What I Like by Catherine and Laurence Anholt

Dulcie, as a baby, was described by someone far wittier than I, as having ‘a whim of iron’. She still displays some pretty resolute What I Like Catherine and Laurence Anholtbehaviour but can be as flakey as pastry when the mood takes her. A wish to open a bottle of nail varnish and coat the scruffy little nails of a group of two friends and a neighbour’s toddler? Then she can spend ten minutes (which in a preschooler’s life is like a supereon) with her concentration-tongue poking out, sweaty palms twisting the lid and nostrils flared with the effort, until the silence and the smell cause me to run up the stairs and put a swift end to proceedings. Sadly only after twenty digits have been swathed in Hello Kitty pink. A long day, a slippery bit of jelly that won’t get on the spoon? Then she can curse jelly and renounce it after a nano-second of trying.

Himself the Elf is made from sterner stuff. He won’t allow obstacles to bend him from his path, whether they are physical (SHOVE goes the chair put in his way. PAH to the fence as he tries to slither underneath. UMPH to the door that has been shut on him) or his own limitations. There is now nothing that is out of reach, for he just climbs to get it. I honestly now find it simpler, easier and a darnsight less dangerous to hand over what he wants before he makes too much effort to get it (obviously, I don’t count knives, matches, medicines and the like under this as they’re dangerous, or dried apricots as too many have a predictable outcome and I’m the person who has to deal with it). Continue reading

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards and illustrated by Shirley Hughes

IMG_3050Repetition is an important part of life with small children. I don’t just mean the endless wiping of oozing or leaking body-parts, or constantly saying “If you stand right in front of the buggy, I can’t push it” or “Get down from there, please”, or even the days when you look at the clock repeatedly in the hopes that it is now 5 o’clock and you can start making dinner and see the fabulous light at the end of the tunnel that is bed time, instead of the time actually only being 1.04 and not 1.03 like last time you looked and you’ve got a marathon of childcare to endure first. There’s the repetition of  questions that can be like being pecked on the head for hours on end by a sharp-beaked bird, but also the gratifying slow arc of seeing how the answer to “Where do apples come from?” becomes becomes more complex as the child can grasp more information (Disclaimer: do not take it to heart if you’ve bloody well looked up how the blossom turns into apples and made sure you’re clear on stamens and what they do, if a child then looks bored, and asks “I just meant Waitrose or Sainsbury’s,” before wandering off.) Obviously, there’s repetition to the shape of most days, and in the house that includes an awakening that leads me to believe my second-born will be a milkman, there’s plenty of hours to fit in activities that are a repeat of the day before. It is, I believe, called Routine, and some are more fanatical about it than others. I prefer the day to have a familiar shape, punctuated by meals, and spend the rest of the time making hay while the sun shines (or clambering over the sofa when it doesn’t). Continue reading

I am a Bunny by Ole Rissom illustrated by Richard Scarry

Time has clearly moved on. Himself the Elf is a fully mobile – forwards, backwards, down and up. Especially up – little man-machine, busily Makaton-signing his way through life as he spots pictures of hippos and boats, and can make his more simple

wants known through very basic language (most frequently “more cheese” and “all, ALL” when offered a share of any food). Dulcie has recently reached the lofty age of four and is so terribly superior, it is hard to know what to say sometimes. Things that are now increasingly infra dig: biscuits that someone else has bitten first (fair game until recently, and eaten off the floor too, if not stopped in time); any help whatsoever in toilet matters; suggestions of clothes that can be worn, especially coats or cardigans; being told anything at all, ever, in any circumstances, unless her express permission has been given; and eating any meal without the prompt Hurry up, please and Could you please stop talking for a few minutes and finish your food? at least nine hundred times. Continue reading

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

We are not scientists in this house. I have a very hazy notion of what an atom or a molecule is, and I haven’t noticed my husband leafing through a copy of New Scientist or playing with a conical flask and a Bunsen burner (apart IMG_2084from when he’s brewing up crystal meth. I’m lying, of course. He brews tea and coffee only. And does one ‘brew’ crystal meth? I’m not sure I’ve got quite the correct terminology there. Again, proof of my unscientific bent). So, should I be surprised that neither of my children can make the link between touching snow repeatedly, and then having miserable, throbbing hands from the cold? Himself the Elf suffers most from this because a) he has least sense in any case and b) he behaves as though gloves are the work of the devil and he must cast them out as soon as they touch his skin. He uses his teeth to slide them off and isn’t happy until they have been flung as far away as possible from him. “Nonononononononono!” he warns me, as I dutifully approach him with mittens each time we left the house. I’ve now given up. The first mitten had already been removed before the second one was donned, and I’d rather just pull the rainhood over the buggy and risk the tsks of people in the street who are clearly thinking “Selfish beast of a woman, her hands are all cosy and encased in wool while that POOR BABY freezes,” then have my hair pulled and eyeball scratched, as was my fate last time I leaned in the buggy to dress him appropriately. Continue reading

No Fairies by Peter Stevenson

IMG_1761Is Himself the Elf on some sort of quest? Has something been hidden somewhere, in our house or any other venue we visit, something so precious that every drawer, box, cupboard and bag must be emptied in the pursuit? He is like Gollum in search of the ring, and nothing on earth will deter him from the search.

“He’s rooting in my kitchen again!” is the cry from Dulcie, and also from the grown-ups. More upsetting than him tipping out a carefully arranged shopping basket of wooden fruit from the tiny play oven, is the ice-effect he has created on the kitchen floor by opening a drawer that seemed to be elf-proof, and flinging a glass bowl onto the tiles in order to get a better look at a stray strand of uncooked spaghetti underneath. His rage as I removed him from the area gave the whole scene an apoplectic, apocalypse feel as everything disappeared under a cloud of glass, anger and icing sugar.

Continue reading

Nina Ballerina: New Girl by Anna Wilson

As well as my adoration for anything published by Persephone books and my annual binge on George Elliot, I do have some very low-brow tastes. I occasionally buy Grazia magazine. I have watched Take Me Out. I always reach for the magazine of any weekend paper before reading the news. So I tried to show Dulcie a bit of sympathy in the library this week when she picked a book that frankly appalled me.

The library is a dangerous place yet we are drawn there at least twice a week. I find it financially draining, as I break my resolve to take out one book at a time and leave with armfuls, which I obviously can’t read within the allotted time and end up with nasty fines. Himself the Elf can make anywhere dangerous. He pulls and wobbles and is drawn to sharp corners on tables and unstable chairs. He has learnt this week to throw. Not just letting go of things or flinging them, but to properly HURL. It fills him with glee and he winds himself up into a frenzy of exhilaration, and of course, the library provides many, many missiles. I find shelves empty faster than I can refill them and order is swiftly, and loudly, replaced with chaos as he ricochets around, hands always busy.

Strangely, I find this easier to cope with than the dangers the library presents for Dulcie, who cannot resist the carousels of DVDs which we are not getting out, we are just here to look at books, yes, you may look at the DVD cases, and yes, I know they have Barbie and the Magic of the Crystal Rainbow Castle or whatever it is you are clutching but we are not getting it. Because I haven’t got any money with me. Well, yes, obviously I have some money with me because yes, we did get change in the supermarket, you’re right, but it isn’t for taking out DVDs etc. etc. Continue reading

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble

Each week comprises of (I’m using a calculator and still my tongue pokes out of corner of mouth in concentration) 168 hours, of which 15 of them are Dulcie-free. Put like that, it doesn’t seem much but at the start of half term, it seemed to be a yawning mass of extra minutes that must be filled to the satisfaction of both Dulcie and Himself the Elf, without the house descending into mindless squalor. “What are we doing today?” Dulcie would ask at breakfast. “Is this a preschool day or a weekend?” Neither, I would think, sometimes quite desperately. And good question, what are we going to do today? But the days have whizzed by, with Halloween celebrated, some cold time in the playground endured and a search for a particular item at the library all punctuated by the gentle narrative of Himself the Elf having a burst ear drum and a reaction to his penicillin. There have been rivers of snot from both children, which Dulcie can sometimes wipe for herself and Himself the Elf never can. My jeans look as though a colony of slugs has been crawling all over them. We have a large stash of baked good including cup cakes and jam tarts, and no-one really seems to want to eat them. Is this connected to the snot of the chef? Probably. Continue reading