Thursday, 30 August 2012

How to cope with the terrible twos (at one)

This week has been a tricky one. It started off with a carrot cake that flopped and went quite spectacularly downhill from there. I should have seen the cake as an omen of things to come and hibernated for a week. That said it’s all relative of course (I’m sure many others had much grottier weeks) and there have been a few rays of sunshine in the past few days too - I’m concentrating rather obsessively on those!

Little Bean has developed two new traits. One is rather endearing. She shouts ‘hooray’ (or something that sounds very much like it) when she is happy. If this does indeed turn out to be her ‘first’ ‘word’ I hope this is an indication that she will be a happy soul.


Her other new trait is a bit of tantrum throwing. Arched back, whacking everything within reach and getting very upset if you don’t do what she wants. I know how she feels. I wouldn’t mind lashing out sometimes too and throwing my head back and howling. Pity it’s not acceptable at my age actually.

Now, I know I’m not the best at keeping up to date on the baby-rearing manuals but I could have sworn it was generally expected that the terrible ‘twos’ provided such histrionics? Am I to understand that we're expected to deal with the ‘ominous ones’ too? Are there any other phases that the parenting general knowledge osmosis has neglected to inform me of?

Friday, 24 August 2012

Fox's Socks - the morning after

Little Bean has a new favourite. She has moved on from I took the Moon for a Walk and is instead obsessed with lift-the-flaps books, in particular Fox’s Socks. I love that she loves books but I am a little but concerned at the appropriateness of Fox's Socks.

Fox wakes up looking a bit bleary eyed, clearly from a hangover. His clothes are strewn everywhere (as if torn off in the height of passion) and Little Mouse, quite clearly his, shall we say, ‘overnight companion’ has brought him a lovely cup of tea to soothe his aching head.

Fox's Socks Julia Donaldson Axel Scheffler

But Fox seems fixated on finding his socks and so begins a frantic search around the house trying to find the missing items. It appears the raunchy little couple had been very busy the night before as their search takes them all over the house, finding hats in bathrooms, ties in kitchen cupboards and at last, the missing socks, in the grandfather clock and most interestingly in a Jack-in-the-Box in the loft (I’m not judging).

I am now off to reread the Gruffalo and The Snail and the Whale just to make sure I haven’t missed any cheeky nuances. I either need to start censoring her bookshelf. Or throw caution to the wind and start reading her Fifty Shades of Grey.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Travel checklist

We're off on holiday soon so I'm currently trying to make lists of things I need to pack, in the vain hope that this will help me be more organised. Although I love technology, I do find that in the list making stakes it's not doing me any favours.

Granted, thanks to my iPhone, I now no longer need a notebook or diary in which to jot down phone numbers or appointments - everything is contained in this little gadget of calendar and phonebook wizardry . There's a tree or two saved in my lifetime.

But lists? Not so phone friendly. Yes, I have tried using the 'Notes' app but I'm afraid to say I've found it pretty useless. Maybe I'm not particularly dextrous but typing out a list like that takes forever, and even then I end up with a shopping list that looks like this.

This should in fact read: nappies, razors and Dentinox...

So, usually, when I want to make a shopping list/take a message etc, I grab a random piece of paper (usually an envelope or till receipt) and scribble it on there. Often the only writing instrument I can find is a highlighter or unsharpened pencil (or in extreme cases a lipliner) so it takes more than one attempt to write anything legible and I'm still probably the only one who's likely to ever decipher it. Still, there it is.

But do you think I can ever find this random piece of paper again? Of course not.

I briefly considered using one of those clever travel apps that comes with a ready-made checklist that you can customise. But really, do I have the time to faffing around with customising these things? Surely my time would be better spent actually packing. If I have to I can resign myself to buying a forgotten toothpaste or pair of pyjamas while I'm away.

I'd love to hear what you do to make sure you've packed everything. Are you a list user? Do you have any helpful tips on being organised when packing for a holiday?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Kid's party bags - like taking candy from a baby

On the weekend we went to a three-year-old's birthday party. We left with a lovely goodie bag, but by the time we got home it was empty. I’m assuming the goodie bag was intended for Little Bean but as she’s only one I thought she probably wouldn’t miss a few sweeties – I’m not sure flying saucers are advised for under ones? And bubbles are just as fun for adults as for kids. Especially on a long car journey home.

I like these goodie bag ideas for kids. I know they're meant to be a thank you but I also think they work as brilliant compensation for the party coming to end. Here, you can take some of the festivities home with you. The party's not over till you (or your mother) have eaten the leftover slice of cake and the balloon has popped.

What goes into a party bag is obviously up to the parents and there are some interesting variations on content. Do the children just get a balloon to take home? Or do you order personalised cotton party bags and fill them with lego sets? Do you include healthy snacks as well as sweets? And if you're handed a party bag on your way out, do you do a quick recce of the contents before handing it over to your little one?

I'd love to hear your thoughts? Do people go overboard? Or is it lovely to see parents go to so much effort to make the children enjoy their day? What are the craziest or best things you've found in your child's goodie bags?

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

I feel a little silly doing a book review on this one as everyone seems to remember it from their childhood and has their own view of it. That said, I read it for the first time this week so there must be a few others like me who haven’t yet had the tiger round for tea. 

The Tiger Who Came to Tea Judith Kerr

Perhaps too young?

I’ll be honest, Little Bean (11 months and counting) was not a fan. She’s more than a little in love with Hide and Seek Pig at the moment and seems to think a book’s not really worth her time unless it has flaps to open up. Also, although the illustrations are lovely, they’re not quite as bold and beautiful as other more contemporary ones. That said, I suspect that as she grows older this is exactly the kind of kookiness that will result in fits of giggles (almost as much as finding a hen hiding in the picnic basket does now). 

In a nutshell

For those of you who don’t know the story, it goes something like this. Sophie and her mum are just sitting down for tea when there’s a knock at the door. Who can it be? Having established that the milkman and deliveryman have already visited and it’s too early for dad to be home from work, they are still perplexed as to their visitor. Opening the door they are suprisingly nonplussed to discover a tiger on their doorstep and merrily agree to his staying for tea. 

The greedy tiger demolishes all the food on the table and then goes on to ransack the kitchen cupboards. It’s a good thing he lines his stomach actually because he then proceeds to drink all of daddy’s beer (clearly mummy had cleverly hidden her gin). Don’t know about you, but if my hubby got home and I tried to fob him off saying a tiger had drunk all his beer, there’d be words. 

Thirsty too

Still trying to quench his thirst (or maybe trying to stave off a hangover) the tiger then drinks all the water in the taps. Then he says his goodbyes (politely thanking Sophie and her mum) and off he goes. 

Left with no food, no water in which to bathe, Sophie and her mum are finally dumbstruck. Luckily daddy arrives to save the day (yes, there are a few shall we call them ‘traditional’ bits) and whisks them off to the cafĂ© for tea, finished off with ice cream. 

The following day Sophie and her mum pick up some tiger food but alas the wily bun and beer-loving cat probably suspects as much and doesn’t make a return visit. The End.

A children's classic

It’s a simple story and yet I think the reason it’s been so popular for so long (it’s over 40 years since it was first published) is because it captures children’s imaginations by stomping all over the usual boundaries and rules. An animal is allowed at the table. He eats not only his portion but everyone else’s, including all the buns. Baths/hairwashing is avoided. There’s an outing to eat fish and chips (well past usual bedtime), followed up by ice cream. 

Something so ordinary like sitting down to tea, turns into a lovely succession of out-of-the-ordinary treats.
It’s a cheerful story and despite a few un-PC moments, I am sure will delight little ones as they ooh and ah at the audacity of the cheeky tiger, secretly thinking they’d love to get away with half of his mischievous madness. 

So, what’s the morale of the story?

  • Don’t open your door to strangers who might eat you out of house and home.
  • Dressing up like a tiger will score you free beer.
  • Always keep the wine and gin hidden, but the beer on display as a decoy.
  • Always have a tin of tiger food stashed in the cupboard for surprise visits.

Some extra Tigery titbits: 

  • Here’s a fascinating article and interview with the author, Judith Kerr. In it she talks about how she had to leave behind her pink rabbit comforter when escaping Nazi Germany. Her semi-autobiographical trilogy ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ is named after this. 

  • The Tiger Who Came to Tea has been adapted for stage and is currently enjoying a very successful run on the West End, London. See here for further details and to book tickets. It's only on until the 2nd September though so be quick. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Best baby names

Prospective parents, rejoice. The ONS has released a list of the most popular baby names in the UK (see this lovely map Mindful Mum has put together showing where the names are most popular - love a good map).

So, now we all know which names to avoid this year so that our children will not be known in the classroom as Harry4 or Lily8. Or worse just by their surname (fine for secondary school, not so endearing at nursery).

Compared to say, childbirth, naming your child may not seem such a tricky job, but this is your offspring's social future you are playing with. You could unwittingly be adding years of torment and teasing to the poor child's life, so somehow, in between raging pregnancy hormones and sleeplessness and the sheer blind panic of birth, you have to come up with a suitable name that fills the following criteria:

  • Original, but not barking mad
  • Pretty (or manly), but not too much or everyone will be using it
  • Fits with your last name, but not in a weird way (everyone has a peculiarly named child they went to school with, mine was Iona Sidebottom)
Then you have family heritage to take into consideration. Luigi is a perfectly acceptable name for a family with an Italian background, but as there isn’t a drop of carbonara in our bloodline, it might sound a bit pretentious in our household. 

That said, I do love European names: French, Italian, even some of Russian sounding names are lovely. But to be worthy of consideration they’d have to be pronounceable and not sound too bizarre. Here are a few of my favourites:

Top five French names (girls)

  • Aimee
  • Clementine
  • Jessamyn
  • Simone
  • Violet

Top five French names (boys)

  • Sebastian
  • Louie
  • Luc/Luke
  • Javier
  • Emile

Top five Italian names (girls)

  • Chiara
  • Rosa
  • Alegra
  • Elena
  • Gabriella

Top five Italian names (boys)

  • Luca
Actually that was it, the rest all sound like they belong on a pizza menu. Don’t think a freckly Londoner is going to get away with being called Giovanni or Romano.

Top five Russian-y names (girls)

  • Natalia
  • Alexandra
  • Alyssa
  • Eda
  • Anya

Top five Russian-y names (boys)

  • Stefan
  • Ivan
Actually, just the two here as well. The rest are all Vladmirs and Egors. Again, imagine a Geordie introducing himself as Vladmir...?

What do you think? Any good ones I've missed?

Monday, 13 August 2012

Beautiful Blogger Award

I love tea and biscotti. I also love TeaandBiscotti partly because the charming little so and so nominated me for this beautiful Blogger award and made me feel so special. The reason she gave for bestowing this honour?  'Little Magic Beans for her different slant on normal things.' Yes, that sounds like me. A different kind of normal ;)

The idea is that I have to nominate a dozen or so worthy bloggers for the award and then go on to list a few things about me that you, dear reader, would not ordinarily know. So, here goes:

Here are my nominees!

The Gingerbread Mum who likes to 'feed people' (these are my favourite type of people because I like being fed). See her blog for great ideas for making 'proper' food for little people.

StressyMummy who, despite her blog name, actually sounds quite inspirationally on top of things with some wise insights

In a Bun Dance who besides having the best blog name I've come across, always has something interesting and thought-worthy to say.

Mummytravels who, while others have resigned themselves to never again leaving the house, remains completely undaunted by the idea of travelling with a little person. 

A Strong Coffee for her inspired Mischievous Monday linkys.

Just a Normal Mummy because she's not normal at all and is really a wee bit bonkers (another one of my favourite kinds of people).

And here's the 10 random things about me:

  1. I am an exceptionally lazy cook. My husband had to talk me through making mashed potatoes last month. It turned out quite well but really, to have reached my age and not yet made mashed potato…?
  2. I ate mountains of popcorn when I was pregnant but flat out denied it was a craving. My other cravings were red wine and cigarettes – didn’t do the latter but had a few small glasses of cab sav. It was just the ticket to calm the hormonal tornado.
  3. I’m quite tall at 5’10. This is helpful when at concerts or trying to reach things on high shelves. Less so when realising wearing any sort of heel will make you the tallest person in the room. Also coming to terms with the fact that on me ‘knee-length’ dresses and skirts will still be short enough to make me look like hooker.
  4. I love living in the UK because there are far less bugs than in Africa.
  5. I never get dressed just once in the morning, that would be far too easy. A wardrobe crisis ensues every morning at 6:45am sharp. It’s so predictable I would laugh if I wasn’t always running late and didn’t have time to.
  6. I have the navigational skills of a mole on crack. I have no shame in asking strangers for directions - that’s what they’re there for, no?
  7. When I was a kid, my mum used to tell me off for always having my nose in a book and not being more social. Then I hit my teens and took her advice. I think she regretted that.
  8. I am half Austrian although my ‘official’ German is so bad I had to ask the bemused lady at the embassy to fill out my passport application form for me. 
  9. I have run a half marathon – though not on purpose. My friend talked me into doing it with her but then she missed the cut off application date. I’d already started training so carried on. On the day I thought I'd walk most of it but completely surprised myself by running it all. I didn't even get lost.
  10. My daughter’s second name means Star. I like that.

*Thanks to Love All Blogs for the use of the I’m a Beautiful Blogger badge!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Lost in London #FridayReads

Something about this book title The Dog Detectives - Lost in London really appealed to me - ‘lost’ as I've mentioned before is my favourite four letter word after all.

Dog detectives I wasn’t so sure about, but Little Bean seemed perfectly convinced by the Holmesian hounds so I decided to throw caution to the wind and pretend that it was perfectly acceptable for dogs to be wearing shirts and riding bicycles. (I'm realising I have to be more fluid with reality since becoming a mum. Having less sleep does help too I suppose. If the Gruffalo started delivering my mail I probably wouldn't bat an eyelid.)

The premise of the book is this: The legendary ravens have gone missing from the Tower of London - ‘If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall…’and it’s up to Detectives Jack and Deputy Poco Loco to get them back. With some help from the Rat Riddler the two perplexed pups must solve a series of puzzles which lead them all around the sights of London.

There are some lovely, easily identifiable illustrations of iconic landmarks such as the London Eye, St Pauls Cathedral and Big Ben. Little Bean loved the bold colours but this is perfectly suited for older kids too who are keen to learn more about London (perhaps before a visit?) and who can try work out the Rat’s little riddles, the last of which was my favourite:

‘What starts with a T and ends with a T and has T in it?' If you can work it out, the Gruffalo promises to deliver your post too.

The Dog Detectives - Lost in London

*The book was supplied by publishers Maverick Books for the purposes of review

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Westfield events during the Olympics

I’m a West London girl at heart. I had a brief flirtation with the south when I first arrived in the capital but since then I’ve moved from Action Town Acton, to Yummy Mummyville Chiswick to end-of-the-line Ealing Broadway and now to where-the-hell-is-that West Ruislip.

If I move any further out I won’t still be classified as living in London so I’m staying put for now. It’s great here, we’re right on the borders of the proper countryside – with walks, strawberry picking and country pubs all on our doorstep. And when I feel the need for city life and retail therapy it’s also only a 25 minute train journey into Marylebone and a mere 30 minutes on the central line to get to Shepherds Bush and my personal shopping mecca, Westfield.

Westfield Olympics

Ah, Westfield. Excited as I was when I fell pregnant I did wistfully consider all the city-ish things I would have to give up, but as it turns out, shopping is not one of them.

Aside from the fact that they have a shop for every size pay cheque (Tiffany to H&M), Westfield also has the best baby changing facilities, quiet feeding rooms (muted lighting, sliding doors so you don’t have to battle with a buggy) and brilliant children’s play areas which make potential logistical nightmares actually quite pleasant shopping experiences for everyone.

And now Westfield is doing its bit for the Olympics this month. If you haven’t been able to get tickets to the games but want to entertain the kids this summer then they are running FREE activities including live family music, kids arts and crafts, kids character meet and greets and ‘have a go’ sports. See here for a full list of the exciting events including (my personal highlight) a meet and greet with Postman Pat.

And then there are the competitions… If you feel a shopping spree is called for but the purse strings are tied, then you might like to join the #IWasThere challenge, where West London's Westfield battles it out against the new Stratford wannabe - guess my allegiance ;)

Click here to find out more and to sign up to the West London team and put yourself in line to win some wonderful prizes. The athletes shouldn't be having all the fun...

*I’ve partnered with Westfield to provide this information

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Supporting your children at sport - where are the mothers?

Last week I mentioned Derek Redmond’s dramatic finish in which his father leapt from the stands to help his injured son hobble over the finish line. This week another Olympian’s father made the headlines. Bert le Clos’s pride could not have been evident or more touching than in this interview with the BBC. If he was any more puffed up with glee he’d explode.

Gold for Le Clos
What’s interesting about most high profile sportsmen and women is that in 99% of cases the person who is credited with their success is the father. Tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova, motor-racing champion Lewis Hamilton, football legend David Beckham, the young and brilliant Tom Daley  (although his father has sadly passed away he is credited with much of Daley’s success) - in all of these cases there is intense media focus on the supportive father figure and I started to wonder why the mothers so rarely feature? Are they still around? Are there family issues? Are they camera shy?

Of course there are some exceptions but not that many. Off the top of my head I can think of only two: 1) Judy Murray perhaps garners more publicity than her ex-husband and features more prominently in her both her boys’ tennis careers, and 2) Bradley Wiggins’ father was perhaps the opposite to the ideal supportive parent (although paradoxically it’s suggested that this may have spurred Wiggins to be the sporting hero he is now).

So, is it because the dads are stereotypically more inclined to be involved in a child’s sporting achievements while the mothers are working hard behind the scenes making sure everything else runs smoothly (clean clothes, new trainers, nutritional food, polished trophies)? Please tell me this isn't it? Or are the mothers there but less inclined to fight for media attention, happy to step back and allow the ‘man of the house’ to do the talking? What is it that makes a proud father more newsworthy than a proud mother?

I’m not for one minute saying that the support these sportspeople had when growing up needed to come from one or other parent, but I do think it’s interesting that mothers don’t feature as often and I’d like to know why? I suspect mothers share the duties of fetching and carrying to training and lessons and I certainly don’t think they generally lack enthusiasm or discipline when it comes to sports. Where, then, are the mothers? I’d love to hear your thoughts.