Tag Archives: talking

I’ll Be Watching You…

People watching

People watching

Mini has taken up a new hobby – people watching. Well, strictly speaking it’s not a new hobby since she’s been doing it pretty much since she was born, but it’s certainly one she’s pursuing with a single-mindedness that is a little unnerving.

I know all children are natural people-watchers, after all, it’s how they learn. But Mini seems to be taking it to new heights. She’s two and a half now and by this age Motormouth was more interested in talking and taking things apart. Mini is the quiet one, just absorbing everything and listening.

And of course, watching.

Motormouth still asks why people do things, usually at the top of his voice when everything, and I mean everything, else is quiet.

Like “why has that man pushed in front of us in the queue?”


“Why is that woman making us walk through smoke by standing in the shop doorway with her cigarette?”

Don’t you just love children not having the same filters as us?

It sums them up really, Motormouth the talker and Mini the watcher.

Speaking of which, she has so much more freedom to watch people more closely now she’s mobile.

And she’s fascinated by emotions.

Which is why, the other day, she went and stood by someone else’s table when we were at a restaurant.

Did she want to go to the play area with Motormouth?

Oh no.

The seven year old having a meltdown was much more interesting.

Despite our best efforts she kept returning to the table to stand and watch with a quizzical look on her face. Every so often she would look back at us, point to the screaming, tearful boy and say “look”, just in case we were missing the event. She was genuinely fascinated by the whole thing.

The poor mother, I did try and send her fellow-mother vibes that we understood and that we’ve had our own public displays of unhappiness from noisy children to deal with,, but I think she was a bit too distracted to notice.

I can see why Mini was so intrigued by the screaming boy though. In our house tantrums are just as common as any other abode with children under the age of… oh… twenty five or so… but they tend to be short-lived. It’s rare that we get a sustained bout of hysterical screaming.

Mini cries when she shuts her fingers in something or someone tells her no. She really, really hates that word. Motormouth cries, well, at everything else. (I have checked the books on that and apparently it’s normal.)

I hope Mini never loses that interest in what others are thinking or experiencing and that she can use that to become more empathetic and tolerant towards others.

In the meantime I think I’ll have to settle for trying to get her to be more subtle during her observations.

Newsflash – Toddler Averts Taste Disaster

Photo from archive

Photo from archive

It was a pleasant family meal that almost descended into disaster, a disaster which was only averted by the quick-thinking intervention of Motormouth, an alert preschooler who happened to be on the scene.

The Other Half was in an expansive mood and decided to start cracking jokes. The only problem was most of his jokes were so ancient they pre-dated the pleasant old pub the meal was taking place in, or they were dangerously bad puns.

The Other Half was about to launch into another joke when Motormouth bravely piped up, saying “No one needs to hear your jokes Daddy!”. The Other Half, slightly taken aback, stopped his tale and those within hearing distance heaved a sigh of relief.

When interviewed later, Motormouth was uncharacteristically modest, simply asking if he could have a second desert.

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Today Should Be Monday

Motormouth Meltdown

Motormouth Meltdown

As in Motormouth Meltdown Monday.

In other words, we’ve had one of those days today.

I can’t blame him really, we have the trifecta of causes for an over-emotional child.

He’s poorly with chickenpox.

He’s sleep deprived after our holiday.

He’s 4 years old.

What this meant in practice was that he cried today.

A lot.

At anything.

Mini trying to steal his food.

At not being allowed to go to playgroup today.

Asbo not wanting to be stroked.

His puzzle getting stuck in its box.

Him not being allowed more chocolate.

It being 2 o’clock.

Mini wanting to play with his toys.

Me wanting him to pick up his toys.

Him not being allowed to watch TV while he was eating his dinner.

Him hurting his toes when he fell over one of the toys he’d failed to pick up.

To say this was tiring for all of us is an understatement. In the end I persuaded him to snuggle in our bed with the tablet to watch Aladdin (for about the 90th time). The idea was him having a sleep would help his soldiers fight the virus that was giving him his rash.

Perhaps I need to explain about his soldiers. To help him get through his vaccinations we told him he had lots of tiny soldiers in his body that help him get better when he was hurt. He’s taken to this idea with a passion we didn’t expect. He tells complete strangers about how his soldiers are helping him. He told the nurse he was disappointed he was getting his vaccination with a nose spray rather than a needle. When they drew a life-size outline of him at playgroup he had to put a germ and a soldier in there as well as a heart.

Anyway, back to Aladdin. I asked Motormouth agreed to try and snuggle and have a sleep.

He agreed. He even managed to have a little nap.

And woke up grumpy.

Mini didn’t help either. She knows loads of words but only uses one.


She practised using it a lot today.

And she has my tone of voice down pat. So much so that even Motormouth was laughing.

She hasn’t quite sussed that sometimes the no is aimed at her rather than her brother.

Like when I’m telling her not to try and pull the table cloth off the table.

Or not to throw things at me when I’m trying to change her nappy.

Or going up to her brother and slapping him.

Or steal her brother’s food.

Maybe I can understand him crying at that.

I is for Imagination


I is for Imagination

I is for Imagination

Before I had kids I thought I had a pretty decent imagination. After all, I wrote stories. I’d even finished 4 novels, all of them still stuck in that infamous bottom drawer that writers have.

I managed to find ways of amusing Motormouth quite successfully when he was smaller, not that it takes much to amuse an 8-month-old – peeking round corners seemed to work pretty well. So did playing guess the animal in sign language.

Then Motormouth got to the point where he was inventing his own stories.

At first our games (yes, our games, parental involvement was, and still is, mandatory) were recreating stories he’d been read or seen on TV.

And oh, how we have to get involved. I’ve done everything from making imaginary fish biscuits to running around the local park shouting “I’m a colossal squid” in a funny voice.

Gradually things got confusing (Yes, I know. I’m easily confused.)

First of all we had to learn our new names. Depending on what we were playing, I was Dashi from Octonauts, Penny from Fireman Sam or Jessica, Lord of Air from Gormiti.

Then it got still more confusing. We didn’t just play Octonauts, or Gormiti, or even Fireman Sam.

All of a sudden, I was Dashica from Octogorm, or Jesseny from Samiti.

At least I could recognise the stories, all lovingly, and imaginatively pieced together by a small boy in charge of his world.

Then he went off piste.

We were making up stories.

I can still tell where they’re coming from, he picks up little elements from books, TV, even his journey to school. He weaves them together and comes up with the most fantastical plots. He naturally has a beginning, a middle and an end. There’s action and, I have to admit, a fair bit of bashing and more than a little arresting of the bad guys.

Then there are the props.

Boxes become forts, boats or racing cars. A soft toy football becomes his giant basher, creating quakes to knock the bad guys off their feet when he’s Nick Lord of Earth. Coathangers become hooks when he is a digger. Bits of broken toy can become pretty much anything.

It amazes me.

And then there’s his story telling.

We’re at that stage in his potty training when he wants someone with him while he does the business, partly to inspect the results of the “thousands of poos” he intends to do.

Then he starts telling me stories, animated expression and arm gestures helping the tale along. He has even been known to open with “it was a dark and stormy night…”

What does all this mean?

That I have really had to up my performance when it comes to imagination.

And it becomes more challenging (I refuse to say difficult) as he gets older.

I’ve learnt the hard way not to help the story along. He puts his hands on his hips, looks at me with his head cocked to one side and says “No, Mummy, be quiet. I’m telling the story.

Then, just when I think I’ve got a handle on it, he comes up with the questions.

And I need imagination to deal with this as well.

It’s not about making the answers up. I’m sure he would pick me up on that. At least he always has so far when I’ve got any of the details wrong.

It’s about finding new ways to describe things so he’ll understand.

Like all 4-year-olds he has a curiousity that only switches off when he’s asleep.

He also has the attention span of a crane fly on a caffeine high.

The journey to playgroup is the most challenging.

He sits in the back, commenting on every thing he sees, and between he shoots questions at me.

Just a few weeks ago we had the following…

Why did all the dinosaurs die? Was it a volcano? (No one really knows, but most people think it was an asteroid that hit the earth and threw up loads of dust that blocked out the sun).

What’s an asteroid? (Cue explanation and we get onto the Tunguska meteor strike.)

What causes holes in the road? (Discussion followed about dene holes, chalk mines, frost expansion and subsidence.)

Could you steal an elephant by hiding it under your coat? (Uh… help?)

Fortunately, the 10 minute journey ended shortly after.

He’s persistent as well. I can understand him wanting to know what every single person he sees is doing or where they are going, but why does he have this desperate need to know where they live?

And if we can visit them for tea?

I have to reword my answers on a regular basis, not just to help him understand better, but to stop me from boring myself, and him, into a stupor (something I failed to do miserably when he asked me what burglary was for the 70th time).

Hence the need for imagination.

It’s still a vital skill for parents, finding ways to keep a small child with an active mind occupied. It’s not just on car journeys, but doctor’s surgeries, supermarkets, anywhere we have to queue, anywhere that doesn’t have toys, anywhere that has toys we want to move away from… well, you know.

You’ve probably been there.

And it can be exhausting. We love our children dearly but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice when they’ve gone to bed and we can savour those first few minutes that are question-free.

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to make the most of Motormouth’s story-telling and sit back and ask the questions for a change. Even if the sitting is on the toilet floor.

And as for Mini?

She’s still at the peeking round corners stage.


Ten Step Guide to… Christmas

What's normal when kids help decorate trees?

What’s normal when kids help decorate trees?

Well, it had to be done. Everyone else is obsessing about Christmas and we can’t be left out here. So, here it is, the guide to Christmas for all those parents with small children.

Step 1 Talk to your children about the spirit of Christmas, how it’s all about the giving and ask them to think about what they would like to ask Santa for. Wait several minutes (or hours depending on the mobility of your child) to receive your copy of the biggest shopping catalogue you have ever seen, neatly colour coded with page markers.

Step 2 After organising a loan from your bank, start buying the presents, secreting them in secure locations around the house. Conduct surveillance on your children to determine the risk of finding the presents. Once you have assessed the impact on your stress levels give in and ask your neighbour to keep the presents in their garden shed.

Step 3 Spend two hours rooting through the items in the loft to find the Christmas tree and the set of lights that actually worked last year. Test the lights and decide to buy a new set when they refuse to work this year. Test the new lights, then spend twenty minutes working out which bulb needs tightening properly to make them all work.

Step 4 Assemble the tree, ensuring you have selected the ideal spot in terms of safety and lack of accessibility for small children. Move the tree two minutes later, having removed the baby from the lower branches first.

Step 5 Decorate the tree with the aid of your children, disguising the fact that you are redistributing almost all of the decorations they have hung on a single branch as best you can. Move the lower three rows of decorations to the top of the tree when you find the baby has decided to try and eat the shiny shinies.

Step 6 Wait until the children have gone to bed and are asleep before you start wrapping their presents. Ensure you have a large sheet ready to throw over the unwrapped presents in the event one of your children suddenly decides to wake up since they have left something really, really important downstairs that they must have in order to sleep that night. This will be the one occasion when they are unlikely to sound like a herd of line dancing elephants on their way down the stairs.

Step 7 Assess the pile of wrapped presents and spend some time wondering how they can have increased in mass thanks to a single coating of paper. Place the presents in twice as many bin bags as you needed previously and stumble up the garden in the dark to deposit the presents in the neighbour’s shed again. Discover that you forgot to change your slippers and that they are not impervious to mud and water (at least you hope it’s that rather than something you heard the foxes fighting over earlier).

Step 8 Go to bed at approximately 3 am Christmas morning, having finally assembled and wrapped the toy kitchen (the one that looked so easy to put together in the instructions, which incidentally failed to mention you would need 3 hours and a masters in carpentry to make it look like the picture). Finally drop off to sleep with the fond prayer that your children might forget that today is a Special Day.

Step 9 Wake up 10 seconds later to the sounds of a small child squealing excitedly as he bounces up and down on your stomach demanding to know if Santa has been. Briefly consider trying to persuade him that it’s not morning yet and they should go back to sleep, rejecting the concept as entirely implausible. It’s Christmas Day not April Fools. Remember that your slippers are still damp from your journey up the garden path as you put warm feet into wet… something. Accompany your insanely excited child downstairs to officially start Christmas Day.

Step 10 Put on a large pot of coffee to help sustain you through the day ahead and surrender yourself to the fact that your day will be punctuated by the verbal input from small children. This is likely to vary in tone from excitement to frustration and anger. Add some brandy to the coffee. Or, since it’s Christmas, some Baileys.

Christmas Bonus – at the end of the day, when the children have succumbed to gastronomic and play exhaustion, console yourself with a nice glass of egg nog or spirit of choice, ignoring the scatter of small toy parts that pepper the floor like caltrops for the unwary foot soldier. And remember, tomorrow is all about left overs. Left over food, left over presents and left over arguments but not left over chocolate, since you’ll be eating that now.


I'm not a happy bunny.

I’m not a happy bunny.

We have a changeling in the family.

No, Motormouth has not stopped talking (not for the last 18 months anyway) and the Other Half is still as grumpy as ever. And I’m still just as confused by life, the universe and everything.

The changeling is Mini.

She is no longer smiley. It’s official, she is now scowly. (Yes, I know that’s not a word but it describes this new child to a T.)

Why has this happened?

I honestly have no idea.

I could take a guess and say she is at that stage in her development where she is more cautious or critical about the world around her. Or I could say that, now she is with a child minder for a couple of days a week and seeing more of the world she’s become a little more wary. Or that she understands enough of what is going on around her to feel comfortable expressing her views in the only way she knows how. (She reserves the screaming for when she wants us to know she does not want to be strapped in her car seat, she’s finished her brother’s dinner and wants more, you know, little things like that.)

She is almost an equal opportunity scowler so you have to admire her lack of discrimination.


And who gets the benefit of the rare smiles? Is it the Other Half who patiently lets her climb him and pull whatever hair she can get hold of, wherever she can get hold of it (yes, it makes me wince as well). No.

Is it her loving mother who feeds her, bathes her, comforts her when she doesn’t quite manage to stay upright after deciding to climb the settee? The one who seems to be a combination of chew toy (those feeds get interesting when she gets distracted) and musical instrument (when there’s nothing else to distract her she’ll send the message far and wide on the boobydrums)?


It’s Motormouth.

The one who regularly decides she needs to be moved and hauls her around by her clothes, feet or armpits. The one who shouts at her when he thinks she needs to be awake, his lips barely centimetres from her face. The one who feels he is better qualified to decide what she should play with? The one who demonstrates unerring aim with his squirty animals when they are in the bath? (I suppose it’s good her face at least gets a good wash.)

Of course he is also the one who gives her a kiss and a cuddle in the morning, feeds her titbits of food (including his treats), strokes her hair when she is crying and absently mindedly gives her a helping hand when she is trying to climb on the settee next to him. The one who insists she share his bedroom and sleeps on the floor next to her. (Why did we bother getting him a bed again?) The one who is uncharacteristically shy when it comes to singing but will still sing her nursery rhymes when she’s having problems getting to sleep (which is most nights since she has inherited her tendency to be a night owl from me).

He is the only one who can reliably get her to smile by pulling a face or acting the clown. (Why doesn’t it make her smile when the Other Half or I do it? Even when we do it in public?)

So why is this? Why is the special treatment reserved for Motormouth? Do they share a special bond because they are brother and sister? Because they are closer in age? Do we get excluded because we are the grown ups who make her do things she doesn’t want to do? Because we are slow in working out what she wants?

You know what?

I don’t really care. They get on now and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

I’ve Come to Learn!


I'm here to learn, teach me please!

I’m here to learn, teach me please!

It had to happen.

Motormouth has started playgroup. Admittedly he is starting later than some (he’ll be 4 at Christmas) but he is starting and he loves it, with a capital L.

When we first broke the news to him he was excited to say the least. He’d been to visit the group with us before and settled in immediately, playing with the toys and interacting with the other children from the start. In fact we had some difficulty prising him away. The first question he asked was “Am I going to learn lots of things?” He was very happy to find out that was the aim.

The night before his first day he kept telling me he was going to school. In fact he was telling everyone, although I’m not sure the fishmonger at the local supermarket was really that interested. We sorted out his little thermos bag in the shape of a fire engine (christened Jupiter after the engine on Fireman You-know-who). We discussed what he wanted for his packed lunch. He made me promise to remember to make it before I went to bed. Three times.

He even went to bed early so morning would come round quicker.

In the morning he didn’t even need to be chased around the house to have his teeth brushed. (About the only place I haven’t ventured with the toothbrush and knee-to-pin-down combination is the toilet. I absolutely refuse to clean his teeth in the toilet.)

Socks, shoes, fleece and coat went on without protest and he stood by the door waiting impatiently for us.

It was a nice change, until he started nagging the Other Half and I, telling us we were going to be late. That was a role reversal too far.

When we arrived at playgroup he strode in as if it was his natural habitat (which in a way I suppose it is). Playgroups are usually pretty organised but to the uninitiated outsider it can look like hordes of small hooligans rushing around like pin balls in a pinball machine. (One on tilt as well).

At the end of the day he was keen to tell us what he’d done. In between hearing about his exploits with the dustcart (he has a weird obsession with them, along with bin men and recycling) I tried to get some feedback about how he’d been.

“Oh, he’s settled in well.” I nodded, we expected that.

“He asks lots of questions doesn’t he.” It was presented as a statement, and yes, we know he asks a lot of questions.

They handed me a nice red folder with some notes in it, telling me what he’d been doing. I scanned them.

“Hold on, something is wrong here.” They looked concerned and read the entry I was pointing at. “That can’t be right.”

“No, no, it is correct.” They assure me.

“That was definitely Motormouth?” They nod. I lean down at the small boy who is busy trying to swing from my arm and try to feel his forehead (with the arm he’s not swinging from). No. Normal. I look at them again and they nod silently. I look at the words again; snacks 1100 am cheese, apple and cucumber.


What’s wrong with cucumber you ask? Well, from Motormouth’s point of view, everything! It’s green. It’s a vegetable (he’s not going to be swayed by the fact that technically it’s a fruit because the seeds are on the inside). It usually comes with salad. It’s not cheese, or yoghurt, or sausage. It’s, well, it’s yuk.

But he ate cucumber! (I decide I can’t wait to tell the Other Half so I send him a text.)

He eats it again the second day but we decide not to mention it in case he realises we might use the leverage to get him to eat cucumber at home.

In his second week we get given a form to complete, so they can assess where he is in terms of development. Some of the questions make me laugh out loud.

Is he able to ask simple questions? Yes, questions like why do we have feet? What are tears made of? Why does chicken fat go hard when it’s cold? Why has the face fallen off his Kwazii toy (I told him not to get it wet).

You know, the usual things that Brian Cox can deal with easily. Except maybe the Kwazii question, I’m not sure how knowledgeable he is about Octonauts.

It reminds of the initial form I had to complete for the staff. This was the boring one about contact details and suchlike. But Motormouth being Motormouth, living with him still gave us the opportunity to show some of his uniqueness.

Does he have any special people or pets he might refer to?

Well, yes.

I list the favourite cousins and neighbours.

Then I think it might be good to explain the family names. Grandma being Nanny Nutjob for instance.

Or the fact that his father and I are regularly referred to as Kwazii and Dashi (the Other Half is the one with pirate tendencies). His little sister is Junip more often than not.

A week on, I have to update the list.

Motormouth has discovered Paw Patrol and we now have our assigned names.

I’m Glider ( a cute pink chihuahua that flies a plane, well, I suppose I do have a long-expired glider pilot’s licence to my name) and the Other Half is Ruffles, who drives a digger. It’s Rubble in the actual programme but I think Ruffles suits the Other Half better.

Motormouth himself is Chase, the police dog.

Then there is Motormouth’s current fascination with another cartoon, Gormiti. This is something he has only experienced through the medium of half a dozen books we found in a discount shop, that and the French, German or Korean versions of the cartoon on You Tube.

I am now Jessica, Lord (yes Lord) of Air. The Other Half is Toby, Lord of the Sea and Motormouth? Well, he’s Nick, Lord of the Earth who can create earthquakes by punching the ground. He has had a fair few bruised knuckles to prove this.

So, on any given day, he can call me by my real first name, mama, Dashi, Jessica or Glider.

I think I’m having an identity crisis.

I’m going to have to write this down for the playgroup staff. Perhaps they should start a wall chart. They’d better make it a big one.

When I take Motormouth to playgroup now he rushes into the middle of the room, catches the eye of whichever “Aunty” is in there and declares at the top of his voice “Good morning Aunty, I’m here to learn!”

Feedback from the second week?

He’s still full of questions isn’t he? Yep.

He’s quite bright isn’t he? That’s nice to know rather than just suspect.

He’s very polite isn’t he? Pleased about that, the constant reminders are working.

He had cucumber for a snack today.

Nope. Still don’t believe that one.