Sunday, 18 December 2011

The School Play 2011


The time has come again for this year's school play. We filed into the gymnasium expecting five star performances and expert storytelling. I don't know why we always expect this but we do. After all, they've been rehearsing for weeks.

The story was "The Snowman at Sunset." Near as I can tell the story goes like this. It snowed one day and all the children made snowmen, which then melted. Then it snowed again but this time there was only enough snow to make one snowman and all the children fought over who would make it. Then they decided to work together and made a snowman. Then there was a spontaneous nativity scene. All the kids that hadn't done anything yet piled on stage in something resembling the nativity. I guess even a CoE school can't get away with much Christianity around christmas.

Jack was one of the snowflakes, he and five others danced around on stage for a few minutes until they got bored at which point they just stood and waited for the music to end. Jack made it about half way. After that the kids stood up one by one and fired off their lines at varying volumes and levels of commitment. There were more songs then more lines then more songs.

The highlight for me was the snowmen melting song. It's a rather cheery little song along the lines of '10 Little Monkeys' where the 10 snowmen get blasted one by one by the sun. When they got to 6 snowmen I was happy to discover that the snowmen we being shot and their carcasses were being carried off two at a time. It otherwise would have made for a very long song.

I also liked The Angry Song. It's line after line about just how angry the song is. It's a pretty cross song.

After his dancing Jack took his seat and pretended to sing for the remaining twenty minutes. He was sat right behind two of his buddies. One of these boy's father made the mistake, about halfway through the first song, of saying he couldn't hear him. So naturally this boy shouted the songs at the top of his voice for the remainder of the performance. This naturally sparked a competition with the boy next to him... We're lucky we didn't lose one of them, they were looking pretty red in the face and bleary eyes by the end.

Jack had a good time. He wasn't happy with his snowflake part though only because people kept saying what a beautiful snowflake he was, beautiful is what girls are... He also wasn't very happy with having bare feet for the duration of the play. Too bad he has to do it all again Monday for the grandparents.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Precognative Movie Watching.

Today is Friday so when I picked Jack up from school I told him that we were going to watch a movie when we got home.
What movie?
I was thinking transformers 3 since neither of us has seen it.
Yes, yes I've been waiting to see that movie. I love that movie, it's my favorite movie.
I'd quite like to see it too.
I already know how the beginning goes. I haven't seen the movie but I know how the beginning bit goes.
You do?
Yeah, and the end.
How does the beginning go then?
Silver letters. All the transformer movies start with silver letters.
You're probably right. So how does the end go?
The good guy beats up all of the baddies. All of the baddies are beaten and then the movie ends.

So there you have it. For those of you that may not have seen the film I hope that we've not spoiled it for you.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Secret is Bravery

Jack goes to swimming lessons once a week.

I've expressed before how much Jack dislikes water in his face. At first he hated the swimming lessons. Each week they followed the same routine, they'd start off by having a splash fight. Jack doesn't like it much but he participates whilst keeping his head turned and eyes clamped shut. They then climb in the water and splash again with their feet. Jack likes this better but he's still not a fan. After that they teach him different strokes and help him practice swimming from side to side.

They all start with four foam floaters and as they progress they lose floaters. One time one of the instructors reduced his floaters mid swim. Jack still insists that he nearly drowned.

Everything goes well until the last five minutes when all the kids have to jump in. Not all of the kids like this and Jack hates it, he usually refuses. The instructors are gentle and patient, but they always manage to talk him down. But still he'll usually be crying and demanding to be taken home by the end, vowing never to swim again.

Today the swimming group was unusually scarce, the class of ten turned out a meager four. With three instructors it made for a productive lesson. At the end I watched as Jack plunged his face into the water without hesitation. I made sure to give him a cheer when he looked up.

One minute later I watched with pride as he jumped into the pool without his floaters and came out... well, not crying.

As we returned to the car Jack regaled his triumph. I just jumped in. I was really brave and jumped in. And I put my face in the water for five minutes. I found the secret.
And what's the secret.
It's to be brave. All this time and you just have to be brave and jump in.

There are only 2 things left now that still scare him, vampires and zombies. And of course a vampire-zombie, with the body of a zombie and the head of a vampire... and ghost arms.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


Jack is finally five years of age. Just a few months ago if you mentioned the prospect of turning five he'd break out into tears. Being four has been hard for him he spent most of the year wishing he could be three again. Life was easier when I was three. Gradually as his birthday neared though he began to get very excited. He still wishes he could be three again but he's ok with being five. I think he was afraid that he'd wake up as a five- year-old and find himself six feet tall and hairy chested.

Some of the kids early on.
We threw a party for him at a local church hall. We were tired of the wacky warehouse parties that we've attened every weekend for the last month so we thought we'd go for something different. Jack picked the theme, 'spooky costumes' because he's into dead things. No vampires though because they're really scary.

The spooky cake Helen made.
So we invited the kids, acquired appropriate confectionery, constructed party bags and made a cake.

The party was a big hit, Fortyish little ghouls arrived and a good time was had by all. There was dancing and eating and a magic show. The kids were talking about it for ages. One brother and sister even invented a new game called 'Jack's Party' where they play out the events with each other. Another has decided since that she wants to learn magic. Every couple of days I get pulled aside by a patent wanting to tell me what a good time their child had and that it's changed their life in some way.
Jack was dressed in a hat a glasses to help with the magic.

Jack made off like a bandit as well nearly all of the kids brought him presents. He's gradually working them, he's about half way.
Some of them are really fun toys and need a lot of playing.

This is about 1/2 what he got
His actual birthday was a much quieter affair. We unwrapped his presents after schools and went out for a nice dinner. He was a little disappointed because he wanted his friends to come to his real birthday as well, but he got through it.
The two favorites.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

I was all in this half, it's magic


Jack has developed his own magic trick. He's done this entirely on his own, this afternoon he disappeared to another room and came back an hour or so later with his props in hand.

We regularly scour youtube for magic tricks and trying to work out how they did it. If we can't figure it out then it's obviously magic.

I hope that this is the first in the development of an entire show. We'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Singing and Dancing.

Here are a couple of videos that I took of Jack. One of of him singing along to the theme song of Phineas and Ferb.

The other is just him dancing to the music at the 99p store.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Halloween 2011

Jack is very excited for Halloween. Mostly because he gets to dress up as a skeleton, and he's into dead things.

He's got his costume and his plans for the day, our neighborhood isn't much of a place for trick or treating, just because we don't have much in the way of participation from the neighbors. So instead we're going to a Halloween party at his favorite soft play place where there will be slides, treats games and many of his friends dressed in their costumes.

The squares are his wings.
So today we set to with other Halloween traditions such as carving pumpkins, making creepy cakes and cookies. Jack picked out the face for the jack-o-lantern and helped with the creation of the spider cup cakes and bat cookies. He was especially helpful when it came to the eating part of the process.

Jack made this one.
I made this one.

Helen made the pumpkin.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

And the winner is...


Yesterday Helen and I received a letter from Jack's school summoning us to an assembly today, Jack was being presented with an award.

Our curiosity was peaked and we both made sure that we were available to attend. Neither of us said anything to Jack because we weren't sure whether or not he knew anything about it, I don't think he did.

So this morning we sat ourselves down in the gym and watched as the youngest four classes filed in. Jack was happy to he us and eagerly waved. The headmaster talked for a bit and then proceeded to dish out the awards. One by one he handed out awards for " settling in" and " trying your best" I'm all for encouraging good behavior and the like but I was dreading having to get excited about Jack receiving an award for "always being helpful". You hear people talking about societies endless production of 'new ways to celebrate mediocrity' but you don't really appreciate that perspective until you've sat through a couple of these things.

Much to my surprise and delight Jack's award, and all the other awards from his class, were quite a bit less generic. Jack's name was called and he was presented for a reward for "making super models in the construction area". Helen and I were delighted. They even brought the model, a robot, in to show everyone which Jack wasn't happy about because he'd apparently been looking for it all morning.

Jack fixing the robot and telling off the headmaster who broke it.
He received a certificate and a gold star pin. We're very proud if him.

Jack wants to make robots when he grows up, so this is a really good start as far as I'm concerned.

Well done.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

An Evening With Ghosts.


Helen and I spent the evening in a haunted hotel last night on a real authentic ghost hunt.

The evening started with a three course meal. Afterward the mediums gave readings, then we moved onto the haunted rooms and dreaded cellar, where the staff and even the experienced ghost hunters, dare not tread alone. We did vigils and everything it was cool.

One of the mediums gave me a reading. There was more than enough information for me to work out who the spirit was very early on, he's quite a strong personality whom we've lost very recently and suddenly, if any spirit had anything to say to me, it's him. Some of the stuff the medium said didn't make any sense, unless I tenuously link it to things myself, which is partly the point. The messages are personal and for you alone, so whatever link you settle on is the right link. That being the case, the spirit that came through spent a fair amount of time making fun of my hobbies and accent. On the other hand he was impressed by my guitar playing and cheered me on through university and a project that I'm having particular trouble with.
I'm glad to have received the message from him, not so glad with the business of having to pass the message on to his surviving family.

Personally I'm on the fence when it comes to psychics. I've seen enough of them to be politely skeptical. Only because most of what they generally is vague enough that it will eventually find some sort of valid link to anyone, on the other hand however, they are sometimes frighteningly accurate.
For instance there was mention of pigeons on one of the readings, the spirit that was coming through kept pigeons during his life. I put it all down to more of an empathic connection as opposed to a connection to the spirit world but that's just as nuts to most people and for others it's pretty much the same thing. I like psychics and see no problem with, or reason they should stop doing, what they're doing.

We held vigils in two of the haunted guest rooms where we used a glass on the table to speak to a couple of children. They were friendly and playful spirits that were very interested in Helen and that fact that we've got a young boy. About halfway through the vigil the television inexplicably switched on and scared the life out of the poor mentalist that was guiding.

Jack's reaction to the contact was wonderful. He knew all about the event and had given us specific instructions to catch a ghost and bring it back in a net so that he could see it. If there was a little boy ghost then Jack wanted us to find out if they could play together some time.

We spoke to a little boy ghost.
You saw a real ghost?!
We didn't see him but we spoke to him. He said to tell you hello and that he loves Ben10. Not kidding that's really one of the answers the vigil gave. Shortly after the TV switched on the questions veered in that direction. Even ghost children love cartoons it seems.
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. For those of you who know Jack, making him speechless has never been thought possible.
Jack are you still there?
Mommy I just can't believe you saw a real ghost. I'm going to pass you back to Nanny now before I faint. 

We wandered down into the cellar shortly after midnight. The stories about the cellar are horrible. There's a ghost down there called Nasty George who was quite a villain by the sounds of it. In fact during one of the vigils the poor girl that he murdered came through, understandably she wasn't hugely talkative.

I personally can see why the cellar is so scarey. It's a strange combination of huge and cramped. It's dark and damp and maze-like, psychologically even I found myself getting a little apprehensive whenever I strayed very far from the group. I don't put it down to Nasty George, for one thing I knew that he was supposed to be following around some guy in the other group, it was just a very oppressive space.

The vigils down there were much more interesting because not only had the children from the rooms followed us, specifically Helen, but they brought with them Helen's grandfather and great grandmother. It turns out that her grandfather is the 'little man' that Jack has reported seeing in our house. For those of you that don't know when Jack was younger he often mentioned the 'little man' who would stand in the hallway and watch him. Once he came into Jack's room and said to him, "I want a nice warm sandwich." Now here's a little interesting fact. We mentioned this to Helen's mother this afternoon and she said that he adored a corn beef sandwich...
There are also two cat spirits in our house, which we've suspected for quite a while. Occasionally, but not for quite a while, we've heard the bells they used to wear. Helen's grandfather said that the cats keep him company but he generally hates them. He wasn't a cat lover in life.
Helen's grandmother is also in our house and apparently she's the culprit that has been known to steal things, such as a ball and one of Helen's slipper.

At the end of the cellar vigils one of the other tables had a contact that certainly brought me back to reality. I won't go into any detail about what was going on but will say that it was confirmation to me that there is most definitely a conscious, or subconscious, non-ethereal element to a vigil.

So, at the end of the night I was no less of a skeptic that I was at the beginning. It was an awesome experience and I'm taking quite a few messages away from it that I'm marking down as genuine. I would highly recommend a ghost hunt for anyone that's even a little bit interested in that sort of thing. I will certainly go on another.

Thank you Helen.

The company that we went with was

Sunday, 16 October 2011

No idea.

I have no idea what he is doing or why, 
but he carried on chanting this for almost two hours.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

School visit


Jack has been going to reception for two weeks now and today we were invited to come in for a little while so he could show us around.

To be honest the whole thing looks like a loosely organized free-for-all. The classrooms are organized into little activity stations and the kids spend their day running from one to another.
I'm sure that's not how it is all the time. Jack come home every day having learned something new and talks about stories they've read or people that have visited so I'm not concerned.

Jack was very excited to show us all the things he gets up to during the day. He shows us the sand pit the water tub the books the pictures and most importantly the building block, rod things. He built Optimus Prime because he knew we were coming. I was very impressed, the colors were right and semi-symmetrical and everything. He also showed us a picture that he'd drawn of himself, he drew himself as a ghost because he's into dead things at the moment. I couldn't help but notice the ghost's big blue eyes.

He enjoys school, he's got a lot of friends there and he seems to like learning new things. He's learned about ten letters now and has been practicing some words. He even sounded one word out to me this afternoon.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Connoisseur

Some nice warm chocolate is a favorite staple of Jack's. Ever since he could speak it's been among the top three most requested drinks. Usually after any time spent outside when the sun hasn't been blazing down. It's 'warm' chocolate because of Jack's concern that hot chocolate will burn his mouth. So he just has it warm.

Today we walked home from school in the rain and naturally Jack suggested some nice warm chocolate when we got in. Nice warm chocolate and a movie. When we got home I set to making the drink while he settled down in front of a movie. I brought him in his drink and handed it to him. He took a sip, smacked his lips a few times, and pondered for a moment. Then he looked at me at said.

It's ok... Could be warmer.

He can make it himself next time.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mean moves

We were on our way back from Blackpool, Jack was sat in the back playing with his new plush sting-ray. They didn't have a suitable octopus so he settled on a green sting-ray.
He's quite taken with the sting-ray, so far it's been a very loved and popular teddy.

As we drove he said something that made me smile.

If someone stealed my sting-ray I would not be happy. I would chase them, and catch them and I would punch them and kick them and headbutt them. All my mean moves. I would do all my mean moves on them until they gave it back.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Ode to the Chicken


We were having our traditional Sunday roast dinner. Lately getting Jack to eat a meal has been very easy so it was a very relaxed atmosphere at the dinner table, that is until Jack cropped up with a question.
Daddy, how are chicken's made of meat?

A strange question, but I knew exaclty what he meant.

I've been waiting for this conversation for a long time. Jack has always managed to stear himself clear of making the connection between the feathery creatures on the farm and the dinner table. Not because I have any thoughts on the matter that I'm inclined to voice but because Jack really charishes life and is terrified of the concept of death, or growing. I knew this was going to be a particularly upsetting conversation for him. I don't want to scare Jack off eating meat, nor do I want to put him down for not wanting to.

So I explained to him that chickens and many other animals are largely considered food, that's what they're raised for and we need to eat them to be healthy. We always try to make sure we get free range animals so make sure that the animals live happy lives. Some people choose not to eat meat but we do and so on.

That chicken gave it's life for you to have your dinner, so you should eat it. Helen added.

Jack looked at each of us and then resumed eating. Helen and I figured we'd once again managed to dodge this bullet and the conversation moved on.

A few minutes later Jack inturrupted with a tear filled comment.

Mommy I wish you hadn't said that, the chicken gave its life.

He quickly became inconsolable. We tried to comfort him as best we could but what can we say? About fifteen minutes cuddled with mommy on the sofa Jack finally calmed down. He came back to the table and ate a few more vegetables but left the chicken. Before pudding Jack came to a decision about his future eating habits.

Jack concluded that he's giving up eating meat, except for chicken nuggets, scampi, roast chicken, cod and anything else that he likes... I know this isn't the end of it, Jack has a tendancy to cover these types of subjects in short but intense sessions but I think we've got the worst of it out of the way for now.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Santa Stuff


Daddy, is Santa real? I mean really real?
I didn't know how to answer, so I went with a vague and safe answer.

You have to believe in him before he can be real. Do you believe Santa is real?
Then there you go.

Jack thought about this for a minute.

OK, then next time he comes to our house. You make sure he sticks around so that I can meet him and have a talk with him.
What would you want to talk to him about?
Oh... Santa stuff.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Ghost Face

Jack is tattoo mad. Currently he's got two tattoos, one on each arm, both dragons.

Right arm. He's even wearing an AC DC t-shirt.
Each time we see a temporary tattoo machine he begs and barters with everything he's got to get a hold of some of them. He's even resorted to stealing... he and some friends, quite innocently, discovered that one of the tattoo dispensers, if jiggled just right, will give up the tattoos for free. They'd withdrawn a dozen tattoos before I and one of the mothers figured out where they were getting them.

Left arm. Tough guy.
It seems that Jack isn't happy unless he's got some ink, for now he's content, while he may stop to admire the artwork we can actually walk past a tattoo machine without too much haggling. As soon as these dragons wear off he'll be at it again.

While camping over the weekend we attended A-fest, a music festival run for Cancer Research. I highly recommend it, if just for the donations to charity, it's a reasonably good little festival.

While there Mia had a ghost painted on her forearm. Phoebe got her face painted completely white with blue snowflakes over here eyes. She looked like a very short member of Kiss.

Jack has had the opportunity to have his face painted before and more than once has managed to brave it until the artist had a brush in hand. If we could get his face painted without actually having to paint his face then we'd never see his bare skin again.

So Jack said he wanted his face painted, Helen confirmed and gave him plenty of opportunity to bail out but he was determined. The moment came a Jack chose his design and gave the OK, on the condition that she didn't paint his eyes under any circumstances. A few minutes later Jack proudly endorsed a ghost on his right cheek.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

One giant step for a small man.

Jack is excited about going back to school. He loved school nursery last year and misses spending each day with his friends. We've met his teacher. We've got his uniform, yesterday afternoon through no fault of our own... We've got everything taken care of and ready to go.

As the first day of school approached it became more and more part of Jack's daily conversation. It seemed that everyone he spoke to wanted to talk to him about school. While at the bank, where Nanny works, yesterday one of the tellers recognized him and asked about the big day. Jack proudly stated that he was in the big kids class this year and they don't have to wear a tie.

He has started to get nervous about it the last few days, he's been quite agitated and had a few complaints about weird feelings in his tummy. His class is made up mostly of children that he already knows but it's still a whole new world for him. Knowing that there are only a few 'new' kids in his class, he's been charged with meeting, and making feel welcome, at least one new person today.

So here we go, this morning I dressed him up in his new school uniform, tie and all, and walked him up. The first thing we did was bump into Grace, a friend from last year, this put him at ease I think. We walked past the nursery entrance on the way in, Jack stopped for a moment and had a look. I hope we have the same playground. And I hope we learn about eyeballs. I don't know why the word eyeballs needs to be whispered.

We walked into the school and hung up his coat and book bag his hook then off he wandered without hesitation into the classroom while all the other kids waited in the hall or outside to be guided in by their parents.

Bye Jack, I called to him.
Bye. He gave me a little wave but didn't look back...
I'm Jack he said to the teachers aids when they approached him and then he disappeared around the corner.

I was the first of the parents to leave the school by a long shot. I'm not the type that stands around until they close the doors, just in case. But I am both happy and sad to watch my little boy take this step in growing up, so I had no plans to stick around and rub it in.

It's been a long summer but it's been easier than I expected. Jack and I have had little trouble finding things with which to keep ourselves occupied and he's been very well behaved generally. I'm glad I was able to spend the summer with him.

It's still three weeks until I'm back at University, I have no idea what I'm going to do with the time.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Mine might be just shoes, but at least they're tied.

Jack was climbing the ropes at the park as he often does. A slightly older child had taken to showing up all of Jacks stunts. Each time Jack displayed a trick he'd come up with the boy in camouflage combats would emulate it, sometimes adding his own addition to it, and finish it with 'easy'. As Jack navigated the ropes the boy plagued him with criticism. Apparently there is a faster, more fun and all around better way to do everything that Jack was doing. This isn't the first critic that he's come across and he's got a good tactic in dealing with them. He just plays along, acting interested in and impressed by their antics, sometimes he'll have a go at one of the additions and will often say, wow that was easy. Eventually they get bored and leave him be. 

As they climbed and dropped and jumped and hung Jack noticed minor safety issue that he though was worth mentioning. 
Hey boy, your shoe is untied. 

They're not shoes, they're trainers. The boy sharply replied. 

Jack wasn't phased by the boy's attitude even a little, he was just trying to help the boy avoid an accident. He just smiled politely and said in a 'matter of fact tone'.
Well they're still untied.

Sent from my iPhone... as if by magic

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Magic spells

We've finally successfully introduced Jack to the world of Harry Potter. We tried to get him to watch the films before, I've even attempted to read one of the books with him but the movies have too much talking and the books don't have pictures.
I wasn't terribly disappointed or surprised by his complete lack of interest. Jack is only four and I personally am not a huge fan, I like the characters and enjoyed many of the films but have no plans to read the books.
While on holiday Jack wanted to bring Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone with us to watch in the car. During the second long drive between campsites we suggested the film and Jack agreed. Just a few minutes and he was hooked.
Jack has now taken to casting spells, especially at me. He waves his hands and spouts some Latin, his Latin is very good, and then announces what his spell has done. Most commonly he's either frozen me, or is controlling everything in view. Occasionally he throws fireballs but usually that ends with him changing into Jack the Human Torch and being a superhero for a while.
Despite my not being much of a fan I'm glad Jack can enjoy the story. Children need to have magic in their lives.
And it's a welcome break from Ben 10.

Sent from my iPhone... as if by magic

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mr. Boring.


We got home from our camping holiday this afternoon.

I was busy getting my computer all set up and back to working order. Jack, who'd been re-familiarizing himself with his cartoon shows said.

I want to help you.

You can't really hun, I'm just getting some things set up on my computer.

But I wanna help you make something. During our camping trip I created a number of bedtime stories that I've been working on lately. He's apparently hoping that he can get in on the production.

I'm not working on that sort of thing now, I'm just setting things up.

Can we make something when you're done?

Tell you what, we'll make some time later when you and I can write a story together OK?

Good because I want to do something boring with you.
I genuinely didn't know what to say.

You want to do something boring with me?

Yeah, I'm in the mood for something boring.

In the end I agreed to making some time for Jack and I to be bored together. It's nice to know that my four year old son things that the subject in which I'm investing years of my life and thousands of pounds is boring and at the same time it's touching that he wants to be a part of it anyway.

I'm not even thirty and I'm already the boring parent. Wonderful.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Rain Bruises

It's been raining for a couple days now and there's no end in sight. We're trying not to let it govern our daily activities too much but it's proving difficult. 

The roads in Northumberland are pretty flooded so as we drive between destinations Jack hopes for big deep puddles so that we can drive through them at 50 miles per hour.

We were out driving through puddles when we hit a particularly big one and he said this. 

I like watching the splashes out of my window, I like the rain bruises...

It turns out that rain bruises are when a large amount of water spreads a layer of water over a window. Also known as rivulets. 
Take a jug of water and pour it on your windscreen. The resulting optical distortions as the water rolls off are rain bruises.  

What a great synonym. 

Sent from my iPhone... as if by magic

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

TV on the go.

We've been in Scotland camping for almost a week now and Jack hasn't had much access to television during this time. Now I'm not one of these parents professing they minimize their kid's tv viewing to one show a day or anything like that. If Jack wants to watch TV generally he can, if we feel like he's been watching too much we turn it off and thus balance is maintained. 

Lately it would seem however that not even the lack of an physical television can stop him from watching his favorite shows. Today we're having a day in a playground, the beach and the catching a movie. On the way out Jack announced that he would be watching TV in the back of the car. As we drove he sat in the back with his eyes closed and watched Tom and Jerry. Periodically he would break out laughing and give us a commentary of what had just happened.

Tom just jumped on a trampoline and Jerry flipped it and it smashed Tom in the face...
I've got nothing currently to say about cartoon violence. 

He's been doing this for a while now. It started with him pretending that the wind screen In my car was a TV and that we were watching a show about people driving. It didn't seem like a very good show to me but he seemed to enjoy it. Eventually this evolved to him watching full blown Spongebob episodes on the wind screen. I'd get a commentary of what was happening, usually it resembled an episode that we had recently seen on the real TV. Now he watches new episodes though. Often about unanswered questions or things that he wants to see happen on the show. These shows don't always make sense and they often intermingle but he doesn't mind. His mental TV is exactly the shows he wants and how he wants them, presumably in HD, and no adverts. 

Who says TV destroys the imagination?

Sent from my iPhone... as if by magic

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Follow the numbers

Jack loves getting awards. Whether it be for crazy dancing or entering competitions on TV he'll go to any length to earn whatever material is being offered for his efforts. It doesn't matter if he comes first, just so long as he gets something that he can take away.

He came across one of many book in the house that Helen and I purchase in the hopes of encouraging him to learn. This one was a perfect find because it's numbers and letters book aimed at the 4 - 5 age group. He's been learning some of this stuff at school nursery which is what peaked his interest.

So we set to. Jack started with the numbers 1 - 10. I wasn't surprised when after just a few pages Jack started to lose interest. He pressed on till number 3 and then announced that he'd had enough. I tried to encourage him to go on but it was no use. So we packed up the book and he wandered off. The next day he mentioned the book again.

I want to do a little more learning.

Encouraged by this I grabbed the book and we had searched for number 3, it was right after 2 as it turns out. But this time I noticed something.

Jack... There are certificates in this book you know.
Yes. It's a piece of paper that we fill out and then you can show everyone proof that you've done one through ten.
I want it.
Then you've got to get through all these pages.

You've never seen such determination in a 4 year old. After a solid hour we reached the certificate. For those of you unfamiliar with the 4 year old attention span, any task that takes more than 5 minutes, especially when there's any amount of frustration likely to occur, will never be completed. We filled out the certificate and Jack proudly showed it to every visitor for the next week. He even bragged about it at school.

Well done son.

He's also since earned the lower-case alphabet certificate. It took him 3 days.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Today we released our butterflies. We've raised them from... larvae I guess, they were just little caterpillars when they arrived.

There's a conservation project for Painted Lady butterflies going on that's been advertised on TV recently. When Jack saw the advert he just had to give it a try. So we placed and order and two weeks later we received a box containing all we needed (including 10 1cm long caterpillars) to raise a flutter of butterflies.

So, we set to. Basically the instructions were to put the little tubs somewhere where the temperature was relatively warm and didn't vary a great deal, then wait until they cocooned after 7 - 10 days. Then move them into the little netted habitat, feed them as then started to hatch, and wait another 7 - 10 days until their wings dried and then release them.
We watched eagerly as they grew, at a somewhat alarming rate, and cocooned one by one. The cocooning process was weird. We tried and tried to catch one in the process but they're crafty. We got down to checking every five minutes but as soon as we'd turn our heads they'd be all candied up.

The butterflies finally started to emerge, between them they took so long that we had to release them in two stages.

Every time we see a butterfly outside now Jack checks the color hoping to see one of ours. We have yet to actually see any Painted Ladies out and about, I suppose that's why there's a conservation effort going on, but Jack hasn't give up hope yet.

Sunday, 10 July 2011



I was lying on the floor. Jack was sat next to me. We were talking, I don't recall what about.

Jack: Daddy go to sleep.

So I did, not going to pass up the opportunity. Almost immediately he pounded on my chest with hist fist.

Me: Ow. Why are you hitting me?
Jack: I hammered you to wake you up so I could tell you to shut up.
Me: but I was sleeping.
Jack: Yes but you were talking. Shut up.
Me: I was answering you.
Jack: Just go to sleep, no talking in your sleep.

So I did, this time making sure not to engage in any conversation.
I kept one eye open slightly and watched Jack hover over me with fists ready.

Me: Ow. I wasn't talking or anything.
Jack: You were laughing. Sleepers... Sleeping people don't laugh when they're sleeping. Now go back to sleep. But don't talk, or laugh. Just... Just do nothing. (Jack pronounces 'Nothing' as 'Nuffint')

I went back to sleep, trying to achieve nothingness.
Me: What was that for?
Jack: Nothing.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Celestial Bodies

Jack has been going on at every opportunity about the most recently learned subject at school. He came home itching to tell me everything he knew about Venus.
Gradually the week passed and each day he'd come home with a new planet to talk about.
So I thought I'd video some of it.


Whilst I was setting this up he learned about 2 new planets.


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Wakey wakey.


Helen has been away all week for work. So this Thursday morning it was just Jack and I, as it would be for most of the week.

Jack was up long before 7am as usual. In my semi-conscious state I could hear him playing his little games until his sun on his groclock comes up.

Then I heard footsteps, which usually means he's going to come in to my room and talk to me. I quietly rolled over and checked the clock. 7:10. His groclock was set for 7:15 but tends to run fast so his sun could feasibly be up already. The footsteps swept right past my door and into the bathroom, where I hear toilet related sounds. After a couple of minutes I heard the footsteps again, I'd just like to note here that he hadn't flushed the toilet because he didn't want to wake me, once again the footsteps passed by my door.

I rolled over hoping to enjoy was was surely to only be, at most, two minutes of a snooze.
Footsteps started again, this time they were faster. THUMP THUMP THUMP once again right past my door. I hear running water and splashing. He'd gone back to wash his hands, I made a note to give him a little praise for remembering... The running water stopped and the footsteps resumed. This time they stopped at my door. My door opened a crack, I heard the usual sounds of him trying to sneak into the room without waking me.

The next thing I know, two tiny, damp and ICE cold hands are going up the back of my shirt accompanied by very evil sounding snickering...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Getting up for school

A parent accepts pretty early on that sleeping in, even on the weekends, is among the first of many luxuries to go when the child arrives. Daylight wakes all children, even other timezones' daylight, daylight they can't even see, and they're all morning people too.
Neither Helen or I aren't much for sleeping in. By 9 we're usually both up and often will have been up for a little while.
Jack has pretty much always been a good sleeper but was always an early riser. He started sleeping through the night very early on and can not be roused by anything of this earth. If something does actually wake him he's always able to get back to sleep quickly and without much fuss. The only time he doesn't sleep well is when he's ill or we're camping. Jack treasures his sleep, once he gets there, though still insists that he sleeps with his eyes open...
Lately Jack has been sleeping in a lot. I'm putting it down to the last couple of weeks we've had his groclock set to 8 pm. The groclock is little clock that tells him when he's allowed to come out of his room in the morning by displaying a picture of a sun, we bought it to bring an end to the 4:30 wake up call we started getting. Nothing wakes you up better than miniature knees and elbows, money well spent. But he's been sleeping right past the clock lately, by half an hour on occasion. I haven't minded but now his school break is over and he needs to be getting up at 7:15 to get ready for school. So this has meant my having to go into his room and waking him. I'm used to relying on him as my alarm clock, I'm finding this shift in roles somewhat irksome. Jack is grouchy when woken and rarely coherent. He mumbles accusations at me, shoves me away and grumbles just like a teenager. I have to tell him over and over to get up, why he needs to get up, who he is and what's for breakfast. After all that he eventually replies with "I just wanna stay here in bed today." It's just as well that I still out weigh him by around 140 pounds.

Sent from my iPhone... as if by magic

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Angry Boyds.

I'm constantly searching for games that both Jack and I can play together, and he can play on his own. One of my goals as an upcoming games programmer is creating good games for kids.

It's very frustrating for Jack when he can't play a game, especially when my over experienced fingers make it look so easy. He likes so many games but can play so few, we usually wind up with him sitting on my lap watching and instructing while I play the game.

Video games for under 6's are awful. Unfortunately while there is a huge market for them, the games available are just no good. This results in the games not selling and no one investing any time in creating better ones. They're mostly being made by people who have long since forgotten the kinds of things the typical 4 year old wants.

I recently come into possession of an iPhone and whilst looking at the games available for it I came across the Angry Birds free demo.

Angry Birds is everywhere at the minute. Even if you've never seen it, I could show you the game right now and chances are you'd recognize some aspect of it.
Basically you shoot birds like cannonballs out of a giant static slingshot at destructible objects. The more efficiently you destroy the structures the higher score you get. There is a little story to it but it's really not worth going into.

Now, I already had many preconceptions about the game mostly from my lecturers at University. They all despise the game. I was told that its was a rubbish game that's only successful because of marketing and other corporate conspiracies. Basically, people love it, Games Industry hates it...

I downloaded the game really just to see what all the fuss was about.

I honestly don't understand all the negativity.  The game is very therapeutic. It's well written, well designed and isn't half addictive. I think the 'Games Industry' are just mad because it once again proves that the silly and simple ideas will always win over the ridiculously complicated and high budgeted. Whilst playing through the demo all I could think was that Jack would adore this game.

Jack loves it. It's great because we can play it together and he can play it by himself. He's more than once snatched my phone up, unlocked it, loaded up Angry Birds and selected a specific level out of 30+. When he concentrates he's actually a really good shot. He quite often will complete a level that I've been struggling with in only one shot. Currently it's his number one request and what's better is that since it's on my phone we can play it anywhere and everywhere.

If you have a compatible phone, iPhone or Android, I definitely recommend this game. Particularly if you have a 4 year old. I've bought all three releases and we're steadily working our way through them.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Keeping Scammers Busy

I'm a little ashamed to say that I, am a eBay scam victim. About 8 years ago I was fooled by a very poor scam attempt due just plain poor judgment on my part. Everything about it screamed SCAM but I went ahead anyway and lost a fairly expensive item.

Oh well... I told myself. I was new to eBay at the time and I made sure that next time a scam appeared, I'd be ready.

I recently put a mobile phone up for auction on eBay and wouldn't you know it I've suddenly got someone offering to pay me easily 3 times what the phone it worth to end the auction early.

Great Device! i can afford to Pay you a fairly reasonable Price of £150 for the cost of the item and £15 for Postage. Immediate Payment will be sent via PayPal . Kindly get back
to me now with your PayPal email so that Payment can be sent

I'll admit they had me for a minute there. But experience told me to tread carefully so I replied with this. Just in case they really wanted to pay that much money for a very cheap phone.

No problem. Just to confirm, that's £150 UK sterling plus £15 for shipping. As soon as the payment is received I'll ship the item airmail tracked.
A few minutes later I got this and my suspicions were confirmed. The english isn't quite there, and there's suddenly the pressure to get the item shipped. Also they're encouraging me to check my email instead of my paypal account.
Payment sent! pls check your email for the confirmation email from PayPal and end the item on eBay right away. i also provided you Postage details there.Thanks and Please let me know when you Post it Today


I also received this,

How real does that look, at first glance anyway? In fact I had to check my paypal account just to make sure, I have a tenancy to misread things. Anyway my paypal account still says 0 and knows nothing at all about any pending transactions. So... What to do...

Naturally I've reported all of this to eBay and Paypal and I didn't end the auction... not that they seemed to even notice. Anyway I replied with this.

I've put the phone in the post today. The tracking number is YR000700021GB

... The problem is that lots of these email address kept kicking back to me saying they were invalid. You know, they really could make it easier to fall for the scam.

Eventually I got this back.

Send the Tracking Number to the PayPal customer care email address on
the Payment Invoice. send it to
so that your account can be credited

So I did. Not at all noticing that the address is now @ who notices things like that?
I got this back.
This was addressed to my paypal address instead of my eBay username. They're getting better as they go along it would seem.
I got this three minutes later.

So I emailed back the person and told them that I'd given the tracking number to paypal, and I got this back.
Aw, I put a lot of thought into making up that tracking number.
So I sent them this.

Perhaps because it's just been posted this morning. Sometimes it takes a little while for their system to update.

The next morning I got a fairly threatening email saying the tracking number was definitly invalid and I also hadn't cancelled the eBay auction... I was shocked. Being told off by a scammer somehow took all the fun out of the game. So I politely emailed back and said that the information I provided to him was just as authentic as the information he'd sent me.

I've not heard anything back from them.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Got work. Now off on holiday.

Helen is employed again. Yes it's been nearly 6 months since I said that I wasn't worried about her not being able to find a job... Oh well, we made it, just.

Being that she's got a job now, it's meant that the last two weeks, or at least the time in which we've not been scrambling to get her a new car, have suddenly become holiday time.

So off we went for a cheap week long stay at a camping site in Somerset.

It was an action packed week. Filled with soft play, theme parks, shopping, visiting old friends and lots of wind and rain.

One of the first things we did was go to a farm. One of low budget theme parks centered around a working farm, we go to lots of these. Jack held a ferret, pet a rabbit and a guinea pig.

He also got pecked by a chicken, burped at by a ram and bucked by a sheep. It was a rich full day. Luckily the angry sheep only managed to get Jack's forearm. I think Jack felt more betrayed than physically hurt. He was just trying to feed the one at the back.

We went to Wookey Hole as well. Unfortunately there were no actual Wookies there... but The Hulk was there... and King Kong. I'd say that these things make more sense if you're there... but I'd be wrong. Very little about Wookey Hole makes any sense at all but the cave is good.
Standing right across from the circus history exhibit... Nothing else Marvel, comic, or otherwise related in any way anywhere near it.
"Jack do you want a picture of you any the big monkey?"
"Oh. Ok then."
"It's not a monkey."
"It's not a monkey... It's a gorilla."

Jack also sat inside a tree for a while.
 We went to a regular low budget theme park a couple days later.

Jack's first solo ride on a rollercoaster

These are the duck family at the camp site. Helen caught one and the mother duck immediately
came raging toward her but urns out the mother duck was after the bread in Helen's hand
Since we were in the area we went Meghan hunting and actually found a Meghan and a Ewan as well. We managed to lure them with a Subway lunch. Jack loved seeing Meghan again and wants to visit her again soon.

So that's it, the end of our first summer holiday. It came on us all a bit sudden but we managed a good one. Starting Tuesday Helen is back at work.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Ted the grouch

Ted lives primarily at Nanny's house. He's a teddy bear with a rainbow scarf, sure he looks cuddly and soft but there's trouble in them there stitches.

Ted just can't seem to get along with the other teddies. Particularly Lula the dog. Every time Jack brings Ted home for the night all we hear about is the trouble he causes. From the moment we get into the car it's...
Stop it. Hey! Be nice... I'll make you sit outside. Hey you stop it right now. Mommy!
Ted just punched Lula.
Tell him to behave.
Now Lula is crying.

Doing time at the bottom of the stairs.
On one visit Ted was behaving particularly aggressively all day long. Jack had threatened Ted a number of times saying that he wouldn't be allowed to go to bed with everyone at bed time. The hitting and biting continued. At bed time we asked Jack if Ted was going to bed with him and were not hugely surprised when we got a yes.
We tucked them all in and said goodnight.
As we sat downstairs we could hear Ted getting up to his usual tricks. There was hitting and crying and a couple of scoldings for about ten minutes before he called us in.
Come and get Ted please he's not being nice.
Not wanting to go back upstairs just at that moment we suggested that he just put Ted outside the door so we could collect him later.
No he made Lula cry. He punched her right in the eye.
Apparently being set outside the door just wasn't punishment enough for Ted. Jack insisted that we take him downstairs where he would be all alone for the whole night.

A couple days later as we went to bed we noticed Jack had shut his door, which is uncommon. Just outside the door Ted sat slumped on the floor.

I guess some teddies just ain't no good.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Directional Snoring

Helen was out for the night leaving just Jack and myself at bed time. We went through the routine, read the story and everything when Jack suggested that we have a mini-sleepover. It's been quite a while since we had one so I agreed.

We lay side by side for a couple minutes set to our usual game of extreme snoring. I eventually rolled onto my side facing Jack, which apparently displeased him.
*huff* Now there's not enough room.
There's plenty of room. There really was.
No. No there's not. I've got to be on the other side.
Jack climbed out of bed and walked all the way around the bed to climb back in on the other side. This is quite a journey, there's not a lot of room and this particular night there were several hurdles of laundry. He struggled through it and climbed back into the bed on the other side, where there was significantly less room.
After Jack was comfortable the extreme snoring resumed until I roll over again to face him.
*sigh* I don't believe this. Out he climbed to make the perilous journey again. He climbed back in and I immediately rolled over to face him. He huffed again.
What's wrong with you?
You keep snoring at me. You're too loud.
But you're snoring too.
I'm not snoring like you, like this. He make some snoring sounds, presumably as loud as he could manage. Like that. Snore the other way. Snore over there.
Fine I will...  

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Here, take mine.

I recently had to create and film a diorama for my Games Design class.

I was discussing some of the aspects of the filming with Helen at the dinner table. Earlier that day I'd acquired some additional legos that I hoped at the time would give me a sufficient number of lego men.

Jack was quite during the conversation. Normally he's quite chatty. This time however he sat contently and ate his dinner until Helen went to the kitchen to get his pudding.

Daddy, have you got enough legos for your school?
Yes, I think so.
If you haven't. You can use some of mine and you can keep them if you need to.

Jack has no idea that I'd already made very specific plans to raid his collection for what I needed. But the sentiment is very sweet.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Curly hair

Jack generally doesn't eat the crusts of his bread. He insists that he doesn't like the crusts, but it seems to depend mostly on what kind of mood he's in, or how hungry he is.

Today he left the crusts of his bread and some pieces of cheese.

I don't want to eat my cheese today.
Eat the rest of your bread then.
I don't want curly hair so I'm not going to eat my crusts.

Jack is very protective about his hair. He likes it dry and blonde. He's not happy about it having darkened quite a lot over the last year. He also likes it flat, no hair gel or any other types of manipulation. Not to short either, he doesn't like the possibility that the barber might leave him bald. And apparently he likes his wavy curls just the way they are.

It would seem that somewhere along the way he's heard that crusts make your hair curly... Nanny comes to mind... We learned a long time ago that you've got to be pretty careful about what of these 'wives tales' you tell Jack. He's got a tenancy to take them a little seriously. I'd be interested to know exactly how long ago he heard this one, I bet I could match it to the day he stopped liking crusts.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Jack's Secret Place.

With the uncharacteristically tropical weather we've had in the UK lately I've been varying the dog walking locations a little to facilitate Jack taking his scooter. He likes riding his scooter and is always asking to take it with us on walks. The more urban setting of the footpaths around our neighborhood makes for good scooting.

A about half-way along the walk there's a section that Jack informs me is secret. In fact it's his secret place.

Jack built this secret place himself, after he came into a bunch of money from some work he did years ago. He thought it would be a good idea to build it here so we could walk the dogs to it.

This is the secret path to the secret place. He made it just for us, though it wasn't easy to make so there are a couple of steep and slippery bits.
He put the steps in because of all the steep and slippery bits a few yards back. They work much better.
This is the pond, Jack is not happy with how it turned out, as you can see there's waaay too much water. Apparently Jack only asked for 50 waters but there was some sort of administration error was given 100,000. He only wanted a little pond and just look at it, does that look little to you? Thankfully they didn't charge him for the extra 99,950 waters, he only paid the upfront agreed amount of £100,000. Which is good because that's apparently all there was in the water budget.
This is the angry goose, the one on the right. As soon as he sees us he drops his head and slowly glides over to us to hiss, even from the other side of the pond. He wasn't part of Jack's design... I don't think.
Jack put this bench here just for me and him. No mommies... It's strategically placed so we can sit on it at the exact moment when we get tired of walking.
He put this bridge in so we can get out. There's supposed to be a river under it, but it's not a very good because it's not got enough water.