Book Review: You Choose!

Pippa Goodhart & Nick SharrattDaniel’s nursery have a book loan scheme and we brought home our first book from this yesterday, chosen by Daniel; I presume based on the fabulously bright and cheerful cover.

It’s not a story book but it could keep a child entranced for hours. On every double page you have to choose what you would like to visit/wear/live in… the list goes on and on. The illustrations are absolutely amazing – incredibly detailed without being fussy or difficult for three year-old-eyes to discern and filled with friendly characters; even Dracula is a very friendly vampire! The choice on every page is vast and there are more every time you look; you certainly won’t see everything the first time through, or even the second.

Another thing I loved about the illustrations is how cleverly they’re done. Nick Sharratt has somehow made it normal for a pirate ship to be sailing past a space rocket or a poodle to be sitting next to a dragon, and the range of things covered in the book is excellent. There’s a double spread covering jobs that people do, my favourite one which is all sorts of food, one for children who love to dress up offering a variety of clothes…again, it just goes on forever. There are clothes, houses, food items etc from all sorts of cultures (even the undead…) giving opportunities to discuss other cultures.

This book is so versatile, it can be used in many different ways. I’ve been straight through it with Daniel, just choosing what he would like; we’ve also branched out to choose things for other members of the family; we’ve talked about what jobs his grandparents did, and what he would like to do. It’s a brilliant introduction to asking “What if…?” and thinking in timescales or tenses other than the present or immediate future. It’s a great springboard for the imagination as children can make lots of choices safely – Daniel has no problem with his imagination but I think that if a child is struggling in this area, this is a great way to encourage them to explore. There’s no right or wrong, they can make as many choices as they like, but there’s a guide to help them until they have the confidence to use their imagination on their own, in free play. It also introduces new vocabulary and new concepts without children ever realising it. If your child is a bit younger, don’t bother with the “What if..” use, it’s just a great first word and picture book. If you’re really confident, you could even use it as a primer into other languages. One use which I intend to explore soon is helping Daniel to make his forays into storytelling. He’s three and a half at the minute – I can see this being a favourite for years.

I have to return the book to school this week, but I’ll be straight onto Amazon to buy my own copy. And I can’t recommend it highly enough.

You Choose! – Nick Sharratt & Pippa Goodhart. ISBN 978-0552547086

Available from here.

Are You Smarter Than A Four Month Old?

Emily began solids this week. Actually, her first taste of solids was nearly 2 weeks ago, but we put it on hold because there was a load of upheaval at home. Yes, she is young – she only turned 4 months old on Monday. And as the health visitor pointed out, “We do prefer them to wait until 6 months to start solids”. Oh, really? Not sure Emmy would agree with you. Without going into long and boring details, she is letting me know in no uncertain terms that her current level of intake is not quite doing it for her. I think if I suggested to Emily that she wait another 2 months before moving her on, she might take my arm off at the elbow. Daniel was the same.

In fact, pretty much every time we moved Daniel on, from weaning to sleeping in his own room to giving up a dummy to toilet training, he let us know that he was ready for it. When he was ready to move out of our room, his sleep worsened, improving once he was in his own space. Same again when it came to changing from a cot to a bed.

Take toilet training – I’m more than half convinced that it’s actually the child training us. We just established that Daniel was very good at using the potty and asking for it and fetching it. We were in a nice little comfort zone, and I thought I would introduce the concept of the toilet in a couple of weeks, no hurry. Daniel decided differently, and completely off his own back he started using the toilet instead of the potty.

Emily is so far following firmly in her brother’s footsteps, letting me know when it’s time to move on. I suspect most babies are the same. This is a pretty handy thing when you think about it. Most parents are completely clueless (including us by the way!), hence the market for parenting help books, the sheer abundance of forums on the net, the helpful blogs. We joke about needing an instruction manual when we bring our newborn home but inside we’re shouting “Please give us an instruction manual!” Sweating madly, convinced we’re going to end up causing untold damage to this tiny little being because WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE DOING. And we cling onto the moment that we were in 5 minutes ago because the thought of the future, of them growing up and not needing us any more, is too scary. But luckily, for them anyway, babies are smarter than us. They know what they need, and when, and they find ways of telling us. I’m not ready for Emmy to start weaning. I felt like telling the health visitor that. “Do you think I WANT to start solids? Do I want to spend hours cooking and pureeing veg and freezing it in little blocks and persuading her that peas are actually delicious? Do I want to start the process of moving my daughter away from the intense closeness that breastfeeding brings, knowing that I won’t get that again?”

But Emily, my four month old baby girl, is smarter than me, and smarter than the expert. She knows she is big and strong, and needing more. So I’ll listen to her, and not the experts, thank you so much for the advice.

Going Solo – ish.

Well, if anyone follows me on Twitter, they will know that Baby Girl Brown finally made an appearance on Friday 9 April, and is now Emily Grace Brown. I will be blogging more about the birth and first few days another time – no gory details though, the squeamish among you will be pleased to hear. This post, however, is about today specifically.

My husband’s paternity leave ended yesterday, so technically today is the first day where I had both children by myself. Now, I say technically because my husband does actually work from home with flexible hours, so it was cheating a little. Alright, a lot. But it has taught me one or two things.

The morning started off fairly badly – I was tired and stressed from a not-so-good night with Emily and found it a struggle to get going. This wasn’t helped by both children needing my undivided attention pretty much simultaneously, and my only thoughts ran along the lines of “Oh no, I am never going to manage this, please can we just all stay in bed?” That’s where Daddy comes back in and saves the day, taking care of Daniel so I could feed Emily. He also calmed me down and saved me from crawling back under the duvet. I just found the whole idea of taking care of two children and myself and doing household jobs and writing and a million other things (which this morning seemed both imperative and immediate) completely overwhelming. Why this should be so, I have little idea. I used to be a nursery nurse – I had responsibility for lots of small children at once as well as supervising two or three staff and keeping records. The difference, I guess, is that these are my children. However much I cared for the children at nursery, they could never be as infinitely precious to me as Daniel and Emily, and the pressure to look after the nursery children pales in comparison to the responsibility I have been given for these two. Also, I don’t get to hand Daniel and Emily back at the end of the day!

In summary then, I started the day with high expectations of myself on which I had failed before I even got out of bed. I foresaw days filled with screaming children, me dwindling away to nothing as I ran round after them, the house getting gradually more and more squalid, husband fading away from starvation because I couldn’t get near the kitchen to cook anything…you get the picture. By half ten, things were looking up. I had a shower, and by half eleven all three of us were dressed and had had some breakfast. And it was nearly time for lunch already…(cue start of hysteria returning – deep breaths, deep breaths).

This afternoon, I managed to gain some control over the house, the children were both happy, fed and comfortable and I had a more realistic perspective on what I could achieve and what my priorities were. I say again, this is mostly due to the safety net I had of my husband being in the house, just a shout away if need be. I already had a great deal of respect for anyone raising children on their own – this has increased tenfold and also encompasses anyone whose partner does not work from home – the majority of the population I imagine! I do realise, in between feeling frazzled, how lucky I am. I have friends who I can call on at any time, even if it’s just for a coffee out of the house. I have an unbelievably strong support network on Twitter – I can’t say enough how much it means to put a couple of tweets up and receive back (often within minutes) replies confirming that I am actually a normal human being feeling normal things. I have family – not exactly nearby but close enough that they would be here within the hour and send me back to bed with a cup of tea while taking over everything. And I have an amazing husband who I can only describe as my lifeline. So that’s one thing that my first day of going solo(ish) has taught me – to appreciate how lucky I am.

The other thing I’ve learned – which I will almost certainly need to re-learn and re-learn until the children are putting me in a retirement home – is that I need to get a grip and put things into perspective. I am not going to achieve superhuman standards, simply because I am not superhuman (I know, I find it hard to believe too). Today for me was about keeping the children safe and happy and getting some control over the house again. Once I realised that and put the other things aside, I achieved it and have a great big tick on my to-do list. Now, I’m sitting in a tidy house (well ok, the floors need hoovering. Give me a break eh?), having done two meals, with two happy children and a happy husband, and I’m even getting time to write a blog post. I think I will be going to bed (early!) a happy girl, and we’ll see what tomorrow’s going solo-ish brings.

Book Review: Nighty Night

I’ve decided to start a new series of blog posts. On a regular basis I will review a book that my two and a half year old son has recently read. But don’t just take my word for it, check out The Daniel Pages for his point of view.
The first one we’ve chosen is Nighty Night by Colin McNaughton (click here to see on Amazon).

This has become part of Daniel’s nightly routine and he calls for it without fail. Technical stuff first: It has twelve double pages with bright pastel colours, big bold text (that becomes bigger or smaller to reflect tone of voice!) and appealing cartoons. The story builds up to a wonderful rant by Littlesaurus about why he doesn’t want to sleep then closes with a lovely, snuggly ending. I actually think one of the reasons we all love this book so much is because Littlesaurus reminds us so much of Daniel, and I suspect any parent will recognise their lively toddler in our hero.

The parents, Mummysaurus and Daddysaurus, are also brilliantly drawn – again, I recognise both myself and my husband in their reactions to bedtime. I love when Mummysaurus tells Daddysaurus that he’s supposed to be calming Littlesaurus down and he slinks away guiltily.

The only negative thing I can think of is if you are trying to encourage your child to stay in their bed all night, this might not help, as Littlesaurus ends up snuggling in between Mummy and Daddysaurus. But it’s such a sweet ending I love it anyway!

Reading the story is a lot of fun for both us and Daniel. The sentences are short and snappy, and Daniel loves to echo them back, sometimes finishing them before we do! I can see this being a favourite for years, and will be a good choice when he starts reading on his own as the text is so clear and the words are a good mix between challenging and manageable.

There is another book advertised on the back cover, featuring the same characters, dealing with potty training, and as soon as I finish this post I will be popping over to Amazon to buy it. If Potty Poo-poo Wee-wee is as much fun as Nighty Night I can’t wait to get started.

Thanks for reading our first book review. I’d love anyone to comment if they have read this book or can recommend similar, or if there’s anything I’ve missed off the review. If you have a book you read to your children and fancy putting up a review use the Contact Me page to send an email letting me know, it would be great to hear from you.

Don’t forget to pop over to The Daniel Pages to get Daniel’s verdict on Nighty Night!

When Did That Happen?

When did my son turn into a miniature human being?

I remember when he was first born. We marvelled, as all new parents do, over his tiny hands and feet, his amazingly loud voice and how clever he was to be able to look at us and recognise us. But he was still almost like a different species. A baby, not quite a human being like the ones walking and talking around us. He couldn’t actually do anything. He couldn’t choose what activity he was going to do, where he was going to move to, what he was going to say.

Now, all of a sudden, he is not a baby any more. He is making those choices. He can choose, if he wants, to run backwards and forwards around our flat all day. He can choose to take out the animals from his Noah’s Ark or his little figures and line them all up, making them ‘say’ clever and insightful things. He can choose to copy what we say –  we’re not big on swearing but we have to watch every word we say. He chooses to walk in a straight line, a wiggly line, dance, run, fall over.

He knows what to do. When did that happen? When did he learn that if I say “Dinnertime” he has to go and knock on Daddy’s office door then climb onto his chair? When did he learn that to turn on the musical Christmas toys he pushes the switch on the back? How did he learn to operate the TV and DVD player more quickly than Daddy did? When did he realise that if we get the camera out it’s much more fun to smile adorably at the camera then turn away at the last minute?

He talks to me. He says things like “I’ve got an idea, people” and “Alright, Mummy? Have a nice sleep?” I can’t believe that two months ago I was worried about his speech – he comes out with the most amazing things now. Yes, it’s not always an unmixed blessing. Like when we were in the shop and he pointed at an elderly gentleman with a white beard and said, very clearly, “Look, Mummy, Santa Claus!” But he can, and does, also say “I missed Mummy” after nursery, or “Love you”.

He has strops. Nothing all that bad (see my post The Challenge of Loving) but he definitely has strops. When he was a baby he had four basic states: cry, sleep, smile, neutral. Cries had variations, smiles had grades depending on the cause (Grade 1 for mildly amused, Grade 5 for Grandma etc), but they were essentially the same state. Now, Daniel has all the moods that I or Daddy have and suddenly we see ourselves reflected in him. We’re allowed to be moany and miserable after a sleepless night with him, but find it hard to deal with him being the same. That’s because we’re just not used to it – all of a sudden he has adult emotions and can express them and we need to catch up with him. But on the other side of that he has also developed a wonderful sense of the ridiculous, and his laughter at something that is just too silly is infectious.

He experiments. He only has our word for it that climbing onto the sofa and rolling off will hurt, so he gives it a go. He sees no reason not to take the roof off his toy garage and use the frame as a hula hoop. He’s pretty sure that a big car will go down his slide with a big crash, but what will a little car do? And he doesn’t know, not for definite, that he’ll get caught every time he tries to take a bauble off the Christmas tree. May as well keep having a go. The baby we had, it seems like only ten minutes ago, couldn’t have even imagined any of these possibilities.

Now, we loved our tiny baby so much. We could not imagine loving him more, he seemed so perfect in every way. I’m sure when his little sister is born in April we will go through the same emotions. But the thought that she could develop into the same sort of miniature human being as Daniel, with all that potential and excitement, but entirely different again, is mind-boggling. And I can’t wait.