Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The curse of Merlin the Happy Pig

Merlin yesterday. Bag of lemon drops not pictured. 

The phrase 'making a rod for your own back' springs to mind whenever I think of Merlin the Happy Pig. He drives my lovely other half @thestrollingmum completely mad, yet he doesn't exist - outside my (sometimes rather over-active) imagination.

Yet he is the subject of an ever-increasingly complex set of spoken stories I tell to Princess C to get her to hurry up for school, eat all her breakfast or snuggle up in bed before falling asleep.

Merlin the Happy Pig (as Blackadder fans will instantly recognise) is a character name steal from an episode where (I think) Edmund is talking about telling a story. It's a tiny, throwaway line - yet Merlin has evolved into a character who is about the same age as Princess C, a boy pig, who is almost always constantly either getting into scrapes and trouble - or doing really stupid things like visiting the world's most haunted house, or eating bits of a granny witch's house that is made entirely of sweets.

Merlin's key vice is lemon drops. He will do anything for them, in fact the earliest Merlin stories evolved from trying to get Princess C to brush her teeth properly - warning her that Merlin didn't, and all his teeth fell out when he visited the dentish because he ate too many sweeties.

Every spare moment in the day, Merlin is begged for (or demanded) and yet I've never really put flesh on his piggy little bones. Maybe I ought to one day, write him down (at risk of being sued by Ben Elton, Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson!) draw him and let him wiggle his piggy little nose at other kids to see if they have any interest in the world's happiest - yet most accident prone - pig.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Princess C's Words of Wisdom Part 4

With C starting school again, we've all been ships that pass in the night but she has still come out with some amusing stuff. This morning for instance, during the usual getting ready / dragging feet routine associated with schooltime she blurted out:

"MINE! Or I will help you not!"

...while grabbing for the toothbrush. A pitch-perfect impression of Yoda that sent Me (Daddy) into a choking fit of laughter. The irony is she has never seen Star Wars so must've heard me saying it and copied me. Eek!

When talking about getting married and having children

C: "I'm not going to have Children"
Me: "why"
C: "because children are naughty and only I want to be naughty"

another marriage one here:
C: "why do people get married"
Me: "because they love each other and want to spend their life together"
C: "I'm going to marry Tom"
Me: puzzled "whos Tom"
C: "you know the one on my wall, Tom Fletcher, I'm going to marry him"
Me: "i think hes married
C: "ok i'll marry Dougie then"
shes not even 5 and she's far too interested in boyband pictures on her wall. (The reason for said boyband picture on wall was winning a "Dinosaur that Pooped Christmas" poster a little while ago)

Embarrassingly, in the middle of Boots while looking at the Soap and Glory range...

"Those are sexy lady products mummy!"
(Mummy blanches and points out that the security camera spots naughty people)

"But it's OK mummy because the security camera hasn't got ears!"

Friday, January 25, 2013

Playing the numbers game - Scores on the Doors

In a parallel universe where people will gladly tell you truthfully why they blog, they'll probably admit to being obsessed by two things. Numbers and free stuff. 

It's no surprise that the number of blogs is rising exponentially year after year, and the number of bloggers signing up to parent networks to get more coverage (and those all important freebie juice boxes or cat bottom teatowel holders) is also rising. So is it really worth getting one's knickers in a twist about your Mumsnet syndication or your Tots 100 rating? 

Probably not (though the other place's rating dropped over 10 points in the last month, thanks a bunch! Cuh!)

Page hits also seem to be something of an obsession. If your blog gets 40,000 hits a month you instantly become more amazingly attractive to those juice box and cat bottom teatowel holder manufacturing companies so surely that's a reason to carry on being obsessed with numbers and popularity, right?

Sod that. Here's a thought. Don't play the numbers game. Unhitch yourself from the itchy need to become famous through your blog and bury yourself under a parcel force van filled with stuffing for your house because the problem with fame and the acquisition of freebies is that it's a bit like eating Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers (non sponsored mention there, just thought we'd point that out), the more you have, the more you want. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

There's ALWAYS time to be silly!

See this guy? He's nearly the same age as me, but the mere sight of him is enough to make kids practically wet themselves with laughter? Why is that? Why is Justin Fletcher (AKA Mr Tumble) so popular with kids (and judging by some of the really odd Mr Tumble fan fiction that exists in the darker corner of the internet, a lot of mums!)

Simple answer really, Mr Fletcher knows that there's ALWAYS time to be silly and this is something that I've always been, ever since Princess C was born.

This morning was a good example. Our mornings are usually hectic scrambles to stuff down breakfast, make packed lunches, pick up piles of clothes from the floor, showers, loo breaks and lord knows what else. Pretty much like your mornings, right?

In the midst of this while stuffing my sandwich box with my lunch, I started picking up random things and trying to fit them in too. Princess C's hideously bad-for-her Hello Kitty cake pop? A banana? A whole loaf of Soreen? Until the whole lunchbox was piled high with no hope of closing the lid.

For some reason this simple bit of silliness had Princess C in fits of laughter, no mean feat at the moment because the poor moo has a horrible cold and sore throat.

Later on as I was looking through my lunchbox I found that she'd sneaked in a chocolate coin (wrapper, empty of course) as an extra bit of silliness.

In the grand scheme of things, in amongst all the sage and serious parenting advice we're endlessly fed by parenting blogs, lifestyle magazines, child care experts and a whole metric ton of long-faced ninnies who would probably spontaneously combust if confronted with a room full of 5 year olds coming down from a sugar high I keep thinking about Ol' Mr Tumble up there and how SILLY he is, and yet how utterly well loved he is too.

Make room in your life for silliness. Leave the serious stuff for later when your kids barricade themselves in their room and don't come out till they're 22.

Friday, January 18, 2013

And they called it puppy love...

It started with mentionitis (as Bridget Jones fans will be only too well aware, mentionitis is when someone slips someone else's name into conversations constantly because they're never far away from their minds). Then it continued with some very funny smiley and silly moments in the playground and then a full on confession. Princess C is in 'love' with a boy at school.

We'll call him Prince F but every time she sees him either at school or out and about, she goes completely gooey and it's so amusing to see. Seeing Prince F riding his gallant steed to school (a bike, not a white charger), Princess C simpers like she's about to faint dead away, throwing her handkerchief on the floor in the vain hope that Prince F will dismount, pick up her favour and present it to her - presumably before riding off to battle a dragon on her behalf.

It's very cute, slightly worrying and a source of constant amusement to all parents who witness this behaviour (including Prince F's dad who thinks the fact that Prince F calls Princess C "Girl" is also very amusing - and they say the art of romance is dead!)

It gets even more amusing when we realised that Princess C's constant badgering about having packed lunches at school rather than the very good school dinners was - of course - because she'd get to sit next to Prince F while he has his sandwiches, probably dropping small morsels of baby bel into his mouth while he handsomely surveys the lunchroom regally.

It's hilarious though, truly!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Being too hard on your kids - WHY do we do that?

It's been a fairly busy and tough start to the year, and after a christmas holiday fraught with lots of "Big Shouting Days" we're almost back to our usual routine. School, Work and those tiny treasured moments at home.

Both being at work full-time makes it really tough when we do get time with Princess C because we often find we have to fit in homework, housework and still somehow cram in a bit of time to slow down and - most importantly - wind down.

We're spending way too much time being hard on C (me more than my other half). I think most of it comes from knowing how bright she is and wanting her to show that to the rest of the world (particularly her teachers). But at times, homework feels like a constant running battle of wills.

I'm reminded of Amy Chua's book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" which I haven't read but heard more than enough from my other half who HAS read it to make me think that being hard on a kid, stripping away their childhood to turn them into some sort of an academic whizz kid will just end up making them resent all that parental pressure.

There's the air of silent competition at school in Princess C's class. She got a fantastic report last time round, and when we asked her teacher recently if she noticed any changes in her behaviour, the teacher said no.

So it really makes me think that we've got to throttle down, stop pouring on the pressure and start enjoying those moments like last night where she was such a happy little soul, deeply involved in a game where she was on holiday, soaking up the imaginary sun while laying on a blanket on the lounge floor - wearing her sunglasses and walking a dog like a caricature of Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". There's no hurry, there's acres of time before homework stops being voluntary and starts being mandatory so sometimes it makes me feel like binning the lot, flicking the Vs at 'competitive parents' and letting her enjoy her childhood to the max.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A stroll through the WWF Together App

Is your iPad a little bit sad from all those boring apps? Are you finding it hard to be impressed by an app? Are you feeling the pinch as the distance till payday seems infinite?

Fear not because the WWF are here with an app that will blow you away with just how great it is. This is what the iPad has been designed to do.

Its got amazing pictures, amazing videos, lots of facts, social networking shortcuts (fear not for those who do not love social networks, its not in your face, no pun intended) and presented in a way that your iPad will be calling you to dip in again and again.

This is easily an app for adults and kids alike, and at 5 Princess C can navigate around this very easily. Sometimes she needed a prompt on how to chop down the bamboo or how to reveal the panda fact, no help needed to make the sharks jaws come down and bite, or turning on the tiger's night vision goggles.

Each animal topic is divided into sliding sections, and once you have visited all for that animal it folds down into a origami animal that you can print out and make yourself. I love origami and can't wait to print some of these out and have a go. You can then share the story through social media to your friends. I tweeted my story and it posted a YouTube video.

The globe option is great for children who are learning where in the world animals live, the blue areas will tell you where in the world the animals can be found, and facts like how many are in existence, their distance from you (if you allow your location to be sent), threats to their survival and an interesting fact. You can turn the globe around too.

This is a must have app for anyone with a love of animals, there are so many animals already pre-loaded and here's hoping they will add to it. For a free app this just amazing, download today.

Check out the Capptivated Kids Blog for more on the WWF App and other cool 'Green' app recommendations!

download from itunes
Youtube app trailer
WWF together page

Monday, January 7, 2013

Misled about the Terrible Twos.

Just before Princess C was born, I remember there being a trend for parents to come up and first congratulate us, then commiserate with us that aside from the poo, the sick, the sleepless nights, the empty wallet, the destruction of personal property and all those little things that tiny babies bring to new parents - we would have it easy up until C hit two years old.

As she approaches 5, and after a weekend of "Big Shouting Days" we're wondering when the terrible twos actually finishes. Is it around the age of 22 perhaps?

The worst thing about the situation when a mumbled grump turns into a full on nuclear meltdown is that you, as a parent, have absolutely NOTHING in your arsenal that is effective against a child's tantrum. Not. One. Thing.

Well meaning parenting blogs will assure you that A) it's so easy to avoid the situation arising and B) that reasoning with a child, calming down, removing them from the situation and distraction are superbly effective against a child in full-on screech mode. So you end up feeling a bit crap when none of those work and you're forced to fall back on other means of heading off a meltdown of biblical proportions.

1) Bribery. Forget it. You're a loving parent who wants only the best for their child. Bribing them with more goodies is like loading snowballs into a blast furnace to tone the heat down and feels like you're actually trying to head off the behaviour with a reward of sorts.

When bribery fails...

2) Threats. Again, forget it. You have nothing - NOTHING that will work against a child's razor sharp insight into modern parenting. They know you can't resort to the methods your parents did (like giving them the legendary 'thick ear' - I'm still not sure what one is but I am sure I wouldn't like one) and we live in a better world because of it. Likewise threatening the removal of nice things (christmas presents, santa coming down the chimney as recent examples - or birthday presents, visiting friends and other things a child looks forward to) just doesn't work even if you have an iron resolve and can follow those threats up.

3) The naughty step. Oh ho ho ho, I love the naughty step. I'm not sure how your house is set up but I've never seen a bottom step of a staircase that has a containing forcefield that can keep a child sat in place for the pre-agreed amount of time you want them to stay on the naughty step for. You never see those outtakes of Supernanny where Jo Frost has to put a screaming child in full tantrum mode back on the naughty step 3000 times until the camera ran out of film.

4) "Go to your room!" Forget it. Again, I've never seen a house that's so sturdily built that it can withstand the onslaught of a child's tantrum (assuming, of course, sneaky parents haven't installed a padded cell in their abodes). We like our neighbours too much to submit them to having to listen to C kicking the door, stamping on the floor, bashing the wall or generally ensuring she makes the same amount of noise as a Barbarian Horde.

5) The 'Scream chart' - We recently started one of these again and sometimes charts DO work but you really do have to agree what the outcome of a chart is going to be and stick to it like glue!

The horrible thing about tantrums is that they erupt over the most stupidly insignificant things. This weekend we had tantrums about doing homework, food, going for a wee before we go out, actually going out in the first place, putting sauce on food, eating an entire meal, sleeping or being tired.

In the end, there's really nothing that can be done and in the end we resorted to getting out of the house (if for no other reason than to spare our poor neighbours' sanity - though with three daughters I'm sure they've been through this themselves in the past) and going for a walk out in the fresh air. It's not always possible but it did work in this instance and stopped us from going quietly insane at least.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Princess C's pearls of wisdom w/e 04/01/2013

Welcome to our first pearls of wisdom for 2013, sorry it's a bit late this week and we missed a week but hopefully we have made up for that with some crackers. So here goes.

When being told to do something she obviously didn't want to do she said:

"I would actually like some peace"

Wouldn't we all.

On a nice walk we passed through some kissing gates when this cracker popped out:

"You can't kiss dogs at kissing gates"

Lucky she never met her uncles dog who licked its bottom then kissed you, euch.

Christmas Day, and in that lead up to it I'm sure we all did the "you better be good or you won't get any presents" line, C is wiser than this:

"I was naughty on all of those days and I still got all these presents"

Quick thinking us managed "but you could have got more if you were really good". Think that fell on deaf ears.

Just in case we weren't mind readers, another on Christmas Day was:

C: "you gave me all the best things ever"
Us: "what things"
C: "this!"

We never guessed what this was... Must have been good though.

Anyone who has passed the new gigantic green stripped Morrisons distribution centre on the M5 in Dorset will get this one:

"That building looks like minecraft so it must sell minecraft DVDs"

On a long car journey we got onto the gruesome subject of skinning animals just before we could get off the subject this cracker came out:

"Before the man removes the fur he says I've got a surprise for you"

Gah, doesn't bear thinking about. And on that note I will leave you for another week.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year from Notes!

It's 2013, and a Happy New Year from us at Notes from the Toybox. Here's our top ten predictions of "Things that might happen but probably won't". One thing's for sure, the next 12 months are going to be hectic. 

1) C's 5th birthday in Feb. We'll plan a slightly alternative and non-boring Children's Party - only to be told afterwards that people wanted to play Pass the Parcel, eat junk food and let their kids run around until they get bored instead of what we've got planned

2) Everyone stops reading print books and buys a Kindle. We've been told by the press and the publishing industry every year since about 2000 that this is going to be the year that electronic books take over from print and people just plain stop buying print books. Every year they're proved wrong but we love the rampant optimism all the same. 

3) We get our first robot slave, food in pill form, flying car. I've been wishing for this since the age of 5 and I'm pretty sure that it's going to happen this year.

4) E.L James publishes her next novel, prompting another massive baby boom for early 2014. 

5) We finally buy new phones and a sound bar / sound system for our mumbly telly. I'll add these to next year's list as well because I'm sure we'll just prevaricate and never actually get this sorted in time for 2014. 

6) We take our first family holiday during the school hols. Our attempts to predict where everyone else is going on holiday and when went so well last year - apart from completely forgetting that just about every other country in Europe goes to Disneyland Paris during THEIR hols in July. Eep. 

7) C takes over ReadItDaddy, renames it "Thank gawd that boring old fart has stopped reading me books, now I can start reading the really good stuff!"

8) Grandad becomes as obsessed with Twitter as Mummy, sets up three more Twitter accounts and installs the Twitter client on all of his devices (which takes about a week as he has so many). Grandma tries it once but rapidly gets fed up with it.

9) Daddy hits 45, stops obsessing about lego, 2 seater sports cars, drawing and games and starts acting his age and dressing his age. S'yeah, right. 

10) Mummy develops a taste for spicy food, stops eating chocolate. Mummy and Daddy Start doing Wii Fit every night and turn into a musclebound powerhouses. Well we can always dream. 

Happy 2013!