Beaten up by my two year old

I wrote the other week how I had taken an ego-bashing from my children when they told me they wanted to go and live with their nana instead. This week I took a physical bashing from my  two-year-old daughter.
Not too pleased about being scooped up away from the scrap she was having and winning with her older sister, she took a swing and lamped me straight across the face.
About everyone else that crosses her path has taken a bit of a battering lately, so I suppose it was inevitable that she eventually turned on me.
I have written before about the opposite personalities of my two daughters. While the eldest was always the victim of toy tussles and left weeping empty-handed on the floor, her younger sister is starting to seem like the nursery bully.
I had warned the nursery staff she can be a bit rough, but when they told me she had been a bit “unkind” elaborating that she had been pushing the other children over and “clawing” at their faces I was devastated.
It is not as if I can play the innocent and pretend she is not mine, as with the same ginger hair it is pretty obvious. As I leave the nursery and walk past the other parents I keep thinking they are giving me looks that say “ah, so that is the terrible mother whose daughter gave our little angel a black-eye.”
To add to her image as one not to be messed with, an incident occurred the other week where when I went to collect her she was showing me a toy that was jammed in a box and shouting what she thought was “Stuck, stuck, stuck”. Unfortunately she currently pronounces S as F. As I want this to be a family blog,
 I will have to leave to your imagination my embarrassment.
She has been getting better lately and is very good at saying sorry and giving her sister a hug. And I have been assured by other mums that I am not alone and this is a stage they will grow out of, nevertheless you can’t help wonder if it is something you have done.
But there are brilliant things about toddlerdom too. She seems to be riding a pure emotional rollercoaster and there is a total impulsive innocence that seems to be lost by the time they reach three when they can start to reason and argue with you. There’s not much that cheers me up more than watching her dance madly around the house to whatever music is on the radio or singing some made-up tune.
It’s her birthday tomorrow so I am bracing myself for what more the “terrible twos” could possibly have in store.

Walk at Belsay Hall

My daughter is convinced there are dinosaurs living in the grounds of Belsay Hall. When you arrive and see the grand hall and manicured lawn it all looks very formal, but as you walk through the gardens and follow the path through the old quarry to the hidden castle, it is like treking through a scene from Jurassic Park. The path winds its way through the rock face and everything seems bigger than normal, even for me, so it must be enormous for a child. There are cave-like hideaways, lots of hidden seats, giant leaves and centuries old trees – and there’s a castle at the end of it to explore. The most stunning time to visit has to be when the rhododendrons are in full bloom, but any time has got something to offer. Check online and English Heritage often run events from jousting to theatre and singing. The empty shell of the old hall is also great for kids to explore – as they are exactly that – empty. Mine love tearing round the vast echoing rooms and I don’t have to worry as there is nothing to break. Practicalities wise, the paths are all flat lose gravel and pushchair friendly. There is a tea room at the main entrance, with baby change facilities and plenty of scenic picnic spots either at the hall or at the castle. The walk from the house to the castle is just about 10 minutes adult pace – obviously a LOT longer toddler pace with so many distractions. There are only portaloos at the castle, and there was an ice cream stand when we were there. Prices: adult £7.70 child (5-15)£4.60 family (2 adults, 3 children) £20 If you join English Heritage after your visit, your entry is refunded. Membership is £47 for an adult or £82 for a couple.

Good mother gene

I don’t know whether to feel relieved or even more inadequate after the latest scientific revelation about motherhood.
Apparently whether I am a good mum or not is out of my hands and it is all down to my genes.
It was reported last week that scientists in America  have discovered a gene that determines the strength of a woman’s maternal instincts and how much effort they put into bringing up their young.
The ‘Good Mother Gene’ is found in a specific group of brain cells and can control crucial biological behaviour such as protecting, feeding or raising children.
The discovery was made not in humans, but in mice. When this group of brain cells was reduced in the poor little critters they spent less time licking, nursing and retrieving their young.
So it got me wondering whether I possess this gene or not?  I don’t remember reading in any of my parenting manuals that licking my newborn was an important motherly role. On the other hand, if my child runs off, I do go and bring them back.
Comparing the modern mother to a mouse does seem a bit unfair. Do they have to juggle the work/life balance? Panic that they have been teaching their child to read with the old fashioned alphabet and not the phonic one? Check they are getting enough exercise, not watching too much TV and eating the right food?
I also wonder who decided that the official definition of a “good mother” is someone who gives lots of hugs (or licks) and makes sure the child doesn’t get lost?
What does this mean for the so-called tiger mothers? Think of tennis player Andy Murray’s mum. Maybe she was good at nursing and retrieving too, but I bet she was also pretty good at kicking his lazy teenage backside out of bed and dragging him down to the tennis court. And look at him now.
And what about the career mum, who goes back to work when her child is a few weeks old to bring in the family pay packet and provide for her children. Is this necessarily a bad mother?
Maybe the scientists need to follow this emotionally deprived generation of mice until they hit the mice teenage years and find out if they end up with a gang of rioting rodents, angry with society and life, before they publish their conclusions.
Rather than announcing headline grabbing, pointless mouse research that perpetuates an outdated image of perfect motherhood that is irrelevant to modern life, scientists could concentrate on finding something useful like a button you can press on a child that will make it sleep through the night and then I bet you will suddenly find a lot more mothers feel like being “good” the following day.

Birthday cake stress

We may like the cards and presents, but a birthday is really all about the cake.
So perhaps beginning my attempt for my daughter’s second birthday party at 8pm the night before folowing a quick dash to the shops after work for flour and eggs was not the best idea.
My next mistake was trying a new recipe. I had already learned from an previous error of judgement that there is absolutely no point trying to make a “healthy option” when kids are concerned. It was the Christmas party at my local toddler group where we were all told to bring a festive treat. I thought I was being clever by cooking up some banana bran muffins from healthy eating guru Annabel Karmel. But I was soon put in my place when they were the only, yes only thing, left on the table. To add to my woe, I had to do a public walk of shame when I was called up to come and take home my untouched baked goods.
So, I couldn’t go wrong with chocolate fudge cake, or so I thought. Anyway it turns out you can and when it emerged from the oven at around 9pm instead of the springy, mouth-watering traybake in the picture, I had an almost flat rectangular crusty pancake barely thick enough to plant a candle in.
Trying to calm my meltdown that I was a terrible mother who can’t even cook her daughter a birthday cake, their dad reminded me that the kids wouldn’t care what it looked like as long as it was chocolate. “But their mums will!” I wailed. So I poured myself a glass of wine and started again and made some simple chocolate fairy cakes which by the time I’d plastered them in icing and Smarties looked semi-respectable.
So after I’d finished clearing up the carnage I’d made in the process, I’d basically faffed about in the kitchen for about two and a half hours. All I could think of was the £5 traybake I’d seen earlier in the supermarket, and put back on the shelf and that could have saved me a whole lot of hassle.
I know that the children really didn’t care what the cake looked like, but it somehow feels like a labour of love.
Maybe it is my childhood memories too. My gran could cook up some amazing feats from trains to bonfires, forts and a doll. And I do remember them even if I didn’t appreciate the skill at the time.
My older daughter is four in January, so I think I will have to get practicing. But maybe I will have a supermarket traybake in the cupboard just in case.

September walk at Gibside

Beautiful day at Gibside today. We usually only get as far as the Strawberry Castle Fort as at toddler pace that can take up a few hours in itself. But today we came armed with the backpacks and set off to explore further afield. With the new path opened through the West Wood it was great to be able to continue on and the children enjoyed hunting out the carved wooden creatures in the forest. After a visit to the stables, where they milked Daisy and played in the discovery room we headed back where the favourite activity of the day was gathering acorns under the oak trees.

Morpeth Steppy Stones

Park at High Stanners and follow the riverside walk round to the Steppy Stones. Great for picnics and fishing nets, as long as there hasn’t been too much rain!

Heighley Gate

What would I do without Heighley Gate, near Morpeth? A brilliant playground, two indoor soft plays as well as plants, fish and rabbits. And all free. Amazing.

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