Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas with George

Christmas was lovely. George didn't really notice the huge pile of presents that had magically appeared under the Christmas tree – he was more concerned about the chocolate behind the last door of the advent calendar and attempted to plough through the mountain of wrapped gifts to get to it.

However, after both sets of grandparents arrived and the first couple of presents were unwrapped he soon realised there was a lot of fun to be had – both in the unwrapping to find out what lay beneath the brightly coloured paper and then in playing with the toys he discovered. Eventually it all got a bit too much and the final few presents were put back under the tree to be unwrapped another day.

Christmas dinner was a big hit but Christmas pudding failed to make an impression and was the only thing to wipe a smile off George's face the whole day.

After a day indoors it was nice to get outside for a breath of (very chilly) fresh air on Boxing Day when George enjoyed some fun playing in the "no" (that's snow – which sometimes caused a little confusion that should be cleared up now that the "no" has melted away).

Back in the warm, snug in his new pyjamas, and he returns to having a whale of a time with his new toys and books – and just like any other little boy, sometimes the boxes can be just as much fun too!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

An exciting Christmas

George got quite exited when he had his first encounter with Santa at a 'Tots and Toddlers' Christmas party, pointing and shouting "man" at the top of his voice as if no one in the room had noticed the big, bright, bearded fellow. Most of the other little ones watched Santa warily. Just imagine how excited George will get when he understands the tradition of Father Christmas bringing presents.

George won't remember his first Christmas when he was seven months old and didn't know what was going on, but hopefully this time he'll pick up on the vibe and will soon be as excited I am (and mummy is) – he already loves his "chee" and come January he'll really miss the advent calendar with chocolates behind the little doors which has been a big hit (perhaps someone should make one with 365 little doors).

Anyway, here's to a happy Christmas for all... and also wishing everyone gets a little excitement too.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Oh Christmas cheeee!

Yes... it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house and George was a little wary when a tree (or "chee" as he prefers to say) appeared in the corner of the living room. Now that it's been up a little while, however, he has to keep checking it's still there, that the decorations are all as they should be and that the lights are all aglow (heaven forbid anyone turn them off – that would be more than a problem, it would be a disaster).

Anyway, here's how he reacted when he first saw his "chee"...

I don't know whether it's the excitement of Christmas or whether it's the fact that there has been quite a bit of paper around recently, what with Christmas cards and wrapping up presents, but George probably thought he was helping by making his own contribution...

And, of course, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the Radio Times magazine. George is quite taken with it and enjoys nothing more than sitting on mummy's or daddy's lap, flicking through the pages, pointing out the Christmas "chees". Mummy was particularly happy when he pointed at a picture of Angelina Jolie and shouted "mama" – although she soon returned to earth with a bump when a few pages later George shouted exactly the same thing at a picture of Anne Widdecombe.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Goodbye nan

A picture from earlier this year of George with his Great Nan who died this week. If he lives as long as she, it will be another 91 years before they meet again.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Blood, money and music

Last Thursday George fell off a step and bashed his chin. In the process his teeth embedded themselves into the inside of his bottom lip. At the time it was pretty scary and George was more than a little bit shocked too. It seemed like the bleeding would never stop, so much so that we couldn’t see exactly what he’d done for what seemed like ages.

Mummy was right next to him and she managed to catch him before he gave his head a great whack too, but however close or lightning quick you are, it’s never quick enough.

George was soon back to his normal self. After sitting quietly for most of the morning – perhaps feeling a bit sorry for himself – he was munching on biscuits by mid-afternoon.

And we also weren’t quick enough to catch him before he got to the fridge the other day. We’d been to the supermarket and made sure we had all the ingredients to bake this year’s Christmas pudding when George put a spanner in the works by grabbing two eggs and hurling them across the kitchen. The look on his face was pure dismay as they disintegrated on the tiles rather than bounce happily away. We told him off but even then we were trying not to laugh.

We couldn’t help but laugh though, when George started pointing and shouting “Nanna” at a £20 note that was on the kitchen table. Now neither nanna looks much like the Queen, but perhaps one of them dons a tiara to change George’s nappy.

I was quite pleased the other day. I’ve been giving George a few lessons in ‘Classic Albums’ (my interpretation of a classic album is probably off the scale for most people). Most lessons go unheeded and he prefers to rock back and forth to his own favourite ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’. However, I introduced him to the timeless classic ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ by Japan and it wasn’t long before he was rocking his head to ‘Methods of Dance’, ‘Swing’ and the title track. You gotta say – the boy got taste... he obviously appreciates the syncopated rhythm of Mick Karn's bassline and Steve Jansen's drumming, or perhaps it the technically brilliant arrangement and sweeping dynamics of each track.

For those unfamiliar with Japan, here's a taste. The music may be timeless but the fashion... well the less said about that the better.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Life in the fast lane... and the bus lane

Last weekend we went to watch George's uncle drive a Ferrari 360 round a race track (a 40th birthday present). When we arrived there were a row of supercars – Lambourghinis, Ferraris, Aston Martins, an Audi R8 and the like. George watched curiously, intrigued more by the throaty roars of the engines than the sleek beauty of the cars' lines.

After George's uncle had been on an orientation lap in a Subaru to familiarise himself with the track layout, we watched him accelerate away on his two Ferrari laps. Well, most of us did – George got excited when he spotted a Chrysler Voyager and happily shouted "van, van, van" (I suppose it's a lot easier than shouting "Lambourghini").

He got even more excited a little later on when, after the "racing" was over, we all boarded a minibus back to the car park. It was like two special days in one – George's uncle got to drive a Ferrari and George got to go in a big white minibus.

Now there's a gap in the market... minibus experience days!

Uncle Matt gets revved up during his briefing
"...and this is the button for the deceleration parachute"

He is going fast... he's just a long way away

"Yes, Ferraris are nice, Grandad, but I think I can see a minibus coming"

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Catalogue time

I don't think I've looked forward to Christmas with this much excitement for about 30 years. I know it's only November and Christmas is five and a half weeks away, but I remember as a child, that one of the best things in the run-up to Christmas was looking through the toys in the catalogues.

My mum used to have the Grattan catalogue which seemed massively bulky and you'd have to turn over hundreds of pages in great wads to get to the toy section at the back, which I'd pore over for hours on end. Then I'd make a list to send to Santa, I'd probably check it twice and revisit the catalogue a few more times to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

I don't know if Grattan catalogues are still around, but we've got the Toys-R-Us catalogue and a good one that came through the post from the Great Little Trading Company, and they have become the reading material of choice in our house.

George will be 19 months old this Christmas, but I've found myself salivating at toys and then getting disappointed when it says 'for age four or five and above'. Still, there's plenty to get excited about for children George's age and plenty to look forward to for future Christmases.

One of the things I would like to do – but mummy says I've got to finish the fence first – is build an outdoor play area with a slide and swing and steps and stuff... you know the sort of thing. The last time I did something like that was before George came along and I built a dovecote. They were £200-£300 in the garden centre and I think I spent about £65 on materials – although it took me about four full weekends to complete.

So, by the time I finish the fence and get on to building a swing and a slide, George will probably be wanting a car and some driving lessons for Christmas.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Simple pleasures

As the saying goes, the best things in life are free, and we enjoyed a lovely, sunny autumn morning at the park at the weekend – kicking up leaves, watching the ducks and spotting squirrels. Car parking (not one of the best things in life) was £3.30.

Anyway, we took a few pictures of George, so this week's blog has more of a photo album feel...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Beds and a wetting

Mummy changed the bed not so long back. Not that there's anything special about that, after all, whatever you may have heard, it is quite a regular occurrence. Only this time the pillowcases looked decidedly different... yet comfortingly familiar.

On my side was a pillow with a picture of Paddington Bear, sat with his suitcase and marmalade sandwich at Paddington Station. On mummy's side, the pillowcase was decorated with a small woodland scene including hedgehogs, rabbits and owls.

A little bit faded, they were the bedding of choice when I was a toddler and were among the items my mum had saved and returned to me as an adult – and now they have a new purpose in their existence, as every morning George likes to point at Paddington and shout "bear!" into daddy's ear.

I thought this might stop when the sheets got changed back to the ones with the miminalist dot pattern on, but he just points at the dots (which look a bit like chocolate buttons) and shouts "bear!"

One of the other items from my childhood was a porcelain cereal bowl with a Peter Rabbit picture on and a quote around the rim, but after surviving 40 years of life with me, it only made it through another 17 months with my son.

The other day we got caught in the rain and being only a few hundred yards from home decided to make a dash for it. We pulled the canopy of the pushchair over George's head and began to run. It was a matter of seconds before the rain soaked our clothes, drenched our scowling faces and began to trickle down our necks. However, George seemed to quite like the whole experience – I'd have loved to have been able to see his face as he soaked up the excitement of our mad rush – it must have been like being a Formula 1 driver on a wet circuit. Either that or he was just laughing at us because we got wet and he didn't!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

How sentimental can you get?

There's no avoiding being a little sentimental when you first start a family. Over the past 17 months we have collected all sorts of things.

We have saved the outfit George wore the moment after he was born; we have his first pair of booties and his first pair of shoes; we have his first hand painting (which, being in red paint, looks like a mini murder scene); we have his first toy and even his first lock of hair from his first hair cut.

There are other little mementos we have kept too, such as all his first Christmas and birthday cards and tickets from his first miniature train ride or trip to the zoo. Some of it's a bit daft really and we'll probably have a sort out and wonder why we kept much of it. In the meantime we tend to keep lots of things – just for sentimental value – but it's knowing where to draw the line that can be a little difficult.

The other day we were rummaging through the kitchen cupboard, certain that we had some couscous (we regularly buy and use couscous and couldn't believe we might have run out). At the very back of the cupboard – a little too high for mummy to reach – I found the box of couscous. On closer examination it appeared to be one that had found its way to the back of the cupboard and had been overlooked as newer boxes took its place at the front of the cupboard. However, we could hardly bring ourselves to throw it away we noticed the 'best before' date. "Aaaah, look, couscous with George's date of birth on it."

Well, if you're wondering whether we kept it or not, I can tell you that we now know where the line is drawn... couscous box went in the bin.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

In a bit of a spin

We're all in a bit of a spin this week and that's why 'blog day' is a day late. It's all because mummy swapped her day off which meant George and I spent all day Wednesday together instead of our usual Friday.

Anyway, everything is settling back down again and we're looking forward to a straightforward weekend when George will be visiting his friend Noah – where he'll probably get to show off his new dance moves... and speaking of spinning, that's exactly what George's new moves involve – spinning and grinning until he lands in a heap on the floor.

George and Noah... and some kind of hat dance

The good thing about George's dancing is that it doesn't require good music (or any music for that matter) – George even likes to dance to the sound of the cows mooing in his animal noises book. It all hinges on a happy moment and if George is having a sudden burst of happiness he'll partake in a spot of spontaneous dance.

Occasionally, I like to join in, and so does mummy, although I do have difficulty in finding the rhythm in cows mooing. However, I have discovered that modelling my dance moves on Iggle Piggle's groovy gyrations is most successful and a darn site easier than attempting to emulate the moves on a certain Saturday night celebrity dance show – which, of course, George wouldn't appreciate that kind of effort anyway. Besides, Iggle Piggle always gets his girl, so he's certainly doing something right.

Strange thing is, George will watch Boogie Beebies – the excruciatingly grating children's dance show with moves based on everything from fruit to pirates – with utter indifference (that's if I haven't turned it off first). Which makes me think he does actually have some taste in his dancing accompaniment.

One of the programmes he will stop doing almost anything for is 'Numberjacks' – a show about number characters who live in a sofa and put a stop to all manner of numerical mayhem. So... with this in mind, when we were at the supermarket I spotted some 'Numberetti' spaghetti shapes and after checking the tin to make sure it passed our 'is-it-good-enough-for-George-to-eat' test, we popped them in the basket for George's tea, thinking he'd be well impressed by food that's made of numbers.

They went in his mouth with the toast (brown bread, of course) and somehow he managed to eat the toast and the spaghetti sauce and deposit the numbers on to his chin. Needless to say, daddy had the pleasure of eating the remaining half a tin of Numberetti spaghetti – well at least I had my five a day that day... and my six... and my seven... and my three... and my eight... oooh, and my nine.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Making friends is easy

George doesn't have to try too hard to make friends, mainly because he goes out of his way to wave at everyone and everything with the sincere expectation that they will wave back, smile, say hello or pat his little head. He looks genuinely concerned, if not a little dismayed, if someone doesn't acknowledge his wavy greeting.

Our week in Corfu was a bit of a waving success with a high rate of returns. There were waiters to wave at in the tavernas – they always waved and smiled, and even better, they brought humous, tzatziki, moussaka and fresh bread to the table. There were boats and waterskiers to wave at in the sea – and sometimes it was just as much fun waving to the sea itself... the sea always waved back. There were cats – many, many cats – to wave at around almost every corner, and they were such fun to chase too. Then there were other little babies to wave at, or perhaps shout 'baba' at.

Baby Mabel was particularly taken with George and tried to follow him as he went on a mission to investigate a parked car, and little Lauren happily played with George until her parents called her away when she followed him to his highchair in a beachside taverna as we sat down for lunch (I think I see the makings of a little heartbreaker!).

But one day George will have to learn that not everyone or everything wants to be a friend, or even friendly – I don't know who had the luckier escape when George picked up a wasp to befriend... George didn't get stung and the wasp flew away unharmed.

For the moment though, this age of innocence is a time to treasure and I'm quite happy to keep an eye on George as he makes friends with everything from penguins to vacuum cleaners.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Holiday album

George was on his hols last week. His first flights went pretty well and he seemed to enjoy himself all week. In fact, he'd like to show you a few of his holiday snaps...

So this is the place that inspired Lawrence Durrell to write Prospero's Cell... I might get my crayons out!

Who needs a sea view when there are cars, vans and people to wave at?

A taverna with a playhouse...
what more could you want?

Captain George!

Dad's shades actually look a lot better on me!

It may be a nice beach, but it's rubbish for sandcastles!

I know it's called a spade, but I like to call a spade a spoon.

Right, that's it. Enough of the photos now Daddy!

OK then... just one last arty farty one

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The difference between friends and shops

When you have a 16-month-old boisterous little boy, having friends who are understanding is an important essential.

We went for a meal at our friends' house at the weekend and took George. George played happily, obliviously stomping through completed jigsaws and scattering carefully arranged toys that our friends' daughter – who is reception-class age – was playing with. A little embarrassed, we apologised and dragged him away on numerous occasions, explaining that he is still learning to play.

When it came to bed time, George flatly refused and the only way we could get him to stop crying was to sit him up in his pushchair at the end of the table so he could preside over us eating. Eventually he realised that watching people eat wasn't particularly exciting and he dropped off.

It can be so easy to sit at home and not go anywhere or do anything, simply because it's less hassle, but having sympathetic friends takes such a lot of stress out of the hassle and makes going out enjoyable.

Next week is going to be an even more severe test of adapting to change in the daily and bedtime routine as we're off on a family holiday to Corfu. Once we're there, I'm sure things will fall into place, and besides, nanna and grandad will be there to help too.

I think it's the flight bit that's mostly filling us with dread – nothing to do with flying, just the fact that George will have to be restricted and confined to a small space for more than 10 minutes. Hopefully he won't find his way into the button-and-lights paradise of the cockpit, where he could do a lot more damage than demolish a jigsaw. On the up side, there definitely won't be any vehicles to look at out of the windows so we won't have to listen to him shout 'van' for three hours.

Then again, if it's half as stressful as shopping for him, then I think we'll be OK. I just can't understand the pea-brained logic of putting baby and toddler departments on upper floors so that mums and dads with pushchairs have to queue for lifts (which are nearly always at the back of the shop and the size of a toilet cubicle) or precariously negiotiate escalators. It's annoying, inconsiderate and potentially dangerous and certainly persuades me to patronise other more sensible shops in future.

I don't know, why can't shops be as understanding as friends?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A zooper day out

This week we went to the zoo with nannie and grandad. It's the second time George has been to the zoo, but the first time that he's had an understanding of what he's actually looking at.

This time he got really excited when he saw the monkeys, then he got all excited again when he came face to face with an elephant, and again when we compared the meerkats, and when a giraffe appeared from its giraffe house while we were eating our picnic. Sometimes he got so excited he tried to wriggle out of our grasp into the meerkats' manor or on to the penguin's island.

He was just as excited to see the digger in the car park, the toy tractors in the gift shop (grandad bought him a bright red one), the miniature train and the 'Bob-the-Builder' ride – although he wasn't so keen on sharing it with Bob himself.

But George got most excited when I returned from the car park after taking the picnic basket back to the car. He spotted me from quite a distance and started to wave. I waved back and then mummy let him go and he ran to me with his arms in the air like he hadn't seen me for weeks (I'd only been gone 10 minutes). It was one of those moments that will stay with me and one I'll treasure all my days.

I think grandad summed it up nicely when he gave me a picture montage of our visit to the zoo with the words 'To the world you are just one person, but to one person you are the world'.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

There's a cute nose and acute knows

I always thought the only nose I would ever pick would be my own – how wrong I was. George has a bit of a cold and his nose runs and then it dries in a crusty greeny-yellow coating around his nostrils.

He hasn't learned to pick his own nose yet – he doesn't even wipe it on his sleeve. He just lets it dribble, channelling its way down his philtrum before it builds up on his top lip, eventually ending up in his mouth... but we try our best not to let it get to that stage, even if it means using a finger or a thumb in the absence of a tissue.

I know the thought of this is a little revolting and may provoke reactions of "eugh!" but I don't think there are many mums and dads who haven't had their child's bogey on the end of their finger at some point (perhaps royalty and Hollywood A-listers might be exceptions).

The justification for the practice is that you are helping your child breathe more easily and relieving their discomfort, which means there is no guilt or secrecy and you can do it in public.

George really dislikes it when we try to wipe his face or go near his nose and ironically we'll soon be telling him off for putting his own finger up his nose. He's certainly reaching the next stage of understanding – the other day mummy reprimanded him for pushing over his stacking drawers that contain all his Lego, and his little face looked so endearingly sheepish that the chastening was closely followed by a big "aaah" and a cuddle. Even though we've told him "no" when he repeatedly turns the TV on and off, throws his food on the floor or attempts to rearrange the contents of the fridge, it was the first time he looked like he realised he'd been a bit naughty.

I wasn't quite quick enough to get a picture of
George looking sheepish, but this one's pretty close.

I think it goes hand in hand with his growing grasp of language, and George's vocabulary is growing by the week. Here's a quick list of some of the things he says or tries to say... and what they actually sound like:
Ball – "buh"
Bus – "buh"
Balloon – "buuuh"
Tombliboos (characters from a children's programme) – "boo"
Van – "BAH" (always shouted excitedly)
Bath – "A-BAH" (again shouted excitedly in repetition as he runs out of the living room to the foot of the stairs)
Train – "guh-guh" (for choo-choo)
Digger – "da-da" (this can be confusing when daddy is holding a toy digger)

Apart from "mama and dadda" that's about it, and at the moment everything else is referred to as "uh"– yet with little tweaks in intonation even "uh" can be quite descriptive. There's "uh?" with a question mark, "uh" with a fling of the arm towards a desired item, "uh!" with raised eyebrows and "uh" muttered frustratedly when a car won't go up a ramp or a jigsaw piece won't fit. Finally, there's the 'how-could-you?' "uuuh" when mummy or daddy have got a bogey on the end of their finger.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The old-uns are the best

The other day mummy had a brainstorm. In a moment of inspiration she decided it would be a brilliant idea if she went and 'rootled' (that's one of grandad's words which doesn't appear in any dictionary but is exactly the word I'm looking for on this occasion) in the loft at her childhood home in the hope she might rediscover some of the fantastic toys she had when she was little.

Grandad's eyes rolled in his head as he was ordered to fetch the stepladders and off they both went to 'rootle' in the loft.

A good 20-30 mins later and there's a pile of boxes and bags on the kitchen floor and everyone is joining in with sorting, washing, dusting and drying as loads of old toys get a bit of a clean-up so George can experience some of the fun mummy had as a child.

Mummy was positively excited as all her playtime memories came flooding back – not all the toys, though, lived up to the hype. Many were faded, jaded or worn, and a few were broken or no longer working. Mummy was very disappointed after setting up the oval track of her Tomy Merry-Go-Train – that was meant to chug round and automatically pick up and drop off little people – that it didn't move an inch.

There was a plastic giraffe with almost four legs, no ears, no horns, no nose and no pattern (for some reason it went in the 'keep' section), some pull-along toys and a huge raggedy rabbit with threadbare patches that had all seen better days.

There were, however, a few gems in the pile. There was a tray of wooden blocks that kept George amused for ages, a car dashboard toy that cleaned up quite nicely, a Tomy Space Shuttle set that will be great in a few months and a couple of pristine wooden jigsaws... with no pieces missing!

But the toy that George loved the most was the little faded Fisher Price bus that jiggles the people about as you pushed it along. Over the years though, most of the people had "got off the bus" and they were nowhere to be found. This didn't bother George who insisted on taking his empty bus to the park, the shops and everywhere else he went.

I think a lot of us have a rose-tinted fondness for the toys and items of our youth, and sometimes revisiting them doesn't always live up to expectations. But then it's not the intrinsic quality of those things that is important. A 'rootle' in the loft proved more about discovering happy memories than fantastic old toys, and in this respect it really did live up to the hype.

There's another other side to the coin too – that our little George's eyes can spot a new glimpse of magic in something that looks like nothing, and he's certainly quite taken with his "new" bus, his "new" building blocks and more.

One thing's for sure though... he's NOT having mummy's old dolly!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sunshine for a special day

Last weekend was a special one for George – and for us. We went, along with family and friends, to the local church where George was dedicated (a bit like Christening but without the water). Then everyone came back to our house where we enjoyed food, drink, good company and sunshine.

The local church, St Margaret's, is a unique building which dates from the 12th century, with additions and alterations being made in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 17th centuries. It's quite a traditional church yet quite contemporary too, neither being too stuffy and ceremonious or too happy clappy. In some ways it reminds me of the church in the Vicar of Dibley, and lots of people commented on how nice a service it had been. In fact, great gran on mummy's side, who is heading for her mid-90s, was so taken with it all she wanted to enquire about a funeral while she was there.

We were really lucky with the weather too. After a week of grey skies and showers, the sun came out – almost as if it was especially for George (seeing how the weather reverted to its usual rainy form the very next morning).

The sun certainly made all the difference. It meant we could walk to church – under the railway viaduct, past the horse-riding school, over the bridge that crosses the River Avon and along the path that cuts through the field of cows and sheep, up to the church gates. It also made for a lovely afternoon when our friends and family could sit and enjoy the garden while the children could play in the sun and have their faces painted.

I don't know how much George realised it was all for him, but he relished all the attention and refused to go down for his afternoon nap.

Once all the excitement had subsided and most of the guests had made their way home, we sat down to unwind with our remaining friends and a glass of wine or two. Then, after George had gone to bed the face paints came out again and daddy ended up looking like a tiger – a very good tiger, I must say... much better than the bear's face I painted on our face-painter friend.

Of course, George, being overtired and overexcited, didn't stay asleep too long and mummy had to go up to see to him. He really wouldn't settle and she ended up bringing him downstairs for a cuddle. He had a bit of a shock when he saw daddy and must have wondered whether the tiredness was making him hallucinate. It was a bit weird for me too – George simply stared in bewilderment – he didn't get upset or scared – and then, when I put my arms out for a cuddle, he decided to cling on to mummy... it sounded like daddy... it was wearing daddy's clothes... but it looked like a tiger!

And in case you were wondering what my handiwork turned out like, here's my friend the bear...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Walk this way

I may have told you (more than once probably) that George is walking – so here's a chance to see him in action...

Anyway, last weekend's trip to the nursery open day revealed that George is doing pretty well and we don't have to worry about him biting the other children. In fact, he's rather gentle, he's happy all day long and is a pleasure to look after (exactly what we wanted to hear) – but apparently he makes the most noise when it's mealtime, both through impatience while waiting for his lunch to arrive and then in appreciation while munching away.

Tea times are just as noisy at home – George can make a right racket while he's watching you blow on the food on the spoon. Sometimes he's so loud you can hear him outside – with all the doors and windows closed – and the man who walks his Labrador at around 5pm has cast some curious glances in the direction of our kitchen, as if we're pulling George's fingernails out.

The tea time routine is worst on Saturdays when after tea daddy makes the ultimate sacrifice of giving up You've Been Framed so that George can watch In The Night Garden.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A mind of his own

George is getting a mind of his own. He's off like a shot with his walker and is nearly as quick walking without it, and he knows exactly where he wants to go. Usually he heads for the fridge, the TV or the bookshelf and picking him up and turning him to face the opposite direction no longer confounds him like it used to.

The first thing he points to in the morning is no longer his garage and toy cars, it's not even his usual second choice of the books on the bookshelf – it's the TV. Actually, to be precise it's not even the TV – it's the TV remote control.

He's also getting choosy with his kisses. Now, when it comes to bedtime and mummy says "give daddy a kiss", he flings himself away, proffering the back of his head. I walk round to face him and he flings himself the other way – and laughs. It's not just me who gets this treatment, it's mummy, nanna, nannie and the grandads too.

Yojojo (that's a big-faced, big-eyed cuddly toy based on a character from children's TV) always gets a kiss, as does Mickey Mouse, the Gruffalo and Iggle Piggle (another strange-looking cuddly toy). He has got a couple of books with mirrors in – well, reflective stuff that he can see his own face in – and when he gets to these pages, almost without fail, he'll bring the book up to his face and give himself a nice big kiss. Although sometimes he does it a bit boisterously and we wonder whether he's actually trying to headbutt himself – we put that down to a Scottish gene that's crept in from mummy's side of the family.

This weekend we're visiting the nursery open day when we'll have chance to talk to his key worker and the nursery room leader to discuss his development. It all sounds a bit serious but I'm sure it won't be about how he's lagging behind with his algebra – probably more about his personality and whether he is happy, settled, eating well, shy, introvert or trying to bite the other kids' ears off.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Scaling new heights

Anticipating George's rapid emergence into mobility, we decided to fit two gates at the top and bottom of the stairs – only to find the stairs much too wide for the gates.

It wasn't a silly error in the shopping department as the stairgates were kindly donated to us by one of George's little friends who no longer needed them. So, we've been making do without the stairgates for now, keeping the door to the hall firmly closed whenever George is about.

But the time is now getting close – very close - for a trip to the stairgate shop for an extra-wide gate. Yesterday, George walked about four or five steps – they were tiny, tottery steps and he sort of moved forward only slightly further than he did backwards or sideways. They were the kind of steps Bruce Forsyth would have been proud of (daddy's not a fan, by the way).

The realisation that it definitely is time for stairgate shopping came the other night, though. I'd picked up George from nanna's house and we were enjoying a bit of playtime together before tea. Then the phone rang. George was happily engrossed in flinging books across the lounge, so I picked it up expecting it to be mummy saying she'd "just got on the train and I'll be home in time for George's bath". However, it was a late business call that required a notepad and pen and a lot of listening and writing.

Even George can tell a business call and he certainly knows how to take advantage of the distraction. He managed to bypass his daddy and make his way to the bottom of the stairs – it's surprising how quiet he can be when he's up to something. It was when he was on the third or fourth step that I noticed him from the corner of my eye. I made a mad dash to catch up with him to make sure he didn't fall – phone under chin, pen and paper in hand and still taking notes.

Without stairgates this could be the way I may have to conduct many business calls in the future. I very slowly continued to climb the stairs behind George with my phone, pad and pen. When he got to the top I blocked the way back down again and apologised to my client for the strange noises in the background. George went off into the bedroom and returned to the top of the stairs with a big grin and his cuddly Mickey Mouse which soon found itself wedged between daddy's mouth and the phone.

This was the moment when mummy walked in through the front door, looking up to the top of the stairs and wondering what on earth is going on... I don't know... where do you start?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

George is a glass act

I really wish I could read George's mind. He's at that age when he knows what he wants, or wants to say, but can't actually say it – and we're left guessing while he makes squeaky noises. It would help if he could do the "ur-urrr" noise from Family Fortunes – at least then we'd know we were wrong and could move on to the next item in the cupboard/on the shelf/in the dish.

Sometimes we know exactly what he's thinking – and he knows exactly what we're thinking too. Like the time this week when he made us laugh by pressing his nose up to the French windows and pulling funny faces. Of course, we laughed uproariously and the more we laughed the more he realised he was being funny and the more he pulled faces.

The unfunny side of this was the fact that mummy had cleaned the glass of sticky fingerprints just the day before – only for them to be replenished and enhanced with tongue, nose and mouth marks.

I actually quite like the sticky handprints on the glass. There's something translucently beautiful about them (probably just because they're George's and I'm a big soppy dad), but the more perfectly formed prints remind me of the etched glass frontage of Coventry Cathedral – only on a much smaller and slightly grubbier scale.

Anyway, changing the subject, here's why mummy isn't let loose with the video camera very often...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Jumping George

There's not much that gets George rattled, but on a recent day out we sat down out at a picnic bench right next to a peacock.

Once the novelty of the peacock had worn off, George began to take more notice of mummy's ice cream. Getting a little impatient, he must have been wondering if he was never going to get a lick and promptly started his screechy screams (a new habit that manifests itself most strongly when he's strapped in his highchair and wants something). Anyway, the peacock immediately replied with double the volume causing George to nearly jump out of his skin. He was about to start crying but looked at his mummy and daddy to check their response. As soon as he saw us laughing a big smile spread across his face and he started to laugh too – and make more peacock noises.

That's not the only thing that has noticeably startled him. The other day he had his first encounter with a vacuum cleaner. He'd been happily crawling round and ignoring it while playing – until mummy fired it up.

It probably made him jump more than anything, but he burst into tears and crawled behind the nearest chair as fast as his little limbs could carry him – a bit like one of those lizards that runs across the hot desert sand without putting its feet down for longer than a nanosecond.

On deeper reflection, it could be a gene he inherited from his dad. This will be proven to be the case if dusters bring on a nervous disposition or the ironing board causes him to break out in a cold sweat – in which case he'll be joining daddy behind the nearest chair.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

George's celebrity makeover

George has had his first haircut this week. Mummy came home from work and her initial reaction was one of sadness. Not because it was a horrendous cut, like a mullet or something (no offense to wearers or admirers of mullets), but because he had lost his little baby look and now looks like a little boy.

I actually quite like it and think he looks just as cool and cute as he did before. And just to prove it, here are some before and after shots including comparisons of celebrities sporting similar styles (celebs on the left).


And after...

Now, if mummy really wants George to retain his baby looks then I suggest something a bit shorter... perhaps...

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

No ifs, no butts

Gradually George's dinners are getting less mushy and more, well, dinnery. The items on his plate now have shapes – little cubes of carrot, small spherical peas, pointy parsnips – all of which get investigated thoroughly. A quick rub with the fingers, a squish of the palm, in the mouth, out the mouth and back in the mouth to finish off.

This makes for lots of fun at dinner times when George must feel more like his job is to entertain rather than to eat nicely and not get in a mess.

"Ref, ref... that was a foul. Look, I'm eating grass here, plain as day!"

It's a different story when it comes to things he shouldn't be putting in his mouth. For some reason these items seem to have access privileges and can forego the requirements of the finger test and the squish test... and that list is growing at an alarming rate:
– Nanna's earrings
– Carpet fluff (any suitable fluff for that matter)
– Clover flowers
– Grass
– A dead beetle
– A cigarette butt (I'll come to that in a minute)
– Car keys
– Daddy's mobile phone
– Sudocrem
– Sand
Luckily, we've managed to divert his little fingers away from his opening mouth before the two dock. Grass and my mobile phone are the tricky ones – grass is unavoidably there when he plays in the garden and my mobile is about the only thing that keeps him still when I have to change his nappy. There is something I've learned, though – even though I lock the keypad, it is still active to make a 999 call and since George got to two 9s the other day I've been keeping it out of reach.

"Dad, Dad... that was a jet. It was up there, plane as day."

Anyway, we decided to meet some friends at the airport to watch the planes come in and go away again – for the children's benefit of course. We didn't stop long, just long enough so that it came close to the boredom threshold but didn't cross it, and George seemed to quite enjoy sitting on the wide ledge and wiping his biscuity fingers across the large windows as the jets landed.

We thought it would be a fairly cheap morning out – it was £1 per adult and free for kids under five – but two hours car parking cost £6.50 and mummy had to rummage in her handbag and purse for some extra change. That's when we put George on the ground next to the pay machine – and that's when he found a cigarette butt.

Well, let's hope that's put him off for life.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The first cut is the deepest

George is feeling a lot happier this week – his teething pains seem to have subsided for the time being and his big cheeky smile is on show a lot more often. He's even got his sense of humour back – when asked "where's daddy", he looked at me and shouted "dad-dad-dad-dad-dad", then when asked "where's mummy", he pointed to a picture of the Gruffalo (I'm sure he didn't mean it).

He's starting to get much more confident on his feet too – happily pushing his Little Tikes car around the garden until it ends up in one of the borders (it's one of those cars that dads try to climb into on 'You've Been Framed' and when we get really desperate I'm going to hand the video camera to mummy and have a go myself).

But even though he's progressing apace, he still manages to fall over sometimes, and that's exactly what he did the other day only minutes before mummy arrived home from work – only on this occasion he caught his forehead on the bolt on the bottom of the door and ended up with his first ever cut.

As daddy scooped up George in a panic and ran to the sink to wipe away the blood that was just about to trickle below eyebrow level, George continued to try to play with 'Doug the Dumptruck', more agitated about the break in continuity of play than the bump that was growing volcanically on his noggin.

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later – I was just so terribly disappointed with myself that it happened when I was lying right next to him, helping press 'Doug the Dumptruck's' buttons, and I couldn't do anything in time to prevent it. It certainly bothered me a lot more than it did him.

Anyway, last week I forgot to mention that while we were away in Wales it was Father's Day. I actually spoiled my Father's Day surprise present by putting it in the shopping trolley about a month before Father's Day and saying "hey, look what I've found, I've been meaning to get one of these for quite a while" (a filter coffee machine, in case you were wondering). The special thing about being away this Father's Day was seeing two cards on the mantelpiece from two sons to two dads – George's to me and mine to George's grandad.

Well, I had to mention it sooner or later... George put on his England kit to watch the game on Sunday only to see his team exit the World Cup in capitulating style. Actually he was more interested in putting bits of fluff in his mouth, and in hindsight I would have got more enjoyment out of doing that too. It made me wonder if I'll ever see England lift the World Cup in my lifetime, and if the next four decades are like the last then the answer is probably no.

Still, sitting on Sunday evening, consoling myself with a glass of wine, I realised I'd actually be very happy if England never won the World Cup – as long as I have the happiness of having George.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Five go mad in Wales

This week George enjoyed a weekend in Wales with mummy, daddy, nannie and grandad and had his first taste of the beach – actually his first time on a beach was back in September last year and it was blustery and a bit chilly and the beach was pebbly. This time the beach was sandy and the sun was out and George literally had his first taste of the beach – a whole fistful stuffed into his mouth as we all lurched for his arm in a vain attempt to stop him.

He also had his first experience of the sea – he loved being pushed along the shore in his little car with the sea spraying all around him and then sitting in the (surprisingly) warm water as it lapped around his legs. He also relished smashing up the row of sandcastles that grandad had built.

Now he's a little bit older, he is really taking in all the things and happenings around him and he made us smile as he pointed at almost everything. Sometimes he used both hands in an attempt to point at two things at once – boats, motorbikes, horses, seagulls, lorries, kites, sheep after sheep after sheep and anyone who had something he liked the look of – such as the little girl sitting opposite on the Ffestiniog Railway who was happily munching on a chocolate muffin. He must have been gazing pretty longingly because her mum asked us if he'd like one, but after a quick calculation of the equation 'George add chocolate to the power of train' we declined the offer.

He got his treat in the end though, the tip of mummy's ice-cream cone filled with a mini scoop of her pistachio ice-cream.

We're all back home now and George has returned with the mementos of a toy Gruffalo, faint t-shirt lines from the sun (good job we regularly smothered him in suncream) and the addition of seagull to 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm', and even though George is happy to see his garage and his ball pool there aren't as many distractions to take his mind off his teething – apart from the vaccinations he had to have this morning, that is.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

We're teething for England

We're all going on a summer holiday – well, a weekend break. Yes, George, mummy and daddy and nannie and grandad are heading to North Wales to stay in George's great uncle's holiday bungalow.

Last night we were making a list – no, two lists – of things to take (apart from the obvious stuff such as clothes, toothbrushes and money). One list was for mummy and daddy and the other list for George. Currently, George's list has 35 items on it... our list has four – and we'll still probably forget something.

The only other thing we have to remember is to arrive in time for the England match and to keep an eye on the World Cup schedule. One of the other teams we'd like to see do well is South Africa, mainly because it's where we went on honeymoon a few moons ago before George came along (actually, George isn't quite so in to the football yet and mummy is more interested in the scores rather than watching the matches).

We're also hoping George will sleep well in the unfamiliar surroundings. He usually goes from 7pm until 6.20-6.40am without a blip but this week he has been suffering from a raging bout of teething and has been waking up during the night. At the moment he has one and a half teeth showing in the middle of his bottom gum and as he's a bit late with his teeth in general it seems that all the other gnashers are making a push for the finishing line at the same time.

George, who doesn't whinge much and hardly ever cries with real tears, spent the other evening bawling his eyes out and didn't go to sleep until nearly 10pm. He's been rubbing his ears, cheeks and head in painful frustration and we've been giving him everything we can to alleviate the discomfort – Calpol, Bonjela, homeopathic teething powders, but the thing that worked best was a little dish of ice-cream at tea time.

Hmm... perhaps a little wine will ease the pain!

There is one thing though. George could really help boost England's World Cup campaign – after all, it certainly looks like Fabio Capello could do with an expert dribbler in the squad.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

It's a wonderful world

As I mentioned last week, George has started pointing a lot – albeit with a clenched fist. We tend to follow the direction of his thumb and his eyes and occasionally we'll all be looking at the same thing.

It's great that he's started pointing – even though it won't be long before we're pushing his hand down and telling him it's "rude to point". It's great, because to him everything is new and wonderful and exciting, and in a strange way all these mundane things have become new and exciting to us too.

We visited Warwick Park the other day and the view I got, as I pushed the pushchair, was generally the top of George's head. Lately, though, there is the pointing fist and thumb that catches my eye and I tend to follow its line so I can let George know the word for what he's pointing at.

It's not just when he points – both mummy hand I have found ourselves looking out for all manner of things and calling out their names. "Look George – a kite", "look George, a boat" (actually, it was a canoe but we're not so advanced as to be learning boat types yet), "look George, a puppy".

In a strange way, we're looking at the world through George's eyes and it's all perfect and wonderful – the kite doesn't crash and break, the boat doesn't sink and the puppy doesn't chew your favourite toy or poo on your lawn. And in a strange way, we're loving seeing the world from our new 'vantage' point.

It's lovely that for this short time, as a family, we can enjoy a world of innocence, fun and wonderment without having to resort to some form of substance abuse. That said, the other day we gave George an 'E' and 'LSD' – but then I don't think alphabet pasta has any mind-altering properties.

There has been the odd occasion, when George is with mummy or his grandparents, that I've found myself in the Morrisons or B&Q car park pointing at the sky and calling out "oooh look, a big plane"... and the funny looks don't bother me any more, because I'm seeing everything through the eyes of my little boy and it is, indeed, a wonderful world.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Full steam ahead

George has been feeling a bit glum this week. Since the formula ran out we've moved on to moo-cow milk and the change has left him a little blocked up. This has coincided with a renewed spell of teething, so some days he has been a touch irritable.

He's still eating pretty much everything we put in front of him without any problem at all, especially the pieces of birthday cake from a run of recent parties (which probably didn't help to move things along), but the other day things didn't go so well when he had a bit of an allergic reaction during breakfast.

It's definitely not your favourite when your little boy's face turns red and blotchy and looks like he's just landed head first in a heap of nettles. He was having scrambled eggs – he's had dippy eggs before so we couldn't understand what was going on.

Moments before, Daddy had given the highchair a good wipe with Cif – it was a bit mucky and if it's not clean George will eat the dried-up morsels from the previous night's meal – and we're pretty certain it was this (even though it has a picture of a highchair on the back). Anyway, we stuck him in the bath and changed all his clothes and after his morning nap his chubby chops had returned to their usual, less terrifying appearance.

The one thing that really cheered George up this week was a trip on a miniature steam train. After about five minutes of sitting and waiting he was getting a bit fidgety and fed up. Then, eventually, the guard blew the whistle, the driver tooted the toot and the train chuff-chuffed into motion, and George's face lit up with a big grin and giggles. He peered out of the window and watched the Worcestershire countryside rush past with the wind in his hair.

Things seem to be progressing at a whirlwind rate, yesterday he managed – with a lot of stretching and standing on tip-toes – to reach the living room door handle and almost pull it down far enough to open it. Literally moments ago, he crawled up three steps of the stairs while mummy and daddy were rummaging for car keys – and then laughed as he slid back down on his tummy.

He has also started to wave goodbye and point at almost everything – normally with an all-encompassing, grand sweeping gesture that leaves everyone guessing.

With all the noises he's making, we're now wondering what his first proper word will be – other than the 'mama, dadda' sounds he currently makes. When he comes into our bed in the morning he sits up yodelling with a tremolo that sounds just like Jimmy Savile is under the duvet too. There seems to be a growing certainty that the beginnings of his vocabulary could be "now then, now then".