Top Ten Things to do before your First Baby Arrives

Dutch pavement. Not pushchair friendly.

Dutch pavement. Not pushchair friendly.

1. Go up and down stairs and escalators
Once you are pushing a pram around you suddenly have to find the extremely well-hidden lifts everywhere you go and you will become an accomplished dropped-curb-scanner. It seriously feels like a treat to me to be able to run down a flight of stairs in a department store to quickly buy a pair of knitting needles and then run back up. Done in five minutes. Same trip with a pram takes twenty minutes with all the travel around the shop to the lifts and ramps – I’m not even going to try it with a baby and a toddler. I’ll just use chop sticks.

2. Eat a meal in peace
Babies are jealous creatures. If they see you enjoying a well earned hot meal or cup of tea, they suddenly discover that they are extremely hungry themselves and they won’t stop screaming until you abandon your food in favour of feeding them.

3. Have baths
A little tricky while pregnant as you have to be careful not to make it too hot, but run yourself a pleasantly warm bath, add lots of bubbles, take a book and a glass of wine with you and spend a lovely uninterrupted half an hour soaking. With a newborn baby you’re lucky if you find the time to brush your teeth.

4. Enjoy intelligent conversation
Plan plenty of evenings with friends – especially friends without children – and encourage the conversation away from your impending arrival/life change and towards politics, big ideas, books you’ve read, films you’ve seen, preparations for the apocalypse, life ambitions, what you were scared of when you were younger etc. You get the idea. Post-baby your brain will have turned into cotton wool, mainly due to lack of sleep, and as the baby turns into a Toddler you will struggle to finish a sentence. Most of my conversations with friends go a bit like this: “So I saw this thing on the inter NO PUT THAT DOWN what was I saying? I was in the supermarket yester I SAID PUT THAT DOWN THAT IS DANGEROUS So I was watching this film and GIVE IT BACK. NO, GIVE IT BACK. WE ARE DOING NICE SHARING. Right, time to go home. Lovely chatting to you, must do it again some WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES? NO THOSE ARE NOT YOURS THEY HAVE HEELS!”

5. Go and buy clothes and take your time trying them on
Not easy trying on clothes with little people around. Also, I personally need to already be feeling good about my appearance to like the clothes I try on, which is again something that is unlikely to happen when you can’t remember the last time you washed your hair and the outfit you are wearing probably has sick on it somewhere.

6. Go to the cinema
Once your baby falls into a routine and sleeps in the evenings you can nip out to the pub briefly or perhaps even go out for a meal, but we found going to the cinema is much harder to arrange. Films take so long and it is hard to make sure you get there in time after putting the baby to bed, and then to get back in time before the last feed.

7. Go into [fill in big exciting city that requires public transport to get to]
Similar to the cinema story – if it takes a while to get there and back, going on these kinds of outings is quite a way down the line when you have a new baby. Do it while you still can. As for going for day trips with the baby, just thinking about going on trains and buses with a pram makes me cry and shake.

8. Be spontaneous
Whatever it is you are doing at the moment, stop doing it right now and go do something else. Go out for dinner with your partner on the spur of the moment. Book a last minute weekend away to somewhere that is not here.

9. Sleep
Mmmmmm lie ins…

10. Spend as much quality time with your partner as possible
Of course, you will be spending plenty of time together in the middle of the night, but you will probably be arguing about who is more tired and why the baby is awake again and whose fault that might be. Your family is about to change. You were two – you will be three. Enjoy two for these last few months – and then resolve to enjoy three. It is exhausting but wonderful.

Also, watch out for my follow-up post next week entitled Top Ten Unexpected Benefits of Having a Baby to cheer yourself up again.

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Fear Not – Prose for Thought

This post comes with a Sad Alert: If you are in any way hormonal at the moment or easily depressed, perhaps it would be better to go look at funny pictures of cats instead.

I have been discovering a lot of other blogs online recently and in between all the witty and light-hearted stories have also ended up reading sad stories about miscarriages and SIDS. Suffice it to say I have spent quite a lot of time not just laughing but also blubbering at the computer. So, what do you do when you are overwhelmed with The Sad? Write poetry of course.

This poem is about fear. The moment you find out you are pregnant, you start to worry about the new life inside you, and if you let yourself you can spend the next 18+ years worrying about your child. When I found out I was expecting my son, my mother in law gave me the little ornament in the picture and it has seen me through to this day. In this poem I have tried to put into words what it says to me.

Fear Not

I read about death sometimes and weep
hot tears of grief for another’s loss
and I am gripped with fear, I clutch you close
to ward off the day that you too must go.

Not now, I say, not soon, not ever,
I wish for long days and years with you
but my mind conjures up scenes of dread:
an accident on a busy road
a sudden illness, a fall, a fire
or a cold limp body in a bed.

Tears come and keep coming for my imagined lossGods hand
and I resolve to do better at keeping you safe
No “oh that will hold” or “let’s see if it goes away”
No compromises, no complacent joy.

But I cannot stop life
and this life does not last
I must not waste yours with my fear
Instead I must give you away
in faith
into a surer pair of hands
that will carry you from first to last
and beyond into a brighter, better world

(c) Judith Kingston

Check out Helen’s poetry here if you want to see what set me off. Bring tissues.

I am also linking this up to Prose for Thought at Victoria Welton’s blog.

Prose for Thought

Breastfeeding at 6 months

It has been a while since my last breastfeeding update. The Baby is 6 months old tomorrow, and our rocky start is thankfully a distant memory. I find it almost unimaginable that I was in tears every evening as she was feeding non-stop, in despair at the pain and wanting to give up but also not wanting to give up. I am so glad I persevered.

To continue my mission of Telling the Truth about Breastfeeding – so that new and expectant mothers can feel truly prepared – I thought I’d give you a little snapshot of what it is like six months down the line: the good bits, the tricky bits and the bad bits.

The Tricky Bits
Yes, I am starting with the tricky bits so I can end with the good bits. And I am flagging it up for you so you don’t feel too manipulated.

At this age, babies are getting curious about the world around them, and are more able to act on that curiosity. Feeding my six month old baby currently involves a lot of short bursts, where she feeds for a bit, comes off to have a look around, check out an interesting sound, or just grin at me. She is so wriggly and if her feet are touching anything she starts kicking against it while feeding. I was starting to think that maybe she just wasn’t very hungry, or that she was getting very efficient at feeding and was done after just five minutes, but when her weight gain started to slow I came to realise that I needed to keep encouraging her to continue her feed so she could get to the fatty hind milk, which is the ‘food’. It takes a bit of patience to keep putting her back on the breast and make sure she is actually getting a proper feed, but it has worked and her weight gain is back to normal.

It is also quite common for babies of this age to start waking up in the night again after having slept through. Then you are faced with the question: is he/she hungry? Some parents just know, but personally I always find it hard to gauge. If they were sleeping through and didn’t need milk in the middle of the night then, why would they need it now? Maybe it’s a growth spurt? But after a month of night feeding you start to think that either this is a very long growth spurt or they’re not waking up because they’re hungry. Who knows? I have been feeding the Baby at night again for at least two months now and I am convinced she doesn’t really need to as she is not feeding well in the morning now. But when there is screaming in the middle of the night, it is so much easier to feed them than to apply your brain to other re-settling techniques.

The Bad Bits
A week or two ago, I noticed a very sore, lumpy section on one of my breasts. A blocked duct. This can happen at any stage of breastfeeding, but it happened to me recently so I thought I’d mention it here. It appears that this can happen when your baby is distractible while feeding and you’re not so on the ball about making sure she empties the breast. Milk can get backed up and spill into the breast tissue. If you don’t resolve the blockage early, your body can start fighting the milk as if it is a foreign substance, causing an infection called mastitis. Read more here.

I used a warm flannel on the lumpy bit and resolved to feed the baby any time she woke up in the night to make sure I didn’t leave it too long between feeds. She obligingly woke up every 90 minutes or so in the night. In the daytime I made sure I fed her at least every three hours, but more often if she seemed amenable. Thankfully it resolved itself within a day or two and didn’t become mastitis. Phlew.

The Good Bits
Although going anywhere with a baby and a toddler requires preparation, one thing I never need to worry about is bringing equipment to feed the baby. I love the fact that breastfeeding is portable. This time around I am also more confident about feeding in public. I remember going to a first birthday party when the Toddler was about seven months old and hiding away behind a stack of chairs in a church hall to feed him. With the Baby I don’t worry so much about flashing people. First of all because people aren’t usually watching anyway, and secondly because your nipple is only visible for a second or two before the baby latches on and covers you up with her body. If I know I’m going somewhere unfamiliar where I don’t know the people – say, a crowded train or a wedding – I will make sure I am wearing a tanktop I can pull down under whatever other top I am wearing. I can then lift the top layer up, pull the tanktop down and I won’t have to bare my stomach to all and sundry. If you didn’t grow up in the Netherlands and/or have more deep-seated issues about flashing strangers, I have seen other mothers use muslins or shawls to drape over their shoulder and the baby for complete protection. I tried it myself and could never work it out – the shawl always slipped off my shoulder – but maybe you are more dextrous than I am. You can also buy purposely designed covers, just Google ‘nursing cover’ or ‘breastfeeding scarf’.

The best bit, though, is the wonderful feeling of bliss that comes with holding your baby tight to feed her, one little hand on your chest, the other tickling your side, her eyes closed, the perfect eyelashes resting lightly on her cheek. Last night, when she had had enough, she looked up at me with a big beaming smile, reached up and pulled my glasses off my nose. Then she giggled at her own funny joke. Love it.

A day late: Prose for Thought

Yesterday was World Poetry Day. I thought I’d honour it by joining in with Victoria Welton’s lovely initiative, Prose for Thought, and posting a poem I wrote this week for my little girl.

Intoxicating

You are asleep, and have been for hours
I have stolen some time away
exulting in a weekly shop at all-night Tesco
or a hot cup of tea at a friend’s.

Then I catch a hint of your scent on my clothes
milk and fabric softener
eczema cream
and just you.

what do I care about these moments of freedom?
in another hour I can hold you close
as you feed in your sleep
one small hand stretched up towards my face
and I’ll be wrapped in your smell and you in mine

(c) Judith Kingston

More poetry here.

Prose for Thought

Things I have done to avoid watching the Numberjacks

The Toddler is obsessed with the Numberjacks. No longer do I get a “Hello Mummy! Nice-a see you!” in the morning. Now it’s “Ah, Mummy. Nummajacks onna way?” All day long he follows me around begging to see our recorded episodes again and again and again. There are only so many times that you can – or should – watch the same four episodes of anything. Sadly, he is in that phase of development where he truly believes that if you just keep asking the same question over and over again, eventually you will get the reply you were hoping for.

Not wanting to relinquish all parental control and have my Toddler sit in front of the TV learning about cylinders all the live long day, I have tried everything I could think of to prise him away. These are all the things I have done to avoid watching the Numberjacks:

1. Re-enact Numberjacks episodes.
This has been quite effective. We have made numbers out of playdough, and the Toddler has gleefully danced them all around the house, ‘looking-a seven, looking-a seven, found a seven!’ Sadly, he has played with them so much that the playdough is going dry and they are starting to crack and fall apart. Every few minutes now he returns to me with a squished handful of playdough: “Mummy, want a three. Make a three Mummy.” It is getting harder and harder to resurrect the numbers, they now crumble in my hand. The result is a very sad Toddler, shrieking “want a threeeeeeee!”

Number 6 supervises a craft activity

Number 6 supervises a craft activity

So I drew him all the Numberjacks on paper. Then we spent quite a bit of time making a house for the Numberjacks in an empty box: gluing on bits of wrapping paper, colouring the inside with felt tips, sticking on glittery number stickers, gluing a picture of a DFS sofa on the inside and then sticking numbers on the sofa. Then we stuck all the paper Numberjacks onto squares of cardboard for durability. This is now a favourite toy and can distract him from the TV for a good fifteen minutes at a time.

Some of his re-enactments are not so great, however, like when Spooky Spoon suddenly turns up in the middle of dinner and there is no longer any eating, just a flying spoon. Sigh.

2. Playing with magnetic numbers.
He hasn’t been in the mood for sticking them on the fridge, but he has spent a happy half hour resting the appropriate magnetic numbers on the cover of his big number book. We have also put them in toy cars and raced them around, and made a miniature ballpool for cuddly toys out of all the magnetic numbers together.

3. Playing Numberjack games on the CBeebies website
This is not my favourite distraction technique, as it means I can’t then use my laptop at all, as he will see it and want to play games instead. But he has in fact learned to use a mouse pad by playing Numberjack games in the space of about twenty minutes.

4. High energy games
While suggestions of nice quiet games are all rejected when he has Numberjacks on the brain – “No, not Duplo. Not Happyland. Not cars. Not drawing.” – running, chasing, racing, football in the garden and dancing are always popular. The trick is not to ask. Just start doing it and he will join in, laughing gleefully. It’s just very tiring for weary parents…

5. A taste of his own medicine
The only time I have managed to get him to actively agree to playing instead of watching the fateful show was when I got incredibly fed up and resorted to acting like, well, a toddler. I threw myself onto the sofa and whined: “I want to play! I want to play!” Requests for Numberjacks stopped instantly. The Toddler rested a very grown up hand on my back and said: “Oh, okay Mummy.”

I had finally spoken to him in a language he understood. Sadly, as this is exactly the kind of behaviour I am trying to discourage in him I won’t be able to use this technique regularly.

How To-Guide: Parenting by Sound

We all know a silent toddler is up to no good. But if you ever want to get any cooking or washing up done you probably do a lot more parenting-by-sound than you realise. Here is a short tutorial for beginners:

Good Sounds – Leave well enough alone

* Buttons being pressed on noisy toys
* Wheels of toy vehicles spinning along the floor
* Singing along to the TV
* Happyland people chatting to each other about daily life, shopping or public transport
* Conversations with cuddly toys about a picnic/tea party. CAVEAT: This is UNLESS you know there to be actual food or drink present in the room where the Toddler is. In which case, go and investigate right away.
* Pencils scratching on paper
* Thick pages being turnedchocolate faces small

Sounds that need investigation

* “Mmmmmm!” You may find your toddler tucking into a huge chocolate bar you had stashed away somewhere for yourself.
* Pencils scratching when you know there is no paper.
* Raucous laughter, esp if teamed with hissing/meowing from the cat
* Rhythmical thuds
* The receiver-off-hook whine coming from the telephone
* Book-thuds or DVD-rattles. You may need to put a halt to a young librarian implementing a new filing system involving piles rather than shelves.
* “Helping Mummy!” Sadly, helping Mummy is rarely a safe activity for toddlers to engage in unsupervised.

Drop Everything And Run

* The front door opening
* “Ah, Mummy cuppa tea!”
* Mountaineering-type sounds
* A loud crash
* Any sound that is followed by high pitched screams/crying

Feel free to share your own classic examples in the comments!

NOTE: The Health and Safety-conscious among you might have spotted that most sounds in the last category could be prevented: lock the front door, don’t leave hot tea where your toddler can reach, fix absolutely everything to the walls, don’t stack or balance heavy things etc etc. I believe there are now professionals who will come to your house for free to tell you where you are going wrong with child-proofing. What an excellent profession! But sadly, in my life – as in yours, I imagine? – risk assessment sometimes takes a back seat to interruptions, nappy emergencies and bad nights’ sleep.

Relief

Whenever the Toddler picks up a new phrase, he starts experimenting with it to determine its appropriate context. A sad one we had recently – which I mentioned here – was “Goway”. He used it to get me to move aside, or to stop interfering with his projects. I tried to introduce more appropriate language for each of these situations with some success, only to be blindsided by a new use for the offending phrase. I had told the Toddler off for something – drawing on the table, pulling Fat Cat’s tail, ripping the pages of a favourite book, something like that – and made it clear that if this happened again he would go onto the Time Out chair. He sat hunched up on his toy aeroplane and summed up my speech for me: “Goway S.”

“No!” I exclaimed, “Not go away S! I love you, I don’t want you to go away. I just want you to stop [using DVDs as shoes]. That’s all.”

His latest new phrase is much more fun. It’s “Phlew!” [phew, but I’m sure you spotted that]. His use of it is original but generally accurate enough. Here are two recent examples:

1. The Baby is screaming in her bouncy chair while I run around trying to find socks, coats, shoes, snowsuits and bags to go out for the afternoon. The Toddler is keeping himself busy rearranging Story Corner with mixed results. There are books everywhere and all the cushions are scattered around the room. I come back in with his outdoor wear and announce, just barely managing to keep my cool, that it is time to go to the Children’s Centre.

“Oh phlew!” the Toddler says, abandoning his interior decorating project.

2. I am baking pancakes for lunch. In good Dutch tradition I start with savoury toppings, so I serve the Toddler a cheese pancake. Not my best effort ever, it is slightly too crisp and not cheesy enough. He picks at it half heartedly and as soon as I go back into the kitchen to bake more, he abandons his plate and gets back to playing. I come in with the second pancake and a squeezy bottle of Dutch syrup.

His face lights up. “Ah! Syrup! Phlew!”

He’d obviously been worried that the whole pancakes-for-lunch idea was going to be a wash out, but what a relief! Mummy has delivered the goods after all.

3. The kids and I have come home from a trip to the supermarket. It is 5pm – that infamous time of day when normally very charming children shatter glass with their screams and empty bookcases in disgust at dinner being tardy. My husband comes out to help get the kids and the shopping in. I gratefully leave him indoors with the children while I go out to get more bags. I come back in. The Baby is crying and the Toddler is jumping on the sofa. He jumps off and runs up to me.

“Oh phlew! Mummy back!” he says.

“He is expressing the sentiments of the entire family,” my Husband sighs.

“Phlew” now joins the ranks of the Toddler’s other favourite phrases, which include:
“Oh bovver!” – “Dear, dear” – “Goodness me!” – “I did it!” – “Come back here” – “Come and see” and “Oy!”

Birthday

It is my birthday today. “Gefeliciteerd!”, we say in the Netherlands, which dictionaries will translate as “congratulations”. We say this, not just to the birthday boy/girl, but to everyone we find in the room at a birthday party: father, mother, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends. “Congratulations on your [best friend]’s birthday!” This always makes my husband laugh. “What exactly is it they have done that I am congratulating them for?” he wanted to know the first time he experienced this curious custom. “Your mother gave birth to you, but what do the other people have to do with it?” It was then I learned that saying ‘congratulations’ in English is usually reserved for achievements. The more accurate translation for ‘gefeliciteerd’ is ‘felicitations’, or ‘good wishes’.

I used to make a massive deal of my birthday every year, never having lost that childlike excitement for getting a year older. I think I was still hoping that this year might be the year that I was old enough to be taken seriously. Although I have now realised that this day will never – and probably should never – come, I still quite enjoy getting older, even now that I am looking at 30 in the rearview mirror. But the excitement about my special day has faded a bit since ha2 taart 2ving children. My first birthday after my son was born I woke up and realised the thrill had dulled. Don’t get me wrong – I have had lovely birthdays since the arrival of my son and I have thoroughly enjoyed them. What is missing is the feeling of being Very Very Important for a day. Instead, I get that thrill for his birthday now. I enjoy having a day to celebrate my son and making him feel special and important. But I myself also feel important  – because it is his birth-day, the day I went through hell to bring him into the world. This now seems like a much more appropriate day to feel a little important than my own birth-day, on which, to be fair, I didn’t achieve anything more impressive than drawing the first of many breaths.

I wonder if my mother still thinks of that moment every year on this day, even now. It probably seems more and more surreal as the years go by and the reality of me-now bears less and less resemblance to that very small, screaming, squirming thing I was on day one.

Giving birth to my son was not cool. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but – oh alright then – it was an instrumental delivery, I lost a lot of blood and needed a transfusion. While I was pregnant I had read books that were meant to be empowering, to help you realise that as a woman you are built to give birth to your baby and that you can do it yourself, no need for medical intervention. The books were meant to be uplifting and encouraging, but after my son was born the memory of their advice made me feel like a failure. I felt like it was my fault that it had come to a forceps delivery: perhaps I had not relaxed enough or I had unresolved issues or whatever. I felt very down for ages and couldn’t think back to the birth without crying. Although I wanted more children, I wasn’t sure that I could go through labour again.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I dreaded having to give birth to her, but resolved to grit my teeth and bear it. I didn’t read the books about natural birth again, although I hadn’t changed my mind about it: I still wanted as little medical intervention as possible, but this time I decided to be more relaxed and open-minded about changes of plan. Good thing, because as it turned out she was coming out feet first. Nobody had picked up on this until I was at the hospital and 3 centimetres dilated. By the time the doctors arrived to decide on a course of action, I was ready to push. I was rushed into theatre but gave birth to her normally – she was small and in much too much of a hurry to wait for scalpels. My husband only barely managed to scrub up in time.

Although my daughter’s birth was possibly even more eventful than my son’s, I felt on top of the world afterwards. I had delivered her normally, even though she was breech, and I got to hold her and feed her in the first hour after she was born. Any lingering guilt or feelings of failure from my first labour were gone: I was superwoman.

So no need to congratulate me today. I have done nothing remarkable other than stay alive. Congratulate my mother, and applaud my accomplishments in the autumn when we will be celebrating three years since my son came into the world amid quite a bit of agony, and one year since my daughter landed safely on her feet.

Lovely Pwesent

At two and five months, the Toddler now understands the concept of buying a present for someone else. He has had a lot of practise in the past week: first it was Z’s birthday. Daddy and the Toddler went to the corner shop for him to pick her a present. His first choice was a Mars bar – not just any old Mars baZoe flowerr, apparently. He gave all of them a little squeeze before settling on the ‘best’ one. My husband encouraged him away from chocolate, however, and the Toddler finally settled on the perfect present: a cuddly flower. He came home and presented it to our friend straight away with great pride, even though her birthday wasn’t until the next day. For the rest of the evening he followed her around asking her pleadingly whether he could play with the flower.

Next it was his little friend’s second birthday. We went to a toy shop to pick her a present. The Toddler browsed the shop for interesting toys for himself while Gran and I found something for his friend. As soon as we got back home with the present, the Toddler was in the bag and poking his finger through the cellophane to inspect it. It had to be hidden until the appropriate time, or I think he would have been giving the present a little trial run to see if it was genuinely fun to play with.

mummy teddyThen yesterday the Toddler went on a little outing to the shops to find a Mother’s Day present. Apparently, the choice was very easy. He made a bee line for this little bear: “Mummy Teddy!” He gave it a test-cuddle, which I gather was successful, as the bear came home. He carried the little bag with the bear himself and as soon as he came in through the door, he handed me the bag triumphantly saying: “Mummy pwesent!”

Clearly, the idea of buying something for somebody else is fun and exciting – the concept of waiting until a particular day to give it to them, however, still needs some work.

Pecking Order

Back in the days when we didn’t have children, we talked about our cats. Friends would come for dinner and tell us cute stories about their kids, which we would counter with: “Oh yes, Fat Cat does the exact same thing!” I’d like to say we were making some ironic comment on parents not being able to talk about anything other than their progeny, but really it was just that we were crazy about our cats and viewed them rather like children. We didn’t think our friends were boring – we thought we were joining in the conversation by sharing cat-anecdotes. Yes, we were those people.

Anyway, soon after getting our cats we observed that there was a very definite hierarchy in the house, evident from the cats’ perception of who the food belonged to. We had been warned before they came to live with us that our new cats should see us eat first, so that they knew who was boss. This was sound advice, I’m sure, but could not be combined with all the other instructions we got from the Cattery about keeping them locked in one room on their own to begin with so they could acclimatise. It was thus that the pecking order was established.

Fat Cat – unsurprisingly – established himself as Alpha Cat. He made sure he ate first, and if Thin Cat tried to eat from the same bowl he got nudged out of the way. If Fat Cat finished before Thin Cat, he would nudge him away from the second bowl too and clean that one as well. Was Thin Cat second in command? By no means. Although Fat Cat quite happily jumped up onto the dining table to steal our food, Thin Cat would cower in a corner and watch. Thus we discovered that this was how the cats saw our family hierarchy:

Alpha: Fat Cat
Beta: Husband
Gamma: Me
Delta: Thin Cat

When I got pregnant, we joked that our new arrival would end up being Epsilon Cat, because Fat Cat would not think he was much of a threat.

We were wrong.

Our son went straight to the top of the tree – everyone else’s dinner had to wait while he was fed. There were interesting milky smells, but the cats were not allowed near. The baby’s needs always superseded the cats’ and he monopolised our laps. Our son was Alpha Cat. He ate first. And everyone moved down, demoting poor Thin Cat to Epsilon status.

Now that the Toddler eats like normal people, he has moved down to his proper place at the bottom of the pile. He is the sucker that will fill up the cats’ bowls to overflowing at random times of the day, because he just loves watching them eat. I think the cats nIMG_0928ow see him as their personal slave. Fat Cat does not hesitate to jump up and try to take over his dinner, oblivious to his stern remonstrations of “No, naughty Pike, S food.”

What happened when the Baby was born, you ask? The cats don’t seem to have the same kind of reverence for her that they had for our firstborn. They’ve got babies pegged now: they just turn into big humans and so become your willing food-dispensing slaves. They look at her and wait. One day she will be able to reach the bag of cat biscuits, and when she does, they will be right there.

So the pecking order has gone back to normal, with Fat Cat at the top, the humans in the middle in descending order of height, and Thin Cat dead last, now Zeta Cat.

Or is he? The other day he was up on the table licking the pate off my toast while my back was turned. We’d better keep an eye on him – he may be staging a coup…