We all know that men are better drivers

Journey Into Space featured on the cover of th...

Journey Into Space featured on the cover of the Radio Times. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you agree with the title of this post?

How does it make you feel?

“Hell, yeah!” “It’s about time someone came out & said it!”

Cross? Furious? Heading straight for the comments section, angry fingers at the ready?

Or: “Yes, perhaps: but you’re not supposed to say things like that, are you?”

Continue reading

The Ellie Conundrum

We were bravely attempting to watch 1 of our favourite TV comedies, with the twins about. They were in a good mood as they’d just come back from a scoot to the playground.

We were laughing.

Ellie: “Is this 1 of your funny shows?”

We laughed at a particularly good bit.

Ellie: “What did he say?”

Me: “Reductio ad absurdum” (it was ‘The Big Bang Theory‘)

Ellie: “Rude-word!”

Apparently there were a lot of ‘rude-words’ in that episode.

As an aside the Mummy said “You know, I don’t think <Ellie’s friends, sisters> know what a willy is?”

Ellie: “It’s something that’s long”

We laughed, again.

And I’m still not sure which was funnier: Sheldon & co., or her.

Who needs funny shows when you’ve got an Ellie?

How to break the heart of a 2-year-old boy

It’s easy!

Stick this on the cover of your children’s magazine:

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He thought it was an iPad – just for him! He was so excited.

When he saw it was made of plastic, hollow, & nothing happened when you pushed the buttons…

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He cried.

We’re now going to have to buy him a LeapPad2 for his birthday in March. And another for Ellie, of course, in order to avoid World War 3. (It’s a twin thing)

Thanks a bunch CBeebies! Yes, Mr Tumble: I’m looking at you! Can I send you the bill?

He got over it.

And we would probably have bought them anyway.

So I’ll let you off, this time.

Just watch it, right? You & that spotty bag aren’t scaring anyone…

UPDATED: Ellie got hold of this after I’d left it out for this post. She seemed intent on expressing Righteous Wrath on behalf of her wronged brother. All she wanted to do with it was to rip out & rip up as much of the notepaper inside as she could! And she did.

My Old House & My New Headphones

I’ve got a brand new pair of headphones. They’re great. If you want some ‘phones you should buy them, OK? If you insist on wanting to know why, read on…

But I also want to post about my current living conditions, the 4 of us. It’s been difficult since we moved, & we’re stuck until we can sell our old house. I’ve been quiet about it: I tend to clam up when things aren’t as I’d like them to be.

It’s called ‘context’, but it’s also something I’ve meant to post about for a while now.

I enjoy blogging, listening to music, gaming. But the cramped conditions I live in can make this difficult: I no longer have a space of my own to escape to when I need to. There are 4 of us – me, the Mummy & the now 2 & 3/4-year-old twins – in a small mid-terrace 2-up, 2-down. Upstairs we just have 2 bedrooms, 1 of which doubles as their nursery, & a small bathroom / loo. Downstairs there’s just a small kitchen & the lounge / dining room; my PC, surrounded by papers in what now also passes as my office, is on the dining room table there.

When the twins are at home they’re mostly there; a lot of the time I’m looking after them; when I’m not doing that there are jobs around the house that need doing. Even when I have so-called ‘spare time’ – even if I could concentrate enough with the noise & activity around me – if I try to blog or listen to music or play a game the twins will sooner or later interrupt, wanting me to play with them or help them with something. Which is fine: I’m their Dad, that’s what I’m here for. But it’s also very frustrating.

In the evening after they’re asleep – the time of which is getting progressively later as they get older – after I’ve cleared up & done as much washing-up as I can bring myself to do I’m often too tired to manage much more than collapsing on the sofa in front of the telly.  If I do manage something more mentally active like blogging & playing music or playing a game I then often have to do so while the Mummy watches TV.

Which means 1 of us has to shut up. And that would be me as I have the magic wonder of technology that is known as Headphones.

Would it surprise you to learn that they’re no good? They were once; they are Sennheiser noise-cancelling jobbies. They’re just a bit broken. They work OK in normal mode but have a really annoying hum in noise-cancelling mode.

So enough about me; I know I have no right to complain, really, & the twins even though demanding are a joy & a delight.

No, it’s time to introduce the brand new & very shiny pair of headphones I’ve recently received & was asked to review. Bass Buds, they’re called, the 2012 Collection.

They’re in-ear ‘phones. I haven’t got on with those before & I wasn’t expecting much different with these; I find that before long they irritate & then hurt my ears. That was my first surprise: they fit inside my ears perfectly & are really comfortable; they’re really well designed.

My second surprise was the sound quality: again not something I expected from ‘phones which I’d think of as ‘basic’. They’re not: the sounds are crisp & clear, the bass booms, the treble trills & all the in-between bits are where they should be. They’re actually significantly better than my old Sennheisers: that was a big surprise.

The only negative – & it’s a trivial one – was that I found that if I pushed the jack all the way into my soundcard connector the sound wasn’t quite right. When I pulled it out a smidge it was gorgeous.

They also have a built-in mike, especially good when you use them with your mobile ‘phone or iPod. The mike controller can not only take & end calls but also play & skip tracks & enable voice control.

Surprise no. 3: they look great! They come in a variety of colours & styles, there’s 1 to suit any lifestyle or mood – as you can see from the website.

And they’re reasonably priced, as you can also see from there. And in addition quoting the code BB48265 will gain an extra £5 off.

Headphones that sound great, that look great & have a great price: I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Good, so that’s my headphones sorted. Now can someone get me a bigger house please? Thanks.

Also? Happy New Year!

You Know You Watch Too Much Children’s TV When…

You hear yourself saying that your favourite Oasis song is ‘(What’s the Story) Balamory‘.

You are considering entering Mastermind with ‘Peppa Pig‘ as your specialist subject.

You have actually played ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’  with CBeebies presenters.

(Katie, Nina, Misha –  in case you’re wondering).

You know how to turn the magic on.

You sometimes find yourself strangely attracted to animated talking butterflies.

You have on more than one occasion said to your children: “If you want to jump up & down in muddy puddles you must first put on your boots”.

Your favourite nature documentaries are ‘Andy’s Wild Adventures’ & ‘Octonauts‘.

When you pass men at work in the street you have an overwhelming urge to shout “I’M DIGGING UP THE ROAD!”.

…and have.

You feel oddly satisfied that Ringo Starr has taught you a lot of interesting facts about trains.

You find yourself saying, for no apparent reason, strange things like “Din’saur!”, & “I am rather an expert at this sort of thing.”.

You have to spend a considerable amount of time on google before being convinced that Kevin out of ‘Blue’s Clues‘ is not in fact Craig Charles.

You realise that for the last 10 minutes you have been singing ‘bing bong bing, bingelly bongelly boo’ without realising it, & can only stop yourself by instead singing very loudly about the sea & the sky.

You know all the words to the CBeebies goodnight song. And what it takes to be a Jimmer-Jammer.

You suspect that Postman Pat has a secret, dark past – & have discussed your various theories about it on several occasions.

You think that Dora the Expl… Oh hang on: that thing with the little Scottish girl & her talking spider is on – gotta go!

Fancy Words, Insects & Magic

I’ve been a bit lax in noting notable sayings & doings this week. And I have a bad, although selective, memory  – which is half the reason for my doing this blog-hop, & actually my blog in general.

Ellie I think has produced her most comprehensive sentence yet: “Jake & Ellie like jumping in puddles”. Makes me proud!

And she also excelled herself in sophisticated use of language. Pointing to the Mummy’s juice she said: “Yours”. A possessive personal pronoun! See above for my reaction…

It’s fantastic that their language is coming on so well. Ellie is getting to be a little chatterbox, & Jake is a great talker too. His pronunciation & vocabulary aren’t as good but what he lacks there he easily compensates for with his sociability & use of signs & gestures. We feel like we have two little adults here with us now, not just cute but insensible little babies. We can actually have proper little conversations with them, it’s great!

Ellie often grabs my hand so I can join her in a “Tea Party” she’s having; Jake does too. He does so though often to show me something that he’s been trying to tell me about: for instance when in the garden he spotted a tiny caterpillar hanging on a thread from a leaf, which I think was cocooning itself, & a bumble bee he saw flying around.

I also get dragged off the sofa to do “Tree Fu”magic with him. Recently he seems to have decided that the moves are too fiddly, sits down & leaves me prancing about by myself, saying “Ouch” a lot… Kids, eh!

This is for Chris’ ‘Things They Say & Do’ blog hop at her ‘Thinly Spread’ blog. Why not have a look at the other posts there, it’s a great read!

It Feels Like the End of an Era

I’d written last week about a bit of a shocker at 1 of the playgroups run by a local Nursery / School. They announced that all but 1 of their playgroups for babies & toddlers were stopping after Easter. That’s 2 of the 3 that we go to every week. Then on Monday they announced that the 3rd was stopping too.

“Severe budget cuts” the explanatory letter reads. “From April 2nd we are required to provide our services to those families who are most at need”. (They seem to have missed out the word “only”). These I think are things like “Triple P” programmes & classes for struggling families that are by “Referral only”. I certainly can’t argue with that; anything that can help parents become better carers for their children should be supported.

Parenting isn’t easy, that’s for sure! We had been trying for children for a while, & when two turned up at once it was a dream come true, especially for my wife. They were loved from before they were born. That isn’t always the case. Some children are born unplanned & unwanted.  Parents can resent their existence & the demands placed upon them, the restrictions on their lifestyles. And then there’s PND; as I understand it a very real illness that can affect anyone.

And while we are by no means rich we are able to provide our children with a nice life. They have good food when they need it: nutritious with the odd treat. They have milk, juice & water to drink in abundance. They have clothes to keep them warm & dry, shoes for their feet, nappies for their bums. They have space where they can play, inside & out, & quiet rooms in which they can sleep peacefully. Toys to play with, books to read & have read to them. Music to listen, sing & dance to, & yes: fun & educational TV to enjoy.

And I certainly don’t mean to sound superior or boastful, in any of this – far from it. But I think it’s fair to say that both my wife & I are fortunate in having the benefit too of a decent education & enough intelligence to be able to think & reason our way through the hardships that family life, & life in general, throws our way.

Many children aren’t so lucky, especially in these times of austerity. So I applaud the services that remain. If they’re as good as the ones we’ve been to they’ll be of great help to the families who use them.

But I still can’t help but think that so many families will lose a great deal in classes like these being stopped. We ‘nice middle-class parents’,  if that’s what we are, we who are careful about their diet & health, we who read to our children, talk with them, recite numbers & letters with them, help them identify colours & shapes, play with them. Do we need help?

Of course we do! Every parent does. Any parent who feels that they have nothing to learn has stopped learning.

We & especially our twins have benefitted so much from these classes. Their communication has been greatly helped. Jake was signing long before he could speak, & still does, which apparently is quite common when taught. Fantastic for communication: I’m sure I don’t need to tell parents that frustration in expressing themselves & being understood is a major cause of tantrums!

I can still see Ellie jumping up & down with excitement & trying to do the actions as we all sang “Wind your bobbin up” or “The wheels on the bus”. They have gone from being utterly confused by anything creative to demanding to “draw!” every time they see me with a pen in my hand. Being around other children & parents has greatly helped their social skills.

There’s also the aspect of ‘more accomplished’ parents being role models to those who might be struggling, simply by virtue of us all being lumped into the same room together; talking to & learning from each other. Really important, I think.

And we parents have taken what we’ve learnt back home; we’ve become better parents. Isn’t it as good for society if our children grow up better adjusted, happier, healthier, smarter as for those “most at need”? Does starting from ‘further up the ladder’ mean that we can’t also travel at least as far up again as those starting from ‘lower down’?

Rhetorical questions, but valid nonetheless I think, addressing really the principle of universality in public services  – which increasingly appears to be under threat under the Government’s programme of cuts.

So what now? At the last class I suggested the possibility of continuing 1 or more of the classes as fee-charging, financially self-supporting. I know we would gladly pay more than the usual nominal fee for at least 1 class per week, & I know other parents there feel the same. None of the managers seemed to have even considered the possibility, & told me that it wasn’t just cuts, that the room we use had been “claimed by the Nursery”.

And I think this is what annoys me most in all this, apart from the suddenness of it all. The classes seem to have just been dumped, with no thought as to any kind of alternative being offered. One of the playgroup staff at least that I know of has lost her job; it seems to me that this might have been avoidable.

The woman who runs the main group is a bit bolshy & slightly eccentric: I like her. She is organising a get-together to talk about future action so it will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

Life moves on, but it’s a shame.

UPDATED 26/3: The Monday group is going to try to carry on as self-supporting & fee-charging, but in a smaller room at the Nursery. So maybe 1 of the other 2 will too, we’ll see. It looks like our complaining has had an effect!

The Things They Say & Do: Walking Bears & Wagging Fingers

Ellie has taken to’ bear-walking’. It’s something that babies do as they’re learning to walk: on all fours with the arms & legs raised, knees & elbows off the floor, bum in the air. Like a bear, funnily enough.

I think she may be having the toddler equivalent of a mid-life crisis. She’s just turned 2: she’s getting old! So she tries to go back to the ‘good old days’, when life was simpler. When she didn’t have to worry about which shoes to wear, or have to decide between ‘Peppa Pig‘, ‘Tree Fu Tom’, ‘In the Night Garden‘ or ‘Bubble Guppies‘.

So she was bear-walking around the lounge today, shouting “Bear-walking!”. And of course, Jake was meant to join in. So it became “C’mon! C’mon, Jake! Bear-walking!”. Quite a sight…

Jake this evening had grabbed the Mummy’s watch & had put it around his wrist. He then, looking straight at me, wagged his finger repeatedly in my face shouting “Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba!”. Me: “Are you being Mummy?”; him: “Yes!”,  with a big smile.

I found this somewhat funnier than the Mummy did when I told her later…

So that’s my mad household, why not have a look at others’ in Chris’ ‘Things They Say & Do’ blog hop at her ‘Thinly Spread’ blog.

The Things They Say & Do – Week 6

Some of Ellie’s new words & phrases this week: “Yippee!”, “Wow…”, “Oh dear dear”, “I love cake!”, “Tea Party!”, (in the bath, to Jake) “Can you swim?”

Both Jake & Ellie have a ‘thing’ about food being too hot, being a bit nervous of it sometimes even when it’s barely luke-warm. Breakfast, porridge, Jake decides Ellie’s is too hot & blows on it. Ellie says “Thank you”, then blows on Jake’s porridge. Jake: “Thank you”, Ellie: “You’re welcome”. We’re just watching them, delighted.

They’d managed to dismantle a toy garage & Jake was wearing a plastic support rod on his arm. I grabbed another one & wandered around pretending to be a robot, doing my best (meaning very, very bad) robot dance, with sound effects. This was the most hilarious thing EVER & they spent the next million hours trying to imitate me. Come to think of it, I may have videoed it…

I’m lying on my back on the bed during their bedtime routine. Jake is standing on my chest. Feeling tall, he says “Mummy, Daddy, I’m a man!”.

Later, more chest-standing. Me: “You’re Jakezilla, grrrr!!”. The Mummy: “I’m Mummyzilla!”, then Ellie: “Elliezilla!”.

Jake has done great things with some stacky cups, then says: “Daddy: I finished!”.

They both have a fascination with the moon. Spotting it while in the garden, Ellie looks up at it & says: “Amazing…”.

Jake is pretending to spoon me my coffee. With every ‘spoonful’ he says: “Nice?”.

Jake wants to wear the Mummy’s watch. She has a bit of trouble putting it on his wrist, but when she succeeds he says: “Well done!”.

We were drawing outside with chalk. They both decided that the chalk was better employed as pretend ‘phones. Jake is pretending to talk to Mummy Pig. Me: “Did you ‘phone Mummy Pig?”. Jake: “Yes”. “What did she say?”.  He snorts. I laughed. A lot.

We’ve had an eventful week! A lot of these words & phrases they’ve picked up from us, but I really don’t know where they get some of it from!

These may not seem be very exciting to some, especially non-parents, but to us these moments are golden.

This post is my entry for this week’s ‘Things They Say & Do’ blog linky over at Chris’ ‘Thinly Spread‘ blog. Have a look the other posts there: I guarantee a good read!

Nearly Silent Saturday

Ellie didn't know what this thing was but she was pretty sure it wasn't the Peppa Pig book she'd asked for

Photo was taken around Christmas