Tag Archives: cars

Herding Cats

Guess which route is Mini's.

Guess which route is Mini’s.

I’ve jokingly said in the past that getting our children from A to B is like herding cats.

Today, having spent 10 minutes trying to get Mini and Motormouth the few hundred yards from the car to the house, it struck me again how true this was.

If I can take the liberty of describing the scenario?

I get the kids out of the car and persuade them to stay on the path, roughly in the vicinity of the vehicle, as I get their bags out. Toddlers, of course, never carry their own bags.

Apparently it’s in the rules.

Laden down with everybody’s bags, plus any supermarket shopping I might have done, I get the children across the road safely. Motormouth is very good about stop, look, listen and even Mini is fairly reliable about the stop and look. I’m not convinced she would do, or rather not do, anything if she saw something, but at least we’ve made progress.

So, we get across the road and that’s where things start to get a little complicated, or rather random.

First of all, there’s a slope up to our house. A very long slope with its length being exponentially proportional to the weight of your bags and how badly you need to go to the loo.

There are two paths leading from the road with houses on the outside of the path and a stretch of grass between them. Our house is at the top of one of the paths. Normal people walk up the path to our house. (I’ve drawn a map, just in case I’ve confused you already.)

That’s when it gets interesting.

Toddlers aren’t normal people.

First of all they spend time deciding which path to take.

Then they have to do a gate check for every house they pass. If the gate is open, they have to make a door knocker check.

Then they have to check the garden walls of each house, either by running their hands along them, sampling the lichen or any other vegetation clinging to it. Where appropriate, they lean on the wall far enough to a visual check on the plants growing in the gardens.

Slowly, they will work their way up the path (past 4 houses which always feels like more than it is).

This would be simple if it were the only thing, but no, they are far too diligent for that.

Because we can’t forget the examination of flowers, clumps of cut grass, weeds, trees, sticks, stones, dried up earthworms, dead frogs, live snails and and anything else even remotely interesting that must take place at random.

All of this necessitates a path that would challenge the most talented trackers.

And they take separate paths.

Motormouth tends to move faster.

Mini tends to move downhill more.

And all the time the shopping bags get heavier.

I have had to take emergency measures and send Motormouth to fetch Mini whilst I try to extricate myself from shopping bags that have suddenly developed a serious case of separation anxiety.

Sometimes this is more successful than others. I’m not quite sure how to rate Motormouth dragging Mini across the grass by the foot. I mean, it achieved the objective of getting her closer to the house and she was able to stand up when he let go.

And she’d stopped laughing.

All this means that a simple straight-line walk from A to B that should take 2 minutes can take 20 on a bad day. Bad for us grown ups that is. The kids think it’s great, all that exploring.

If I was being really analytical and had my psychology brain plugged it, I would say that it’s a good metaphor for the track our kids will take in life. It won’t be the one we want them to take and they may take diversions we rather they didn’t, as well as a few backwards steps or downhill runs, but if they get to B safely then that’s all that matters.

But since the shopping bags are heavy, and I really, really need to go to the loo, I’ll just think of it as herding cats.

Now, what’s the toddler equivalent of a tin of tuna?

R is for Repairer

R is for Repairer

R is for Repairer

This is it.

This is our opportunity to assume goddess-like status as repairer of broken toys (or god-like, I don’t want to forget any blokes who may qualify for this honour).

And it’s so easy I could almost cry (in gratitude that is).


Most of the toys that are presented with tear-stained and grubby fingers can be fixed by snapping something back into place, whether it’s the fire station door that’s letting in the draft and making poor Fireman Sam feel a little chilly or the spinning barrel thingy on the back of his cement mixer, they can be fixed.

Of course there must be an element of showmanship (or should that be showpersonship?) to make sure there is an air of mystery and almost supernatural skill surrounding us to elicit awed and excited comments like “Thank you mummy, you’re the best”. I’ve even been told I’m the best mummy in the whole universe because I fixed the ladder to the fire engine after it broke yet again.

And that’s the thing isn’t it. We fix the same toys over and over again and we could almost do it in our sleep and we enjoy the adulation that follows it, but isn’t there always a quiet little voice asking us if it isn’t about time we taught them how to do it themselves?

That learning to repair things, and take care of them, is a valuable life lesson.

That we’re, horror of horrors, stunting their development by keeping this task from them?

I’m ignoring that little voice for the moment. I want the positive strokes for just a bit longer.

I need balance you see, because apparently I don’t wipe bottoms as well as daddy does.

Possibly not, but I can make sure Fireman Sam doesn’t catch cold.

And the toys that can’t be fixed? Well the tidy-up fairy takes them away after they’ve sat on the side long enough to be forgotten about, or at least until we have plausible deniability.

H is for Houseproud


H is for Houseproud

H is for Houseproud

This is a bit of a misnomer really. I say this because, no matter how houseproud you were before you had children, you have to let go of at least some of that need to have your house spic and span at all times.

Because it just doesn’t happen.

I say that as I survey what was a nice, tidy living room when I went to bed last night.

Now it’s something less than tidy. Quite a lot less in fact.

Now, I can’t really claim that I have ever been a neat freak, since I am a typical Sagittarian (although I am a bit obsessive about my books, computer files and writing notebooks).

It doesn’t bother me that I haven’t sorted out the pile of newspapers from the last week, or that the shoes are all chucked in a box by the front door, but I wasn’t prepared for what happens when two small children are amusing themselves for more than five minutes. (I know it was that long because that’s about how long it takes me to make a cup of tea and grab a sneaky biscuit – just to keep me going, you understand.)


Well, the dining room shows the remains of a banquet Motormouth and Mini made before they got distracted and decided to move to the living room. This was possibly because I caught them trying to ride the vacuum cleaner (I took the broom away as a clear and present danger for anything more than 6″ above floor level).

Having been thwarted in their rodeo game, they moved to the living room.

I decided it was a good time to sort out second breakfast for them and left them to it for a few minutes. I knew it was time because I was getting “Mummy, I’m hungry!” in both Motormouth and Mini speak.

I have to give them credit for being fast workers. By the time their sandwiches were ready they were happily occupying a fort. I could tell they were taking security seriously as well… they were surrounded by Motormouth’s troops and he was happily directing Mini in deploying his forces.

Then they retreated into the fort (cunningly disguised as the large cardboard box Motormouth’s new car seat had arrived in draped in one of his blankets) to eat their food.

It’s the weekend, so I have been in and out of the room, leaving them to play, whilst doing the washing, the cleaning and so on, and every time there’s something different.

We now have a major traffic jam developing by the living room door, a phalanx of dinosaurs is guarding the route from the kitchen to, well, pretty much anywhere, and the fort has developed an annexe. Motormouth has even turned interior decorator, using what looks like every cushion in the house to make the fort nice and comfy, if a little cosy for the two of them squeezed in there. At least the pillows are still on our bed.

I think.

Mini, in the meantime is hovering around the edge of activities providing musical accompaniment on her drum machine, walker, and, well, you get the idea.

And it’s not even lunchtime yet.

So, as for being houseproud, I decided pretty early on in motherhood that this house is a home for two small children that love, and need, to play. They need the opportunity to shape the world around them to build their fantasies.

So who am I to stand in the way?

No one. I’ve taken a step back and decided that they should have fun and be allowed to express themselves.

So what if I have to do a mini tidy up every hour or so?

So what if anyone attempting to cross the room risks life and limb in doing so?

I’ve decided that I need to make best use of my resources and focus on the important places (mainly where water is present) and the stairs.

And of course, I’ve dissected the phrase “clean and tidy”. Clean I need.


Well, that can wait until they grow up a bit more.

And it just so happens that it coincides with my natural tendencies.

Shame that.

H is for Houseproud

One Foot In Front of the Other


I wish everyone would stop staring!

I wish everyone would stop staring!

Well, it’s official.

Mini is walking.

She’s a little later than Motormouth but didn’t seem too bothered by that, so we were trying not to be. She was managing to get where she wanted to go without any problems. She would either crawl at what was, for me, a fast walking pace which had to be seen to be believed, or Motormouth would transport her from A to B.

It didn’t seem to matter to either of them that the locations of A and B were completely random.

Or that it wasn’t uncommon for her to be dragged along the floor by her foot. (Judging by the giggles she found this quite entertaining.)

She has actually been walking for a few weeks. We know because the child minder told us, but she wasn’t doing in front of us. In fact, the few times we caught her walking (mainly because she had things in both hands she did not want to put down) and she saw us, she would literally drop everything and start crawling as if nothing had happened.

I’m not quite sure why she didn’t want us to see, and I’m trying not to be disappointed that it wasn’t us she chose to show her first steps to, so we are consoling ourselves with the fact that she’s not officially walking until we’ve seen her do it.

And now we have.

She’s remarkably steady on her feet, considering she still has that stiff-kneed, loose-hipped technique that all learner walkers have.

She also has a very supportive, and attentive, coach in Motormouth.

At least he’s attentive most of the time, holding her hand, leading her down the path (literally), and giving her plenty of verbal encouragement and hugs and kisses when she gets to her goal.

I say most of the time because the few times I really need him to hold her hand (for instance to stop her falling over when I’m juggling two rucksacks, her cuddly blanket, two water bottles, my bag and my work books whilst trying to unlock the car in the rain) he gets distracted by a passing cat.

Or an interesting pattern on the path that may or may not be dog poo.

Or anything else really (well he does have the attention span of a crane fly with ADHD).

As for Mini? She is rightly proud of herself for reaching this huge milestone and looks up at regular intervals for the positive feedback we are all giving her, a huge grin on her face (I’m going to ignore the fact that she always looks at Motormouth first).

She’s even graduated to carrying items across the room, still with that stilted gait that makes me worried she’s going to tip over at any second. And she does.

Often with the unintentional help of a passing brother.

Still, he tries to help when he remembers, whether she wants it or not, and he’s told us he’s going to teach her how to cross the road safely. I’m also trying to get him used to the idea that we need to leave earlier, since it takes a little bit longer to get to the car (5 minutes plus now instead of 2) so he really can’t run around with his socks on his hands shouting “look at me, I’ve got puppets!” Not for very long anyway.

And now it is marginally easier, since I’m not juggling two rucksacks, her cuddly blanket, two water bottles, my bag, my work books and a 23lb baby who insists on leaning backwards, whilst trying to unlock the car in the rain

Now we have a little procession down the road, Motormouth on one side, me on the other.

She manages pretty well, except when she starts to look around at things (yes, I’m talking about you cute but fluffy tortoiseshell kitten with an unnatural lack of fear of strange children) and forgets which foot should go where. Then poor Mini either ends up dangling from our hands or on her knees.

Watching her slowly getting better at this walking thing, I have to restrain myself, knowing that she needs to learn to judge her limitations, to gain confidence in her ability to master this new activity.

And that she’ll get bumps and bruises along the way.

I’m pleased that we normally put her in joggers, jeans or tights. (They hide the bruises and there’s no sudden change in her fashion sense is not likely to alert social services.) I know every child goes through the bruises stage but it’s a bit embarrassing when your daughter’s legs look like she’s auditioning for 103 Dalmatians (have they made that one yet?).

We can’t do much about the bruise on her head from the fireplace except brush her fringe over it and wait for it to go down.

Then it occurs to me, isn’t it a terrible indictment on society that, as perfectly normal and loving parents with a perfectly normal, loving and safe child, we are worried that we might get reported for abusing her? Still, maybe that’s a more serious post for another day.

In the meantime?

I’ll be buying some more joggers for her.

Pretty in… Pink?

Our Little Scowler

Our Little Scowler

This week I’m going to write about Mini, since it occurred to me that not only have most of my past posts been about Motormouth, but there have been some real changes in her over the last few weeks.

She’s just turned 17 months old and it’s almost as if there’s a switch that says “I’m coming out from behind big brother’s shadow”. I’m hoping it’s this rather than we haven’t noticed the changes until now.

Her character is emerging and we’re seeing some marked differences from her brother.

She’s mischievious (well that bit’s the same). She’s also far more placid and patient, well, we sort of knew that anyway. Anyone in this family has to have a good dose of patience living with Motormouth.

How is she different? She loves music; play almost any tune and she’ll be bopping away to it, something that Motormouth has never done, in fact, he’s only just started singing along to nursery rhymes.

She’s a night owl and will spend a good couple of hours or so chatting away to herself and her toys before she’ll finally drop off sometime after 9 pm. If Motormouth stays in bed past 5 am then it’s considered a lay in for us.

She’s a tidier; Motormouth leaves his puzzle pieces on the floor and she’ll spend ages carefully putting every last one back in the box. Despite hints heavier than heavy thing winning a competition for being heavy, Motormouth has not picked up the habit. (Excuse the homage to Blackadder reference if you’re not a fan.)

She loves baby wipes; give her one and she’ll clean her hands, her face, the table and anything else within reach. She’ll even try and help clean her bum during nappy changes. If you don’t give her a baby wipe, she’ll take them for herself.

She loves clothes and willingly puts her coat on (unlike her brother) and happily puts her hat on by herself (but only indoors). If she can get her hands on pretty much any item of apparel she will try and put it on. Admittedly her approach consists of putting both feet through the nearest hole regardless of whether it’s a pair of leggings or a T shirt. Anyone’s clothes are fair game, though she did struggle to get out from under my dressing gown. She managed, once she’d got her head out of the pocket. (My dressing gown has quite big pockets.)

She’s also going through a scowling stage, the worst of which seem to be reserved for The Other Half and I. We’re learning to live with the pain of that. It’s getting so bad that the only person who can get a smile out of her some days is Motormouth. (Not that we’re jealous – honestly). Motormouth, on the contrary, only started scowling when he reached toddler-hood.

Oh yeah, she’s persistent as well, another necessary survival trait with Motormouth.

I’m not sure whether I should be worried about the cleaning and clothes thing. We’ve not consciously gone down the gender bias route but we’ve not been rigid about the everything being neutral or unisex. She wears a fair bit of pink, because let’s face it, most of the clothes out there are pink and some of them are cute. But she wears jeans and Motormouth’s cast off T shirts just as often. Her blankets are blue and her hat is black and white (well, the one she usually wears is).

She plays with Motormouth’s cars and can be found in his play kitchen almost as much as him.

Yes, I do most of the cleaning, but The Other Half rules the kitchen, so she is more used to seeing him cooking and washing up. I tend to get them dressed (it’s a case of who has the most patience in the morning) and we share the nappy changing and bathing duties. We share the feeding duties when we are out and about. We all do the shopping together. We sit down together to read the same stories, most of them involving trains, Fireman Sam and various other action characters. (Mini seems content to allow Motormouth to choose the books, usually while she is stealing his food.)

So where have we gone wrong? Is Mini showing more girlie tendencies and, if she is, is that nature or nurture? Should we be taking action to “correct the balance” or is there nothing we can do about it?

Or should we just let her go her own way and make her own choices?

Speaking as a mother who loves fantasy and science fiction (particularly military SF), listens to heavy metal and spent a long time in the Air Training Corps, I’m inclined to let her choose, after all, she has shown she is quietly persistent when she’s going after something she wants.

And so I watch Motormouth sitting there watching Barbie whilst Mini attacks the radiator with his toy sword.

Perhaps we’re doing OK anyway?




We’ve been playing lots of games recently. We being Motormouth and I.

We’ve had the role playing games for a while (though the Ninja Turtles are a fairly new addition to the stable.) and we all have our assigned roles. The Other Half and I haven’t got our Ninja turtle names yet but at least we won’t get Margherita.

Yes, that’s right Margherita. That’s Motormouth’s name and it’s all my fault.

I can’t help it, the temptation was too great. He asked me what the ninja turtles’ names were and I told him; Leonardo, Donatello, Rafael and Margherita (sorry you got dumped Michelangelo). Sods law and Motormouth chose the name he did. I have tried to explain my joke but he won’t have it.

I’m hoping he will forgive me when he’s older and works it out.

We’ve also been playing mini spotting. Not the baby sister version but the iconic Italian-job vehicles that spin round corners. This is a great game for the keeping him occupied in the car. We have tried emergency vehicles and taxis as well, but minis are the ones that have endured the test of time (well, the last few weeks anyway).

It’s pretty simple. The first one to spot a mini gets a point and when Motormouth gets to the stage where he’s winning we either stop playing or I’m not allowed to play any more.

If I try and carry on I get a world weary “Mummy, we’re not playing it any more.”

Oops, silly me.

This has been an interesting revelation for us as adults. We’ve always worked on the basis that you need to know how to lose gracefully as well as win graciously and we thought it had started to take. Motormouth certainly doesn’t seem to mind when he doesn’t win when he’s playing games with other children.

So is it just when he is playing with us as his parents? Is it that he has the opportunity to set the rules to suit himself and give himself the optimum chance of winning (for optimum read certain)? Or is it a feeling that things should be better for him within the family? He can take the disappointment from the outside world but needs it to be safe and good at home?

He definitely gets upset when he even thinks he is losing.

Does this mean we have to try harder to help him understand that there are some times when he won’t win and needs to suck it up, because life isn’t fair? How do we get the balance in teaching him about equality and fairness whilst still understanding that it won’t always work out that way?

Or should we just let him win for now and accept that we can’t win every time, or even any time?

All I know is that this is complicated and, as with all complicated questions surrounding our children I’m going to take the easy route and go with my gut instinct.

Ooh look! A mini!

V is for Vehicles

They breed at night...I might have mentioned before but whenever our son is home our living room floor looks like the car park at Bluewater when all the drivers are still half cut (not that anyone would drive there whilst still drunk I’m sure).

He has an obsession with wheels and vehicles in general and displays quite an alarming sense of understanding about their purposes.

I say alarming because whenever he comes out with something along the lines of “I need to put the stabilisers down before I raise the ladder” I have to review what we’ve said recently, just in case he might have understood something we were hoping he wouldn’t have. (It’s quite depressing really, I was hoping we would get more than a couple of years before we had to start spelling things out over his head.)

He is also very quick to correct me if I’m wrong. He knows the difference between a digger and a back loader, a tipper truck and a flat bed. The most I know is how to spell them but I’m finding I’m having to learn quickly because he looks to the nearest adults as being the fount of all knowledge.

I haven’t quite got to the stage where I have taken out a book on construction vehicles and how they work, but I have taken a quick look while he is occupied with something else in the library.

It does come in useful sometimes, those little bits of normally useless knowledge that lodge in my brain so much more effectively than the stuff I really ought to know, like my mother’s birthday. Only sometimes though.

I’m sure it would happen more if I went to more pub quizzes.

Oh, yeah, that means going out doesn’t it.