Baby Ballet

16112570_10155643200573362_718514235686081693_oWhen I saw a flyer advertising Baby Ballet classes, I was determined to find out the details and apply for my two-year-old daughter, Fern, to join the class. That leaflet sat quite comfortably in my drawer of ‘things that require fairly immediate attention’ for weeks. I did Ballet when I was a child, for years. I loved it. I suppose it has always been a dream to take my own daughter to Ballet, so that she could experience the joy of dance the way I did. (Sort of mostly giggling, with my friend Sam. Also spending my pocket money in the tuck shop, on 10p a packet salt and vinegar Puffs and Cherry-ade). My first memories of Ballet (perhaps some of my first memories at all) include the dusty smell of the hall and being slightly scared of the teacher. She was quite old and wrinkly. At the time if I had been asked, I might have guessed she was 100 years old. She had impeccable posture and her hair scraped back into a very neat bun. She smelled like talcum powder and she spoke a little bit like the queen. I think she was tall, but then again, it could just be that I was only four years old and everyone towered over me.

When I first started ballet we had to wear a uniform, a pink leotard with a little skirt attached, a pink wrap-over cardigan and leather ballet shoes. Nowadays, the little girls taking Ballet, can wear a tutu if they want to. All of the girls in Fern’s class wear one, including Fern. It is the cutest thing ever. She has a very pale pink leotard with a tutu attached by a gold sparkly elasticated waistband, it is nothing short of fabulous. I’ve asked my sister to knit (she gets annoyed when I say that), or crochet a pair of leg warmers for Fern. We are doing this, Flashdance style.

I sort of expected the class to be quite free and involve a lot of prancing about. But it was quite structured, much to my little one’s disobedience. I was overwhelmed with emotion, so many emotions, including bursting with pride and yet at the same time, distinct embarrassment. At one point the teacher produced a bag full of gymnast style ribbons and asked the children to wait their turn while she called their names, one by one. Each girl sat on her mat and waited angelically. Fern was inches away from the teacher’s face before the first name had been called. Fern was elegantly ignored for at least two minutes, not by myself as I pathetically asked her to come and wait her turn, but by the teacher who eventually called Fern ‘up’ to get her ribbon. I wanted a ribbon. When I’ve finished writing this I’m going to Google gymnast ribbons and order one that I can twirl when nobody’s watching.

Then there was the bubble time. Some kind of magical bubble solution was used to fill the air with beautiful bubbles, they floated and occupied all of the air around and up into the vaulted ceiling. The Ballet dancers had to tippy toe and gently catch bubbles to the sound of twinkly music. It would have been quite a special moment, if it weren’t for the fact that Fern was stomping around, jumping clumsily and clapping her hands together in an effort to squash the pretty iridescent spheres. When she did catch the odd few, she ate them. Yes she ate them. Why? I don’t know. She loved her first class and I will definitely continue taking her, I’m not convinced she will be the next Darcy Bustle but I am 100% certain that she looks every inch the blossoming ballerina in her tutu.

Mother’s Day

We’ve taken a risk and started watching a film at 9.30pm. Rock and roll lifestyle this is. By the time it has finished it is almost midnight, The sky is dark, it has been for hours and the house is silent. Performing one’s ablutions seems to make much more noise than at any other time of the day. The electric toothbrush, used manually so as not to wake the children. The toilet left un-flushed. Hand and face washing with minimal pressure from the tap so as not to set the boiler off on a tangent. I creep around, stealth, like a cat. The actual cats are running and jumping around, heavy footed, making clumsy landings from great heights as if to mock my efforts. Once in bed I begin to sleep, interrupted only every two seconds by a small sounding warthog of a snore next to me. A little but effective kick to my husband’s shin and he rolls over and the snoring ceases. If the kids wake at their usual time I will only get five and a half hours sleep, that’s fine I tell myself, easy. Then little miss Fern stumbles into and across the room, sleepily finding her way in the darkness. She pulls herself up with a struggle and settles in between her parents. One of us is asleep, I am thinking what the best strategy is. She is coughing badly. Somehow managing to fall deeply asleep in between each burst. I rest my palm upon her forehead and then upon her father’s to compare their temperature. She’s hot so I go downstairs, creeping, not turning on any lights. So as not to wake George. At the top step, my foot is confronted with the unmoving, unexpected, presence of a feline menace. I save myself from falling down an entire flight of stairs with a hoppedy, skippidy dance, accompanied with an aggressive yet whispered song of colourful adjectives (swear words) directed at the cat.

Administering the medicine is akin to brushing the teeth of the same child. Her lips are sort of, sealed and any attempts at breaking that seal results in instant regret as deafening high pitch shouts are released for roughly five long seconds per assault. She is still coughing, partly her own fault for creating all the drama. So I go back down stairs, every step I take I am like a slow motion hurdle jumper, aware a cat could strike again. While the kettle is boiling I inhale a box of raisins and some chocolate too. Then I search the house, with a torch, for the Olbas Oil. A Pyrex bowl is almost smashed whilst being retrieved from the drawer. Once the vapours are lifting into the air of my bedroom, Fern’s coughing is reduced significantly. Everyone is still asleep. Except the dog, who decides that he would quite like to go outside, being as his owner is up and about, ‘she might as well open the back door for me’. I go back downstairs, stand in the doorway as the cold early spring air bites my toes. Murray wanders back into the house at his leisure and I return from what must be the last trip to the kitchen this evening. On my way, I hear my husband panicking and shouting “don’t touch the water, it will burn you”. Then a shout “she needs her drink re-filling”. Back to the kitchen. Back upstairs. Where have I left my phone/torch? Downstairs. Sigh.

In bed I do a bit of nocturnal shopping and order a humidifier, so that no child of mine gets scalded in instances like these. £50 plus post and packaging evaporates into the air. It’s okay, I still have approximately four hours of sleep. In the morning I am more asleep than usual, I have given George my phone, set up the laptop for Fern and it’s like I’ve done it all without even opening my eyes. When I do open my eyes, some time later, I am face to face with Fern. She is pulling my eyelids apart and telling me it is morning time. She has makeup all over her face. I sit bolt upright and look towards my makeup bag that sits high up on top of a chest of drawers, even standing on a stool the children cannot reach. It is there, safe as houses. But in my peripheral vision I notice my dressing table drawer is open. She did not previously know how to open it, but the devastation demonstrates that now she can indeed open it. The worst hit item is my Charlotte Tilbury flimstar contour pallette, £50 of finely milled, beautifully formulated, packaged in rose gold, mirrored, art deco perfection – destroyed. So this is it, my conclusion is that, for Mothering Sunday, we must shower our mothers with adoration and love. Mum, if I ever gave you sleepless nights, (I’m sure I did) or if I ever wrote on the wall in your favourite lipstick… I’m sorry! Thank you for caring for me and thank you for everything you still do now that I am a 32 year old mother of two.

[Raises glass] To the mum folk!

I’m back, blogging about chocolate.

So I’m sitting in complete darkness, all but the glow from my laptop and a candle glowing nearby. I’m baby sitting for a friend and there’s a power cut. It’s February, cold wet and windy. It was my new year’s resolution to write more. Write something. It’s taken a power cut to get me off line and motivate me to actually do what I want. I want to write, but I never do. So here I am writing. There is so much that has happened this year that I have wanted to record, not just with photos (I take a LOT), but with words. There’s too much, my head is swimming with moments to choose from. Oh God, I’m writing in such short sentences, someone commented on Donald Trump and how he speaks in short sentences, they said it was a sign of being unintelligent. So there you are, that’s what you’re are settling in for, if you have read this far and you decide to continue reading.

A dog just barked right outside, it must be the neighbour’s dog, it scared the crap out of me. My heart’s pounding. Another short sentence. Another.

Today was pretty average. I woke up (got woken up) at 5.50 by my husband saying, is that poo on the bed? The light got switched on, funny that, as the lights just came on here as I was typing. Have I got powers? The power is back on, do I scurry back to Youtube, Facebook, Netflix, Ebay, Instagram, Pinterest…… Where was I? The poo on the bed, who’s was it? Was it so bad that I would have to vacate my warm, Katie shaped dip in the mattress. My eyes stinging, I assessed the damage and sprung to the conclusion that my 5 year old son had not wiped his bottom properly. George, I said. You have to wipe your bottom properly. He looked at me, palms turned up, head slightly cocked to one side and said, I haven’t even done a poo! A likely story I thought to myself, slowly noticing more brown smears and a thick lumpy bit quite near to my pillow. We did some investigating and it seemed the poo had come from nowhere. Or whoever it was, had sufficiently wiped their bottom clean on the bedding. My daughter sleeps in our bed quite a lot, despite me taking her back to her own bed more than once every night. Seems like that Mamas and Papas solid oak bed frame, organic coconut coir mattress, goose down duvet and White Company high thread count sheets just don’t do it for her. I told George to go back to his bed since this one was soiled. He can’t, my husband said. He wet the bed. Like I said, average morning. By now it is, I’d say, 5.55am. I peeled off the sheets, sourced another duvet from the spare room. Put George’s tablet in his hand, got Charlie and Lola on Fern’s iPad. Told Marc to turn off the light and gave him a kiss goodbye, he went off to work and I committed to going back to sleep, knowing full well that if I did, getting ready for the school run would be, let’s just say… shouty.

I woke up again at 7.40ish. I sneaked into the shower hoping the kids wouldn’t notice me being up. As soon as the first droplet of lovely hot water had hit the first hair folecule, I was joined by my two year old who wanted to have a tea party with me. Later I tried to give my self a Cheryl Cole sexy bob blow dry and attempted a full face of flawless, ‘no makeup’ makeup, all in the space of ten minutes. I decided to take a risk, George, I said. Go and get started on breakfast and I’ll be down in a minute. When I did descend to the kitchen, there was milk being massaged into the breakfast bar with two hands by Fern, who was making windscreen wiper motions happily as the milk dripped onto the floor that was still covered in glitter from the previous afternoon’s creations. Somehow we were only one minute late for school today. I don’t really feel the need to write about the rest of the day. It’s pretty obvious. I cleaned up the mess, washed the bedding, ran errands and wasted more than an hour wandering around Tesco wondering what we could have for dinner that would be super easy, quick, affordable, delicious, healthy and appeal to my husband, myself and the children.

Oh by the way, it wasn’t poo, it was chocolate. Two late night squares of Lindtt 85% cocoa, I cut up and threw in with a bag of dried cherries. I ate them in bed, in the dark, with gusto and totally forgot about the whole event until I carried out a forensic examination of the soiled bedding. Phew.

Taking a young child to a museum

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Taking a young child to a museum could be a disaster. But if you time it right, be prepared and choose one that is family friendly, it can be a great way to spend time with your child. Most museums in the UK are free to enter (my favourite price). I’m not one to shy away from rainy days, I just stick a rain coat and some wellies on me and my son and we go out splashing in puddles, but when the weather is wet, windy, cold, miserable (refer to November-March) museums are a great way to get out of the house. On Saturday, I planned a visit to the Horniman museum in South East London. I gave my little Herbert a big breakfast, packed lots of snacks, spare clothes (potty training necessity) and we left the house by nine thirty. 

We got to Forest Hill by ten and found a free parking space on the road that runs down the side of the museum. There is a big park next to the Horniman and we walked through it to get to the entrance to the impressive building. I didn’t know too much about the place and I was surprised to learn at the ticket desk that there is a small aquarium in the basement. It was free for my little boy, a pound for my 4 year old nephew and £3 for an adult ticket. My son just loves looking at fish, any normal person could be in and out of the little aquarium in less than five minutes, but my boy spent about half an hour marvelling at the star fish, sea horses, jelly fish, salt water tank and froggies. 

Upstairs, there was a very large collection of taxidermy and at first I was a bit weirded out. After a few minutes of looking inquisitively at a stuffed fox, my son gave it a stroke. I decided, this is a great way to learn about animals, get up close to them and study the beautiful diversity of nature. Most of the animals are behind glass, aside from the cute little fox and a gigantic walrus. But you can’t get close enough to touch the 100 year preserved walrus as it is lollopped on a faux iceberg. It is quite fascinating to see an elephant’s skull, an ostrich egg and a cute as pie koala bear. Upstairs, there are sea life specimens and Jurassic fossils. My son didn’t really appreciate the display upstairs but he loved doing sprints around the gallery style mezzanine floor. 

After a number two accident, (my little boy not me), we went to change his clothes and I found a cloak room. There were lockers, you get a free token from the front desk and buggy parks. I offloaded our bags and coats and it was a breath of fresh air to walk around without being weighed down by a handbag full of toot. We ventured to the centenary exhibition and marvelled at the masks which led us through to an awesome African display of more masks and cultural trinkets. The grown ups were ready for a coffee and the kids were ready for some fresh air.

It was a beautiful sunny day and we got a coffee in the canteen in take-out cups. Outside, we sat on one of the many benches and stuffed our faces with chocolate croissants that I brought from home. We took a walk up towards the farmer’s market where there is a play park that boasts a giant set of bongoes, an enormous xylophone and an incredible view over to Battersea Power Station. We let the boys continue running up the hill where we found a little farmyard with the most adorable long haired little goat, fluffy bunnies, suspicious looking Alpaca and a colourful rooster. 

If you haven’t surmised from the blog so far, we had an amazing day. There weren’t that many people there and that really added to the enjoyment of the place, no crowds is rare when you go somewhere good. We spent a total of seven pounds! My son fell asleep on the way home at around 2pm with pastry crumbs on his face and rosy cheeks from running through the park. 

Teaching a toddler to dress themselves

On a recent dinner date with some girlfriends, I had everyone at the table in stitches by telling them my latest parenting struggle. I usually hold back on talking about my son because it’s only myself and one other girl in the group who has any children and frankly, it’s nice to talk about other things! However, I had to ask the other mum in the group if her daughter could dress herself. Yes was the answer. Apparently teaching a toddler to dress themselves is not an issue for all parents.

Another friend asked if my little boy could dress himself. He can just about take his coat off! He is two years and nine months old. I don’t feel like I have encouraged him to rely on me for dressing, undressing and the putting on and taking off of shoes. He either wears wellies or plimsoles with a velcro strap fastening. Still, when I try to get him to put his wellies on by himself, he tries to step into them, he falls over. He says ‘I can’t do it’. He tries to pull them on from a sitting position but is not strong enough, he stands up with the boot half on to tries to push his foot down into them. They flop to the side, he twists his ankle. He’s now over it.

I do help him, but sometimes I wonder if I will be dressing him when he is going off to work. When it comes to clothes, he is very uninterested. He can climb. he can do puzzles, he can count to ten, he enjoys all of the above. When I broach the subject of getting dressed in the morning, he runs away. I really do have to make a song and dance of it. Pants he ends up with both legs in one whole. (And I can tell he’s thinking ‘that’ll do fine’). T-shirt, the furthest he’s got is his head through the top along with an arm until he’s is stuck. Even I can’t get him out of that without a struggle. Socks, it’s as if he has no bones or muscle in his fingers. Jeans, where do I start, they’re back to front, he’s trying to put his foot up through the foot hole, *sighs.

With potty training, bed time routine, eating habits, and the like, I expected to need some strategy. With dressing, I am so surprised that he hasn’t just sort of picked it up along the way. I just found this article http://bit.ly/1aVmIAZ – it looks like helpful advice. I will try it out, maybe in conjunction with a good old sticker chart. Or maybe buy him a wardrobe full of Thomas the Tank engine clothes?