Saturday, July 25, 2009

ThingOne's first cinema trip

Today I took ThingOne into town on the bus for a special treat. Her first trip to the cinema. I'd been thinking she was old enough now, but had been waiting for the right film. I didn't want it to be too fast or confusing for her. I didn't want it to go over her head. If anything I wanted the film to be secondary to the experience of going to the cinema.

When I saw earlier in the week that The Little Polar Bear - The Mysterious Island (aka The Little Polar Bear 2) was being show as the Kids Club film in our local arts cinema on Saturday morning I thought it was ideal. I'd never heard of it. It's a German cartoon apparently (dubbed into English, which is good since ThingOne doesn't really do subtitles). Reviews warned that there wasn't much in it for older children but might keep toddlers interested.

The kids' session in the cinema is good. Cheap, especially as the kid's ticket costs and an adult goes free. I'd decided to splash out on some popcorn to really show her the cinema experience, and it wasn't until I paid that I found they had a special on popcorn for the kids' films. It ended up costing me less than a fiver for both of us plus a small popcorn.

She loved the popcorn. Except I told her at one point that a piece I had looked like a dinosaur, and then found I'd created a game whereby we had to tell each other what each piece looked like. ThingOne seemed to have limitless imagination ("This one looks like a bird, sitting down", "This one looks like a sea monster's head and shoulders"). I soon found myself clutching at straws ("This one looks like a cloud", "This one looks like a cat's back leg").

Soon the lights went down, ThingOne got excited, she tried to read the Federation Against Copyright Theft wording ("You! It says You!") and then the movie began.

She's seen full films on DVD, so I knew she could sit through 75 minutes (that's usually how long kid's movies last). We tend to show her them in three 25 minute sittings though. Once she's seen a film a few times through she has occasionally sat through the whole thing but she's used to seeing films as three part storys, what she calls the beginning, middle and end. In a way she's now well versed in the three act structure. She's never watch a film she's not seen before all the way through though, so I was concerned it may prove too much.

It was a pretty simple story, so probably ideal for her. She wanted very much to break it up into three acts ("Is this bit the beginning, the middle or the end?") and we talked a fair bit through it. Partly this was me explaining what was happening to her and what the names of all the characters were. This was fair enough as there were a lot of characters, and the script wasn't the best. The dubbing was even worse at times and the use of regional accents to differentiate species was not useful. It was as well it was a kids' screening, since I wouldn't want to be sat near us in a normal screening (say, for example, if Anne and I had gone to an evening showing of The Little Polar Bear 2). By an hour and five minutes in she was asking if it was near the end, so I'm glad I didn't start her on a longer movie (say, The Godfather, Part II).

ThingOne seemed mesmerised by the whole thing, and seemed to want to get the film on DVD so we could watch it over and over again. That ain't going to happen. As someone who has mixed feelings about Disney movies and their merits I can at least now appreciate their strong points and especially their songs more. The song in TLPB2 was pretty dire. But again, I should stress that ThingOne had a great time with it so I think it was a good choice.

I ignored the Federation Against Copyright Theft's warning, and took a photo of her enjoying her popcorn.

After the movie we stayed to the end of the credits, not because ThingOne has sufficient respect for the creative process as much as she wanted to hear the substandard song again. Plus she was interested in who would turn the screen off after the credits had rolled. She seemed to think a staff member would have to go down the front to press the switch. The fool! Then we went to Wagamamas for some lunch, and then the bus back home.

She seemed so grown up to me today, especially as I watched her slurp her noodles and try to use kiddie chopsticks in Wagamamas (mostly she just used her fingers). Anne and I are really trying to make the most of these early years with her, since in just over a year she'll be in school, and we know how quickly a year seems to go with kids. I don't know for sure what she got out of the cinema experience, but she's talked about it a lot since and I had a really good time. I'd been excited about taking her and have been waiting for the opportunity (whilst accepting that she's still a little young for it). Maybe today was more for me than for her.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A daddy by any other name

"Call me Daddy."
"Are you calling me Dad because last weekend Sam and Nathan called their Mummy and Daddy Mum and Dad?"
"Yes Dad."
"Right. Well in that case if you call me Dad I'll call you Nathan."
"OK Dad."
"OK Nathan."
"I'm ThingOne!"
"Hello ThingOne. I'm Daddy."
"Hi Dad."
"Hi Nathan."

I know that since, technically, I'm the grown up I should be the one to relent here, but I just can't. I really just can't.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sick and Wii

We normally shy away from long car journeys with the kids, but we'd arranged to visit people two weekends in a row, so were pretty chuffed when the traffic was a breeze on the way to and from Hastings two weekends ago. We were there visiting friends, Ian and Sarah, who have an almost-two year old girl, Millie. She and our two got on pretty well, and Millie especially impressively handled two interlopers arriving to play with all her toys. I like to think we performed a service by giving Ian and Sarah a glimpse into their future when Millie reaches three and a half, with all the constant questioning it brings.

ThingOne knew she was turning three and a half on the Saturday, and was convinced there'd be cake, if not presents. As it was she was satisfied with her first ride on a roller coaster. I went on with her, and she beamed all the way round, screaming in appropriate places. It was, of course, a kids' roller coaster. This was apparent as I couldn't close the safety bar, being as I was too big for the carriage. The attendant seemed satisfied that my mass jammed in the carriage would prevent ThingOne from falling out so the bar was not needed.

This last weekend we visited Simon and Kate in Birmingham. They have two boys: Sam (nearly 9) and Nathan (6). Unfortunately the traffic gods weren't so kind to us this weekend and we spent two hours driving four miles on the A14, making it a four hour journey overall. Gah! To make matters worse ThingTwo was (voluminously) sick all over herself and her car seat just before we hit the queue. We stopped the car, changed her and tried to clean it up, but throughout the rest of our slow, stressful journey the car stank. I'd brought snacks for the kids, and had fortunately found half a pack of chocolate buttons in the cupboard. They helped keep the kids placated as we crawled along the road. We heard Imelda Staunton reading "The Gruffalo and Other Stories" more times than I care to remember that day.

The weekend was great though. It was interesting to see how ThingOne and ThingTwo reacted to having older boys around. They were both pretty keen on them. ThingOne wanted to do everything they were doing, and fortunately Sam and Nathan were pretty keen on the girls too. They showed the girls their chickens, and let ThingOne help feed them. Sam played music for ThingOne to dance to, and they also showed her how to play with their Wii console. I'd been wondering at what age I could get one of these and justify it as being "for the kids", but I don't think ThingOne's quite there yet. Maybe by Christmas...?


I'd never played with a Wii either, and Sam was keen to play the tennis game against me. I was a little confused, buy managed to pick up how to hit the ball, and even won my first game. I was pretty pleased. I then realised I'd just beaten a nine year old at his own game and wondered if that was the done thing. He was a little quiet. I let him win the next game and he was excited again. I think I'd managed to restore balance to the universe. I'd better get better at this aspect of parenting by the time my kids are competitive.

I was pleased that a skill I'd learned as a child was still valid today when I saw the boys playing with a Rubiks Magic. I showed them that I could complete it quickly (it just came back to me), and Sam shouted "Sick!" "Oh, can you smell it?" I asked? I checked to see if ThingTwo had been sick again, or whether I had any on me. Anne burst out laughing and called me an old man. I was baffled.

You see, it turns out "Sick" means that something is good. Sam was attempting to convey that he was impressed by my aptitude with the Rubiks Magic. How is anyone supposed to know what "Sick" means nowadays? It's just bad English. I felt very out of touch. I'm just glad ThingOne's too young to be embarrassed by me. When does that start? How long have I got?

On Sunday we drove out to a National Trust property to play in the gardens. Simon kindly took us on an extended tour of the countryside first, before we offered to take the lead and use the sat nav to find the place once Simon had admitted he was lost. (It turns out he had a sat nav in the car but hadn't realised it was there - bless.)

The kids had a great time playing hide and seek in the gardens (as did we). ThingOne especially was loving playing with the big boys, and keeps talking about how she followed Sam into a bush to hide. This is quite impressive, since ThingOne's normal idea of hiding is to lie on the floor in plain sight and then jump up and shout "Here I am" as you walk into the room.

I'm pleased to say the journey home went smoothly, and vomitlessly.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Get some air

I had a day off work today and went with the girls, and a local playgroup, to Shepreth Wildlife Park. We went on the train, which was a treat in itself for our girls who rarely get to travel by train.

We had a good time showing the girls various animals. After lunch we hit the playground, which was a big hit with all the kids. ThingOne seemed to particularly enjoy the trampoline.

Contrary to what several people said when they saw ThingOne's gleeful bouncing, or the photos of said bouncing, WE ARE NOT GETTING A TRAMPOLINE IN OUR GARDEN.
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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Something for the weekend?

I'm not sure that anyone who had emetophobia could put up with parenting. I've seen more vomit this weekend than is right for a decent human being.

Poor ThingOne has had a really high fever and, especially on Sunday, was just wiped out. The weekend started well for her. She got her silver medal at dance class on Saturday morning, but by the time we got to an NCT picnic at Wandlebury she was wiped and just wanted to cuddle up to her mum. The kids were taken to look at wildlife in a pond at one point, but this was more interesting for Anne than it was for the grumpy toddler.

Much of the rest of the weekend she spent in front of the TV, feeling sorry for herself. At times she got particularly feverish and started to talk nonsense. Anne had her counting to 100 to ensure she was with it. and I gave her a quick neurological check by ensuring she knew every Charlie and Lola episode title and what happened in each one.

ThingOne went to bed quite hot tonight, and I'm hoping she'll be feeling better tomorrow. It's so sad to see her ill. She tends to get dramatically ill quite quickly, and often recovers at a similar rate.

I'm sure the makers of Calpol are doing better than many companies during the current recession.