Tag Archives: siblings

And What Would Madam Like to Wear Today?

Butter Wouldn't Melt...

Butter Wouldn’t Melt…

It’s no good – I’m going to have to admit defeat.

I am no longer the most stubborn person in our household.

Who have I lost the crown to?

Mini of course. That sweet little girl, who has just turned two and a half, has a stubborn streak that is wider than she is.

It all sneaked up on me.

It started innocuously enough with a preference for wearing a certain hat or coat. I put it down to her having a thing about hats and thought it was cute.

Then it progressed and things got a little more serious, spreading to her entire outfit. Now, trying to get her to wear something she doesn’t want to is akin to trying to dress an octopus whilst blindfolded, and a belligerent, drunken octopus at that.

Consequently we have been known to venture outside with her wearing her brother’s underpants.

Over her jeans.

Or her Halloween costume for three days in a row. In December.

I have found a tactic that seems to be working. I catch her just as she’s waking up and present her with a choice of two pairs of leggings. She’ll wave a sleepy hand at one of them and I’ll move swiftly on to a top. For some reason she always takes longer choosing her socks. We could have several drawn out moments where she’ll stroke her chin and point at first one pair then the other, umming and aahing as she does so, before she finally chooses. I’m not sure if this is because she’s more awake by this time or she has a thing about socks.

(I think she might have inherited my thing about socks.)

I’m making the most of being able to direct her choice of attire, at least a little, since I don’t expect to be able to do so when she catches on, probably, oh, about the middle of next week.

She also has very clear idea about the way she wants some other things as well. She’s a bit of a neat freak (I think that must be one of those weird characteristics that skip a generation or two because she certainly didn’t get it from me or the Other Half), so she has to be the one who wipes the table down before dinner. She also has a thing about emptying her plate in the bin, normally the one in the living room. This isn’t usually a problem, since she eats an awful lot of toast, although I’m glad I managed to catch her just in time last night after she decided she didn’t want the rest of her mandarins and custard.

I’m also glad we have laminate floors.

Part of her neat-freakishness is having a clear idea of where things should be and woe betide anything, or anyone, in the wrong place. One of her first sentences was “You sit there,” delivered in a stern tone with suitably imperious gestures. She’s just as bad when I’m feeding her. I have to be in the right seat and sitting (or lying depending on her mood) in exactly the right position. She’s just as bad with her dad and brother (about where they’re sitting, not the feeding bit) and they are both remarkably patient about it all considering. Bedtime can be entertaining as she has to arrange all her toys to her satisfaction before I can tuck her in. I’ve tried to discern a pattern in how she does this but it eludes me and she’ll give me a telling off if I try to help her, mostly I think because I always get it wrong.

I know she’s growing and that developing a sense of independence is important, as is her having an opportunity to be involved in some of the decisions that affect her, even if those decisions are about clothes or food.

I am pleased she’s found her independent nature and that she’s not letting herself be overshadowed by Motormouth who is much more exuberant and dramatic, showing instead that she is determined and not to be swayed once she’s decided on her course. I will admit that sometimes I wish she was a little more compliant, especially when I’m trying to get us all out of the house in the morning, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that sometimes the only way I’m going to win is by getting her to think that my suggestions are really her ideas in the first place. Either that, or I’m going to have to grit my teeth, grin and bear it and put up with a her wearing purple trousers with a green T shirt and her brother’s yellow socks.

That and be grateful that the one thing she isn’t really fussy about is what she has to eat.

Yet.

Tiny Teachers

Siblings Together

Siblings Together

 

Motormouth has a new role in life.

He’s recently taken on the role of teacher when it comes to Mini.

He’s consciously making sure she’s included in his games, even if she is a little too young to really understand what’s going on. The fact that she will slavishly copy everything he does goes some way to helping in this. With a little nudging, he’s also making sure she gets some of the interesting jobs as well. It’s really noticeable when they’re role playing, which Motormouth has a tendency to do a lot of, whether it’s playing doctors, running a café or rescuing dragons from lava, he’s adept at creating entire universes that work on Motormouth-logic. He’s also very good at bring others into his fantasy worlds, giving them characters, complete with back stories, to take on. I’m still getting to grips with the various alter egos he’s assigned to me over the last couple of years, whether it’s Dashi from Octonauts, Penny from Fireman Sam or Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon. It could be worse – poor Mini gets to be Fishlegs. His dad is Stoick the Vast (I think that must be something to do with the beard).

It’s more than just another person to play with though. It’s a way of him reinforcing what he’s been learning at school himself. He works through his homework story books with Mini and he’s even sat her down with a pad and crayon so he could teach her her letters. Admittedly, he makes me learn my letters more often, but she’s not left out of the schooling entirely.

Underneath all this is a strong feeling of protectiveness. He will try and teach her how to cross the road safely (unfortunately she’s not taking to that quite as quickly as Motormouth did). If she falls and hurts herself, he’s the first to go running (provided he’s not been involved in it, of course). To be fair, she will do the same for him. They’ll give each other a hug when the other is upset and quite often I’ll find them snuggled up together on the settee, under the same blanket, thumbs in mouths (their own) whilst they watch How to Train Your Dragon, Masha and the Bear or Fireman Sam.

What is particularly striking is his generosity towards his little sister, the person he could so easily be jealous of. He’ll share his food, often giving her over half of whatever delicacy he has, rather than the token amount, and sometimes we don’t even have to ask him to share with her. He’s certainly better at sharing his food than I am.

And, most importantly, he’ll share his time.

It puts me to shame.

Because he does it naturally, as something that’s the right thing to do. He doesn’t have that feeling of almost smug satisfaction that we can (and I’m speaking from personal experience) feel as adults sometimes as we earn virtual brownie points for being “good people”.

Which made me wonder, when do we get more attached to things than we do to people?

When do we learn to become more grudging about sharing, so much so that often sharing becomes a conscious choice rather than an automatic action? When we first learn to talk, one of the first concepts we learn is mine. It’s my teddy. My blanket. My dinner.

Then we grow out of it.

And I don’t think we realise we’ve grown out of it until somebody reminds us.

Motormouth has taken on the role of teacher and mentor to Mini.

But I’m sitting at the back of the classroom.

Bee Baw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When do the lights go down, Mummy?

When do the lights go down, Mummy?

Well, today we reached another milestone with Motormouth.

He saw his first film in the cinema.

We told him we’d take him a couple of days before if he was good and, bless him, he tried so hard, despite Mini’s attempts to make him stray off the straight and narrow. In fact, it’s been quite weird for it to be her that’s the naughtiest rather than him. He remained resolute in the face of sibling sabotage, not reacting when she was pinching him (her latest habit which we’re trying very hard to break), pulling his hair (he really does need a haircut) or slapping him on the back.

To be fair, they have had their times when they played nicely together. I know they did.

I wrote it down in my diary.

Back to the film. He wanted to see Planes 2 – Fire and Rescue (and, I have to admit, I was quite keen to see it; any film that has ACDC’s Thunderstruck in the soundtrack has got to be good.) We bought the tickets as a special treat before he started school. It was a very special treat as it turned out – £14 for the two of us and that was just for the tickets with him under 5!

We went away and amused ourselves for an hour and a half when we found out that the showing we originally wanted was 3D. (Please cinemas, if you’re going to list all your showings in one place, do let us know which are 3D and which aren’t.) Motormouth is too young to watch 3D and I really didn’t fancy trying it with varifocals (yep, I am that old – calling this blog the Trials and Tribulations of a Mature Mother might have given you a clue in that department). Having seen the film now, I’m really glad we didn’t, since Motormouth found some parts a bit scary and they would have been even worse in 3D. Anyway, we got the tickets, wandered around, came back and went into the cinema.

Motormouth was on form, at least with his questions. We had everything from where the music was coming from, to the best tally system to use when counting the lights, to the names of every single film character in the adverts, all liberally interspersed with “when are the lights going down?”

I think the poor father behind me must have been worried that he was going to keep it up for the entire film.

He did, but to be fair to Motormouth, he did learn to whisper his questions.

He did suddenly develop a fastidious streak half way through the film, which is odd since it’s usually Mini that stands there and demands to be cleaned.

“Mummy, I’ve got sticky hands. Have you got any wipes?”

“No.” I silently berate myself for not chucking a pack into my bag.

“But I’ve got sticky hands. I need a wipe!” I’m very conscious of the the volume rising.

“Just wipe your hands on your T shirt!” Not generally accepted parental advice but he usually does it anyway. To my relief he does it and quietens down. In the meantime, I’m thanking whatever gods exist that I bought him dolly mixtures for the film and not anything chocolate.

A few minutes later… “Mummy, I’ve got sticky hands. Can you lick them clean for me?” I won’t go any further, suffice it to say that there are some sacrifices you are forced to make as a parent.

Finally we could concentrate on the film again.

I have never seen him sit still for so long, even allowing for the fact he climbed onto my lap when the hero got into real danger, or so quietly. He was totally engrossed. He stayed awake the whole time (unlike the little girl behind us who was carried out by her dad at the end, still fast asleep).

It also fittingly carried on the theme of the week that Motormouth has adopted – fire and rescue. Everywhere we’ve been he’s been running around calling out “bee baw bee baw”, which apparently is the correct sound for a fire engine. Motormouth gave me appropriate instruction on that this morning. We’ve had the sirens on in the car park, in the supermarket, around the restaurant where we were supposed to be meeting the Other Half, pretty much anywhere he went, we’ve had sirens.

He’s also been sliding down poles.

Literally.

Sometimes he’s even asked for help. I don’t think the toddler parking sign in the local supermarket will ever be the same again. I think the staff were a bit bemused as well.

And every day he’s had to wear red, or at least his reflective vest and builder’s helmet (he broke his fireman’s helmet). Well, almost everyday. He had to change his T shirt before we went to the cinema today – he’s almost as messy an eater as his father, so he went for the camouflage look.

We’ve got another Motormouth/Mother day tomorrow and we’re going to watch a film. This time it’s going to be with popcorn and snuggled up on the settee. The cinema experience is great but a little too expensive to do too often.

What to watch though? Monster’s Inc. or Despicable Me 2?

Choices, choices.

The question is, what catchphrase do we want to be hearing for the next week?

By the way, Planes 2 has some nice touches for us adults and does a particularly good homage to ChiPs, complete with Eric Estrada’s vocals.

Oh yeah, and there’s ACDC.

Pass Me the Hook Brush Please

"Let me tell you a secret..."

“Let me tell you a secret…”

It’s been chaos this afternoon, with screams and shouting and even some biting (or at least attempted biting).

Yep. I’ve had both kids at home this afternoon and they’ve swung from holding their own little love-fest to trying to deafen each other (I think my subsequent hearing loss is considered collateral damage) on a regular basis.

If you call every 4 minutes regular that is.

It’s a bit weird really and I can only put it down to the fact that the relationship between Mini and Motormouth is changing.

Maybe it’s because Motormouth starts school in a few weeks. Perhaps he’s stepping into a more grown-up persona. That would explain the times he pulls Mini close and says “hush, sweetheart, it’s all right.” I know he’s copying the words we use, but I think the same sentiment is there.

He even counts the stairs as he helps Mini climb down them, (although it was a bad joke for every step instead of numbers the other day), and is very careful when he’s showing her how to cross the road safely.

Some things haven’t changed – Motormouth is still first choice for holding hands and Mini still has to copy everything that Motormouth does, including walking along walls, poking drain hole covers, picking dandelions… well you get the message.

Yesterday was a classic. Motormouth decided I needed a make-over, specifically I needed my hair to look like Princess Jasmine’s. There he was, with his faithful assistant Mini passing him his “equitment” on demand. He did put his own unique spin on things, using “hook brushes”, toy swords and other random items. He and Mini are on the same wave length as well. She doesn’t seem to have any problems understanding what he wants, which is lucky really, the way his imagination works. Who knew a fire ladder was an essential hair dressing tool?

There are some moments when I catch them unaware, when they snuggle up to each other whilst watching TV or they sit there holding hands in the back of the car.

Those are the memories that make the screaming and the crying worthwhile.

I just wish I could stuff them in my ears to block out some of the noise (the memories that is, not the kids).

In the meantime, I’ll just turn the radio up and grin and bear it.

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?

Food, Glorious Food

Mini and her dinner

Mini and her dinner

I was wondering what to write about in this week’s post but then I looked over at Mini, systematically demolishing her Marmite on toast (yes, we are a Marmite family) and thought, yep, food is something that takes up a fair bit of our time and concentration.

Fortunately Mini is still at the stage were she’ll eat pretty much anything that’s put in front of her; and in front of her is considered to be anything within arm’s reach.

This includes her brother’s dinner, especially his cheesy mashed potato.

She also eats vast quantities. Vast by any standards. Tea the other night consisted of 4 rounds of toast and an entire tin of baked beans, minus the two spoonfuls of beans her brother had before he decided he was full.

Then she had desert.

Then she had about 20 minutes of milk.

True, her belly was bigger than her head and was full enough I was worried she was going to pop. The Other Half was also under strict instructions not to make her laugh.

Just in case.

The thing is, she eats like this every day, yet can still fit into trousers designed for a child half her age. (I know they vary widely in sizing, but still!)

I also want her metabolism.

You can inherit things like that, right? I mean, I know you can inherit insanity from your kids, so why not something useful?

I watch her sitting there, having finished 2 slices of toast (the crusts), now attacking a couple of rich tea biscuits (don’t criticise me too much, I’m trying to keep her fairly clean before we go out later), which she’s put together like a sandwich so she can eat them at the same time. Next she’ll probably have some fruit, or some cheese.

And this is just breakfast.

I shouldn’t complain since it makes it easy when we eat out. We can order pretty much anything off the menu and she’ll systematically plough her way through it, even if she does eat the baked beans with her hands.

Motormouth is a whole other creature, in so many ways.

We know he eats cheese. And mashed potato. And sausages.

As for anything else?

It seems to be worked out on some algorithm known only to toddlers.

One day he won’t eat anything but grapes, the next they’re yuk.

He’s even refusing mince now he’s sussed that I cook it with more vegetables than mince. The next step was to make the sauce and blend it. Then he stopped eating pasta. Unless someone else cooks it.

I’m trying not to take offence at that.

Weirdly, he will eat vegetable soup, knowing it’s full of vegetables, with plenty of bread and butter, but there’s only so many loaves we can go through in one meal.

I know toddler’s taste buds are still developing and are different to ours. I know that this is only a phase but please let it be over soon.

In the meantime, the bin men will carry on assuming, based on our recycling, that we eat nothing but beans, cheese and bread in this house.

Submarine Ahoy!

The Dynamic Duo ready to go

The Dynamic Duo ready to go

We decided to take Mini and Motormouth to Chatham Dockyard to celebrate the little sun we were going to get this Bank Holiday weekend. We’ve been before and they both seemed to enjoy it, even if Mini is still too little to be able to look around the ships.

 

 

And the submarine.

 Tiny Boy, Huge Submarine
Tiny Boy, Huge Submarine

Motormouth loves the submarine tour and to be fair HMS Ocelot, launched in 1962, does look pretty damn impressive from the outside, even if she is propped up in a dry dock. She’s a diesel-electric submarine nearly 300′ long and 26′ wide, and the last submarine to be built at Chatham Dockyard.

And she’s painted black.

 

If I was more fanciful, I’d probably describe her as a brooding presence with an undertone of contained violence.

It’s a good job I’m not fanciful.

Not in broad daylight anyway.

 

IMAG0977Then he had to look around HMS Cavalier, where he found the bell which he had great fun ringing, and ringing, and ringing…

She dates from 1944 and is only about 60′ feet longer than the Ocelot, but she carried a complement of 263 compared to the Ocelot’s 68. It makes you realise just how much equipment they have to fit inside a sub since, even with a crew of that size, it’s really cramped.

For anyone other than Motormouth of course. He didn’t get to sit in the captain’s chair this time, the highlight of his last visit, but he’s pretty philosophical about it. He’s sure it will happen next time.

Time for a Quick Nap

Time for a Quick Nap

The last of the three ships was HMS Gannet. She dates from the late 1800s and is what you imagine an old fashioned warship would look like, all ropes and sails and teak. In fact she’s powered by both steam and sail (a nod to steampunk there) and was used as a training ship.

We also bumped into Uncle One-Liner and Auntie Patience who are regulars at the Dockyard and both the kids were pleased to see them.

 

Our main reason for visiting the Dockyard was to catch the Julia Donaldson exhibition before it closed and it was worth it. The kids got to explore different areas, each relating to a book, with giant stuffed toy characters (well, giant is a relative term, the cow’s nose only came up to my ear).

And a model whale.

Giddy up, Whale!Giddy up, Whale!

I don’t know if you’ve read the snail and the whale, but it’s my favourite Julia Donaldson story (well, of the half dozen or so that I’ve read. To the kids. Honest.) The reason it gets a special mention was Mini took a real shine to it. She had to sit on its back. Then its head. Then its tail flukes. Then she had to sit on its head again and slide down its back.

In fact, she was happy to do this during the entire story telling session (we had to nip out to deal with a toxic emission and couldn’t get back in). And yes, we had tantrums when we had to come away.

Smile!
Smile!

When the kids finally got tired of the exhibition we checked out the pipe bending room which had some wooden pegs and pool noodles the kids could use to bend into different shapes.

It took all of about 90 seconds for Motormouth to set off the alarm by poking something with his pool noodle whilst we were distracted by Mini trying to worm her way under the barrier.

We left the room then. What made it worse was all the other parents were asking us what Motormouth had done, just so they could make sure their kids didn’t do the same thing.

By this time, the Other Half and I were pretty knackered but, fortunately, so were the kids.

Its hard to tell if Mini enjoyed her day but Motormouth certainly did. They both laughed and oohed and aahed, so it can’t have been that bad.

I asked Motormouth what his favourite part of the day was and, not surprisingly, it was the submarine (after meeting Uncle One-Liner and Auntie Patience).

I’ve got a feeling we’re going to have to go there again. Maybe the rain might hold off for the next time we visit.

Nah. Never happen.