To My Beautiful Girl Now You Are Six

How can I describe how much I love you? How much I look forward to each morning when your sleepy smile greets me as I walk into your room and warm arms are flung around my neck. The elfin hair you had as a toddler has become a glorious golden mane now you are six.

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Here you are aged six

There were days when you wouldn’t let me put you down as a baby. I remember having you in a carrier strapped to me so that I could cook dinner. This didn’t last for long though. Your independent streak soon came to the fore. ‘I can do it myself’ is the all too familiar cry I get from you nowadays. There is feistiness too. Like when you told me the other week that, ‘I didn’t know what fun was’ when I dared to suggest a shopping trip to town would be ‘fun’. You are stubborn and will dig in your heels when you don’t want to do something and, though you are small in stature, you are capable of bossing all of us around.

I tried my best to give birth to you naturally, but in the end, just like your brother, you were born by emergency caesarean, with Lady Gaga playing in the background. I should have known from that moment that you were going to be a diva. They had rushed your brother out of the operating theatre to give him oxygen so I never had the crying moment I had with you with him. Oh the relief to hear your lungs spring into action and to hold you on my chest.

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Small but perfectly formed at just over two months old

 

Your weight plummeted so much after you were born that we had to go out and buy premature baby clothes. You steadily put on weight from then but you’re still small for your age now you are six.

Giving birth to you was not only a gift for me and your dad but also for your brother, who adores you. Having a little sister to love and care for has brought out qualities in him that are wonderful to see. From the early days when we taught him to dab you with a damp ball of cotton wool during your bath time, to now when he cuddles up with you on the sofa or plants a kiss on your nose at your classroom door, I am proud of the big brother he has become. Of course you are not perfect, you squabble and fall out like any other siblings but most of the time you are lovely together.

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Getting to know your big brother
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Meeting the Easter Bunny earlier this year

You took a while to start walking and when you finally did it wasn’t easy to find shoes for your tiny feet. But there has been no stopping you since you took your first steps. You’re a whirlwind of energy whether you are bouncing on a trampoline or pirouetting in your ballet class, and you swim like a little fish.

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You seem to take everything in your stride

I am bowled over by your confidence. I was so impressed with how you took starting school in your stride and love the way you make new friends so easily.

Sometimes now you are six I notice how grown up you are becoming. I know that one day you will stop needing me in the way you need me now. You won’t want me washing and drying your hair or putting it into plaits. You will no longer sit on my knee to hear a bedtime story or run into my arms at school pick-up time. One day in the not too distant future I know you will be able to do these things for yourself or will be too embarrassed to show me any affection in public.

Thinking of this time makes me tearful but, although part of me doesn’t want it to happen, I know you’ll become a teenager and you’ll leave home. Although, probably not for a while what with property prices being what they are.

Until then I’m just going to enjoy you being six. I’m going to embrace the pink sparkly trainers, dance round the kitchen with you to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and share girlie chats over cappuccinos and babyccinos in Costa Coffee.

Happy birthday my beautiful girl now you are six.

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You’re such an independent little girl

Searching for the Joy

So it all started with THAT BOOK. I think it was around New Year when it first turned up on my Facebook news feed. You know that time when you’re reflecting on the past, looking to the future and are far more receptive to the idea of making changes to your life.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about you must have been hiding under a pile of unfolded laundry for the last few months. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo is a book that promises to transform your home into a clutter-free space and in doing so, change your whole life.

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This book promises to change your life.

As a self-confessed hoarder I jumped at the chance to get rid of all the stuff around me that I felt was holding me back. In a couple of clicks I had purchased it on Amazon and was eagerly anticipating its arrival through my letter box.

To be honest, the first stage of the decluttering process was easy. As instructed I threw every item of clothing I owned, including shoes and handbags, onto the living room floor and went through each item methodically deciding whether it inspired joy or not. This is what the author asks you to do, if something doesn’t bring you joy, she instructs you to throw it out.

The folding technique Kondo uses was a bit of a challenge initially but when it was completed I felt incredibly proud of my neat drawers and minimalist wardrobe. I also took five big bags of ‘stuff’ to a charity shop.

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Everything in its place.

But then my emotions got involved. The thing is I don’t seem to have the same attachment to my clothes as I do to my children’s. It took me a long time to finally agree to give away items my son had worn when he was a baby and toddler even though, by this time I was expecting a baby girl, and they were going to a good home. It would seem that having children has turned me into a sentimental fool. Every babygrow and t-shirt seemed to bring back memories of a developmental milestone, a funny moment or a day out.

Even now I haven’t had the heart to get rid of the mini morning suit my son wore when his dad and I got married eight years ago, a tie dye t-shirt we bought for him when we were on honeymoon in Brighton and an furry all-in-one pram suit, my daughter also wore, which made them both look like teddy bears. I find it hardest to throw their shoes away. Thoughts of the tentative steps they took whilst barely bending their chubby knees flood into my head. My heart melts and they stay piled up in the cupboard.

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Shoes make me feel sentimental.

Another source of clutter in our house is old cards. When I started out on this process I realised that I had kept every card any of us had been given in the almost nine years we have lived here. The space these take up when you put them all together is mind blowing. My son has celebrated eight birthdays and my daughter five and I have the cards from every one of them. Just seeing a giant three on a card takes me back to when they were that age. I have all of their Christmas cards too.

I am getting better with their clothes and I’ve even given away and sold old toys they have outgrown. Some of these toys tug at the heart strings more than others. Saying farewell to my daughter’s Happyland was much harder for me than for her but I’ve consoled myself with how much joy playing with them used to bring her and hopefully they will do the same thing for their new owners. These days she is far more interested in building random things with her Lego Friends bricks to give them a second thought.

I try, wherever possible, to make sure things go to a good home. I’ve sent books to a nursery, toys to a Sunday school and blankets and sheets to my children’s school for den building. Most weeks I will take a bag or two into one of my favourite charity shops.

So I’m getting there, our home is actually looking less cluttered these days. You can actually see the floor in some places. I’ve realised this task is going to take a while. I’m several months into the process but there is still so much to do or should I say so much to go. Watch this space (there is so much more of it than there used to be) and I’ll keep you informed.

The wonder of books

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr Seus

One of the pleasures of having children in your life is being able to read to them. You have the chance to open up to them, to steal a song title from the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Movie, a world of pure imagination. They can visit places, meet characters and have adventures that would never be possible in the real world.

I just love the expression on a child’s face when they are enthralled by a work of fiction – that wide-eyed expectation as the plot unfolds. Then the forlorn look when the book ends or the chapter draws to a close and they want to hear more.

As parents you can relive your childhood by sharing those books you loved when you were little. What a pleasure it was to read Gobbolino the Witches Cat to my daughter and to share the Narnia books with my son. You can also catch up on the books you missed out on. I don’t remember Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea the first time around (it was first published in 1968), but I must have read it to my children a hundred times. It has also been wonderful to read most of Roald Dahl’s back catalogue to my son and for us to experience them together for the first time.

There are some wonderful treasures from the past out there. Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in the 1920s, but the tales of Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore et al in Hundred Acre Wood kept my two entertained when they were growing up. Enid Blyton is another writer who still appeals to my youngsters. My five-and-a-half year-old daughter was enthralled by The Adventures of the Wishing Chair, tales that I remember fired up my imagination back in the day. Her eight-year-old brother is also quite keen on The Secret Seven books, a present from his nanna Sharon, who loved them when she was young.

Pippi Longstocking has been a recent discovery. The book, by Astrid Lindgren, was first published in 1945 in Sweden, but we have a lovely modern edition, illustrated by Lauren Child of Charlie and Lola fame. My daughter has been so drawn into the adventures of this unconventional nine-year-old with superhuman strength that she asked to dress up as her for World Book Day. We are also big fans of Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books in our house, worth a look just for the brilliant illustrations, and on book shelves since the late 1970s.

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World Book Day 2016 – Grandpa from Grandpa’s Great Escape and Pippi Longstocking

I am just as passionate about modern children’s books. My son and daughter have been brought up listening to and reading Julia Donaldson’s inspiring picture books. In fact I can still recite the adventures of the little brown mouse in the deep dark wood from The Gruffalo if asked to do so. Toddle Waddle was one of my daughter’s favourites by the former Children’s Laureate. She loved the clip clop, hurry scurry and flip flop sounds referred to and, although she has outgrown it now, she still insists that it remains on her book shelf. The same is true of What The Ladybird Heard, another Donaldson classic, featuring two crafty robbers trying to steal a prize cow.

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World Book Day 2014 – Winnie The Witch and the BFG.

Katie Morag is another feisty and independent character my daughter has become fond of. She first saw her featured in the CBeebies TV series of the same name, but more recently has been whisked off to the fictional Isle of Struay , off the west coast of Scotland, in the books by Mairi Hedderwick. My son, having dipped his toe in David Walliams’ Awful Auntie novel last Christmas, went on to finish the rest of his novels by February half term. He is now making his way through Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon books.

I hope he and my daughter will always have their love of reading and it fills my heart with joy to think of all that is out there for them to discover between the covers of so many books.

 

My eight-year-old son’s favourite books

1 Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams

2 Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

3 Demon Dentist by David Walliams

4 Billionaire Boy by David Walliams

5 The Boy In the Dress by David Walliams

6 Awful Auntie by David Walliams

7 Ratburger by David Walliams

8 Mr Stink by David Walliams

9 How to Speak Dragonese by Cressida Cowell

10 How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale by Cressida Cowell

11 War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

12 Five Children and It by E Nesbit

13 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

14 The BFG by Roald Dahl

15 Matilda by Roald Dahl

16 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

17 The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis

18 The Diary of Dennis the Menace by Steven Butler

19 Secret Seven Adventure by Enid Blyton

20 The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton

 

My five-and-a-half-year-old daughter’s choice of books

1 The Singing Mermaid by Julia Donaldson

2 Katie Morag and the Dancing Class by Mairi Hedderwick

3 The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp

4 One Snowy Night (A Tale From Percy’s Park) by Nick Butterworth

5 Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr

6 Paddington by Michael Bond

7 Calm Down Boris by Sam Lloyd

8 The Mr Men and Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves

9 The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson

10 The Adventures of the Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton

11 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

12 Gobbolino the Witches Cat by Ursula Williams

13 The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook by Shirley Hughes

14 I will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato (Charlie and Lola)by Lauren Child

15 The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand

16 How To Hide A Lion by Helen Stephens

17 How To Hide A Lion From Grandma by Helen Stephens

18 The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

19 My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards

20 Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird

Has the age of not believing arrived?

Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a movie I remember fondly from my childhood and one I’ve watched many times with my own children. So it was lovely to hear The Age of Not Believing on the radio to mark Angela Lansbury’s 90th birthday this week. The song stayed in my head, playing on my internal jukebox, for the rest of the weekend and into Monday. Then it happened. The fairy door appeared, firmly attached to the skirting board in my five-year-old daughter’s room. I hold my hands up, it was me. I put it there. But this deception has already reaped rewards. My little girl believes with all her heart that there is a fairy living on the other side of that door and berates her brother for threatening to knock on it. She has been creeping around her room in the mornings worried about waking her fairy from her slumber and is convinced she will only open the door when she’s asleep. My little girl plans to write a letter to leave on the fairy’s doorstep. I love that this has sparked her imagination. I’m already thinking about what I can use for fairy dust, the games I can play.

Since they were small, I’ve tried to bring a whole host of figures to life for my children – Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy – they have all visited our humble abode. Santa has left snowy footprints and mince pie crumbs as well as presents when he’s been down our chimney.  I expect he was slightly unsteady on his feet after the 7% Christmas ale we left out last year. The Easter bunny has left chocolate eggs hidden around our living room and at nanny’s too. While the tooth fairy even came to our campsite in France after my son lost his tooth during our summer holiday. We decided to come down on the generous side of the exchange rate so he got 2 euros, which was slightly more than the pound he is used to. But how long this will continue is anyone’s guess, for the seeds of doubt are already being sown in my eight-year-old’s mind.

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The door to another kingdom?

On Monday he took one look at the fairy door and raised an eyebrow in my direction. “Could I have a word in private, please mummy? he said. In his room, he took me to one side. “Did you put that door on the wall,” he said in hushed tones, just in case she was eavesdropping . “I promise I won’t say anything.”  I tried my best to look shocked at the suggestion and of course I denied all knowledge of how the fairy door had arrived where it was. There was no way I was going to tell him I had been  fumbling around in the dark, trying several times to get it to stick to the wall. I could tell he was doubtful but luckily he played along for his sister’s sake.

So it has started. One by one all those creatures I have helped to bring to life in his imagination will disappear as he grows up and reality sets in. Part of me wants to blow my savings and take him to the North Pole to prove that Santa is real. But this would only temporarily halt the process, eventually he’ll find out the truth. But I’m not going to tell him. It’s something he is going to have to work out for himself.