Thursday, 31 May 2012

In the Beginning was the Word

Gertie loves reading.  She has whizzed through the Oxford Reading Tree stages with remarkable speed and fluency through her reception year.  No bad thing, since I have had more than enough of Biff and Chip and that magic key beginning to glow.  But she is certainly a voracious reader, if such a thing can be said of one who has just turned five.  

For the last year or so we have been doing a book at bedtime.  Daddy does the bedtime story with Gertie and Gilby together whilst I am feeding Eddie.  But then, once all the goodnight kisses have been done, I sneak back into Gertie's room and we have a chapter or two of a grown up book.  I say 'grown up'; I mean things like Roald Dahl, Anne Fine or The Worst Witch.  Roald Dahl is the biggest hit.  We have worked our way through The Magic Finger, The Twits, Fantastic Mr Fox, George's Marvellous Medicine and James and the Giant Peach.  We are part of the way through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Gertie's engagement with the story is utterly magical to witness.  At this point I should probably give a spoiler alert as I discuss some of the narrative devices in the novel!

We reached the chapters after we have met all the horrible winning children, where Charlie longs to get the final golden ticket.  As each Wonka bar was consumed without golden ticket success, she got more upset. Her disappointment on his birthday was palpable.  Her confident prediction that Charlie would surely get the golden ticket when he first found the fifty-pence-piece was quickly shattered, then met with disbelief.

The delayed climax of the night of the winning chapter coincided with an evening when Daddy was home late, so we swapped roles: me doing the official bedtime story with the boys as well, then Daddy stepping in for the secret bedtime read.  So I missed the actual moment.  But I could hear Gertie's shouting, fist-clenching victory salute from downstairs.  Her joy when he finally does triumph was unparalleled.  She just had to share it with someone! 

I was summoned upstairs for some important news with a little wink from Daddy.  There was a great solemnity as Gertie called me in, but she couldn't stop the excitement from bubbling in to her little voice as she broke the news to me. 

I'll cherish the moment forever: the absolute enchantment of reading.  I am delighted she has discovered it so young.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Dressing Down

Gertie was keen to dress herself from before the age of two. She needed no encouragement, and certainly no help, thank you very much. This has continued through to the dizzy heights of being five. And dress herself she does, though these days she manages to get far fewer items back to front or inside out. My sister, based on the South coast, will often comment on 'how very Brighton' Gertie looks; a euphemism for..well, slightly eccentric, I suppose.

Gilby, soon to be three years old, has no such pretensions. The most he claims to be able to dress or undress is to remove his socks, with much huff and puff and fuss, just prior to his bath. Everything else must be done for him. Indeed, when I have forced him to dress himself just to make a point, he has made one back by making the process so painful and unproductive (usually involving two limbs down same leg-hole of his trousers, and I deliberately say 'limbs' because I don't necessarily mean legs) that I am forced to intervene.

Strange, then, how the arrival of the paddling pool in the garden today saw him whip his clothes off in a jiffy, no problem at all. He was also, curiously, able to don them again whilst I wasn't looking. I will remind him of this miraculous feat tomorrow morning, though I have a sneaking suspicion he will play helpless once more.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Scars, Tantrums and Banishment

Oh.  We are recovering from a row. This is a BAD THING. And I am still nursing the scars from a bouncy-castle related drinking injury at Gertie's birthday party, so feeling doubly wounded.

Have I mentioned recently how 'difficult' Gilby is?  On a scale of one to ten he currently sits somewhere around 'hellish'.  Temper tantrums, an unhealthy preoccupation with the word, 'no', an inability to carry out a task without being distracted by a toy: Eating, dressing, teeth-brushing, putting on shoes...the list of potential clash-points before we have even left the house in the morning is quite...exhaustive.  Sorry: exhausting.

This morning's flashpoint occured in the bathroom.  I have a three strikes rule.  I say 'rule', I suppose it simply reflects the limited amount of patience I possess. Once I have politely requested a course of action twice, I really can't be doing with a third time. So - to cut a tedious story slightly shorter,  I ended up forcibly brushing his teeth for him and then banishing Gilby to his bedroom to calm down.

I went back in to see if he was ready for 'deep breaths and a cuddle' but, no, it was too soon for that.
So, I returned to getting myself ready.  I mostly remember to brush my hair these days, and occasionally find some lipstick to apply badly. It was at this point that Daddy knocked on Gilby's door.  Met with a gruff, "Go away!" he responded with, "Don't worry, Gilby, it's only Daddy."  Don't worry?  DON'T WORRY?  Oh, I see, it's not evil Mummy, it's only Daddy."  Well, I'm afraid I momenarily became 'evil Mummy' until Daddy retracted his statement.  Oh dear.  Was I over-reacting?

And then Gertie decided, inexplicably at that moment, to point out that she hadn't, in fact, had any of her own birthday cake at her party. The cake that I had lovingly laboured over just for her...  It didn't really do a great deal to lower the emotional intensity of the moment.

And all this by 8am, before my day's work has supposedly begun.

Things got better though, and finished this evening with a glass of wine in the garden in glorious evening sunshine. The healing power of sun and alcohol...now only the bouncy-castle scars remain.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Five Years, Five Cakes

Hard to believe that my little girl is five years old. I still haven't quite got used to seeing her in her school uniform, all grown up.  But here is the cake to prove it. Slightly trickier than the 'number one' I made for her first birthday and didn't go far between the 25 kids who came to her party on Sunday, but I was pleased with the finished result.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Lies, Damn Lies and Children's Honesty

We were all snuggled up in bed having a cosy morning cuddle a few mornings ago.

I say 'cosy', but there was much wriggling by Gilby and vehement protestation that there wasn't enough room for him as he clambered over and under tangled legs and duvet. Five is not an entirely comfortable number for an ordinary double bed, it has to be said. But I had my arm around Gertie who had secured the coveted 'space between mummy and daddy' spot.  The nearly-peaceful family moment, however, was but fleeting.

"Mummy, you lied," accused Gertie.  I was alarmed.  Honesty is something I have tried hard to instill in my children.

"What on earth do you mean?"

"You lied.  You said that after Eddie was born your tummy would go flat again.  It hasn't, really, has it?"

"Um, not quite, no." My fixed grin only partially disguised the gritted teeth.

"So why aren't you thin like Daddy and me?"

Good question. Because I've bloody well had three of you, perhaps?  Of course that is not what I said.  "Soon, darling, soon," I whispered, vowing to start the diet any day now.  Oh dear.  Was that another lie?