Trip to Sealife

I’m not entirely sure what my brother-in-law does for a living, but his job seems to net him an incredible number of perks. Luckily for us, one of these included discounted tickets to Sealife – the aquarium on London’s South Bank. Mr Techno had work, but Tom and I headed there last Sunday to meet Mr Techno’s brother, his sister, her husband, and their daughter, who is the same age as Tom.

It was pretty epically busy, since we had forgotten that it was the last weekend of the Easter holidays. It did take away from the experience a bit, as we had to duck and weave round the crowds to see anything. Also, small toddlers, dark spaces and crowds are not a winning combo. Luckily we didn’t actually lose either of them, but Tom did make a few bids for freedom.

It isn’t the easiest place to take photos either, so apologies for the shockingly poor quality!

Sadly, we were all annoyed from the start by the insistence that you wait in line to have a picture taken before going in, which meant we had a really pointless five minute wait. With the group behind us complaining loudly the whole time.

Once we got into the aquarium proper though, things improved. We saw starfish, seahorses, lion fish, sea rays…and a whole bunch of other fish I can’t really name but which were pretty cool. Tom was especially enamored of the clownfish, despite never having seen Finding Nemo. I liked the various seadragons, which disguise themselves as leaves, seaweed, branches etc.

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We walked through the shark tunnel too, though that seemed to freak the toddlers out more than anything. Then there was a rainforest section, which included alligators, piranhas and terrapins.

By this point, the toddlers were a bit over the whole thing and wanted their lunch and naps. So we were pleased to see a sign saying we were ‘surfacing’ which we assumed meant we were near the end. Sadly…not so much. There weren’t really any fish left to see, but we had to walk through two further exhibits – one about the Thames which was mostly focused on the sewer system – and one with looped clips from Frozen Planet. Both of which seemed pretty pointless. And of course there was the obligatory gift shop.

Overall I have to say I wasn’t too impressed. With the discount we got and the toddlers being free, it was just about worth the money. Without the discount… I would have been pretty disappointed. The crowds didn’t help of course, nor the toddler crankiness at the end. But it felt like there was a lot of filler, especially towards the end. Plus the penguins were on holiday (due back in May) which was disappointing!

Fortunately, the food market on the South Bank filled the food requirements and we headed back to my in-laws house in Waterloo for toddler naps.

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“No, No, No!”

Tom may only be 19 months old, but it’s clear that toddler-stubbornness is already setting in. Handily, he has decided to learn the word ‘no’ in order to explain to us exactly what we are doing wrong. Which currently seems to be everything!

To add to the already long list of things Tom doesn’t like, which includes things like getting dressed, having his nappy changed, having his teeth brushed by other people, having his face wiped, having his hair washed, vegetables… we now have to add baths without bubbles, getting into the high chair, getting out of the high chair, and having to take his shoes off.

I have to assume that being sick so much lately is partly to blame – we certainly have a huge step up in tantrums when he’s tired, and his response to being ill is to sleep a lot (I know. We are very lucky. Don’t hate me). Sadly though, I suspect much of this is just the wonderful world of self-assertiveness that is toddlerdom.

Fortunately, one of the few things Tom doesn’t say no to is outdoor play. In fact, I narrowly diverted a tantrum on Saturday morning when he brought me his shoes, and then his coat, so we could go play in the garden. He was still in his pajamas, wasn’t wearing a nappy, and refused to put his blanket down…but we rolled with it anyway. After all, next door’s cat was sitting on our fence so clearly needed it’s peace interrupting!

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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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Garden Update: Building a Mud Kitchen

As long time followers of this blog will know, we’ve been trying to improve our garden space, which is challenging because a) we rent, b) we are broke and c) the space is tiny.

But we have finally made some progress! Ages and ages ago, I picked up a pile of miscellaneous wood that someone was offering on freecycle. It’s been sitting in our hallway for about two months, waiting for a dry day when both Mr Techno and I were home.

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Such a day finally arrived last Wednesday. So we took stock of what we had and drew up a plan.

To be honest, the materials weren’t completely ideal. But we selected a thick panel of mdf, a similarly sized one of chipboard and a scaffold plank.

Step one was cutting the chipboard to the same size as the mdf with our jig saw. I started out doing the cutting, but we swapped when we remembered that I can’t do straight lines.

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Then we cut the scaffolding plank into two pieces that were a bit shorter than the length of the panels.

We took it all out to the garden and screwed it together. The two panels form the top and bottom and the scaffolding plank pieces form the sides.

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This gave us a cuboid, with space for storage inside. The mdf had been covered with a thick layer of gloss paint, which helps with adding some waterproofing, so that panel went on top. We also kept a slight overhang to stop water dripping down inside and raised the whole thing up on bricks to keep the bottom getting too damp.

I then hammered the old nails we had prised off the scaffolding board into the mdf to act as hooks.

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Add Tom’s tea set, toy pans, some stones, and cast off bits from our kirchen and we were good to go.

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We have some wooden discs we plan to glue on as hobs, and I’d like to paint some details on to make it more realistic, but at least we’ve made a start!

And it hasn’t cost us a penny
(well ok, we did own some bits already we had to pay for, like the tea set and the tools. But the structure itself cost us nothing)

Sticks and Stones…

…make really good toys!

There’s been a bout of conjunctivitis going round Tom’s nursery and, when I picked him up last Thursday, it was clear he had succumbed to it. Which meant he couldn’t go to nursery on Friday. Working from home with a toddler, especially one who is not really sick, is a far different thing from working at home with a baby who can’t yet reach your keyboard. Clearly, if I was to get anything done some of Ton’s energy needed to be run off first.

We’ve been working on building him a mud kitchen for the garden, so it seemed like a perfect time to gather up some natural materials to go in it. So off we headed, with an old plastic bag in tow, to gather up some stones from our local patch of woodland.

Tom though this was a great game, once I’d explained what we were doing. Although he was rather too keen to empty everything back out of the bag at various intervals throughout our walk.

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Once we had collected a fair number, we headed home to try out their potential.

They were put into boxes and emptied out. Dipped into plant pots and awkwardly stacked on top of each other. Thrown onto the paving stones to make a clunk and banged against tables. In short, stones are awesome.

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So awesome that Tom kept bringing me his shoes and coat at various points throughout the weekend so we could go back out to play with them again.

Hurray for stones! (And sticks which have provided many a diversion when out on walks)

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