OVER Easter, Rachel's sister, brother in law and their three-year old came to stay with us. For the purpose of anonymity I shall call them S, R and J, respectively. Here's a few stories from their stay.
On Friday we all met at Hatton Country World, a farm-based attraction for younger visitors and a shopping village for adults. J was scared of the pigs, but was taken greatly by the guinea pigs. This was appreciated by the adults, as the guinea pigs lived inside, away from the unexpectedly strong sunshine outside. The guinea pigs lived next door to an indoor playground, containing table football, mini tractors, a giant playhouse and a sandpit, complete with diggers. J delighted in running around the playhouse, trying to escape from his daddy outside, the giant to his Jack.
"FEE, FI, FO, FUM!" shouted R.
"Can't get me!" J would reply.
It was all going swimmingly until R scared the wrong child.
Ages were wiled away as J entertained himself in the sand pit, sitting atop the digger (which he insisted was called an "exabator") and digging a big hole. Later on, outside, he found another sandpit with an even bigger exabator, although there were also bigger children who wanted to dig even bigger holes. There was even a bossy child trying to project manage the hole digging process.
We enjoyed our time out at the farm. We saw teeny tiny baby guinea pigs, ducklings and a very fluffy alpaca who looked uncomfortable in the heat. Over one of the main thoroughfares a bridge connected two paddocks for some of the larger animals, including horses and donkeys: it was a bridge just for the goats, complete with a warning sign to 'mind the trolls'. There were sheep races and beautiful birds of prey, an Easter bunny hunt, a tractor with a hat on and, at the far end of the farm, a snoring pig.
After an enjoyable but long day in the Warwickshire sunshine, it was time for R to head home, and S and J to come back to our flat to stay. Neither S nor J had ever visited before.
"Will it have toys?" J apparently asked.
"No J," S explained. "Simon and Rachel are grown ups, they don't play with toys."
"No, only children play with toys," J confirmed. "Adults like to play a lot with washing up."
Just a few minutes after arriving at our flat, J suddenly gets very excited.
"Mummy! Mummy! Look what they've got!"
S looks around, clueless to what he might be referring to.
I was keeping J company, reading him A Squash and a Squeeze. It's a marvellous tale of an old lady who thinks she hasn't enough room for all her belongings. So she invites a pig, a goat, a chicken and a cow to share her house at the suggestion of a wise old man. But the pig raids the larder. The chicken lays an egg on the floor. The goat treads on the egg. The cow does a jig on the table. Eventually, she can no longer take it, and banishes the animals to the outdoors, realising that she had had quite enough room for herself in the beginning after all.
The story was so good, J asked me to read it again. And again. And again.
Later, as he decided it would be fun to play baby gorilla/mummy gorilla again, when mummy gorilla was trying to have a Nice Time with her sister, I attempted to distract J with my Planet Earth DVDs. J likes animals, so I thought the programmes might interest him. At first we were going to watch the Great Plains episode, because the wildebeest in it are a bit like goats, but then decided against it because there might also be trolls. There would also be lions, which are a bit scary (and, as J liked to tell me, they go "Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"). I settled for the Jungles episode. J remained captivated and terrified in equal measure throughout, hiding whenever something new appeared but full of questions about what the animals were doing. I had forgotten, sadly, that the Jungles episode contains a section featuring mummy gorillas, with baby gorillas on their backs...
Later, we saw a picture of a chameleon eye. I explained to J all about chameleons and how they can change colour, and he listened intently. I was absolutely amazed the following day when he repeated back to me, almost word for word, what I had said, including the word 'chameleon'. He's a very clever three year old.
At Rowheath Pavilion park on the Saturday, J took great pleasure in overfeeding the ducks and geese. We adults became very excited at the sighting of two baby coots. Their parents would dive into the lake, dredging up detritus from the bottom to stir up insects that they could pick off and pass to their young. We thought we would help them out by feeding them bread, but the baby coots wouldn't go near it. Never ones to give up on free food, the parents (after offering it to each baby in turn) gobbled it up themselves. Rachel and I were captivated, but J wasn't particularly interested. He'd found a giant wooden train in the playground.
Living on the top floor of a block of flats, we try not to make too much noise for our neighbour below. She's a quiet lady, and we try to respect that. But three-year-olds who live in semi-detached houses and have a lot of energy find this quite difficult to understand, as you might expect. Each time he would stomp around we would politely ask him to tread lightly, because the lady who lives below us likes us to be quiet. It would be a fun game, we decided.
As we were in the kitchen when we asked him to do this, he very kindly tried his hardest not to charge around and stomp on the floor... in the kitchen. In the rest of the flat he made plenty of noise.
The concept of living in a flat was clearly vexing him. He would often ask about this lady and where she was. After all, he couldn't see her. He didn't really believe that she was real. It was obvious, he had concluded, that we had made her up. Then he would start talking about the "Lady Under Our Floor", which made us a little nervous.
On Easter Sunday, we met up with two of our neighbours - not from the flat beneath us, but nearly. We explained what J had been doing and hatched a plan. And so our friend Lydia pretended to be the Lady Under Our Floor, asking if it was he who had been making all that noise.
The look on his face was priceless.
It was a really lovely weekend and a special treat to see family all together (we went to visit Rachel's grandparents on the Sunday too). Hopefully it can happen again soon.