Our summer holiday challenge

On too many occasions husband and I have said to each other, “How is it they have a playroom full of toys, yet the only things that take their interest are Daddy’s watch, a roll of toilet paper and the kitchen cutlery?”

I’ve narrowed it down to the following possibilities:

1) Things are more interesting if they are in front of you.

2) Things are more interesting if you haven’t seen them for a while.

3) Things are more interesting if you see someone else using them.

4) Things are more interesting if they don’t require any effort to start a game with them.

5) Things are more interesting if you know you aren’t allowed them.

A friend of mine set up all her duplo for her children and watched them play for hours. I decided this was an excellent idea and combined it with the idea of toy rotation. Every evening, after the boys are in bed I set up a different arrangement of toys for them. When they wake up in the morning they have a game ready to go, giving mummy some quality ‘lie in’ time. Well in theory that is. In reality, she is usually removing youngest son from the many peculiar predicaments he finds himself in.

Octonauts adventure

This method gives them the chance to play with toys that they haven’t used for a little while. It also gives them new ideas for ways to use objects e.g. wooden blocks as garages (instead of car tracks or stacking towers). The best bit though is designated time to watch them play – something I find fascinating.

Connect the car garages

I’ve now set myself a challenge to try a different set up every weekday this summer (excluding the week we’re on holiday). It’s a great way of addressing points 1 to 4 (of the list above) at the same time. If anybody has any tips for how to get round point 5 then I’d love to hear them.

Number blocks (in my youth we called these multilink cubes)
Track city

New found appreciation for our garden.

I’m not a gardener. Plants have a habit of dying on me. Whenever I’ve been given flowers or seeds as gifts in the past, I’ve had instant guilt. It’s like I’ve let them down, like they deserve a better life. Therefore my idea of gardening has primarily been removing weeds from our “picturesque” patio (think large slabs of uneven concrete). The larger, more destructive jobs in our garden, such as kicking down a wall or two, shearing the large bramble bushes back to nothing and taking a sledgehammer to the old rotten shed were completed, but general maintenance not so much!

It used to be my little gardening friend who inspired me to at least try, However, these efforts saw me getting no further than the garden centre, where eldest son was promptly distracted by the soft play. Then the boys got older and started taking an interest. Both eldest and middle son have previously come home excited from preschool, with their homemade bird feeders. We lovingly positioned them on the plum tree. They were quickly abandoned (really hoping we made at least one bird happy in the meantime). The boys’ grandparents live in a flat – with no garden – so last year they started an allotment in ours instead (growing raspberries, rhubarb and blueberries). Suddenly, we had two avid gardeners in our midst, as the boys insisted on going out to pick fruit daily. I would be presented with a bowl containing five and a half berries and I’d be expected to bake something instantly! Then reminded to buy ice cream. That was last summer.

Now we find ourselves in strange times. The weather has been beautiful, yet the only outdoor space we can go is our own garden. I told eldest boy about food shortages in shops, so he is dutifully watering the bare raspberry plants. Middle son also joined in – his input was to share his water with the plum tree by pouring half his cup on to its trunk. Further learning about how trees take in water is required; in the meantime the tree in our garden looked like a passing dog has had a wee up against it!

We’ve also got the boys a climbing frame as they are missing the park already. Their Nanny has been very generous. She knows how active they are. The frame itself is pretty much going to take up the entire garden (minus the allotment). First it requires assembling though. The guide time is 6 hours for construction so I’m aiming for completion in 6 days. That said, 6 weeks is probably a more accurate target for us! The husband likes to procrastinate and the children like to make frequent interruptions. First job: level the garden area it will be stood on.

So despite looking like something the Groundforce team could make a week’s worth of episodes out of, we’ve spent a lot of time in the garden this week. I get out a few garden toys, some chalk and their old bikes and the big ones seem to amuse themselves far better than they ever do playing indoors! Even youngest son seems content enough to sit on a picnic blanket and play. A combination of helping level the soil in the corner and a rock hunt led to an idea for this morning’s project: an Easter garden. Middle son found some sticks, which I tied together using an old daffodil leaf to make the crosses. Youngest son kindly lent us the large toy lorry that he’d been eating, to transport stones and mud across the garden to our masterpiece. Middle son had already began selecting flowers by the handful. (In this respect it’s probably a good thing that the only ones growing in our backyard are wild flowers.) Eldest son took the construction process seriously, he even went to the trouble of running inside to get his children’s bible. He considered it essential that we pay attention to detail when selecting a suitable stone for the front of the empty tomb.

Garden now complete. It would appear I am capable of gardening after all – when the garden in question is no more than 12 inches square.

Fixing things

In our household items always seem to get broken. Frequently. This is probably true of most households with excitable children, but was certainly a shock to the system for the husband – who as a child always took a more delicate approach to play. Or maybe children’s toys just aren’t as hard wearing as they were in the 1980s.

Of course, it’s always the ‘favourite’ ones that get damaged. Hookfang the dragon has got broken more often than a 2 year old keeping a promise. Luckily for us, the majority of his assorted dragon parts are possible to reattach. It’s understandable how these things happen. Anyone familiar with the ‘How to train your dragon’ films will know that the good guys don’t win over the evil dragons by asking nicely. In fact, there’s always at least one battle scene. And just like in the films, the dragons sustain injuries. My boys never seem worried though. Their first response is usually “Daddy can fix it.” Poor Daddy has a rather large backlog of items awaiting ‘fixing’ in his garage.

It’s got to the point now where Daddy doesn’t even have the opportunity to be informed of the breakage before emergency toy surgery is expected. He’ll come home from work, walk through the door and be asked instantly if something is fixed. His bemused face only serves to motivate the boys further in their quest to mend the toy concerned, and will thrust aforementioned article towards him then wait approximately 4 seconds to see its magical revival. Both of my elder boys are fully aware that Mummy doesn’t do technical jobs so once Daddy has entered the building so many new opportunities present themselves: superglue sticking, rotating screwdrivers to dismantle the items, competitions to identify how things are connected together and battery hunts. This might seem painfully dull to many but to curiosity filled infants, they are fascinating. As if the excitement of studying how a toy is put together wasn’t captivating enough, there’s then the additional excitement of having it back again (in an improved state of repair).

My children have also decided that batteries are amazing, magical items, associated with Daddy’s fixing ability. He is expected to have spares in every possible variety. The issue is that Daddy has fixed things so many times in the past by replacing their batteries, that they are now eldest’s boy ‘go to’ when something breaks. So when Noddy’s head fell off the remote control car, he suggested that the batteries got changed; when the lightbulb blew a fuse, he suggested that the batteries got changed; and when Mummy washed the garage door fob, he told me not to worry because the batteries could be changed. I’m pretty sure the house could fall down and my children would begin a battery search to save the day.

The thing is, my boys genuinely believe there’s nothing Daddy can’t fix. Middle son’s look of delight when the wheels on his scooter began to turn again (thanks to a replaced bearing) was wonderful. Even items that I know are irreparable are given to Daddy and then promptly forgotten about, so this illusion is not shattered. That made it all the more soul destroying when last week, my eldest was beside himself after the demise of his water bottle. He refused to accept that it couldn’t be saved, assuming Daddy had the ability to make cracked plastic water tight again, had Mummy not wickedly thrown it in the bin. Yesterday, a lollipop shaped pen was also mourned when I cruelly failed to retrieve the pen tip from inside its casing (where it has been forcefully thrust, during an energetic drawing masterpiece by middle son). In time I’m sure they will discover that some broken objects stay broken. They are currently insistent on using the china bowls and plates for their meals because they are old enough and ‘very careful’ with them. So it’s possible that the nasty truth about breakages may reveal itself in the near future with the aid of a dustpan and brush.

The time phenomenon

There should be 24 hours in a day. There are 24 hours in a day. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Exciting days can go quickly, dull days can go slowly, but its safe to say the 24 hours rule is reliable. Then children come along and suddenly you have a grand total of 10 minutes for sleeping, eating, entertaining the small people and everything else the day throws at you. The exception to this rule is of course when you are playing your ‘least favourite’ and your offspring’s ‘best ever’ board game. In these instances, you are playing for a minimum of 10 hours.

This morning my alarm clock (affectionately known as youngest son) went off later than usual. I woke up covered in an assortment of snot and sneezes – from night feedings – and quickly established I was already 1/2 hour behind schedule. Middle son appeared soon after but eldest boy was still asleep. I decided that leaving him to sleep for a bit longer wouldn’t do any harm. This meant that I currently only had two little humans depending on me, if only for a brief period of time. Besides middle son was being elusive so I suspected he may have had a bedtime wee accident. It’s not always a good thing when you find out you are right.

By the time we made it downstairs for breakfast we were 45 minutes behind schedule. It was as this point that I made a fatal error: sharing this piece of information with my children. Knowing that we were later than usual, resulted in them being instantly ‘helpful’. I was presented with an assortment of bowls and told, “These are for you Mummy” – perhaps I should have mentioned I had every intention of skipping my own breakfast until after the school run! I asked eldest son which out of the motley collection of crockery in front of me was for him and was told that he hadn’t got his out yet. Meanwhile middle son was laying the table with enough spoons to feed a small army, again forgetting that vitally important item: his own spoon!

Next they needed to choose their cereals. Again they were keen to assist in doing this job quickly. So we only had the short rendition of ‘Eeny meeny miney mo’ with which to select the first cereal. It was at this point that I made my second error: trying to suggest that they only had one cereal each. Not only did this fail, but it resulted in my sons reciting back to me ‘my own’ breakfast rules from breakfasts past, before a decision could be made about cereal number 2 and 3. I tried getting them to sit down while I poured the milk, because I had a wriggly baby in the other arm and spillages are already 92% more likely to occur when you are rushing. So I naively thought that if the big two were out of the breakfast preparation vicinity it might improve my odds marginally. I was convinced we were about 5 hours behind by this point and may arrive at school just in time to pick them up. Any decision I made at this point was a gamble.

On this occasion it worked! No further delays. Littlest had a perfectly timed speed feed, dropping his latch at the exact same time that eldest asked to leave the table. The pushchair was already in the house from the previous night (a totally different sleep related story), so baby could lie in there, ready to go, and giving my left arm a well deserved break. This meant I could stealthily put middle son’s shoes on while he had his last few mouthfuls. Then he went to put his coat on – not something he normally volunteers to do without first discussing the meaning of life. I got the lunchbox out of the fridge to put under the pushchair, only to discover eldest son, who had got himself ready to walk out of the door, was gently rocking the pushchair. “Baby was crying so I was looking after him.” he said. Not only did we make up the time, but I had a little moment to appreciate how loving my boys are before starting the sprint to school. #lovemyboys

Disclaimer: I can confirm that we arrived at school on time 🙂 parenting win!

Sleepless nights

If you ever decide to risk going to bed slightly later, your children will find out, and they will immediately punish you.

Youngest boy has a cold. The type that makes him snivel and the type that means his evening feed lasts 4 hours! So I sat there, feeding him and creating this blog. I tried to put him in his cot on multiple occasions. They were unsuccessful. It’s already past bedtime and baby is still feeding when middle son cries out my name. He’s started having night terrors. I go to settle him. Littlest starts crying. I go back again. This fun game of musical bedrooms went on until the early hours. Today I feel like I entered ‘camel mode’, surviving on stored energy as the new day brings new chaos.