Jake & Ellie turned 4 & we had a party!

Somewhat surprisingly it’s the first proper party we’ve held for them. Up until now they’ve just had quiet affairs with family: at 1 or 2 they were probably too young to appreciate a good knees-up anyway, & last year for their 3rd we’d only recently moved here to Wales & didn’t really know enough people to invite!

They’re very sociable now, especially since going to pre-school. We invited everyone in their class & a few others they’re friendly with from other classes & groups.

We hired a good-sized church hall & it’s just as well, as nearly everyone we’d invited turned up, plus the odd sibling or 3: many more than we’d had replies, which I hear is pretty typical.

Jake & Ellie were happy to turn up early while we were setting up, & enjoyed an early boogie!


Continue reading “Party!”


An Active Family

My Tiny Dancer. Dressed as Snow White, for some reason.

When Jaime from ‘The Oliver’s Madhouse’ asked me if I could maybe join in with her new ‘Active Family’ blog-linky I have to admit: I sniggered, a little. I may have even actually ‘lol’d!

Trying to get our funsome twosome to be a bit active isn’t really a problem at the moment. Even when they watch TV it’s more likely than not to be ‘Lazytown’: a show whose main character is a health fanatic called Sportacus. Living on ‘sports candy’ (mostly carrots) & always going to bed at 8.08, this is a man who has never knowingly walked anywhere in his entire life. Why do that when you can double-flip, cart-wheel, run or jump instead? Lately Ellie seems to spend more of her time being his preposterously pink side-kick Stephanie than herself, & she loves trying to copy Stephanie’s dance moves. Jake is Sportacus of course; I get to be the chubby, middle-aged, bald Mayor. Yay me.

Sportacus Jake!

No, it’s more of a challenge to get them to not be so active sometimes, please. Like when they’re jumping & doing forward rolls & headstands on the bed, or wanting to play ‘horsey’, when it’s late & they should be settling down for the night. Sometimes even after 8.08 (gasp)! Or a “Please stop climbing on the back of the sofa, especially when I’ve got a cup of hot coffee / a plate of lasagne!” sort of thing.

They’re at pre-school now for a few hours during the week, & that seems to use up a lot of their energy most days. We still take them to Monkey Music on Friday mornings, & have just started them in a dance class on Thursday evenings. They love both! We used to take them to a children’s gym on Friday afternoons & we’re looking for an alternative; that was probably their favourite activity & it would be a shame to lose it.

On the weekends we try to take them out for something active at least once a day: the country park, the fun farm, soft-play, swimming, or just scooting to the local playground. And there’s always the mini-trampoline & the flexible flyer in the garden!

So overall, yes: I think we’re a fairly active family.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just need to have little lie down please…

For more ‘Active Family’ posts just click the pic:

 photo ActiveFamily150x150_zps28e829a4.jpg

The Gallery: Together

Jake & Ellie


Conceived Together


Born Together1-DSCF2720DSCF2772


Babies Together

Learning Together


Christmas Together

Um, I'm pretty sure it's cars you're meant to put in there, Ellie. But sure: we could try the big squeezy ball!

Crawling Together


Shopping Together

Holding up the wall TogetherDSCF5016 (2)Laughing Together

DSCF5333, Babies riding in laundry basket

Exploring Together


Being happy Together


Playing Together


Eating Together

IMG_0181 (2)

Plotting Together


Cooking Together


Not moving Together


Kissing Together


Perching Together


Holding hands Together1-At Peter's

Being serious Together


Being silly Together


Cwtching Together


Best Friends Forever Together!1-DSC00456


This post is part of  ‘The Gallery’ at the ‘Sticky Fingers’ blog. For more Togetherness click the pic:

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!

Music Monday: Birthday

One of the things you lovely people out there in the blogosphere & the twitterverse may have noticed is that something I sometimes eloquently articulate upon bang on about with insightful  profundity monotonous regularity is music, my love of it, how I listen to it a lot, how my iPod Touch is now up to (just a sec…) 8,735 tracks so far, & how I should have been a singer in a rock’n’roll band. I even have a twitter account specifically for tweeting what I’m playing on my iPod, via YouTube. At least I don’t drunkenly tweet random lyrics late at night anymore as much as I used to…

So it makes sense for me to feature music in my blog. With the sad demise of Musodad’s blog I feel moved to blatantly take advantage try to pick up where he left off & do a post where I put up a few songs that have recently taken my fancy for one reason or another & write some words about them.

And… some may also have heard me mention that it’s Jallie’s 2nd Birthday today (yay!). So that gives me an obvious theme then for my first, & possibly last:

Warning: may contain traces of soppiness. I’ll try to add a little sarcasm & some bad jokes where appropriate.

Altered Images: Happy Birthday

An obvious place to start: it was either this or the Bjork-lead Sugarcubes’ “Birthday”. Altered Images’ lead singer was the scrumptious Clare Grogan: not only Gregory’s Girl, the object of Dave Lister‘s unrequited love (& the true Kochanski), but also the scourge of Craggy Island & Father Ted when she turned up there to tell him & the boys a thing or 2. So I’ll take her over Bjork any day! Also: Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” is a bit rubbish. And I don’t care if it’s about Martin Luther King.

U2: Two Hearts (Beat As One)

Say what you like about U2 & Bono, & most of us do, this is just a great rock song; from the pre-Joshua Tree “War” album. You know what I think of now when I hear this? Jake & Ellie inside their Mummy, entwined together, separate yet one, apart but together now & always, like two hearts that beat as one.

There ya go: soppiness, with rock’n’roll!

Steve Miller Band: The Joker

This was Jake’s early theme song. Yes, we give our children theme songs: doesn’t everyone? From a very early age he’s exhibited a terrific sense of humour, getting & making jokes long before we’d have thought a young child would. OK, some of the lyrics aren’t appropriate: if I find he’s a smoker or a midnight toker I may have to have words. And I don’t know what the “pompitous of love” is but I’m pretty sure I disapprove. But it’s a good song.

Elton John: Tiny Dancer

I adore this song: Elton John at his very best. It’s almost worth watching the film “Almost Famous”, about the ’70s music scene, just for the Tiny Dancer sequence. Shows the ’70s wasn’t just prog, punk & disco!

My Tiny Dancer, of course, is Ellie. This was my early theme song for her. She’s loved to dance virtually since she could stand, & has been much better at it than her Dad for at least that time. She’s always sung beautifully too.

I also used to jig her about to this, substituting in “Ellie!” & lifting her high up in the air at the appropriate moment. She loved it! Then she’d usually throw up all over me. Happy Days.

Bob Dylan: Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)

Jake’s current theme song: “Come on the juice, come on the cake: you’ll not see nothin’ like the mighty Jake”.  He has a great sense of humour; it’s sometimes a mystery where he gets it from…

Donovan: Mellow Yellow

Ellie’s current theme song: “They call her ‘Ellie-belly’ “…

I’m starting to think that the quality of the songs we choose for our children may be on the wane…

Beyoncé: Halo

From the ridiculous to…

Beyoncé: a bona-fide Superstar, supremely talented, ravishingly beautiful, jaw-droppingly sexy: you name it, she’s got it. And this song is just epic, beautiful & moving. Her music was playing in the operating theatre during their birth, & I’m pretty sure ‘Halo’ was playing as they were delivered into the world. I even gave it its own little post.

I can’t now listen to this already beautiful song without being profoundly moved. It’s Their Song. It always takes me back to those mad, magical moments when they came into the world & into our lives. They were so wanted for so long, & it took so many tears & trials before they finally became a part of us. When they did ‘it was like we’d been awakened’: “Baby, I can see your halo: you know you’re my saving grace”.

Happy Birthday, Jake & Ellie. We love you.

I warned you that there might be soppiness! I can’t think of any sarcasm or bad jokes at this point, sorry. Maybe next week…

3 Brilliant Things: soul cleaning, naughty toys, girls having fun

I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting much here lately: my enthusiasms are often short-lived; also this blog has been quite photo-based & I haven’t had a working camera for a while now.

I have been posting a bit in my “3 Brilliant Things” Posterous blog, which is 1 of many 3BT blogs where the idea is that you post “3 beautiful things” from your life every day, although my contribution is less regular.

I haven’t decided yet how to coordinate the 2 blogs: whether to dual-post, abandon 1 for the other, or to post regularly in Posterous & do a (weekly) summary here.

So here then is my latest, (yesterday’s), 3BT post:

The Mummy was looking after Jallie this morning so I took the opportunity, after the washing-up, to do some much-needed cleaning in the kitchen / diner. While doing that I was having a blast with some great music from a CD of songs from or about Memphis (the one in Tennessee, not Egypt), including:

Otis Redding: I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now)*

Mable John: Your Good Thing

Dusty Springfield: Son of a Preacher-Man

Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts: Angel of the Morning (my favourite)

Al Green: Take Me to the River

Isaac Hayes: Theme from “Shaft”**

Great stuff!

I was spooning a milky dessert to them at lunchtime while they were standing up when Jake took a step backwards & stumbled over a bit of toy (a crow’s nest from a pirate ship). I jokingly said “That naughty toy: it tripped you up!”. Playing along, he turned around, picked it up & slammed it onto their little plastic table, like it was a Naughty Step. He then turned around & gave the table underneath the toy a good boot for good measure. Really made me laugh. (Except then he kept doing it, until I had to tell him to stop).

Just before dinner we were watching Jools’ Hootenanny from the box (shows how up-to-date I am with TV) & the 1st New Year’s song, Cyndi Lauper doing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” with Jools & his Big Band: fantastic, a real show-stopper! Ellie was enjoying it too & was dancing around the room; while doing so she was shouting: “Jake! Come on!”. Adorable.

* The Mummy walked down the aisle to that song at our wedding.

** Does anyone else automatically think of Father Ted every time they hear that song now? I still haven’t decided whether or not that’s a good thing.

American Idiots!

More videos to come, I hope!

Silent Sunday: Let’s Dance!

Have a look at all the other Silent Sunday photos at Mocha Beanie Mummy:

Silent Sunday