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I now have children of seven and four.

Back when Katie was a baby, I used to daydream wistfully of the days when my children would have reached interesting fun ages like – say – six and three.  I looked forward to that so much.  I would be able to have proper conversations with them!  Hear their ideas about things!  Do interesting stuff with them!  Oh, I had one child who'd reached that sort of age, and that was good, and I was thrilled to have my second child, my family complete – but, still, I looked forward to having a six and a three-year-old as some sort of distant Mecca.

So, I gritted my teeth and hung on in there through the night feeds and the insane toddler stage and the toilet training, plus all the good bits (and there were lots of those along the way, don't get me wrong – they just somehow seemed to be mere floating bits of debris to grab at in an overwhelming torrent of exhaustion and frustration and boredom), and the years went by.  And I made it.  I got to the point where I had a six-year-old and a three-year-old.  Throughout the year, every so often, I would stop for a moment to think to myself in awe – this is it.  This is the future I longed for, dreamed of, during those exhausting days and broken nights.  I'm actually here. 

And you know what?  It didn't disappoint.  Oh, parts of it weren't exactly what I'd expected – I hadn't anticipated quite so many monologues on Super Mario, or so much time sitting on bathroom floors while my daughter used the toilet (I hadn't realised that some children insist on company in the bathroom even after they're technically quite able to manage for themselves).  But I do indeed now have two children who can hold conversations with me or with each other, who go to school or nursery respectively and come home having done interesting stuff totally independent of me, who have thoughts and opinions and disagreements and are not afraid to voice them (volubly).  Two fascinating little minds unfolding as I watch.  Six and three was a really, really good year.

And now we're on to the next stage.  Seven and four was the kind of Nirvana I didn't even dare to have more than fleeting dreams of – children that old?  Seriously, did I dare believe that was ever going to happen?  No freakin' way!  It was just too good a life to dare to picture, mired in struggling with a baby and a three-year-old.  And now I'm there.  My son is seven, my daughter – as of today – is four.  The year's adventures lie in wait.

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What Katie did next

Can you tell I've been planning to use that post title almost since my daughter was born?  Less than three years to go now before I can use the "What Katie did at school" title…

Anyway.  On New Year's Eve, while reading back over the-year-that-was in my blog (or what little of it I actually had time to report on), I noticed that it was the one-year anniversary of both Katie's first unsupported step and her first word.  It seemed an apt moment to record how far she'd come since then.  Well, apart from my utter lack of time to do so right then.  So, here I am, at a marginally less apt moment a few days later, blogging about some of the advances my daughter made in 2009.

Walking: Katie now walks, walks backwards, walks sideways (while exclaiming 'Crab! Crab!'), walks in an awkward bended-knee shuffle that is, I gather, an alternative attempt at impersonating crabs, walks downstairs (a skill she applies selectively to times when she's meant to be staying upstairs, seemingly losing whenever I actually want her to come down the stairs), climbs up and down the bunk bed ladder, and has just graduated from the walking-to-two-years Tumbletots class to start the 2 – 3-year-old class at the beginning of this year.  (Which has, incidentally, been a milestone I've been looking forward to for months, as it'll make our schedule on Tuesdays substantially easier.)

Talking: After her first word, Katie seemed to be going on most promisingly to pick up more, and then, a couple of months down the line, stopped using them.  This, of course, led to me spending a lot of time wondering whether I was going to end up having two autistic children instead of one autistic and one neurotypical (a combination I'd been particularly looking forward to, so I wasn't thrilled about the thought that it might not come to pass).  However, my gut feeling about her was that this wasn't really a sign of anything out of the ordinary, and so I never did take her to the doctor.  This isn't a decision I can defend logically – I know that having a child lose words they knew is a red flag, all the more so in a case where there's a family history of autism – but it turned out to be the right one.  After a while – I'm not sure how long, but I'd guess another couple of months after that – Katie started picking up words again.  Interestingly, these proved to be different words from the first time around.  Her first word from Learning To Talk, Take Two, was "'Narna", for 'banana'. 

Other early words, from my memory and from an e-mail I sent to a friend when she was twenty-one months, included (in no particular order):

Mama (I've always referred to myself as 'Mummy' when talking to the kids, so this endearing little touch of the Victorian era was entirely her doing. I almost wish I'd gone along with it and changed the way I refer to myself.)

Bruh (Brother)

Bee (Beep.  Used to mean 1. beeping sound, 2. thing that makes a beeping sound, 3. interesting-looking thing that looked as though it might potentially make a beeping sound if Katie could just get her hands on it.  Or, very occasionally, 'bee'.)

Cluh (Clock)

Pluh (Plum)

Gluh (Glasses)

A'ul (Apple)

Cray (Crayon)

Bah (Bird, bear, or ball)

She moved on in due course to two-word sentences ("Daddy draw!"  "Mama draw!"), and three-word sentences ("Nana draw trac-trac!") and four-word sentences ("Bih bruh pla' pia'" to comment on Jamie bashing away on her toy piano.  Or the time I was reading her a book with a character who splashed in the bath and commented on how her big brother also liked to splash in the bath, didn't he?  "Kay spla' ba' TOO!" she informed me firmly, thumping her chest for emphasis.  This is not a child who likes to be left out of anything.)  And now, she's talking a blue streak.  A lot of it is still too garbled to understand, but she can come out with longish recognisable sentences.  (The latest, today, was "I put 'no'baw Mummy' blue car!" while playing in the snow.  I mean, how good is that?  Six-word sentence with correct use of first-person pronoun, subject/verb/direct object/indirect object structure, and adjective.  Oh, and she knows her colours.)  I must say, it's an absolute delight having a toddler who learns how to talk normally.

Katie's other current skills and interests include:

Counting to fifteen with the seven, twelve, and thirteen omitted.

Being able to fit two jigsaw pieces together, occasionally even the correct pieces in the correct orientation.

Drawing passably recognisable bunk beds.  (She also loves having things drawn for her, as you may well have gathered from her earliest examples of sentences, above.)

Singing 'The Wheels On The Bus'.  ("Weebuh go roun'roun'!  Aww day lon'!  Wi' buh' go swi' swi'…")

Recognising the letter 'K' (my mother taught her when she visited for New Year).

Eating with a spoon.

Sitting on the potty – or on the toilet.  I had a week off around her birthday last November and, as she'd seemed very happy to be put on the potty regularly over the previous month, had a go at training her, but she didn't seem that interested in going of her own accord and started to resist the whole thing.  I put her back into pull-ups for the time being, but, in recent days, she's started yelling "Want sit potty!  Want do poo!" at least some of the time when she wants to go.  This past couple of days, she's decided she wants to sit on the toilet instead, which leads to some conflicts between her and Jamie but does bode well for getting toilet-training done successfully in the foreseeable future.  We shall see how it goes.

Washing hands.  This child is in training to be an OCD sufferer when she grows up.  Let her stand in front of a sink with a running tap and a piece of soap and she'll amuse herself for ages.  If you don't turn the tap on for her, she'll yell until you do.

She loves bananas and cauliflower and couscous and gravy (quite possibly all at the same time).  She also loves cake, but she has apparently heard and taken to heart the old saying about not being able to have your cake and eat it as well and has decided that, if that's the choice, she's going to go for the former option.  A week or so ago Jamie made some Dora the Explorer cupcakes from a pack and the two of them had one each after dinner for the next six days, and, while Jamie finished his off quickly, Katie licked the icing enthusiastically off hers and then hung onto the rest of it, apparently trying to consume the rest of it via the occasional lick, and howling indignantly when I dared to suggest that, given the amount of time she had spent sitting there not eating it, perhaps she could leave the sticky remnants of it and come upstairs with her brother so that we could make a start on preparations for bed.

She was 87 centimetres tall when we measured her on her second birthday, which converts to more conventional measurements as two feet ten and a quarter inches and gives her an es
timated adult height of a respectable 5' 8.5".  Her hair is well past her shoulders now – it's the kind of fine, straight hair that looks really obviously uneven if cut crookedly (unlike Jamie's tousled mop, where a bit of uneven trimming would have probably passed unnoticed), so I don't really want to take her to get it cut until I'm sure she's old enough to understand and follow along with sitting still for the duration.  So it's getting very long and easily tangled, which is a nuisance.  Barry's mother showed him how to twist it into a neat little knot on the back of her head, which makes her look adorably sophisticated, two going on twenty-one.  My beautiful little daughter, who's spent the past year growing from a baby into a wonderful little girl.

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Buh beh

It's apparently International Comment Leaving Week in the blogging world (OK, it was at the time I started this – by the time I get it posted, it'll probably be IComLeWe 2010), so it's a touch ironic that I'm not making the comment I was initally going to make on this topic because I've decided to make a post out of it instead.  However, I really could do with getting a post up (I've resigned myself to not getting to do NaBloPoMo this year, but it would be truly sad not even to get one post up this month), and Annie happened to ask about something that's a topical issue in our house right now, so here we are.

Annie asked: 

  • How do parents transition their kids from the confined space of a crib to a big kid bed?
  • Is it a difficult transition?
  • When and how does this happen?

Everyone tells people who parent to sleep
start out staying with their kids while they fall asleep that their
kids will never learn to go to sleep on their own. I won’t pretend that
it is easy. But to me, it seems like it would be easier to go from
being parented to sleep to not being parented to sleep
having a parent in the room to not having a parent in the room than it
would to go from being confined to sleep to not being confined to sleep.

I've already written about my experience with Jamie (near the end of a long post – keep skimming down and you'll find it); here's the story on Katie.

Some weeks back, Katie started swinging one leg up and over the side of the cot with the expression of one trying to figure something out.  While she didn't get as far as making the small shift in her weight that would have brought her up and over the edge, we knew it could only be a matter of time; she was already fractionally older than Jamie was when he figured out how to climb out.  In Jamie's case, however, we had had a spare bed ready and waiting for him to be moved into once the cot no longer fulfilled its function as a baby-confiner.  I decided we'd probably better make similar arrangements for Katie, so that, when wooden bars no longer a cage made for her, we could put her straight into the big bed without further ado. 

Like many parents before me, I decided the obvious solution was to get bunk beds and thus preserve our current amount of floor space.  (Like many parents before me, I have now discovered just what a pain bunk beds are to change the sheets on, or when it comes to lifting a protesting and sleepy child out of the top bunk because he absolutely has to get ready for school.  Oh, well.  The kids love 'em, and it is nice to have the floor space.)  As it happened, a local shop had some nice bunk beds on sale, so we went ahead and bought them and Barry spent a busy evening assembling them, to the enthralled fascination of both children.  Jamie insisted on a full count of all the separate pieces that went into making them; Katie just bounced around squealing "Buh beh!  Buh beh!"  We got some bedding a week or so later, and there we were, all prepared for Katie's anticipated and possibly imminent Great Cot Breakout.

Having done that, we'd intended to leave it at that until Katie actually did learn how to climb out of the cot; when you have two energetic children with a tendency to egg each other on to greater and greater levels of over-excitedness, it's a major advantage to have them sleep in different rooms.  Katie, however, was not having any of this plan; we had singularly failed to take into account the level of fascination that a bunk bed would hold to a toddler at the stage of wanting to do everything the big people around her were doing.  (Her most common utterance these days is a shout of "Me me me me MEEEEEE!!" in response to anyone announcing their intention to do, well, anything.)  When the bunk bed was first assembled she would run through and lie down on the bottom bunk while we put Jamie to bed in the top bunk, but at that stage she reluctantly accepted being taken back to our room to be put in her cot.  However, once we got the bedding and Barry made the bed up, that was it.  Her lullaby that night was punctuated by howls of "Buh beh!  Buh beh!" as she struggled to get away from me.

So, the next night, we went ahead and put her in the bunk.  I then did what I usually do on Friday evenings, which is to go and lie down for a bit in order to muster the energy for the evening chores after a long hard week, zonk out, and surface three hours later wondering how the holy hell it got so late, so my conscious awareness of the next bit is limited to a very foggy memory of Barry coming in to tell me that I might find a lot of toys on their bedroom floor the next morning.  Apparently, it went something like this:

Jamie hurtled down the stairs and into the living room to squeal with the particular note of enthusiasm only reached by small children reporting on the misdeeds of their siblings "DAAAAAddy!!!  KAAAtie's not in BED!!"

Barry herded him back upstairs to find toys strewn across the floor and Katie scrambling hastily back into the bottom bunk with a huge and innocent grin.

Barry settled both children down in their respective bunks again with instructions to stay there, and went back downstairs again.

Jamie hurtled down the stairs and into the living room to squeal… etc.  Every few minutes.

(This, by the way, wasn't a totally unexpected outcome – the reason we
left the transfer to a Friday wasn't because we were particularly
trying to drag our feet about the matter, it was because we thought
that, if the kids did take ages to get to sleep, at least it wouldn't
be on a school night.)

After over an hour of this, Barry took Katie downstairs so that Jamie could fall asleep uninterrupted by a playing toddler.  Once he'd done so, he took her back up so that she could fall asleep uninterrupted by a smug older brother.  Since this actually seemed to work, on subsequent nights we've bypassed the first part and moved straight onto this method.  After their night-time stories, I take Jamie to settle him to bed while Barry takes Katie downstairs, then I get some jobs done while Katie plays happily in the living room for a half-hour or so, check on Jamie to make sure he's sound asleep, and take Katie back up to settle her in the bottom bunk.  Despite this being so absolutely contrary to the advice of almost every parenting book ever written on what a child's bedtime routine should be that I spent the first week expecting a posse of parenting experts to materialise in my living room and tell me off, this seems to work just fine; after her half-hour of playtime downstairs, Katie settles down perfectly happily when taken up to bed.  So that's our current bedtime routine, and that's the story of how we transferred Katie.

When I first read Annie's question, I thought she was asking about how you got a child to accept being put to bed in a big bed instead of a cot, something which has been among the all-time easiest things I've ever had to do in parenting, both times around.  As I read further down the comments on her post, I realised that her question had in fact been about how you got a child who was used to a cot to stay in a bed, and, of course, my story is not exactly a sterling example of the ease of that particular endeavour.  But the question was a bit more than that, when taken in context; she was talking about parents who feel that they need a cot because their child would escape if left unattended in a bed (either the parents' bed or a separate child bed).  So I guess the question was: what happens to change a baby who won't stay in a bed without bars to a child who will?

Well, partly the fact that my children both woke up a lot more during the evening as infants than they do now; neither of them went into a bed until well settled into a pattern of falling asleep and staying asleep when put to bed for the evening.  But, also, I'm just not as worried about the thought of a two-year-old getting out of bed as I would be with a baby or even a younger toddler.  Partly, that's due to their level of physical capability – I'm more confident that an older toddler can climb down off the bed without falling.  And that we can safely put a pile of pillows next to the bed to cushion their fall if they roll off the bed in their sleep.  If I tried that with a baby, I'd worry constantly about the possibility of him smothering if he rolled into the pillows.  Partly, it's their mental capacity.  While 'common sense' and 'two-year-olds' are not words I ever expected to be using in a sentence that didn't also contain the phrase 'utter lack of', I do think it's fair to say that a two-year-old does have more common sense than a one-year-old when it comes to staying safe for brief periods of being left awake, unconfined, and unattended.  They just don't put things in their mouths as often.  And one final minor but not insignificant detail is that I'm happy putting a child in the two-ish age range to sleep in a separate room whereas I wouldn't want to do that with a one-year-old or a baby, and I do prefer the thought that, if either of my children wakes up up and starts roaming around getting into things before I can get him/her, at least it's going to be their things they get into and not mine.

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Thirteen And Fourteen Months – Two For The Price Of Something-Or-Other

I meant to keep doing separate updates for each month of Katie's life, as I have been.  However, her thirteenth month passed without anything much more exciting to report than a changeover from two naps a day to one.  She did at one point shuffle one of her feet a fraction of an inch forward while standing unsupported and I got very excited and started planning a blog post complete with Neil Armstrong references, but then she didn't repeat this for the rest of the month and, really, once I thought further about it the excitement value seemed pretty limited even when viewed through the Doting Parent lens.  So, a month without anything much to blog about. Then she hit fourteen months and, suddenly, all sorts of neurones seemed to connect in her brain.  She started pointing at everything and discussing it with enormous interest in Katie language, politely but firmly expressing her opinion that those curtains should really be opened now, thank you, Mummy, or that she would like the radio back on, please, or just telling me about the really interesting thing that she could see over there in that corner of the room, all in cheerfully indecipherable syllables and gurgles.  And then she started walking and talking.  Well, I exaggerate slightly – she started taking a few wobbly steps and saying a few definite words – but it was still pretty cool, milestone-wise. 

My policy in these updates has been that while each monthly update should be restricted scrupulously to the events of the month, the whole month, and nothing but the month, any noteworthy developments between the 25th of each month and the time I actually get round to writing that monthly report up can rate a passing mention as long as I clarify that they weren't part of the events in the month under discussion.  However, the contrast between the non-event of her thirteenth month and the amount of development that seemed to be taking place by the time I was getting round to writing it up was so great that I just thought, sod it, I'll make it a two-monthly update this time.  Besides, I was even more desperately strapped for time than usual.

So.  Thirteenth month – the nap transition. For the previous couple of months, since being night weaned, Katie had been on a schedule of napping once in the late morning around 10.30 – 11-ish, and once in the early-to-mid-afternoon, for an hour or so at a time; shortly after her first birthday, she started switching over to the toddler pattern of having one nap a couple of hours long at the beginning of the afternoon, right after lunch.  The books all seem to paint this transition as a horrible time of tiredness and crankiness due to baby not being fully in either sleep pattern, but in fact Katie accomplished it perfectly smoothly – she just went back and forth unpredictably for a bit between days when she was in the old pattern and days when she was in the new (with the latter becoming more frequent over a period of a few weeks until the former had disappeared), and was perfectly happy as long as we watched her and went with what her pattern was on any given day.  So we simply watched her as she got to late morning to see whether she seemed to need a nap then or not, and arranged things accordingly.  If we'd had any sort of social life that we wanted to plan it would no doubt have been pretty awkward, but, as it was, it all went swimmingly.

Fourteenth month – the actual interesting milestones.  As above, plus brief summary of other milestones as follows:

First wobbly unsupported steps.  This was, with excellent timing, on New Year's Eve a few hours before we headed up to see Barry's parents, so they got to witness this new skill at an early stage.

First definite word (as in, something I was sure was a word and not just something that might have been either a word or a random sound that fortuitously happened to resemble the name of the thing she happened to be looking at).  This was also on New Year's Eve, and was inspired by Barry's parents' dog, which proved to be even more exciting than Christmas trees or Barry's mother's comb.  So Katie's official first word is "Dog!"

(From the Katie-at-thirteen-months dictionary: Dog (duhg): 1. Furry canine animal.  2. General expression of delight or amazement at any of the many things in life that are so awesomely wonderful as to be almost in the same category of wonderfulness as dogs are.)

Second definite word, which was "Da", as in "Daddy".  I'm clearly an also-ran as far as naming is concerned.

Other possible word sightings (hearings?): "Ted". "Key".  "Dere".  "Dat".  I'm pretty sure about "Ted".  The others are probables.

Breastfeeding status at end of fourteenth month: three times weekly.  Tooth count: nine (eight incisors, lower left molar) (vg).

And now I shall wrap this up and post it before it turns into a three-month update.

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Addenda

A quick collection of bits that either don't easily fit into another post or that I omitted to include in the post they should have fitted into:

We had the LISM (Local Inclusion Support Meeting – the get-together of relevant people to discuss how Jamie was doing and what he needed to do next).  I'd pictured this being a large group of people sitting round a conference table in some long bleak boardroom, but in fact it was just a few of us in a very nice room with a few chairs clustered round a coffee table and plenty of toys that Katie could play with (so she spent much of the meeting trying to play with people's Filofaxes and briefcases).  There were only three other people there besides us – Manda and Jane from the nursery, and Sharon, the area SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator).  Dr M., Carol (our health visitor), and the speech therapist who's been coming in and doing sessions with Jamie at nursery once a week had all been invited but couldn't make it, although we did get long and detailed notes from the speech therapist to compensate for her absence.

We all sat around and talked about Jamie's many strong points and general wonderfulness, and discussed what things needed to happen next.  Barry and I are having another shot at toilet training him, Manda has some ideas for working on things at nursery to help him with making transitions between activities and so forth, and when we know which school he's been allocated to (which apparently we won't until February, unfortunately) we can put in an application for him to have an aide for the initial weeks of the school year to provide him with some extra support.  Sharon documented all this, including (I was pleased to hear) my heartfelt compliments and thanks to the nursery staff for the truly spectacular job they're doing with him (do you know they even offered to help with the toilet training in any way they could?  Good god, I don't even want to do the job and he's my son, yet here they are just volunteering for a share in it!)  Then we all went our separate ways to get on with the various things we'd agreed to do, which, in our case, involves putting Jamie into pants for a bit of time each day and trying to make sure that as many as possible of the resultant puddles end up vaguely aimed at the toilet.  (We are making progress, although in a terribly slow way.)

Katie is still breastfeeding twice daily (on days when I'm at home – on my work days, I leave before she wakes up in the morning, so obviously she only gets the evening breastfeed on those days).  I'd assumed I'd have to drop the morning breastfeed when I was no longer pumping, but it seems the production system does have that much leeway in it and I have been able to keep up the twice-daily breastfeed.  She can pretty much take or leave these and I think that if I went to "don't offer, don't refuse" now, she'd be weaned within a day or so with no looking back.  I have in fact given some serious thought to whether I should do it that way and thus make the final weaning easy, but, well, antibodies, winter coming, all that, not to mention that I still like doing it.  So, I'm still sticking with the original plan of keeping going until either she gets bored with it or spring comes, whichever happens first.

Finally, because I like recording such things, here's the list of milestones Katie's card from the health visitor tells us children should have reached by the end of one year (all nicely achieved in her case, I'm pleased to say):

  • Standing, crawling, and sitting to play
  • Finger feeding/enjoying a wide range of foods
  • Drinking from a cup/feeder cup
  • Making lots of babbly noises and saying 'Dada, Mama, Baba'
  • Waving and clapping hands
  • Enjoying books (I assume that last one covers 'enjoying pulling them off the shelves and trying to eat them'.)

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Twelve Months: Zzzzzz

Katie's main milestone from her twelfth month was that very popular and hotly controversial one in ParentingWorld – sleeping through the night.  There is a longer story as to how this came to be (a somewhat timely one, since I've once again been embroiled in debate with another blogger over whether any method of dealing with sleep problems that involves letting your child cry for even a few minutes is a high-risk strategy to be avoided if at all possible or whether there might, perhaps, be circumstances in which it's a valid and reasonable approach), but, in the interests of getting this post up some time before the thirteen-month update is due, I shall leave the full story to a subsequent post and constrain myself, at this point, to merely reporting this happy state of affairs.

She isn't yet walking, but she can stand for several seconds at a time (in fact, she's been able to do that for some time, so I think strictly speaking it belongs in a previous month's post, but what the hell).  She can climb stairs.  (We don't often let her, but she can.)

She's started hugging soft toys.  This is terribly sweet to see, even if her next action generally involves dangling them upside down or grabbing their eyes.  It's nice to finally have some use for the drawerful of soft toys that Jamie was given but never showed the slightest interest in.

She had her first birthday party.  We had a joint party for her and Jamie, on the Sunday in between their birthdays.  Barry was planning to stack their cakes in a two-tier system, but that didn't look as though it was going to work all that well and in the end we carried them in separately.  Since she's too young to blow candles out, he found one of those mini-firework candles.  Jamie was most impressed by this: "I had four candles that were fire," he told us, "and Katie had one candle that was a firework."  Katie, unfortunately, had a rotten cold, which somewhat hampered her enthusiasm for the day, but she seems quite pleased with her presents (although it turned out that what she really really wanted more than anything else was an old comb.  She was so enamoured with Barry's mother's comb that she insisted on carrying it up to the bath with her and howled when I finally insisted on removing it from her clenched fist just before putting her in her cot.)

Other than that, she really hasn't done much of note this month.  She's probably gathering her energies for storming the second year of life.

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Eleven Months – Evolving

Things that Katie learned how to do in her eleventh month:

Cruise.  For those not familiar with the lingo, this refers not to holidaying on expensive boats but to the sort of sideways shuffle babies do while holding onto furniture.  She rarely actually does this, preferring crawling as her means of locomotion, but she has cruised a few steps from time to time and thus gets to count it officially as a milestone. 

Stand unsupported for an approximate half-second before folding in slow motion down to the ground. 

Pincer grasp.  She is not yet deft at this, but can manage it well enough to supplement her diet with lots of crumbs and the odd bit of carpet fluff.

Drop things.  She has reached the stage where this counts as a lovely game.

Sleep for more than forty minutes at naptime.  The forty minute thing is, apparently, very common in babies, due to this being the length of one sleep cycle (the time it takes a baby to go from wakefulness down through increasingly deep levels of sleep and back up to light sleep again) – many babies wake up too far as their sleep cycles crest the surface, and can't drop back off to sleep again easily even if they really need to do so.  This, of course, then means that you have an awake, overtired, irritable baby instead of a peacefully asleep followed by awake well-rested happy baby; so you can imagine that I was particularly pleased about this particular achievement.  Katie is now taking two naps of an hour or more each day.  (Exact duration varies hugely, but the point is that she now actually seems to be getting the sleep she needs during the day, rather than waking up from her naps far too early.)  As to why it happened now, I think that's down to the recent night weaning.  That, plus the extra formula supplements we gave her during the day, got her settling more easily at night and sleeping for much longer stretches, and, after a few weeks, this eventually had a knock-on effect on her daytime sleep.  

Possibly saying her first word or two.  Maybe.  Sorry to be vague on such a particularly important milestone, but the problem is that The First Word just isn't the same kind of clear-cut event in real life as it is in all those books and films where a previously non-verbal child suddenly comes out with a clear "Mummy!" or "Dog!" or "President!" or whatever happens to suit the plot development.  What actually happens in real life is that babies spend months babbling merrily away with any old random syllables which, every so often but no more than would be expected by sheer coincidence, happen to approximate to the beginning sound of whatever or whoever they happen to be looking at at the time.  Then you start thinking that maybe this is happening a bit more often than coincidence would suggest… or maybe not.  And it just gradually goes on from there until it eventually becomes pretty obvious that they are in fact using "Ma-ma!" to refer to their mother, or whatever, at which point you realise that they have, in fact, probably been doing it for months.  This is what's happening with Katie.  She says "Ma-ma!" a lot, usually with apparent randomness, but there do seem to be a lot of occasions on which it's connected with her looking at me or hearing my voice on the phone or looking around in a lost kind of way when I'm not there… enough to have Barry convinced that she's doing it deliberately, and me thinking, hmmmm, maybe, maybe not.  I'm a sceptic when it comes to milestones – I like to have clearcut evidence.  Similarly, she did once look at her brother and announce "Jay-jay!" but doesn't seem to have done that on any subsequent occasions, so, well, who knows.  But the babbling is going beautifully.  She can now chat away very happily about life in a variety of random syllables.

She now has almost seven teeth (top right incisor now through, top left incisor lurking coyly just beneath the surface).  She is still breastfeeding two or three times a day.  (I did also go back to breastfeeding her once at night as well for a bit during her eleventh month, but have now dropped that again.  Long story which I may or may not go into at some point, time permitting.)

She has been to her second restaurant (the first being when we were at the Convention and went to a superb Birmingham restaurant called the Spicebuffet, which does a wide variety of different types of ethnic food; I collected a plateful of appropriate bits for Katie, and she munched away very happily while I ate).  This latest restaurant visit was for the small party Barry's parents held to mark their ruby wedding anniversary.  I approached the evening with a certain amount of trepidation (get two small children into smart clothes and keep them looking appropriately presentable at least until after the first round of photographs?), but it went rather well – everyone cooed over Katie and she managed not to spit up on her party dress.  Barry took charge of Jamie during the meal and I gave Katie the toast-and-paté starter and a selection of vegetables from the serving dishes, the combination of which kept her happily occupied for long enough for me to eat a quick meal myself before rushing off to take my turn following Jamie, who had, as usual, decided to wander around the place once he finished his food.  All in all, it was a pretty good evening.

So, she is now taking steps (literally and figuratively) in the general areas of upright locomotion, use of opposable thumb, and possibly expressive spoken language.  That seems to be the three major evolutionary landmarks that separate humanity from other animals, right there.  Pretty impressive going, I'd say.

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Ten months – Stand up clap hands

Katie can now pull herself to standing.  She will imitate us when we clap our hands for her (a cute milestone for any parent to see, but with extra significance for us; Jamie never did this, and the fact that Katie does is another indication that she probably isn't on the autistic spectrum).  She loves her baths and howls disconsolately when it's time to be lifted out and dried.  She likes helping me pull the cord on the light switch in the bathroom and, when I say to her "Can we switch the light on?" she understands me and looks round for the switch.  She has a grand total of five toofy-pegs – all four of the front ones and the bottom right incisor.

She has started in Gymbabes (the baby version of Tumbletots).  This involves a certain amount of awkward timing; Gymbabes/Tumbletots classes run throughout the morning in age group order, starting with the Gymbabes class and moving on through progressively older groups of Tumbletots.  Therefore, we now have two children to get to two different classes at different times of the morning.  We work it by splitting up the children (fortunately, the classes are on my day off each week); I take Katie while Barry stays home with Jamie (both of them normally still in bed at the time I leave), and, later on, Barry takes Jamie while I stay home with Katie.  Since this is also Barry's day for going shopping, he does this between the two classes, while I stay home with both children.  The effect is a bit box-and-cox, but rather fun – I get a bit of uninterrupted time with Katie at the class, and then, since Jamie's class pretty much coincides with one of Katie's somewhat erratic nap times, I get a bit of uninterrupted time to myself at home.  That really is good, even if I do spend most of it emptying the dishwasher and putting the laundry in the dryer.  Katie, meanwhile, took a while to warm up to the idea of the classes, but rapidly got to like them.  Especially the ball pool and the giant green ball that's bigger than she is.

The other adventure of Katie's tenth month was night weaning – cutting out her night feeds.  I started writing all about the whys and wherefores of this, but it seemed to be taking over this whole post and in the end I decided to consign it to the vast mental heap of Things I Really Will Write A Post About Some Day, Honest.  The how was simple enough – I switched her onto the bottle for night feeds so that I could tell how much she was taking, and then reduced the amount gradually over several nights while increasing her daytime intake, so that she wasn't actually hungry at night during the transition. This was, of course, a complete and utter pain – instead of simply hauling her into bed with me and nursing her when she woke up, I had to get up and warm bottles – but it avoided all the crying that seems to happen in most of the accounts of night weaning that I've read, and it worked.  A week after starting – four nights before turning ten months old – Katie made it through from bedtime to breakfast without sustenance, and has done so on a regular basis ever since.  (She does still occasionally need a few ounces to get her through, but that's now the exception rather than the rule.) 

She does still wake up each night, but that's not a big deal – I still take her into bed with me, only now without the feeding.  I shall change that too, in due course, if she doesn't grow out of it spontaneously in the near future (which is quite possible – Jamie did, within a week or two of me night weaning him, and Katie has been waking up progressively less often since being night weaned and has been noticeably easier to settle when she does wake, so I shall see how it goes), but I'm happy to wait a bit on that one and rest on my laurels for now.

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Checks (and possibly even balances)

Update on the latest of the perennial assessments of various aspects of the children:

10th September was Jamie's latest orthoptist appointment.  It was a joint appointment with the ophthalmologist, which meant it was on a different day of the week from usual and hence at a time when I was at work and had to leave this one to Barry.  As much as I love being involved in every detail of my children's various assessments, not being at this one did have the advantage of sparing me a confession; my excellent intentions of persevering with the patch had almost completely gone by the wayside, for the simple practical reason that getting him to keep it on for more than a second or two is now a feat of near-impossibility.  He can rip it off faster than I can replace it, and more often.  Since this involves pulling his glasses off as well, and he doesn't put them back on after ripping the patch off them, this means that putting the patch on him was not only not resulting in him wearing it; it was resulting in him spending less time wearing his glasses.  Since correcting his vision is also important for keeping his left eye working (if he can't see as well out of that eye, his brain is more likely to tune out the image), my attempts to patch him were actually backfiring as far as his future visual acuity was concerned. 

Of course, I could have tried harder.  I could have found time to hover over him intensively, putting every effort into stopping him from removing it and distracting him onto other things.  While doing this for the prescribed hour a day would simply not have been possible short of leaving Katie to fend for herself during that time, I could have managed a bit more than I did.  Mea culpa; I gave up on trying.  Pat had, after all, initially said that we could have a go of not using it for a bit; how important could it really be?  I was, it seemed, about to find out. So I awaited the verdict from the appointment with some trepidation. 

The verdict, fortunately, was favourable; I'd made the right choice.  His left eye was still doing OK, and we could move from dispensing with the patching unofficially to dispensing with it officially.  We have also been told that his lens prescription has changed.  This may account, at least in part, for the fact that he has recently developed the habit of taking his glasses off all the time, even when we're not trying to patch him.  This has also been rather a problem given that when he takes them off he tends to chew the nosepieces – those little rubbery translucent things that cushion the seat of the frames on his nose, due to child-shaped noses not holding spectacles as well as adult-shaped noses.  When they're chewed, they often come off (or split).  So we spend a lot of time groping round on the floor trying to find missing nosepieces, or making trips to the opticians for spares.  Fortunately, getting his new glasses does seem to have diminished his tendency to do this at least somewhat.  (And who cares?  We no longer have to put eyepatches on him!  Hooray!)

The other recent assessment-type thingy was Katie's eight-month check-up (at least, I think that's what it was officially called, although she was more like nine months and change by then), which was on September 16th.  I hadn't realised that eight-month checks still existed locally – I'd thought that they'd gone the way of the three-year checks, into the black hole of Insufficient Funding.  However, it seems they've survived, although somewhat abbreviated from what I vaguely remember them being back in the days when I had to learn about them for the MRCGP.  It pretty much consisted of the health visitor putting a couple of small cubes down on the table in front of Katie to observe her reaction.  Katie duly grabbed them and played with them appropriately, demonstrating such behaviours as hand-to-hand transferring and whichever type of grasp it is that babies learn just before learning pincer grasp (there's an official name for it, but I've forgotten it), and was pronounced in fine shape developmentally. 

"With Jamie in mind," Carol added, "her looking for approval is absolutely spot on."  I'm not keen on that particular phrase – 'looking for approval' has undesirable connotations of being excessively dependent on the opinions of others – but, in this context, it refers to the way a child will look up at the adult interacting with them, checking in, sharing the experience. One of the many clues to Jamie's ASD diagnosis was that he did very little of this during his assessment with her.  The fact that Katie does do this is a significant sign that – as we already thought – she probably doesn't have ASD.

Carol asked us if we had any concerns (we did not), gave me a copy of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to fill in (it's a screening test for postnatal depression), and gave Katie a bag of books from Bookstart, which Jamie immediately ransacked.  (He found a laminated placemat with nursery rhymes on it and promptly started reading them aloud, to Carol's surprise – she was impressed with his reading skills.)  We then went out to the main waiting room and weighed Katie, who is now approximately 19 lb 10 oz, or approximately 8.88 kg if you want to be metric about it.  You may notice that those figures aren't even exact conversions of each other, which gives you an idea of how approximate the weighing process was – getting an exact weight would have involved her sitting still for a minute, which was not really on the cards, plus I forgot to take her nappy off when I undressed her – but they're ballpark figures.  She is, in any event, still trekking comfortably up the 50th centile, her growth going as nicely as everything else.

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Nine months – Mobilitas

Katie's first milestone in her ninth month, only a few days into it, was to learn how to sit herself up from lying flat.  We would probably have greeted this new accomplishment on the part of our little girl with more joy if we had been organised enough to get round to letting her cot base down at an earlier stage.  Of course, we hadn't; weeks of saying that we really should do it, and there we were with a cot base still high enough that sitting up too close to the edge would put Katie at risk of toppling head first over the side. 

Fortunately I managed to get her to sleep that evening without mishap, and Barry then decided that, under the circumstances, he had better not wait any longer to let her cot base down to the next level.  The small matter of Katie being asleep in said cot at the time was one he brushed aside as unimportant; he was convinced that we could do it without waking her.  This, of course, proved not to be true.  However, she took it quite impressively in her stride to be woken up by the mattress under her swaying and dipping in odd directions and to find Mummy and Daddy hard at work dismantling her cot around her. We tried to keep the atmosphere of all this appropriate to night-time, the way the books tell you you should do if you're doing anything with your child in the middle of the night (I think they were actually talking about feeds and nappy changes rather than carpentry on the child's bed, but, what the hell, I figured it was still applicable); accordingly, we were working by torchlight and Barry's unflattering opinions on the intelligence level of furniture designers who placed screws the way that these screws had been placed were delivered in a whisper.  Katie lay there watching us in sleepy wonderment, with the occasional huge smile at the thought that Mummy! and Daddy! were both here, which meant that, however incomprehensible the proceedings were, they had to be basically good.

Interestingly, she sits herself up without needing to use her hands.  She can simply swing her upper body around and up to the vertical, something my mother says she's never seen a baby do before.  I credit it to the build-up of her abs from all the leg lifts she did in her early months.  (She would actually do leg lifts in her sleep, raising both legs and then letting them drop on the mattress with repetitive thuds.  From the room below, it could sound quite extraordinarily like someone walking around upstairs.)

As exciting as all this was, it was still beaten into second place for Most Exciting Milestone Of The Month a couple of weeks later when Katie learned to crawl.  Between the rolling, the wriggling, and the sitting herself up and lying down at a different angle (it's surprising how much ground you can cover incrementally by doing this), she was already fairly mobile, but, half way through her ninth month, she finally got the hang of the traditional hands-and-knees forward motion.  Which of course means that life just got a whole lot more awkward, and we're now spending a lot of time putting books back on the lower shelves in the living room and dining room, and putting rubbish back into the bin when she tips it over, and washing her hands because she's got into who-knows-what, but, in spite of all of this, I'm particularly thrilled with this milestone.  There is something about the ability to move purposefully from one thing to another that seems particularly significant as a developmental leap.

After that, it seems quite anti-climatic to record that this was also the month when her third tooth poked its way through the gums, but I add it in the interests of completeness. Top right of centre.

A more significant event, at the very end of the month, was her introduction to her heritage of geekdom.  Our baby girl has now attended her first convention.  There is a remote chance that I may actually find time to write a proper post about how the weekend went; in the meantime, I shall record that Katie's main experience of the weekend consisted of sitting in a sling looking out at the world while Mummy chased after Jamie, and that she was a huge hit with everyone.  Since I hadn't got around to posting anything on the on-line group for, um, a few years, many people were quite surprised to see that I had added to my number of offspring since they'd seen me last.  Emms, of course, was up to date with the current child count, but hadn't seen us for over a year and was quite surprised by how big Katie was by now.  "I thought she'd be smaller!" she told me, in one of our few brief snatches of conversation before I had to leap up to chase Jamie yet again.  "She was," I assured her.  "You missed that bit."

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