Tag Archives: animals

Don’t Drink the Bathwater


What's wrong Mummy?

What’s wrong Mummy?

You know when you feel like you’ve almost got the hang of this parenting thing?

Your children do as they’re told and listen to you?

They seem to have developed a respect for you and your wishes?

And you feel like it’s going to be smooth sailing now?

The smart part of you, which has usually gone into hiding for self-preservation reasons, might finally stick its head up over the parapet just a tiny, little bit to point out that it’s the lull before the storm, or, more accurately, that pride comes before a fall.

Mini is just at that age when she has started picking up bad habits and she seems to be getting them from her big brother, who is just starting to stop all the gross little habits he’s accumulated so far.

Like investigating the contents of his nostrils, presenting them to me with the proud flourish of a fait accompli. (It is of course mandatory for this to take place in public.)

Or eating food off the floor. Without application of the 10 second rule (a moot point in Mini’s case since she can’t count to 10 yet).

She takes her nappy off when she wants it changed and presents you with the offending article. We then have to play hunt the contents around the house. This is a Mini special and, fortunately for the carpets and furnishings, not one we had to face with Motormouth.

She also licks the railings. This is one habit she hasn’t gotten from her brother and I have no idea where she got the idea from but her assessment seems to be that the hilarity of the situation is proportional to our reaction to it. It is really hard to pretend not to see it, believe me.

Our general reaction to this sort of behaviour has toned down since Motormouth, but you know what they say “Your first child eats dirt, you rush them to the doctor; your second child eats dirt and you clean their mouth out; and your third child eats dirt and you wonder if they still need dinner.”

So we carry on, trying to break her of the bad habits without making her so stubborn she carries on the behaviour just because she can, and we try not to worry too much.

There are things that we still get aerated about; we have the “dog poo alert” chant to the Octoalert theme from Octonauts (don’t get me started on people allowing their dogs to foul pavement and verges); we still clean bottles when they’ve been dropped; and we’re very strict on hand-washing after going to the toilet.

I think we’ll just have to put up with what can until Mini get out of the habit of having bad habits.

I almost forgot. She drinks the bathwater as well.

I’m Going On a Dinosaur Hunt!

We're working our way round the evolutionary spiral.

We’re working our way round the evolutionary spiral.

For the past few weeks Motormouth has been obsessed with dinosaurs. You might already have guessed this from previous posts and Face book updates, but it is definitely an obsession that shows little signs of waning.

We’ve got used to being told that the reason the toilet roll is not only all over the bathroom floor but the landing as well is because the velociraptor was bored.

Or that a passing ankylosaur made him drop his sandwich on the floor. (Apparently ankylosaurs don’t like Marmite sandwiches, or tidy up after themselves.)

I went though my own phase of being into dinosaurs, in fact, I’m pretty sure I still have a few of the books tucked way in Nanny Nutjob’s loft. (I’m planning to give them to Motormouth when he is a little less tyrannosaurus rex-like with his more fragile books).

This morning I had to tell him all about a documentary about Megalodon that his father and I had watched last night. He had the usual Motormouth run of questions. You know, the sort of things a 4-year-old boy will come out with?

What did it eat? (Smaller sharks and whales.)

When did it live? (Millions of years ago.)

Is it still alive? (No. It’s extinct.)

Why did it die? (They think it didn’t adapt well to the loss of the large prey it ate when an ice age hit.)

Is it related to the Great White shark? (They don’t think so but opinion is divided – it’s something to do with the spine apparently.)

And so on.

And on.

And on. As only Motormouth knows how.

It’s great that we have a son who is interested in learning and I hope he never, ever loses that. I also hope we’re setting him a good example. He knows I’m going to college and always checks to make sure I’ve done my homework. I have a dream that one day, when he starts school, we’ll all sit around the table doing our homework. (Yes, I know that’s sad and just a little weird.)

I’ve also been doing my homework on dinosaurs to give me at least a little bit of an edge. (There’s only so many times I can take him rolling his eyes and saying in a very patient voice “No Mummy, that one was a mammal but it lived in the sea”.)

Typically for Motormouth, he’s not just interested in tyrannosaurus rex, stegosaurus or brontosaurus. Oh no. His particular favourites this week are dunkleosteus, sarcosuchus, icthyosaurs, ankylosaurs, orthocones and lots of others I have to look up. (Knowing the name isn’t enough, I get tested on habitat, diet, size, enemies, fighting styles, methods of defence and reason for extinction.) Plus I have to know odd facts.

Did you know that velociraptors had feathers?

That tyrannosaurus rex and stegosaurus never met (there were millions of years between them)?

That dinosaurs were around for about 165 million years? (I doubt we’ll make that long before we become extinct – look at how close we’ve come and how often in only a few thousand years!)

That suchus means flesh eater?

I could go on, but I wouldn’t want to bore you.

I could also mention the slightly unnerving habit he has of creeping around and muttering to himself. When you can get close enough to hear what he is saying you realise he is basically re-enacting the script from Walking With Dinosaurs, complete with waving arms and crouching walk. He also keeps producing sticks of varying sizes for consideration as fossil bones, classifying them by species and subspecies.
Still there are worse people he could emulate. The other day he told me that Nigel Marven was the coolest zoologist around and he wants to be a zoologist when he grows up.

Or a builder. He quite fancies that as well.

It can be exhausting keeping up with it all, especially as, like most kids his age, he wants to go over the explanations several times to make sure he understands.

I’ve noticed that he wants it more frequently when it’s something that’s worrying him.

There was a burglary in the next road, so we’re making extra certain we lock all the windows and doors at night (they broke in whilst the occupants were asleep). Motormouth was there with his usual questions and we’ve explained what we’re doing, why and how he’s going to be safe. He has shown an interest in the subject before and spent days asking us at regular intervals what burglary was and that was just after seeing an advert on the TV (thank you alarm company I shall not name). Now he knows it’s happened for real near us. This all happened last night and I was preparing my mental notes for “explaining what burglary is eight different ways”. All he wanted to do today was look at the house, not possible since I didn’t know which one it was, and besides it was morning and we’re always running late in the mornings.

So it is with some relief I left him at playgroup this morning. He wandered off without a backward glance at me, on a mission to find some pens and paper so he could start drawing today’s batch of dinosaurs.

And me?

I’m reading up on the Triassic era. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a test tonight.

Newsflash – Hunting Expedition Launched

Sarcosuchus means "flesh crocodile"

Sarcosuchus means “flesh crocodile”

Motormouth called a press conference to announce the launch of a new expedition, the aim of which was to locate and trap the mysterious sarcosuchus. Members of the press were treated to a demonstration of his hunting techniques, which consisted of putting a blanket over his head and going on the prowl with his ray gun.

Motormouth seems confident he will be able to deal with this “King of Crocodiles” which can be up to 40′ long and weigh in at an estimated 8 tonnes. “Most of the length is its snout, so I’ll be fine.”

This reporter awaits developments with interest.

Camels, Cakes and Manners

It was time for the traditional trip to Mainsgill Farm, obligatory when we visit family in North Yorkshire. Mini and Motormouth love the place for so many reasons.

There are the huge cakes.

The child-sized pedal tractors.

The sand pit.

And the camels.

I like milk too!

I like milk too!

That’s right, camels, in Yorkshire, and this time they even had a baby camel to coo over.

Mini found the llamas funny but decided the goats needed a good telling off for being curious about her. One poor goat kept sticking its head through the fence to get a closer look at small girl in a tasty-looking red coat only to have a finger wagged in its face accompanied by a stern “No!” I’m not sure how the goat took it, but we were pretty impressed by her channelling of.. well… me, I suppose. (Not that I can see the resemblance.)

Moove over, lunch is here

Moove over, lunch is here

It’s always a joy to see Motormouth and Mini getting excited about seeing different animals. Mini in particular loved the cows and kept wanting to go back and see them. I think the cows were more interested in lunch. As adults, we were most interested in the camels. And the cakes.

Have I mentioned the cakes yet? Meringue roulades as big as your head, cream cakes the size of grapefruit and slabs of rocky road that the Romans would have found useful when they were laying their streets (in a good way).

It’s also slightly scary to see how high Mini wants to go on the swings (head height for the Other Half). All we could hear was her screaming “whee” at the peak of the swing. That and my gulping as I try to ignore the height thing.

It was in the restaurant where we had an interesting experience (in a less-than-positive sense of the word). I was standing with the Mini and Motormouth at a table waiting while the Other Half got a high chair for Mini when an older couple decided they wanted the table we were at, so they came and sat down there, telling us to move out of the way, admittedly with a superior sort of smile.

I was so gob smacked I didn’t say anything, plus I’m always conscious of the example I’m setting the kids. So we moved to another table rather than cause a scene.

That’s the question though, isn’t it? Do we show our kids how to stand up for themselves and risk starting a public argument which can so easily descend into something more than a civilised, if heated, exchange of views? Or do we take the moral high ground and move on with grace? Is that the same as giving in and rolling over?

And what do we do when our children ask us why they have to wait their turn and be polite when their elders seem to feel it’s their right to push their way to getting what they want? Today was just one example, but it’s not uncommon for it to happen to us in supermarket queues.

Today I decided not to push the issue, mainly because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to remain polite in the face of the oily rudeness we experienced. And I don’t want my children to see me behave like that. Not after all the hard work we’ve all put into developing their understanding and skills about interacting with others. It’s not fair for them to have a hypocrite for a teacher. It’s hard to explain to Motormouth that some people just don’t understand, or care, what good manners are. Or that they fail to grasp the concept that if you want respect from others you have to show respect to others.

I’m still not sure I made the right decision.

All I can do is put my faith in karma. Someday they’ll push in front of someone who won’t hold back.

L is for Looking


L is for Looking

L is for Looking



It feels like you develop eyes in the back of your head, either that, or your peripheral vision gets really, really good.

And you can’t help it. You, or rather I, have this need to be able to see both children. All the time. The only time I’m not worried is when they are asleep or with a babysitter (because the babysitter is doing the looking instead).

I know this is something the Other Half struggles with, the idea that you have to be constantly on the alert.

I’m not an overprotective mother, at least I don’t think I am – if one of them falls over and they’re OK enough to cry and blood’s not spraying out alarmingly, then I’m not going to go running to them unless there is imminent danger. (OK, I admit part of that could be the exhaustion talking. Check out E for Exhaustion in this series for more.)

Getting back to the Other Half, I know he wants the children to be safe. I think he, like most of us until we go through motherhood, think once they’ve been hurt or had the dangers explained to them, then they’ll be fine.

But that’s not totally true.

I have a 4-year-old and a 21-month-old and they are, for their ages, pretty safety consciousness.

Motormouth has good road skills. The green man is his friend and I think he might be every so slightly scared by the angry red man at road crossings.

Mini knows when she doesn’t feel confident about steps and will always sit at the top of the stairs, waiting for someone to hold her hand while she climbs down.

That is until something else gets their attention.

Then all bets are off.

Normally the “something else” is the little tabby-tortie kitten that comes to see them when we leave in the morning and is usually there to greet us when we come home again.

When she’s around, they only have eyes for her. That’s when they need a gentle reminder not to run out across the road, and by gentle I mean a firm grab of their hood or T shirt, or, to be truthful, whichever article of clothing is nearest.

I’m not trying to be sexist here, when I talk about the Other Half not being as attentive, since I am only talking from my own experience. I know studies have shown that the father’s role is more about encouraging children to push the boundaries to achieve more. To take risks. And they need that, otherwise they’ll never achieve anything near their full potential.

And Motormouth and Mini, are quite good at assessing the risks of things like climbing up or down something.

So now I’m looking to see what mischief they are getting into.

This is definitely where the Other Half and I diverge on our notions of urgency and immediacy. He thinks peace and quiet is bliss.

I just think it’s suspicious.

We have had the odd few incidents that most parents will recognise.

Remember the time when went into the room to find a small boy who has coloured himself in with this mother’s gel pens. At least all the bits he could reach. (On the plus side, we got an indication he’s probably right handed.)

Or the time when he ate the yoghurt in the fridge.

All 12 pots. (That was an interesting at nappy change time.)

Or the small girl who emptied out her father’s bedside drawers. (I didn’t realise he’s got concert tickets in there from 1989).

I remember when I first got pregnant and everyone was giving me the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps, and this is fine in principle when they pretty much stay where you put them (apart from that’s likely to be the only time you get to do the odd tasks you might like to catch up on, like eat. Or wee.)

Once they’re mobile, you feel more like, if you sleep when they sleep, they’ll wake up without you knowing and do things you have told them NOT TO DO (sorry, force of habit. I always end up shouting that at Motormouth or Mini.)

Motormouth in particular seems to have a talent for this. It was only last week I told him specifically NOT to go into the narrow gap between our house and our garden (which is raised) because there was cat poo under the leaves.

Less that 2 minutes later?


You guessed it.

The wonderful task of cleaning cat poo off foot apparel. Luck was with me for a change. He was wearing wellies.

And he hadn’t picked up the cat poo asking “what’s this Mummy?”.

We’re not always so lucky. Once we had the case of “some idiot has left their dog’s diarrhoea in an untied nappy bag on the path”. Poor Motormouth had the indignity of being marched back home at arm’s length to be stripped down to his nappy and bare feet before he was allowed in the house. Must have been a bit chilly in February.)

Why do they always, ALWAYS have to pick it up or touch it?

Speaking of mischief, Motormouth is in the garden and I’ve just heard the hose go on.

And I have almost-dry washing on the line.

Correction. I did have almost-dry washing on the line.

I think I’ll go and have a quick look…

Baby’s Guide to Christmas


What's next to eat?

What’s next to eat?

Welcome to the latest Baby Guide and today, we’ll be talking about Christmas.

This is one of those events that comes once a year and at the beginning it’s huge for you, but you won’t really be interested much. As you get older, it will become a bigger and bigger event for you until you get old. Then you’ll console yourself with the fact that it’s all about the children anyway.

So, do you want some more detail? Yes? Here goes…

Food - There will be food around. Large amounts of food, and a lot of it might look quite odd to you. You won’t be allowed to eat all of it, but if you can, go for the crunchy things or the sweet things. Or anything you can really. The grown ups around you will be eating a lot more than they would usually do so you should have some good opportunities to “liberate” some samples from their plates. Try to avoid the “fairy cabbages” and “ghost trees”. They’re just Brussels sprouts and cauliflower with fancy names and you’re not fooled that easily are you? Feel free to make your feelings known in an appropriate way if they don’t include you in the bounty and offer you your normal boring food instead.

Decorations – Things that dangle and spin – heaven. And shiny things as well! Decorations are all about glitter and sparkle and your adults will be making the most of this. Many of these dangly things will be out of reach, they hang them from the ceiling for some strange reason, but there is one playground you can’t not explore. This is the time of year that they bring a whole tree inside and plant it! Odd, I know, but since they then hang lots of toys from the branches who are we to complain? The toys come in all shapes and sizes – shiny balls, sparkly spiky things, sometimes even cuddly toys. Take the opportunity to play with them while you can since you may find the tree mysteriously grows over night and the dangly toys get higher and higher until they are at the ceiling as well. But shiny dangly things! Can it get any better?

Presents – Yes it can. Adults have a habit of putting wonderful boxes wrapped in bright, crinkly paper under the tree just for you. These boxes are amazing. You can climb in and out of them, push them around the room, sit in them, pop up and play peekaboo, even go to sleep in them if you want. For those who are feeling less energetic, there is the paper. Crinkling it and rolling it can be fun. So can tearing it up into tiny pieces and dropping them in random patterns on the floor (all the better if you can get them in accessible places). Don’t forget to push the contents of the boxes out of the way to give yourself enough space to play properly.

Family – You are used to a few adults being around you, in fact you never seem to get any alone time. You will find there are more of them about over the holiday period. They will be noisy, have big feet and want to cuddle you a lot. Play along if you want, but don’t forget you have the option of rejecting these advances, especially the kisses from people who have an awful lot of hair growing out of funny places on their faces. Adopt the usual tactics for this, but remember the projectile reintroduction of your last meal to the outside world should be your last option. Oh, almost forgot, the adults are unlikely to be wearing their normal clothes, they could have something on that they really, really want to keep clean (there are opportunities here as always) or they will have sprouted giant animals on their chests. These animals may or may not have noses that can be pulled. If they have, pull away.

Dress – Ah, your apparel. As you have no control over what they put on you, you may find yourself in a variety of interesting costumes. Despite your initial misgivings, you can still have fun whilst dressed as a Christmas pudding. I’m not so sure about the reindeer though, you might just get fed on carrots. If you dislike your costume then adopt the standard procedure, remove the offending items and keep doing so until your adults give in and dress you in something more in keeping with your status.

Santa – There is a big scary man in a red suit. You may not be able to see much of his face thanks to him wearing most of his hair on it. This could be why you might find him scary. Remember, you do not have to have close contact with him unless you wish to, standard protocols in this case are similar to those relating to unwanted attention from family, except you may want to escalate to the nuclear option sooner. There is one thing to bear in mind; the man in the red suit may have more boxes for you. Only you can decide if it’s worth it.

Siblings – Older siblings may appear to have gone insane. They will be quivering with excitement that will only increase as the Big Day grows near. They will wake up uncomfortably early, for your adults at least, and want to play noisily, unwrapping boxes with wild abandon. You have some good opportunities here. For some unfathomable reason they will be interested in the contents of the boxes not the boxes themselves. I know, weird! But still, it leaves the way open for you to have more boxes. And more boxes are good. The rest of the time they will be tearing around like a Tasmanian devil, getting themselves covered in chocolate and other foodstuffs and ignoring the pleas of the adults to do things more quietly or calmly. No, I don’t know the meaning of those words either. Perhaps you only understand them when you finally get to be an adult? If your siblings are younger than you, they’ll care even less about the whole season than you will.

Toys – These are usually what’s inside the box. Some of them may be mildly interesting with flashing lights and funny noises, but boxes! Boxes!

Pets – This is a good time to feel sorry for the four legged members of the family since they are probably the only ones getting more of a raw deal than you are. They may get some treats but they are far more likely to get trodden on, sat on, shut in an empty room or made to wear even more ridiculous costumes than you. If you are feeling particularly benevolent then you might consider letting them hide in one of your boxes with you.

So, there you have it, your guide to Christmas. It’s hard to believe that all the build up, all the excitement is for just one day, but hey, at least you get some boxes out of it.

W is for Why?

I always knew it was coming. 

Why does it do this again?

Why does it do this again?

 When my child, now developng a curiousity about the world could explore it further through the use of language.

It’s not just the Why we get. It’s also What, How, Who, When and Where. Kipling would be proud of my son.

Before we became parents we thought, yep, we had a strategy. We would always listen to his questions, take them seriously and give him a proper answer. After all, we had practice with nieces didn’t we? (And thanks to the people who shall remain nameless who vanished when their six year old asked me what an autopsy was as she watched a relative’s coffin being carried past). We would be good at it (and yes we answered the autopsy question to the satisfaction of all concerned).

I can even deal with the repetition. We will get weeks where the same questions pop up over and over again and we now tend to turn the question on its head and ask him the question. He’s getting pretty good at answering it.

Sometimes he comes up with a question that throws us.

Not because it is a silly question, but because it is such a deceptively simple and obvious question that it’s hard to know what to say. Like his question “what is an emu for?” I could have dealt with the why, where, how and even what it does, but what was it for? Help!

That’s like asking what’s the meaning of life. He can’t yet count up to 20, let alone 42. (oops, sorry, my sci fi geek tendencies are leaking a little there).

In all conscience I couldn’t him the Other Half’s immediate response of “eating” because whilst we have always been clear where his food comes from (he is surprisingly comfortable with the fact that Peppa Pig gets made into sausages but perhaps that’s because he feels sympathy for the poor bossed-about George) because I am sure there must be more to the answer than that. Not to mention it seems a bit presumptuous and arrogant on behalf of the human race.

I’m still mulling over the answer and hoping he’s forgotten he’s asked the question. Knowing my luck he won’t have.