All about Tilly at 5

Tilly is now 5! She had a lovely birthday dinner with us and her grandparents and is really happy with her new Hello Kitty bedroom. I had her answer the same questions I asked at the beginning of the year and here’s the result:

  1. What is your favourite colour? pink
  2. What is your favourite toy? Hello Kitty
  3. What is your favourite fruit? apple
  4. What is your favourite TV show? Fred the show (what she was watching at the time)
  5. What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch? Ham sandwiches with mayonnaise
  6. What is your favourite outfit? A hello kitty top
  7. What is your favourite game? Crocodile snap (she played this with Nana only about 10 minutes before so I think it was the first thing that came into her head)
  8. What is your favourite snack? chocolate
  9. What is your favourite animal? zebra
  10. What is your favourite song? Big red combine harvester (they sang this at the Harvest Festival at school)
  11. What is your favourite book? All about princesses
  12. Who is your best friend? Molly
  13. What is your favourite cereal? Multigrain hoops
  14. What is your favourite thing to do outside? Put my wellies on and jump in puddles
  15. What is your favourite drink? milk
  16. What is your favourite holiday? Africa
  17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? piggy
  18. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast? Multigrain hoops
  19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? pasta
  20. What do you want to be when you grow up? A doctor
  21. What is your favourite pet? dog

 

Getting crafty

It’s been a busy time in our household. Tilly is now 5 years old and her birthday present was a new bedroom. This involved (and continues to) moving a lot of stuff out of the spare bedroom (now Tilly’s room) and finding a new home for it. I’m looking forward to when we’re finally finished!

In the midst of all of this I have started a knitting course. It is run by a friend of mine and is billed as a starting to knit course. I’ve been able to knit since childhood (one of the few things that my paternal grandmother gifted me was teaching me how to knit) but I’ve never really knitted well or anything particularly complicated. Initially I was hoping to learn enough to knit a jumper for Eli because I’ve had the yarn for over 7 years! and I really need to knit it now or I’ll be sad that I didn’t manage it for any of my kids.

Of course once Tilly got wind of my attempt to knit something for Eli she was desperate for me to knit something for her. I know the jumper is going to take me ages so I thought I’d try to knit something quickly for Tilly first.

That’s why I chose the teddy bear pattern – it didn’t look like too many stitches… Of course it involved a lot of increasing and reducing stitches (including one which, when I looked it up to find out what it was, was listed as the most difficult stitch to master) but I did it! It’s turned out bear shaped and the kids love it (was a bit concerned I wouldn’t be able to get it away from Eli to give to Tilly). Now I need some more practise making things up (my sewing is a bit dubious) but the book of knitted animal patterns that will arrive soon should help with that – Lex has already requested an elephant…

Stuck in the middle

In having three children R and I have found ourselves on unfamiliar ground. I am the eldest of two and R the youngest – middle children are a whole new experience and Tilly is ensuring that we experience every last little bit.

Eli’s first year has clearly been a little tricky for Tilly. Before he arrived she had been the baby of the family for almost 4 years and was quite happy in that position. Now she does love her little brother (sometimes a little too much) and has never really shown much resentment towards him. Occasionally when his existence prevents her from doing/having something she wants she gets a little grumpy with him but he is forgiven very quickly. Mummy and Daddy (but especially Mummy) bear the brunt of her annoyance.

Tilly is a self-confessed daddy’s girl and Daddy is somewhat more indulgent towards her than I am so it’s not exactly unsurprising. Over the last year she has suffered from a lack of attention from both sides and in recent months it has very much started to show. The constant attention seeking over the summer holidays was hideous because it didn’t matter whether the attention was positive or negative – it just had to be attention! Sometimes I manage this really well (i.e. I don’t end up shouting and screaming like a demented banshee) but with lack of sleep (thanks Eli) my response was not always helpful to the situation (think more inflammatory and tantrum prolonging dammit).

Handily starting school has made a difference – she is either far too tired, or getting so much attention there, that she doesn’t have the energy/need to seek it at home. Thankfully, too, as Eli gets older it is becoming easier to give Tilly the one-to-one attention she craves and thrives on. So hopefully, we’re entering a calmer, less upsetting time for all of us. At least she’s the only girl – must be nice to be unique when you’re stuck in the middle.

Any advice for taming the middle child? I can’t imagine the tiredness of the first few weeks of school will continue on into perpetuity…

Toothy milestones

First gappy photo.

Considering Lex was well over 6 when he lost his first tooth, it was a bit of a surprise in the summer when Tilly told us she had a wobbly tooth. It stayed wobbly for a while until last Thursday when it fell out at school. Luckily the school are obviously well practised at this and it came home in an envelope all ready for the tooth fairy.

The kindly tooth fairy did indeed leave £1 for an excited little girl. She promptly asked to change it into ‘school money’ two 50p so that she could buy snacks from the snack trolley. Since they only sell fruit and veg I was quite happy to agree.

At the same time, Eli is suffering through the arrival of two new teeth. One, the top right lateral incisor is through (last week when Tilly lost her tooth) and the left is on its way. This does account for my lessened posting routine on this blog – teething is tiring!

Of baby groups and social bravery

Eli thrilled to have more egg shakers than he could ever hold at our favourite baby group.

I used to be really worried about attending new baby/toddler groups. It seemed too intimidating to walk into a room of people I didn’t know and try to join in (why yes I do have a little social anxiety, how could you tell?). Subsequently, when Lex was a baby we didn’t go to any baby groups. I eventually started taking him to swimming lessons when he was about 5 months old but as I returned to work (3 days a week) when he was 6 months old that was about all I managed to do with him. I feel sad now for not going to groups where I would have met some lovely people – my local LLL group for example – but I was just too worried about not knowing anyone. Of course it’s really hard to meet new friends if you don’t go anywhere to meet them!

When I was pregnant with Tilly I started looking for things that we would be able to do once I was on maternity leave. My lovely SIL took her son to a group that she thought was great, run by (my now friend) L. and so we started doing that – it was fantastic and we still go. I took Eli to L’s baby group today (and the photo of Eli with the treasure basket, that I use everywhere, was taken there when he was about 4/5 months old). In the first year of Tilly’s life we went to a lot of groups – library, toddler group, LLL, swimming and L’s groups. Almost everyday had an activity and it was great fun. When I returned to work I couldn’t attend many but it was fun whilst it lasted.

I know not everybody enjoys baby or toddler groups but I knew that I wanted to find things for Eli and I to do together – I never went to baby groups with the big kids and I really wanted to this time. Toddler groups weren’t really appropriate this time anyway, Tilly didn’t enjoy them anymore – she’s an October baby so, at 4, found most groups too babyish with not many kids her own age. Thankfully my Mum was able to look after her at times – taking her to the zoo or having her to play at her house – to allow Eli and I to find our own groups.

Baby massage at the children’s centre, which I managed to gather up the courage to book by phoning (yup, phone anxiety too dammit) lead to what was a lovely baby group. That group ended today – we were chucked out over a month ago because Eli was crawling (didn’t stop other crawling babies from being allowed…) but due to staffing blah blah they have stopped the group for now. I thought it would be nice to go to the last one (we were there for the first!) and asked yesterday at the Tuesday not-quite-a-group-but-a-chance-to-meet-up (though we have started calling it the see you next Tuesday group…). You’d think it was the most unreasonable request in the world – I received a reply, which I pretty much tuned out as the tone was horrible, about keeping the group rules intact and what if there are new little babies? Firstly, this is the last group do we really need to stick to the rules (especially when you’re breaking them for others)? Secondly, my friends still attended the group (Eli is the eldest) and over the last month there have been no new people at all. I’m rapidly going off my children’s centre (or at least the manager) the atmosphere, once lovely and welcoming, is now more annoyed and bored of us (the clients!) sadly.

To end this long! saga of baby groups, I went to a new group instead, for one year olds at another local children’s centre. I was brave and it paid off. This looks like it will be a lovely group for the next year and whilst I’m looking forward to our friends reaching their first birthdays and joining us I think we’ll also have fun on our own before they get there.

Tales from the toy library

Eli playing with a great toy library borrow.

We have a local toy library. It’s a great idea – for a small fee each year you can borrow up to 5 games and toys each month. There’s a good selection, lots of baby toys as well as games and puzzles for older children.

It’s especially good for borrowing the types of toys – rocking horses, walkers, baby swings – that are expensive but aren’t really used by kids for long enough to justify the expense if you’re watching the pennies. Plus you get to see if your child actually likes a particular toy that you perhaps were thinking of buying to save yourself a costly mistake when it turns out they hate it.

Today was our monthly visit (with some baby group friends). The volunteers were on good form as usual – I’m not sure about other toy libraries but ours is primarily staffed by well-meaning middle-class women of a certain age (and apparently at least one man but I’ve not met him). When you arrive someone eventually notices you are there and demands your name and marks you in the register. All records are paper based and index cards contain all the details of the items you have borrowed along with your contact details. If there are more than one or two people borrowing/returning items chaos begins to descend. At least one volunteer will begin to flap as index cards are sought and names are muddled. I have learnt to stand back and wait because eventually calm will return and once items are returned new items can be sought.

A non-competitive game…

I particularly like to borrow games for the big kids – there’s a handful of Orchard Toys games available and these have generally been good fun (at least the first few times, perhaps not the hundredth). The one month return rule benefits me here as I can return games before they become too annoying to play again and get something new. Today I spotted something that I had to bring home – Snail’s Pace Race bills itself as a ‘non-competitive game. My kids are somewhat competitive – I wanted to see if they would thwart the worthy aims of this game.

The basic idea is that you shake the dice and move the appropriately coloured snails forward depending on the colours you roll. You try to work out which will win and the participating children cannot win nor lose themselves. Lex thought this was fun. Tilly had a tantrum because the pink snail was not winning. I suppose at least they weren’t competing against each other, only Tilly competing against the other snails… Perhaps next time I’ll borrow ‘Pop to the Shops’ again as, despite being competitive, the only tantrums were thrown when I refused to play again (and again and again).

The toys I borrowed for Eli are more successful. He enjoys the ring stacker and a good-sized bead frame. Despite owing a lot of baby toys already, Eli’s interests are slightly different to his older siblings’ and this resource means a range of toys he will love at next to no cost to me – win, win.

So, another month and we’ll be back to the toy library, I wonder what we’ll find then?

Siblings with a bit of rivalry

Obligatory first day of school year photo – Year 2 and Reception.

My big kids like to compete with each other – if they’re not racing each other to the top of the stairs it’s a competition to see who can finish dinner first or hug Eli the most…

Generally we try to discourage the competition because it invariably ends in tears especially considering the amount of cheating that goes on. It doesn’t stop the kids being competitive though, particularly Lex who is driven to be first in everything even if it is a race to the bottom.

The competition is hotting up though in one arena – swimming – where Tilly is gaining quickly on her older brother. It’s always been important to me that my kids learn to swim well – I am half South African after all – and so both big kids have had lessons for a while. Since starting on the ‘proper’ stages (rather than the waterbaby/duckling levels) Lex has taken on average just over 2 terms to move to the next stage (he’s now on his second term of Stage 3). His lessons involve him trying to get to the bottom of the pool (not generally a regular requirement), mucking about with the other kids and trying to be the one who gets to sit on the pool ladder. Needless to say, listening to the teacher is low on his priorities and so, despite lots of early potential (and stern words from his mother), his progress is forwards but slow. Tilly is a bit different.

Tilly likes to please the teacher, listens, copies and observes. I had a bit of a quiet proud mummy moment when she was moved to Stage 1 before she had even started school. When she then passed that and was moved to Stage 2 she proved how hard she had worked over the previous term. Of course now we have an issue (for Lex) in that Tilly (age 4) is only 1 stage behind Lex (age 6).

Today was the first day of the new swimming term. I had forgotten Tilly’s goggles and so she spent most of her lesson trying to scrape the water off her face but was ever so proud that she’d managed to open her eyes under water. Lex swam like a demon. A couple of minor instances of silliness but on the whole a lot of determined swimming. He doesn’t want to end up in the same class as his sister and that is a distinct possibility if he doesn’t pull his finger out. Sometimes a bit of sibling rivalry helps you find your focus (I’m sure his teacher will be relieved).

My daughter loves babies (especially yours)

My daughter loves babies. She loves to cuddle them, carry them, play with them, kiss them and otherwise smother them with attention. I remember being the that child too. The girl who my mum would introduce to friends with babies as ‘M, she loves babies’. I remember cuddling my baby cousins for hours, following my aunt upstairs as she went to feed them and helping at bath time. I would vie for the attention of the smallest guests at the various parties and gatherings we were dragged to as kids – taking turns with other children who loved babies. I was never scared of handling babies and I’m sure that helped me when I had my own little people to look after.

I remember all of that and how much I learned about baby care by being so interested and then I have to deal with a four-year old who ‘just want[s] to be his mummy!’. Poor Eli, she just wants to love him and I have to repeatedly say things like:

  • ‘Put him down!’
  • ‘He’s crying – that means he’s not enjoying that’
  • ‘Please let him play with his toys’
  • ‘I don’t think he wants a cuddle right now’
  • ‘Your brother is not a doll’

Of course, no matter how much Tilly loves her little brother, she loves your baby more. Eli after all is part of the furniture, your baby is like a new toy – unknown and probably smaller. I’m sorry. I am trying to teach her about personal space but it’s taking time. I know that when it’s your second, third, tenth baby you find it easier to relax in the face of her obsession with touching, cooing and toy rattling in your baby’s face (and tell her when to stop). When it’s your first I fully appreciate how big Tilly looks next to your tiny baby and how uncoordinated and dangerous she appears.

I know she’s got a few years of growing before she’ll be trusted by you to cuddle her baby for more than a few seconds but I promise that she’ll have made sure that she has loads of practise by then. My daughter loves babies and yours is most definitely the cutest she’s seen.

Sometimes the seaside is lovely and sometimes it’s cold and windy (but the kids had a good time)

We went to the beach today. It seemed like a good idea at the time – the children’s centre were renting a beach hut, there’d be activities for the kids and friends for me to chat to, in theory a lovely day. In reality it turned into a day from which each participant emerged with a different story.

Eli would tell you that he had a good time (mostly). He sat on a picnic blanket near the beach and played with shells, spades and pebbles. He had a box of snacks (but would have preferred the snacks his siblings had). At the café he chatted to the other babies and was most put out at not being allowed to crawl about on the, frankly, very grubby floor. He then enjoyed a lovely cuddly sleep in the sling as we walked down the beach before heading home and singing and chatting to Lex in the car.

Tilly and Lex would also tell you how much fun they had. They dug in the pebbles and collected as many shells as possible (although were somewhat disappointed to be limited to taking home two each). Tilly enjoyed the opportunity for some sticking and drawing in the beach hut. They had hot chocolate with both cream and marshmallows in the café and were allowed to chill out with the iPhones whilst the adults chatted and relaxed out of the wind. They then had a chance to run down the beach and explore the exposed rock pools which was fun even if there weren’t any crabs or fish to be seen. All the fresh air meant heading home, cuddled under coats in the car, was a nice time to rest rather than an end to all joy and fun (as it often is).

I had a reasonably good time, sitting with Eli on the beach, chatting to my friends and watching the big kids have a good time. The wind was annoying but on a pebbly, muddy beach at least there was no sand flying into my eyes (except when toddlers digging in front of us threw it in the air but I blame the parents for that). The most entertaining part was on the drive in when, on a narrow stretch of road on which we had priority, an older woman coming the other direction decided to try to push through. There was nowhere for her to go and no amount of her gesturing and driving at the car in front of us made it possible for her to pass us or us to pass her. The stalemate was only ended by R getting out of the car and pointing out to her the priority sign showing she was in the wrong. At that point, with much unhappiness, she made a complete hash of reversing back through the bollards that marked the start of the narrowing, to allow us to pass. She acknowledged R’s cheery wave with what I can only imagine were words not meant for young ears. The incident is still making me chortle hours later.

R did not have a great time. I don’t think watching the big kids whilst I socialise is his idea of a great time. Tilly spilling his drink and Lex dropping his phone on the floor weren’t happy moments either. He was especially narked when, trying to type in his pin code to pay for drinks, Tilly’s constant chatter flummoxed him and caused him to freeze his card through incorrect pin entry. His only happy moment (aside from unable to read signs lady on the way in) was probably when we left and just missed being soaked by rain. The drive back even annoyed him when a learner driver was sent to try his remaining patience.

So, 9/10 for the kids, 7/10 for me (the wind knocked a few points off) and about 2/10 (if we count the old lady as 2) for R.

How often do you manage a family day out where everybody has a good time? We achieve it occasionally but it often seems that at least one person will have a miserable time despite the activities. I’m guessing as the kids get older and their interests diverge it will become even more tricky. Still, at least kids (unlike grown-ups) are relatively easy to entertain even if it is overcast and windy digging in pebbles is great fun!