Oops…

Well that was a slightly unintentional blog holiday, though those who have seen my last post can probably work out why!

Fortunately, Tom is now recovered from the conjunctivitis, oral thrush, a bout of croup and getting his lower canines through. And my stomach has settled down after two separate incidences of food poisoning (I’d like to point out that neither of these was caused by food I had cooked…). So normal service should now resume, assuming we have no further random illnesses in the near future.

Despite the various small disasters of the last few weeks, we have still been enjoying some outdoor play. Luckily, Easter fell in a rare patch where neither Tom nor I was actively ill, so we were able to enjoy a lovely weekend in the country with my family. My dad is currently living in Singapore for work and my sister’s boyfriend lives in Abu Dhabi, so it is a rare and wonderful occasion when all of us are able to be together in the same room. Sadly, Mr Techno did have to work most of the weekend, but managed to sneak down on Saturday to spend the day with us all (or, rather, to watch the rugby whilst eating his own body weight in hot cross buns).

The weather was less than fantastic, apart from Good Friday which was gloriously sunny. Tom happily splashed water in the garden and ‘helped’ his grandfather install a new watering system for the potted plants (I suggested a watering can, but apparently this is too lo-tech). Then we went to the park where Tom and my dad had some good bonding time. They see each other so rarely, but they really get on well. My dad is a bit British when it comes to emotions, but lets his guard down much more with Tom. Let’s hope that bond will last!

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Despite the wet weather the rest of the weekend, we managed to visit another park on Saturday and Tom and my mum went for a ‘nature walk’ around the garden on Sunday. They found some frog spawn and Tom chased the chickens. Or they chased him. Hard to tell really.

We’ve also been enjoying getting out on the Marshes now that the weather is warmer and it has been wonderful to be able to hang the washing outside – with the result that the laundry basket is actually empty for the first time in about…19 months?

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Toddlers Don’t Need Toys

Now, before you read the title of this post and jump to the wrong conclusion, I should say that Tom does own toys. Lots of toys, in fact. He has train sets and toy cars and stuffed toys and musical instruments and various things that stack and a whole bunch of other stuff. And he does play with them. Sometimes. But the more I watch him potter round the house, the more I realise we could have saved our money and only bought him a couple of toy cars. If that.

Wednesday was a frustrating day. I have it off work, the morning was fairly sunny, and I was dying to get out onto the Marshes. But we were due to get two big deliveries – a crate of wine (hurray!) – and a new set of shelves for Tom’s room…to store all those toys he doesn’t play with. So we were stuck in. We couldn’t even get out to the back garden, because I can’t hear the doorbell from out there.

Despite my occasional bouncing round the house going ‘I want to go out‘ (very mature, I know. It’s supposed to be the toddler behaving that way), we did manage to entertain ourselves pretty well. We read lots of stories in the morning, sang nursery rhymes and chased each other around the flat, then Tom went down for his nap.

When he got up, he helped me pod beans for our lunch.

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Lunch eaten, I realised that we could actually go out…into the front garden. Well, I say garden. It’s more of a bin storage area. And technically only the access to our front door is ours, the rest belongs to our downstairs neighbour. But hey, we can definitely hear any delivery drivers from there and I was not staying in a moment longer.

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Tom opted not to wear his coat, despite the freezing cold

We played hide and seek around the bins, chased each other round in circles, and experimented with Tom’s new found ability to open and close doors (trickier since he can’t actually reach the handle on the front door, so I kept having to open it for him).No toys required, but a surprising amount of energy expended considering the tiny space.

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After about an hour, we had exhausted the possibilities of the front garden, so we went back in and Tom happily rearranged the shoes on our shoe rack.

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Since I wasn’t such a fan of the shoe game, we went back upstairs and made biscuits. Which was both fun and very messy. Whilst they baked, I sat down with a coffee and Tom spent about 45 minutes pretending to pour water out of an empty bottle into a candle, then pretending to drink out of the candle (it wasn’t lit, obviously). I got fed some too.

Once he was bored of that game, he emptied out the contents of my handbag and put them back again. Over and over and over again. Then he got two containers and our set of dominoes, and spent about an hour and a half transferring the dominoes from one container to the other. I’m not exaggerating. He was so focused that I ended up changing his nappy in the living room, with him still playing, because I didn’t want to break his concentration.

Later, he kicked a balloon around for a while, then had dinner. He spent the evening climbing on and off the sofa (he’s only just gotten tall enough to manage it), making piles of blankets on the floor and jumping on them, and emptying out a pack of cards all over the floor, then rearranging them into different piles. At which point I suddenly realised it was bath time (which had nothing to do with a desire to prevent any more mess being made..at all…honest).

Almost a whole day indoors and the only purpose-bought toy he played with was his peg puzzle…and that was only because I was making him stay still so I could put his pjs on.

Which begs the question…why did we buy him any toys in the first place when he clearly doesn’t need them?

The shelves still haven’t arrived incidentally. Fortunately, the wine did (hurray!)

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When Clocks Stop, Fun Starts

I have to admit to being ever so slightly controlling when it comes to time. Much as I would love to be an instinctive, child-led, responsive parent, I tend to have half an eye on the clock throughout the day. And, though I think that a daily routine is important in helping both children and adults feel more secure, eat better, sleep better, and manage change better, I do find that our routine has a tendency to err a bit too much towards the strict schedule side of things, which I am less comfortable with.

This week though, everything has been different. This is because my watch battery has run flat and I have been too disorganised busy to sort out a replacement. I would have thought that I would be lost without the constant reassurance of knowing what time it is, but in fact it has been rather freeing. It’s not as though I don’t have access to other clocks – there’s one on my phone, one in our living room, one in our bedroom, and one on any computer I happen to be sat at. There’s even one in Tom’s room. So I still have a vague idea what time it is, but am less able to check every minute and plan our day down to the last second. Which means we are operating much more to a nice gentle routine, and less to a military-style schedule.

Tom and I spent a lovely day together last Wednesday. It’s usually our family day, but Mr Techno has been busy with the opening of the new restaurant and has been around less during the week than usual (we did get him over the weekend instead though, which was both unusual and lovely). So I really wanted to make it a fun day for just the two of us, which are far and few between now I’m up to four days of work.

I put Tom in the sling and we headed to the playground in Millfield Park, which has the most amazing sandpit. Or I thought it was amazing at least. Tom was more interested in the ramp up to it – he was so proud of himself for being able to manage the slope and went up and down it over and over again. Then we played hide and seek around the little house for a bit and he had a go on the swings.

We left the playground and walked up the path back into the main park. Which caused a bit of an argument. Tom was absolutely adamant that he wanted to go play with the cars. No, not toys ones, the fast, dangerous, very big ones on the road. Unsurprisingly, I was not up for this plan, so a few minutes were spent picking him up, carrying him away, having him scream in anger, and then chasing him as he ran back towards the road.

Usually our day out would have ended at this point, with me checking my watch and deciding we had spent long enough outside. But with no watch to give me an excuse, I stuck it out longer than I would normally. And I am so glad I did. Because the running-chasing-and-carrying-away turned from a tantrum-causing event to an amazing game. I’m not entirely sure how it happened – one minute Tom was arching his back and having a shout every time I picked him up, and the next he was running away giggling and waiting for me to shout ‘I’m coming to get you’. Which was his signal to stop dead still and wait for me to come grab him and spin him round in circles. We played for at least an hour, until we were both exhausted. It was lovely.

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Family Visit to Epping Forest

It’s been a while since Mr Techno and I have both had a full day off at the same time. Which means we hadn’t been on a family day out since our visit to Winterville before Christmas. Fortunately, we both had Wednesday off, so it was time to address this terrible situation!

Our first thought was a visit to Brooks Farm in Leyton – we haven’t been yet and it is only a half-hour walk from our flat. But, just as we were about to leave, I checked the website for the opening times and found that it was closed due to staff sickness. So I guess we will have to save that for another day.

Instead, we piled into the car and headed for Epping Forest, which is a bit too far for us to walk. There are a number of visitor centres for the Forest – the one we headed to is our closest one, which is called the View. Not only is it the closest, but it is also right next to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, which I really wanted to look round.

There was a very fine drizzle when we arrived and parked the car, but we could see from the clouds that it was likely to get worse, so we decided to start our visit with a wander around part of the Forest. Being an ancient oak forest, Epping is perfect for little people – the trees are widely spaced and leave lots of room for exploring, without getting tripped up by undergrowth. We enjoyed a lovely, if rather muddy, walk through the trees. Tom handled the walking really well – he’s always been pretty confident outdoors but I’ve really noticed his balance and speed improving in the last two weeks. He did trip twice, but bearing in mind the uneven ground and the scattered leaves and sticks, that was pretty good going. He had a great time, especially when Mr Techno and I took his hands and swung him between us, which led to lots of giggling.

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We came to the end of our short loop, and the rain was getting heavier, so we headed for the Hunting Lodge. Before we went in, we had to admire the view and make friends with the wooden deer statues outside.

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A staff member from the View came over to let us into the Lodge and told us a bit about its history. It was actually built for Henry VIII – in his later years, Henry was too fat to easily ride, so he had a number of lodges built in his game parks. The gamekeepers would drive deer to the clear area in front of the Lodge, and Henry and his nobles would shoot at them with crossbows – all the bloodletting with none of the risk or exercise involved! However, the original Lodge was fairly basic. It was done up for Elizabeth I, which is probably how it got its name. The Lodge was then used as a farmhouse until the 19th Century, which likely helped it survive in a fairly unaltered state. A Victorian extension was built, but was torn down later so that the building could be more easily presented as a Tudor Lodge (I’m not going to get into it here, but for reasons relating to good conservation philosophy, that was a choice I don’t totally agree with).

The Lodge has been very much ‘dressed’ to highlight its Tudor origins, so is a fun visit for kids. The first room we went into had a mocked-up Tudor feast laid out, complete with rather creepy figure of a Tudor beggar.

Upstairs, there was a dress-up room on the first floor. The clothes were on the large side for our little man, but he was interested in poking the ‘tapestries’.

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On the second floor, as well as an incredible view, there was a table display about how traditional timber framed buildings were built, along with a dendrochronology activity (that’s tree ring dating, for those who don’t speak archaeologist). The part of me that works in building conservation was very pleased with this part, as well as the handout we were given that explained how to ‘read’ the building, pointing out taper burns, carpenters’ marks, and apotropaic marks (to ward off evil). When Mr Techno mentioned to the staff member that I work for the SPAB, he pointed out that the Lodge also has links with William Morris, our founder, who was apparently inspired by the Tudor tapestries that used to hang in the Lodge when he was a child growing up in nearby Woodford.

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After thoroughly exploring the Lodge, we headed back over to the View, which had a lovely little display about the various seasons in the forest, including sound effects. Tom was very keen to press the buttons and hear the birdsong.

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By this time we were all getting hungry for our lunch. Options were fairly limited – there was a pricey coffee shop or a Brewer’s Fayre attached to the Premier Inn (which has somehow landed planning permission to be right next to the View). Needing somewhere kid-friendly, we headed to the Brewer’s Fayre to join a host of other families also in need of sustenance.

Despite the less than stellar weather, we had a lovely day out. I definitely intend to spend a lot more time in Epping Forest as it gets warmer – the View maybe our closest visitor centre but there are places to get into the Forest much closer to us. And as Tom starts sleeping less, we will have more time to explore! We’ll be back to the Hunting Lodge too when he is old enough to appreciate it.

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Wander Mum

Weekly Report: W/c 04.01.16

After the lovely long Christmas break, it was a bit of a come down to have to go back to work last week. Having said that, getting back to our normal routine was beginning to look attractive after having had so much going on.

We started on Monday with a much needed trip to the shop to stock up on some extra groceries. It then started raining as we ate lunch, but fortunately was clear by the time Tom woke up from his nap. Expecting more rain, I opted for water play in the garden, which was a huge success. I’ve resolved to do more with the space and am on the look out for inspiration.

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Tuesday was my first day back at work. I left Tom and Mr Techno to enjoy each others’ company, returning to find they hadn’t actually left the flat all day! Big fail on the outdoor front.

We had to wait in on Wednesday morning to have a new lock fitted. So I was keen to get out in the afternoon. Sadly, Tom and I had different agendas for our walk, making it a bit of a disastrous one. Isn’t parenting fun!

Thursday started rather wet, with a walk to nursery in the pouring rain. Tom was dry under his buggy’s rain cover, and I had my waterproofs, but it wasn’t the most pleasant walk we’ve ever had. Fortunately it had stopped by the time I picked him up again, though we skipped our normal stop off in the park, since I had to get us both packed and ready to go to Suffolk the following evening.

 

Friday morning was much nicer – dry and quite sunny, though cold. Tom was not in a great mood: it took us ages to get out of the house and he then grumbled all the way to nursery. I wasn’t in the best of moods either, which didn’t help. Bad time of the month! We didn’t have our usual walk back that evening, as Mr Techno came to pick us up so we could all drive to Suffolk to see my in-laws for the weekend.

Saturday and Sunday were spent in Suffolk, enjoying the beautiful countryside. Mr Techno went shooting on Saturday with his day, and Tom and I enjoyed lots of walks and exploring.

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It wasn’t the greatest of weeks – I was in a crappy mood and so was Tom, though I suspect his was at least a bit caused by my lack of patience and empathy. I’m fine at this parenting lark when everything is going well, but don’t seem to be able to cope with things going wrong. Must work on some techniques for maintaining standards even when I’m having a bad day (tips very welcome!)