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.

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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.

Chapter 45-The Gruffalo Live

For a small boy, fact is often stranger than fiction.

“Is the Gruffalo going to eat me Mummy? Or is he a puppet?” was Raffie’s first response to being told he was going to the theatre. “No, the Gruffalo doesn’t eat people.” “Are you sure?”

It’s fair to say that Raffie has mixed feelings about the Gruffalo. Although he loves films like Monsters Inc, he is rather wary of monsters in general. Despite reading the Gruffalo regularly, he often needs reminding me that the Gruffalo isn’t real, unlike crocodiles. There was even a time he used to cover him up, but thankfully this seems to have passed.

Gruffalo 1

And his curiosity overcame his initial reservations, despite a small wobble at the show, and a brief “Can we go for a walk now?”, as the Tall Stories theatre company brought Julia Donaldson’s famed story off the page and onto the stage.

Told with humour, costume changes and song, the story of the little mouse who braves the deep dark wood is full of curious characters. And nuts.

Keeping a small boy on his seat (Daddy’s lap) for five minutes is something of a challenge so to keep him there for an hour is pretty much unheard of, clutching his new Gruffalo ‘sign’ and a look of deep concentration.

Every show should have a sign.

Every show should have a sign.

While the mouse went on its journey, Raffie and many other small children were mesmerised-a far cry from Raffie’s first trip to the theatre last year which lasted around three minutes.

As a reward for his very good behaviour we treated him to a post-show ice cream. He slowly covered his face and clothes in it while he cuddled his new Gruffalo toy and told us all about how it would be good to see a show with the Gruffalo’s Child.

On leaving the theatre he considered the Gruffalo posters with a keen eye. His newly cherished toy and sign were worth every penny. But to hear the words “I’m not scared of the Gruffalo anymore Mummy, I want to take him home,” is priceless.

Gruffalo 3

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,”┬áhe┬áreplied, 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/