Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hosting Christmas

We hosted this year and Anne's family visited. We don't have a big house, so were wondering how ten people (including us four) would fit in, but it went well. Four of the adults were staying in local hotels, so it wasn't a squash and a squeeze at night.

ThingOne had a better grip on Christmas this year, and seemed really chuffed when Santa bought her some new fairy wings and glitter pens (which is what she'd asked for when 'writing' to him). She loved opening anyone's presents, especially her own, and wanted to play with most of ThingTwo's gifts as well as her own ("ThingTwo said she wanted to share" - glad ThingOne's got to grips with the benefits of sharing). I think what she enjoyed most though was the puddings. And, weirdly, the parsnips.

Then again the parsnips were cooked in extraordinarily-expensive maple syrup, since like every other household in the country our Christmas meal was Nigella-led. Anne did a great job with it, and Anne's sister Kerry's boyfriend, Mark, helped a lot with the cooking.

ThingTwo was pretty clingy and would cry if Anne or I wasn't holding her. This was a pain since for once there were lots of others there to help with the baby wrangling, and they'd have been happy for a cuddle with her. A bad time for separation anxiety to kick in.

ThingOne managed to show me up in front of all the guests on Boxing Day. I think she was colouring in a picture of some food, since the conversation went something like this:

Me: ThingOne, why are you colouring that blue? There aren't any blue foods - can you think if any ThingOne? [I certainly couldn't think of any]
ThingOne: [brief pause] Cheese.
Me: [silence]

I don't think she knows of blue cheese, and suspect she just said the first thing that came into her head, but my lack of comeback betrayed me as the loser of that little exchange. This is only going to get worse for me as she gets brighter. If I was brighter I'd just avoid conversations I guess.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A merry Simpson to all

ThingOne got Father Christmas confused with Homer Simpson last year. I hadn't thought any more of it until a month or so ago she saw a picture of Homer and called him Father Simpson, which reminded me of the confusion. She seems to think he's somehow relates to Christmas in some way. (And of course I wouldn't want ThingOne to associate Christmas with a fictional character, believing him to be real.)

A year on, she's much more able to understand things, and so I thought I'd explained to her that Homer is nothing to do with Christmas. We've been reading her the nativity story, and The Night Before Christmas poem, so we're trying to give her an idea of what Christmas is traditionally about. I thought this was case closed.

At the weekend ThingOne saw a picture of the whole Simpson family in The Guardian. She was interested as she'd recently seen a picture of Lisa Simpson on a birthday card and was keen to know who the other Simpsons were. All was fine until we got to the dog. ThingOne asked the dog's name.


"OK, ThingOne, I will tell you, but you need to remember that I told you that Homer Simpson is NOT Santa. He's completely different."
"What the dog called?"
"He's called Santa's Little Helper."

Confused silence. The kind of confused silence you hear when a child feels she's been lied to by her dad.

"But, ThingOne, that's just his name. He's not Santa's dog, he's Homer's dog. Well, Bart's dog I think."

More silence.

"Shall we do something else ThingOne? Would you like a biscuit?"

I may need to show her some Simpsons episodes. Just not one where Homer dresses as Santa.

Mature for her age

I got home from work earlier than usual last night. Usually by the time I get home Anne is bathing the girls upstairs, but last night I was home during the TV phase of the evening routine (for the record it's dinner, two episodes of Charlie and Lola, bath, stories, then bed).

Since I usually don't get home at this time, when I do ThingOne tends to get very excited and runs around shouting or singing at me. It's a very warm welcome and nice to come home to.

As I came into the driveway last night I could see Charlie and Lola on the TV and knew I was in for my usual warm welcome. I got out of the car and peeked in through the window. I could see ThingOne lounging on the sofa, her scowling face transfixed on the TV. I knocked on the window, pulled a big stupid grinning face (involuntarily) and waved at her. What happened next shocked me to my core.

ThingOne barely moved.

Her head turned slightly, she saw a waving fool through the window, and her head turned back (slightly). Her expression didn't change. She just had a slight scowl which I'd initially put down to concentration but I now put down to a Bad Attitude. She'd managed to completely deflate me. Maybe she hadn't actually seen me, I thought. I went in through the front door. This would usually bring her running into the hall shouting "Daddy, daddy, daddy!" Not tonight. There was only the drone of the TV from the living room. I went in there and ThingOne barely acknowledged me.

How sweet, my toddler the disdainful, moody teenager. They grow up so fast nowadays.

(And if she thinks she's wearing THAT to nursery tomorrow she's got another think coming.)


I did, however, get a lovely big, excited smile from ThingTwo when she saw me. My new favourite daughter. Funnily enough, once I was holding ThingTwo ThingOne seemed much keener on me. Ho hum.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Give the girl a hand

Having lamented on Wednesday that ThingTwo couldn't clap by nine months as her sister could, this morning she showed us that if we stop pressuring her she'll do things in her own time. She now seems very pleased with herself, and claps at evey opportunity.

(Vid won't play on Facebook feed.)
Not a great vid, since ThingTwo wouldn't clap for more than a second once she saw the camera, and when her mum's kneeling down nearby.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another second nine months

ThingTwo turned nine months today. It's fascinating to see how far she's come on, and to see how her development and personality differs from ThingOne's. We looked back to an entry we posted when ThingOne was the same age and saw that ThingOne was managing to clap in the appropriate time in 'If you're happy and you know it clap you're hands'. ThingTwo can't even clap. She gives it a go, but really just waves her hands about. She clearly really wants to clap. Poor thing.

She's a cheery soul though, with a delightful big-mouthed smile. More consistently cheery than ThingOne was. And she sleeps better at the moment. She started off sleeping less consistently, mind. It may be that she's learned to sleep better because we've left her for longer when she wakes up at night, but who knows?

She's had fewer illnesses than ThingOne too, though did have a more dramatic illness than ThingOne had in her first year when she caught chikenpox (from her sister) in June. Currently she has a fairly bad cough, which is pretty dramatic and horrible to hear at night.

ThingOne had very little hair. ThingTwo, I'm afraid to say, has even less. She's going to have ThingOne's trouble of being mistaken for a boy. ThingOne was mistaken for a boy last Sunday at a Christening.

ThingTwo is certainly naughtier. ThingOne seemed to be content with what she was allowed to do, but ThingTwo insists on making a beeline for the fireplace. ThingOne tried this of course, but soon got the message that it was out of bounds (or maybe was just easier to distract). We'd hoped to avoid a stairgate downstairs this time round, but ThingTwo's latest mission is to climb the stairs whenever we turn our backs. This morning I remarked to Anne that ThingTwo turned nine months today, and as I said this we realised she wasn't in the back room with us. We ran to the stairs where we found her four steps up, beaming a big smile at us.

She's a better eater than her big sister was, sometimes even out-eating her big sister at mealtimes now. ThingOne would eat well one meal, and then eat very little the next. Sometimes she'd eat nothing for days on end, and then make up for it later. ThingTwo enjoys mealtimes a lot, and if she doesn't eat we know something's wrong.

The signs are starting to show that these girls could be very different, and it'll be interesting to see who ThingTwo is as she turns into a little girl.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy birthday Anne!

You'll have guessed that I've been spending time with a photo manipulation tool lately (and funnily that's exactly what Anne's been calling me). My software of choice is GIMP (and funnily enough, etc etc). Once I got over an initially steep learning curve it was fairly easy to use, though I couldn't get Anne's face right on the picture above, and eventually gave up trying, realising I was spending too much time on something Anne may even not care much about.

But this post is about Anne, not my PC adventures. It's her birthday today. Happy birthday Anne!

ThingOne knew Anne's birthday was coming up and was asking about the party. Ah. We weren't planning one. But Madam expected one, since that's what you do on birthdays. So we had to have a party. While ThingOne was napping on Sunday afternoon, Anne baked a quick cake. When ThingOne woke up, I told ThingOne that I'd secretly baked mummy a cake and ThingOne could help me decorate it. I kept Anne out of the room (she knew exactly what was happening of course) and we decorated the cake (many a hundred and thousand), blew up balloons (me, mainly) and put a Happy Birthday banner up.

We called Anne in. She and ThingTwo came in and ThingOne and I "surprised" Anne. We sang Happy Birthday and Anne blew her candles out. ThingOne gave her mum the Paint-Your-Own-Mug I'd got and had got the girls to help me decorate. The four of us had a nice little party.

I'm detailing this party to illustrate a point I'll make with this question: how much of this was really for Anne? Anne enjoyed it, no doubt, but of course this, as with much of our life, was mainly for ThingOne's beneift. We ate an egg-free cake (ThingOne can't eat egg) with too much sickly cake decoration on, and wore party hats for her benefit. Not that we mind - ThingTwo enjoyed it too and it's great to see the girls having fun. I explained to ThingOne that this was all for her mum, and that it was her mum's special day. I think the message got through, and she gave her mum some nice hugs, telling her she was special. Bless her.

We then all went to Nando's for an early dinner (early for Anne and me). Again, the girls had a great time. As did we. Nando's is a guilty pleasure, especially since we gave up fast food chains years ago. (Nando's is able to avoid our biycott by having proper plates and cutlery, and semi table service. I suppose you could argue that Nando's is to KFC what Wimpey is to Burger King).

We don't go out for meals together much, and never dinner (except on holiday). This, of course, involved getting the staff to go through a special book they keep on the ingredients of everything they have so we could ensure there was no egg in the things ThingOne was going to eat (it's a minefield going out to eat with allergy-ridden kids). ThingOne didn't want much chicken, so basically ate chips followed by frozen yoghurt. Yes, that night we were those parent. Hell, it's a birthday. ThingOne had a great time, but the come down may be hard on her.

I hope you had a great time too Anne. Again, Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A quantum of sillys

My mum babysat for us on Friday evening and I took Anne out for her birthday treat, to see the new James Bond film, A Bit of Peace and Quiet. (Her birthday is on Monday.) With the timing of Bond releases generally being in November, it's often what we do around Anne's birthday. She loves it, and that's why I married her.

Our expectations had been lowered for this installment, and in the end we quite enjoyed it. Like most Bond I'm in no hurry to see it again (I don't think I've seen a recent Bond film more than once, other than Goldeneye), but it was a fun way to spend an evening. It had possibly the laziest set up for an explosive finale I think I've seen:

Character 1: "Don't worry about the noise. It's the fuel cells powering up. This hotel is entirely powered by them."
Character 2: "That doesn't sound very stable."

Text book. An effort to make what is essentially gratuitous explosions justifiable.

On Saturday evening we had the guilty pleasure of watching The Transporter 2, which went to no such lengths to excuse explosions. Like other Jason Statham films this was a very enjoyable, take-your-brain-out, completely ridiculous action movie that made no effort to be plausible. It was in complete contrast to the new, supposedly-grittier Bond, but in the end they're both just as silly (OK, maybe Statham pips Craig in the sillyness stakes). Bond tends to achieve the "realism" by having such quick edits you don't get the chance to see what's going on in detail so don't have time to sit back and see how ridiculous it is. The Transporter 2 just revels in it, and somehow it works.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Like a Rolling Stone

After ThingOne and ThingTwo had had their bath tonight, Anne got ThingTwo ready for bed while I dried ThingOne and began to get her ready.

ThingOne: "I want my farm pyjamas today." (Except she generally says "ja-amas".)
Stephen: "Well, you're having your monkey pyjamas tonight ThingOne."
L: "But I want my farm pyjamas I said!"
S: "Well, what does Mick Jagger say?"
L: "You can't always get what you want."
S: "Yes he does. Well done. And he's right."

We are attempting to teach ThingOne basic philosophy via pop songs. (She also knows that every step she takes I'll be watching her.) She now has Jagger's advice down pat, and yet tonight she wanted to delve deeper. Surely as a man in his thirties I could hold my own against a two year old. Surely.

L: "Why I can't always get what I want?"
S: "Because nobody gets everything they want. People get some things they want, but not everything."
L: "But I want to always get what I want."
S: "Well, in order to get that you'd have to only want things you CAN have."

A simple but, I felt, philosophically powerful idea, and not above a two year old. I continued...

S: "So, for example, if you want pudding for breakfast, and breakfast for lunch, then you won't be able to get what you want, but if you want breakfast for breakfast and pudding at the end of lunch then you WILL get what you want, because that's what we ALWAYS have."
L: "Why I can't have pudding for breakfast?"
S: "Because pudding is for having at the end of lunch and dinner. For breakfast you can have toast or cereal. Or fruit."

I felt we were going into specifics too much, but I was hoping she was taking the overall point even so.

L: "I have yogurt for pudding. Why you have yoghurt for breakfast on Tuesday?"

She had me there. She'd deliberately led me down this path, like a sneaky barrister.

S: "Well, I had a train to catch so didn't have time to make breakfast. And anyway, yoghurt is special because it can be either pudding OR breakfast. Or a snack."

I was floundering. Already I'd had to excuse yoghurt as a special case. I hadn't thought this through.

L: "I want yoghurt for breakfast."
S: "But then what would you have for pudding?"
L: "Jelly."
S: (Firmly) "Look, you're NOT having yoghurt for breakfast. For breakfast you can have toast or cereal."
L: "Or fruit."
S: "Yes. Or fruit."
L: "Who sings You CAN Always Get What You Want."
S: "No one sings that ThingOne. There's no such song." (There probably is.)

By this time she had her monkey pyjamas on. Thus I win.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

It's a secret

On Saturday morning I took ThingOne in to town on the bus. This was partly just as an adventure for ThingOne. She finds buses interesting, and doesn't go to shops very often so thinks they're wonderful. Especially John Lewis.

I had a job to do too though. I was looking for a new mobile phone for Anne for her birthday. Anne knows I'm getting one since she asked me to (and I needed to take her top up card in to ensure the extra credit I'd have to buy when I got the phone would go to her existing SIM, so she knew that's what I was getting on Saturday).

I wanted to see if ThingOne could keep a secret. At 2 3/4 I doubted she could, but, thanks to an episode of Charlie and Lola, she knew what a secret was, and knows that we try to keep birthday surprises a secret. I explained to ThingOne carefully that the phone I was buying was for Mummy, and we were going to wrap it up and give it to her on her birthday. I told her that we wouldn't tell Mummy about it before then as we wanted it to be a surprise. ThingOne understood, and was quite excited to be in this position of power over her mother.

When we got home, ThingOne didn't mention it. We told Anne we'd been to town, and that we'd seen some toys in John Lewis and been to a coffee shop, but that was it. I was quite impressed. I told Anne what we'd done and that I was testing ThingOne's secret-keeping abilities.

Later, when ThingOne and I were painting the farm (see previous entry) ThingOne blurted out to her mum, "Mummy, we bought you a phone today!" Anne tried hard not to laugh, and pretended she'd not heard ThingOne. "ThingOne! We're not telling her that. It's a secret!", I whispered. ThingOne thought she was very funny. She made a few more references to the phone, which Anne ignored through her giggles, and then ThingOne seemed to forget about it.

ThingOne and ThingTwo were having their dinner later, and Anne and I were sitting at the table with them chatting to them. ThingOne said to her mum, "Mummy, we're having dinner now, and then we can watch some TV and then we're having a bath and we'll wash my hair." "Yes ThingOne, that's right", Anne said. For it was.

ThingOne turned to me conspiratorially, and said, at normal volume, perfectly audible to everyone else in the room, "Daddy, I'm telling Mummy about my bath. I didn't tell her we bought her a telephone."

"Well done ThingOne", I whispered. Try to be quiet when you say that as Mummy might hear you.

"But Daddy", she said, louder this time, "I didn't tell her about the telephone, I was talking about the bath!"

Oh dear.

Well, my suspicions were confirmed (and of course it would be very unfair to expect someone of ThingOne's age to keep a secret). At least we now know we can't let ThingOne in on any birthday or Christmas surprises this year. I feel a bit cruel for testing her like this, but I found it funny, and that's the main thing.

Some more photos. Firstly the crown ThingOne and I made on our Saturday Crafternoon:

Here's the progress we made on our Farm Project today. Not much done as we were visiting a Granny, Autie and Uncle, but we made a pond and some ducks to go on the pond:

And here's one of ThingTwo, as she's got short shrift in this weekend's posts. She's coming on well though, and is trying to climb up everything (including managing a few stairs). She keeps trying to stand, which she can now do when she can pull herself up on something. However she then thinks she can let go. Which she can't. Much falling ensues.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Smarts and crafts

ThingOne's language seems to have taken another leap. It's fascinating to watch her brain develop, and to notice the leaps in understanding she makes.

She's started abstracting lately (becoming the mathematician I hope to train her to be), and really relating one thing to other completely unrelated things. With varying degrees of success. Sometimes she gets something bang on, whereas other times you can see where she's coming from but the gaps in her understanding are telling (giver her a break - she's two and three quarters!)

An early stage of this resulted in her having several names for her family members. Anne and I joke that with ThingTwo's limited faculties she must look at Anne as 'Milk' and me as 'No Milk', since that must pretty much sum up what she needs to know about the differences between us. Well, with different terms this now seems to actually be the case with ThingOne. She would often go through the list of "Daddy's big, Mummy's medium, I'm small, and ThingTwo is tiny." We realised that these had become more than just adjectives one evening when she called out to her mum from bed, shouting "Mummy!" Anne was busy, so I went up to see ThingOne. I wasn't welcome.

"But I wanted Medium", she said indignantly. I didn't understand. "I wanted Medium, not Big", she clarified and I realised what was going on. Apparently only Medium would do. She was pretty annoyed that I'd dare to visit her. Silly me.

One day this week we were in the car and ThingOne asked who would take her out of her car seat when we parked. I told her she could choose. "I choose Hairy", she declared. I assumed that was me. "I want Hairy to get me out, not Smooth". So apparently Anne and me are now Smooth and Hairy, names derived from facial hair. Flattering. Thanks ThingOne.

Since we found that ThingTwo is allergic to bananas, ThingOne often now differentiates her and ThingTwo (differentiation already - my mathematician daughter!) as The One Who Can Eat Bananas and The One Who Can't Eat Bananas.

The workings of her brain are really a wonder.

Other advances in her language tend to be almost entirely due to the TV show Charlie and Lola. She quotes it a lot, and we frequently only realise that a new phrase she uses is a quote later. Last week Anne took her to the theatre for the first time to see a stage show of The Tiger Who Came To Tea. ThingOne loved it (though had it in her head she was going to see Batman). At one point 'stars' appeared around the theatres. "Oh it's so pretty", ThingOne announced in a whimsical voice. Anne found this rather strange but very cute. Later that day ThingOne requested a specific episode of Charlie and Lola, and we realised that Lola says the same thing in exactly the same tone.

Last night, Anne was out for the evening doing something for work (her maternity leave is just finishing). ThingOne knew this, and she summoned me upstairs a few times in the evening. "I'm sad because Mummy isn't here", she whimpered. I knew she wasn't. She was being a drama queen and looking for an excuse not to go to sleep. Nevertheless I comforted her, because I am a fabulous person with the patience of a saint. "Mummy will be back soon ThingOne, she always comes back", I assured her.

At this point her tone of voice became very dramatic, and slightly wobbly: "But Daddy, everything is different now".

What? Where did she get this? She said it with such a small, sad voice that it should have broken my heart, but I could immediately tell she'd picked it up somewhere and was just trying it out in a vaguely appropriate context in order to defer bedtime. What a drama queen!

We fully expect to see an episode of C&L soon with that line in.

On an unrelated note, ThingOne and I started a craft project today. We're making a farm. It started with a cardboard box, and today we painted the base green (to represent grass, you see?) Not sure how far this project will go, but she seemed to enjoy it today so it could be a runner.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

How to wear out a toddler

Start a weekend with your regular trip to dance class, play several games of "Tickle Doctor' (don't ask), have your dad draw ten to fifteen Little Miss characters in your drawing pad, panic whenever you little sis crawls towards the craft you're making, bound around the house pretending to be a 'furry' (ThingOne chooses not to pronounce it 'fairy, in a bid to be non-conventional),...
...throw in two separate trips to local playgrounds (Saturday afternoon and Sunday morining),...
...and have the extra-special treat of a trip to a local model railway on Sunday afternoon with three (count 'em) rides on the trains through the woodland,...
...and you're bound to be exhausted:

Your dad feels the same ThingOne. And I've got a week of work ahead of me.

I'm off to bed.

Sleep well (please ThingOne).

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tragic Johnson

It's a sure sign that your daughter's hair needs cutting, when you go into her bedroom and think, "Why's the Mayor of London in my house?"
This one is ThingOne

This one is Boris Johnson

Sunday, September 28, 2008

No Dads allowed

You'll remember that on Saturdays I take ThingOne to her Melody Bear dance class. (Didn't remember? Keep up!) Like most kids' activities there were no classes over the summer, so there's been less structure to our Saturday mornings recently. I'd been looking forward to the classes starting up again, since ThingOne really enjoys it and I like taking her.

The class started again recently, and on Saturday I took her along. She's now in the next class up, 30 minutes later. A bit more serious this time and many of the kids now have the requisite kit (leotards for the girls) so I expect we'll be splashing out soon enough.

The other kids had been already this term, but ThingOne hadn't as we've been away. I was disoriented to find that parents are no longer allowed to sit at the side of the room and clap and encourage their kids when they're in the zone, or cuddle and console them when they're sad. When I realised this was the case I took ThingOne aside and explained that I'd just be in the next room and she'd probably see me through the glass door. She was a little confused.

I went into the parents' area feeling low. Poor ThingOne. I didn't think she'd enjoy this. It's been a long time since she ran to me during the classes, but she often looked over for approval or gave me a thumbs up. I suspected she wouldn't like the class as much. Plus, this was our Saturday morning activity and I'm now excluded. I admit I was a little put out. Were my Saturday mornings now going to be spent waiting in a room in a primary school unable to get near my daughter? (OK, so it's only 30 minutes. I was being overly dramatic.) I was pretty sad watching what I could through the glass door.

As the class went on, I could see that the kids were much more attentive than usual, and enjoying themselves a lot. ThingOne seemed to be more a part of the group than she normally did, though that could just have been an issue of my perception. Not having their parents there focused them a lot more, and I could see that it was clearly the right move. I realised that I was the only one of ThingOne and me who had a problem with this, and know that this is just one of what will be a continuing series of experiences where I have to loosen the metaphorical apron strings.

Since I am male I'm assuming my metaphorical apron is a novelty one with "Hail to the chef!" written on it.

I remember when Anne first suggested I take ThingOne to this class. I was reluctant at first, but figured I'd get 30 minutes off and could listen to podcasts or read the paper while ThingOne danced. I found it strange when I found I had to be there in the class. I've got used to it now and found I really enjoyed it. Now I'm going to have to learn to enjoy what I initially expected it to be like. I checked with another parent working on a laptop to see if there's a wireless signal at the school, but alas no. There goes that idea of a way to pass the 30 minutes. I'm thinking I'll buy the paper on the way there next week.

Which won't be half as much fun.

Of course ThingOne thoroughly enjoyed the new "big girls class". She could have at least pretended she'd missed having me in the room with her.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Centre Parcs 3

We went to Centre Parcs last weekend, as we have each year since ThingOne was born. We went with my mum, sister, her husband and her in-laws. We'd only been back from Spain a week, so the timing wasn't the best from the point of view of spreading out our valuable holidays, but it worked out well for getting ThingOne back in the swimming pool quickly.

She was much more confident this time. It probably helped that it was a warm indoor pool. She even went down water slides with me twice. I tried my best to hold her up as I splashed into the pool at the end, but I'm pretty sure she went under each time. Whilst she wasn't keen on that bit there were no tears (and the fact she went twice means it can't have put her off that much).

We also hired a bike with a kiddy trailer, since Anne is thinking of getting one as transport around town (they're common around Cambridge). Apart from a bit of whinging from ThingOne that ThingTwo was touching her (ThingOne's) face, or trying to pull her hair, it was pretty successful. ThingTwo was a bit wobbly in it, so I don't think we're ready to get one just yet, but it's worth thinking about.

The weather was fab, and ThingOne got a lot more out of it than in previous years when she would spend 20 minutes in the pool and that was it. In previous years it was more about Anne and me relaxing with family, but ThingOne was much more keen to do things this year, so it was less relaxing and more exhausting.
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Nudism and the tank-car

A second post on our recent Spanish holiday.

One thing we were keen to do on holiday was to give ThingOne plenty of chance to get confident in the swimming pool. She's not been swimming much since she went to classes as a baby, but when she has been she's enjoyed it, but has been very nervous about getting her face wet.

We made some progress while we were away, and Anne got her jumping into the pool and into Anne's arms. A couple of times whilst waddling around in the baby pool ThingOne did stumble and go under, or just get her face wet, and that was a disaster for ThingOne. She took a fair bit of calming down. However we managed to get her back in after each tumble, and told her to close her eyes if her face got wet and wipe the water away afterwards. This didn't have much effect on holiday, but clearly some of it went in since after we got home she enjoyed splashing in the bath and wiping her face. We knew we'd need to get her to a pool soon so as not to lose the progress she'd made. She's getting there gradually and I don't think we need to push her much, just get her in the pool regularly so she gets used to it.

The thing ThingOne enjoyed most at the pool was indulging her penchant for nudism. We would arrive at the pool most days with ThingOne in a sun suit, to try to stop her from burning up. She'd generally be wearing a hat too. There wasn't much skin for the sun to hit. After she'd been in the pool once she'd come out, stip her sun suit off (becasue it was wet) and would then spend the rest of the time at the pool running around "nudie" (usually shouting that too). One extreme to the other. We just couldn't convince her to keep the wet sun suit on. We had just as little success with normal swimming costumes. The nude fool!

Anne and I indulged ourselves a little while we were away by hiring a massive car. We could have all fitted in the boot quite comfortably. We thought we'd hire one for fun, since it was only a little more for a week and we have no intention of buying one at home. I wondered if we would become converts, since there are clearly luggage advantages, but it just felt too high and too big. It was fun for a while, but I have no problems with my dull old Fiesta.
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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Spanish Inquisition

We've been away for a week in Spain, near Girona, with Eurocamp. We were staying in a static caravan type thing, which was exactly the same layout as the one we stayed in last year in France. It was a little odd walking into it. We'd paid extra for air-con and a deck this year, and the extras were worth it. Yes, it's all a little unadventurous, but it's enough of an adventure taking a 6 month old and 2.5 year old on a plane so stop having a go, OK?

Last year, ThingOne was 20 months old when we went to France, and she got so much out of the holiday and came on a lot. By the end of the holiday she knew her colours, was better at climbing steps, could count to ten, and had many more words. Things are different with a 32 month old. I was wondering what had made the biggest impression on her this year and realised what it was when I heard her tell her mum:

"Daddy and me saw some dog poo. We didn't go in it."

Welcome to toddlerdom. Seeing some dog poo seems to have affected her profoundly, and now whenever she sees a dog in real life or a book, she proclaims whether or not the dog is pooing, has ever pooed, or will be pooing soon. It's very very rewarding as a parent to have opened her eyes to dog poo.

ThingOne had a great time. She has been overusing one particular word though, and it's been driving me mad.

As an illustration of this, here's a transcript of a conversation I had with her one afternoon as we hunted a for Geocache ('Treasure') near the campsite with the aid of a GPS receiver:

ThingOne: "Are we near the treasure yet?"
Stephen: "No, we'll be there in about ten minutes."
L: "Why?"
S: "Why what?"
L: "Why is it ten minutes?"
S: "Because I know where the treasure is, and it's going to take us ten minutes to get there."
L: "Why?"
S: "Because it is."
L: "Why?"
S: "Why what?"
L: "Why is it?"
S: "Because it's a kilometre away, and it takes us about ten minutes to walk a kilometre. I know it's a kilometre away because the GPSr, into which I've punched the coordinates of the treasure, tells me so."
L: "Why ten minutes?"
S: "It's an average based on experience ThingOne."
L: "Why?"
S: "It just is. Please stop saying 'Why?' ThingOne."
L: "Why?"
S: "Because it's driving me spare."
L: "Why?"
S: "Why what?"
L: "Why it drive you spare?"
S: "It's the repetition. It's starting to really grate."
L: "Why?"

Lesson: Don't get embroiled. Escape with your sanity while you can.

ThingTwo had a great time on holiday too, largely because she's now able to move herself around (by dragging, with occasional crawling) and got to try to eat our shoes, our toes, sand, door mats, books and anything else you could care to leave lying around.

Being away has been really good for Anne's and my relationships with the girls. I got to spend more time with ThingTwo (I'm usually on toddler duty). She's really got a personality now and has a really sunny disposition. Having a newborn was odd after being used to a two year old, since the newborn inevitably seems a bit boring. At six months though ThingTwo's really starting to be more fun. Anne got to have a lot of fun time with ThingOne rather than having to be the one doling out discipline and setting boundaries. At home it tends to be weekend-Dad who tends to get to do most of the fun stuff, and gets to say 'Yes' more than her mum does during the week.

Poor ThingOne is starting to understand that ThingTwo being on the move could be bad for ThingOne's dominance of the house. Seeing ThingOne chased around the room by a 6 month old who's after her toys is very comical. Poor ThingOne has some shocks to come.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Feed me!

ThingTwo's having a great time trying new foods. I think she partly just likes the attention, having had ThingOne monopolising dinner times up until now.

Today's meals were brought to ThingTwo by th letter B. Broccoli...

...and banana.

She's also enjoying just showing off.

Here's a little vid of her trying broccoli - a big hit. Following that is ThingOne making her laugh. Every time ThingOne gets a bit too noisy or boisterous we try to ask her to quieten down, and ThingTwo undermines our authority by laughing at ThingOne. Now I just use ThingOne to make ThingTwo laugh.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

ThingTwo's big day

ThingTwo's coming on leaps and bounds (or, rather, sits and wobbles). She'll turn six months on Tuesday, and today we started the weaning process and gave her solid food for the first time. As with ThingOne we're planning to go the BLW route (which I gather is a cricketing term).

Here's a short video of what we were up to today...

(NB If you're reading this on Facebook I suspect this will just be confusing since I've noticed videos often don't turn up there. In case you're interested this is just an RSS feed from our blog, and the videos tend to only be at the website.)

Moose Man, Charlie and Lola

We were in St Leonard’s on Sea last weekend visiting friends, Ian and Sarah. ThingTwo sat up on her own for the first time before we left on the Friday morning, which was quite exciting. And ThingOne had a “Babyccino” in Costa Coffee in Bluewater where we stopped off on the way down. This made her feel very grown up. I told her it was a ThingOneccino, since I didn’t think she’d appreciate the baby part of the name.

Our friends have a one year old girl, so they were interested in seeing what ThingOne was up to, and we were keen to see how ThingOne would cope with a having baby crawling round the house and interfering with things. ThingOne was a mixture of delightful and grumpy, and the latter became quite hard to cope with. She’s so over tired all the time. We wonder if she’s having a growth spurt. It can be like having a miserable teenager in the house, but one who doesn’t go to their room for hours on end. Anne and I end up feeling guilty for getting frustrated with her, because she’s not really that badly behaved, mainly just tired and grumpy. But when she’s like that she seems to want to fight us on everything.

As I say though, she was very nice for much of the weekend, and still insists on calling our friend Ian “Moose Man” due to a misunderstanding a year or so ago when I was showing her a picture of a moose in a photo in which Ian happened to be also. It’s not a nickname we’ve discouraged particularly, so I hope Ian (Moose Man) doesn’t mind.

As well as being keen on Mr Men at the moment (Ian and Sarah had all the books which meant I had to read most of them that weekend), ThingOne very much likes Charlie and Lola (on TV and in books). It may be that the character of Lola is uncanny at capturing the essence of girls aged 2-5, or it may be that girls of that age pick up a lot from the TV show when exposed to it, but ThingOne is coming out with a lot of “Lolaisms”. This can be quite useful, for example when we tell her we have to comb her hair so she can be “Princess No Knots”. It can also be quite odd, as when we were driving from Ian and Sarah’s house to Bexhill to give ThingOne a chance to paddle in the sea.

Me: We’ve got a surprise for you ThingOne. Ian and Sarah live somewhere very special.
ThingOne: Where? Please you tell me.
Me: Well, we’re going to somewhere fish live.
ThingOne: Where?
Me: Where do fish live ThingOne?
ThingOne: The ocean?
Me: That’s right. So where do you think we’re going?
ThingOne (suddenly very, very excited): I know - OCEANLAND!
Me: Erm, yes. That’ll do.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

In which ThingOne is a bit backward

ThingOne often wakes up singing ZYX, a song from They Might Be Giants's kids CD Here Come the ABCs. It's basically the alphabet backwards, and I'm tickled to hear her sing it. I was at uni before I learned to recite the alphabet backwards.

I finally got it on video, though here she got the ending wrong, singing eBcba. Fool! Since then, every time she sings it she sings a B instead of a D because she now thinks she's really funny for doing it.

Infuriating! How am I supposed to sell her to a travelling freak show if she thinks it's funny to get it wrong?!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A varied diet: sprinkles AND food colouring

ThingOne's new venture is a cake decorating business. We hope you like Hundreds and Thousdands. ThingOne does.



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Friday, August 08, 2008

Pleading poverty

Another of ThingOne's choice phrases at the moment that I forgot to mention in the last point: "...because I haven't got any money".

As in, "I need to go upstairs because I haven't got any money".

Or, "I have to get out of bed because I haven't got any money".

We don't understand what this means or where it has come from. I don't think we've said it to her much, and if she wants something in a shop and we say no we don't use that excuse, we just tell her she can't have it.

I wonder what this phrase means to her.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Quote unquote

A few of ThingOne's favourite phrases at the moment:

"Is that a good plan?" (usually after she suggests doing somehting she likes, e.g. "How about you do a jigsaw with me Daddy? Is that a good plan?")

"Do you understand?" (usually after explaining what she wants to do, especially if we haven't jumped and given her what she wants.)

"Of course I can" (when we ask her to do something that she's willing to do).

It's very funny hearing these things from her mouth. It's sometimes like looking at a mirror on our own behaviour and it's nice to think we (mainly Anne now I come to think about it) use these phrases to her a lot.

While Anne's teaching her these key phrases, I'm educating her in more useful ways. ThingOne now recognises (and frequently asks about) Hellboy, Batman and The Joker (whom I've told her is a rascal who likes to make mischief).

She also ran around the house with me before work this morning, with us both shouting "No, I'M Spartacus!" at each other.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


A long post, but it's mostly pics.

Before I start droning on about ThingOne's arts 'n' crafts, ThingTwo now has a "Tripp Trapp" high chair, like her big sister. This means she can now sit up at the table with us at meal times. She's not sitting unaided yet, but can do well in this high chair and seems to enjoy being with us during breakfast and lunch. ThingOne isn't sure about not being the centre of attention, but she'll come round.

ThingTwo's not being weaned yet, but we'll start her on solids some time within the next few weeks. She slept through 7pm to 7am for the first time last night, so is coming on well (joy!)

(Just in time for teething to mess everything up!)

Here's the little baldy now:


I recently got ThingOne a Thomas and Friends poster for the Wendy House. ThingOne likes the TV show and books, as it gives her more names to learn, and she can work out (or decide arbitrarily) which engines are boys and which are girls. She liked the poster and she and I were in the Wendy House listing all the characters on it.

Me: "...that's Emily, that's Diesel, that's Mavis,..."
Her: "That's not Mavis!"
Me: "Yes it is ThingOne. Look, it starts with an 'M'. M-Mavis. M-A-V-I-S: MAVIS"
Her: "That's not Mavis, that's Salty!"
Me: (Patronisingly) "No ThingOne, it's definitely not Salty. It's Mavis."
Her: (Laughing) "No Daddy. It's Salty!"

At this point, Anne arrived. Anne's had to sit through the TV show more than I have and so knows many of the characters.

Anne: "Er, she's right. That IS Salty Stephen."

We checked in one of ThingOne's books and sure enough, the poster was wrong. I got out a big black marker and changed the name (more for my benefit than ThingOne's). I don't know how she keeps all these characters names in her head. She certainly has her mother's freakish memory.


Here's ThingOne checking the rest of the characters against her book:


We had more character-driven fun on Sunday, where ThingOne and I drew lots of Mr Men. Notice ThingOne's skilful colouring of Messers Strong and Tickle (I know - rubbish isn't it!) ThingOne kept insisting I draw two of each character so one could be a Mr and one a Little Miss.


Later, ThingOne decided to destroy all we'd drawn on another sheet by "colouring" everything black. "Are you a Goth ThingOne?" I asked.

"No Daddy, I'm Emo.", she replied.*

*She didn't actually say this.

Anne's been feeling ThingOne's not eating a great variety of foods at the moment. I think she's doing well, and that we as kids, and especially our parent's generation, would have had nothing like the variety she has. However, Anne's thinking ThingOne's too reliant on wheat and isn't eating enough different veggies.

ThingOne's recently been quite reluctant to try new foods, but did well last week when Anne made a special effort. Anne suggested a new craft project to help with this push, and ThingOne has responded very well to it. We made (and mounted on cardboard - get us!) a plate for ThingOne and now when she tries something new we make or draw it and stick it to her wall-mounted plate. Anne and I aren't very crafty, so we're particularly pleased with this ingenious blend of art and encouragement.

Until ThingOne decides to rip it from the wall and use it as a Frisbee.

(I didn't know Frisbee was a brand name until Blogger told me it needed the F capitalising.)

Click on the photo to see the large version, in which you can see in exquisite detail the foods The ThingOneter has tried recently.

I'll finish this entry with an astounding structure ThingOne made (with help, I suspect) at nursery this week. I'd imagine the world of modern art would have something clever to say about this yada, yada, yada...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Little Miss Bizarre

ThingOne currently loves the Mr Men and Little Miss books. Loves them.

We have to read them to her a lot, but I'm not sure it's really the stories she like so much as the other attributes:
- some are men and some are women (a current fixation of ThingOne's is what is a boy and what is a girl)
- there are many names to learn (she loves to learn lists)
- she can work out which letters the various names begin with
- there are numbers next to the pictures of the characters on the back of the books

The books seem to tick all the boxes. I say the stories aren't the main thing she likes, but I suppose she does really like the stories with characters who do things wrong (eg Mr Funny lives in a teapot and drives a shoe, Mr Topsy Turvey talks backwards, etc). And many of the characters are ones who do things wrong.

Sometimes ThingOne wakes up talking about the Mr Men and Little Misses, and doesn't stop talking about them for ages. Sometime she gets over excited and just shouts out the names of characters seemingly at random like a child with Hargreaves-Tourettes

The other day I was telling ThingOne not to do something or other, when she looked at me and said "Mr Grumpy!", in a way that sounded like she was saying "Oooh, aren't YOU Grumpy today Daddy!" I don't think the patronising slight was intentional, but her timing was impeccable and it was hard not to laugh.

On Sunday we were in a playground in our local park and ThingOne was hot and a bit of a Little Miss Grumpy herself. We didn't have her swimming gear with us, but I suggested she go into the paddling pool in her pants and she cheered up a lot in the cool water. She quickly took her pants off, not wanting to get them wet and ran around gleefully in the nude in the busy pool for ages. After a fair while splashing around with her (me fully clothed) I went to sit with Anne and ThingTwo and left ThingOne to it. Watching ThingOne run and splash among everyone, stark naked, laughing, squealing and randomly barking the names of Mr Men was pretty funny.

I said to Anne that if we gave ThingOne a can of Tenants Super to hold as she ran about in the pool it might make it even more enjoyable to watch.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Toddler crime scene - do not enter


ThingOne is starting to drop her final daytime nap. Some days she naps and some days she doesn't. On days she doesn't nap she tends to be overtired by bedtime, and the next day. This has led to some issues with behaviour. Not terrible in the scheme of things I suppose, but they're sometimes tricky to deal with.

When I arrived home in the week to find several patterns on the patio like the one above, my initial fear was things had just got too far with Anne when a few toddlers visited and she'd been pushed over the edge.

It turns out this wasn't a crime scene, but was ThingOne's latest obsession. Anne has been drawing around ThingOne with chalk so they can draw the features on (eyes, nose, mouth etc) as a crafternoon project, but ThingOne tends to like the drawing-around part and then gets bored, leading to a garden full of body outlines.

This afternoon at the supermarket ThingOne was pushing things too far and refused to stay near me while I shopped. I try to do the disciplining when it's just me and ThingOne, as I hope it will make ThingOne better behaved in the week when Anne's dealing with two kids and it's harder to discipline. ThingOne's punishment for running away from me was that we didn't go to Sainsburys cafe after shopping (I had threatened this early on, and ThingOne didn't seem to belive me). This caused major upset and she pleaded with me to take her to the cafe, assuring me that she'd be a good girl now - she promised. I didn't give in and it was hard to do as I'd have had a much happier girl if I'd just taken her. My hope is now she'll know we will follow though on this threat and will behave better in the supermarket (and elsewhere). We're being a bit harsh on her I think, since she's not really being very naughty, just a bit over-excited and cheeky. This coupled with overtiredness can lead to some difficult situations so we're trying to clamp down.

A few weeks ago we had a spate of biting people when ThingOne got upset. As it became clear that naughty step punishments or shutting her in her room weren't working we had to think of something new. Out came the big guns: NO TV. I seems to have worked, so far. ThingOne doesn't want to risk losing Charlie and Lola or Mama Mirabelle. We'll see how it lasts...