This Little Teddy by Lucy Lyes and illustrated by Emily Bolan/That’s Not My Teddy by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells

You may, (although you probably have a full and happy life and reading this blog is just the teeniest, tiniest blip on your radar, so maybe not) have noticed there were no blog posts last week. This was because Stage II of Himself the Elf’s Vanishing Chair sleep training was underway, and his eviction from my arms, my bed, my room were all greeted with some spirited protest from him. I closed his all-night milk bar. I banished him to his own cot in his own room, with so many pats that my left arm aches, and so much time sitting on my bottom on the floor in his room over night that I am thankful that the old warning about what gives one piles is a lot of old codswallop. In my sleep deprived state, as he stood up for hours on end shouting Bah! Bah! Bah and not sleeping, and I remained sitting on the floor, I found myself wondering how a chair that is a not actually there can vanish at all. However, we are out the other side, and I hope due to my softly-softly approach (and his loudly-loudly one), that I haven’t emotionally scarred him nor left him with abandonment issues to sour his relationships as he grows. Continue reading

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and illustrated by Jan Pieńkowski

At the moment, if Dulcie has it or does it, Himself the Elf wants to, too. He is like the most slavish follower of fashion, with his big sister as his copy of Vogue. This causes some problems as the vast amount of her preferences are suitable for her age (well, tolerably. Her penchant for abysmally tasteless fantasy fairies hardly thrills me to the core but I tell myself it is Just a Phase) but not so much for his. He is a munching, tearing, flinging sort of child, whereas Dulcie has carefully looked after her possessions. She is fastidious, particularly with her own safety, whereas he is a cavalier and covered with bumps. If he were a car, you’d honestly think about getting him resprayed.

Yesterday, before preschool, Dulcie had donned a frothy cerise princess dress over her pinafore and was demanding my immediate attention to allow her to go to the loo in this absurd concoction. Himself the Elf was pootling around, eyeing the buggy with suspicious thoughts, fearing he was about to be contained. My choice: him screaming for five minutes while he is in the still pushchair, or him continuing to roam as I played toilet attendant. I decided on the latter.

Happy silence from him, until I noticed he was ransacking Dulcie’s lunch box, and had had some of her sandwiches and a big bite out of an unpeeled clementine. Cue manic sandwich-making as though I were on The Generation Game or something, putting it right before we RAN to preschool. Their wants and needs are almost always at odds.

Continue reading

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

We have just taken the children to France for the first time, and aside from the laundry we’ve returned with, and wheeling the buggy through the inevitable dog turd, and Dulcie’s uncontrollable tantrum about what constitutes a real meal and what is just eating patisserie, and Himself the Elf’s insistence that he will sleep badly anywhere and pull over an unfeasible amount of fire irons, pot pourri, and umbrella stands, a fabulous time was had by all.

We ate like French kings and meandered around the boulevards and rues, with Dulcie gradually bon jouring away quite happily, and Himself the Elf developing his palette to the extent that any baguette he saw was greeted with the expressive ‘Nom nom nom’ sound that is, I believe infant French for ‘That looks delicious. Pass me a chunk, won’t you?” and accompanying mouth movements. We are now all suffering terrible post-holiday comedown, so I shall keep this brief. Continue reading

When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne illustrations by H.E. Shepard

There is, I suspect, a pinch point in everyone’s day when they wish they were someone else or somewhere else. Or both. It normally occurs about the same time every day, whether it is a hellish commute, a frantic deadline rush, or children’s dinner time. Oh dinner time. At some point between 4.45pm and 5.05pm, when the food for the children is practically ready, every single day, they will both be shouting, shrieking, grizzling at the table, and I long for the days that putting one’s head in the oven was a solution to such woe.

Dulcie will be in tears because:

  • She was enjoying a game which I have, with unspeakable rudeness, interrupted
  • She has not approved the menu for the day, as though she were a tiny Rebecca and I her giant Mrs Danvers
  • I am taking too long to serve the food i.e. more than a hundreth of second has elapsed between her bottom connecting with the chair and the food being put in front of her

Himself the Elf will be bellowing and lowing because:

  • I have strapped him in a chair and prevented him licking the television or trying to plunge head first down a step onto a stone floor
  • He is hungry. Or not hungry. Or tired. Or not tired.
  • Dulcie is doing it, so why shouldn’t he?

I long to be the sort of woman Continue reading

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd

As I mentioned previously, Himself the Elf is being trained in the art of sleep. He is not, so far, a natural but progress is being made. He rails against this regime of no feeding to sleep, and I am keeping my clothes fully buttoned before he is placed in his cot. Sometimes he’s fine with this (i.e. a bit disgruntled but lies down and goes to sleep) and other times he is apoplectic with baby rage and could give Dylan Thomas’ father a personal demonstration of how to rage, rage against the dying of the light and the lowering of the blackout blind. Continue reading

National Children’s Book Week – can I recommend a book for you?

To celebrate National Children’s Book Week, I’m going to be offering recommendations of books to readers of the blog – click here for more details.

I’m the Best by Lucy Cousins

“I have winned you!” Dulcie gleefully caroled as she reached the bottom of the stairs. I winced. Yes, the grammar is awful and of course it isn’t really a fair competition when she goes down fancy free, while I had himself the Elf under one arm, the nappy bucket in the crook of the other and an empty cup in my hand. But I am irked by the fact that everything has to be a competition, from who gets to press the button for the pedestrian crossing when out with her friend to who has the longest skirt, the biggest apple, the loudest fart. And if she isn’t the ‘winner’ of these inane competitions, you’d honestly have thought someone had told her a life hewing coal and without any birthday parties awaited her. Devastation, tears, snot.

“Would you rather have the biggest stick or would you rather have a good friend?” I try to reason after she meets up with a pal she’s not seen for over six months and immediately falls out with them over some dog-chewed sycamore branch you’d frankly have to pay me to touch, but which both children have become passionate rivals for.

“The STICKKKKKKKK!” is the predictable but highly unsatisfactory answer. Continue reading