Come along for the ride!!

Friday, February 29, 2008

"You shall go to the ball ..."

Yesterday was another “teacher/parent” meeting at Joseph’s school; a chance to sit face to face with his teacher whom we hear so much about but interact with so little. Any chance to meet and chat is great.

And, at the back of your mind, you kinda know (or hope), all is going well for your children and their education, even at such a young age, but when you hear it from their teachers, their mentor’s, the one’s who are preparing the learning foundations for their young minds, well, it makes you feel damn good.

For yourself as well as for them.

And sitting there, looking through his books, you realise how much work they actually get through in the course of a week. They fill up their books at an incredible rate and you see the transition from childish scrawl with rough colouring, to definite shapes, forms and colours that more closely relate to the “norm”.

In one lovely drawing, he had drawn himself, his sister, Mum and me, with the three of them with huge dark brown eyes (accurate) and me with green eyes (accurate).

It might not sound much but when you combine the drawing with his number work and his attempts at writing words out as he hears them, it is wonderful, and although he got a few more unusual words wrong (I think light sabre is fairly unusual don’t you?), she had just ticked it and put a big smiley face, saying well done.

I liked that.

Collecting Annabel from nursery later the same evening, I found them wrapped up and playing in the ‘garden’ and someone has hung an old car tyre from a (very small) tree on which the toddlers are all vying to get on.

Annabel of course wants me to see her have a turn and so in she climbs, face down and lying motionless as the member of staff spins her round and round and round until finally the rope is as tight as it will go.

I can hear her chuckling away, hair hanging down in front of her face and then, she’s off, speed building as the rope unwinds itself, faster, faster, faster, about 25 turns, her face and feet inching their way closer to the ground before, the rope bottoms out and she comes to a halt. The expected grin as she stands is there but her eyes appear to still be spinning in their sockets and I put my arms out as she side steps, crab-like into me, CRASH! laughing all the while.

So there you go; both children, different ages, laying down the foundations for experiencing life in very different ways.

If only that carefree bliss could last forever.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

“One point twenty one Jigawatts!”

M was consigned to working another Saturday yesterday and I suggested to Joseph and Annabel that we take a walk to a very nice little café nearby for some lunch. This was greeted with applause from both parties and so we wrapped up and set off.

Unfortunately, the food wasn’t as nice as the exterior had me believe but the trip did offer us a funny little episode.

After only 5 minutes of leaving the house, Annabel fell into a deep sleep in her buggy. We arrived at the café; she slept. Joseph and I ordered a sandwich and a drink; she slept. We left the café, stopping into a shop on the way home; she slept.

It wasn’t until we were turning into our own road that Annabel decided to wake up.

To her, falling asleep as we left the house and waking up as we approached the house, it must have seemed that we just got to the end of the road and turned around.

“Why are we coming back here?” she grumbled.

She wouldn’t believe that we’d had something to eat without her.

Maybe you had to be there!

Oh, and for those of you worried that our lunch was lacking, don’t worry; we had some lovely fresh ham, vine tomatoes and bee-yoo-tiful Dijon mustard to make up for it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

“‘ear today ……”

Last week Joseph had an appointment with the ENT consultant who has been treating him since he was very little. He’s very friendly, he doesn’t rush us out the door, he answers any questions we have and generally makes us feel happy about what is going on.

Before the actual appointment, J had an ear test to see how his hearing has been doing and so, he sits with a very kind lady who plops an enormous and antiquated pair of headphones that look like they were last used during the war out in ‘the field’. The look of concentration on his face was a picture, occasionally looking up through his eyebrows to see if we were looking at him which of course, we were.

Anyway, it was just a routine follow up appointment and he wanted to have a look at the grommets that he had put in 18 months previously (read all about it here) and lo and behold, one of the grommets decides to pop out right there and then. Mr Consultant is pleased about the length of time they have stayed in and is in no rush to put another one in.

As he is talking to us, he reaches up, takes down a specimen pot, unscrews the lid and drops the grommet inside. As the conversation comes to a close, he hands Joseph the pot and says, “there you go. Pop that under the pillow tonight and see if the ear fairy stops in at your house while you sleep”.

Excuse me? Did you say, the “ear” fairy??

I never even knew there was an ear fairy but apparently I’m wrong. Won’t children that DON’T have grommets get …… oh, I don’t know ……. ear envy?

Well, Joseph (naturally) seemed excited by the idea of adding to his ever increasing money box and held the pot tightly.

As it happens, the pot got mislaid until this morning so we will see if there really is an ear fairy tonight.

I have my doubts though.

On a far funnier note, whilst making Joseph’s bed at the weekend, I picked up his pillow to give it a good ‘plumping’ and saw two little dark “things” where his pillow was. Upon closer inspection, they appeared to be two rather old nasal crustaceans. Bogies to you and me.

I half laughed and called him in.

“What are these?” I ask.

He frowns at them, giving them a genuine close up look, before shrugging. “I don’t know”.

“They look like boogers to me. Wouldn’t you agree?”

He nods.

“I found them under your pillow. Have you been picking your nose and putting them under your pillow?”

“No”, he replies, a little too indignantly for him to be lying.

“Well how did they get there then?” I ask, smiling down at him.

As quick as a flash he said, “maybe the Bogeyman put them there”.

I often mention my children’s ability to reduce me to a useless laughing wreck and I am happy to report that this was another one of those times. Perhaps if he wasn’t being so serious it wouldn’t have been so funny but I think he genuinely meant it.

“Touché Poops, touché”.

Friday, February 15, 2008

“Hello darkness my old friend ……”

With Joseph and Annabel bathed and ready for sleep the other night, they wanted to play by themselves before bed, so I fired up my PC and thought I would quickly finish off a post for your reading pleasure.

I had only been typing for 15minutes when Joseph came into the room.

“Look Dad. Nounours (French for teddy) is wearing my taggy (blanket)”.

“Oh yeah”, I reply, barely looking around.

I carried on typing before he spoke again. This time he had his teddy on his shoulders.

“Look Dad. I’m giving Nounours a piggy back into my room”.

I glance at him, give him a little smile and turn back to the monitor. Without looking at him I say, “go and play then Poops. I won’t be long”.

I continue typing, vaguely aware that he has left the room in silence and as I look, I just catch a glimpse of the end of his comfort blanket trailing out the door.

I type for no more than 3 or 4 minutes before M comes into the room. “Joseph is waiting for a story but he looks very tired”, she says, so I finish my post and check to see it looks and reads ok; I maybe took another couple of minutes.

I walk along the landing to Joseph’s room, subconsciously thinking what book to read and as I round the corner, I look down at him, sound asleep, arm draped over the book he had chosen for us to read.

I was genuinely surprised that he was already asleep.

And ashamed.

Ashamed that I didn’t see his little attempts to get my attention and that I didn’t follow him straight out of the room when he left, dragging his teddy and blanket behind him.

Ashamed that I was so wrapped up in my own “desperately important” writing that I missed out on the chance to read my smashing son a story and have a cuddle as he drifted softly to sleep.


I remove the book, pull his covers up over his shoulder and smooth his hair back, quietly whispering “goodnight Poops” , to which he responded by sucking his thumb momentarily, informing me that he’s not entirely in the land of nod just yet.

I make my way back along the landing and into Missy’s room and the contrast is striking. She too is lying in bed but as I enter her room, she sees me, squeals loudly and hides under her cover, giggling out of sight.

We have a little chat about her day, have a cuddle (which is her signal to squeeze my neck as tightly as possible, grimacing with effort) and then we play the “can you blow the light out” game where I stand, arm behind the door and I press the dimmer switch as she puffs.

It goes out, she starts to clap and I release the switch, light filling the room again.

Stops clapping, squeals again at the “naughty light” and we do it all again.

The first few times we played this, when the light finally went out for the final time, no sooner had I stepped out of the room does the complaining start. “I want water, I want a poo, I want mummy” and so on.

I don’t know if she too is particularly tired at the moment but now, the light goes off and I hear nothing but the sound of silence.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Muchas smoochas

Yes, it’s that time of year when the card companies desperately need to get people spending their cash again after we have recovered from the wallet bashing of December.

And everyone tries to get in on the act.

A pen shop (admittedly a very nice pen shop) in the little arcade below the building where I work, hangs whatever necessary in their window to get people to part with their cash throughout the year. At the moment their are red swirly banners and balloon shaped hearts. (At Hallowe’en, they put Pumpkins in the window. It’s a PEN shop for crying out loud!!!).

“Oh crumbs, it’s Valentine’s Day coming up. What can I buy so and so? Ooh, I know, a nice pen.”

“Most people will be out trick or treating tonight. What can I do that’s different? Ah yes, of course, I’ll buy them a nice matching pen and pencil set”.

Naturally, being so opposed to such a commercial event as it is, I rushed out to buy M something and she likewise. As always with M, she is very thoughtful and, remembering that I (often) complain of not having anywhere to put the tea spoon when I am making a cup of tea (it’s all go go go in our house!), she bought me a very sweet little dish with a white heart in the middle.

(So technically, she’s removed yet another reason for me to grumble – don’t worry, I’ll think of something else).

Other gifts included a bottle of Cupid’s Ale and an Edward Monkton canvas.

I’ll leave you to figure out who got who what?

If you see what I mean??

Monday, February 11, 2008


Well, well, well, wasn’t the weekend a beauty? Sunday found me helping the plasterer finish off indoors so I won’t dwell on that day too much, but Saturday, Saturday, dear sweet Saturday.

Isn’t waking up to a deep blue sky and no sign of frost anywhere on a Saturday one of the very best things ever?


We had breakfast and drove straight over to Richmond Park where we just ‘ambled’ about for 2 hours, the children running here, there and everywhere and they kept on running until the familiar chant of “I’m hungry” filled the air.

Back into the car, over to a cracking Japanese restaurant in Putney where we shared sushi, sashimi, prawn tempura, char siu (pork) and unagi don (eel with rice – my favourite), all washed down with carrot and apple juice.

M had a meeting to attend in the afternoon, so Joseph, Annabel and myself went to the Common with bike, trike and crash helmets,. Joseph ordered me to take a spanner so he could “try riding without my stabilisers” which I duly did.

Clever Dad (me) remembered a lock so I didn’t have to traipse after my children whilst simultaneously pulling their belongings behind me when they dumped vehicles for slides and swings – I think it was the first time I ever managed to remember to do so.

Anyway, they had a lot of fun at the swing park; as you might imagine it was packed, what with the weather being as beautiful as it was, but the highlight of the day was yet to come.

M joined us just as light was starting to fade and so all concerned donned appropriate headgear for the ride home, then Joseph asked me to remove his stabiliser wheels. He has tried (half-heartedly) in the past but try, try again and all that.

So, I remove said wheels, and for a change I don’t bother him with the basics do’s and don’ts; I just let him get on with it.

We start slowly, building speed and all I have to do is remind him to look up rather than down at his feet. Within 10 seconds, I am running behind him, my hand hovering but not touching him and ….. and ……. and he’s off, all on his own.

I slow down and drop back from his peripheral vision, telling him he’s doing it all by himself. He briefly looks around trying to see where I have gone and he wobbles badly, but he recovers wonderfully before leaving the path for the grass.

His broad smile tells me he is pretty chuffed with this latest achievement.

Me too.

Once is definitely not enough however and so he brings his bike to the middle of the path and off we go again, this time just the briefest of ‘push-offs’ from me but he is away again, off into the distance and I am standing halfway between him and Annabel and M whom I have left behind.

He stops again, rotating to acknowledge my applause and I in turn spin around to beam at “the girls”.

I stand there and realise that I can now bring out my own bicycle with Joseph and cycle around the common together rather than me, slowly walking with him on the ride out and me drag his bicycle home ‘cos he is bored of it.

I can remember the bicycles my brother and I had (my favourite being my beloved red Grifter that had a stand!) and we cycled everywhere ALL the time. There wasn't an inch of our neighbourhood that we didn’t know. Every street, alleyway, shortcut; even the shallowest bits of the local Quaggy (river) at the bottom of our street that would allow access across.

Our Dad would take us to ‘Cowboy Valley’ on Blackheath (SE3) which was basically a set of cross country paths in a big muddy dip and we spent as much time there as possible, not going home until it was pitch black and we were totally exhausted and unable to ride another metre.

Watching Joseph, I realised that he is already too tall for his bike – the bike Annabel “bought” him when she was born. When he looked down to see his feet pumping away, he nearly knee’d himself in the nose so this year looks like being new bike time for him.

Annabel was happy to be pushed home on her trike, combined with occasional strolls holding M’s hand while us “boys” ran on in front.

There is a scene in the weepy film Kramer vs Kramer when Dustin Hoffman takes his son to the park and watches proudly as ‘Billy’ cycles off under his own steam with no stabilisers. It is a scene that for some reason has been burned onto my psyche and one which I always wondered that I might be lucky enough to play out myself.

As it turns out, I have been lucky enough. I did picture having a camera to hand to record the moment but I have a feeling that my own experience of it will also be burned into my memory.

Go for it Poops – there’s no stopping you now!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Head banging is bad for you

Thursday afternoon, 3.15pm and I am stood where I am always stood at that precise time; outside Joseph’s school door, waiting for the ‘pips’ to sound the end of the school day. We (myself and other parents) can see our children file out of their classroom and line up behind the glass door, waiting for their teacher to call their names as she spies individual parents.

I am spotted, she calls his name and I smile as he makes his way through the crowd towards me. When my smile is not returned, as always, you know straight away that something is wrong.

“What’s wrong Poops?”

He looks down, not sure whether to laugh or cry and replies, “nothing”.

“Tell me what’s wrong” I repeat and as I do, my eyes find what his are looking down at.

A sticker on the front of his jumper. It reads:

“Please keep an eye on me. I bumped my head today”.

I ask him what happened - he says he can’t remember.
Did he cry? He says he did.
What did he hit his head on? He thinks it was the floor.
Did he “have a little sleep” after he hit it? He can’t remember.

There were a few too many ‘can’t remembers’ for my liking so I take him home and to cut a long story short, within half an hour he goes completely grey, claps his hand over his mouth and runs to the bathroom. He retches but is not sick. He sits on the floor, complains of being dizzy and feeling sick and his eyes roll around wildly.

This is more than enough for me – I call the GP and they say bring him straight down.

They were great. They saw him immediately and seemed quite concerned but told me to take him home, let him lie down and to let him sleep but be sure to rouse him before we went to bed.

No problem.

We leave, get in the car and he immediately falls into a deep sleep. Of course, when he twitches in his sleep and he HASN’T hurt his head, that’s fine. When he twitches in his sleep and he HAS hurt his head, I’m a mess.

We get him home and put him to bed, worrying about him but we needn’t have. An hour and a half later he was awake and complaining of being starving and “could I make him a sandwich please”.

As soon as he mentions being hungry, we know that he is fine.

He goes back to sleep, wakes up this morning and not only starts his ‘word writing’ that we have not confronted all week (our fault) but also finishes it, thus not requiring us to write a letter to his teacher explaining why it wasn’t done!


Thanks Poops. Mind your noggin next time though ok?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Children are cute. Not in the “cootchy cootchy coo” sense of the word, but I mean they’re savvy. From an early age too.

Take Annabel for instance.

She saw Joseph having a piece of chewing gum at the weekend (don’t panic, it was sugar free AND a treat) and she asked for some.

She knew she was going to be told “no” and, after I had told her exactly that, she replied, “I not a baby, I big. I can have some please?”

Bottom line – she didn’t get any.

Cut to this morning and Joseph crashes down the landing, alerting her to the fact that he is awake and so she too poodles into our room. As she comes round the door, I realise that her monitor alarm will sound as she is no longer lying on the sensor pad, so I ask her to please go and close the monitor.

Her shoulders drop, she turns and walks out of the room grumbling that “my only little. My don’t close the monitor”.

I love the fact that they’re as old as they say they are at that precise moment.

“I’m little. I’m big. I’m whatever I want to be when I want to be!”

Ooh, talking of monitor’s, I must recommend the Maws Reassurance Baby Monitor. We bought ours when Joseph was born and it is just now starting to become a bit temperamental. The best thing about this monitor is the sensor pad that slides underneath your baby’s mattress and it picks up the movement of their tiny chests moving as they breathe. If at any point it does not sense movement for 20 seconds or more, an alarm sounds alerting you to the fact that something is wrong.

It’s exactly the same thing as they had in the neo-natal unit where Joseph spent his first couple of weeks and we bought one there and then.

It put up with being jumped on as he got older and began exploring his cot and has survived the same abuse from Annabel.

5 and a half years – I think that’s pretty good going myself. Although it was a £100 when we bought it, I think it saved us a lot of running up and down stairs in the early days.

And to be honest, it is becoming a bit of a liability as Annabel insists on coming into our room in the middle of the night to ask to go to the toilet but the first thing we know of it is when her monitor goes off in our room, swing into action and nearly knock her over in the process.

Which reminds me. We have had a plasterer in this past weekend and so I emptied our room and we have been sleeping on our mattress on Joseph’s floor at the foot of his bed (which he has found hilarious).

Apparently, M heard Annabel crying in the night on Sunday and she ran along the landing to her room; she wasn’t there. She ran back along the landing to the bathroom to see if she had gone straight to the loo but no, not there either.

She finally ran into our room to find Annabel, standing in the middle of an empty room with dark brown walls and with strange, eerie streetlights shining through the condensation running down every window

That must have been pretty horrible. She must have wondered where the hell we had gone!

Or perhaps she was screaming at the delightful wallpaper we had uncovered when tearing down a wall!