Toddlers and Trains

Tom is obsessed with trains at the moment. And cars too. But mostly trains. He has a little set of the brio ones that he was given for his birthday and he loves to push the trains around any available surface, whilst saying ‘beep beep’ softly to himself (he hasn’t learnt ‘choo choo’ yet although he has got ‘nee naw’ for ambulances).

His obsession is quite a useful one, as it means we have a new source of entertainment when out on the Marshes. There’s a train track which runs along the top of our favourite bit, and a bridge that goes over the track and road. Anytime I let Tom choose our direction he heads straight for that bridge, which can be awkward if we have the buggy with us instead of a sling.

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He also loves to stand by the track and watch the trains go past. I’m trying to teach him to wave, but so far he prefers just staring in amazement.

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I don’t know that trainspotting really counts as engaging with nature, as such. But as long as it means he’s happy to come for a walk on the Marshes with me, this is a love of his I can get behind. Choo choo!



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Guest Post at Mumbalance: Fighting the Winter Blues

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At the invitation of the lovely Joanna, I’m guest posting over at Mumbalance today with details on how becoming a mum has helped me fight off the winter blues and enjoy this time of year. Do pop over for a look and check out Joanna’s other posts while you are there – she’s expecting her second child in a matter of days and has loads of great posts on pregnancy, green living and raising a bilingual family.

Meanwhile, in real life we are enjoying a weekend in Suffolk, so expect lots more images of country walks to come next week. Hope you are all enjoying a lovely weekend outdoors too!

A Festive Country Weekend

Though London is fun at this time of year, I am always pleased when we get the chance to escape the city for a day or two and get out into the countryside. Mr Techno and I have a great group of friends from our university days, and we all try to meet up a couple of times a year for a country weekend.

Usually we have to rent a cottage, but we got lucky this time as one of the girls’ parents were on holiday and kindly offered us the use of their house whilst they were gone. Her dad is an apple farmer and they have this great, old house in Kent, with more than enough room for all of us.

Mr Techno picked Tom and I up from nursery on the Friday evening and we headed straight down, arriving just half-an-hour after Tom’s normal bedtime. The timing was perfect, as he went straight down to sleep, so we could concentrate on catching up. We are the only ones of this group to have a kid. In some ways it is good – Tom has a lot of very indulgent adults in his life – but it does mean that the others aren’t really aware of the needs of small children. We are lucky that Tom is such a good sleeper, so we do at least get to enjoy adult time!

On Saturday, we were all very excited to go on a proper country walk. In fact, we were so excited that we decided to go on two walks.

The first was a wander around the farmland, which took about an hour. We all went, including the four dogs. Mr Techno and I quickly realised the buggy wouldn’t be able to cope with the terrain, so we ditched it. Tom walked some of the way, and then we took it in turns to carry him.

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Of course, we had to stop off to visit the horses.

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And the chickens.

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And the ferrets. Tom was less sure about the ferrets – they tend to be a bit bitey. He took shelter leaning against Mr Techno’s legs.

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After lunch, Tom went down for a nap. Mr Techno and a couple of the others stayed home, whilst the rest of us headed to Bewl Water for a longer, very muddy walk.

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After all the walking, we definitely felt like we had earned some food. We cooked up a big Christmas dinner. Tom went to bed and the adults enjoyed the food, wine and company. Knowing I’d have to be up early, I flaked out just after midnight, but some of the others were still going strong at 3 am.

Needless to say, Sunday was a rather subdued day. I had to get up at 6.30 as usual with Tom, so had a quiet start whilst everyone else…recuperated. Once they appeared, we had a lovely lazy morning, grazing on leftovers and reading newspapers by the fire. Tom and I did escape outside for a while as well – he had started chasing the dogs around the house and clearly had some energy to burn!

We headed back to London after lunch, thoroughly refreshed by time away from the city with some great friends.

The Power of Silence

Tom is now fifteen months and is gradually beginning to say actual words, in amongst the sea of babbling. So far we have ‘goggy’ (doggy), ‘herro’ (hello) and ‘b-b’ (bye-bye). In addition to mama and dada of course. He used to say ducky too but seems to have stopped. Maybe duckies aren’t interesting now he has discovered trains.

It’s wonderful to think that, in the not-so-distant future, he will actually be able to have a conversation with us. Even just being able to tell us what he wants would be useful, instead of the random point-and-guess game we play a lot at the moment.

Having said that, it has been oddly restful spending time with someone who can’t yet talk. While I do the dutiful thing and chat to him a lot, there have been plenty of quiet moments where I haven’t felt the need to fill the silence with words. And Tom can make himself pretty well understood with gestures and expressions most of the time.

It also has helped me to cut down on using a phrase I hated hearing when I was a child; ‘What’s wrong?’ Obviously there is no point in asking, as he can’t tell me anyway. Instead, I have been learning to listen and watch before jumping in with words and questions. Once I think I know what the issue is, I might quietly say something like ‘you seem to be frustrated because you can’t get the blocks to stack’ (or whatever is appropriate to the situation). But sometimes it feels more natural to stay quiet and offer physical comfort or silent support, depending on what he seems to want from me.

We had a lovely moment in the park the other day. It had been a busy weekend and I think Tom was a bit overwhelmed by the parade of relatives he barely knows. So when we went out on Monday, he didn’t toddle off to play as he normally does. Instead, he asked to sit on my lap. We shared a long, quiet cuddle, both of us gazing out at the nature that surrounded us. Because we were outside, I wasn’t distracted by the chores or screens that call my attention away at home. I could just sit and give him my full focus. It was a wonderful moment of quiet connection. After about five minutes, he asked to get down and trotted off to investigate the green gym equipment, perfectly restored.wpid-imag1586.jpg

I just hope that when Tom is talking properly, I can still remember to watch, listen and stay quiet when he needs me too, instead of jumping in immediately with questions.

 

Foraging for Christmas Decorations

I love Christmas. But, slightly shockingly, Mr Techno and I don’t currently own any actual decorations. We always visit family over Christmas itself and when we were both working full-time we were in the flat so little over December that it didn’t ever seem worth decorating.

Last year, for Tom’s first Christmas, we were focused more on getting Tom’s inguinal hernia diagnosis confirmed and arranging a date for his surgery, so decorating was the last thing on our minds. Besides, he was far too little to notice anything was going on. But this year he is more aware, and I’ve already noticed him staring at the Christmas decorations at nursery.

The thing is though, that my inner anti-consumerist tends to kick in at this time of year (in reaction to all the adverts screaming ‘spend, spend, spend’ I suspect). So rather than buy a whole load of shiny new decorations that will only come out once a year, I decided to make some. This has involved ordering some glitter and paint online, so it isn’t spend free, but at least those will be useful for other craft projects too.

I definitely want to include some natural materials in the decorations. When Tom and I were walking to nursery last week, I picked up a few of these sycamore fruit in the park (and then accidentally went to work with them still in my pocket…)

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Aren’t they perfect? Bauble shaped, but not breakable, which is important in a toddler household

Clearly, just eight were not going to do the job, so Tom and I headed out on Saturday to gather more. My original plan was to grab some of these and then head into the woods to see what else we could find. But we woke up to find that Storm Desmond was hitting the UK. While we were lucky in London to escape the extreme weather and flood warnings that affected the north and Scotland, we did have some very strong winds. It didn’t seem entirely sensible to be heading into the woods with the chance of falling branches, so we stuck to the open areas and concentrated on finding more sycamore fruit (this might sound counter-intuitive, but there is an avenue of sycamore trees in the park, with lots of open grass around them).

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Unfortunately, my assistant got rather distracted by a massive pile of mud  – there’s some improvement work going on at Leyton Jubilee Park and they’ve been digging out a new path to the meadow area.

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Despite the burning need to make mud pies, we I did gather a decent haul. Which are now hidden all around the flat as Tom really enjoys playing with them. This is about half the stash!

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Sadly, the downside of lazy internet shopping is that the glitter and paint haven’t arrived yet, so we are waiting to transform these into baubles for the flat. I’ll let you know how we get on!

Life Unexpected