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From Balance Bike to Pedal Bike - Stabilizers Not Included.

Seemingly just like that he learned to ride today. Despite the grimness of the weather today (oh how we fluked it big time on Friday for the treasure hunt and bonfire birthday party!) which put us off our initial plan of visiting the bike shop straight after Church (at which we sang Happy Birthday followed by him handing out some chocolates) we plucked up the courage to go out just before it closed at four to collect it. There had certainly been some trepidation on his part - he'd been saying to people that we were going to get two round "daffodils" from the bike shop?! - and we nearly put if off for another day due to rain showers, but how glad that we didn't. He balance biked there like a pro, zooming right ahead of us but stopping and waiting perfectly (we even de-toured over and back across the toucan crossing!) before he parked up on the bike stand and headed into the shop to ask excitedly about his new red bike.

OK, so this is a real luxury - a brand new bike for a 4 year old boy, and not a cheap tacky one at that, a Frog - but to be fair we've basically brought him no presents up till now so it was about time we got him something proper. Fingers tightly crossed I made the right choice, though naturally I was immediately filled with my usual concern that I'd made a fatal yet classic dyslexic mix-up between 48 and 43 (similar shape and nearly similar colour) and got the wrong sized bike (still not convinced the bigger wouldn't have been more sensible - buyers regret - is that a thing?). Anyway, after a little bike shop faff we were presented with the machine and instantly got very approving sounds from the little man - I have to admit that it did look good, red, good choice my boy - we got our hands on the thing and he wanted to give it a test ride, right in the store. Last week we had had a little go on a display model to check sizing (I did get it right didn't I?) where I held the handlebars and pushed, but this was different, he was really keen to get on and start riding straight away. I've not seen this confidence before, or at least there have been occasions where un-confidence has dominated making me not expect this. But he was fabulous. Off we went round the store and almost as soon as his feet were on the pedals I was merely holding my arms under his armpits. And then I wasn't even doing that - he was cycling on his own there in the store just minutes after clambering on. Wow. Stabilizers schmaberlizers.

And so we cycled home. I did mostly maintain my armpit support and a some assistance for starting off (a bit of pedal leg orientation coordination which is entirely new to him), but basically he did it. At home we took some time out to feed the littlest of guys and have a break. But then as five o'clock came we decided to go for a practice ride around the block. And again he was up and raring to go. We paused to let Dr K catch up with the buggy and then made a move, taking his lead we headed to the duck pond and then in the end up right into Impington and round back through Home Field Park (which was really pleasant even if it is really actually rather tiny). He cycled all the way, up the Impington hill (with some gentle push assistance from me), but he did it. He was cycling. I was overjoyed and so proud. And even more so at his awareness of the surrounding and his continued chattiness throughout. We just kept talking all the way round about cycling tips (with Dr K giving a good curb mounting demo with the buggy) as well as the things we were seeing. All this in the cold and missley grey "spring" weather. What a total star. And, technically all before he actually turned 4 later in the evening when we relaxed with a film - Finding Nemo. Happy Birthday my mini cyclist.

[2019-04-07]

Becoming Four

I've just put my boy to sleep at the end of his third year (or conclusion of his fourth) and what a change in this past year. New memories laid down, experiences had, life changes lived, mixed all through with joy and laughter. The two biggest changes must have been becoming a brother and starting pre-school. He's taken so well to being a big brother with such love for this little creature which has come in to disrupt his world. In the mornings he'll run down to give him a kiss first thing we well as loving having cuddles every day and just generally helping out with looking after a baby. Sure there are lots of feet-in-the-face type occasions, but his love is strong. Starting school has been mostly positive too, though due to the week split we have, the days when his friend circle are in are much preferred.

For me it's been seeing this small cute toddler become a proper boy. I can't believe how much he now knows and is able to do. The speed at which new things/idea can been taught and picked is stunning. I feel I could be teaching him more intensely but at the same time I'm so happy to let him play and be him and learn through that play. I've been really pleased that some of the things I did concentrate on early on - such as holding a pen/pencil correctly, and using scissors correctly - have stuck and been worth the early focus. Interestingly that makes me quite side with the no-nappy approach to child raising, as I watch my newborn sit there weeing into his nappy thinking that at some point he's going to have to un-learn this behavior. Still, there are changes I simply can't seem to prevent which is frustrating at times. Repeating sill or naughty behavior is deeply annoying and an increasing fussiness seems to be running a race alongside a slowly germinating idea that it's good to try new things. And when I've annoying him he's learned quite a good way to upset me by telling me he doesn't want to play with me any more - happened this morning when I kettled him downstairs, but eventually we managed to overcome that and had a nice play together.

And that reminds me that sometimes I worry I might just be really quite a boring father. A few times of late he's declared that he's board, and I've had to agree that those days have indeed been quite boring. Partly it's just winter. We don't spend any time watching TV which could well alleviate such moments of boredom when cold gray skies enforce an internal solitude, and before we can all get lost in our own books (if that ever would happen - I guess I live in fanciful hope). I'm good at doing tasks together - cleaning, cooking, gardening - but I'm much less good at thinking of creative activities to inspire and develop dark days into surprising gems. I guess the sad reality is that the encroaching doom of full-time school will in one way alleviate these problems by filling our world with shitty homework and the like, but really I secretly suspect that there is something deep and profound in the experiencing of that boredom together - and the surviving / beating it - that develops character and skills for life which the busyness of school (and extra-curricular activities) tend to plaster over with pretend activity and productivity. We'll see, but I'm certainly not looking forward to his starting school this year even if he (currently) thinks he is.

I want to end on a positive note (for my future self - hello Nick). Character. While there were lots of characteristic things of the previous three years (many of which have now come to pass as we were reminiscing earlier), there has been a real explosion of character this past year. Most predominantly for the best. There is still a wonderful joyful abandon. He spent today mostly only in pants even coming out into the garden before running inside declaring it too cold to be out!. Dancing, prancing, and being a total joy is such a source of delight to me, I love it. But also there is a more sophisticated quiet side which loves to read stories together and sometimes talk about deep things (such as the death of my father) and even has worries about the future - a couple of nights ago we shared a little cry in bed when we were counting his age and then counted up to 20 when I suggested he'd have left home by then, which brought on a real sense of worry, and he tried to reassure me (and him) he wouldn't want to. It was a beautiful moment.

[2019-04-06]

Sensing Spring

Oh I love this time of year. There are only fleeing moments of this sense, but it is coming, with Not Miserable by Frightened Rabbit playing in my ears - that faint whiff of a warm weekend on the horizon.

[2019-03-15]

A Brief Saturday Checking

Just checking in to write a breif note about my lack of posts here recently. I'm going to use the excuse of having a second baby which is taking all the energy and time to cope with. It is pretty tough and non-stop. We were warned and they were right. Interesting how easy is seems to have one child when you've got a second. I guess those with three and four must equally look back and think the same.

The new little chap is now five months old and growing quickly, much larger than the little man was at this age (about 3 or 4 months ahead). Things are developing quickly too - currently he's working on hand and finger control, now able to reach out and grab cups and bowls we're eating with in a slightly annoying fashion. But it's lovely to see this brain working hard trying to determin how to use these digits at the end of his arms. A while ago now there was a week when he really developed his eye control and I noticed how rather than turning his head he was suddenly able to move just his eyes and started tracking between my eyes and mouth when I chatted to him.

What is most lovely about him is his joy - he is overflowing with giggles in a way I don't remember the little man doing. He'll get into a cute crazed giggle conversation if you join in, mouth wide open and eyes glinting. It's a wonderful thing. On the other hand his insessant moaning whimper as he falls to sleep (or rather resists falling asleep at night) is just a tad frustrating. He had a penchant for waking up at night and having a moan which can only be quelled by 20 minutes jigging. Exhausting. But I'm sure I'll look back on it and think what a wonderful time it was. Uh oh, he's waking up after a morning nap, must go...

[2019-03-02]

38 So Soon?

I think I always do this, just before my birthday, or the end of the year, jump up and write something down to capture the moment. The moment to capture today is one of exhaustion. Having two children is hard. I managed to actually write some Christmas cards today with one baby strapped to my chest and the other gnawing at my legs for attention. Broken sleep, no free time, endless washing and worries all squished into a house that is really not big enough (thoguh I imagine in Victorian times it was filled with more children than now). I'd like not to dwell on it, but that is pretty much it presently. The very occasional moment here and there to work throuhg my photograph backlog (which keeps extending out the other end) or a bit of light gaming on No Man's Sky (a galactic exploration game). I was also very kindly honoured a little birthday party yesterday which was a real surprise - we were going to have a bit of a bonfire untill freezing rain forcast, so instread we were invited to a friends house for baked potatoe tea with all the kids from four families. I was even given some really splendid thoughtful gifts (largely fire related) which made me feel so loved and nurtured.

So it's been a full on end to the year and I hardly feel on top of things, althoguh I did clean and re-paint a little mouldy patch on the wall today with the help of the little guy, so a tiny slither of progress. Fingers crossed for the coming year.

[2018-12-16]

Shaun the Sheep

This weekend with the weather being largely grim, we decided to loosen up a little and let the little chap watch a film. Shaun The Sheep Movie was on offer which I believe he has seen before once when some friends came over. I had not seen it so was quite keen myself, and the offer seemed to go down well at his end causing high levels of excitement and anticipation (and some early pestering which we managed to quell with a trip to Tesco and then to the Christmas Tree farm. So after getting home yestreday we set up the video, sat together on the sofa and pressed play. I was holding the baby and after about 20 minutes of enjoyment fell asleep (which I my usual response to films anoyingly). So today, after a much more enjpoyable day all round - lovely church service, some walking, good lunch, bike trialer repairs, a cycle trip to buy our christmas tree, and then home - we finished off the end of the film. That involved some scenes of mild peril and watching him respond to those was really rater lovely. It finished off with him clutching my arm as the credits rolled. A lovely experience all round.

[2018-12-02]

This looks like the day

The air is cool but not cold at 5am when I wake to hear Dr K fully in labour and groaning downstairs. I am dispatched to rise the parents who are staying on the green. The moon is full and bright and Orian stands proudly overhead. There is this lovely front door with a proper bell. Sounds gorgeous in this weird half-sureal atmosphere.[2018-09-27]

First Day of Lego

Today was the first day we played with Lego. Actually, not quite true, as about this time last year while on holiday in Korea staying in an Airbnb place we found a huge box of the stuff belonging to the owners child and had quite a bit of fun playing with it all over the floor. But today was really the first proper go at real Lego, a kit, with instructions. I'd half been tempted to open it after his first day of school, but he was completely exhausted that evening. The following morning I brought it out before breakfast, realised it was a mad idea in such a short time and so stowed it away again. Since then he'd kept asking if we could play with the "magic Lego", and on this wet grey Saturday morning I could not resist.

For over two hours we sat together at the dining table and constructed this rather marvellous model of the Space Shuttle with opening cargo bay doors and a satellite that comes out on a Canadarm. It was brilliant, he was brilliant - attention maintained throughout, a stop half way for a cup of tea, his little fingers able to perform practically all the manipulations required and he loved following the constructions (sic) - which is what I love most about Lego. It was wonderful. In the afternoon after lighting the stove fire we set about dismantling it and then building the moon base (which is one of the other instructions the set comes with). Actually, the dismantling was the hardest thing for him and I admit he was less involved in the second mantling, but I enjoyed it :).

The final joy, after all this, was that then we spent another hour or so later in the evening building fun things with Duplo - we built a garden centre with outdoor seating and a fireplace - by which time he was totally and uncharacteristically exhausted! Duplo and Lego existing side by side. However, saying that I have popped the space set back in its box to avoid loss until it's requested again.

[2018-09-22]

First day at school

I had the privilege of waking my little boy to school for his first full day today. He started yesterday afternoon for a half day and I had a definite frog in the throat which required a manly cough to prevent getting out of hand. This morning was the same, in fact I welled up but he was far enough away by then to notice. There was a nice gaggle of mostly mums dropping off their tiny tots for the start of the day with a few good friends which helped ease the situation. He took hold of one of theirs (and mine) and we walked in as the doors were opened. He found his name tag, chose a peg and then changed his shoes to fit with the local orthodoxy. While he was sitting down to do his shoes he caught sight of his teacher and gave him a little wave which gave me a very good feeling. Then we had a hug and kiss, then another one (but not the twenty I sometimes get when I leave for work) and then I let him walk off on his own to the circle forming round the teacher. He found a spot to sit as I backed away (holding in the tears which are popping out now). As one of the other mums popped her girl next to my boy I saw him making a funny face at the kid on the opposite side of the circle - he was all set, and so I left.

[2018-09-18]

Rainy Day Turned Good with Friends

My apologies to you, future me, for not writing more regularly. It's been ages. I guess there is simply less time these days to open up my laptop and do some typing. Indeed, I rarely do open it up and I'm way behind in my photo organisation (see lack of photo blog for evidence). Having a small child does consume a lot of time.

I write today after a splendid Saturday which had started with all the promise of a grim wet summers day, but a text first thing from a village family suggesting a trip blackberry picking was the turning point. How can I resist picking free fruit? I checked with the little guy and he exclaimed "ooh I want to yeah" - so that was settled. We had breakfast and then some cleaning (he was helping with the sweeping and really enjoying it) and after a little play when his friends arrived (we grabbed a coffee and catchup) then headed out in the rain to go picking.

Many prickles and scratches later (one a little more serious than the others!) we had a good haul of fruit and the day was even warming up along with spirits. We headed back home for lunch of delicious bibimbap followed by a mango lassie. By which time it was already gone four and our friends set off for home. I took the opportunity of the relative warm (still cloudy) to do a little gardening with my boy and after squeezing the potentially alcoholic juice from a mouldy apple, we (well, he) decided we should have a fire. How could I refuse? So we did. And we ate outside a meal of cheese and biscuits followed by marshmallows on the fire which by this point had grown to an exceptionally smokey bonfire. Glorious day.

[2018-09-08]