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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