Tag Archives: toys

R is for Repairer

R is for Repairer

R is for Repairer

This is it.

This is our opportunity to assume goddess-like status as repairer of broken toys (or god-like, I don’t want to forget any blokes who may qualify for this honour).

And it’s so easy I could almost cry (in gratitude that is).


Most of the toys that are presented with tear-stained and grubby fingers can be fixed by snapping something back into place, whether it’s the fire station door that’s letting in the draft and making poor Fireman Sam feel a little chilly or the spinning barrel thingy on the back of his cement mixer, they can be fixed.

Of course there must be an element of showmanship (or should that be showpersonship?) to make sure there is an air of mystery and almost supernatural skill surrounding us to elicit awed and excited comments like “Thank you mummy, you’re the best”. I’ve even been told I’m the best mummy in the whole universe because I fixed the ladder to the fire engine after it broke yet again.

And that’s the thing isn’t it. We fix the same toys over and over again and we could almost do it in our sleep and we enjoy the adulation that follows it, but isn’t there always a quiet little voice asking us if it isn’t about time we taught them how to do it themselves?

That learning to repair things, and take care of them, is a valuable life lesson.

That we’re, horror of horrors, stunting their development by keeping this task from them?

I’m ignoring that little voice for the moment. I want the positive strokes for just a bit longer.

I need balance you see, because apparently I don’t wipe bottoms as well as daddy does.

Possibly not, but I can make sure Fireman Sam doesn’t catch cold.

And the toys that can’t be fixed? Well the tidy-up fairy takes them away after they’ve sat on the side long enough to be forgotten about, or at least until we have plausible deniability.

Q is for Quick

Q is for Quick

Q is for Quick

I had thought to write about Quiet for this post but then I thought I’ve harped on enough recently about quiet, or rather the lack of it, so I’m going to talk about the concept of being quick.

There’s two sides to this, as there often is with small children – there’s and ours.

In ours, well, we ask them to be quick, or at least quicker, when getting ready in the morning. This, by the way, is how you can start out with a good hour in hand only to be scrambling out of the door 10 minutes late, if you’re lucky. I’m positive that when we say quick, quickly, faster, speed up, or any other word related to velocity or time they hear something entirely different.

Like, perhaps now would be a good time to play hide and seek in our underpants. That is he’s in his underpants hiding from me not hiding things in… oh, never mind.

Or, let’s see how far we can throw this morning’s outfit down the stairs.

Or, I’ve suddenly forgotten how to brush my teeth/put my socks on/take my pyjama top off/stand up. Please delete as appropriate. On second thoughts perhaps it should be “add as appropriate”.

Then there’s the fact they suddenly want to wear the coat that just happens to still be in the wash.

Or get their building blocks out to play.

Or that 100 piece puzzle you’ve been saving for a long rainy afternoon when you need to keep them occupied for a couple of hours.

In the meantime, a small girl is wandering around undressing herself at random intervals and scavenging for any of her brother’s breakfast that he might have left lying about.

After much rushing around you finally get to leave. This is after a debate with yourself about whether or not it’s better to be a few minutes later or come back to a living room that looks like it’s been set up for a drunken war gaming session between the Smurfs and some slightly unbalanced pirates, and a false start as you get out the door and realise you’re still wearing your slippers.

That’s quick in our world.

Then there’s quick in their world.

Quick means instant, or before that if you can manage.

I’m hungry now.

I want this toy fixed please.

When will we be there?

I want to go home.

I want some chocolate.

I want a cuddle.

I want…


Considering they are small children, they have a huge number of time-sensitive requests to make.

And they all seem to come at the worst possible time.

Just before bedtime is a classic.

Or just before you go into the loo (the insistence of the request is proportional to your need to get in there, like, now).

And what do we do?

We try and accommodate them, even f we’re hopping up and down with our legs crossed, we try and answer the question or fix the toy or tell them how to find something.

And why?

Because to them it’s the most important thing in the world. To small children who live so much in the now, they can’t move on to the next moment until whatever is bothering them at that instant in time is dealt with. They have a hazy concept of time and before, after or later, and to them prioritisation is a totally alien concept. We might as well be asking them to understand quantum physics.

So we adapt. We change our schedule and reorder our lives to accommodate them.

Look at the time, I’d best go – I’ve only got 2 hours before I need to be out of the door.

Today Should Be Monday

Motormouth Meltdown

Motormouth Meltdown

As in Motormouth Meltdown Monday.

In other words, we’ve had one of those days today.

I can’t blame him really, we have the trifecta of causes for an over-emotional child.

He’s poorly with chickenpox.

He’s sleep deprived after our holiday.

He’s 4 years old.

What this meant in practice was that he cried today.

A lot.

At anything.

Mini trying to steal his food.

At not being allowed to go to playgroup today.

Asbo not wanting to be stroked.

His puzzle getting stuck in its box.

Him not being allowed more chocolate.

It being 2 o’clock.

Mini wanting to play with his toys.

Me wanting him to pick up his toys.

Him not being allowed to watch TV while he was eating his dinner.

Him hurting his toes when he fell over one of the toys he’d failed to pick up.

To say this was tiring for all of us is an understatement. In the end I persuaded him to snuggle in our bed with the tablet to watch Aladdin (for about the 90th time). The idea was him having a sleep would help his soldiers fight the virus that was giving him his rash.

Perhaps I need to explain about his soldiers. To help him get through his vaccinations we told him he had lots of tiny soldiers in his body that help him get better when he was hurt. He’s taken to this idea with a passion we didn’t expect. He tells complete strangers about how his soldiers are helping him. He told the nurse he was disappointed he was getting his vaccination with a nose spray rather than a needle. When they drew a life-size outline of him at playgroup he had to put a germ and a soldier in there as well as a heart.

Anyway, back to Aladdin. I asked Motormouth agreed to try and snuggle and have a sleep.

He agreed. He even managed to have a little nap.

And woke up grumpy.

Mini didn’t help either. She knows loads of words but only uses one.


She practised using it a lot today.

And she has my tone of voice down pat. So much so that even Motormouth was laughing.

She hasn’t quite sussed that sometimes the no is aimed at her rather than her brother.

Like when I’m telling her not to try and pull the table cloth off the table.

Or not to throw things at me when I’m trying to change her nappy.

Or going up to her brother and slapping him.

Or steal her brother’s food.

Maybe I can understand him crying at that.

Newsflash – Toddler Meltdown Avoided!

My Box!!!!!!!!!

My Box!!!!!!!!!

A sigh of relief was heard all down the road today and a toddler melt-down was narrowly averted as agreement on the validity of the concept of cardboard box reincarnation was reached between Motormouth and Mature Mother this evening.

Emergency talks started when Motormouth realised that his favourite cardboard box was no longer in its accustomed place. It was revealed that the box had indeed been disposed of when a regularly-scheduled inspection assessed it as “knackered beyond repair” and it was placed in a suitable holding area, ready for onward disposal. After some detailed discussion, mainly concentrating on the recycling process and the potential likelihood of the box returning to Motormouth’s possession in a new box-shaped form (the main sticking point appeared to be timescales but once it had been agreed that it was likely to be more than 5 hours but less than millions of years before the box’s return), a peaceable agreement was reached.

When questioned, Mature Mother admitted she hoped that Motormouth did not look to the right as he exited the house from the back door, at least not until the recycling had been collected.

We will watch with interest and bring you any future developments as they arise.

All Boxed In

It's a ship! No! It's a race car!

It’s a ship! No! It’s a race car!

If you’ve been watching the Trials and Tribulations Facebook page this week you’ll know that our lives have been filled with boxes.

Or rather, boxes have been filled with us.

Mini and Motormouth have been having great fun playing in the box Motormouth’s new car seat came in and it has been a car, a pirate ship, a rocket, a fort and heaven only knows what else their imagination has turned it into.

All I know is that they have been enjoying it immensely. I’m not so sure the box is, since it is now definitely worse for wear. That might, of course, have something to do with being prodded with drumsticks (Motormouth was making windows) and rocked backwards and forwards pretty vigorously. I’m not sure it will last much longer, but at least it can say it’s had an interesting life.

That could be in the Chinese curse sense of the word from the box’s point of view.

Not that they have been confining themselves to cardboard. A plastic box has also been pressed into service, although being quite a bit smaller it’s been less used.

It got me thinking.

About boxes.

And about kids playing in general.

And their imagination.

I will admit to being slightly envious of their ability to allow their imaginations to fill in any gaps or shortfalls in their playthings.

A big blanket and a few cushions and the box was a fully functioning fort. With a few additions (mainly Motormouth’s toy soldiers and his dinosaurs) it was a well-defended one. A quick change in orientation and it was a television studio where I was treated to a news broadcast. I’m not entirely sure what the news was about, and it was very quick, but that’s not the point.

A few seconds later they were zooming round the race track.

As a writer I know how much work it can be to get your imagination working properly, unfettered by the constant calls on our time. Just as I start working on something, some subconscious cue will nudge me and I’ll be thinking I must remind myself to get loo rolls next time I go shopping, or I need to pay the credit card bill, or I should really check when my library books are due back.

Then I lose the train of thought and have to start over again, which doesn’t strike me as a particularly good use of time.

In the same time, Mini and Motormouth have travelled half-way round the world in a variety of modes of transport (I had to explain what mode meant to Motormouth this morning and just had to get the example in here. His next question was why don’t the forty thieves have to clean their teeth – Aladdin again.). They’ve battled giant dinosaurs (as opposed to the small ones now on perimeter duty around the kitchen door), fought pirates, rescued helpless animals and presented their own TV show.

At least Motormouth has. Mini is content, at present, to just go along for the ride.

It’s true, each episode only takes a minute or so, since Motormouth has the attention span of a crane fly with a caffeine overdose, but when he is there, he is completely there.

Nothing else exists but the fantasy.

Admittedly, if he were an adult this might be a shade unhealthy, but as a child it’s doing him the world of good.

I know he’ll lose this trick as he grows up, truth to tell, I can’t remember when I lost it, but I hope he retains some vestige of the ability to escape into other worlds.

That he or Mini don’t lose the capacity to dream.

That they don’t end up boxed into the thought routines that dog us as adults.

That they don’t have to wait until they have children before they can start to rediscover it for themselves.

In the meantime?

I’ll just have to put up with walking around the pirate ship that’s docked in the living room and try not to step on the sharks.

Or Tic Toc Croc.

H is for Houseproud


H is for Houseproud

H is for Houseproud

This is a bit of a misnomer really. I say this because, no matter how houseproud you were before you had children, you have to let go of at least some of that need to have your house spic and span at all times.

Because it just doesn’t happen.

I say that as I survey what was a nice, tidy living room when I went to bed last night.

Now it’s something less than tidy. Quite a lot less in fact.

Now, I can’t really claim that I have ever been a neat freak, since I am a typical Sagittarian (although I am a bit obsessive about my books, computer files and writing notebooks).

It doesn’t bother me that I haven’t sorted out the pile of newspapers from the last week, or that the shoes are all chucked in a box by the front door, but I wasn’t prepared for what happens when two small children are amusing themselves for more than five minutes. (I know it was that long because that’s about how long it takes me to make a cup of tea and grab a sneaky biscuit – just to keep me going, you understand.)


Well, the dining room shows the remains of a banquet Motormouth and Mini made before they got distracted and decided to move to the living room. This was possibly because I caught them trying to ride the vacuum cleaner (I took the broom away as a clear and present danger for anything more than 6″ above floor level).

Having been thwarted in their rodeo game, they moved to the living room.

I decided it was a good time to sort out second breakfast for them and left them to it for a few minutes. I knew it was time because I was getting “Mummy, I’m hungry!” in both Motormouth and Mini speak.

I have to give them credit for being fast workers. By the time their sandwiches were ready they were happily occupying a fort. I could tell they were taking security seriously as well… they were surrounded by Motormouth’s troops and he was happily directing Mini in deploying his forces.

Then they retreated into the fort (cunningly disguised as the large cardboard box Motormouth’s new car seat had arrived in draped in one of his blankets) to eat their food.

It’s the weekend, so I have been in and out of the room, leaving them to play, whilst doing the washing, the cleaning and so on, and every time there’s something different.

We now have a major traffic jam developing by the living room door, a phalanx of dinosaurs is guarding the route from the kitchen to, well, pretty much anywhere, and the fort has developed an annexe. Motormouth has even turned interior decorator, using what looks like every cushion in the house to make the fort nice and comfy, if a little cosy for the two of them squeezed in there. At least the pillows are still on our bed.

I think.

Mini, in the meantime is hovering around the edge of activities providing musical accompaniment on her drum machine, walker, and, well, you get the idea.

And it’s not even lunchtime yet.

So, as for being houseproud, I decided pretty early on in motherhood that this house is a home for two small children that love, and need, to play. They need the opportunity to shape the world around them to build their fantasies.

So who am I to stand in the way?

No one. I’ve taken a step back and decided that they should have fun and be allowed to express themselves.

So what if I have to do a mini tidy up every hour or so?

So what if anyone attempting to cross the room risks life and limb in doing so?

I’ve decided that I need to make best use of my resources and focus on the important places (mainly where water is present) and the stairs.

And of course, I’ve dissected the phrase “clean and tidy”. Clean I need.


Well, that can wait until they grow up a bit more.

And it just so happens that it coincides with my natural tendencies.

Shame that.

H is for Houseproud

Baby’s Guide to… Bedtime

Asleep at last.

Asleep at last.

Welcome to the guide to the controversial subject of bedtime.

Now you might not think this is a particular bone of contention, but there can be few other occasions where you and your parents will disagree quite so often, or so noisily.

So, how do you come out of this process on top? Read on to find out.

Delaying the Inevitable – It comes around every night, bedtime that is, and often it arrives a little too early for your taste. There are still things to do. Food to scavenge and make messes with. Toys to play with. Adults to be fussed over by. So, you need to have a strategy to delay things. You can be as inventive as you like. You can run (or crawl) for it and take refuge under the nearest piece of heavy furniture (providing you can fit). You can resist all attempts to pick you up. This can be achieved in a variety of ways from going rigid in a position that leaves you wedged somewhere to becoming boneless so they can’t get a grip under your arms to pick you up. There are riskier tactics you can adopt, for example reintroducing your dinner to the world, but be prepared for this to backfire since it might just result in an earlier trip up the stairs (if you have them of course).

Transportation – If you are fairly mobile they may allow you to traverse the rougher terrain (such as the aforementioned stairs) by yourself. Don’t forget to stop to check they are following you like a good support team should i.e. one step behind at all times. You may need to check this a dozen times or more. Once each step is good. When you get to the top, be sure to make a beeline for the wrong room. You will get extra points if you zag when they expect you to zig and you get over the threshold. If they choose to carry you up the stairs themselves then you should adopt an appropriately awkward body shape, again, rigid with arms splayed is effective.

Bath Time – Your parents may or may not decide to give you a bath every night. You may have particularly sensitive skin, in which case they might decide to dunk you in soapy water every other day instead. However frequently you go through this process you can treat it as a fun time, where you can splash to your heart’s content (or until your parents run out of their heart’s content) or as an ordeal, in which case you should adopt the standard tactics of screaming until they get you out. At this point you might want to go boneless again, that is if you fancy some extra entertainment, since there is nothing on the planet that is more slippery than a wet baby. Especially if you are trying to lift them from above. The less said about the indignities of having all your bits patted dry before you are shoehorned, still slightly damp (despite their best, and most personal, efforts) into your nightclothes the better.

Teeth (or Tooth) Time – Ah, the cleaning of the teeth, or tooth if you’re still waiting for the rest to come through. Your parents will have several options open to them – what flavour paste they will use to clean your teeth (mint is probably best, bubblegum may seem like an attractive choice but it will only make the switch to grown up toothpaste weirder. All grown up toothpaste is mint.). Now, the implements. You, or rather your teeth, will be cleaned using a foreign object that will be inserted into your mouth, forcibly if necessary. In the early days this might be a clean finger (apparently that’s recommended by the experts), later a cloth and finally a bristly thing on a stick. This all sounds quite brutal but there are ways you can regain control of the situation. You can refuse to open your mouth (parents are surprisingly wary of forcing your mouth open unless they believe you have something interesting in there. Please note that what we see as interesting they see as dangerous.), you can open your mouth long enough to fasten your teeth (or gums) on the object. Be prepared for loud noises if they are at the finger stage (being gummed by a baby can be surprisingly painful).

Story Time – This might be your favourite time of the whole routine. This is a good opportunity to cuddle up nice and warm and comfortable, for you at least. Don’t worry about them being uncomfortable, it’s part of their job description. Alternatively it could be a good opportunity to take some of the shine off those nice clean teeth. Or time to play at climb the parent (some parents make particularly good climbing frames and swings). You may even get a lullaby after the story. Some parents cannot sing, but it’s good manners to ignore this and give them points for trying. Try not to laugh at them if they are too bad. They might not sing to you again which could reduce the entertainment opportunities for later.

Sleeping Time – This is quite possibly the part of the whole bedtime routine where you have complete control, at least until your body takes over, at which point you will fall asleep regardless of what position you might be in. When your parent puts you down with a gentle kiss on your forehead, a good tactic is to lie still for a moment, just long enough for them to believe they have got the timing right for a change, before you sit up and look at them reproachfully. You can add tears and a scrunched up face for extra effect if you want. Your aim is to make them feel guilty for abandoning you in the solitude of your cot whilst the rest of the family, especially older siblings, are likely to be up and still enjoying all the things you have been deprived off, mainly food, toys and free-roaming rights. Lay that guilt on thick. It might not work this time but as the guilt accumulates they might start to reconsider your bedtime schedule.

So, there you have it. The guide to bedtime. Apply the above suggestions diligently and persistently and you will retain the mastery over the end of the day, just as you do during the day.