Imagine if you asked the Zoo for a pet… And then they said yes.

There aren’t many books that were firm favourites a quarter century ago when I was a toddler, and still are today for me to read to my own son. But Dear Zoo is a classic for a reason. Bright colours, fun and educational flaps (made before flap books were commonplace or even seen as helpful to children and pre-schoolers) and a whimsical storyline, it’s almost enough to make us parents not mind reading it for the 17th time in an evening. (Almost.)

This Autumn marks 30 years of the best-loved children’s book, and I was lucky enough to be invited along this afternoon to Pan Macmillan to meet the man himself and enjoy a party in celebration of the anniversary. We had so much fun!!

Before we went, I was nervous that R wouldn’t be old enough to behave himself nicely and take part properly. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My baby boy was nowhere to be seen. In his place was a confident toddler who swiftly began colouring the adorable Dear Zoo worksheets in with chunky crayons, brought me various Campbell classics to read, (I’m Hungry, Spin and Say, and his personal favourite-Oh Dear!) and most incredible of all, joined all the other children in sitting in an ordered huddle to listen to the storyteller. Just watching him emulate the older children and join in the activities would have made the whole experience worthwhile alone.

But it didn’t need to! From scanning the room I know I wasn’t the only adult there who was enjoying the interactive storyteller’s rendition of the classic a little more than we were supposed to. (This is for the kids right?) I practically burst with pride as R got 3 whole animal noises correct as the story was told. A huge step up from the ubiquitous “ssssssss” we were being given a few weeks ago.

Rod joined us for a Q and A session, and was charm itself. Hard to believe that this man was fully trained in Science and knee-deep in research before his love of painting brought him to children’s books. Imagine how different so many of our bookshelves would look! R spent the Q and A throwing Rod a Dear Zoo anniversary balloon back and forth, probably to the annoyance of the rest of the guests. Rod however was patience personified, and for once I didn’t try and get mother of the year award by making him stop. It’s Rod Campbell! And my son is playing catch with him!

Not much has changed since I was a kid, and party bags were always my favourite part of any birthday. This one was pretty awesome, with limited edition dear zoo mugs, board books, a gorgeous photo frame, puzzles and activities galore, as well as the piece de resistance, the brand new Touch and Feel version of Dear Zoo itself. I have to say, I was very excited to see what they had done with it, and the book doesn’t disappoint. Great varied sensory ideas on each page, and very different from the original. The only thing I wasn’t expecting was R’s reaction. He was unimpressed to say the least! Because it is such a favourite in our house, he knows the book back and forward and upside down. He spent the whole time I was trying to read it to him getting more and more frustrated that he couldn’t find the flaps! It annoyed him to such an extent that he couldn’t listen to me telling him to touch the furry or sticky or bumpy bits, and he ended up shuffling off my lap and finding another book instead.
My point I suppose is that the touch and feel version is a GREAT present for someone who doesn’t already love Dear Zoo, or perhaps a slightly older child who will appreciate the coolness of comparing the two versions and getting something different from each one. For a slightly OCD partially sighted toddler who likes things to be exactly how he remembers them… don’t even go there.

Rod signed books and was happy to take photos as guests mingled and healthy snacks were ignored by children who know better than to accept carrot sticks when there is birthday cake to be had. And we had a truly fabulous time! Arming our goody bag and our balloon puppy (it is the perfect pet after all) we left the party with matching grins. This book isn’t going anywhere in a hurry, I have a feeling I’ll be itching for an invite to it’s 60th anniversary party!

Advertisements

Social Networking, Face to Face.

Some people thrive in social situations. These people look forward to events where they will see both their nearest and dearest and also meet new faces, potential friends and contacts of all kinds. They enjoy getting dressed up, making small talk, mingling and shmoozing with all kinds of people, finding out about others as well as opening up about themselves.

A lot of people say that they dont enjoy social affairs. Oh-I’m no good at small talk they will sigh, or I never know where to put myself at these things. This type, despite their protestations, normally find the people they already know and stick by them, or choose a wing man for the duration of the engagement to keep them company on the daunting task of meeting new people. Truthfully, they are fine, even while they do not shine at first impressions or superficial chatter, they go home perhaps glad that the evening is over, but no worse off for having attended.

There are those out there however, who have a real phobia of not just crowded events and new people, but even socialising with current friends and family. Just being taken out of their comfort zone, out of their own homes can be a serious mental and physical ordeal. Watching someone with a disorder like this is an eye opener into both psychology and sociology. They may stand frozen to the spot, not knowing who to talk to or where to go. They will perhaps look moody, or act rudely, not speaking to the host or hostess, not answering direct questions, not engaging in conversation, eating hardly anything or in an anti social manner. In contrast, they might be overly interfering and pushy, make a scene, burst into tears, or fall into a noticable sulk. They may even walk out.

The drama begins far earlier than the time listed on the invite, with anxiety starting perhaps months beforehand, and debriefing and rehashing continuing for the same amount of time afterwards. A 2 hour cocktail party can become a 6 month ordeal.

This kind of issue is all the harder to understand because simply talking to another person, especially someone we know already, is something we all do on a daily basis, without even thinking about it. It is so second nature to us all, that it seems almost laughable that just being in a room with more than 3 or 4 others can cause such a strong and negative reaction.

But it happens. I see it. I’m sorry for it. I’m sorry for you, I’m sorry for the host, and I’m sorry for the people who are just trying to make you feel more comfortable. And if I’m honest, I’m sorry for me too.

Unfortunately being sorry for us all doesnt make it go away, or make it much easier to deal with.

The thing about Twitter is…

You don’t know the people on it.

Twitter has taken social networking to a new level. Wheras on Facebook, Google+ and similar, you add the people you know, on Twitter, you actively search for people you don’t know.

On Facebook, you know your boundaries. Theyre the same as in real life. Easy to work out and adhere to, because you know the people in real life. Would you reply sarcastically to them in a group? Great, then it’s okay to do the same on their wall. Would you wish them happy birthday? Go ahead then. The advent of the ‘like’ on Facebook means that we can do the equivalent of smiling at something someone said, which means we interact more with acquaintances who we wouldnt normally ‘talk’ to, either online or in real.

But on Twitter, we have no social guidelines to stick to. People can talk to us, and we need not reply. People share what we say without our permission, we are suddenly allowed to pester celebrities with our every unhilarious thought, and worse than celebrities, real people. It’s kind of like entering a party in the middle, where you don’t know anyone at all. But you have to speak to people, or why are you there?

It is so easy to overstep the mark when you dont know someone and they dont know you. Recently, I made a flippant comment to a new follower, which evidently not only upset but also offended. I apologized, and was forgiven, but was then basically made fun of by them and a friend of theirs for about 2 hours. 2 hours on Twitter, unlike in life, is like 2 hours at a party. I tried to ignore, but when a conversation is sent directly to your Activity tab, it is much like two bullies following you round the party throwing mini sausage rolls at your head. It was horrible. Now I don’t think they meant much harm, and to be honest I started the problem myself, and I’ve seen at least one of them to be lovely, (in the Twitterverse at least) but I was thrown back to the geekiest version of myself. Nervous that everyone was watching and laughing, in the equivalent of a room full of strangers.

Up until now, I’ve only seen the benefits of using Twitter. For my business, it drives traffic to my website, tells people succinctly what I do, and helps me find potential authors and businesses to work with. Personally, it’s a fun way to network with new people, be introduced to great books and blogs, and as all internet resources, an invaluable procrastination tool.

But beware. When people dont know you, they can’t hear your voice when reading your comments. They don’t see your facial expressions, and someone seriously needs to invent a sarcasm font. Twitter forces you to be fun, flippant and quick, as you only have those all important 140c. But at the end of the day, you’re talking to strangers, and I don’t know about you, but introducing myself generally needs more than that.

My 1st birthday party

Tips for those of you hosting a 1 year old’s birthday party.

  • Do not assume just cause his name is on the cake that he will in fact want to be there. A seperate play area is great for when all the attention just gets too much.
  • Do not assume that just because he doesnt want to be there, that means he will have an afternoon nap when he can hear all he’s missing out on.
  • Guarantee that the tooth that has been hiding below the surface for almost a month will start cutting through that morning. Have the nurofen on hand.
  • As cute as you thought the pics of him ‘opening’ his presents would be, never underestimate a baby’s fear of irrational things. Serves us right for buying such terrifying wrapping paper I suppose.
  • Assume that regardless of the time span put on the party, everyone can and will arrive at once. Until this point, predict extreme awkwardess for the 2 guests that showed up on time. Once everyone arrives, predict bedlam until end of show.
  • Why would family members be on their best behaviour just because you’re throwing a party?

After all that, I’m so glad I followed my own advice not to overdo it for his first birthday. A small gathering of close friends and family was more than enough for both him and us. As I’ve said before, this party was 99% for me, and 1% for him to see pictures in the future and see how loved he was even when he was teeny tiny. The decorations, the food, the guests, the planning, even mostly the presents.. all for me. Therefore I’m okay with the fact that he didnt really enjoy much of it. Having said that, after all the crying, needing to be left alone, whinging, looking overwhelmed and being given far too much attention, I’m slightly worried that we’ve given our son a phobia of birthdays, (although watching him play with his new toys this morning has calmed those fears a little!) I also have many many cake related treats left over (come get if you want)!

An extremely tired household slept in until 8.30 this morning, and are all kind of sleepy and grouchy. Especially the littlest member. (Although whether that’s due to the overstimulation, or the shards of glass I found him munching on this morning I do not know….) Note to Self: Do not rush the balsamic vinegar and bottle cleanup just because you have a room full of guests next door.

One year ago today, was 10/10/10. A perfect day to have a baby. Equally perfect? 20/10/2010, ten days time. But I didnt have high hopes for my bump, as everyone told me that first babies definitely do not come on time, let alone 17 days early. I was not allowed to be upset at missing out on those perfect birthday dates

However, I think I am justified in being slightly irritated when on the morning of 11/10/10 (a non auspicious date) my waters broke. Oh Cookie, couldnt you have done that a day earlier? However, I will always be eternally grateful to my son, that once he started arriving, he settled on the 12th, and didnt hold out for 20/10/2010. 36 hours was long enough thank you.

A year ago today, C and I got all dressed up and went out for what would be our last date without a pre-arranged babysitter. As I squeezed myself into the chair in 86, and attempted to have as romantic a meal as possible when you’re getting up to pee every 7 minutes and struggling to adjust maternity clothes that no longer fit, I cant believe that we hadn’t met our little boy, and we didnt even know he was on his way. (If you can call two days away ‘on his way’.

(Oh dear, get ready for a week of overemotional blogging folks…)