Monthly Archives: January 2011

Hello To The Strawberry

"You and I," Katie informed me, "are luckids."

"Lockets?"  My brow furrowed.

"Noooo!  Luckids!

"Luckits?  What's that?"

"Luckids!  It's like a big basket with a handle an' somebody carries it around."

"Luckids?"

"Luckids.  A giant is carrying us around."

"Do you mean luggage?"

"Yeeees!  Luggids!"

"So, you and I are luggage, and a giant is carrying us around."

"Yes."

"Where is the giant carrying us to?"

"Somewhere with long sticky-up grass."  Katie sketched upwards vertical lines in the air, indicating long sticky-up grass.

"Long sticky-up grass."

"Yes.  In America."

"So you and I are luggage being carried by a giant to somewhere with long sticky-up grass in America."

"Yes."

I should have asked her whether we were made of sapient pearwood.

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Hello To The Strawberry

Katie's enthusiasm for Baby Solly (the pink Googly Worm, not her actual cousin) continues, in a somewhat patchy way – she will happily forget about him until she actually sees him and will then start her delighted crooning over him again.  "Baby Solly!  Baby Solly!  He's very tickly!"  Then she will tell us that he's started crying and she will cuddle him.  She has also proudly informed us that his first word was 'ham', his second was 'Lego', and his third was 'my advent calendar'.  I asked her about this again a few days later and she updated me that his fourth word was 'Daddy's study' and his fifth was 'Mummy's socks and slippers'.  I shall keep you updated as to further developments in his language.

Yesterday, Katie was playing with the toy shopping till and basket when I got home from work.  "We're playing shopping!" Barry told me, and I said "Oh, yes?  How do you play shopping?" (because it's the sort of thing parents say, not because I couldn't work out perfectly well for myself how to play shopping), and, to my surprise, Jamie's excited monologue chimed in overlapping Barry's explanation of what they'd been up to and, before I'd managed to make head or tail out of who was saying what, Jamie tore downstairs demanding that I come with him.  What he wanted, it turned out, was the 'Shopping' game on one of the top shelves downstairs, a game for small children that involves matching cards with pictures on to pictures on shopping lists and trying to fill your (playing board shaped like a) trolley.  Katie immediately turned up and demanded to play too, so Jamie passed her the trolley with the yellow handle as he knows it's her favourite colour and we all sat down and played the game according to Jamie's rules, which I suspect may have differed slightly from those written in the instructions but since I correctly surmised that the Games Police were not going to come knocking on our door to check I didn't care and neither did the children. 

We played the game, and we had a great time, with Katie cheering "Yippee!" when she got a card, bouncing up and down with excitement (since she was kneeling down on the floor with us, this involved planting her weight on her hands and swinging her lower body into the air and down again.  She won, as it happened, and Jamie told her she could drive her trolley away with the first prize so she pushed it across the floor making 'brrrrrm, brrrrm' noises.  And I know this probably isn't sounding like that interesting an anecdote, but… if you are now or have ever been a parent of two young children, you'll get what it meant.  For those few minutes, they were playing together happily, nobody screaming, nobody hitting out, nobody freaking out.  I was aware every second of how fragile it all was and how easily it could all fall apart, how little it would take to tip one child or the other over into a tantrum over an inconsequentiality, but, this time, that didn't happen.  We played the game together, and enjoyed playing it.  It was a little space of time as precarious and magical as plate-spinning, a wavering glimpse of the future.

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Hello To The Salt Beef

On being asked a few days ago what she would like in her packed lunch the following day, Katie replied "The thing with bits in."  On request for further clarification she was able to tell me that it was round and flat, which left me none the wiser.  I offered several guesses as to both specific food and general category before her face brightened and she exclaimed "Soof beef!"

"Ahhhhh.  Salt beef," I amended.

Katie's brow furrowed.  "I don't think I could say that very – er – loudly."  (As an approximation of the idea of 'clearly', that's not bad.) 

"OK.  So you want salt beef."

"What was that other thing you called it?"

I cast my mind back through the recent conversation.  "Meat?"

"Meat!" my daughter confirmed delightedly.  "It's meat."

"It's a kind of meat," I clarified.  "So is ham, sausage, turkey slices… Anything that's pieces of an animal is called 'meat'".

Katie looked rather worried by this.  "How does that happen?"

"Well," I explained brightly, "the animal gets cut up into pieces.  But it's all right – it gets killed first."  (That one may not actually make it onto the Top Reassuring Statements Of All Time list.)

"And then they get a flattener," Katie agreed with the air of one for whom matters are starting to fall into place, "to make the salt beef pieces."

"Not a flattener, love.  They cut the pieces like that."

"No, Mummy," Katie explained earnestly, clearly determined to make sure I had this point straight, "a flattener.  To flatten the pieces."

I let it go at that.  There is only so much detail on the mechanics of cutting up dead animals that you want to be going into in any one conversation with your three-year-old.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

"On January 17th," Jamie mused aloud on Friday morning, apropos of not very much, "Baby Solly will be able to have the pink mat."

It was not the first time that Jamie had planned the date on which a particular item could be passed on to his infant cousin – a few weeks back, when he finished a set of books from a reading scheme that had different colour codes for different ages from three to seven, I overheard him commenting that on September 17th, 2013, we would be able to send Baby Solly the red  books, and then on September 17th, 2014, the… etc.  However, this one surprised me somewhat, since the pink mat in question (one of those suction mats you put on a high chair tray to hold bowls in place against the efforts of infants to knock them flying – I bought this one for Katie and never got round to using it, so it became one of the zillion pieces of junk littering our house) is on top of the dining-room bookcase supposedly out of Jamie's field of vision.  I do recall showing it to him years ago when he caught sight of it and wanted to know more, but I certainly wouldn't have expected him to remember that it was still there – hell, I'd barely remembered it was still there.  However, he is quite correct – it is indeed labelled as being for the 4+ months age range and, as unbelieveable as it seems, that is indeed the age that Solly is due to turn on January 17th.  I agreed with Jamie that Solly might well want the pink mat.

"But not until January 17th," Jamie stressed.  Age limits are not to be taken lightly, in Jamie's world. 

So there you have it, Ruth – if and when you do decide to go ahead with the solids, there's a pink suction mat available for Solly if you so wish.  Only after January 17th, of course.

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Hello To The Strawberry Lip Balm

A commenter on my last post told me of her daughters' use of "conked in" to refer to their brother not falling asleep.  It would be an apt description of Katie at her bedtimes; Jamie, once I manage to persuade him through the whole teeth-bath-nappy-pyjamas routine, is usually pretty droopy-lidded and simply turning off the lights and either persuading Katie to keep quiet or removing her from the vicinity is usually quite enough to get him drifting off towards dreamland, but Katie has a much harder time switching off.  This is made more marked by the fact that she has reached that awkward in-between stage where she struggles to make it through the day without a nap, but unless I make sure it's right at the beginning of the afternoon and she's woken up from it in good time then that's it for her chances of falling asleep at bedtime.  She is at least finally starting to grasp the principle that if she doesn't stay quiet when in the shared bedroom then she will be removed to the cot so that we can at least have one child falling asleep in peace, so we are just starting to move on from the days in which the two of them absolutely had to be separated at bedtime, but we're not planning on dismantling the cot just yet – we're still working on getting the message through that trips out of the room to check out the upstairs hallway are also verboten.  Accordingly, yesterday evening she ended up in the cot again, where she bounced around squealing enthusiastically as she watched Barry dry his hair after a shower.

"I'm a bit exCITed!" she exclaimed to us.  (Really?  You don't say.)  "An' that's why I keep giggling!"

I agreed with her that this was indeed the likely explanation.

"I want some strawberry lip balm."

I passed it over to her and retrieved it a minute later, looking suspiciously shorter than it had before.

"Katie, did you just eat a piece of my lip balm?"

"I'm a bit excited," Katie explained, clearly having decided to stick with a previous winner when it came to excuses, "an' that's why I'm eating strawberry lip balm."

Well, that clears that up, then.

Jamie, meanwhile, is as usual spending his time engrossed in computer programmes – currently, the various educational programmes on the BBC Schools website, which means he is learning at a rate of knots.  (He has, for example, taught himself how to calculate the different forms of averages from the maths programme, and how to start a letter from the English programme.)  One of his favourites, which I love doing with him, is a delightfully surreal little game called Questionaut, in which the title character ascends through a series of eight different worlds in a balloon fueled by correct answers to questions, the ultimate goal being to reach the moon and retrieve his friend's hat.  The role of the player, obviously, is to choose the correct answer to each question to provide more fuel, but you also have to go through a little sequence of clicking on different things within the world to activate the character that asks the questions, and working out how to do that is even more difficult than answering the questions in the first place; we would still be stuck on Level 3 if I wasn't lucky enough to have a husband well versed in the world of technogeekery who suggested Googling for the instructions, which we did successfully.  Having read them, I'm amazed that Jamie got as far as he did without instructions (I answer the questions for him, but he worked out how to start the game going and to start the questions on the first two levels); for that matter, how does anyone ever manage to get as far as finishing the game?  (Of course, it's aimed at 7 – 11-year-olds, so that probably explains it.)

Anyway, with the aid of the instructions we found the questioner on each world, went through the much easier part of answering the questions themselves, and got all the way to the moon, and have done so on a regular basis since then, though Katie still remembers the trouble we had with Level 3 – "This is where we couldn't find the fuel!" she says every time we get to that level.  Jamie, meanwhile, referred to that level on one occasion as 'Jungleworld', and, intrigued, I asked him for his names for the other levels.  Here they are:

Level 0: (Questionaut's world): Riverworld.  (I changed this to Lakeworld on grounds of technical accuracy and pedantry.)

Level 1: Nana and Grandad's Place (because he thinks the two figures look like them).

Level 2: Numberworld.

Level 3: Treeworld (the change of name was, again, mine, after I pointed out that one tree couldn't really be a jungle).

Level 4: Moss Lock World.  (This one had me somewhat baffled, but turned out to be traceable to Jamie's misreading of the instructions, which refer to putting the key in the 'left most lock' and 'right most lock'.  "The instructions said you had to put the key in a moss lock," Jamie explained to me.  When we worked out the error he was going to change it to 'Most Lock World', but I decided I liked Moss Lock World.  Anyway, it seems appropriate as the green grassy stuff looks sort of like moss.)

Level 5: Iceworld

Level 6: Musicworld

Level 7: Red Sky And Space World

Level 8: Sentenceworld

So there you have it.  By the way, if you want to have a look at all those for yourselves but don't want the hassle of actually playing the game, there are videos on Youtube showing them all (without which we wouldn't have made it through Level 3 even with Scawley's instructions, as you can see from my comment on his page).

And the bit that impressed me most (even more than Jamie figuring out how to find the questioner on the first two levels) was when a question came up asking for the answer for a sum that added two three-digit numbers, and, when I suggested that I could work it out, Jamie exclaimed "Just a minute!" and started trying to work the sum out for himself.  He successfully added the first digits of the two numbers to get 9 as the first digit of the answer, figured out correctly that he could now narrow down the answer to two of the three choices (as the other was in the 700s), added the two second digits, and used that to eliminate one of the remaining answers and thus ascertain what the correct one had to be.  I know it's bad form to brag on my kid like this, but… he's SIX.  Aren't you impressed?

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Eight maids a’milking, nine ladies dancing

We spent the weekend at my mother's, and it was wonderful.

On the way down, we stopped off briefly at a service station to take the children in to use the toilets.  When it was my turn to take Katie in, I pounced delightedly on a display of neck pillows in the style of brightly-coloured animals, and bought some for us.  Jamie and I have purple dragons, while Katie chose an elephant which she has named Watercup Seece.  At least, that's the phonetic version of how it's pronounced, although I keep seeing it in my mind's eye as Watercup Six pronounced with a French accent, which probably makes me incredibly pretentious.

On the Sunday, my sister and her family came round to join us for lunch and present-opening, which meant I finally got a chance to see my new nephew again.  (Oh, yes, and my sister and brother-in-law.  That was fun too.)  Baby Solly, now three months old, was of course the star of the show and even interested Jamie enough for him to put down his Nintendo for long enough to walk into the next room and look at him briefly, but Katie was quite enthralled by seeing a real live baby and promptly decided to make this toy into her own Baby Solly, which she lovingly rocked in the spare car seat and handed puzzle pieces to be pretend toys.  She decided it should be called Watercup Seece.  I pointed out that that might lead to a certain degree of confusion with the aforementioned elephant pillow of the same name, and she amended it to Watercup Seece-Seece-Seece, though I gather it still goes by the name of Baby Solly to his friends.  She took it with her when we left, still crooning over how much she loved it as she fell asleep in the car holding it.

(Yes, I did notice in the process of googling for that image that there have been safety concerns raised about the toy due to the mercury in the battery.  However, a search of the CPCS website found no record of any official concern and, as Barry pointed out, to get to the battery she would have to tear her way through a layer of thick rubber, so we have decided that we can continue letting her enjoy it with clear consciences.)

Anyway, we all opened presents and had one of my mother's delicious lunches and then Ruth, Neil and Solly had to leave and we had to take Jamie out for a walk as he was bouncing off the walls.  We got back with a somewhat calmer Jamie and a thoroughly exhausted Katie and, after feeding them, bathing them and putting them into pyjamas, loaded them into the car for a late-evening drive back, lifting them straight into bed when we got home. 

That's one child successfully anecdoted (my newly coined past participle) as promised; for Jamie, I can't think of anything from today as he's spent the time almost exclusively on playing Nintendo, which is not the stuff of which cute anecdotes are made.  (I know, I know – it's not the stuff of which high scores on the Good Mummy scale are made, either.  I probably need to work on this whole parenting thing somewhat this year.)  So, one from the archives:

When Jamie was two going on three, he went through a phase of being fascinated by word play involving opposites.  So, when we told him to settle down, he would squeak with an impish grin "Settle up!"  We were also introduced to such gems as 'calm up', 'cool up', crash up', and 'the hicdowns', and, once, when Barry found Jamie lying with his little hand-held light pressed directly against his eyes shining into him and remonstrated "It's bad for your eyes," Jamie replied "It's good for your nose."  And, for a long time, we used to look for 'yes parking' when we were trying to find a parking spot.

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Resolute flying strawberries

Controversunday, formerly hosted by mmeperpetua, has now been back up and running for the past couple of months on amoment2think's blog.  The topic for this month is 'Resolutions'. 

Controversundays are traditionally on a parenting-related theme, although, now I come to think of it, that isn't specified.  In any case, my main resolution this year not only does not involve my children, they are likely to be the biggest hindrance to its successful implementation.  What I want to do is go all Flylady and get the house fully sorted, decluttered, and organised, reaching the point where I actually have a place for everything and am at least reasonably successful at keeping everything in its place.  See the problem?  Children not only make it extremely difficult to get any tidying done, they are more effective clutter-generators than just about anything else short of an obsessive hoarding disorder. 

However.  I am under no illusion that I will actually achieve this goal as stated, but I plan to do what I can towards it, and, hopefully, I may even be able to instill decluttering ideals into the kids as they grow up.  I have, in fact, already started to do this.  A few weeks before their birthdays, driven to near-despair by their sheer number of accumulated toys, I explained to the two of them that we would have to take some of the old toys to the charity shop to make room for the new toys they'd be getting for their birthdays.

"OK," Jamie agreed equably, and rushed off down the hall to announce the plan to Barry (he apparently sees one of his roles in life as being a go-between to announce the plans of one parent to the other.  On occasion he will do this even when the other parent in question is present in the same room.)  "Daddy?  We have to take some of the old toys to the charity shop to make room for the new ones we're going to get for our birthdays!  What toys can we take?"

"Well," Barry suggested, "how about the box of teddy bears?"

"Though Katie might want to keep some of them!" I called down the hall.  "Better just check with her in case there are any that she still wants."

"KATIE!" Jamie yelled, hurtling back down the hall towards us in full-throttle enthusiasm mode.  "DO YOU EVER WANT TO PLAY WITH ANY MORE TEDDY BEARS EVER AGAIN?"

I hastily intervened to try to paint a slightly less bleak picture of what was involved in decluttering, and, some days later, we all sat down with one of the many boxes in the living room and a bag for the Red Cross shop and started going through to see if there were any toys that both children could agree could go to the charity shop.  To my surprise, we managed to find half a bag's worth, although the kids still insisted on keeping quite a lot of stuff I felt convinced they weren't actually going to play with again.  I say 'the kids', but the problem was, of course, that a lot of the time one child would feel happy to dispense with a particular item but the other child would vote to keep it, and in the absence of an unanimous vote for dispension I didn't feel able to get rid of an item.  Most of the 'no' votes came from Katie, who, in all fairness, is now growing into a lot of the stuff Jamie's growing out of, but who I believe has also been unfortunate enough to inherit my inability to picture a future of doing without a particular item.  However, we have made a start. Meanwhile, I plan to try the old trick of finding a spare corner in the garage or wherever to store some of the excess stuff as a waystation to getting rid of it with a clear conscience if they do indeed never notice that it's gone.

I digress from the general topic of resolutions, though, as it happens, in so doing I am nicely fulfilling my other resolution – to blog more about the children.  I have, over the past year, been dreadfully remiss in recording all those little cute anecdotes that are such fun to read about in years hence, and it's time I rectified that.  The problem, as always, is my perfectionism – getting all the stories arranged into coherent posts with proper structure and endings and funny titles, while not missing anything I should include, always ends up being far too big a project for me to wrap my head around.  So, I need to stop my entirely unsuccessful attempts to do this, and, instead, figure out an achievable way to do the job. 

Here's my plan: Every day, I'll try to record one funny/cute/interesting story about each child.  That's it.  No feeling like I have to collect every story from the past month into one long post, no trying to work it into a theme, just recording what happened.  I won't be religious about it – there will be (plenty of) days when I'm just too tired or have too much on, and I'll cut myself some slack.  But, when I have time, I'm going to aim to write down something funny about each child from the past few days.  If I can't think of any current Cute Stories, I'll pull one from the mental archives – the vast number of unrecorded Cute Moments. 

To smooth my path still further, I'll have one all-purpose title that I can use any time that no obvious title choice presents itself, and thus I won't even have to struggle to come up with titles.  (For clarification, I am editing this to add that I'll still use proper titles when one does spring easily to mind; this is just meant to save me trouble in times when one doesn't.)  The all-purpose title in question will be Hello To The Strawberry, a line that Katie loved coming out with for a short period earlier this year  and that had myself and Barry completely mystified – it sounded as though she was quoting something, but we know of no programme that contains this line.  We never did figure out what it was all about, but I always thought it would be a great title for a blog post.  Well, now it will hopefully be a great title for several dozen blog posts.  In fact, I should probably make it a category.

OK.  So those are my two resolutions – declutter the house, and blog about the children.  On to the more general part of the topic – do New Year's resolutions even work?

For me, they do.  This is entirely a horses-for-courses thing – some people do find it too demoralising to make resolutions and then not keep them throughout the year, and, if that's the way you feel, then, fair enough, New Year's resolutions probably aren't for you.  (Or you could stick to the one my brother-in-law told me he was going to make: 'Play it by ear'.)  As one blogger wrote last January of resolutions, 'I don’t do them because they are made to be broken, and I wish to be whole.'  But that quote got me started on thinking about why I feel differently, why resolutions are a positive force in my life, why the inevitability of the point when I no longer keep to them is a minor enough negative to me to be far outweighed by the positive.  It was a minor epiphany for me, because I realised that, in fact, I don't see those moments of no longer following a resolution as breaking them; I realised that the way I see them can be more accurately described as running down. And I think that's a far more helpful way to think of it.

New Year's resolutions run down.  They lose their power.  They do not last forever – we all know that.  But, when a battery runs down, we don't interpret that as meaning that it's a broken or failed battery or that we should never have used it in the first place or that it is somehow a reflection on us that that battery did not last forever.  We see no contradiction between the fact that that particular battery has run its course and the fact that it was useful at one time and did a perfectly good job of fulfilling its purpose while it lasted.  Thus it is with New Year's resolutions.  Yes, I do find that feeling of a fresh start and a particular time each year for thinking about how I want to improve my life to be an impetus that works for me.  No, it won't last forever.  But while it lasts, I will get as much use out of it as I can.  And, when those resolutions run down, the blog posts I wrote under their inspiration will still be there, the no-longer-used items that I moved out of the house will still be gone, and, even as I lament the passing of those resolutions, I can still continue reaping the benefits of whatever worthwhile things they did enable me to get done.

 

Other Controversunday posts:

Happy New Year – amoment2think

There's No U in "Failer" – The Cheeseblog

Resolutions and Goals – Ginger at Rambleramble

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