In my time before motherhood, I thought children's toys were cute. Best if they were wooden, sometimes tacky in plastic.
I loathed pink toys.
Now - I have real, tried and tested opinions. Now - I can see a toy at 5o yards and know whether or not I'm going to give it houseroom.
Where once I thought toys were all for the child, experience has taught me the hard way that not all toys have the same effect on ME.
Take these simple shape puzzles. They look cute don't they? But don't be deceived. These drive me crazy. To tell the truth, Ellie might be a bit too young for these. But I'm really struggling to spend time helping her play with them.
I just want to take the pieces out of her hands and put them in place. 'There! It goes there!' I scream inwardly as she continues trying to stuff a train upside down into the bus hole.
Honestly, I don't scream at Ellie. Outwardly, I am a picture of patience and fortitude. I stop play with these before I get out of hand.
The other grievous sin these puzzles commit is their uncanny knack for getting separated. This causes my OCD to kick in. At the end of the day, I can't rest until I've tracked down that last rocking horse piece.
Fortunately at that challenging moment, Ellie will want me to read her a story.
Smiley Shark is her favourite. And it's mine too.
See, I'm not a complete ratbag.
'Smiley Shark is the smiliest and sunniest, the friendliest and funniest, the biggest and toothiest of all the fish in the sea'. I think I could recite the whole book.
It's got a lovely lyrical way to the story. And there's a bit of screaming and shouting and hurrahing to do as well. I put on quite a show. Also it's reading aloud. Wow. Do I love the sound of my own voice.
I've stashed the next toys away for a while. Shape sorters involve sitting patiently with Ellie, surreptitiously turning the block so that she can get the shapes in.
As you can tell from the puzzles, I don't have much patience for this.
One of them was bought for Ellie by a childless friend who is now pregnant. I'm going to give her a couple of these. Just to see how she likes it.
I did manage to get more creative about musical toys. I've put her rainmaker, glockenspiel (don't you love that word - so what if it's a xylophone?), recorder, maracas and ten green bottle, cherry bun and little pig gloves all together in her 'music box'.
This encourages me to get singing and making a noise with her. It also gets visitors interested too. For some reason, everyone feels compelled to say 'Ooh, a recorder'. Is stating the bleedin' obvious a very British thing or is it international?
Incidentally, I've even tried looking up tips on how to play the recorder. Though I did this at school, it's now beyond me to master the breathing. I wonder if it's an instrument strangely suited to little lungs.
The most amazing toy is Mr Potatohead. I was too old for these when they first came out, but I still had a hankering to own one.
Ricarro bought this. It's made me so happy!
I can sit there playing with Ellie and Mr P for an hour at a time.
Clearly she's not very 'good' at it. But I like to think she's not bound by the same conventions as the rest of us. Long may that odd, creative flow continue.
Finally - a pink toy. Our fabulous Rose bought this scarey dolls house for Ellie.
I once thought I'd hate a toy like this. But it's a gift that keeps on giving.
There's plenty of funny noises and moving parts. I can play with Ellie at this house, so can her dad and visitors can't keep their hands off it.
Best of all, if I have to leave Ellie playing on her own, I can be in the next room and hear that she's playing with this. Very reassuring and in the end, I've never minded that it was so plastic and so pink.