A Generous Heart

Sometimes life with toddlers can be beyond frustrating. Then, sometimes, they can do something that makes all of the frustration melt away.
Pickles came into the kitchen where I was feeding Pords. He was dragging a sleeping bag overflowing with an assortment of items.
And he was looking exceptionally pleased with himself.
“What have you got in there, Mr Pickles?” I asked, trying not to sound too concerned.
“Things that I don’t play with anymore.” He replied. “To give away to people who don’t have lots of stuff.”
I was astonished. When I had suggested this activity a few weeks ago, he had been rather vehemently opposed. He’d obviously been mulling it over.
“That’s a wonderful idea. I’m very proud of you.” I told him. “Let’s see what you’ve got in there.”
He emptied the contents onto the kitchen floor. I was mildly alarmed to see some of his very favourite toys. I wondered if his newfound generosity was indeed this self-sacrificing, or if he didn’t quite understand the concept. Then he started talking about each item.
“This is for Pords because she likes it. This one is for Nanny. She likes green” And on it went, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, acquaintances. None of the recipients could be considered in the category of “people who don’t have lots of stuff.” Nonetheless, he had clearly put a lot of thought into it and his heart was in the right place.
Then he held out Blueberry Muffin, his favourite teddy bear since birth. “BBM is for you Mummy, because you’ve been sick.”
He could have asked for anything then and it would have been his. If only he could find some way of bottling up that moment, his teenage self could have secured his first car.*
I’m recording it here so that I remember, despite all of the frustrations to come, that this little person has a big, beautiful, generous heart.
*If this post still exists when Pickles is of blog reading age, this in no way entitles him to a car. Gorgeousness of the moment notwithstanding.

Happy Diaries
Little Hearts, Big Love


Over in the corner
Underneath the tree
There’s a shiny silver present
That’s been wrapped up just for me.
It’s been sitting over there
For more than a whole week.
If I unpick just the corner
I can take a little peek.
This sticky tape is tricky
I’ll pull a little more,
And then I’ll put it all right back
The way it was before.
On no! I pulled too hard.
There’s paper on the floor.
I can see my present now,
But Mum is at the door!
I think that she’ll be cross.
And Father Christmas too!
He’ll put me on the bad list
Although it isn’t true.
I really am a good kid.
(My Nan says I’m a joy!)
I only wanted just a peek
At my new Christmas toy.
The only thing to do
Is to hide behind a chair.
If I stay perfectly still
Mum won’t know I’m there.
She comes into the room
And cries out “You’re so silly!”
I think that I’ve been caught,
But she’s looking right at Millie.
Patience is a virtue?
I don’t agree with that.
Check all your presents early,
Then blame it on the cat!

A Bit Of Everything

What do you do all day?

I can’t understand parents like you.
If you don’t mind me asking, what do you do?
My face flushes red. I’m not really sure.
It’s certainly different from my life before.
I drive trains and buses, trucks and cars,
Build my own spaceships and fly to the stars.
I scrub and wipe and pick up blocks,
Wash shirts and pants and piles of socks.
I’m a tiger, a frog, a monkey, a goat.
I sail away in a pea green boat.
I make meals and snacks; most earnest of cooks.
Read hundreds and thousands and millions of books.
I sing and I dance and I play the drum,
I answer every “What’s this, Mum?”
I do the shopping, unpack it on shelves,
(With “help” from two mischievous elves!)
I walk to the park and push the swings,
And supervise all of the trickier things.
I’m a doctor with special first aid supplies;
Kisses and cuddles and drying of eyes.
I splash in water, make castles in sand,
My artistic skills are in high demand.
I clean and dress as little ones wriggle.
I smile and sigh and grumble and giggle.
And when night time falls after all of this;
I seal the day with a goodnight kiss.

Prose for Thought
Happy Diaries

A Study of Time

I spent a wonderful weekend at a Festival for Children’s and YA Book Creators. I will write more about it soon but one of the main highlights for me was a three hour workshop on Rhyme, Rhythm and Repetition with the inimitable Mem Fox.
The poem that follows is a first attempt to practise some of the things that we learnt during that workshop.
It’s a study of time.
The content looks at time, but it’s also an attempt to consider the timing and rhythm within the poetry. It’s not quite right because I’ve written it while the babies are napping so the required stomping and clapping to count out the beat had to be much quieter than optimal… I need a sound proof booth!
Where did the time go?
My angel, my dear.
Where did the time go?
My dear.
I thought time moved slow,
My angel, my dear.
But what did I know?
My dear.
Inside me you grew,
My angel, my dear,
Inside me you grew,
My dear.
And how the time flew,
My angel, my dear,
If only I knew,
My dear.
And then you were small,
My angel, my dear,
And then you were small,
My dear.
I dreamed you were tall
My angel, my dear,
Knew nothing at all,
My dear.
And now you have grown,
My angel, my dear,
And now you have grown,
My dear.
I see that time’s flown,
My angel, my dear,
Could never have known,
My dear.
I can’t make time still,
My angel, my dear,
I can’t make time still,
My dear.
Time has its own will,
My angel, my dear,
It doesn’t refill,
My dear.
But we can slow down,
My angel, my dear,
But we can slow down,
My dear.
And I’ll tell you how,
My angel, my dear,
I’ll cuddle you now,
My dear.
For when you are near,
My angel, my dear,
For when you are near,
My dear.
Time’s nothing to fear,
My angel, my dear,
Forever’s right here,
My dear.

Sleepless nights

You call for me at midnight,
You call for me at four.
Sometimes with a gurgle,
More often with a roar.
The night is big and lonely,
And you are oh so small.
You’d like to see your mummy.
And so, my love, you call.
It’s late and I am sleepy,
And so, my love, I grumble.
And as I pick you up again
You hear my tired mumble.
But nonetheless I hold you,
Rock you back to sleep.
I promised I’d be there for you;
A promise that I’ll keep.
Then maybe later down the track,
(In eighteen years or more!)
You’ll call me once again, my love,
At two, or three, or four.
And once again I’ll grumble,
I’ll moan that it is late.
But I’ll always come and find you,
I’ll never make you wait.
And there might come a day,
When you’re a parent too.
And in the middle of the night
Your child will call for you.
And then you’ll understand
That precious love so deep.
You wouldn’t trade it in
For a thousand nights of sleep.
Yet sometimes you’ll be tired,
You’ll think you’ve had enough.
Then you can call on me, my love;
Sleepless nights are tough.
Whether you’re a baby,
Or when you’re fully grown.
You can always call on me, my love,
You’ll never be alone.
And though there’ll come a day
When we will be apart.
You still can always call on me;
I’ll live on in your heart.

Prose for Thought



Unconditional love

Growing up together
Growing up together

This is a post for posterity. I know there will be times in their lives when they will fight and drive each other mad. But right now Pickles and Pords are the very greatest of friends.
From the moment Pords wakes up in the morning she waits for him. As soon as she hears movement from his room, her whole being lights up. Now that she is mobile, she follows him around constantly.
In turn, Pickles is as doting a big brother as you will ever find. He comforts her when she is crying, brings her toys, tells her stories, and sings her songs.
They also find one another hilarious. Already they share a secret sibling sense of humour. They constantly have each other in fits of laughter and no one else can quite understand why.
For me, unconditional love looks like Pords’ face when she hears Pickles coming. I wrote a poem to try and capture that moment so if they ever go through sibling rough patches, I can read to them of a time when they were very best of friends.
A sound.
It could be anything but
You recognise it.
Friendly, happy,
Crashy sound.
You turn your head
And there he is.
Your world.
He is everything that
You want to be.
Kind and funny,
Getting taller.
You love him so.
Your brother.

Post Comment Love

Perfect gifts

My kids were given two amazing gifts in the last couple of weeks.
Actually, they were given a lot of amazing gifts because my parents just got back from six weeks of travel and had to buy an extra suitcase to bring home all of the gifts they bought for various family members!
But two stand out as so awesome that I have to share them.
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
The first was not part of their grandparental haul. It was a gift from my brother and his fiancee. My brother is a primary school teacher and he had read this book at school and knew I would love it for the kids.
He was right.
The book has a fantastic message and is told in a way that makes it simple and easy for children to understand. It starts by saying that if you plant a carrot seed or a lettuce seed, a carrot or a lettuce will grow. It then tells of the trouble that can be caused by sowing the seeds of selfishness, and of the rewards that can come from sowing seeds of kindness.
Even with such an excellent story, the real hero of the book is the pictures. They are just exquisite and truly make this book one to cherish. The animal characters are so sweet and you can really see all the emotions on their faces.
I can see why a school teacher was drawn to this book. My children were equally taken by it.
Thanks Uncle M and Aunty S!
Classical Baby:I’m Grown Up Now:The Poetry Show
The second was from the very generous grandparents. This part of the loot was given with some level of dismissiveness. They saw it, it was cheap, they knew I’d love it. They didn’t think it would be as exciting as the other gifts. They were wrong. This may not be a pricey gift, but it is truly a jewel.
We watched it together the very first night. Now, Pickles is not the sit still and watch something type. His idea of watching television usually involves running around and around in a circle, or doing somersaults, or climbing on the couch. But for this he sat still for the whole 30 minute run time. The only time that he moved was to run and get his copy of The Owl and the Pussycat when it came on so that he could “read along”.
There are four elements that make this dvd pure magic.
The first is obviously the poems themselves. The poetry chosen is perfect introductory poetry. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by the youngest audience. Yet, the poems chosen are absolute classics by the likes of Frost, Shakespeare, and (inevitably) Lear. They are wonderful, wonderful poems.
Secondly, the actors (including John Lithgow, Andy Garcia, Gwyneth Paltrow and Susan Sarandon) chosen to read the poems have beautiful reading voices and read the poems with just the right intonation and rhythm. You can really tell that they love the poetry that they are reading.
Thirdly, the animations. The animations are funny, beautiful, and soothing in equal parts. They work to hold the attention of the little viewer, while at the same time calming them. Pickles had a much smoother than usual transition to bedtime after watching this.
Finally, there are children interviewed about the poems and about poetry more generally. This is probably my favourite part of the dvd. The children are just gorgeous and their enthusiasm for the poetry is simply infectious. I think it’s great for kids to see other kids who enjoy poetry like this.
The whole dvd is just sublime. It was a treasure of a find, and I will be buying more copies to give as presents. If you have a little person, or know a little person, I highly recommend this as a Christmas gift.
Thanks Nanny and Papa!
You can find them at Amazon through the affiliate links below:

Bookends to My Day

A sleepy morning kiss,
A tiny-armed embrace.
No amount of coffee,
Could beat that little face.
And thus the day begins
With all its ups and downs.
The work, the rest, the play.
The laughter and the frowns.
But when the bold moon rises
To herald in the night.
A happy bedtime ritual
Makes everything just right.
Cuddles in the morning,
A big hug before bed.
A smattering of kisses,
Atop a tiny head.
Nothing else around,
Could make me feel this way.
Those perfect little moments;
Bookends to my day.

Prose for Thought


Top 7 Books About Friendship

This week’s Booktober list celebrates all types of friendship in picture books. One of the most wonderful thing about children is they can make friends with anyone. Things that may be barriers for adults, such as whether the friend is actually a person at all, are not a problem for kids. These books about friendship look at that innocent joy.
1. Corduroy by Don Freeman
I remember absolutely loving this book as a kid. It really made me feel something. My heart ached for both Corduroy and the little girl when her mum said she couldn’t have him because he was missing a button. My heart leaped with joy when she came back for him the next day. I still feel like that when I’m reading it now, and I see those same emotions reflected on Pickles’ face as we read it together.
Corduroy thinks he needs to find his missing button in order for Lisa to accept him as a friend. He is desolate when he can’t find one. But in the end, she comes back for him anyway:

“You must be a friend,” said Corduroy. “I’ve always wanted a friend.”
“Me too!” said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.

Pickles always insists on having a big hug himself after this heartwarming ending. I love that it shows the friendship between a child and a teddy bear. I told everything to my teddy bears when I was little. Pickles already refers to the massive pile of stuffed animals that he keeps on his bed collectively as his friends. He loves this story and I still do too.
2. The Very Itchy Bear by Nick Bland
Last week in my Top 7 Books in Rhyme I included The Very Cranky Bear, so I wasn’t sure whether or not to include his itchy self in this list. I couldn’t go passed it though. The friendship between a bear and a flea is a very special friendship indeed.
Flea bites Bear to say hello. Despite the friendliness of the motivation, Bear is not impressed. He doesn’t much like being bitten. So he jumps into the water and flicks Flea off of his fur. But he realises that he is better off with Flea in his life just in time to save him from a hungry bird.
The ending is the greatest. There is a picture of the big Bear reading a book to the tiny Flea. The text reads:

This is Flea
and this is Bear.
Together they go everywhere.

It’s great for opening up a discussion about how our friends don’t need to look like us. Sometimes you can find friendship in the most unexpected places.
The book has Nick Bland’s characteristically wonderful rhyming style, and fantastic, funny, bright pictures. We always love this bear.
3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
This book makes me choke up a bit every time I read it. One time when I was reading it to Pickles and pregnant with Pords, the hormones and sentiment got to me and I sobbed to my husband: “That’s me. I’m the tree.”
The Giving Tree tells the story of a boy and a tree. When the boy is young, he spends all his free time with the tree. The tree loved the boy and gave him everything of itself. As time goes by, the boy grows and spends less and less time with the tree. But the tree goes on loving the boy and giving everything it has to make the boy happy. His happiness is the tree’s happiness.
The pictures and text of this book are simple but everything about it is beautiful. Of course the story can be a metaphor for many relationships, but at its essence I also love the fact that it tells the story of a friendship between a boy and a tree. It is a pure, joyful friendship. I hope that my children are able to find friends in nature too.
This book is a true classic. If you’ve never read it, stop reading this right now, go to the library and borrow it! You won’t regret it.
4. Slinky Malinki Catflaps by Lynley Dodd
Slinky Malinki is one of the recurring cat characters in Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary universe and a particular favourite in our cat-loving household.
In this book, Slinky Malinki squeezes out of the catflap and calls out into the night to see who is about. Various friends appear from around the place and they have a good old catch up, until the villainous Scarface Claw (Pickles’ hero) comes to spoil the party.
I love the description of the group of cat friends “hobnobbing happily, ten in a row.” The cats are all different shapes and sizes and colours, but they are just content sitting in one another’s company. It gives you that feeling of what it’s like to catch up with a group of good friends.
Like all of Lynley Dodd’s books, this is an excellent read-aloud rhyme and the pictures are playful and attractive.
5. Little Pip and the Rainbow Wish by Elizabeth Baguley and Caroline Pedler
When I was pregnant with Pickles, my husband and I referred to him as “Pip” and we often still use it as his nickname. So when we saw this book, we just had to get it. He has always loved that the mouse has his name. He loves it even more at the moment because there are dandelions in it and he is going through a dandelion picking phase. So it’s on high reading rotation at our place.
This book is especially good for shy kids; kids who tend to stand at the edges of things for fear of rejection. Little Pip thinks he needs to capture the rainbow in order for Milly and Spike to be his friends, but in trying and failing to catch it alongside them, he realises that they are his friends even without the rainbow.
It’s also a good book for talking about feelings. There are good visual prompts to ask your child how Pip is feeling at various times as his emotions change. You can talk about how it feels to be excluded or included. You can talk about your child’s own experience with friendships, exclusion, or inclusion.
The pictures are delightful, and there are shiny, shimmery bits in this book that kids just love. The night sky on the last page is particularly impressive and I love the line: “the night sky burst into a brilliant sparkling of stars.”
6. Friends by Helen Oxenbury
I’ve often said on this blog that books with minimal text, or no words at all, are often the best books for young children. That’s what the research tends to suggest. It’s also what I’ve found personally when reading to my two little ones. Often when there is too much text, we just ignore it anyway and make up our own stories (the exception always being rhyme, of which I can never get enough!)
This book by the very talented Helen Oxenbury is a picture book in it’s purest form; it only has pictures. This means when I “read it” to my kids, the stories I tell and the discussions we have are almost always linked to their own lives. This is great for their learning and development. It is also great for the ongoing building of our relationship and bonding.
The book is a series of illustrations of a baby with various animal friends. I love to talk to my children about how they can develop friendships with animals. We talk about the qualities that an animal might have that would make them a good friend.
The pictures are absolutely the gorgeous. The baby is so happy and relaxed around the animals. The expression on the animals faces is sometimes slightly more alarmed but they all go along with him hugging them, or picking them up. I particularly love the expression on the cat’s face as the baby falls asleep against its fur.
This book is really just a delight.
7. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and William Nicholson
To balance out the wordless book, I’m including this one which has lots more words than the other books on the list. But it is a great one for showing the power of strong friendship.
Like Corduroy, it shows the love between a child and a stuffed toy. The little boy loves the velveteen rabbit ferociously. They do everything together. When the boy gets very ill, the rabbit is of great comfort to him, but the child’s doctor says he must be disposed of when the boy is well. All ends happily for the rabbit though, as the friendship between he and the boy mean that he can now be a real rabbit.

“Wasn’t I Real before?” asked the little Rabbit.
“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one.”

There are parts of this book that are quite sad, but it is a great one for talking about unconditional love and friendship.

So that’s my seven for this week. But it would be remiss of me not to add in The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. I have read bits of this to my kids at various times of their life, but we haven’t managed to get the whole way through yet as it is still a bit long. That’s why it’s not in the list, but I’m looking forward to them being old enough to appreciate the perfect friendship between Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin.
Pooh and Me
What other books would you add to the list? What is your favourite literary friendship?


Coding for kids

In a somewhat revolutionary move, The American Academy of Pediatrics is considering revising its renowned screen time recommendations for young children. On the Academy’s website, Doctors Brown, Shifrin and Hill say:

In a world where “screen time” is becoming simply “time,” our policies must evolve or become obsolete… Digital life begins at a young age, and so must parental guidance. Children who are “growing up digital” should learn healthy concepts of digital citizenship.

No matter how much you seek to restrict their screen time, your children are part of a generation for whom technology will be an integral part of everyday life.
The question then is not how we can remove it from our children’s lives, but how we can empower them to understand and be in control of the technology around them.
Language is power
As the mother of a baby and a toddler, I’m developing a whole new appreciation for the power of language. My baby screams because she cannot tell me what she wants and sometimes I just don’t know. With each new word my toddler learns, he moves away from this frustration. Language empowers him.
Similarly when we arrive in a foreign land, knowing even a few words or phrases of the language can be invaluable. We can move from feeling lost and vulnerable, to empowered.
Learning a computer coding language is just like learning any other language. It empowers you in the digital space.
Give your kids the power
Despite your best efforts, technology will be an important part of their lives as they grow. The risk with trying to limit all access to screens is that your children become mere passive consumers; increasingly reliant on technology but with no real understanding of how it works.
My husband is a computer programmer and digital expert. When our children are learning how to read, they will also be learning how to code computers. They are living in a digital age, in a digital world. I want them to be able to face that world with knowledge and confidence.
To that end, we are developing a series of lessons for primary school aged children. We are looking for children between the ages of 5 and 12 to complete the first set of three lessons. If you have kids that age and would like them to take part, please sign up below.
The details
You will receive an email with a new lesson on Monday 16th, Monday 23rd, and Monday 30th November 2015.
The lessons are designed for short attention spans. They should only take around 15 minutes each to complete.
There is no prior assumed knowledge except a basic reading level (or a parent willing to assist who has a basic reading level) and the ability to operate a keyboard.
The lessons are completely free. We just ask that you fill in a short feedback form after each lesson before we send you the next one.
If you subscribe in this round, you will also have the option of getting free access to the next set of lessons to further develop your child’s skills.
We do not need to know your children’s names or any details that would identify them. Your email details will not be used for any purpose other than receiving information about these lessons. You can opt out at any time.
If you are interested in taking part, please sign up by entering your email address below. If you know anyone who might be interested, please share!