Thursday, May 29, 2008

No eye control dear

I've been trying to teach ThingOne to wink for a while now, but she seems incapable. She just shuts both her eyes. I can generally get her to do what I want: high five - no probs, "Peace man" (two fingers up in a V) - easy peasy, thumbs up - yessir, but no winking. She seems to lack awareness of what muscles to move.

This evening when I got home she was telling me that when Thomas (the Tank Engine) is being cheeky he rolls his eyes round and round. She had Anne and me doing this, and thought it was hilarious. When she tried to do it though, she just squinted, and moved her jaw round and round.

Is she just wired wrong, or are all toddlers like this?

Very odd. I wonder at what age she'll figure out eye movements.

Training Day

Monday being a Bank Holiday, we'd wanted to do something fun for the girls (mainly ThingOne, since ThingTwo's idea of fun consists mainly of sitting and looking at us).

ThingOne spent the first part of the morning in front of a Flickr Slideshow looking at pictures of Big Ben ("Very Big Ben", apparently) ("Big Ben is the bell, not the clock ThingOne", says Anne helpfully).

We then trudged down to the train station in the wet to catch the train to Ely. We had no plans to do anything in Ely, but ThingOne hasn't been on many trains, and has recently become very interested in Thomas the Tank Engine, so we thought she might like it.

As predicted, the train was a big hit. ThingOne had a great time moving from seat to seat, and didn't seem to be confused that the trains didn't have faces.

When we got to Ely we wanted to show her the cathedral, but they wanted £11 for two adults to go in ("the kids are free" they told us charitably, but we weren't going to pay £11 to show a 2 year old a church for the five minutes it took her to get bored). So I showed her around the entrance part, before you have to pay, and she had fun running around the font. I told her she had to be quiet in the church, but could be noisy in the outside part of the entrance. She took this seriously and ran around outside singing, shouting and generally looning for a good ten minutes or more. And all for free. Take that C of E!

In Starbucks later ThingOne ate something off the table. We didn't know what it was, but it must have had egg in it (to which she's allergic), as she soon became very itchy. A quick dash to the chemist for some Piriton and she seemed much better, but by the time we'd gone home on the train and got back home she was shattered (I think anti-hystamin can knock you out a bit) and asked to go for her nap early, and didn't want a story. Unheard of!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bumbo time

ThingTwo's head control is now good enough that she can sit up in her Bumbo.

Not sure how much she enjoyed it. She seemed to like the novelty of being able to sit up without being held. ThingOne wanted to "pretend" it was a potty, and I didn't fancy finding out how much of her imagination she was planning to use.

For comparison, here's an old photo of ThingOne in the Bumbo, also at three months old, weilding a rattle like it's a light sabre.

Friday, May 23, 2008


ThingOne's breakfast game is to imitate dead Hollywood actors.

This morning's effort we quickly recognised as Heath Ledger...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Let's pretend

ThingOne's imagination is blossoming at the moment. Whether it's been helped by lots of exposure to Lola and Charlie (an imagination-centric book/cartoon series) or that's just a coincidence, I don't know.

This morning, bleary eyed, I sat in our bed with ThingOne as we pretended it was a boat, sailing to Welwyn to see one of ThingOne's grannies, to New York to see the Statue of Liberty and Travelling Uncle Peter, and to the park. Occasionally ThingOne would get off the bed/boat to say hello to people, go on a swing, or just get wet in the water. Very amusing, even when I'm barely awake.

Generally she seems to have a good grasp on what's real and what's pretend. However, and isn't there always a however, ThingOne seems to think that pretending is also a way of getting around any obstacle. Mainly the obstacle of her mum and dad.

"ThingOne, mummy has told you not to go in that cupboard"
"I'm pretending"
"No you're not pretending, you are actually going in the cupboard. Stop it!"

"I'm putting the letters in alphabetical order Daddy"
"But those letter aren't in order. A isn't at the start."
"Daddy, I'm pretending it's alphabetical order"
Nice. Use that one in your GSCEs ThingOne, see what happens.

"Please can you keep your trousers and pants on while we're in the supermarket ThingOne."
"I'm PRETENDING to take my trousers and pants off Daddy!"
"No ThingOne, that looks very much like an actual bum to me ThingOne."
"ThingOne nudie!"
"Come back! Someone stop that half-naked child..."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yikes! A Tickle Bear!

I seem to have terrified ThingOne.

On Sunday, I was reading books with her and she started pretending to be a bear. We went through a list of the different kinds of bear she could be, and while she was pretending to be a polar bear, I told her I was a Tickle Bear, and started tickling her. She liked this a lot.

That evening, as I was trying to get her pyjamas on (her) after her bath, she ran away from me, and into her room. She does a lot of this.

"ThingOne, come back into the bathroom or the Tickle Bear will come and get you", I warned her, implying I'd come and tickle her if she didn't come to get her pyjamas on.

There was five seconds of silence. Then she came running into the bathroom looking terrified. She looked over her shoulder to check nothing was chasing her. "What come and get me?" she asked me, scared. She came for a cuddle. I suppose this photo from a few posts ago is fairly close to her face as she ran across the landing, but I think she was more scared than this.

I tried to explain to her that I just meant that I'd come in and tickle her, but I don't think she remembered the tickle bear game and instead I seem to have created some kind of bogeyman that will get her if she misbehaves. Could be useful for future control, but I don't want to see her terrified face again. I'm not the government or religious, so I don't want to use fear as a method of control.

Other than for road safety I suppose. And to keep her away from knives and plug sockets. Come to think of it fear will play a part in a lot of disciple methods I'll use.

While we were getting ready this morning, Anne tells me that ThingOne ran into our bedroom quite shaken at one point. She couldn't get out of ThingOne what was wrong, but I hope I haven't permanently damaged her. If I wanted to really scare her I hope I'd come up with something a bit better than a Tickle Bear.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chest lucky I guess

I was at work on Thursday, and spoke to Anne on the phone. "ThingOne's OK", Anne said reassuringly. I instantly felt a bit sick. When Anne tells me that on the phone in that manner I know there's a story coming about some near disaster that has happened involving our FearlessFirstborn.

ThingOne likes to open the drawers in our bedroom, and then close them again. Simple pleasures. That morning Anne heard a loud noise from our room, followed by ThingOne crying. She ran to our room to see the chest had toppled over onto its front. ThingOne had opened all the drawers (except the top one which she can't reach) and the whole thing had become unbalanced.

It's a very heavy chest of drawers, so it's very luck it didn't land on her.

Also, we have a sheet of glass on top of it to protect the wood, and that had of course slid off the top. Fortunately that had become lodged above the ground between the mirror and the bed and so hadn't hit ThingOne either.

I wasn't there but in my imagination ThingOne was sat in the middle of the carnage untouched, in a similar manner to a house falling on Buster Keaton who happens to be standing where the opened window falls.

Anne checked if ThingOne was hurt.

"Does it hurt ThingOne?"
(Crying) "Yes"
"Where does it hurt?"
"Over there" (pointing at the fallen chest)

I think that means she was OK.

ThingOne was very shaken, and now knows only to open one draw at a time. We will however be getting some furniture straps to attach the furniture to the walls, as a less lucky repeat doesn't bear thinking about. I felt cold after hearing this story, and Anne says she took a while to stop shaking.

This morning, ThingOne was in a slightly fraught mood, and wanted to be carried a lot. Eventually we realised she had a limp when she walked. This doesn't appear to be related to the chest of drawers incident. The best I could get out of her was she had hit it on the wall while in bed. No idea how. It must have been hard to have got a limp. She was still limping when I got home from work, though was also jumping "like a monkey" so it can't be that bad.

Another couple of reminders of the permanent state of worry parents live in.

Monday, May 12, 2008

2008 Oxfam Walk

Yesterday we did a four mile walk around Wimpole Hall with some friends. In all there were six adults, three two year olds and two babies.

A four mile walk seems a long walk with two year olds. The babies were easy.

ThingOne insisted on being carried by me most of the time, and then as soon as we stopped for a rest (which we needed to do as it was very hot and many of us were carrying either babies or two year olds) she'd run off as far as she could to play, and I'd have to chase her to try to keep her within sight and away from stinging nettles.

To ThingOne's delight we were joined on our walk by Nala, one of the dogs we dog sat for last year. ThingOne still insisted on calling her La-La, though this time it was to wind me up rather than because she genuinely thought it was her name.

I swear I was more tired after this four mile walk than I was after the thirteen mile walk we did at the same location a few years ago.

I've been playing about with Google Presentations to set up a slideshow of a few photos from the day. I do like Google Docs, I do.

Guilt trip

Since January, when I was working long hours and only seeing ThingOne in the mornings and at weekends (though was working some weekends too), ThingOne has been making me feel bad for going to work by refusing to say goodbye to me in the morning. She wouldn't get too upset, just wouldn't say goodbye. She then expanded this to goodbyes in general and wouldn't say goodbye to visiting family either.

She'd got a bit better recently, but in the last few days she's really making me feel bad for going to work by getting really upset when I leave, saying she wants to go to work with me, and sitting on the stairs crying when I leave. It's a horrible way to leave the house as I feel sad, Anne has to cope with a sad ThingOne when she's trying to sort ThingTwo out.

Apparently she's pretty much fine once I've gone, but it's sad to see as I drive off.

I'm going to New York for a friend's wedding in June, and since ThingOne is bad when I leave for work I've told her about my trip in order to get her used to the idea. ThingOne is very keen on the Statue of Liberty, so I've sold her the idea by telling her that I'll bring her back a picture of it. This has backfired in a way as I've clearly done all this far too early. Every morning when I get her from her room (and about three times a day after that) she asks me if I'm going to New York today. "Not today, ThingOne, next month". "Tomorrow?". "No not tomorrow. It won't be for a while ThingOne". It's hard to get such concepts across to her and I just make a mess of it when trying.

Here's ThingOne being taught how to use a mouse by her Auntie Lindsay. ThingOne is very attentively playing Pick a Pair on the Thomas the Tank Engine web site.

Blog on

I'm going to make an effort to post more notes about the kids. Watching ThingTwo, we've realised we've forgotten so much about ThingOne and have found reading back on old blog entries serves as a good reminder of how things were in the early days. A large part of the purpose of this blog is as a journal for Anne and me. Therefore I'll try to post more notes on things the kids do and say.

We could do this in a private journal of course but:
- we're more likely to keep a blog current as we get occasional prods from family and friends when we've not posted for a while
- family like to keep up to date with the girls
- having a blog feels like we're living in the Space Age, and that is intrinsically good

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Name needed

So this blog clearly needs a new title. It's been "Stephen, Anne and ThingOne's online life" since ThingOne was born, and now ThingTwo's here that's not the whole story.

Adding Jr's name in would make it (even more) too unweildy, so I don't fancy that. Besides, are we just going to add the next six kids' names as they arrive?

Suggestions so far:
The Kent-Taylorses
We're gonna need a bigger bathroom
Outnumbered by women

Any better ideas? The winning suggestion will win the prize of this blog stealing it as a title.

On arms' length

ThingOne hasn't quite understood short sleeves vs long sleeves.

She thinks instead that she has short arms or long arms, depending on what top she's wearing. i.e. if she's wearing a long sleeved top she says she has short arms, and if she is wearing a short sleeved top she says she has long arms (as more of her arms are visible).

Makes some kind of sense, doesn't it.

The thing is, she genuinely believes she's more likely to be able to reach something if she's wearing a short sleeve top as her arms are longer. This leads to her taking the time to roll her sleeve up if she's wearing a long sleeved top and needs to reach something under the bed.

Great to see toddler logic at work.

(NB: I find this amusing to see every time she does it, which is quite often, so who's the real simpleton here?)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dance toddler, dance!

A long one this.

Since ThingOne's second birthday, back in January, I've been taking her to Melody Bears every Saturday morning. This is a dance class for toddlers. Dancing for toddlers isn't the most coordinated thing, but it's aiming to get them used to the idea of moving to music, moving in time with others, doing set routines and making up their own movements. And running around and jumping. ThingOne has loved dancing since she's been able to control her movements. (Her initial flailings before she was sitting up could only be described as similar to dancing by people who'd seen me throwing moves on the dance floor in my youth).

Her love of dancing may have come from Anne and me "bouncing her through" to her next feed when she was a baby. When we were trying to get her to go longer between feeds and she was grumpy (as opposed to being screaming with hunger, which we had to learn to recognise) we'd put some music on the iPod and dance her around our back room. Consequently "iPod" was one of her early words. Generally the music would be They Might Be Giants (quite bouncy) but we gradually built up playlists of things we thought she liked (i.e. things we liked that were good to bounce to). This soon became less a method of cheering her up when grumpy and more just something she enjoyed. Visitors would be railroaded (by her) into jumping up and down on her foam numbers with her to "One Week" by The Barenaked Ladies.

And so to Melody Bears (a kind of gateway drug for ballet I suppose). This takes place in a primary school gym/hall each Saturday. 10-15 toddlers each bring a teddy or doll, and the teacher and her helpers talk the kids through various moves, with stories, visualisation etc.

ThingOne initially wouldn't let me sit down at the side of the room with the other parents. I had to be with her and "dance" along, encouraging her. I was fairly conspicous being the only dad up there (a few mums also had to stay with their kids). Over the next few weeks, ThingOne gradually let me sit down more and more, until eventually she was happy to be up there on her own, turning to me every now and then to wave or give me a thumbs up.

At the end of each class the kids all pretend to put their teddies to sleep (using the rocking method, rather than lethal injection). The children then lie down with their teddies and pretend to go to sleep themselves. ThingOne HATED this. This was at a time when she associated sleep with being told it was too early to wake up in the morning (the end of the world, apparently) and for the first few weeks she'd just cry whenever she was asked to get ted to go to sleep. After a few weeks she progressed to mere misery at this part of the class.

ThingOne didn't dislike the dance class though. She enjoyed it quite a lot. And over time she came to like the dance class more and more. She'd look forward to it each Saturday and would talk about it a lot. (Partly because she and I would go to Sainsburys after to pick up a few groceries and then go for a drink in the café - a highlight of ThingOne's week).


None at all.

ThingOne would just stand there watching or scowling whenever the others danced. She was well behaved, and attentive, but when it came to putting her hands up in the air to do 'tall like a tree' or crouching down to do 'small like a mouse' (the warm up exercises at the start of the class) she would simply stand and scowl. She'd walk around the room with the others when asked, but not do any actions ("Mummy bear picks up her handbag, come on children…"), nor would she skip or wave as required.

And yet, if I tried to get her do do any of the dance moves at home to show her mum not only would she do them perfectly (well, recognisably at least) she would correct me if I got them slightly wrong or did them in the wrong order.

It was maddening. I started to wonder if it was worthwhile. She seemed to enjoy it and was obviously taking it in so I kept taking her, but I just wanted to see her join in a little. To be fair to her she was one of the younger kids in the class, and probably the smallest, but I was determined to make her perform. Maybe I should have shot bullets near her feet like in Westerns? "DANCE GIRL!" (I'd have used rubber bullets, obviously.)

I tried all sorts of encouragement, but resorted eventually to bribery. "ThingOne, if you do 'tall like a tree, small like a mouse and wide like an elephant' this week at Melody Bears you can have a straw with your water in Sainburys café". I had made clear what was at stake. ThingOne understood this, and was very keen to have a straw with her water (she is a child of simple pleasures).

Saturday came, and I reiterated our deal. ThingOne stood and scowled throughout the class. At the end she told me she hadn't done tall like a tree and so couldn't have a straw. For several weeks we went to Sainsburys after Melody Bears and had no straw. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I felt like I was punishing her (though she'd never had a straw with me on a Saturday, so I wasn’t taking anything away).

The last dance class before Easter was particularly notable for her intense scowls. At the end when the children rocked their teddies to sleep, ThingOne stood with her teddy by her side and scowled. When everyone lay down on the floor, ThingOne stood over them, as though she were the last one standing following a glorious battle, as though in some toddlers vs soft toys version of the movie 300. It was an amusing sight, and I wished I'd had a camera with me.

Easter came, and Melody Bear "went on holiday for a few weeks" (though ThingOne insisted MB had merely lost her shoes). ThingOne danced around the house to her iPod playlists and to the music in her head as usual. The break was three weeks long, an eternity in Toddler Time, and I was concerned it had been too long and that it would now take even more work to get her to join in.

The first Saturday back, I had her doing her dance moves for me in our hall before we left the house. She did them all gladly. I chanced my arm and tried to get her to rock her teddy to sleep. No go. She got a bit annoyed at me. Fair enough - can't expect miracles. We went to the school and I sat down for another Scowl Fest.

Only for ThingOne to join in throughout the warm up session. She did tall like a tree, wide like an elephant, small like a mouse, and she did them like a pro. I was the proudest parent in the room, and felt my eyes welling up. She was going to have the best straw Sainsbury's had to offer after this. I was going to look for a golden straw. With diamonds in it. I was so happy.

ThingOne then proceeded to do every dance move asked of her, including some that they'd never done before and were only introduced in that class. I couldn't believe it. Every now and then she'd look over and grin at me. I'd give her the thumbs up and she'd reciprocate. I was doing very well not to cry tears of pride. Let's just say it was getting a bit dusty in there.

It came to putting her bear to sleep at the end. I was expecting nothing from this, and my mood couldn't have been dampened by the scowling that would follow. I wanted to go to her and tell her she didn't have to do this bit and that she'd done plenty. However she rocked her teddy along with everyone else, and lay down on the floor pretending to sleep. It was becoming harder and harder not to shed a tear, but I managed it in order to save my macho image. (My macho image that had apparently survived me dancing with toddlers in front of the rest of the parents for the first few weeks of the January term.)

Once the kids had all 'woken up' and stood up again, ThingOne shouted across the room "Daddy very proud, ThingOne have a straw" and ran to me, beaming. It was too much and tears fell down my face.

(Only a few, I'm not a wuss. My contact lenses were probably partly to blame, and anyway I may have had an eye infection.)

I was so proud of her. I don't know how her brain works, but something had clearly clicked in there. Around the same time she started singing along with songs (she'd sung a lot before, but I don't think she'd sung while a song was playing or while someone was singing to her), which may be connected. Whatever had happened, she now dances along to everything at Melody Bears without a problem. Parenting takes patience I guess.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Four legs good

We took PreciousFirstBorn and NeglectedSecondChild to Mole Hall Wildlife Park a week or so ago.

We sold the idea to ThingOne by telling her there might be flamingos there (we know better than to promise anything for sure as her disappointment would have been enormous had they all died out the previous week). "We're going on a flamingo hunt" we said. "We're gonna catch a big one" ThingOne continued. When we saw the pink birds though ThingOne was more interested in a nearby duck. ThingOne doesn't have much concept of what is rare or unusual and what is ordinary (despite seeing ducks regularly) as she sees flamingos, giraffes, lions etc every day in numerous books (and I occasionally just search for 'tiger' on Flickr and leave her in front of a slideshow of the results if I need to get something done - Flickr is grrrrrrreat).

We had a really nice morning there (and were the only people there for most of the time) and ThingOne loved feeding the deer through the fence.

She's a bit fearless, which is nice compared to an overly nervous child, but brings it's own worries as she's likely to put her head in a lion's mouth if not supervised. Things do occasionally scare her though...

Having been impressed by a chimpazee walking on all fours, ThingOne did the same in a sandpit later.
"Are you being a chimpanzee ThingOne?" I asked.
"No daddy. I'm pretending."
Of course. Silly me.

ThingTwo spent most of the morning in a sling, and perfectly content. She doesn't seem to get much attention, poor girl. Babies seem easy next to toddlers (except today when ThingTwo's had a few screaming sessions - the start of the road to teeth being to blame, we think).

Here are a few shots of the newer little monkey in our pair showing off her gummy grin. ThingOne barely laughed for her first six months, whereas this one is showing signs of being a giggler already (probably having realised she'll need to compete).