The Golden Girl

While the twins were at my place on Sunday Ellie decided to do her homework!

Its theme was ‘mythology’. She didn’t know what that meant so she asked me and I explained as best as I could.

King MidasShe then went onto google on my PC (under my supervision of course!) and came up with the story of King Midas. I showed her how to click on the link she wanted and before too long she had written 2 sides of an A4 page with the story of King Midas & his ‘golden touch’. It was in her own words too, and not just copied, showing that she had understood the story. I’m a proud Dad!

She needed some help with some of the pronunciation and spelling – I mean how the heck do you pronounce ‘Phrygia’ or ‘Dionyssus’ anyway? I don’t know! It’s all Greek to me!* –  but her comprehension and written account of the story was excellent

    * sorry, couldn’t resist

Yes, it does seems a little strange her choosing to do her homework during the limited time that she has with me. She does love spending time here with her Daddy – that’s what she tells me anyway – but I think I understand. We were still doing something together, which I was enjoying & I which I think she was too. She & Jake however often don’t enjoy the same things, and even when we do all do something together they more often than not compete with each other rather than play together cooperatively. I often find myself having to break up a fight. I imagine that’s not unusual for young boy-girl twins!

When they’re with me they each mostly just want to do something with me and so are competing for my attention. I only see them part of a day on a weekend and one evening after school so we all try to make the most of our time together. It isn’t easy!

Minecraft warriorAnd to be honest Jake and I were engrossed in a series of intense one-on-one Minecraft battles that day, which he’d been preparing and planning for and looking forward to for some time. I said to both of them before they left that next time I was going to spend much more time with Ellie to compensate.

So Ellie was being ‘a good girl’, and she is that, in doing her homework here – but she had also put some thought into her reasons for doing so, which actually makes me think even more highly of her. She explained it to me:

When she’s at ‘home’ (or as I prefer to call it “her other home”) with Mummy she likes to play on the green outside with nearby friends of around her own age. More often than not, she explained, she gets called in from playing to do her homework, which obviously doesn’t usually go down too well in Ellie land! She thought then she’d take advantage of my little home office set-up to do her homework at my place, and then she’d have more time to play with her friends.

Smart girl!

Oh, and my Minecraft battle with Jake? 2-2. We are planning a rematch!

Now there is of course only one way to end this post:

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Music, Music, Music

Music has always played a hugely important part of my life, from pretty much as far as back as I can remember (which is longer than I care to think about too much!).

I remember when I was a young boy playing my first record – a ’45’ vinyl single (anyone else remember those? I’m really showing my age now aren’t I?!) – on my little plastic record player in the garden, playing it over and over again and driving my Mum and Dad insane!

Music has seen me through tough times – still does – and has kept me (relatively) sane during particularly tough times. Although that assessment is probably up for debate!

It even played a major part in the birth of my twins Jake & Ellie. The anaesthetist-come-DJ was playing Beyonce tracks during the birth and I’m pretty sure ‘Halo‘ was playing as they emerged! It’s been my theme song for them ever since.

 

In recent years too I’ve begun playing & writing music, relearning the acoustic guitar, to the extent that I am now a semi-professional musician. I love it!  But that’s another story.

As with so many other things, listening to music seemed simpler in the past. I’d buy a record / cassette tape / CD of what I liked and play it. Simple! After the iPod turned up I started ripping CDs onto my PC or portable player – now my smartphone. I loved this and still do – all my music available in a few clicks. Then music became available to download, as a purchase or free from now-infamous piracy sites. Now we have the likes of Spotify where you can stream almost anything you like as long as you have an internet connection. Then of course there is also now the ubiquitous YouTube. It’s a Brave New World!

I’m still coming to grips with streaming tech to be honest; it’s meant a radical adjustment in how I listen to music. I listen to Spotify a lot but the bulk of my music is what I’ve bought myself, mostly on my PC. I currently have 66,000 tracks there, which I’m still adding to, including a pile of CDs I haven’t listened to yet!  I still download tracks if I want them on my ‘phone for when I’m out, but I’ve pretty much stopped buying CDs now.

I like to work from home as much as I can, not least because that means that I can listen to music that I like while working. In those simpler times my regular ‘Playlist’ would just be my CDs, but it now includes streaming & downloading as well.

So – and this is actually the point of this post! – here is what I’m currently listening to:

Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ Playlist

This is a playlist created by Spotify specifically for each user based on what they listen to there. It’s usually pretty good.  My favourite this week was from a musician I’d never heard of before: ‘Soft Rain’ by Damien Dempsey. A lot of it is spoken: his wonderfully expressive Irish lilt against a backdrop of chilled and relaxing but uplifting soft electronica, with his beautifully toneful singing voice bursting in on the chorus. Give it a listen: I think it’s wonderful!

 

The BBC 6 Music Playlist on Spotify

The BBC 6 Music radio station has become a national institution, even in its short history, in my opinion. It’s perfect for mature music lovers like me, who love not only classic ‘quality’ music, but also want to hear sounds that are new and innovative. There’s always something unexpected here! My recent favourite isn’t there at the moment, but is a real stand-out track: the collaboration between Underworld (remember ‘Born Slippy’ from ‘Trainspotting’?) and the living legend that is Iggy Pop. It’s called ‘Bells & Circles’ and it’s what you’d expect: crazy, high-energy, high-octane, dancilicious* brilliance!

* yes, that is a word. It is now, anyway…

The NOW UK Top 20 Chart on Spotify

Yes, here’s where I ‘let the side down’. ‘My generation’ – whatever that is – (especially the male side) is meant to be disdainful of ‘modern music’: “what do these kids know about music / it’s all computers and bleeps and manufactured” etc, etc. Well, yes, some of that may have some truth in it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable, for me anyway. Also, “manufactured music” has been around for much longer than I have, and isn’t necessarily bad: ‘Motown’, anyone? I’ve always been partial to a bit of ABBA, for instance,  so I don’t have a problem with good pop, and sharing the musical loves of my 8-year-old twins helps immunise me to a lot of modern pop too! I do often skip a few tracks, but right now I’m not at all and I think it’s actually not too bad! My pick of the current bunch is the rhythmic guitar-based pop-rock of George Ezra’s ‘Paradise’. It’s great for singing and playing on my acoustic guitar, although harder than it sounds!

 

Stalking Following Facebook Friends on Spotify

I like the social aspect of Spotify and I wish there was more of it. You can see what your Facebook friends are listening to, if they allow it, and it’s always rewarding! I love having a further insight into the likes and loves of people I know in person or online; it’s also another great way of discovering new music. So what stands out at the moment? Let’s see… And the winner is: a very talented local musician called Harvey, who chose: Psycho Killer (live) by Talking Heads!  This is a great live verison: mostly acoustic, and predictably eccentric. It’s also a song both Harvey & I love to play on our acoustic guitars. Your prize is in the post Harvey! Probably.

 

‘I Know of You’: My Own Spotify Playlist

This is made up of songs I’ve heard and liked and want to listen to again, and is the latest of many. It’s hard to choose a current favourite, but I’m going for: ‘Living in Disgrace’ by John Smith. I love the chiming, rhythmic guitar & his raspy but beautifully expressive voice. A real gem!

 

Spotify Album: ‘Melodrama’ by Lorde

I first knew of Lorde from her breakthrough and record-smashing song ‘Royals‘ (another which I love to perform) but it wasn’t until I saw her Glastonbury set (just on TV, unfortunately) that I realised how amazing she is. Still a teenager, she is multi-talented: a writer, singer, producer, dancer, trendsetter. A true young auteur! Also, being from my country of birth New Zealand – and those who know me ‘in real life’ will know we also have something else in common – it’s probably illegal there for me not to like her! This is her second album and is full of more great songs, both up- and down-tempo, but always engaging and thought-provoking. My pick is the very moving, heartfelt and personal ‘Liability‘, which despite the difference in our ages, gender and experiences I can still very much identify with it. It’s a theme for the ‘outsider’, the one ‘who doesn’t quite fit in’. As an ex-pat Kiwi I also love hearing someone who sounds like me!  It’s a very beautiful song.

The sound quality on this video isn’t the best – it’s fan-recorded – but I had to choose it as it was live from my old home town! Not only that but her introducton and explanation of her deep love of writing and music is very moving. (Contains some ‘strong language’).

 

I’m listening to a lot of music at the moment! I see this is a Very Good Thing.

I’ll post about the CDs I’m also currently enjoying another time; tomorrow if I have the time.

In the meantime, “If music be the food of love, play on!”.

 

Trouble Sleeping?

1-DSCN0993I’ve had a bit of this lately: circumstances, sort of thing.

Fortunately I’ve come across a meditation music app that really helps!

It’s called ‘Soothing Sounds’ & is available for your Android phone or tablet.

Does it work? Yes: this app is great!

I often get myself off to sleep with a ‘Mellow’ playlist on my ‘phone. This is good, but the playlist wasn’t designed for that & more often than not songs come up that are a bit too lively & delay the process. I also use TV, although I know I shouldn’t; it’s generally been shown to be a bad idea. I’m often woken up in the middle of the night by noisy ads or a bright screen.

This however works ‘like a charm’, & I’ve been using it regularly ever since I downloaded it.
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It has a large variety of relaxing ambient sounds to choose from: for instance beach, binaural, birds, crickets, frogs, a ticking clock, a heartbeat, rain, a rainforest, flowing water, a Tibetan bowl, whalesong, white noise, wind & a some ‘new-age’ style music.

Each sound is configurable: you change both volume & intensity.

You can select each sound individually or in groups of up to 10;  you can then save any of the groups you create for later use.

I found it was as fun to play around with as it is useful as a sleep-aid!

I do have a couple of minor quibbles however. The app is quite big, & if you’re like me & have a budget ‘phone with limited memory you may struggle to find space for it.

I also had trouble getting the options to work. You can set silence, alarm & wake-up timers but I found the keys unresponsive.

To be honest I’ve had similar trouble with other apps so it may well be my ‘phone’s fault. If not it just needs a simple patch.

I usually charge my ‘phone overnight anyway so I’ve often just left it on all night. It’s actually pretty good to wake up to!

The bottom line however: it works, it’s fun & it costs spare change, so I can recommend it!

In my experience anything that helps you sleep when you’re having trouble dropping off is worth it, & ‘Soothing Sounds’ does exactly that.

Review written in collaboration with Lost Ego Studios 

 

 

 

The Gallery: Adventure

They’re 4.

I still don’t know how that happened; it doesn’t seem so long ago that they were cute, gurgling, helpless little babies.

And yet it seems a lifetime ago.

But they’re 4.

Their journey into childhood, on life’s great adventure, continues.

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click to enlarge

Continue reading “The Gallery: Adventure”

3 is the Magic Number

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Jake & Ellie turned 3 today!

I don’t know where the time has gone. It doesn’t seem so long ago that they were gurgling, cute little babies. Now they’re running, jumping, talking, pants-wearing, sociable, smart little people. In a few weeks they’ll be in uniform when they start Nursery at a local school.

School! They’re growing up.

They had a junior knees-up on the weekend with friends so today we wanted to celebrate at home with family: me, the Mummy & her Mum & Dad. I think that’s just how they like it.

We went for a scoot to the playground but didn’t last long as the wind was bitingly cold, & they had a bit of a grizzly journey back. After that I had hoped they would have a nap, especially as Ellie woke early this morning, but they didn’t.

So after lunch when the Mummy got home early from her work & it was Party Time they were a little tired, but it didn’t stop them enjoying themselves!

They had a fantastic array of cards & presents. I was hoping to save what I thought was the best until last, but…

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MINE, ALL MINE! Vis zis my new Leap-Pad I vill CONQUER ZA VORLD! (In a really terrible German accent)

We couldn’t stop her in time. And of course, no Judy without Punch…

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Jake is delighted to finally have an ‘iPad’ while Ellie continues to formulate her plans for World Domination.

I was glad to see though that life didn’t suddenly grind to a halt with the advent of a fancy screen: there were still more exciting discoveries ahead!

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Ooh, what’s this?!
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I’m three!

And actually we may have saved the best ’til last:
1-DSC00188This is a 3 1/2 foot-high chalkboard / magnetic whiteboard double easel with coloured chalks & pens & magnetic letters. Fantastic! A great present from my in-laws, but suggested by the Mummy. They loved it! Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of them enjoying it as I was busy rushing around trying to get replacement batteries for the Leap-pads!

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Enjoying some new toys: throwing & catching a talking ball

Then…The Cake!1-DSC00217

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After much cake was ate we did manage to get them down for a much-needed nap, using the excuse of driving off to buy more batteries!

Then it was dinner out, a rare treat; but not before Jake had a good ‘getting to know you’ session with his new techy toy
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They were almost well-behaved! A lot of sausages, chips, sundaes & cheekiness later we said fond farewells to the Mummy’s parents & headed home.

The helium balloons Jake & Ellie blagged on the way out provided a lot of entertainment before everyone collapsed in a tired heap, Ellie somehow managing to fall asleep while still clutching her balloon!

A great day all round!

3!

Still can’t get used to it…

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.

Maybe I shouldn’t have sung them the Batman song so much when they were babies…

The Batman (TV series)

You know the one, from the great old TV series: “Da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na BATMAN!”. Subbing in “JAKEY!” or “ELLIE!”, and zooming them up in the air with their name.They loved it.

Problem is, now they seem to think they’re Superpowered.

They can do anything, go anywhere! Batman had: “To the Batmobile!”; SuperJake & SuperEllie have: “I do it myself!”, or “I’m a big boy / girl!”.

So this morning, while we were trying to get them in the car, Ellie wants to scoot & play on the concrete in front of the house. It’s covered in ice. Mummy & Daddy: “Holy icicles, Ellie, NO! It’s too slippery, you’ll fall over!”.

Determined not to be beaten by Mr Freeze, she carries on.

Children dressed in Batman & Robin costumes, 1966
Children dressed in Batman & Robin costumes, 1966 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POW! SuperEllie slips, falls on her SuperBottom, & cries.

Another day we walked past a load of men & older boys playing football in an enclosure. ZOOM! SuperJake gets very excited & charges in full-speed, shouting “No! I’m a big boy!”, SuperLegs & SuperArms flailing, as I run in & pick him up before he gets SuperStampeded.

They are so different now than those cute, helpless little babies. They now walk, run, jump, climb & scoot. They count, & recognise letters & words. They make jokes, talk (back!) to us, & understand a lot of what we say, to them & to each other. Sentences like: “Shall we give them I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M?” – often followed by suspicious looks, & the odd “What, Mummy / Daddy?” – are commonplace here now. More on that later…

They can sing well, & make up their own songs. (My favourite is the Daddy song). Ellie’s ability to remember & repeat songs & phrases often surprises us; Jake is starting to do representational drawing – limbs, faces – & is a wiz with gadgets. More on that later…

And they have all of their own teeth, which is more than I can say!

As 2-year-olds they’re exploding with the joys of new-found abilities; it’s a fantastic period of growth & development. But their ability to recognise their own limitations seems to lag behind. They can do so much more now that they can feel like don’t have any.

It’s great being able to be a part of it, often exhausting trying to keep up.

To be fair, they are mature enough now to realise that there are actually some things they can’t yet do, & that maybe Mummy & Daddy might be right about some things. Sometimes.

Parenthood: what a ride…

To the JallieMobile!

Dear So & So

Dear Man at the Ironmongers Next to the Nursery Who Thinks it’s Funny to Detain & Distress Young Children & Their Parents

You’re horrible.

Please stop making the world crappier than it should & could be

“May all your nails be rusty”

More-than-you-deserve regards,

Still annoyed me

——————————-

Dear Jallie

When I ask, or even tell, you not to throw more food on the floor that you means you stop. It doesn’t mean you do it again deliberately. Especially with that look on your faces.

The same applies to pouring water out of the bath onto the floor, pouring drinks onto the floor / into the toy train /  onto Peppa Pig, or running away when I’m trying to dress you.

You’re 2. I get it, OK?

Love, Daddy

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Dear Oh Thou Great Billjobs,  God of Technology & All Things Gadgety

You know I’m a gadget-freak & I that I love Tech. And it clearly amuses You to ensure that most of the Tech I own only half works. While it is gratifying to know that You have a sense of humour, it would be greatly more gratifying to have things in my life that I so depend on to actually do what they are supposed to.

I remain Your humble yet frustrated servant

JallieDaddy

 

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Dear So and So...