Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Going On a 'Venture.

Nonna considers how much more exciting and educational the great outdoors is for children than sitting in front of a DVD.

We're very lucky to have so many great National Trust properties near us in Kent. One particular favourite is Ightham Mote. I used to take the children there when they were little, and now there's even more to see with grandchildren.

A couple of weeks ago Giovanna and I took Luca there for 'a 'venture', as he calls it. We were lucky to have a sunny day, but either way it's a lovely place to expand children's imaginations. Never mind DVDs and games consoles, they have nothing on getting out into the fresh air to have fun, and even learn a thing or two.

(If you click on the photos, you can see bigger versions of them.)

A great place to play Pooh sticks, which is exactly what we did!

A twisted old tree - good for looking at texture. 

They have wonderful veg and flower gardens, where Luca
can learn the names of plants and what vegetables look like
when they're in the ground. They're a feast for at least four of the
senses and Luca in particular likes to smell them.

Tree stumps looking like a line of gnarled old magical beings -
fodder for story telling, along with the tree 'graveyard' below.
They're almost like bones.

At one end of the walk they've created a natural playground,
made from the wood lying around, with a babbling brook
running through.

There's a twig tunnel that Luca liked to run up and down.

Handy deckchairs to sit back in and enjoy the
ambiance. We got Luca to close his eyes and
tell us what he could hear.

The joy of running in the open air.

Pottering and finding treasures - usually sticks or stones!

A bank of buttercups - just because they're so pretty!

We had a fun-filled day, and didn't even get to go in the lovely old house. We'll have to save that for a future adventure.

More information on Ightham Mote

Visit the writing blog I share with fellow scribe Elaine Roberts: Write Minds Write Place

Find me on Twitter: @FCapaldiBurgess

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Rediscovering the Childish Fascination of Simple Things

The good thing about having grandchildren is that you get to experience the simple pleasures, like going out for a walk in the woods and meadow to point out all the wonderful spring flowers that often you'd pass by. Luca is endlessly curious - and in the 'Why?' phase! - so he makes me think about things in a way I wouldn't normally. For instance, 'What's the sky for?' asked the other day when it was very blue. Good question! If he'd asked what it was made of, or why it was blue, that might have been simpler (if difficult for him to understand), but what's it for? I'll have to think about that.

Meanwhile, here's the walk Luca and I enjoyed a few days ago in the nearby wood and meadow. I hope you enjoy it too.

Off we go! "Pack pack" at the ready. (It was only filled with toys!)
Anemones. Try saying that after a few drinks!
Lesser Celandine
Bluebells. The woods in the village used to have about three times
as many, but tree pruning has taken the shade loved by this flower.
Great Hairy Willowherb?
What treasure has he found?
We've reached the meadow. In a couple of months the
whole area will be filled with wild flowers.
Once on the meadow we found the more humble buttercup,
a welcome sight nonetheless.

Clumps of cheery dandelions.

Cowslips. The meadow is filled currently with yellow flowers.
You can read about my writing adventures with fellow scribe Elaine Roberts on our blog Write Minds Write Place


Friday, 24 April 2015

An Easter Egg Hunt

Nonna remembers the Easter egg hunt in her own back garden.

Easter was over two weeks ago now, but spring continues to, well, spring! The weather has been up and down but was lovely today, reminding me of the Easter egg hunt we had with my two grandsons, Luca and Phynn. Little Seren isn't yet old enough, but I'm sure this time next year she'll be wanting to join in.

Phynn finds the first egg.

What's the next clue?

Luca races ahead

What's under the chiminea?

There's something down the old chimney


Enjoying the spoils. No chocolate for poor Maizie!

Visit the writing blog I share with fellow scribe Elaine Roberts: Write Minds Write Place


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Scary Elves, Youthful Santas and a Reindeer Called Rossy

Nonna samples the delights (and otherwise) of a visit to Santa

Friday this week was a first for three-year-old Luca, who had never before been to visit Santa Clause. My daughter, Giovanna, decided that this year he’d have a better understanding of the jolly old man in red, so we headed off to the nearest large shopping centre’s version of the winter wonderland.

Old enough to comprehend a little more he may have been, but he wasn’t ready for the alarming fairy/elf that greeted us as we waited in the queue. The young woman, somewhere in her early twenties, had brilliant white eye makeup on, even down to the long eyelashes. Giovanna was most jealous, but Luca was not impressed. A little boy in front of us had already burst into tears at her appearance. Luca wouldn’t even look at her. Instead, he snuggled against mummy’s shoulder, resolutely refusing to answer her questions. Not like his usual chatty personality at all.

The frightening makeup was nothing to her lack of child friendly banter. When Luca went shy, she announced that, ‘Father Christmas doesn’t give presents to rude little boys.’ She should have been wearing an ‘elf’ warning. (Sorry!) Wicked witch of the north was more like it.

The penguins in the display as we queued were of more interest to Luca, jogging and jiggling around as they were. Giovanna, a psychology student, questioned whether a couple of them needed therapy, judging by the way they were swaying back and forth with expressions of bewilderment. Not so much One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as one rocked on the penguin’s nest.

Santa’s room was cosy, set up like a living room with a Christmas tree. His costume hid his tender years, though he could have done with a deeper Ho Ho Ho. Luca warmed more to him than his minions, and was thrilled to be given a fluffy white reindeer. Throwing a bit of a curveball for Giovanna, he decided he wanted a space station for Christmas. Goodness even knows where he got that idea, and by the look on Giovanna’s face, she must have been wondering where on earth she was going to buy one from. If anyone knows, please leave an appropriate comment below!

Once outside, Luca declared that his new toy was called Rossy the Reindeer. Why? ‘Because that’s what he’s called.’ Obvious really.

At lunch, Luca had no trouble relating his adventure to the middle-aged waitress. She sat and talked to him on his own level, using child friendly language. No threats were necessary. She could have taught the elves a lesson or two.

And now Luca’s gone to visit his little cousins, Phynn and Seren, and their big brother, Ben, in Wales. I haven’t been on here recently enough to announce that I’m now in possession of a granddaughter. She was born in July, the first girl in the family, including the step cousins, in twenty-five years. Her name, Seren, means ‘star’ in Welsh.

The ladies of the family are thrilled as they can, at last, buy those cute little dresses they’ve been eyeing up for so long . She might be getting quite a few for Christmas…

PS Kat finally got to use the birthing pool she was too quick to use with Phynn!

You can find the writing blog I share with others at http://writemindswriteplace.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Walkie Talkie Time

Time moves on and so do my grandsons. It was delightful at Christmas, having fourteen-month-old Phynn and two-and-a-quarter year old LHG together at their Aunty Carmela’s house. They'd developed so much, even from the last time they were together, two months earlier.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, Phynn’s parents have had to lay a thick carpet on top of the terracotta tiles in their living room, due to his proclivity for launching himself onto the floor from the settee. Now he can walk properly, his new trick is to climb onto the two beanbags piled up to prevent him getting behind the settee, and launch himself from those onto the settee itself. He still has no fear. At Christmas, with a house full (thirteen at one point), he loved scampering around the chaos, being buffeted by dogs as tall as him. I’m told that barely two weeks after his first half-dozen steps, he insisted on walking all the way around a museum and would not be carried. Mmm, wonder how long the novelty of that will last.

Judging by my experience with LHG, not that long. Although a good little walker, there are many times when he will scoot in front of you and stretch his arms up. That means, “Carry me, please.” Despite his galloping language skills, he doesn’t often express that desire in words. He says an awful lot of other things though. A car journey is full of pointing and observations like, “Red bus. Green tractor. Woo woo [Emergency vehicles]. Bridge.” At the end of the journey there’s the inevitable, “Out. Stuck. Stuck!” at his futile attempts to undo his car seat straps.

I see him at least twice a week and there are always new words to be heard. His sentences are also getting longer, with things like, “Where Pa?”, “There Nonna house,” and, “It rain Nonna car window [it’s raining on Nonna’s car’s windscreen].” And despite so many items now being declared ‘my…’ (my cup, my woo woo or simply, “My!”), his house still remains, “Mummy house”. When that phrase goes from being a statement to a sad lament, we know it’s shorthand for, “I’m tired now and I want to go home to my bed.”

Poor little Phynn got firsthand experience of LHG’s “my” phase at Christmas. As yet he only gazes in bewilderment as the toy he was enjoying is removed from his grasp.

I don’t expect it will be long before he learns to grab it back and without language declare, “No! My!”

(With Great-Grandpa TC)

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Remember, Remember...

This year, since he’s now two, Giovanna decided she’d try LHG at the annual fireworks in the village.

However, there was a big potential problem. Luca does not like loud noises. Until recently hand dryers in public toilets have sent him into a frenzy of tears and vacuum cleaners didn’t impress him much either. Even now he will dolefully eye the objects with suspicion, his bottom lip sticking out (he is past master at unhappy sticky-out lip!)

Neither did past family experience bode well. I remember a time when his Uncle Jack, who he’s a lot like, wouldn't last more than thirty seconds into the fireworks before he was hollering his head off and one of us had to take him home. This went on until he was at least four or five. He hated loud noises too.

With all this in mind, we set off to Bluewater on Tuesday afternoon, searching for a pair of earmuffs, to, well, muffle the noise. You would not believe how difficult it is to get earmuffs for boys. Giovanna examined the items on offer, deciding that even a little two-year-old chappy couldn’t pull off pink, sparkles, flowers or Hello Kitty. Having almost given up, good old M&S finally came to our rescue with a pair of manly navy blue earmuffs, which were actually in the boys’ section.

Overdressed for what was a mild evening (bonfire nights used to be cold), we set off through the woods down to the meadow. Trouble struck early on when Luca, tired of the pre-firework fire jugglers and tired full stop, fought and hollered to go home. It looked like it was going to be Uncle Jack all over again. Giovanna, resigned to missing the spectacle, tramped wearily back through the woods to the footpath, only to have LHG whinge that he wanted to go back to the fireworks.

All’s well that ends well, as they say, and once the fireworks started, his mouth was open in awe for the whole show. With woolly hat and earmuffs firmly in place, the noise didn’t bother him at all. Afterwards he declared it, ‘Good’.

As Giovanna pointed out, he was much braver than Jack ever was!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Crazy Uncle Pete

Nonna has to announce that, sadly, one of her nipoti (grandsons)* has moved to another country.

No, that’s not as bad as it sounds. My little grandson, Phynn, has moved just the other side of the Welsh border to a village near Abergavenny, with his daddy Peter, mummy Kat and big bro Ben.

Yes, it is sad for Nonna, but I have to admit it is a very beautiful part of the UK. They’re surrounded by wonderful green rolling hills and have a large garden full of apple trees. Idyllic. Weirdly, it’s also twelve miles, as the crow flies, from where my mother was born, in Abertysswg.

The house is amazing, perched as it is on a country estate with several others, all of which, I’m guessing, were once agricultural workers’ homes. The interior is full of white walls and wood – and terracotta floor tiles. Whilst these look good, they’re a bit of a hazard when you have an eleven-month-old baby.

Peter and Kat are now having to buy a thick carpet for the living room. The rug they’ve acquired is too thin to preserve Phynn from several little mishaps he’s encountered. Not quite walking on his own yet, he’s now managing to get onto the settee, then launch himself head first onto the floor.

Oh dear. Not good.

However, I can’t say that I’m surprised at Phynn’s newly found kamikaze tendencies. As a two year old, his daddy managed to climb the closed step ladder at the top of the stairs (yes, I know it shouldn’t have been there). The first I knew was when said ladder came tumbling, top over bottom, down the stairs. To say the look on Peter’s face as he clung on was a picture is an understatement. How he managed to escape without a scratch is beyond me.

Not daunted by this mishap, it seemed to set up an unintentional theme in his life.

There was the time, as a twelve-year-old, his friends brought him to the front door in shock. He’d gone over the handlebars of his bike and had a huge gash on his hand which had to be stitched at A&E.

As a drunk eighteen-year-old, he thought it would be a great idea to jump off one of the walls surrounding Rochester Castle. He dislocated his ankle and Mum had to take him to A&E to make sure it wasn’t broken.

Not long after that, cheffing at a local restaurant, he overdosed on coffee and thought he was having a heart attack. Mum was called in to – you guessed it – take him to A&E. He rarely drinks coffee now.

I wish his incident at Rochester Castle had instilled in him the same caution over alcohol, as a couple of years later Pa and I found ourselves in a hospital in the next county. Peter had imbibed rather a skinful (and who knows what else) at a music festival, and had somehow found his way onto the central reservation of the M25, in the middle of the night. He'd been picked up and taken to hospital. God only knows how he wasn’t knocked down. It still makes me shudder to think about it.

His last near mishap was shortly after, back in Rochester where he’d been staying with a friend. He’d managed to stray to the wrong side of town (yes, apparently Rochester has one). Peter has looked rather alternative for most of his adult life. I can’t remember if he had his dreads then, but if he didn’t, he had long, curly hair and a hippy way of dressing. He was starting to get threatening looks from some of the more aggressive young people in the area and was afraid he’d be beaten up. Mum and her car to the rescue once more!

And these are just a few of the reasons why he became known as Crazy Pete, and later, when LHG was born, Crazy Uncle Pete. Our family seems to foster crazy uncles for some reason. But that’s another story. These days Peter is a more sensible daddy about to embark on a blacksmithing degree. More sensible, but I'm sure he'd agree, still a little bit crazy.

I hope these will be cautionary tales to Phynn and LHG, and that they manage not to have too many mishaps as they’re growing up. And if they do, that they have the charmed life of Daddy/Crazy Uncle Pete. Now, where are those carpet samples…

  Watch that wall!

*Confusingly, it also means ‘nephews’ in Italian!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Tongue Tied

My poor little five month old grandson, Phynn, is, as I write, up in London having a little operation.

Over the months, Phynn has had a problem with feeding. Consequently he hasn't put on as much weight as other babies his age. Not that he looks undernourished, and he's doing all the things he should be.

Being petit, with his huge inquisitive eyes and his half I-don't-know-whether-to-smile-at-you-or-not grin, he's like a mischievous pixie, especially when he has on his green pixie hat and red booties that curl up at the ends (so cute!). But his mummy, Kat, who's persevered with breast feeding, felt there was something not quite right. Mummy instinct. She suspected he had a tongue-tie, a real and troublesome problem, not just a euphemism for being too shy to speak. The NHS site describes it as 'a tight piece of skin connecting the underside of the tongue and the floor of (the baby's) mouth.'

Kat mentioned it several times to various health professionals, who seemed to have little knowledge of it, or just dismissed her worries.

Finally, a paediatrician took her suggestion seriously and did a little investigation  - not easy when all a baby that age wants to do is suck everything that goes into his mouth! Sure enough, Phynn had a little tongue-tie, the least serious of the three types.

Kat and I wondered how many mothers have given up breast feeding through a perceived failure, when maybe their babies simply couldn't suck properly due to this easily remedied problem.

Just recently, with diet changes (meat and an increase in dairy), more rest for Kat (usually a whirling dervish), and feeding Phynn expressed milk on a little wooden spoon, he has started to put more weight on. Hopefully his little 'snip' (no anaesthetic involved, just a brief 'ouch!') will make feeding a little easier for him.

PS Just had a phone call from Peter. It's all done and Phynn is quite content, so no big trauma, thank goodness.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Keen Teeny Rastafeeny's Rapid Arrival

I had a phone call at 7.45 this morning. You know how you always fear the worst, especially when you’ve just woken up. Of course, the obvious passed me by in my half-asleep state. One look at the caller ID though and I knew instantly what had occurred.

‘Kat woke up at quarter to two with pains,’ said Peter. ‘And he was born at 3.15.’

‘3.15?’ I said, incredulous.

‘Yep. We didn’t even get time to set up the birthing pool.’

It seems the midwife didn’t get there in time either. So who delivered little Teeny Rastafeeny? Well, Peter of course! Luckily it was two pushes and he was out. Peter had planned to cut the cord, but the midwife arrived before it was necessary. Having done the important bit he had to leave her something to do.

I knocked on Uncle Jack’s door as soon as I got off the phone. ‘Your new nephew’s arrived,’ I told him.


‘Teeny’s been born.’


‘Kat and Peter’s baby’s arrived.’

‘Uh? Really?’

‘Yes. Do you want to come with me to see him?’

He considered me blearily. ‘Um…’


‘Yeah, later,’ he confirmed, yawning and snuggling back into the bed.

Pa and I arrived about quarter to nine to find Kat sitting serenely in the living room cuddling Teeny, her mum seated with a cup of tea and big brother Ben choosing his Christmas list from the John Lewis website (‘Sometimes you’ve just got to let things go,’ said Kat, who’s not keen on kids spending lots of time on computers). Peter was on tea making duty. Anyone would think we’d popped into a coffee morning, so calm was the atmosphere.

Pa took a few photos then left for work as Aunty Giovanna and LHG turned up. LHG took a brief look at his new cousin before toddling off to find something more interesting to do, like fiddling with the fridge magnets.

The conversation inevitably turned to who Teeny looks like. So far he seems to favour Ben with Peter’s forehead, Kat’s ears and smidge of the ‘Turnbull’ nose (ie, with a ridge down the bit in between his nostrils). If LHG is anything to go by, in six months’ time he’ll look completely different. The ‘Turnbull’ ridge and the cleft chin are the only recognisable features left. Giovanna reckons the current LHG ate the original one!

So, it’s welcome to the world to Teeny Rastafeeny (his parents don’t seem to have revealed his name to the world, [ie facebook] yet, so neither will I) on this cold and misty, autumn morning.

Teeny with his Aunty Giovanna and cousin LHG

Friday, 19 October 2012

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall and Other Endlessly Fascinating Things

Last weekend Giovanna, LHG and I had a lovely break in the West Country with his Aunty Carmela and Uncle Simon (formerly named C and S on this blog, but they’ve told me I’m allowed to name them). The weather was kind to us and we had a lovely time eating, walking along beaches and getting lost in a maze. Little LHG enjoyed it all, but among his pleasures was the simple one of looking in a full length mirror that Carmela had propped up against one wall. Every time he passed it he’d turn and regard the other baby, lifting his hand to it, only to find a barrier. I don’t think he’s quite got the idea that it’s him yet, which apparently comes around the 18 month mark.

Seeing him stare into Carmela’s mirror reminded me of an incident three or four months back when Pa and I took him into John Lewis to look at clocks. Next to the clock department they keep the mirrors, big and small, fancy and simple, so I wheeled him round them to keep him occupied. Poor soul, he didn’t know where to look first. There were babies everywhere and they all looked the same. What’s more, they all had a pushchair and a nonna that looked like his!

What a strange and fascinating place the world must be to a baby. It makes me wish I could come afresh to it like that, to have that wide-eyed wonderment every few seconds as some brand new experience is rolled out. Even the leaves on the trees, waving around in the wind, are an endless source of wonderment to LHG.

As for the clock, we intended to buy a small mantle-type one to put on one of the bookshelves in the living room. What we ended up with was a huge black, distressed clock face to put on the wall. It sat for a day or two on one end of the L-shaped settee. LHG kept eyeing it up with relish. At the time he was at the walking-along-holding-on-to-things stage. Eventually he shuffled his way round from the end of the seating where his toys were, to where the big round thing sat at fondling level. The temptation when he reached it was too much and his little fingers stretched out to pull at the clock hands. At this point he was whisked up and back to his toys, only to start the process again.

Ah yes, such an endlessly fascinating world for babies, and so much of it sadly out of bounds.

Just five days now until LHG’s little cousin, Teeny Rastafeeny is due. So far there’s been absolutely no indication that he’s about to pop out, but hopefully I’ll have some news soon.