Chapter 44-Oranges and Lemons

Right from my first falter on the number line, grasping at mathematics has been the mental equivalent of apple bobbing. And more years later than I care to remember, at times it still is.

Desperate to pass my maths GCSE, I asked my teacher if a tutor would help. “No, I’m afraid there wouldn’t really be any point,” he replied, turning on his heel. He thereby saved us some money but very little face.

So, while we’ve tackled letters with gusto, our first foray into arithmetic with Raffie was something I approached with apprehension.

Raffie not taking his first maths lesson entirely seriously.

Raffie not taking his first maths lesson entirely seriously.

“Are you going to eat all those oranges Mummy?” “No, we’re going to do some numbers Raffie.” “Can we make a cake with them?” “Not at the same time poppet.” “Can I get some flour?” he asked, heading towards the cupboard. “Not yet.”

And so, flour retrieved and cleaned off the carpet, we made our first meal of mathmatics. Staring out of the window during maths lessons, I wondered if this sort of thing was useful in real life. To my surprise, it was. And so I am keen for Raffie to embrace, rather than avoid, numbers.

Starting with oranges. Having to catch them first is all part of the fun. With a bit of adding and even stepping out with some subtraction we dipped our toes in the pool of numbers and liked what we found.

Counting tiny balls at the Science Museum.

Counting tiny balls at the Science Museum.

Despite passing my GCSE, I will probably always be bobbing for apples when it comes to maths, Raffie is loving number oranges in small doses.

And I’m hoping if he starts off by learning just to have fun with numbers, then our efforts might start to bear fruit, be they apples or oranges. And who knows, I might just learn a thing or two along the way as well.

Chapter 43-Teenage Kicks

A pensioner’s lap. A bouncy castle. Behind what I blindly thought was a cake stall at a music festival. A bush, and the shed roof. It’s been an exciting few weeks for my glasses, which never know where they will end up next.

Today they ended up underneath another lady’s pushchair. It can’t be easy being three. But it definitely isn’t easy being my glasses.

Raffie has another ten years before the terrible teens begin, but it feels like the hormone pixies have come early, with a delivery of temper tantrums, hot tears and a penchant for flinging my glasses wildly at every possible opportunity. And oddly, for air guitar.

Taking the stage for some air guitar.

Taking the stage for some air guitar.

But then Raffie has a lot on his mind. Breaking the window of his playhouse (accidentally) caused several days of angst. Now he is convinced he is the only three year old going to school in September. He knows his friends are leaving nursery and he thinks he is going with them.

“But it’s not fair!” he screamed at me, my glasses in his hand, having been told it was home time. To me, it’s just nap time. To him, it’s a raging injustice.

But in some ways the lows make the highs sweeter. After a very nice lady retrieved my glasses from her cake stall at the festival this weekend, I could see him having a wonderful time on a huge bouncy slide.

There's nothing like a bouncy slide to put a smile on a small boy's face.

There’s nothing like a bouncy slide to put a smile on a small boy’s face.

“It’s the best day ever!” as he clambered up for the gagillionth time and made another friend who is also going to school in September. “I’m going as well” he beamed, as I explained yet again that it is NEXT September, which he seemed happy enough about for now.

We ate ice-creams, climbed on logs, played with circus clubs and listened to lots of music in the sunshine.

Biting off more than he can chew.

Biting off more than he can chew.

He was so worn out that he was ready to go home, with promises of returning tomorrow, weather permitting. “I am going to check the weather forecast in the morning to see if it’s sunny, windy, cloudy, rainy or windy,” he said, with a furrowed brow.

It’s surprising what a functional Mac, some Wellies and grim determination can overcome. We’ve even had to bring a reminder of the day home in the form of some dried grass, which is now waiting to be cooked in his kitchen. And it’s surprising how a good day out can lift the spirits, no matter how old you are.

So Raffie may act like a petulant teenager at times, but I don’t need my glasses to see that although he may have developed some of their worst traits, sometimes a cuddle and an ice-cream can make everything OK. And give my glasses a break-for now.

Blogorama

I’ve recently discovered this blog and it’s great-this week there’s a review of a book all about going to school-I have a feeling I’ll be needing it sooner rather than later as it’s only a year away! Do stop by if you can, it’s a lovely blog http://over40andamumtoone.com/

Chapter 42-The Simple Life

There are some things that money just can’t buy. “Mummy when can I have a penguin for my new pet? Should we keep it in a cage?”

Sadly for Raffie, my only experience of bird keeping was through my great-great Auntie Elsie, and her budgie, Bobby. At least once a year he made the long train journey to my great-grandmother’s with a little blanket over his cage. Should he ever look slightly peaky on arrival he was automatically given whisky in his water. I don’t know if Bobby knew where he was, but I imagine after a while he didn’t really care.

Where's my penguin?

Where’s my penguin?

Flying in the face of feathered demands however, 75p has gone an awfully long way in making a small boy very happy.

I can’t even remember why I bought a pink spray bottle but over the last year it has been in daily demand. Raffie uses it for all manner of things. Cleaning his little table and chairs, misting the plants, and wiping up spills off his toys.

Lately he has been using it to clean his playhouse in the garden before coating the French windows in a weak playhouse paint and water solution. I haven’t the heart to tell him not to, but am increasingly keen to discover how to remove smears of white floor paint from glass.

Blowing bubbles, liberating broad beans from their furry pods, and the world’s smallest paddling pool have all brought forth gasps of delight this week in the garden.

Bubbles are apparently even better while wearing a dressing gown.

Bubbles are apparently even better while wearing a dressing gown.

And Raffie is teaching me a thing or two about the simple life.

Convinced he wouldn’t be interested in something so straightforward, I set about chalking with him on the concrete in the garden. There followed a half hour session of drawing around each other and leaving faintly troubling, but much enjoyed, body outlines on the patio.

At the moment all he wants to do at the end of the day is go for a swim or kick a ball around with Daddy. He is grateful for these small pleasures, and I am grateful that for now, they’re enough to make his day. But there are still moments when, as my dear friend Emma would say, he wants the moon on a stick.

“Mummy can I have a Florence and the Machine jigsaw puzzle?” “Hmm, I’m not sure they make those.” “Can you have a look for me Mummy?” In lieu of this, I am hoping a tub of jumbo chalks will suffice. At least long enough to distract him from the jigsaw, and even more importantly from picking up a penguin.

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Blogorama

We don’t get a lot of sleep in our house, in fact we haven’t had a full eight hours since before Raffie was born. However, the new parenting platform Up All Hours is a place where you know you’re not alone, and is full of fantastic reads and information-do stop by if you get the chance http://upallhours.com/

Chapter 41-Little Drummer Boy

There are a few things I would ask a knight in shining armour, but “Do you do drumming?” wouldn’t be at the top of the list. It was however a question which had been burning bright in Raffie’s mind as soon as he discovered he was about to meet a real knight at the medieval festival.

Soon after arriving we bumped into a band of very nice knights getting ready for their re-enactment. He could have asked anything of them, but Raffie just wanted to know about their drums. And it turns out that yes, they do do drumming.

Making new friends.

Making new friends.

Squeezed into the back of the stage with the rest of the band taking up all the space, it’s seldom a drummer enjoys the uninterrupted limelight. But for Raffie, they are the star of the show.

Raffie’s current all time favourite song, to which we have to listen at least eight times a day, is Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine. We listen to it in the car, we watch it on my phone in the pushchair, we watch it on the laptop in the kitchen.

It is the soundtrack of his day, and has raised many questions. “Why does she change her hair in the video Mummy? I like her hair.” “Should Mummy dye her hair red Raffie?” I asked, pondering a prodigal return to henna. “No Mummy, it’s just for Florence.”

Trying a new look of his own.

Trying a new look of his own.

It’s amazing what can turned into a drum, from knees to laundry baskets, but some questions, however, are easier to answer than others.

“Who is the Machine Mummy? Is it the drummer?” I must confess that I’m not that familiar with their work, so was only able to respond feebly with “Well you can get drum machines Raffie but real drummers are more fun,” as I remembered a Keith Moon anecdote. And then remembered not to share it.

And despite seeing a wealth of knights in shining armour, and riding on a not particularly medieval but highly enjoyable swing carousel, we did yet more drumming on the way home.

In full swing.

In full swing.

We even did a bit of the violin and recorder though these are only brief dalliances before he reaches for his drumsticks. And although he’s very keen to help Fireman Sam, he’s been “a bit too busy drumming Mummy” to come to the rescue this week.

So while they may at times be overshadowed or even taken for granted, they can rest assured that there is a small boy banging the drum for drummers everywhere, on whatever he can find.

Chapter 40-Game, Set and Catch

“He’s a lot of fun isn’t he?” There is nothing like the steely glare of a sports coach to stop you in your tracks. And a suspected case of mistaken identity.

“Pardon? Do you mean Raffie?” I shuffled nervously. “Yes”, she said, “he’s fantastic.”

Now obviously we think he’s fantastic. But after trying to stop him running around for half an hour while all the other children paid attention I couldn’t really understand why anyone else would at this particular moment. When I told my friend we had taken him to a tennis taster session she asked “why do you do it to yourselves?” which was a very fair question in hindsight. And she wasn’t even there.

Making his way towards someone else's ball.

Making his way towards someone else’s ball.

Raffie is many things, but a listener is not one of them. Excited beyond belief by the prospect of playing tennis, he spent a lot of time running around in circles and catching up with other people’s balls when they fell on the floor.

Then there was the escape bid, along with the running through the huge nets dividing the courts. It was what you could call a family workout, I just wish I had worn my running shoes as I could have caught him before he literally slipped through the net.

So hats off to the people who run the sessions for giving him the chance to try it out and letting me hold a racquet with him which managed to keep him focused for five minutes. “I love tennis” he said with a look of glee, twiddling the net between his fingers. “I know, but I think you might love it more if you listened to the lady Raffie,” I gasped, “No Mummy, I won’t.”

A brief moment of calm, thanks to a very patient lady.

A brief moment of calm, thanks to a very patient lady.

So to hear the coach singing his praises came as something of a shock. “You should bring him in for our toddler class sometime, he’s got so much energy and he’d really enjoy it,” she said. “I’d love to, but as you can see he’s not that good at sitting or listening yet,” as I watched Daddy trying to stop him crawling up the stairs and out. “Ah, but that’s what I intend to teach him,” she said, wisely. She is a better woman than me. And if she is successful, we would all be grateful for finally getting a word in a small boy’s ear.

Blogorama

I happened upon this smashing blog recently and have been thoroughly enjoying the adventures of Steph and her family, please do stop by if you get the chance it’s a great read http://diaryofamidlifemummy.com/

Chapter 39-Cabbages and Kings

To be fair, I don’t know a lot about King Canute. But after having been gardening with a toddler, I am learning to appreciate the trials of reckoning with a force of nature.

Like holding back the tide, it’s wet, it’s wild and an impossible task.

On the other side of the shire however, all is peaceful. “Being in the garden is so therapeutic,” chirruped my grandmother. And looking at what she has created, it probably is. From a manicured lawn to an immaculate shed, everything not only has its place, it knows its place.

Alas, such order is abandoned at our allotment. If any of the seedlings survive after this week I will eat not only them but my hat after a thorough trampling, followed by a blissfully ignorant squishing with a hosepipe.

Raffie and an unsuspecting row  of courgette seedlings.

Raffie blasts an unsuspecting row of courgettes.

Raffie’s delight at figuring how to drink from a standpipe on renders him deaf to any requests to think about what he’s doing or watch where he’s going. “But why Mummy?” he pauses quizzically, watering can in one hand and his foot on a courgette seedling.

If it’s not plants it’s sticks, and the little protectors I’ve put on top of them to stop him poking his eye out. “I threw them in the bushes Mummy,” “Why did you do that? They were to protect you.” I ask wearily. “I don’t know, you can go and find them if you like Mummy.”

And now we have dug (thank you Daddy), planted and watered relentlessly there is no going back. We will see how many survive to the end of the season and then try and persuade Raffie to enjoy the fruits of our labours, probably smothered with butter and accompanied by a sausage or two.

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Last week he pulled his long suffering sunflower out of its pot saying ‘look how much it’s grown, it’s huge!’ Sunflower roots safely returned to the soil, his enthusiasm is boundless.

I barely had to time to finish the sentence “Now we’ll wash these strawberries before eating them” before he’d stuffed the first crop into his mouth.

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So the proof of the gardening will be in the eating. But until then we’ll keep trying to stem a tide of enthusiasm-and hopefully enjoy at least one feast fit for a king.

Finally walking on the grass.

Finally walking on the grass, not on the sweetcorn.

Blogarama

I’ve loved this blog since I first discovered it and months later am still joining the blog hop, Small Steps Amazing Achievements. It’s all about family life and living with autism-please do pop in, it’s well worth a read http://www.ethans-escapades.co.uk/

Chapter 38-Rollercoaster

“Now pay attention everyone, there’s a toilet situation.”

Raffie’s face is framed with earnest intentions while our lovely builder friend, who can turn his hand to everything, and I stop talking and start listening.

“It is broken Mummy. I think we need Mike to fix it. Is he Mike Flood?” “No Raffie he’s not from Fireman Sam, he’s our friend who is good at fixing things.”
“Oh. I’ll go and get my toolkit Mummy. What’s a cistern?”

And so, for once, we narrowly avoided making a drama out of crisis. With water pouring out of the loo it was a crisis which could have been disastrous if we’d have left the house on time for once.

But now Raffie has turned three, everything seems to be bigger, brighter and a lot bolder than ever before.

Even a bee costume couldn't make him walk nicely.

Even a bee costume couldn’t make him walk nicely.

Not so long ago I lamented the arrival of Mr Why but it seems he has now left the building with Mr In-a-Minute. I imagine them having a quiet pint somewhere while I am left to argue with Mr NOW who cannot wait for anything.

He cannot wait for his porridge to cool down so narrowly avoids burning his mouth. He cannot wait for his wrap to be finished until he realises half way through he did actually want soft cheese in it after all. And no matter how many buttons you press a Wallace and Gromit DVD does really need a few moments to load.

As Raffie bellows that I have to come with him RIGHT NOW for the gagillionth time that morning, sometimes I see in his face that even he doesn’t know why he’s so cross. With hot tears never far away, the harsh injustice of waiting for a biscuit is just one which Raffie faces daily.

We have tried cuddles, we have tried looking out the window, we have tried singing songs. I may be protesting too much, but I am starting to realise that the season of the tantrum is well and truly upon us.

Although it’s not all bad.

This new found hyperbole means that when he’s in a good mood he is absolutely lovely. He loves giving his baby friends teddies and kisses, rubbing my back and looking out for his bigger friends and making sure they don’t run in the road.

Raffie loves music and movies and is learning how to do jigsaws by himself. These are some of the joyful things in life and when he’s happy, we’re all happy.

So now we have left the terrible twos behind perhaps my clever cousin was right when she warned me about the horror of three. But only time will tell whether these dramas really are a crisis, or like our broken toilet, just a flash in the pan.

Chapter 37-Peppa Pig Takes A Bow

It has been said that all the world is a stage, and all of us merely players. However when it comes to Peppa Pig, some players are more equal than others.

As a reviewer for many years I have been lucky enough to enjoy (and very occasionally endure) a vast array of productions from Shakespeare to Sing-along-a-Sound of Music (three times). But nothing compares to seeing Peppa and her friends when you have a toddler on your lap.

Raffie doesn’t do sitting down, so I looked around anxiously when we arrived. The only crying face I could see in the auditorium was Raffie’s. “I want to go home Daddy,” he sobbed, “I don’t like it.” But thanks to an emergency biscuit and a tub of chocolate ice cream, we managed to make it until the curtain rose and Raffie then sat, stunned into submission. He even forgot to eat his ice cream, and just chewed his spoon resolutely while the show went on.

The magic of ice-cream. And a firm grip.

The magic of ice-cream. And a firm grip.

From the car park to the cafe, the theatre was heaving with excitement. The queue for the merchandise became longer and longer, while swarms of children raced into the auditorium squeezing Peppa plushes and waving flashing windmills.

Carrying puppets on their arms, the cast did a sterling job of bringing Peppa and her friends to life. It may not have been Shakespeare, but it worked for the audience, and remarkably Raffie lasted until the last 10 minutes, when during every quiet moment in the performance chose to ask loudly “Is it time to go home yet?”

And finally, yes it was. After spending £7.50 on a flashing windmill, despite the offer of something useful like a swim bag instead-“I don’t need a bag Mummy, I NEED a windmill”-we set off home.

The rain lashed down outside the theatre. But even that failed to dampen Raffie’s spirits after his first full theatre show-a vast improvement on the ten minutes we spent at the pantomime in December.

Whatever it is that Raffie loves about Peppa Pig, there is method in the madness of the noise, the excitement and, of course, a flashing windmill.

It was worth every penny to hear the words “I had a lovely time at the Peppa Pig show, I loved it.” And so as the curtain rises on a new interest in the stage, I’m sure Peppa would be delighted to hear he’s already asking to go back for more.

Blogarama

Quite simply, I love this blog-it has food, it has an adorable three-year-old, and is a pleasure do read. Please do have a look if you get the chance http://thegingerbreadmum.com/

Chapter 36-Happy Blogaversary

This afternoon I discovered it has been a year since my very first post. And what better to celebrate than to have been nominated for the Liebster Award by the lovely Laura over at Aprons and Shoestrings, and thank you Laura. You can read her smashing blog about parenting on a budget here http://apronsandshoestrings.com and I am very flattered that she decided to share the blog love with Two Years Old and Rising.

liebsterblogaward-2

This is the second time (but the first time this year) that I’ve been nominated and am very grateful to be asked once again. The Liebster Award helps bloggers with fewer than 1,000 followers to get their names out there and helps us promote our blogs better.

Readers get to find out 22 random facts about me, and I send on questions to the lovely bloggers I nominate.

The rules of the competition:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, posting a link back to their blog on your blog.

2. Display the award logo on your blog post or as a widget or gadget. It’s best to save the image to your desktop and then upload it to your post.

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which the person who nominated you has asked.

4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.

5. Nominate five – 11 blogs that you think are deserving of the award, and who have less than 1000 followers. (You can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information.)

6. Create a new list of questions for the nominated bloggers to answer.

7. List these rules in your post (you can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated for the Liebster Award that you’ve actually done so! Provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

So brace yourselves-11 random facts about me…

1. I was born on a Tuesday.
2. I play the bass guitar.
3. I couldn’t live without bananas or Jaffa cakes.
4. Blancmange makes me shudder.
5. I am now on my third allotment.
6. After having pneumonia this year I am champing at the bit to start running again.
7. I briefly had green hair.
8. I once interviewed Tony Benn.
9. This will be the first year of my life I haven’t had a cat.
10. I never leave the house without liquid eyeliner on.
11. I love really terrible jokes, the worse the better.

Questions from Laura

1.What do you love most about blogging?
I love putting pen to paper and having a record of toddler life-even looking back now there are things I’ve forgotten about and it’s only been a year!

2.Who do you admire the most?
There are lots of people in the world but probably my Mum.

3.If you could live anywhere in the world other than where you are now, where would it be?
It would have to be Las Vegas.

4.Marmite – love it or hate it?
I’m ashamed to say I am not a fan, though it does make a lovely stock!

5.Flat shoes or high heels?
Flat shoes, preferably on big boots. I like keeping my feet warm.

6.If you could be Queen for the day what would you do first?
Declare an extra Bank Holiday.

7.What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Going rapid floating in Finland, it was scary but worth it, needed some help getting back on the boat though!

8.How long have you been blogging?
A year.

9.What’s your favourite meal?
Burritos.

10.What are you reading right now?
The Street Trader’s Lot-London 1851, by Henry Mayhew and Stanley Rubenstein.

11.Which do you prefer, the seaside, the countryside or the city?
I think now I have a toddler it would be the seaside, it’s a place where I don’t have to constantly remind him not to do this or that, he can just run about and enjoy it.

And these are my questions to the bloggers I’ve nominated:

1. Why did you start blogging?

2. What do you enjoy most about it?

3. What’s the food you couldn’t live without?

4. Who is your inspiration?

5. What’s your favourite film?

6. What was your first pet?

7. Do you have a pet hate?

8. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

9. What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

10. What kind of holiday do you like the most-beach, countryside or city?

11. What day of the week were you born on?

And here are my nominated blogs, all very deserving-and please forgive me if you have over 1,000 readers! :

http://mummyofboygirltwins.wordpress.com/

http://premmeditations.wordpress.com

http://pinkoddy.co.uk/blog/

http://emmasouthlondon.wordpress.com/

http://www.goingonanadventure.co.uk/

Chapter 35-Games Without Frontiers

It may not be a Hitchcock movie but life with a toddler is filled with suspense.

We are on tenterhooks at various moments throughout the day and at the mercy of mind games including such cliffhangers as will he eat his supper? Will he have a nap? And after playing Fireman Sam for the fifth time this morning, where will he demand to be rescued from next?

This morning he had his foot stuck in Daddy’s laptop bag. Yesterday he had his hand down the back of the sofa, claiming to have fallen off the shelves while fixing the television aerial. Aside from finding situations from which to be rescued, just like in Fireman Sam, Raffie’s new love is hide and seek. After counting to ten the game usually goes like this.

“Where’s Raffie? Is he behind the sofa?”
“No I’m in the kitchen Mummy!”

Hmm. Where could Raffie be?

Hmm. Where could Raffie be?

His intentions are good but his hiding places can be questionable. Yesterday he buried his face in a beaded blind. The other day he hid behind an empty clothes airer with his head in his hands. It works both ways, as the Daddy shaped lump under the duvet completely passed Raffie by when it was his turn to seek. “He’s gone Mummy, has he gone to shops?” “Are you sure he isn’t under the duvet?” I said, trying to keep a straight face. “No, I think he’s gone to the shops Mummy. I didn’t find him.”

Surprise!

Surprise!

When I was little my favourite game was rummy, and I used to spend many hours playing this with my nan, with a little kitty of coppers with my name on and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. Unsurprisingly card games aren’t for Raffie, who can’t sit at a table for more than five minutes. But he enjoys a game of catch with varying results and following a gift of a golf club and balls has been teeing off in the kitchen regularly.

The only game he can keep relatively still for is hide and seek, for about a minute, before the suspense becomes unbearable. Finding Raffie may not be much of a challenge but we love his genuine delight in finding new places to hide, no matter how obvious they are. And while he’s still loving every moment we wouldn’t dream of finding him too easily. So until he’s ready, we’re more than happy not to give the game away.

Blogorama

As a mum who blogs it’s always nice to come across a dad who blogs, and thanks to Lewis this one is a smashing read. I also like the fact he only wears black. Find out more at http://dadwhoblogs.co.uk/ or on Twitter @dadwhoblogs