Benedict

Another crochet hat with a Hungry Caterpillar theme.

This book has been Bene’s favourite since the earliest of times. In fact, it has probably been all their favourite book at some point; I imagine that is why after 45 years, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is still going strong. I imagine that is why “pop!” and “caterpillar” and “sun” and “be-uuuutiful butterfly!” have been among his first words.

I imagine we will be doing lots of hungry caterpillar crafting over the coming months, if not years, and it is not hard to grasp, from that link, that it is a subject that captures an awful lot of little hearts.

“In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.”

I think you could all do a line each in the comments box and we could get to the end, word perfect, without looking at a book at all.

(Top marks to the person who can do the junk food line perfectly without help.)

He loves it. They’ve all loved it. We read it to Fran in hospital, to all the others in their early days. Even to Freddie.

It’s the perfect book, written before literacy goals and learning objectives and worrying about developmental stages. A little story that sums it all up and ends so perfectly that I bet we all raise the book, flap the pages and help the butterfly fly away.

I made Bene a hat, one night when I was feeling kind. It’s all red, in MyBoshi yarn and a 6mm hook, following a basic beanie pattern and then I winged the face with circles I sewed on, a green rim and silly purple antennae made of a tight circle of 6 stitches. Maddy has pointed out I need to correct his eyes to be the perfect shape. I’ll probably never get round to it but even if this version does end up looking a bit like a gas mask, he will grow up knowing I took the time to indulge him.

The #hungrycaterpillar #myboshi #crochet hat

He wears it everywhere. I’m so glad he gets to do that.

“…and he wasn’t a little caterpillar any more…”

I’m glad I spent it with you.

Today was a ‘motherhood’ day. Ups and downs. Growling as I stomped around the house looking for a very lost kindle which eventually turned out to be hidden (in a very toddler manner) behind the radiator that is behind the sofa, growling more as I encountered the bedrooms of my daughters.

That’s life. Mess, missing stuff, monumental drudgery in the form of repeating the tasks I’ve been repeating since I was 24. And I’m 40. I’ve been doing this a long time now.

Tidied out a cupboard and realised I’m finally getting rid of things no one else here will need.

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They boy played alongside me as I worked and hunted and grumbled today, trundling through the misplaced belongings of his sisters, trying on hats and coats and shoes as I decluttered.

We sang songs.

We had the strange pigeon English conversations you have with toddlers, a handful of words and 2 years of learned gesture communication.

He vacuumed. Did a pretty good job. Then I had to cut some fluff away from the brushes to make it work better and he watched intently. I knew what was coming.

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All afternoon he ‘fixed’ the dyson, carefully repeating what he had seen me do.

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He played at my feet, my happier, kindle found, floor cleaned, cupboard emptied feet while I sat in fresh air and sunlight and crocheted.

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He stopped once or twice and made ‘cake mummy!’ in the sandpit, rode his car, lined up dinosaurs. We sang some more. And then he slept.

A grumpy day became peaceful day. The peace started long before he slept.

I grabbed a moment to be Merry, not mummy.

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And then the others came home.

It was good to spend the day with you Bene.

Lax Toddler Parenting #10: Speech Apathy

This is how I like my children…

That's happy.

In the garden, being noisy, having fun, not connected to app or screen or anything much. It seems a pretty perfect way to be. Bene, like his biggest sister was, is in his element when he’s being physically boisterous. He’s all about body at the moment, has been from the start in fact and very little of what he expends processing power on is about speech.

That doesn’t bother me at all. He’s exactly like Fran, Maddy and Josie were – he’s building physical abilities before verbal ones. Our children have been firmly divided into 2 camps; those who were physically able from early on but had delayed speech and the one who could talk the hind leg off a donkey at 1 but took months longer than the others to walk.

Before I wax my uneducated lyricals on this, I’ve got experience, I’d like to say. We knew Fran would have speech issues from the day of her birth; her cleft palate made it a near certainty and glue ear added to that. Maddy was a bit baffling but her Aspergers eventually cleared that up and even now she has elements of language processing problems that are just ‘part of her’. With hindsight it is as easy to see why she was a late talker as it is to see why Amelie of the high IQ and precocious brain but hyper-mobile joints spoke early and read early but walked late. (I have no explanation for Josie, I think she just couldn’t get a word in edgeways). So I know my way around how little people end up walking and talking.

In a nutshell, even with obstacles and issues, they all largely seem to get there.

We met our first speech therapist on the day Fran was born, a lovely lady who helped us get bottles she could use to feed from and talked us through all the myriad of steps that would happen to get her mouth fixed. We met her regularly, they referred her to groups and sessions and various interventions which I dutifully turned up to most of but in the end, the geography of her mouth was wrong and she had to learn to use it and a paltry 30 minutes of NHS time once in a blue moon made no difference. (Surgery eventually has). I took a non-verbal 4 year old Maddy to the ST once because I was starting to get nervous – and Maddy erupted into speech on the spot. I’m fairly sure that wasn’t her skills as a speech therapist though ;) Nothing we did made Fran or Maddy talk late any more than we made Amelie talk early with magically improved parenting (although on reflection, Fran possibly wasn’t assisted by over exposure to Teletubbies, which just happen to mirror a cleft child’s natural issues!) I really don’t think we could have made them earlier talkers either.

We gave up with Speech Therapy in much the same way we gave up trying to force them to read early or do maths early or walk ‘on time’. The NHS turned Amelie’s flappy footed gait away but eventually she overcame it and I can safely say that my house of not-early-talkers-apart-from-one are now a highly verbal and noisy bunch.

Oh… and baby signing? I’m sorry but just no. I cannot for the life of me understand why you would teach a child you are fretting about speech delay over how to communicate without speech. Nothing focuses the mind of a small person more than being able to say “give me a biscuit!” We’ve never done signing, I roll my eyes at nursery over it – and everyone can talk. Baby signing worries me mostly because there are people making money out of it – and I just wonder about stuff like that. (Sorry, I know people love it, just not me).

Bene is a late talker; he is, oddly enough, a supremely good communicator and has been exceptionally good at getting us to understand him for a good year or more. But speech? Not so much. He’s assembled words for most things with wheels (truck, lorry, train, tractor, bus, bike, car) and obviously we have “NO!” and “CAKE!” (he’s a bit like Father Jack) and “mulk” for milk has replaced shrieking “THIS!” while pointing determinedly. He’s getting a bit better at copying this last week or so and has approximations of names for all of us; this week his cleverness has been a handful of ‘useful’ words (go, that, more, here) and the beginnings of sentences are happening – “Mummy… here.. mulk..” and “Daddy… go… juice!” I suppose he’ll be talking at some point in the next year and will probably beat his biggest two sisters and rumble in over the line somewhere close to where Josie did (and I have no idea when that was; how terrible is that?!)

I don’t spend any time checking up on if he’s on target, off target, ahead or behind. I don’t spend any time doing joining in rhymes on purpose to build speech or speaking in exaggerated sentences to encourage him. I don’t get him to ask for things or repeat things, or say words to fulfill social conventions (alone of all my children, he has a spontaneous word for thank you, “da-da-la”,  which he came up with himself and uses appropriately and consistently). It probably makes me a terrible parent, but I just don’t care. He’s going to talk eventually.

What’s my point? Nothing really. Don’t sweat the small stuff, I might say. I’m convinced that unless you have an actual issue like a cleft, hearing etc or autism, selective mutism etc then it’ll all come right with no NHS ‘magic’. There are relatively few silent adults in the world (far fewer than adults who could do with shutting up occasionally anyway). It’ll probably come right. Sooner or later, the vast majority of parents end up saying “for the love of Pete… shhhhh!” ;)

I have never had a child like this before. #reading #toddler #books

*Bene will almost certainly now go completely silent and never speak again to pay me back for writing this.

It’s Hama Time!

I didn’t know he knew about these smaller ones and certainly I didn’t think he knew where they were kept. But today he got them out for himself and for a blissful few moments, he was totally absorbed.

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Shortly after that, he discovered the joy of sprinkling them everywhere :roll:

I’m not getting much crafting time lately but if you want some Hama Bead ideas, the archives are all there :)

Two.

Our second son is 2.

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I’d have given a lot to know he was going to make it to 2, at this moment 2 years ago. Just after Max left the hospital, the doctors came to take him to scbu, having found the jaundice that would plague him for 12 weeks already in his blood. And I couldn’t follow him; my body couldn’t, even if my mind could have crossed the threshold. I just sobbed at the nurse that I couldn’t lose him too, that I just couldn’t manage if he died.

Oh the irony that an earlier version of my own mothering journey would have been quite glad of the rest, blithely ignorant that scbu cannot always fix everything.

But this time, that day, the boy came back, neatly attached to the light blanket that let me keep him in my arms through jaundice therapy.

And here he still is.

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It’s impossible to explain how he change all ours lives. Restarted them really. Just lately the girls have touched upon the trauma of the time I was pregnant with him, how hard it was for all of us. I could never do it again. Not even if he had gone away.

But he didn’t. He stayed. And he is worth everything about his own journey and he is all about himself.

Which is just as it should be.

Happy birthday little boy. Thank you for coming. And staying.

Lax Toddler Parenting #9: Domestic Servitude.

Do you remember that phrase? The one Badman, Balls, Brown and the NSPCC tried to use to describe the poor home ed kids stuck at home, forced to do menial chores and tasks while their lucky school friends had a meaningful, perfect education in school? Montessori boy ;) Look at this poor toddler, forced to clean his daddy’s boot and shoes when really he wants to be somewhere doing the EYFC (or whatever the hell it is) curriculum. (Can I just point out the additional crap parent bit in this photo; I took the photo before I removed the loose Calpol bottle. Oops).He found the youth hostel dustpan and brush and his week was made :) Even on holiday… he was forced to follow his mummy into a youth hostel kitchen, independently pick up the second dustpan and brush after she had left the room with the first one, bring it out and spend approximately 2 days brushing the floor. Forced also to repeatedly find his way into the room that stored the vacuum cleaner and Henry the landing against his wishes :roll: Home educated tots... A life time of domestic servitude Poor kid. It’s a tragedy. Or maybe, it’s practical life, part of the essential copy and build life skills strategy that Maria Montessori believed in so strongly. (Hmmm, that site needs an update so badly).

Whatever. He loves all those things; left to himself he’d mop, brush, grub in dirt, vacuum and probably mow the lawn too. It’s a shame those things don’t tend to be things they love doing at 12 as much as they do at 2 :)

Review: Clarks Shoes.

We were recently given the opportunity to review the service at Clarks in exchange for a voucher towards shoes; Bene, owner of the fastest growing feet in history, got lucky, since he was the person currently poking through the ends of his shoes so off we went, pausing along the way for a variety of stops off to look at cars being showcased in the middle of the shopping centre and a gazillion rides that are there to tempt small boys and part parents with 50p or more. Once there, we headed straight for the small boy shoes section and found ourselves a trained shoe fitter.

Not sure about this #clarks #review
Bene, generally a sociable chap, panicked slightly at the sight of a stranger wielding a contraption for putting feet in, but she was very efficient and friendly and we got through the measuring bit pretty quickly At a 6 1/2 F, he’d gone up a whole shoe size and more from the ones he was wearing, so we definitely needed to get on and buy new ones.

Show fitting #Clarks
While buying Fran’s pointe shoes recently, the lady fitting them said “you know how you’ve always gone to Clarks, bought carefully fitted shoes and taken care of her feet? Well here is where you ruin them!” And it’s true; our little people feet have always been shoed with Clarks; doodles, proper shoes, party shoes, winter boots. When they are very small, we stick firmly to the brand and as they get older I’m disappointed 9with one occasional exception) by all other brands. We’ve handed down and handed on Doodles (one pair did 6 pairs of feet before it was done between me and a friend) and loved all the pairs like friends. And yes, handing on is bad (naughty mummy) but luckily all my children have the same width feet :D

Maybe I like these... #clarks  #review
An element of resignation has crept into shopping over the years; nowhere ever has the thing you want in the size you need, so rather than looking too closely at the shelves, I just asked for a selection of outdoor shoes to be brought out to try on. 3 different pairs arrived and we had a go with them. S carefully coaxed a rather worried Bene to try them and we quickly fixed on the pair that suited. We had a walk and she checked, as they always do, for fitting with growing space and then since we were happy, we didn’t worry too much about trying others.

As our voucher was for £40, we had some spare money to use up. I’ve already said I’m a big fan of Doodles and so we asked to see some of the range too. They have always been great for nursery/playgroup shoes, indoor at home on days when particular children feel the need to be fully dressed, beach shoes and dry day, summer shoes. They can be slung in the washing machine, which is just ideal and keeps them going for years. S brought some out and Bene decided (for the first time ever) that he had a very clear choice. Only the green ones would do and he wouldn’t even countenance trying on a different pair.

Doodles! #clarks #review
Fortunately, they fitted :)

And that was that, one small boy of almost 2 years old fitted out with 2 pairs of shoes for £46, shoes which I’m confident will last, suit his feet and are properly fitted by an attentive and trained fitter. Thanks very much, Clarks of Peterborough Serpentine Green.

Disclosure: we were gifted a £40 voucher for this review and paid the excess ourselves. Opinions and small, perfectly formed toddler tantrums, were all our own.

Bene’s Christmas Stocking.

 

Last year I made Bene his very own Christmas stocking; as a January baby he was just old enough to enjoy unpacking one with some help and I wanted it to be special to him, not just bought off a peg. I have a vivid memory of the girls wanting to buy Freddie a stocking ‘ready for next year’ and looking at all the ‘First Christmas’ ones and I hated the idea of going out an negotiating all of that; I just knew it would be too painful. Besides, I had an urge to make one – the girls are all deeply attached to theirs and won’t let me replace them with home makes so Bene was my last chance. And I had plenty of felt fabric!

iPhone March 2013 340First I drew round one of the girls stockings on red felt and then I cut out the appropriate dark green add ons to make it look authentic. (I actually can’t think if I did those for both sides or if I was shockingly lazy and only did one side). I stitched the inner edges of the green bits with a decorative line of red stitches to make it look pretty before gluing them into place. Then I did blanket stitch all around the edge. Top TIP: start by going across one side of the top of the stocking first, then go round the stocking and finish off by doing the second side of the opening at the top. If you are clever, you’ll get it done all in one piece of thread. Maddy designed the train pattern to match the ‘Bene Express she woodworked for him when he was born. She glued it all on to the cloud shape, stitched around the outside edges of the main shape to give it some definition and we stuck it in place. Just perfect.

The Bene Express made by Maddy & his favourite @bigjigstoys train.

Considering hew is now totally and utterly obsessed with trains – and in particular all his lovely BigJigsRail, I think he is going to be very pleased to see it back out again.

Last year it was filled with toys like these.

iPhone March 2013 545We love our Haba Baby Toys; they feel wonderful, look gorgeous and keep little people happy for absolutely ages. I didn’t wrap most of his (I think I folded some in tissue paper) and he enjoyed just diving in and helping himself. This year I think he will be in full mental present opening mode pretty quickly. It’s going to be good to have a toddler in the house for Christmas again this year. It’s been a long time. Too long.

Lax Toddler Parenting #8: Messy Play

I’ll let you into a secret. I hate messy play. I hate sticking stuff with little kids who get bored quickly. I hate painting that is mostly gloop and soggy paper. I HATE setting up stuff that they do for a while, chuck everywhere and then I have to clear up. It may be partly because we lived in rented houses for a long time and then when we did buy a house, it was brand new, clean and very beige but mostly I think it is because I’m very lazy, I hate cleaning and I don’t really like doing the messy stuff alongside them. I’d love to be like Jennie, who seems to effortlessly create messy play opportunities but I’m just not. And I’m definitely not like most of the Pin-stagramming-mummy bloggers who are wildly making amazing creative opportunities like this for their kids. I love Pinning them, but I don’t really want to DO them!

Plus, I have a horrible feeling that once I was terribly right on about all that stuff (it’s probably in the archives) and got bored. Rather like the oh so very encompassing Tudor home ed project that frankly broke me to the point that no ever home learning was ever good enough again.

But Bene does love his cars and always does the messy play at nursery and so I thought I should be a bit more relaxed. After all, the dining room needs hoovering anyway.

I’ve also been mulling this article. I’ve got mixed feelings about it to be honest, not least because it seems to be making a lot of young mums (and young mum can at times equal isolated mum) feel awfully guilty. I learned this lesson a good while ago – I remember having a day when I just knew I had looked at a screen more than I had at the girls and that was before smart phones. It took me probably 5 years to fully cure myself of it, by which time they’d begun to start school. And I certainly have hours (days?) when I do it still but Max and I promised ourselves we’d be more engaged after an event 7 years ago and we promised it even harder after Freddie. To be honest though, a mum with an iphone takes pictures, is connected to ideas and laughter and hopefully less isolated – as part of a good balance, I don’t see the problem. The problem is when you ignore your kids, opportunities for fun, friendship, creativity or conversation or joy in order to stare at a screen. Long term, that won’t help. Feeling guilty because you multi-task? Not so much. Lots of kids spend all day in school or daycare and won’t get 100% attention at the end of that either. I know mine don’t – so I’m not going to feel guilty for the days when external contact kept me breathing and put a smile on my face.

It’s all about balance.

And my carpet.

I REALLY hate sitting on the floor and doing messy play.

But we did it.

Being a good #messyplay mummy and trying @Ina ginationtree's cloud dough with glitter.

This is cloud dough a la The Imagination Tree (7 parts flour to 1 of vegetable oil) and then I sprinkled glitter from an old Djeco glitter kit into it, stuck it in a baking tray and found the diggers that granny bought him. LOTS of fun. I got the digger idea from Lazy Seamstress.

What did I learn? He, like half his sisters, mostly only wants to play with things if I sit there. So I did. Oh – and putting down fleece to catch the spills was no intelligent; use something it will brush back out of.

Sigh.

Was fun though :)

Lax Toddler Parenting #6: Scissors Equals Felt Fun

Bene has very, very nearly mastered the word scissors, an odd one to acquire before some of the more basic ones. Or biscuit, which in my experience is usually right up there. I think it is probably due to his sisters leaving them around a lot, resulting in someone suddenly shrieking ‘scissors!!!!’ A short wrestling match and a long tantrum. :roll:

He likes them very much indeed, so the other day I thought I would let him sit with me while I used a very sharp pair and made him a toy.

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I love felt, we always have it kicking around for crafting of one sort or another. This pile is quite thick, sturdy and made from recycled bottles. I put a piece of fleece down so he had a play area and cut up different shapes for him to explore. It was a bit rough and ready, since I had to avoid interested fingers but he had a lot of fun playing with them.

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I’ve since replaced the fleece with a piece of black felt and as he enjoyed them, I’ll tidy up and develop the shapes at some point. It was a nice activity though, cheap and fun to do and meant we sat in the floor together, looking at shape and colour and exploring both.