Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rock Star?

I am almost certain that Nicholas will be a musician, at the very least as a hobby. He is always singing and/or playing with instruments.

Although I try and give him only well-tuned 'proper' instruments (bells, xylophone, recorder, keyboard etc.) he got this tacky toy guitar in a magazine my auntie bought him and loves it!

This is an example of one of his many daily 'concerts'...

Sometimes he sings with actual words (nursery rhymes etc.) but more often it is his own compositions.

And if you think the sunglasses look a bit off - he has learned how to put them on himself, but hasn't figured out which way up they go...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Running Update

We haven't actually managed the structured running program I had hoped to implement - the only safe paths to run are made of compressed mud - and we had around two months of solid rain, so you can guess how that worked!

Now, the sun has come out and gone to the other extreme - it is too hot! Well, too hot for me at least! I really don't cope with heat...

Nicholas has taken matters into his own hands. He runs everywhere! The round trip to our local shop and back is just over half a mile and he runs almost exclusively (barring crossing roads). Likewise, he runs to playgroup, and most of the (0.8 miles) back from grandma's, too!

I still want a little more structure (too much pent up energy!!!) but for now, he's still running further than I can!

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I have been trying to get Nikki to understand the concept of words being made of sounds. He knows all his letter sounds (thanks to that infernal leapfrog dvd) but doesn't seem to 'get' that apple starts with an 'a' sound.

In an attempt to encourage him, I asked him to guess what his snack would be. I thought he would get it really easily, since he picked it out yesterday, so I asked him "What is round and starts with a 'd' sound".

He grinned and answered "The letter D!"

The answer I wanted was doughnut, but I can't say he was wrong!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Russian Poetry

Nicholas' current favourite book is a selection of Russian poetry - specifically a poem about three boys running around pretending to be cars, boats and planes. We read it at least twice a day...

Nicholas has almost memorised the poem, which covers four pages in his book! It is great for vocabulary building - there are several useful words that you wouldn't use in every day conversation - as well as being good for learning the natural rhythms of the language.

When we read it, I will pause several times (every two-three lines) to let Nikki fill in the gap. Most of the time, he does so correctly and I am slowly adding more pauses. I can't wait until he can recite is on his own!

I had planned on doing this with the short 4-5 line poems we have, but he doesn't want to sit and listen to them and isn't interested in reciting. Learning such a long poem will take a while, but he chose it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I was given a bag of old crayons at playgroup last week and, having seen the many beautiful home-made crayons other blogging mums have made, I was excited to get melting!

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as others make it look. For some reason, the crayon colour settled and a whitish layer of wax formed on the top. I read about this online - all you do is mix in the colour again before it sets.

Simpler said than done - I learned the hard way that the wax re-separates unless you mix it just at the point when it is setting. This meant that the tops of my crayons are lumpy and not very pretty. One crayon started to fall apart, so I hand moulded it and re-melted the outside on the still-hot pan - this led me to eventually forming a rock-like crayon (like the ones I've adored on etsy for a while) but I lost half the wax in the process and it also left me with a pan covered in wax, which is very awkward to remove once set...

Nikki doesn't seem to mind the imperfect crayons, though!

Linking up to
 Tuesday Tots

Climbing Frame!

Once he became confident with the concept of mobility, Nikki suddenly started acting much more like a little boy. Before he could walk, he was happy to sit and play quiet games for ages. Now, he wants me to read his favourite poem whilst he runs up and down the hall!

Due to the fact that we a) don't have a garden of our own and b) live in England, there can be days or even weeks when we don't leave the house for any non-essential reasons. This means that we will go to playgroup or the shops but avoid the play area - too wet/too cold/too muddy etc.

Nikki doesn't appreciate this. He doesn't care that the swing seats are sodden or the climbing frame is slippery - he want's to swing and climb! He also has far too much energy on the days when we go running or walk for miles; if we don't get out he is almost unbearably energetic!

Thus, to burn off some of that energy on rainy days, we bought him an indoor climbing frame for his bedroom. This is something which a lot of Russian families have in their flats, and was surprisingly difficult to find in England (the one we ordered had actually been imported from Russia!) but has been a big hit with Nikki, his monkeys and my little brother.

In this picture, you can just about see our safety mat (or a trampoline, as Nikki calls it). The blue on the ladder is a padded anti-climb device, so that Nikki  can only climb when supervised. It also comes in handy for padding the side of his toy chest when his is playing. The climbing rope and rings are tied up to the top of the frame when I'm not in the room.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Nikki had his first visit to the dentist today. Although we practiced how he had to sit nicely and open his mouth several times this morning, he was reluctant to do so when actually faced with a strange person who was intent to put her hands in his mouth. We did, eventually, coax his mouth open and he was chuffed to hear her praise his teeth. In fact, he kept telling me (and Grandma, and Uncle Harry...) all about the "dentist [who] put on gloves and put [her] hands in Nikki's mouth and said Nikki's teeth [are] lovely and gave Nikki a sticker!" - Have I mentioned before that Nikki speaks in long-winded paragraphs? It would be lovely if he could slow down enough to pronounce all the words clearly enough to be understood...

He liked his sticker so much that he had to transfer it to his pyjamas before he went to bed!

"Look at my shiny teeth!"

Improvising Montessori

I love Montessori materials, however their beauty is far beyond what I can realistically afford to spend. I do what I can with Nikki, but a lot of the more specialised activities are hard (or very time consuming) to improvise.

When I was showing Nikki the new scales I bought, we were trying to make them balance with just the weights. This was impossible, since the individual weights we have are all half of the previous one, so the best we can do is 1lb and 15.5 oz. I remembered that we had a set of weights that I bought last year, and dug them out - only to find that they are metric. We managed to estimate the number of grams per ounce (Nikki wasn't patient enough for precision) when a thought struck me. The lovely set of metric weights in their presentation box had a resemblance to the Montessori knobbed cylinders. Similarly, the imperial weights could be likened to the knobless cylinders.

They are not perfect, but since the set of knobbed cylinders I've been coveting are around £100 for the four blocks, I'm happy enough! I'd still like to buy them (eventually, when I win the lottery!) but I am glad that I can introduce the concept now!

Nikki especially loved that the knobbed weights have tweezers in the box! Once he realised, he wanted to use tweeze everything!

The ease with which Nikki matches these weights back into the box makes me think that splashing out on the pretty set might not be worth it. However, he has a lot of trouble putting things into size order (in a row or stacking), so perhaps they would be worth it? Or should I go for the much more affordable knobless cylinders? Or should I simply use what I have? My heart wants them, but my purse is glaring at me for even thinking it!

Linking up to Montessori Mondays

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I have been yearning for a set of old-fashioned kitchen balance scales (the ones with weights) for ages but since they are 'fashionable' again I haven't seen any for under £100, something I refuse to pay for an item I don't actually need...

Today, when I popped into the charity shop after playgroup, I was thrilled to find one, weights and all, for only £5! What a bargain! I had to have it!

Nikki and I played with them for a little while - we weighed his bear and practiced stacking the weights. It was all a bit over his head, but at least he enjoyed it. More importantly, we can practice the concepts of 'heavier' and 'lighter' by comparing the weights.

How much does the bear weigh?

Concentrating hard when stacking the weights!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Future Reporter?

Today, Nikki has been walking around with a notepad and pen, taking notes.

Naturally Powered review

I am a sucker for cleaning products, so was happy to be given some samples of Tesco's new Naturally Powered range to review.

First up: the non-bio washing powder.

I was not very impressed with this. Even when I tried using a lot less than recommended for a hard water area, there were large clumps of powder left in the drawer. I used several different cycles and it didn't make any difference. The washing came out clean enough, but it lacked that freshly-washed smell.

Second: the antibacterial spray cleaner.

What can I say about this? It smells really nice. I wouldn't use it for deep-cleaning (I felt it was no more effective than water for scrubbing off stuck-on mess like spashes of pancake batter and clumps of coffee granuals) but the nice smell makes it good for the day-to-day wipe down of the worktops. I can't comment on the bug-killing quality, since I haven't got any bug-detecting gadgets.

Lastly: the washing up liquid.

I don't feel like the single-use sachet I was given was enough for a proper test of this washing up liquid. It has an inoffensive lemon scent, and produced copious amounts of bubbles. Probably this means that if you had a bottle, you would only need a little squeeze -  more on a par with Fairy than the cheap brands. I did find that my 'rinse' bowl of fresh water was thick with bubbles after only a half-dozen dishes (it usually has next-to-no bubbles at the end of the dishes) but this might just be because there was too much soap in the sachet. I didn't have any really grimy dishes to wash, so I can't say how good it is with them, but from what I could tell, it was better than average.

All in all, I would maybe buy the spray, because it really did smell good, but I wouldn't bother with the others.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Amphibious Adventure

This Sunday, we went for an amphibious adventure!

This is what the busses look like today...

Last year, at my brother's school fair, we had won a voucher for a family trip on London's Duck Tour, which I finally traded in on Sunday. Nikki and I, my Mum and brother went for a ride in a part-bus part-boat modified DUKW (pronounced duck, stands for D-1942 U-amphibious-utility K-front-wheel drive W-rear-wheel drive, believe it or not!) vehicle which had, in a previous life, been to Dunkirk.

The tour went around Westminster and past Buckingham Palace, and seemed to be your regular tourist-tour, with the tour guide trying a little too hard to be funny, and the wind having an icy chill to it...

... and this is their previous guise as a military vehicle

Then we took a sharp turn into the river! Or, rather, we stopped for five minutes to get a 'waterman' - a driver qualified for the wet part of the tour - and then drove down a rather steep beach. I couldn't believe how low we were in the water! It was literally six inches from the window-base! I was glad that I had chosen to sit next to a closed 'window' (of the zippered-down-and-velcro'd pvc variety) - I would have gotten far more wet! When we turned in the river a fair amount of water was splashed up against our  window and a good trickle went down onto my skirt and Nikki's bag. Also, I would have been far more paranoid of Nikki making a dive for it had there been literally nothing to stop him!

As it was, I had my fingers through his belt loops and clung on rather too tight! It was, of course, as safe as it can be when there are no seatbelts and the windows are attached with industrial-strength velcro, but there is the unpredictability of toddlers to take into account...

Approaching the Houses of Parliament

Nikki can't stop talking about the 'long, long drive' in the 'bus in water' - he was less than interested in sightseeing, but his face was a picture when we drove into the Thames! He just can't get over the fact that the bus drove into the water!

All in all, a good morning out! I'm not sure that I could afford to pay the full price, though - our 2 adult, 2 child voucher was worth £62! 

Afterwards, we went to Pizza Express. We had a couple of vouchers (currently available in their supermarket pizzas) to get a second pizza for £2.50 with any pizza. So, Nikki got his own full-size adult pizza! This is what he made of it:

Yes, the pizza was the size of that plate! I was expecting around half a pizza to take home for dinner, but he managed a full 3/4 (minus crusts)!!! My 10-year-old brother managed a staggering 1 pizza, 2 extra slices! I struggled to finish... I simply can't understand where these skinny little boys manage to put all the food they consume!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pennies in my Pocket!

Nikki is currently obsessed with pennies! He has to have all his pennies in his pockets at all times. This morning, I counted 20.

It all started when he learned how to put things in his pockets and take them out again. When we were shopping, if there was a copper coin in my change it was given to Nikki to put in his pocket. At first, I would later re-claim the coin when he took off his coat/trousers. Then he noticed...

Although I periodically re-claim coins (from wherever he has dropped them - we have a constantly money-stewn floor!) he is accumulating more and more and seems to have a rough idea of how many because he gets upset and starts looking for them when I take too many... He refuses to put them in a money box... or rather, keep them there - he's quite happy to put them in so long as I take them out again straight away! It has got to the point that his pockets are so heavy with coins that his trousers are falling down! Either that, or he takes a small funnel from the kitchen and carries them round in that - which means every time he turns around or runs or simply stops concentrating there are pennies EVERYWHERE!

About ten minutes ago, after again picking up handfuls of coins from across the floor, I gave him a small box and a lipstick-pouch (the type that comes with a new handbag) which closes with a popper. He has managed to keep the coins in the box and seems happy, for now, to simply put the box in and out of the pouch and practice closing the popper.

Hopefully soon he will get over this penny-obsession and be content to keep them in a money box!

I'm Back!

Wow. I didn't realise I had been away for quite so long! A whole month of no posts... oops.

Admittedly, I planned to take a couple of weeks over Easter away from blogging, but that seems to have nearly tripled.

I'll be playing catch-up over the next week or two...