've ever had of myself!

My experiences with the NHS were very far from perfect, but I got treatment many women wouldn't even imagine possible. Here is a startling fact I've used before on this blog - a girl in southern Sudan is More likely to die in childbirth than to finish primary school. I am so lucky.

2- It is getting better
It's not all depressing news outside the western world either, things are improving. In China newborn deaths have halved as access to hospitals and professional health care has increased, even in Afganistan dubbed the worst place on in the world to give birth, there are signs of slow change. There is still a long way to go but organisations such as the White Ribbon Alliance are championing this issue on a global scale and often a quick antenatal check by trained local midwife, or a cheap drug is all that is needed to save a mother and her baby. Globally the death rate is still huge, countries are run by male politicians and these "women's issues" are thought unimportant or even unclean and shameful, but the same was true in Britain at the end of the 19th century. It's changed here, it can change everywhere.

3 - and finally - We have doors!
Utterly frivolous in comparison, but my new doors make me very very cheerful!

We've been in this house for 18 months and up to now our interior doors haven't matched, fitted the frames or shut properly. Some had holes in and several (including the bathroom) were see-through! Then yesterday the magic fairy (Gerry the carpenter) paid us a visit and although they still need painting I can now shower in privacy.





Monday, 13 February 2012

Messy Monday

We've been stuck in the house all day awaiting a delivery (of door handles, oh the glamour). Lack of fresh air and running about is generally a recipe for domestic chaos and although E was happy to bounce on the beds and play hide and seek while I sorted stuff out upstairs, by the afternoon my attempts at housework were increasingly being met by: "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy! Muuuummmmyyyy! Look Mummy! I need a wee wee Mummy! I'm a bit thirsty MUUUMMMMEEEE!!! " etc etc.
So I gave up on cleaning the house and set about making it messier!

Mummy! The water is all green!

And yes the jumper was also green and in the wash by this point

And ... The fruits of our labours:

Yes, those are my hand prints in there too.

Yes, we ate a bit before I managed to take a picture!

The picture I should have taken was the wide shot of what the kitchen looked like at this point....

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Morris Lessmore and the Techno Toddler

It's not like my life is short on technology, at work I operate machines that cost more than our house, and my communications with my husband are roughly 80% virtual on week days, but I have been slightly hankering after an ipad for a while and after hearing a few people say they were great for small kids I eventually cracked / used that excuse to justify it to myself.

My beloved new toy arrived on a Mummy day whilst E was napping and I had just about enough time to set it up (and bitterly regret my long email address after typing it in about 50 times - should have kept the maiden name) before she woke up.

So how long does it take a 2 1/2 year old girl to get the hang of an ipad?

Well, within about ten minutes she'd made an aquarium picture and skyped Granny and Grandad. So not long.

There are a bewildering number of apps available for kids on the ipad, and almost as many online reviews of them - not really knowing which complete strangers advice to take I decided to turn to real life, actual people - through the mediums of facebook and twitter of course. Friends (and a few complete strangers) came up with a decent sized list and I'm now working through trying them out with E.

If I get time I'll pop back to review them here once E has had a good play. But I'll start with the current favourite:

The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore,

This is basically a children's story book, about a man who comes to live in a magical library.  There are a few lines of text and a picture on each page, but the pictures are animated and on every page there is something you can touch or try out - there are no instructions but it's easy enough to guess what you should do, touch the glowing books to make them flutter or quote famous lines or follow the red piano keys to play "pop goes the weasel" I'd initially wondered if it would be a bit much for E at only 2 1/2 but she sat in wide eyed amazement for the whole thing and was happy to let me do the more complicated puzzles for her. Her howls of despair when we finished it were all the review I needed!

I think I am a little bit in love with this App. Although it is undoubtedly rather twee, it has the feel of old movies and the good old fashioned romance of actual books. That belief that having a room full of paper volumes is  the key to a contended, knowledgeable existence, that books themselves have a little bit of a soul. I am not alone in having hoarded books with a similar sentimentality. But this ebook made me wonder:

Perhaps mine is the last generation that will think like this?

There is clearly still a place for paper children's story books but when E is my age will she have boxes of paper backs stored in my attic? Or a shelf full of A- level and University text books? I got a kindle for my birthday and now prefer to read novels and the like on that, and interactive, moving diagrams in text book apps might not only be cheaper and more portable then their real-life counterparts, they could actually be better, yeah, better than a book.

I still feel a bit bad saying that though, shh, you mustn't say bad things about books! I guess we'll have to wait end see, let's give it until techno-toddler is techno-teen.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful 1 2 3

My first ever blog hop!

There are a lot of Mummy bloggers out there, it's a world I've not really ventured far into as it tends to make me feel a little inadequate in the arts 'n crafts and baking fields, but I came across this "linky" the other day and thought it would fit really well with this blog. The idea is that lots of bloggers write a post about things they are thankful for, or that make them happy and share each others blogs on their site. Although I have a fair few rants on here, I try to keep the blog mostly positive and on a Thursday in February I think we all need to share a bit of cheer. So here are my 3 reasons to be cheerful today:

1. The big one - I have a wonderful, funny, clever, eccentric, curious, fascinating, delightful, loving, healthy child

This is such an obvious thing to be glad about yet many parents seem only able to moan about their kids, it's almost a taboo to say, you know what? It's all worth it, a million times over. I also know people who, for whatever reason do not have this ordinary joy in their lives, or who have had to battle for years to achieve it. However, tired, frustrated and covered in body fluids you are, if you have a healthy child you are blessed (and yes, you can remind me of this if I start moaning).

2. It's my husband's birthday
I have a great husband, it is his mid-thirties-still-honest birthday today and although I know he is feeling very old, he doesn't seem any older to me than when we met ten years ago. He is still running (new PB today!) and cycling to work, even in weather that makes my stagger to the station painful, and will shortly be starting a new job which should give us all a bit more time together. He is also a great Daddy and there is no more wonderful sight in the world than seeing E giggling in delight as they play some silly game. We probably won't have much time for celebrating today but we can look forward to seeing friends and family at the weekend to watch the rugby and have a big fat take away.

3. The England rugby team are undefeated in the 2012 six nations!

 I'll get this in now, I may not be able to say it for long!

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Inevitable Snow Pictures Post

Had anyone in the UK spotted that it snowed at the weekend? Obviously no one has really mentioned it, what with us Brits being so famously disinterested in our weather and all, so for the benefit of those overseas or with their head in a thermal bin bag, here are is a blog post and a few pics from the great (est so far) freeze of 2012.

Snow does feel like a bit of an event in London, our cosy blanket of smog keeps us slightly warmer than we should be - and yeah we are soft southerners, but it is even more exciting when you get to play in it with a two year old. I made no effort to conceal this excitement when the snow started just after E's bedtime and by the time she was sound asleep and we had a good few centimetres outside, I was being kept awake hoping that it would all still be there and in good condition by morning.

It was!

Me: hey E - do you want to look out the window? There's a surprise out there.
E: (wanders to window, pulls back curtain) SNOW! It's SNOWING! we can go outside and we can build a snow man and a snow balls and a carrot nose and a sledge and it's SNOWING!!! *breath*

So my hopes of an excited toddler were very quickly realised and I was surprised at how much she knew about it all, given that it's highly unlikely she could remember the last snow more than a year ago.

Breakfast was consumed at speed then we headed over the road to "The Rye" (Peckham Rye Common) which was still pretty quiet and covered in an irresistible, barely touched, layer of crunchy stuff. We made "print foots" snow balls, two snow men with carrot noses and then just rolled in the stuff (well just E for the last bit). Gloves and hats were discarded for daring to hinder her and the poor cold crows were sent reeling into the sky as she ran over to say hello to them, there was even one of the local green parakeets flying over head, letting his opinion of the whole thing be heard.

Eventually, when it was clear that, whatever she said,  her hands were pretty much frozen solid, Fred hoisted her up and carried her home for hot chocolate all round.

Not so much warming up in Daddy's jumper, as setting up camp
E: I love snow

PS. These pictures are just snaps from my phone, I will try to update this post with better ones once I get them off Fred's camera.