R and G would like a playhouse for the garden. As they cost at least £150 for a decent one we can’t afford to buy one new. Dh has been scouring Freecycle for a while but they rarely appear. The book group organiser sent an email to the gang a couple of weeks ago and buried among the p.s’s was the offer of a playhouse.

I replied instantly in a ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ moment and today we went to view said playhouse. R was more interested in the six year old girl (who had outgrown it) and her friend that had come to play. R regards 6 as the age at which you become a grown-up: when you can drive cars, ignore silly babies and do proper grown-up games.

The girls decided that they would like to have the house so the parents have made arrangements. They didn’t want anything for the playhouse (brown, plastic, not too girly, slightly grubby, sturdy) but I said I would give them some wine as a thank you gesture.

We’re expecting to take delivery in the next few days when the previous owner has finished dismantling it and swearing. I kindly offered Dh’s services and he was invited to dad drinks, but can’t attend as he’s on late shift next week 😦

Once the playhouse is in situ I hope we get a run of gorgeous weather so that the girls can play outside all Summer…

Getting technical

One of the girls’ friends got a Leap-Pad Explorer (essentially an iPad specifically designed for pre-schoolers) for her recent 4th birthday from a generous uncle. Said friend opened it up, played with it for a few minutes and discarded it…until R and G came to play. During their usual ‘We’re at someone else’s house so we have to play with ALL of their toys within five minutes of arriving’ thing, G discovered the Leap-Pad and we essentially lost her for the next hour or two.

G definitely takes after her father when it comes to gadgets. I wish I’d taken a picture of Dh and G together, she perched on his lap completing game after game, he with one arm around G whilst holding a beer in the other. It was a perfect moment of father-daughter harmony. She picked up the principle of the machine in seconds, although she found the sluggish response time of the screen more than a little frustrated. R and their friend realised that G was hogging this particular toy and sought to deprive her of it. A three-way stand-off ensued until R and C were called upon to assist with making apple and rhubarb crumble, leaving G to complete the penguin game in peace.

There’s a tussle between parents that give their child a hand-held gaming device for their 2nd birthday and those who think that computers are essentially evil and that all pre-school children should play with mud and sticks until they are absolutely forced to use a machine to complete homework.

I’m ambivalent about the girls having access to computers at this age. I don’t think a little bit of educational computer work does them any harm – the girls are very fond of the games on the Ben and Holly website – but I wouldn’t want to lose them to a screen for hours at a time, for precisely the same reasons that I have always rationed their TV watching. The girls are going to be using computers when they start school, so they may as well familiarise themselves with the concept. However, the world is too exciting and there is more to life than staring at a screen (says she tapping away on her laptop), plus they have years to spend in front of a computer when they go to school and work. In any case, Dh is a ‘gamer’ and I’m pretty fond of the odd game of The Sims and Just Dance, so I can’t be a hypocrite and deny the existence of games when the girls can see the evidence all around them.

R is definitely more of an active outdoorsy girl whereas G prefers being indoors with a colouring book, but they are both taken with gadgets. I downloaded a Peppa Pig app onto my iPhone over the weekend and G is already a master of the piñata game. I showed them my (sadly neglected) Nintendo DS Lite and I’m wondering if I’ll ever get to do my brain training exercises again as they played the mini games on Super Mario and patted my poor old Nintendog. Dh is already hatching plans to add a second DS to the collection and I think I’ll be donating mine to the girls…for small bouts of controlled gameplay with an educational bent of course. It won’t do them any harm.

Childhood connections

In the run-up to my 30th Birthday I started doing a lot of looking back through my life. I’m someone that goes headlong into things and charges through life, barely pausing to stop for breath. My priorities had always been goal achievement: exams, degrees, jobs, marriage, babies…and then I was nearly thirty and there wasn’t a whole lot left on the life tick-box to, well…tick off.

I found myself with a desire to reconnect with my life as lived so far. I bought the music that sound tracked my childhood (Squeeze, Dire Straits and Paul Simon, among others) and rediscovered it. I hunted for my favourite old children’s programmes (the original Postman Pat and Pigeon Street) on YouTube. It felt like I had to look back and reclaim bits of my 29 years in order to move forward again.

Now in my early thirties, I was prompted to think about the toys from my childhood by the final film in the Toy Story trilogy. When exactly had I stopped playing with the toys I adored as a child?

My parents are currently in the process of sorting out their house. My Dad is very much of the ‘If you don’t use it get rid of it’ school. My Mum…isn’t. She’s finding the whole process extremely painful. While I’m eternally grateful to my Dad for persuading my Mum to finally get rid of my potty, I was almost giddy with joy at the prospect of being reunited with some of my most beloved childhood toys.

My parents visited a couple of weeks ago and handed me a box choc-full of memories: Tootsie, (my first and favourite My Little Pony), Rock star Barbie (the clothes for my Barbie dolls immediately pin me as a child of the 1980s – shoulder pads ruled) and my flower fairies. My face was apparently a picture as I lifted each toy out of the box and recalled a series of stories about them – when and how I got them and anecdotes galore. I was very careful with my possessions as a child and, despite the normal wear and tear you would expect from toys that are c.25 years old, they were all in pretty good and perfectly playable condition. I actually got quite emotional about it, sentimental old goat that I am.

The girls were intrigued by the toys and certainly liked the ponies a lot. However, I’m not going to give them to the girls just yet. On a practical level, lots of the accessories are quite small and I don’t want them to get broken or lost. The underlying reason is that I’m not quite ready to let go of my toys at this point. R and G are still relatively young and I want them to appreciate my old toys, not abuse them. There’s time enough for them to discover Mummy’s ponies and dollies when they’re a couple of years older.

I have vivid memories of playing with these toys as a child but no matter how hard I try, I can’t recall the point at which I put away my childish things and consigned my dolls and ponies to the cupboard or ottoman, never to play with them again…until recently. I guess it’s the process that’s illustrated so beautifully in Toy Story 2 – as you get older and develop different interests, the toys from your childhood become much less interesting and get replaced by things more befitting your age. You don’t consciously abandon them, but you have to let go subconsciously to move on.

Having rediscovered my favourite toys again, I’m not ready for them to start the next chapter yet.

Marley Doggy Too

We haven’t found G’s doggy yet. Dh and I have been back into the supermarket where he and G parted ways a couple of weeks ago on several occasions since, but there’s been no sign of him. G seems to have accepted that he’s gone, although she often makes references to him in conversation:

“My doggy is still shopping. He’s eating lots of chocolate and will be back in two or three days”

“My doggy is lost in the supermarket”

G has slowly adopted R’s Marley (slightly less loved) over the last week or so. At first R was resistant. G took Doggy 2 to bed with her one night last week and when she woke up the next morning she held him aloft and shouted “DOGGY HAS COME BACK MUMMY! HE’S BACK! HE’S BACK!”, to which R replied sleepily from her bed “You’re just looking after my doggy G”. G looked crestfallen and immediately rejected D2.

We subsequently had a quiet word with R and asked if she minded G looking after her doggy as she was very sad about losing hers. R loves to feel superior to her sister (it’s a sibling thing), so has gone along with out plan and G is gradually making the replacement doggy her own.

It still doesn’t feel quite right though. I still hope that the original doggy will make a miraculous reappearance.