Tag Archives: festivals

Who’s Day Is It?

Motormouth and Mini... photobombed by the Other Half

Motormouth and Mini… photobombed by the Other Half

Well it had to happen.

What you ask?

A blog post about Mother’s Day of course. I’ll try and keep it short and sweet since you will have been inundated with soppy flowers and hearts about being the Best-Mum-in-the-World because, let’s face it, we’re all the Best-Mum-in-the-World to our children because we are exactly the parents they deserve.

Unfortunately, I think I’ve got exactly the children I deserve (karma you are a bitch), ones who are intent on keeping me awake and on my toes for at least 18 hours a day. Mind you, they have me which probably evens the scales, so I can’t complain really.

And I did have a pretty good day.

We met up with the Mad Professor, the Real Boss and Cousin Bird to treat Nanny Nutjob to a pub lunch at a place in Rochester we know well, the Crown. After a pleasant couple of hours (and much swapping of food amongst the younger attendees) we took a pleasant walk down Rochester High Street.

Somehow we ended up at the Guildhall Museum (for about the sixth time this year). I have a sneaking suspicion the decision had something to do with Motormouth.

And this time Mini (who has been doing pretty well at the learning-to-walk stuff) was big enough to go round.

Funnily enough she showed most interest in the things that Motormouth likes, namely the mammoth tusk, the wheelhouse and the mock up of the hulks (19th century prison ships that were the [anything but] luxurious accommodations for French prisoners of war).

I can understand the tusk, after all it’s basically a huge tooth and, since Mini has some new teeth coming through and the fact we all went to the dentist this week, teeth are probably on her mind a fair bit.

Turn to Starboard!

Turn to Starboard!

The wheelhouse has some obvious attractions – a full-size ship’s wheel to turn. She couldn’t see the video representation of the route the boat was taking as a result of her random spinning of the wheel, but so what.

Huge wheel. Spinning.

What’s not to like?

Full astern!

Full astern!

What more could she want? How about an engine order telegraph (yeah, I didn’t know what is was called until I looked it up either) which had a lovely brass lever she could pull. If she stood on her tiptoes and reached really high.

The mirrored walls in the hulk exhibit were particularly fascinating to our little narcissist who spent ages looking at her reflection, this time it was mainly pointing, she saved the snog for the mirror in the wheelhouse. I think because it was easier to get to.

I have been lucky and got loads of presents from the kids (some of them with the help of the Other Half).

I had

the smelliest nappy for several weeks from Mini (thank you sweetheart, that was a lovely surprise)
tea and toast and Marmite in bed and for once I didn’t have to fight the kids for it (yes, we are a Marmite family)
fewer bruises than usual thanks to Motormouth being remarkably restrained about his bouncing activities


Just like his father

Just like his father

chocolate ice cream all down the front of my T shirt from an enthusiastic Motormouth who wanted to give me a hug. I have to admit he did look quite fetching in his ice cream goatee. I think he was emulating his father, who has a real (and very scratchy) goatee of his own


No, you be the minotaur and I'll be the zombie.

No, you be the minotaur and I’ll be the zombie.

a headache from persuading Motormouth (and his cousin Bird) that he did need to stay at the table during the meal and that it wasn’t a good idea to go running round the pub with his mythical action figures making what he thought were realistic zombie and minotaur cries at the top of his voice


a hanging basket, which I’m not supposed to know about yet, since Motormouth has forgotten it’s hidden round the side of the house and he’s supposed to give it to me. It is very sweet though since it was entirely his own idea and be got The Other Half to take him shopping specially to buy it


Straight lines now!

Straight lines now!

and a ruler to keep in my pencil case for when I need to draw straight lines (which I need to do more often than you might think).

Nanny Nutjob told me she had a lovely time as well (though I think her enjoyment was influenced by the trip to the deli that does very, very nice cakes).

I know this week’s post is pretty picture-heavy but it was a picturesque kind of day.

I’ll try and cut down on the hyphens next time as well.

PS     I’ve updated the About Us page on the blog, just in case you want to know a little more about the Mad Professor and his family.

A – Z of Christmas… Part 2

Motormouth loves his Christmas tree.

Motormouth loves his Christmas tree.

N is for Noise – from dawn chorus to eventual collapse. Without a break.

O is for oohs and aahs – when you decide to do the family thing and take them to the local road that does the lights for charity and before you start fending off questions about why your lights aren’t in the shape of a robot or giant pig. Or why your lights aren’t on the roof of the house at all.

P is for Please – please be quiet, please sit down, please be patient… you get the idea. It is not unusual for this word to have less power than normal. This effect is passed on to any word that is paired with it.

Q is for Quiet – during the Queen’s speech or the Christmas Special. You might as well record them and watch them later. It helps to stay off Facebook so you don’t see everyone raving about the cliffhanger. Or should be the cliffhung?

R is for Relatives – it’s nice to see them arrive and sometimes it’s nice to see them… well, it will have been a long day by then. For everyone.

S is for Sweets – and the calories that don’t count as you swipe one of them, just to keep you going as you rush from one task to another. After all, what would happen if you fainted from low blood sugar or plain old hunger? It’s your duty.

T is for Toys – and the sudden realisation that you need to find room for all the new ones. Somewhere. And maybe release some of the old ones back into the wild. If you can do that without getting caught.

U is for Untidiness – a wide broom helps to keep major routes open, and it’s probably best to subscribe to the “snowplough principle” and just shove everything to the sides, at least for the duration of the holiday period.

V is for Vodka or other tipple of choice – appropriate use is not only helpful it is a vital tool in maintaining your sanity. And quite possibly, relationship.

W is for Wrapping Paper – the reams you will use and be used by and the fun of trying to stuff it all into a recycling bag, and get it to stay there despite the best efforts of physics and small children.

X is for Xmas Pudding – and the need to explain to small children why it is all right, just this once, to set light to something inside the house. It is tradition after all.

Y is for Yelling – that background noise of sibling arguments that sets the tone for any family Christmas.

Z is for Zees – the half hour you hope to catch between finishing the wrapping and the Dawn Chorus.


Baby’s Guide to Christmas


What's next to eat?

What’s next to eat?

Welcome to the latest Baby Guide and today, we’ll be talking about Christmas.

This is one of those events that comes once a year and at the beginning it’s huge for you, but you won’t really be interested much. As you get older, it will become a bigger and bigger event for you until you get old. Then you’ll console yourself with the fact that it’s all about the children anyway.

So, do you want some more detail? Yes? Here goes…

Food - There will be food around. Large amounts of food, and a lot of it might look quite odd to you. You won’t be allowed to eat all of it, but if you can, go for the crunchy things or the sweet things. Or anything you can really. The grown ups around you will be eating a lot more than they would usually do so you should have some good opportunities to “liberate” some samples from their plates. Try to avoid the “fairy cabbages” and “ghost trees”. They’re just Brussels sprouts and cauliflower with fancy names and you’re not fooled that easily are you? Feel free to make your feelings known in an appropriate way if they don’t include you in the bounty and offer you your normal boring food instead.

Decorations – Things that dangle and spin – heaven. And shiny things as well! Decorations are all about glitter and sparkle and your adults will be making the most of this. Many of these dangly things will be out of reach, they hang them from the ceiling for some strange reason, but there is one playground you can’t not explore. This is the time of year that they bring a whole tree inside and plant it! Odd, I know, but since they then hang lots of toys from the branches who are we to complain? The toys come in all shapes and sizes – shiny balls, sparkly spiky things, sometimes even cuddly toys. Take the opportunity to play with them while you can since you may find the tree mysteriously grows over night and the dangly toys get higher and higher until they are at the ceiling as well. But shiny dangly things! Can it get any better?

Presents – Yes it can. Adults have a habit of putting wonderful boxes wrapped in bright, crinkly paper under the tree just for you. These boxes are amazing. You can climb in and out of them, push them around the room, sit in them, pop up and play peekaboo, even go to sleep in them if you want. For those who are feeling less energetic, there is the paper. Crinkling it and rolling it can be fun. So can tearing it up into tiny pieces and dropping them in random patterns on the floor (all the better if you can get them in accessible places). Don’t forget to push the contents of the boxes out of the way to give yourself enough space to play properly.

Family – You are used to a few adults being around you, in fact you never seem to get any alone time. You will find there are more of them about over the holiday period. They will be noisy, have big feet and want to cuddle you a lot. Play along if you want, but don’t forget you have the option of rejecting these advances, especially the kisses from people who have an awful lot of hair growing out of funny places on their faces. Adopt the usual tactics for this, but remember the projectile reintroduction of your last meal to the outside world should be your last option. Oh, almost forgot, the adults are unlikely to be wearing their normal clothes, they could have something on that they really, really want to keep clean (there are opportunities here as always) or they will have sprouted giant animals on their chests. These animals may or may not have noses that can be pulled. If they have, pull away.

Dress – Ah, your apparel. As you have no control over what they put on you, you may find yourself in a variety of interesting costumes. Despite your initial misgivings, you can still have fun whilst dressed as a Christmas pudding. I’m not so sure about the reindeer though, you might just get fed on carrots. If you dislike your costume then adopt the standard procedure, remove the offending items and keep doing so until your adults give in and dress you in something more in keeping with your status.

Santa – There is a big scary man in a red suit. You may not be able to see much of his face thanks to him wearing most of his hair on it. This could be why you might find him scary. Remember, you do not have to have close contact with him unless you wish to, standard protocols in this case are similar to those relating to unwanted attention from family, except you may want to escalate to the nuclear option sooner. There is one thing to bear in mind; the man in the red suit may have more boxes for you. Only you can decide if it’s worth it.

Siblings – Older siblings may appear to have gone insane. They will be quivering with excitement that will only increase as the Big Day grows near. They will wake up uncomfortably early, for your adults at least, and want to play noisily, unwrapping boxes with wild abandon. You have some good opportunities here. For some unfathomable reason they will be interested in the contents of the boxes not the boxes themselves. I know, weird! But still, it leaves the way open for you to have more boxes. And more boxes are good. The rest of the time they will be tearing around like a Tasmanian devil, getting themselves covered in chocolate and other foodstuffs and ignoring the pleas of the adults to do things more quietly or calmly. No, I don’t know the meaning of those words either. Perhaps you only understand them when you finally get to be an adult? If your siblings are younger than you, they’ll care even less about the whole season than you will.

Toys – These are usually what’s inside the box. Some of them may be mildly interesting with flashing lights and funny noises, but boxes! Boxes!

Pets – This is a good time to feel sorry for the four legged members of the family since they are probably the only ones getting more of a raw deal than you are. They may get some treats but they are far more likely to get trodden on, sat on, shut in an empty room or made to wear even more ridiculous costumes than you. If you are feeling particularly benevolent then you might consider letting them hide in one of your boxes with you.

So, there you have it, your guide to Christmas. It’s hard to believe that all the build up, all the excitement is for just one day, but hey, at least you get some boxes out of it.

A – Z of Christmas… Part 1

Yes, that is a seahorse hanging on our tree.

Yes, that is a seahorse hanging on our tree.

A is for Aaarggh – and all those little essentials you’ve forgotten to get to tide you over the Christmas period – like tape. And nappies.

B is for Boxes – which are everywhere, but at least they’ll keep the kids occupied. Longer than than the toys, in fact.

C is for Construction – and those hours you will spend wishing you had a smaller screwdriver, and smaller fingers (and a smaller nozzle on your vacuum cleaner) as you attempt to assemble, catch, retrieve and reassemble. Why do children’s toys have so many small parts again?

D is for Dawn Chorus – not the tuneful twitterings of our feathered friends, but the raucous “can we get up yet” of the annual native Nocturnal Toddler.

E is for Excitement – all month (theirs not yours). Your excitement is confined to the idea of a glass of your favourite tipple at the end of Christmas Day.

F is for Food – the frantic balancing act of nutrition versus empty calories that becomes so much more challenging with your toddler on Christmas Day. And no, calling Brussels sprouts fairy cabbages does not make them any more edible.

G is for Grandparents – who suddenly forget how small your living room really is when they buy them three huge toys in even bigger boxes, all of which HAVE to be available to play with at the same time.

H is for Help – that heartfelt cry that never quite gets heard, or if it is, has something lost in translation like “Thank you so much for making sure I have all the washing up in one place.”

I is for Imagination – that children have so much of most of the time, but so little of when you try to persuade them that the home made version of the toy of the year is just as good, and it really isn’t your fault they didn’t have any left in the shops.

J is for Jelly – and ice cream and cake and chocolate and crisps and “why can’t I have all that before dinner mummy, everyone else is?”

K is for Santa Klaus (I know, so shoot me for cheating!) – that mysterious figure that can either fascinate or terrify a child, and you can never quite predict which one it will be when you tell others how they will react. Tears are guaranteed though.

L is for Lights – the ones you have so carefully arranged before they end up wrapped around the cat or draped carefully over granddad who made the mistake of falling asleep in his chair. You might also want to check him for Christmas decorations.

M is for Mother – and your time honoured role, navigating through the chaos of the festive season, and the realisation that no matter how evenly you spread the parenting, a mother’s experience is unique.

Baby’s Guide to … Halloween


Hello spooky kitty...
Hello spooky kitty…

Welcome to the latest Baby Guide. This time we are talking about Halloween.

Halloween is a time of year that you will become familiar with, and as you get older, your feelings with regards to it are likely to change. But for now, this is your first guide to a single night that has a huge build up, and is rivalled only by Christmas (more on that another time). So, what are the things you might notice?

Colours    You will notice that there is a predominance of orange, green, purple and black. This phenomenon affects everything from food to decorations to people’s clothes. This is quite nice if you like those colours, not so nice if you don’t and of no interest if you don’t really care. Don’t worry, it won’t last too far past the night and the colours won’t hurt you.

Food    This is also affected by the colour frenzy but there are more appetising things that only appear at this time of year, specifically funny-shaped sweets, cakes and biscuits. Lots of them. Grown ups have a delightful habit of handing this out free to small children (and not so small children if they are lucky). Aside from Easter, this festival is the best opportunity to gather enough treats to send you into a sugar-coma.

Oh, and don’t forget the pumpkin. Some grown ups use the bits left behind when they make the funny pumpkin lanterns, usually to make soup. Feel free to show your true feelings if they decide you make you sample any of it. Pumpkin- shaped food is good. Pumpkin food doesn’t always match up to that image.

Costumes    This is an old tradition that goes back to Celtic times when they believed that evil spirits came out to roam the earth at Halloween and it was safer to pretend to be one of them. This is why so many of the costumes are frightening. Your costume will no doubt be unbearably cute. Cute enough to be terrifying. As you get older the costumes will get better and less scary, especially the ones you are wearing. Unless you are dressed as a clown. Clowns are always scary.

Creepy Crawlies and Other Animals    A number of creepy crawlies, especially bats, rats and spiders are associated with Halloween. This means that there will be hundreds of the things hanging from ceilings, doors, lights and any other handy hooks or protuberances. Most of them will be made of rubber, plastic or some other similar man-made substance. They’re probably not the ones that move by themselves. 

Don’t eat any of them. It will leave you with less room for the sweets.

Trick or Treating    This a delightful tradition where complete strangers will give you sweets if you knock on their door, preferably in costume. (You and them.) This is the one time where it is not only OK to take sweets from strangers but it’s positively encouraged. Some people will insist on giving you healthy stuff like fruit. It’s always good practice to be grateful, whatever you get, since that will increase your likelihood of being able to carry on to other houses in the hope that you will get more sweets. Play the long game.

Occasionally you will encounter a refusal to take part, polite or otherwise. Traditionally this would trigger a trick from you. This is optional and probably not to be encouraged unless it is a very good trick and you are unlikely to get caught. Remember that actions such as throwing store cupboard staples at a house is not likely to lead to a change in behaviour from the householder. It’s better to make them into a cake. Preferably pumpkin-shaped. The eggs and flower that is, not the neighbours. And play the long, long game.

Things that go bump in the night    Since the whole idea of Halloween goes back to the idea that demons roamed the earth on a certain night, there will be an obsession with ghosts and ghoulies, witches and monsters. Some of these will go bump in the night, some, particularly the clumsy ones, might go bump in the day. Having the eye holes in the right place and switching the light on in the dark will help reduce the number of bumps.


For the first few years Halloween is likely to be a spectator sport for you. Be patient. Your time for running around in scary costumes (as opposed to the normal superhero, pirate or prince/princess costumes you favour during the rest of the year) will come and you too will be able to forage in gangs with the rest of the little ghosties and ghoulies.

Medieval Merriment

Come on then, I'll take you all on!

Come on then, I’ll take you all on!

This week we took Motormouth and Mini to the Medieval Festival at the local castle.

Motormouth insisted on dressing up for the occasion in his helmet and, after due consideration, elected to take his axe rather than his sword.

As per standard toddler protocols the axe got handed over to us to carry for him. This was after he found shoving it down the front of his jogging bottoms wasn’t the most practical way to store it. This was about three minutes after we parked.

We did the rounds of the stalls and Motormouth was desperate for one of the toy shields (to go with the helmet and axe of course). He was very interested in trying the food, until he found out they were cooking vegetables. Not even the excitement of cooking over an open fire could make vegetables seem edible to him.

He spotted the pig “hiding” in the hog roast. I left it to the Other Half to explain why it had a pole running through it. (Hey, it’s only fair – I’ve had to explain where babies come from three times this week.)

The Knight Hospitaler scared him a little, with his descriptions of battlefield surgery, so it looks like we have a bit of time before his little boy bloodthirsty phase kicks in. The Other Half and I found it interesting – I never knew that even when they were acting as surgeons, they couldn’t remove anything from inside the wound because they weren’t allowed. Something to do with the soul being inside the body and poking around would damage it.

The bird of prey display did make Motormouth laugh, after initially being apprehensive. I think it had something to do with the fact the bird thought the pigeons were tastier than a bit of dead meat on the end of the lure and wouldn’t come back. He told me very seriously that the bird nearly scratched his head and pooped on him when it flew particularly low over us.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a huge amount to interest a three year old, so once we established he needed to be really, really good to get a shield, he turned his attention to one of his favourite parts of the castle gardens.

The cannon.

Well, actually he wanted to go up into the castle itself but we wouldn’t let him since he didn’t have safe shoes on. In the end he was content with the promise that next time he could go up.

And his second choice.

The cannon.

It dates from the 1840s and points over the river towards the bridge and is a magnet for climbers of the toddler variety.

Motormouth decided it was one you could ride as well.

It was pretty unreliable, judging by the number of times the “old girl” broke down and had to be repaired with coal and water. Dutifully hauled by me, after all, that’s what parents are for isn’t it? Fetching and carrying. Apart from carrying and fetching of course.

We did get into a little bit of a heated discussion. Motormouth would slap his hand on the cannon to fire it and scream boom. (He has got a very loud voice for a very small boy.)

I thought it would be much nicer if it made a different noise. Like woof. Or neigh. Or baa. Or even squelch.

At least the people around us found the sight of a small boy in a red coat shouting at the top of his voice amusing. (Perhaps our general lack of amusement at his volume has something to do with the fact he hasn’t yet discovered his indoor voice and we haven’t discovered his mute button. And we get it all the time.)

Maybe they were just amused at the silly mummy who doesn’t know what noise a big gun is supposed to make. And the little blonde boy who kept giving her a stern telling off.

And Mini?

She had fun people watching again though she seemed slightly bemused by the kerfuffle when a knight was slain in front of her. She looked even more confused when he got up again and walked off.

And eating grapes.

Lots of grapes.

And rolling them on the ground in front of people.

And it didn’t rain all day, despite the weather forecast.

I still think it would be better if a cannon went quack instead of boom.

Babysitting the Vegetables

Motormouth feeding a marrowWe took Motormouth and Mini to the local arts festival this weekend.

It’s held in different locations around Medway over a weekend in June, and we took them on the Saturday and the Sunday. I think they got most out of the Sunday, which was held in the grounds of Rochester Castle.

There was a lot of variety, with strolling entertainers and static displays and there was a definite steam punk vibe to the whole thing. Some of the entertainment was a little over Motormouth’s head, but then he is only three; despite that there were a few things that caught his attention.

Mini is still a little too young to enjoy the entertainment but she had great fun people watching and making a mess eating her picnic.

Motormouth had his fun winding the wheels of the mechanical dragon, helping to make it flap its wings and move its head. He kept going back to it and even managed to turn the levers whilst eating his sandwiches.

This is a talent he has inherited from the other half. Multitasking (but only when it comes to food). It’s just a shame he can’t multitask with other things, like listening to me when he is playing. I have never known anyone who can concentrate so totally on one thing, even if only for a few minutes. It’s either that or selective deafness. Or maybe both together?

Anyway, back to the festival. He was really disappointed he didn’t get to go on the flying machine, but we didn’t know you had to book a place, which was a little annoying.

As a consolation, the Other Half took him into the castle, which is something both have been wanting to do since Motormouth was old enough to recognise it was a castle. The Other Half also bought him a toy sword. I’m not sure which Motormouth liked more, the castle or the sword. As his mother, I’m sure I know which one I preferred.

He did, however, get the opportunity to babysit some vegetables and this kept him totally occupied for a good half hour, which is amazing for a child who normally has the attention span of a crane fly.

He took his babysitting responsibilities very seriously and made sure he inspected all of the baby vegetables.  He was quick to identify which babies needed feeding and which needed to be taken for a walk in the little perambulator. You can’t say he hasn’t got self confidence. You only had to watch his regular reports to the head gardener.

At one point and with a very serious look on his face, he informed the head gardener that the baby melon needed a bath.

Over to the bucket they went and the melon was gently lowered into the water. Motormouth then took the same approach he uses when he and Mini share a bath and he washes her – splashing water into its (his? her?) face before announcing that it was clean enough. This lasted all of twenty seconds (more attention than Mini usually gets) before he lost interest in the melon and moved onto the marrow.

It was surreal, seeing him cradling a marrow whilst feeding it with a bottle full of some very dubious green water with bits of grass floating in it. Watching him, and knowing his tendency to apply a new skill wherever he can, I was pleased I decided to breastfeed and he wasn’t used to seeing Mini with a bottle in her mouth.

I am also pleased Motormouth has forgotten his nickname for Mini was Vegetable, if only temporarily. This was from his love of Octonauts. He has decided we all have our own Octonaut identities – the Other Half is Kwazii, the pirate cat, I am Dashi, the photographer dachsund and Mini is a Vegimal named Tunip (who as far as I can work out is half turnip and half tuna). I can’t convince him that they are Vegimals, not vegetables. It does get us some strange looks when he tells complete strangers how Mini is a cute little vegetable.

Imagine having to try and explain that to people.

All in all, a day both he and Mini enjoyed. And the only cost was a few quid for the plastic sword.

Any bets on how long before he gets it confiscated for poking something he shouldn’t?