Chapter 54-Blasting off in Brussels

Apparently a change is as good as a rest, but as any parent knows there’s precious little of this on holiday with a small child. And I usually mean holiday in the loosest sense of the word.

While some head off for sun, sea and sand, we headed for some freezing festive fun in Belgium with Raffie who is becoming something of an explorer, and is full of surprises.

Leaving on the ferry at an unspeakable time in the morning with the car loaded to the gunnels, Raffie took the ocean wave like a duck to water. I have never been so pleased to see a play area, and neither had he, spending the next two hours making friends and running around a small but very entertaining space on the DFDS ferry.

Ferry face, all at sea in the play area.

Ferry face, all at sea in the play area.

When we finally arrived in Brussels we were met by freezing temperatures but Christmas lights, drunk Santas and more mulled wine and baubles than you could shake a stick at-something for people of all ages and full of cheer for a small child.

After two weeks of trying to practice eating at a restaurant, he didn’t do too badly although ended up sitting on the very accommodating lap of a lady next to us after he decided their table looked far more interesting.

Usually Raffie eats and sleeps on the move. But he was so taken by blasting off in a rocket on a carousel he surprised us all by queuing patiently for half an hour so he had the chance to be strapped in and sent up and away.

Ready for take off.

Ready for take off.

A rocket man's view.

A rocket man’s view.

And the following day, a pony and trap ride around Bruges, wrapped up in blankets and followed by a hot chocolate, made the stress of packing, travelling and trying not to throw cutlery in restaurants momentarily melt away.

A combination of over-excitement, late nights and refusing to eat as much as normal meant Raffie was duly exhausted by the end of the trip, but managed to surprise us further with his first ever picture of a person, with a face, arms and legs.

First person picture.

First person picture.

And as we headed home, we all had much to be proud of. Not least his first queue, his first portrait, his trip on a big ferry and his foray into horse drawn transport.

So it may not have been particularly relaxing, but maybe a change is good as a rest after all when it comes to surprising us with new discoveries and abilities-whatever the weather.

*I’d just like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Thank you so much one and all for taking the time to read my blog and post your comments-I really appreciate each and every one.
Wishing you plenty of festive cheer and looking forward to catching up after Christmas! xxx

Chapter 53-School Daze

“Look, people here pick their noses too!”

And so after weeks of looking at Ofsted reports, calculating preferences, and phoning around schools, it became vividly apparent that Raffie’s criteria bears no relation to ours when it comes to choosing a school.

We have been to five schools already but on the sixth visit he needed to come with us, and he loved it. We were shown around by a very nice pupil and our tour incorporated most of the classrooms. As he charged into each and every one Raffie relished nosing around at their work, testing teachers and asking lots of questions to some very patient staff.

Practising what he does at pre-school.

Practising what he does at pre-school.

While we chatted to other parents he burrowed around in the sandpit before having to be almost dragged out when it came to leaving. “Maybe we’ll see you next year then” said the serene head teacher who didn’t seem phased at all by a very, very overexcited pre-schooler.

After some of his pre-school friends left for school this September it has been something of a mystery for Raffie, who was confused as to why he wasn’t joining them. They are trying to prepare them for school and have been spending a lot of time on letters and numbers.

Practising with Fireman Sam.

Practising with Fireman Sam.

This week we’ve been using the CBeebies app on my phone and he is now getting more interested in spelling and sounds, and the Alphablocks part of it has done wonders for getting him used to putting letters together.

We’ve been trying for months to encourage him to hold a pen for writing, as well as drawing. It’s been a long haul in fits and starts, but finally he produced his first written word-cat.

First written word-and something Raffie wants for Christmas.

First written word-and something Raffie wants for Christmas.

So while I continue to fret about filling out his school preferences, Raffie is full of excitement about his visit, and his previous trip to an after-school club where the big boys let him play football with them.

Seeing other people pick their noses was the icing on the cake.

“I love it Mummy!” he yelled as we got into the car. Only time will tell if he recalls this enthusiasm next September, but for now, we’ll just keep reminding him of his happy school day memories, and to keep his fingers out his nose.

Chapter 52-London Loves

Showing me the world through his eyes is second nature for Raffie.

And while for some of us, struggling through London with a pushchair can fade its charms every now and then, for this little beholder there is no beauty quite like it. And every moment is magical.

Raffie has been asking for weeks to go on holiday, to either the beach or London, so we chose the latter and headed to the big smoke. Despite a flat tyre his trip on the Saturday started well, only to be interrupted by tears when leaving Charing Cross station.

“But I want to stay in London, I don’t want to go home!” he sobbed from his pushchair. Having explained that the city was much more than just the station we set off and to his delight found two Paddington Bears which were promptly clambered over and cuddled. There are 50 of them around London to celebrate the new Paddington Bear film which opens on November 28, and you can find more information here http://www.visitlondon.com/paddington/

Cuddling Blush, by Nicole Kidman.

Cuddling Blush, by Nicole Kidman.

Meeting Paddington the Explorer by Ripley's Believe it or Not! London

Meeting Paddington the Explorer by Ripley’s Believe it or Not! London

Our tiny tourist sponge revelled in Trafalgar Square, with its living statues, huge lions, fountains, and enormous blue chicken. He loved the busy streets, the bridges and the buskers.

But all Raffie really wanted to do was to return to the Science Museum, and rave about it at every opportunity. “It is my best place in the world. There’s the water table, the bean bags and the big blocks,” he gushed before we even got there. Hopefully as he gets older we can interest him a bit more in some of the other areas of the museum, but for now, he is happy enough playing around with a gagillion other pre-schoolers followed by eating ice-cream in the cafĂ©.

Swinging London. Or the Science Museum to be more exact.

Swinging London. Or the Science Museum to be more exact.

On the way home the following day we drove into the London to see the poppies. Raffie was unfazed by an enormous but good-natured crowd while we crawled along with the pushchair. We haven’t broached the subject of war with Raffie, but he had lots of questions after making a poppy at pre-school and we have explained that the poppies are to remember people who were, and are, very brave.

Even before we’d left London, he couldn’t wait to return. According to Samuel Johnson, “He who is tires of London is tired of life”, and Raffie couldn’t agree more. So from now on I’ll be taking a leaf out of their books and exploring the capital with fresh eyes, enthusiasm, and in Raffie’s case, plenty of ice-cream.

There's always time for an ice-cream.

There’s always time for an ice-cream.

Chapter 51-1,000 Reasons Why

Measuring time can be a matter of opinion. For some it’s coffee spoons, for others it’s carriage clocks. For me, it’s a diary.

I started it when Raffie spent his first full day at nursery early in 2012, and this week, I reached the thousandth entry. For 1,000 days I have written about what we’ve been up to, the progress he has made, the good times and the bad. And of course, what he’s had for dinner.

Meal times are only marginally more successful today.

Meal times are only marginally more successful today.

Leaving him at nursery was, as is often the case, much harder for me than him, who had a whale of a time playing with all the new toys and enjoying cuddles with his lovely ladies. The first entry begins with what he did and how he was when I picked him up, all smiles and cuddles.

Smiling and books. Two things which are still popular with Raffie today.

Smiling and books. Two things which are still popular with Raffie today.

As the months went on he started walking, then talking, and hasn’t stopped since. This week’s baffling question being “Where do octopuses keep their pyjamas?” only to look horrified when I suggested they might not really need to wear them.

Usually composed late at night in haste, his diary will never win any awards for writing. But from his first proper fall and split lip, to his trip to see the Olympics, his first overseas visits and love of playing with eggs, his adventures are all documented, whether or not anyone cares to read them.

On the way to the Olympic Park.

On the way to the Olympic Park.

Some things haven’t really changed. He used to love being read to in his bouncer, and then following me around with book in hand. He used to delight in giving the cat a book and a banana. Now he demands to hear story after story, and has even memorised his first one from cover to cover, The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, a simple tale of, rather predictably, a boy and a snowy day.

His early love of cleaning has continued, this week sweeping and mopping the floor and taking turns to do the dusting with the thing on a stick. And of course he still doesn’t sleep through the night.

An early love of art.

An early love of art.

Raffie told us recently that he wanted to work for a newspaper. “What would you write about?” I asked. “My day, and all the things I do.” I suppose my diary on his behalf is the next best thing, and did think that when I got to the thousandth entry it may be time to stop. But with less than a year to go until school, I’m hoping that by continuing be a reminder of the last few months of having more time together.

I am not sure whether all diaries are meant to be read. But for me, it’s a reminder of all those little things in life that has made Raffie the person he is today. Should he ever decide to dip into it when he’s older, it’s hopefully a reminder of 1,000 tiny daily adventures which are so easily forgotten. And 1,000 reasons why we love him.

Chapter 50-Begging the Question

One of the joys of being little is having a lot of time to think, and not just about the little things.

Although Mr Why has been keeping himself to himself recently, the shorter days have prompted longer questions about life, the universe and just about everything in between.

And although I fear even Google can’t help us now, there have been some magic questionable moments.

Looking for the answers.

Looking for the answers.

This week, what should have been a relaxing bedtime turned into a heated disagreement about what happens to dreams when you wake up. A few days later, Raffie is still refusing to accept that they stop when you aren’t asleep.

“When you wake up do your dreams go out and play together?” I was about to correct him when I realised this was a lovely idea and muttered about maybe before rapidly starting his next book.

Raffie's thinking face, apparently.

Raffie’s thinking face, apparently.

I got off lightly however as the next bedtime was an inquisition on why dinosaurs don’t exist any more and was I sure they weren’t going to come and eat him.

Even the current animal kingdom isn’t safe. I can just about cope with ‘What’s for breakfast Mummy?’ at 6.30am, only to be foxed the other morning by the ever-perplexing question of “What do cats do?”

“Why do I have legs Daddy?” was a particular favourite in the car this morning, “because it makes getting around a lot easier” was the right answer from Daddy.

But then we moved on to matters of the state, and the government. “If we don’t like them, we can just throw them out the door,” was his response to a brief discussion on what a government is. “Are there monsters in the government?” “No, not really Raffie.” “Oh well,” replied the budding anarchist, “we can just throw them out the door anyway.”

We don’t have many, if any of the answers. But at least he’s keeping us on our toes, and for Raffie, even the little things in life are some of the most important-whether or not they have an answer.

An early morning experiment to see whether sticks really do float.

An early morning experiment to see whether sticks really do float.

Review-Storytime Sounds App

Whether it’s long or short, big or small, we love a good story in our house. Bedtimes meander from one book to another and there have to be at least four before Raffie will even think about going to sleep.

So when we were offered the chance to review the Storytime Sounds app for the iPhone through Mumsnet I jumped at the chance to see how it would work, and whether it would add to his enjoyment of one of his favourite pastimes.

The app, by notonthehighstreet.com, was easy to upload onto my iPhone and features five soundboards themes-pirates, lost world, space, fairy tales and monsters, plus a new seasonal storyboard for Hallowe’en.

noths-image

Raffie was very excited at the colourful pictures and interesting sounds but settled down nicely for the Hallowe’en story which is available here at notonthehighstreet.com He laughed like a drain at the organ sound and really enjoyed pressing all the buttons at the right (and wrong!) time in the story.

Enjoying making sounds for the online Hallowe'en story.

Enjoying making sounds for the online Hallowe’en story.

It was such a success that I found a few of his favourite books which we could use the app with at bedtime. We started with Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson, and then read The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers, using different sounds from a range of storyboards, to much hilarity. Raffie asked for it again the next night and we tried it with Pirate Small in Big Trouble, by Julie Sykes.

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He has really enjoyed playing with the sounds and using them for various situations during the day, as well as books.

The app is aimed at children aged between three and seven. So at three and a half, he is on the younger side of the target audience, but has got a lot out of it nonetheless, and we’ll keep trying it with different books to give him a new perspective on some old favourites.

Chapter 49-A Boy for All Seasons

When Raffie began his new pre-school, I dreamt of him coming home, wearing a winning smile and clutching a shiny new bag full of drawings.

When Raffie actually came home from his new pre-school, he was wearing one of their T-shirts and carrying a new passion in his heart.

We all love Raffie’s new pre-school, for lots of different reasons. But for Raffie, there’s one reason in particular he can’t wait to get there.

“Mud pies Mummy, I made mud pies! I went collecting all kinds of things to put in them and I made an amazing mud pie!”

And there we have it. Forget phonics, forget singing, mud is where it’s at. In his bag is the T-shirt he left the house in, now covered in it. And this weekend he taught me how to make the first mud pie of my own.

A lesson in pie making.

A lesson in pie making.

Singing his new autumn song, he bounds off into the garden at home with more enthusiasm than ever. This week when the heavy rain finally stopped around 4pm, he raced into the garden waving his hands in the air to seize the last hour or so of daylight. “Don’t worry Mummy,” he gushed, “you just need to put your raincoat on and you’ll be fine!”

So as the days get shorter we are spending longer outdoors until there isn’t enough light for him to do his sweeping, his digging or clean his playhouse. While some are quite rightly in the warm and dry, we are outside keeping warm with hard work and shifting mud around the garden.

Chastising Mummy for not getting stuck in.

Chastising Mummy for not getting stuck in.

His new pre-school have an emphasis on practical skills, perfect for a boy like Raffie. He spends a lot of time practising moving tiny things with tweezers, and learning how to make factories from cardboard, and he loves it.

But what he loves the most is that no matter what the weather they will take him outside in his wellies-a hardy lesson I can definitely do with learning from. And when he comes home, he loves nothing more than teaching me a thing or two about making my own mud pies.

A finished mud pie.

A finished mud pie.

Chapter 48-All by Myself

Lively. A word which once simply meant full of life and energy. A word which has become a euphemism for not sitting still, not listening and wreaking havoc in small spaces while everyone else sits nicely. A word which is applied regularly to Raffie’s music club.

Every week we start with great expectations, but every week I have to take Raffie out to calm down. Every week I spend most of the deceptively short 45 minutes picking him up and putting him back on his cushion. Every week, he is ‘lively’.

But not this week.

Music club usually starts like this.

Music club usually starts like this.

It might have taken the best part of a year but this time his lovely, and boundlessly enthusiastic teacher, suggested that it might be an idea to try leaving him on his own. We agreed to try next week, only for me to be told (by Raffie) in no uncertain terms to go. He didn’t even say goodbye.

So, reluctant to leave the building in case of a mammoth meltdown, I bimbled aimlessly around the corridor. Every now and then I peered through the glass to see Raffie not only sitting down, but joining in and listening. Not one of us, teacher, the other parents, and especially me could believe it, but it was true.

“I listened Mummy” he said as we got outside “and they said I did really well.”

But this week he wore his listening ears.

But this week he wore his listening ears.

Whether it was a fluke, or whether it was the future, it was certainly a revelation. We persevered for so long because music club is great, he gets to play with different instruments, learn new songs and then practice them at home.

So it may have been a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction. And hopefully we next week we can be the right kind of lively, and keep hitting the right note.

The reason we joined in the first place.

The reason we joined in the first place.

Chapter 47-Pearls of Wisdom

“He’s all talk this morning, has he used all his 10,000 words for the day already?”

Eerily, Raffie’s swimming teacher had the measure of him within moments of meeting. It was almost uncanny. As a boy who loves to talk, with a generally helpful nature, Raffie has been full of advice this week, and no topic is safe. Here are some of his magic advice moments.

On learning to drive:
“I’ll show you how to drive Mummy. It’s easy. You beep the horn, turn the wheel, and make sure you don’t bump into things.”

Back seat driving instructor.

Back seat driving instructor.

On reading a bedtime story:
“You mustn’t keep yawning while you’re reading Mummy, because I can’t hear the words. You need to read it properly.”

One bedtime story too many.

One bedtime story too many.

On eating breakfast:
“The right way to cut up toast is in triangles. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

On eating dinner:
“Don’t talk with your mouth full Daddy, you might choke and no-one can hear what you’re saying.”

On forgetting the shopping list at the supermarket:
“Don’t worry Mummy, I know what to get. We need wine, beer, tomatoes and milk. And wine.”

On examining the (comparatively large) lump on my head after banging it this week.
“No, I still can’t see it Mummy. O do you mean that tiny tiny lump just there? Don’t worry Mummy, I’ll just poke it with my finger and it will be fine.”

With his intentions sound in spirit, I think he is doing pretty well with some valuable advice for life.

Perhaps if I’d remembered not to bump into things, I wouldn’t have ended up banging my head in the first place. And I don’t think I’m alone in believing that you can never really buy enough wine.

So I’ll be listening closely for some more words of wisdom, and be sure to stop yawning should I ever be reading them out loud.

Under a watchful eye.

Under a watchful eye.

Chapter 46-Having Their Picture Taken

It was my own fault. Despite having measured him against the door frame recently, I had forgotten just how tall Raffie is getting, what he can now reach, and more importantly, the irrestible temptation of a mobile phone.

So while I cooked his dinner, Raffie ‘borrowed’ my phone and went on a secret photographic rampage, capturing the many loves in his life. And here is a selection from the end result, and his first photo essay is an insight into this pre-schooler’s priorities.

“I took all their pictures because they are special Mummy, I worked really hard.” he beamed at me. So whether it’s trapping his toys and rescuing them, watching DVDs, or shredding bits of paper to fill his recycling truck, it’s clear that a picture really does tell 1,000 words, no matter how old you are.

Mike waits to be rescued from the garage ramp.

Mike waits to be rescued from the garage ramp.

Mike joining the rubbish for a spot of recycling.

Mike joining the rubbish for a spot of recycling.

Raffie has spent a long time decorating his bike.

Raffie has spent a long time decorating his bike.

Despicable Me DVD.

Despicable Me DVD.

Lonely roller.

Lonely roller.

Doctor's tongs for emergency rescues.

Doctor’s tongs.

Shopping basket and Big Ted.

Shopping basket and Big Ted.

Sully and my slipper.

Sully and my slipper.

Shrek.

Shrek.

First ever selfie.

The obligatory selfie.