Chapter 11-The Missing Winky

From the sound of one hand clapping to defining our very existence, philosophers have pondered life’s greatest questions for millennia.

But few share a toddler’s sense of urgency when it comes to a desire for answers. And I’ll wager even fewer are chewing on a Shreddie while pulling at their mother’s pyjamas.

“Mummy, where’s your winky gone?”

It is 7am on a Sunday. I have the radio on in the hope that someone else is also awake, and had been wondering if Clare Balding pre-recorded her show or was, like me, up Very Early Indeed. I was anticipating a coffee and toast in front of Mike the Knight, but I am now embroiled in an interrogation, as unexpected as it is alarming.

“Umm, I don’t have a winky Raffie. Daddy and Raffie do, but not Mummy.”

“Why?”

And so the day has finally arrived. Mr Why has been staring through the window every now and then for a while. Peeking through the letterbox. Poking his head round the door. Now he’s let himself in, trudged mud into the carpet, and is busy getting his feet under the table. And I won’t be putting out the bunting.

As soon as Raffie started asking ‘What’s that?’ I’ve been expecting Mr Why’s calling card. But naively I thought he may have given me a year’s grace, primarily so I could amass and retain vast amounts of information.

Flour and sugar provide a welcome distraction from Mr Why.

Flour and sugar provide a welcome distraction from Mr Why. And some thinking time for awkward questions!

With nowhere to hide, I could only reply, “Well Mummies’ bodies are different to Daddies. Girls don’t have a winky. You’re a boy aren’t you?”

“Yes Mummy.”

“Am I a girl?”

“Yes.”

“Well girls don’t have winkies.”

“Oh. Never mind Mummy, never mind.”

“Thank you Raffie.”

And with that, I have dodged a winky bullet for another day. But that day will soon come again, so any toddler proof explanations will be gratefully received.

And it’s led me to consider some questions of my own. I never thought I would share anything with a philosopher, but it turns out Socrates and I have something in common, in that I know one thing, and that is I know nothing, especially when it comes to Mr Why.

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The Liebster Award!

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The Liebster Award is for new bloggers like me, and I am delighted to say that the lovely Sarah from
My Beautiful Three has very kindly nominated me!

The award is given to new bloggers with less than 200 followers to show appreciation and help them gain more followers. I am very grateful to Sarah whose fabulous blog http://mybeautifulthree.wordpress.com/about-2/&#8221 is all about life with her family as a stay at home mum.

In order to accept this nomination I have to:
•Link back to the blog that nominated me
•Answer all questions set by the nominator
•Share 11 random fact about myself
•Nominate 5-11 blogs myself
•Create 11 questions for my nominees
•Contact my nominees to let them know that I have nominated them!

So here are the questions from Sarah…

1) When and why did you start blogging?
I started when my son Raffie turned two. I’d heard all kinds of things about the terrible twos and was a bit apprehensive so thought it would be good to share our experiences!

2) Would you rather be too hot or too cold?
Too cold.

3) Gary Barlow, Dermot O’Leary and Dr Ranj- Snog/Marry/Avoid?!
It would have to be Dermot O’Leary, Gary Barlow and Dr Ranj in that order, though I feel I should add that Dr Ranj does seem like a very nice chap and is great with kids!

4) Do you watch any soaps? What’s your favourite?
No not any more, I used to listen to the Archers but it’s quite difficult to hear over Raffie-I’m afraid it’s the odd ten minutes of Hollyoaks every now and then now and it’s just not the same since Brendon left!

5) If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Invisibility.

6) If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Las Vegas, for the food, the lights and the natural beauty which lies around it.

7) What’s your favourite hot beverage?
Decaff black coffee (not very rock and roll!)

8) What’s your favourite type of music to dance to?
I don’t do dancing really as I’m rubbish, but it would have to be 1990s indie pop!

9) Are you enjoying blogging so far and do you think you’ll stick to it?
Yes I am, I still have a huge amount to learn but I intend to stick with it.

10) What is your earliest childhood memory?
Sitting in a washing up bowl in the back yard.

11) Is there anything you do as a parent that your mother did, that you swore you wouldn’t do before you had kids, but that you now do lots?!
Telling Raffie to play nicely, all the time!

Random facts about me:

1) I worked in Madeira for a year and lived on a banana farm.

2) I played with a tiger cub who was cute but just a little bit too strong.

3) Just before Raffie was born I had to use crutches to get about. It was a bit of shock to the system but finally I have just started running again and have a long way to go before even approaching fit!

4) I love watching cheesy television. I am a big fan of Diagnosis Murder, I think Dick Van Dyke is brilliant though I have never seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so really should explore his earlier work!

5) I used to work for a newspaper and was lucky enough to interview some very interesting people, including Bill Wyman, and we had a cup of tea and some egg sandwiches together.

6) My favourite kind of movies are action films, I love anything with Bruce Willis especially the Die Hard series.

7) I played a lot of table tennis when I was at school and was in the county league. It’s still the only sport I could actually do and it took a lot of practice!

8) I have played the bass guitar since I was about 12. I have been in a few bands and we had a reunion last year, playing together for the first time in years and it was nerve wracking but great.

9) I can’t stand milk.

10) But I do love chocolate, in all its beautiful forms. And wine. Preferably both together.

11) I like to grow vegetables but have varying degrees of success.

I wasn’t sure how new a new blog needed to be, but would like to nominate the following who have started in the last six months or so and whose work I’ve been enjoying reading!

As It Seams http://as-it-seams.blogspot.co.uk/
Things to Bake and Do http://www.thingstobakeanddo.co.uk/
By Hook or Crook http://katescrochet.wordpress.com/
Milk for Iona http://milkforiona.tumblr.com/
Mad Mum of 7 http://www.madmumof7.com/
Up All Hours http://www.upallhoursblog.com/
Textile Annie http://textileannie.blogspot.co.uk
Mum in a Hurry http://muminahurry.com/
My American Psyche http://myamericanpsyche.blogspot.co.uk/

And your questions are…

1) Why did you start blogging?

2) What do you enjoy most about it?

3) Do you have a favourite blog? If so, which one?

4) What would be your perfect day out?

5) If you won the Lottery, what would be the first thing you would do?

6) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

7) What’s your favourite album?

8) What was your favourite subject at school?

9) What did you want to be when you were little?

10) How do you relax?

11) If you were an animal, what would you be?

Chapter Ten-The Science of Toddlers

“I want my magifine glass right NOW Mummy!” came as something of a rude interruption until I met our new lodger weaving its way down the kitchen wall.

As I burrowed through an unforgiving mountain of Megabloks to find it, Raffie got acquainted with Incy Wincy, who thankfully only suffered a mild concussion after getting a bit too close and personal with an enthusiastic two year old.

I’m not keen on spiders, but Raffie’s passion for all creatures great and small is growing daily. So how to help him get the most out of it?

Thankfully, I’m delighted to say that Adam Hart, Professor in Science Communication at the University of Gloucestershire, was willing and able to answer this and other questions on how to help toddlers learn about the world around them.

How can parents who don’t know much about science get started helping toddlers explore it at home?

The key thing to remember with science is that it all starts with good observations and asking questions. It just so happens that these two things (especially the asking questions part!) tend to be things that children excel at, making children perfect natural scientists. Sometimes we can answer their questions but sometimes we can’t. It doesn’t always matter as long as we always encourage them to observe and question the world around them. The other thing to do it to pay a visit to a charity bookshop and stock up on children’s science books. They’ll enjoy poring all over them with you and you may well find a lot of the answers you need buried within their pages. It is also much safer than letting them loose on the internet!

What kind of things can you look out for when out and about?

Anything and everything. However, that’s a bit vague, so here’s some more specific examples:
Lift up things – so important! Animals live under logs and stones, as well as bits of old corrugated iron, planks of wood and so on. Get in underneath and see what’s there. It’s also a great way to teach children about being safe – yes, you might drop a stone on your foot, but rather than not doing something because of the risk, why not show them how to do it safely? And you might just find a big wriggly centipede!
Look, look, look – use your eyes to scan hedges and bushes.
Visit ponds – ponds and other wet places are teeming with life.
Get an umbrella upside down under a branch and hit the branch sharply with a stick. You’ll be amazed at what falls out!
The other thing to remember is that children are mimics. If you don’t like bugs they won’t either. If you think insects are dirty, so will they. If you shout and scream when you see a wasp, or try to kill it, then that is exactly what they will do… But, if you ask lots of questions, try to find animals and get involved then they’ll follow along quite happily.

Mr Woodlouse wonders if he'll ever see home again.

Mr Woodlouse tries in vain to get home.

Some toddlers enjoy watching creepy crawlies, but some parents aren’t that keen! How can we encourage little ones to further their interest?

Man/Woman up! Put on your brave face and nod encouragingly. It’s no different from pretending that the latest “art” offering is wonderful, or that the nativity play was great! Children need encouragement and we happily give it to them most of the time, so it’s really just a case of encouraging them in this too.

Are there any simple science experiments parents can do at home with their toddler?

We “do science” every time we cook, make ice lollies, have a bath, plant something in the garden, drop stones in a bucket, light the BBQ…

We’ve just got a magnifying glass for Raffie, could this form part of a simple science/nature study kit? If so, what kind of other things would come in useful?

A magnifying glass is a great thing to have, especially a good one that doesn’t distort details, but can be difficult for children to use. Magnifying boxes, where you put the thing you want to look at in a box with the magnifying glass built into the lid, can be a bit easier.
A white tea tray is really useful for looking at pond water and soil. It can be useful to have a few pots and jars around too.
The best equipment we have at our disposal are our senses – and not just our eyes. Don’t forget to use your ears and noses when you’re out and about!

Professor Adam Hart, who has top tips on getting toddlers interested in science.

Professor Adam Hart, who has top tips on getting toddlers interested in science.

You can follow Adam on Twitter here @adamhartscience

Blogorama

If you’re looking for things to do indoors and out then Things to Bake and Do has lots of ideas. You can find out more here http://www.thingstobakeanddo.co.uk/

The PBS parents website has ideas for toddlers and babies on how to get interested in science, and you read more about them here http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/science/activities/babies-toddlers/

Chapter Nine-The Toddler of Small Things

Some people spent it at a barbecue. Others, and you know who you are, spent it drinking ice cold lager in a beer garden. I spent the hottest night of the year so far brushing blackfly off the runner beans.

I’m not sure which is worse, the fact I was doing it, the fact it was a Saturday night, or the fact that I realised the neighbours were watching me.

I spent most of last spring and summer shaking my fist at the elements. Everything I attempted to plant in the garden failed to thrive. The courgettes withered away in the rain, the onions barely bothered to pop in, and we will never know what happened to the carrots.

During a fit of pique brought on by this horticultural catastrophe, I vowed to take my revenge. Whether it was gravel, tarmac, or salting the very earth itself, I would wreak my vengeance.

Months later however my rage has been placated. Despite the blackfly, there is now only a small amount of gravel in between two raised beds, optimistically arranged as a comfortable home for the tomato plants.

It was Daddy’s job to lay the gravel. It is Raffie’s mission to spread it far and wide.

Like the carrots, we may never discover where some of it has been laid to rest.

Raffie finds stones everywhere.

Raffie finds stones everywhere.

Stones and water are currently two of the simple things in life which Raffie cannot live without.

Raffie’s love of tiny stones blossomed just before his birthday. Sometimes he proffers them up to big trees as a gift, or delivers them carefully into plant pots. Some days he plants them in old margarine tubs before watering them, or decorates the sludge in the wheelbarrow with them. I have found them shoved down the end of the hosepipe, or hiding in the toes of my shoes.

But they’re not the only small things he loves.

Important work in the garden.

Important work in the garden.

Raffie has a passion for coins, collecting them up and posting them through the cracks in the open doors. Flies, moths, slugs, and snails, everything has a wriggling fascination. And there’s nowhere to hide for insects, Raffie loves meeting small insects though finds it hard to say goodbye, screaming ‘my woodlouse!!!’ as we put him outside. It’s probably no surprise the neighbours are avoiding eye contact.

But for a small boy, bugs, bees and bits of fluff all share a sense of wonder, and it’s forced me stop and take note as those small things often unnoticed. And the beauty is that when you take time to celebrate the small, the bigger things in life seem less important for a moment, even if the gravel is gone for good.

Blogorama:

From tiny stitching to entire fleeces, Annie G is a keen crafter and is blogging all about it. I love her bags and that she spent the hottest night of the year soaking a sheep’s fleece! You can find more here http://textileannie.blogspot.co.uk/?spref=fb 

Mum of Three World is a blog I’m really enjoying and the latest post is also all about the outdoors. You can read more here: http://mumofthreeworld.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/how-does-your-garden-grow.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+MumofthreeWorld+(MumofThree+World)&utm_content=Yahoo!+Mail

Chapter Eight-Bird and Beast

About two years ago, I had a handbag. Now I have a change bag with a purse in it.

About two years ago, I thought I was really busy. Now I know what busy means.

I suspect I am not alone in recognising that motherhood finds me in a state of perpetual motion, which is forever gaining momentum.

Running used to be something I did on a daily basis. I never pretended to like it but I did like the feeling I’d done it while tucking into guilt-free chocolate.

Now it’s running of a different kind. From digging the garden to cooking meals, and then wiping the results off the floor, curtains and high chair. And then washing it off mine and Raffie’s clothes before any more mysterious stains appear.

If housekeeping was an Olympic sport I wouldn’t be anywhere near the podium. In fact I’d have probably missed the bus to the Olympic Park trying to get Weetabix out of my jeans.

Raffie doesn't take meal times entirely seriously.

Raffie doesn’t take meal times entirely seriously.

I save myself a fortune at the gym by catching falling scooters, trying to prevent split lips, and averting table top disasters on a daily basis.
But even though I am only a mother of one, I have learnt many new skills in two short years. I can clean paint off cream curtains, abort a swan attack while feeding the ducks, and clean a small boy’s teeth without poking him in the eye.

However if I lived to be the old woman in the shoe, I would never find the time or the talent to remotely resemble some of the many mums who pursue their passions beautifully with one or more small children in tow.

Laura Fleming, for example, creates her beautiful blog, Bird and Beast, while looking after her little boy, who often accompanies her while she sketches and paints the natural world in the big city.

Millie the cocker spaniel, by Laura Fleming.

Millie the cocker spaniel, by Laura Fleming.

Getting on top of the washing, cleaning the kitchen, and putting many tiny toys to bed is enough to give me a sense of achievement. Sometimes in life I find it hard to see the bigger picture, so most of the time it never occurs to me to start my slow return to pounding the pavements. But people like Laura are able to manage a family, work, a home, and still create things of great beauty.

Hares by Laura Fleming.

Hares by Laura Fleming.

So as I notice the birds nibbling my vegetables in the garden while polishing tongue prints and pasta sauce off the French windows, I am reminded of, and inspired by her creations. And who knows, if I get organised enough I might follow in her footsteps and finally dust off my running shoes-but I’ll have to find them first.

Raffie yoghurt

You can find more examples of Laura’s work here http://birdandbeast.tumblr.com/

Blogorama

OK it’s not strictly a blog but we love the animal magic of Henri le Chat. Raffie said goodbye to our beloved cat Jasper in January. Raffie loved Jasper, bringing him bananas and books every morning. Unsurprisingly this affection was not reciprocated, but Jasper did eventually succumb to the occasional ear rub to a chorus of ‘gently Raffie!’ Jasper may no longer be with us, but I can’t help but feel that his utter contempt for the world around him lives on in Henri, and for that we are truly grateful. http://www.henrilechatnoir.com/

Jasper. Trying stoically to ignore us.

Jasper. Trying stoically to ignore us.

Another busy mum, blogger, and creator of beautiful things is Victoria from As it Seams. She is running a competition at the moment so take a look and you could be the lucky winner of some vintage loveliness! http://as-it-seams.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/im-princess-tinny-dress-and-giveaway.html

As It Seams

As It Seams