Mannies

The Girl loves tiny people. Happyland, Playmobil, Duplo, Fischer Price – she’s not picky. She loves clutching them in her hand and wandering around with them, making them talk to each other, putting them in little cars.

Mannies

The thing that really tickles me is that she calls them “Mannies”. I think this is her interpretation of the Dutch word mannetjes, which means “little men”.

She’ll walk a tiny Happyland pirate up the stairs, warning him: “Tareful, Mannie!”

Mannie climb

Mannies love climbing. They spend all day going up and down the bookcase, exploring the window sill or the back of the sofa and hopping up on kitchen counters.

mannie bookcase

Mannies are often sad, but thankfully the other Mannies are empathetic and supportive. “Waaa, waaaa. Oh, Mannie cry! What matter, Mannie?”

Mannie2

Mannies don’t always behave as the Girl would wish them to. This one did not want to have a suitcase attached to his head, much to her annoyance.

Mannies get chased by dinosaurs, then make friends with them and go for rides on their back. When asked if they feel like watching TV, a Mannie will always say yes.

Mannies are ubiquitous, male or female, and do not need to be made of plastic.

Oh!” says the Girl, pointing out of the car window at a window cleaner walking by. “Mannie ladder! Haha, funny Mannie.”

 

Mannie walking

Mannie walking

Mannies skating

Mannies skating

Mannies bicycle

Mannies cycling

 

Life Game: Science!

Hey there virtual friends!

Practising for Level 2

Practising for Level 2

It’s the Girl here. Back once more to update you on my exciting new finds in Life Game – giving you all the hacks and cheat codes to help you blag your way through Level 1.

For the past few months I’ve been doing Science! I’m trying to find out more about the mechanics of the world of Life Game, hoping that this will help me level up quicker so I can get to the Terrible Twos (I’ve heard players refer to Level 2 in this way and it sounds pretty badass).

I thought I’d share some of my experiments with you. Maybe they can help you too!

 

Experiment #1: Liquids

liquids
Hypothesis: Water, juice and milk share properties that make them behave in a similar way

Method:
Whenever I am presented with a Drink in a cup, I take a few sips first (of course) and then tip the cup over. I observe and take note of the way each type of Drink affects the environment, including myself, the Brother and the Mummy/Daddy. Then I put the cup upside down on my head and exclaim: “A hat!” and subside into fits of giggles. (That last bit probably isn’t Science but it’s fun)

Findings:
1. Water, juice and milk will all run all over the table, off the edge of the table, into my lap, onto the chair and the floor. They all spread as far as they will go until some spoilsport (*cough* Mummy *cough*) starts mopping it all up.
2. All types of drink will soak into clothing, making it wet. This usually results in near instantaneous removal of the clothing to the Laundry Basket. You can’t get it out of there so you have to find more clothing. Preferably a pirate dress.
3. Whatever Drink you spill, the Brother will tell on you and try to cut your experiment short.
4. Whatever Drink you spill, the Mummy will get very annoyed and start wiping up your experiment with cloths, kitchen roll, tea towels or if things are very desperate, your own dirty juice-soaked clothes that she has just whipped off you. The incident often sparks an interesting question: “Why did you do that AGAIN?” I have no idea what this means, I think “why” comes in Level 3.

Conclusion:
Water, juice and milk appear to be very similar in their properties when spilled. In all cases, things get wet, you lose your clothing and Mummy gets cross.

 

Experiment #2: Height

snakestoolHypothesis: Using objects in your surroundings to get up higher gives you a significant advantage in Life Game.

Method:
I used a variety of objects to get higher up and explore the areas of Life Game that are above head-height. Objects I used were: the Snake stool, various chairs, the sofa, the coffee table, the dining table, the Brother’s bed, various toy boxes and Fat Cat.

Findings:
1. Chairs gives you access to the Dining Table, where you can help yourself to fruit (eat first, ask later through a mouth full of half-masticated pear), but BE CAREFUL! Chairs can topple over and you might end up on the floor again with the fruit bowl on top of you. (Put a couple of apples in your inventory while crying, before the Mummy tidies them all away again).
2. Stools are excellent because you can carry them around and they unlock a whole range of new activities, such as “Help with the Washing Up”, “Wash hands”, “Brush own teeth” and “Do Cooking”.
3. Another warning: The Mummy is a bit of a buggy NPC and is riddled with inconsistencies. Although she claims to want help with washing up and cooking, for some reason when you do Climb and want to grab a sharp knife to get stuck into chopping carrots, this is suddenly not okay and you get re-set to the Duplo.
4. Cats might seem like the perfect height-gain-object, as they are easy to mount and moveable, but they have some serious drawbacks. They wriggle out from under you, run away and hide and, worst case scenario, attack you with their Claws (which hit on a 2 and cause D6 damage. I say stay out of their way).

Conclusion:
Using Climb on an object gives you access to new activities and areas that are otherwise inaccessible, although some objects are more useful than others for gaining height. Also, gaining height causes you to lose influence points on the Mummy who gets cross.

 

Experiment #3: Magic

magic
Hypothesis: When used correctly, a long stick shaped object can be used to change people into animals

Method:
I used a number of long objects (lolly stick, plastic spatula, actual stick) to Do Magic. I did this first by waving the wand in the air and saying: “Ready? MAGIC!” Then I tried: “Magic…. FROG!”. Finally, I tried repeatedly saying the magic words: “A-draba…. BONK!”

Findings:
1. The Mummy did not turn into a frog. I had to say “Ribbit, ribbit” myself to help her out.
2. “Adraba BONK!” made the Brother laugh a lot.
3. The Mummy started telling everyone about my Magic experiments. I then performed my favourite spell for them and they all laughed and gave me cuddles.

Conclusion:
Waving sticks does not change people into animals, but it does make them laugh and give you hugs. It doesn’t make the Mummy cross.

 

OVERALL CONCLUSION:

After a month or two of experimentation my overall findings regarding the workings of Life Game are that mostly, Science makes the Mummy cross, but Magic makes her happy.

 

HTH Gamers, see you again in the next instalment of Life Game!

 

Hugs & kisses,

The Girl

The Nativity – in Duplo

The Husband & the Fairy Godmother recently made a stop-motion animation of the nativity with our kids’ Duplo, using fishing wire and kitchen roll to create flying angels. This was for work. I’m going to leave that thought hanging there while I carry on with my story, but suffice it to say, the project proved that we had in our Duplo collection all the most important pieces to create a nativity scene.

As they had finished, I had bagged up all the figures ready to return to the Duplo box. Then suddenly I had a thought. Here in my hand was an honest to God, ready made “story sack” with which I could tell my tiny people the Christmas story.

The next morning, I prised the Boy and the Girl away from Team Umi-Zoomi (the new craze) and sat them down near the Christmas tree.

“I’m going to tell you a story,” I announced.

The Boy’s eyes wandered longingly back to the living room where the TV is.

I took his Numberjacks from his arms and placed them by the tree. “There, number 3 is all ready to hear the story, and so is number 4, and 5 and number 6 [= the artist formerly known as Teddy]). Are you ready too?”

He was ready.

Numberjack 5, listening attentively to the Christmas story

Numberjack 5, listening attentively to the Christmas story

I took items out of the bag one by one and told the story, building it up as I built up the scene. First I introduced the stable and its inhabitants. The Boy provided the noise for each animal as we placed it in the stable, then he put them around their manger to eat. That evening, Mary and Joseph arrived on their donkey, looking for a place to sleep.

“They asked the animals: can we sleep in your house tonight? We can’t find a bed anywhere! What do you think the animals said?” I foolishly asked the Boy.

“They said no!” he supplied merrily.

“They said yes, actually,” I corrected tersely. “They were very friendly animals.”

Then there was drama in the night, and the baby was born. But oh dear, where could the baby sleep? The manger was invitingly placed front and centre. I gave the Boy the Duplo baby and asked him to find a place for it.

“I know!” he said, and evicted all the animals from the main stable building, ready to put baby Jesus there.

“Or how about this?” I hastily put in, holding up the manger, “This could be a good place for a baby to sleep. Shall we put some hay in to make baby Jesus comfortable?”

The Boy and the Girl industriously collected fallen pine needles from under the tree and placed them in the tiny manger with tiny fingers (which saved me some hoovering later in the day, bonus!). Baby Jesus went on top, and his proud parents stood to either side.

Baby Jesus in his manger, cow and pig in the stable, chickens on the roof. All is right with the world.

Baby Jesus in his manger, cow and pig in the stable, chickens on the roof. All is right with the world.

“Jesus was no ordinary baby,” I explained, “He was God’s son. So God put a beautiful bright star in the sky, just above the stable, to show where Jesus was so people could find him and visit him.” I took out the one Christmas decoration we hadn’t put up yet (as it had been in use for the stop-motion animation), the star. I hung it above the tree and our little scene.

“Wow!” said the Boy in awe. “Is a velly big star.”

The shepherds (one of them in a zoo keeper’s outfit, but neither of them can read so I figured it would be okay) followed the star and arrived with their one sheep, followed swiftly by the wise men with their presents for Jesus. They all gathered round and said thank you to God for the baby.

I had to get creative with the gold, frankincense and myrrh. Bonus points if you guess which random item is meant to be which gift...

I had to get creative with the gold, frankincense and myrrh. Bonus points if you guess which random item is meant to be which gift…

To my utter surprise, the kids were actually engaged and paid attention throughout the whole thing. We then found that lots of our usual activities could link in to the story:

Beautiful sticker advent calendar

Beautiful sticker advent calendar

The Boy’s advent calendar – he could identify the stable, the animals, the shepherds and the wise men.

It's not spelled wrong, okay, it's Dutch.

It’s not spelled wrong, okay, it’s Dutch.

We had to use a magnetic letter to supplement.

We had to use a magnetic letter to supplement.

The Boy suggested using the alphabet puzzle to spell some key words. He chose ‘Jesus’ and ‘Baby’, both of which had repeating letters, so I had to be a little creative (see above).

The Girl carried the story on for herself, and spent most of the rest of the day trying to get a wise man, the baby Jesus, Mary, a shepherd, ANYBODY, to sit. on. the. donkey. She managed it once and was very proud.

photo (14)

That evening, Daddy had finished editing the stop motion animation and came down to show us all.  We gathered round the laptop and my husband pressed play. The Boy’s eyes grew wide with wonder. There it was! The story from the morning, but the characters were moving, and there were flying angels! The Girl also bounced up and down in excitement. When the story reached its conclusion, the Boy pointed at the baby in the manger and exclaimed: “Baby Jesus!”

I wiped a proud little tear from my eye. Learning had taken place. 

You can see the animations here (Shepherd’s Hear the News) and here (Wise Men Visit Herod).

What we do when we’re not watching television

This past week we have been holed up at home in quarantine with chicken pox. Thankfully the Boy doesn’t seem to be suffering too much with it – perhaps being an eczema-veteran means he doesn’t notice a bit of extra itchiness here and there. I wasn’t too sure how I’d cope with being at home so much. I like to plan outings most days: seeing friends or visiting Gran, going into town or to a play cafe, visiting the library or the playground. But after having already potentially infected about 9 different little children just before we noticed the spots I thought it best not to spread the love any further, cancel all play dates and avoid public places.

Actually, it has been really nice being at home. Turns out my high stress level is at least in part due to trying to get two children out of the house and into buggies and cars. We have watched quite a bit of television, but we have actually also had a lovely time playing and doing drawing and craft. Most of it was re-enacting what the Boy had been watching on TV, but that counts, right?

When the weather was nice, we played in the garden. The Boy invented his very own messy play game, making mud and pretending to pour slop into the ship’s mess (Swashbuckle). It was actually a mash up with Roary the Racing Car. The two cars you see in the ship’s mess are Roary and “Roary’s friend”.

DSCF4434

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Re-enacting television shows continues indoors. We have had endless fun with the cars, the garage and the car-rug playing Roary. Sometimes the Girl is allowed to play too, but she is never allowed to touch Roary.

Oh no! Roary's broken! Big Crisp [Chris] fix it.

Oh no! Roary’s broken! Big Crisp [Chris] fix it.

Cbeebies pirate game show Swashbuckle is a source of lots of frantic running around and dangerous capers, as the Boy jumps off the side of the sofa shouting “Walk the plank! Walk the plank!” We have used coloured bricks to represent jewels and hidden them around the house, then we rush around trying to find them while the Boy yells “Time running out! 3, 2, 1, yay!” He actually hides them himself, and then wants to find them himself, which suits me fine.

Then Z, our lodger, turned out to own an actual, honest to God jewel. Well, a diamond-shaped paperweight but close enough. Since she showed it to the Boy, it has been almost impossible to prise it out of his hands. The first evening found him sitting hunched up on the sofa with it, muttering “Love-a jewel. Is mine now.” Yes, he had turned into Gollum.

The Precious

The Precious

We have had quite a lot of mileage out of the bricks this week, actually. They have been used as a tiny cat playground:

Weeeee!

Weeeee!

And they became a house for Upsy Daisy:

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DSCF4294

DSCF4289

And what about the Girl? Well, she likes toys, but she prefers to play with the wet wipes, the remote control and my bag. She also likes crawling under the table to see if there are any left-overs from last night’s dinner to hoover up. We got her a fancy walker with a ‘play tray’.

Everything a ten month old baby could want, surely.

Everything a ten month old baby could want, surely.

But when I put her in it, thinking I could maybe do some washing up, she cries and whines – until I take the play tray off and give her a cardboard box and some pegs. Then she’s happy.

A child's hand is easily filled, as we say in the Netherlands.

A child’s hand is easily filled, as we say in the Netherlands.

So quarantine has been quite a positive experience, with an unusually low number of tantrums and irrational crying fits – and that’s just me.

Pretend Living

I love being a grown up. I love the fact that sometimes people believe what I say now, that they seem to think I know what I’m talking about. And I like having a house of my own and filling it with stuff. I just sometimes wish I was better at keeping it tidy and clean. Sometimes there is a run of several days where I have occupied myself with more interesting things than housework and it becomes so bad that it really gets me down. It is on those days that I wish I was a child again, when even cleaning had a mysterious sheen of glamour about it, something special that grown-ups did that meant you were Big.

This poem is about how really I’d quite like to move into my children’s Wendy house.

Doing pretend washing up

Doing pretend washing up

Pretend living

My dream house is standing in my garden right now
Blue roof, pink door, little shutters
open shut open shut
endlessly
spend the day
just open shuttering
Then hiding away inside in the shade
Plastic tap, pretend cooking, a pretend cup of tea

I spent most of my childhood pretending to be
Mary Poppins, ballerina, a barmaid,
or just an older version of me
older smarter
spend the day
rowing my bicycle like a canoe
pretend nineteenth century laundry
teaching skating to students only visible to me

Real life isn’t always what the Wendy house promised
Real cooking, real laundry, real washing up,
cycle recycle plodding on
endlessly
spend the day
making money and plates dirty
Then hiding away under the duvet: can it just go away?
If I wish really hard, will it all turn to plastic and back into a game?

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Linking up to Prose for Thought.

A week in Nininand

It has been a busy week so far in Nininand and there is much to reflect on, but today I would like to give you a more visual impression of an Exceedingly Dutch Week.

In the month leading up to our visit, the Toddler put a sticker on a calendar every morning to count down to our departure. By the time we got to number 9, he was pretty solid on the concept of “tomorrow”, as evidenced by our bedtime conversations: “And tomorrow, number 9, and then 8, and then 7, and then 6, and then 5, and then 4, and then 3, and then 2, and then 1, and then: opa oma Nininand!”

count down calendar

Numbers on the calendar written by the Toddler himself, using a stencil set.

His very exciting new bed at Opa and Oma's house.

His very exciting new bed at Opa and Oma’s house.

He has surprisingly not once asked to watch Numberjacks, and has taken a liking to Dutch Mickey Mouse Clubhuis and Dutch Sesamestreet instead. This meant I could finally produce my 26 year old Sesamestreet colouring book for him. It soon derailed into “Mummy, seven?” Groan.

Everything is better with addednumbers.

Everything is better with added numbers.

Picking his own apples in the supermarket

Picking his own apples in the supermarket

Koffietijd (coffee time) - a Dutch institution. Toddler joins in with a beaker of milk.

Koffietijd (coffee time) – a Dutch institution. Toddler joins in with a beaker of milk.

Lego. Also 20 years old. Still awesome.

Lego. Also 20 years old. Still awesome.

Very Dutch Lego.

Very Dutch Lego.

Most Dutch houses have a built-in attachment for a flag pole, for festive occasions like the Queen’s (now the King’s) birthday, Liberation Day or someone in your house having passed their school exams. Or just because you are selling nice fish, as is the case in the picture below. Worth celebrating.

Flags. Because there are fish. Of course.

Flags. Because there are fish. Of course.

My parents have a dishwasher. Hurray!

My parents have a dishwasher. Hurray!

My Mum's list of what is in the fridge and freezer.

My Mum’s list of what is in the fridge and freezer.

Oma's slippers are a wonderful toy if you are 7 months old.

Oma’s slippers are a wonderful toy if you are 7 months old.

The Toddler's very own, mini supermarket, complete with miniature food you can sell to Opa for a cent or two.

The Toddler’s very own mini supermarket, complete with miniature food you can sell to Opa for a cent or two.

Learning the Dutch alphabet, in which P is for umbrella and S is for turtle. It's a whole other language, I tell you!

Learning the Dutch alphabet, in which P is for umbrella and S is for turtle. It’s a whole other language, I tell you!

They also slot into this cool bus.

They also slot into this cool bus.

I have done a lot of freelance work while I’ve been here. And a lot of writing of various sorts. I feel a little sad that I have barely spent time with my parents in the evenings as I have been staring at this very screen most of the time. I am starting to feel a bit like the Toddler when he sees me tip-tapping away on the laptop again: Nuff Puter!

Nuff puter, Mama.

Nuff puter, Mama.

Just a few more days and we will say goodbye to Nininand. What will the Toddler miss the most? Will it be Opa and Oma? Will it be Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? Will it be baking number biscuits? Will it be the Lego? Tune in next week to find out…

Time to learn

I love Penelope Leach. I’m going to come right out and say it. My love affair started long ago when I was in my early teens and I found one of her parenting tomes, cracked spine and well-thumbed, on a shelf in my parents’ junk room. Once I’d discovered it, I often snuck in there in unguarded moments (somehow I felt this was an illicit activity) to find out how to bring myself up.

When I was about to become a parent myself, I randomly decided to read everyone but her. I think the memory of the seventies-style cover of the book my parents owned made me think she must be Old and Out of Date. So I read Gina Ford (talk about out of date!) and the Baby Whisperer and Dr Miriam Stoppard. It wasn’t until I was seven months pregnant with baby number 2 that I found “Your Baby & Child” by Penelope Leach (in a very modern-looking binding) in a charity shop for the appealing price of £1, and decided to see what she had to say. I have been dipping in and out of her book every since, mainly reading about toddlers, and everything she says just makes such perfect sense.

Here is something I read in a section on how to join in with toddler play that made me rethink my life:

“Try, sometimes, to arrange unlimited time for [your toddler’s] games. Many toddlers have to nag ceaselessly in order to get a grudging game from an adult and then they spend most of the 10 minutes allotted to them waiting for the dread words: “that’s enough”. You cannot play with him all day but […] do try, sometimes, to seem willing or even eager, to play yourself, and let him have the luxury of going on until he is ready to stop. He learns by continuous repetition. If ball-rolling is on today’s agenda, he may need to roll a ball for 20 minutes at a time.” (Penelope Leach, 2003, Your Baby & Child, p. 408.)

(The fancy referencing and the elipsis and such are for you, Dad.)

I read this and realised that I am always limiting my playtime with the Toddler. I will play with him for a little bit, but I am always plotting an exit strategy to get back to Important Things like the washing up or Twitter. As an excellent parenting course I attended put it: I am always half-busy. Never with my mind completely on my children, or completely on something else, but always doing both at once and not giving my best, full attention to either. This is not something to beat myself up over, though of course I do, because it is normal. There is not enough time in the day to spend every second completely focused on either the children or the house work or being self-employed, because something will end up not done. You have to multi-task sometimes.

However, I decided that I can, once a day, give the Toddler my unlimited time and attention for something he wants to do, and not stop until he wants to stop. I have tried it with playing his favourite game, Doodlebugs, which is actually very enjoyable. It is no hardship to spend 20 minutes playing Doodlebugs, or playing football, or drawing numbers on the pavement with chalk. And the thing I secretly fear – that he will never ever want to stop – is not true. He does eventually tire and want to do something else. Just not as quickly as I do. But that is okay.

I am not just telling you about all this to show how I am growing as a parent and a human being. There is something in particular that struck me about this passage from Penelope Leach’s book: “He learns by continuous repetition. If ball-rolling is on today’s agenda, he may need to roll a ball for 20 minutes at a time.” (Leach, 2003, p. 408) (for you, Dad) The reason my Toddler – and, it turns out, any toddler – wants to play or do the same thing for hours on end is not because he is obsessed, not because he is a bit boring, but because he is learning. 

A case in point: This weekend, the Toddler was playing in the garden while my husband was cooking on the barbecue – this was a fascinating new phenomenon. To observe it better, the Toddler ran inside to get an apple and installed himself on a garden chair with a good view of Daddy.

“Doing, Daddy?”
“I’m doing the barbecue. What are you doing, S?”
“I’m doing apple.”
[pause for munching]
“Doing, Daddy?”
My husband said they must have had this exact conversation about twenty times in a row. When the apple was gone, our son ran inside, got a pear and carried on where he had left off, except now he was “doing pear”. Daddy, being a good sport, was very happy to keep going for as long as the Toddler wanted to. What was he learning? I imagine he was learning about chatting, about turn-taking, about how you can use the verb ‘to do’ to describe an activity, but primarily about how you ask and answer questions, which is a relatively new feature of the Toddler’s language.

A while back, I wrote about the wonders of self-education. I have been looking on, in awe, as my son has taught himself to count and to recognise letters and their sounds, while I have spent my professional life witnessing British teenagers come out of secondary school unable to spell or do simple maths. The question I asked in that post was: what has gone wrong between the joyful self-education of the pre-school years and the antagonistic reluctance to be educated that you find in schools? Now I ask it again. It would seem that toddlers are built for learning. By instinct, they know what to do. They find something that interests them and they are not quite competent at yet, and they explore, experiment and repeat repeat repeat until they have mastered it. We don’t need to teach them how to learn. They know. In fact, we’re mostly the ones trying to stop them doing it.

So, let’s start the debate once more. What do you think? If we start from scratch and invent school as if it had never existed, what would it look like? How can we use what children are born with to help them learn? Should we have listened to Socrates? Or Montessori? Or just Penelope Leach? Tell me what you think in the comments and let’s re-imagine education!

PS: If you haven’t already, watch this amazing TED-talk by Ken Robinson on the subject.

Learning is taking place: even exciting new moulds could not measure up against the joy of just getting Mummy to make more numbers out of Play-doh

Learning is taking place: even exciting new moulds could not measure up against the joy of just getting Mummy to make more numbers out of Play-doh

The Sandpit

IMG_8209sLadies and Gentlemen, this week saw a momentous occasion in the life of my family and my blog.

My husband built a sandpit in our garden.IMG_8105s

A real, actual sandpit.

My decision to keep my children’s faces off this public blog sadly prevents me from showing you the sheer joy on our Toddler’s face at the discovery that there was a sandpit in hisIMG_8365s garden, for him to play in. “And your sister!” we quickly added, because we could see where this would be going: “No Baby, is my sandpit. No play.”

For the significance of the sandpit, I refer you to my very first post, where I explain how the Toddler used the word to express extreme excitement. His language and understanding have come on a lot since then – dare I say: sadly – and we don’t hear it so much anymore.

So now he has his very own sandpit. He has asked to play in it, rain or shine, every day since it arrived.

Rather than tell long stories, today I just want to share these lovely photos with you that my husband took on that very first afternoon. The sleeves below belong to our friend Z, who taught him how to fill up his bucket and make sandcastles. Impatient Toddler thought a third of a bucket’s worth of sand should be plenty, but he soon took over Z’s instructions and muttered: “Bit more, bit more” as he kept scooping sand until we said that was really was enough and it was time to turn it over.

IMG_8114s

Our sandcastle bucket has bricks. Oh yeah. Tesco’s finest.IMG_8250sBricks in the sand. Toes in the sand.

IMG_8412sEvery castle needs a flower on top. IMG_8484sSandy fingers

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The Baby having her first play in the sand.IMG_8503s

Teeny tiny sandy fingers.

Play!

Having just shared some of my bad parenting moments, I thought it was a time for some of the good stuff. Yesterday, I made Story Corner:

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It has proven very popular. We sat down and read four or five books together, then I went to cook dinner and the Toddler stuck around to read a bit more by himself. After bedtime, Fat Cat decided it was the perfect place for a snooze.

The Toddler remembered this morning and ran towards it when he came downstairs shouting “Tory corner!” – I assume he means ‘story’, but it is always possible that he expects to meet David Cameron there.

We have also been having fun with Duplo. The Toddler reverently lifted this magnificent creation out of the box first:

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I’m sure it is instantly obvious, but just in case it isn’t, this is Mount Doom, with the Duplo baby acting as Frodo and the little Scotty dog playing the part of Gollum. It was created by our friend Z., who made it with great architectural skill, even ensuring it had that little walkway on the inside for dropping rings off of. The chicken is purely decorative.

Then Mount Doom had to make way for IJsie’s house:

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IJsie de IJsbeer – or Icy the Polar Bear if you prefer – is both a skilled and a domesticated bear. He lives in this little house and is most usually seen driving his car:

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His attempts at flight, however, have been less successful and ended in a rather unfortunate accident this morning.

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Don’t worry, I’m sure the intrepid little bear will be up and about again in no time.

In which Thin Cat Suffers

7am. The Toddler is feeding the cats endless handfuls of dry cat food until their bowls are overflowing. The cats are appreciatively nomming away, their tails relaxed on the floor. The Toddler spots them and wants to see what happens when you step on tails. What happens is that Thin Cat runs away as if the hounds of hell are after him and hides under the table in the dining room.

The Toddler is in pursuit.

Toddler: Oh Mummy, quick! Catch Thin Cat! Thin Cat! Eten [food]!

He spots the cat hiding under the table.

Toddler: Cat tafel [table]. Naughty cat. Thin Cat eat. Not hiding table.

He crawls under the table to retrieve the cat, who runs off, back to the kitchen. The Toddler is once again in pursuit.

Toddler: Yes! Cat honger [hungry]!

As soon as Thin Cat sees the Toddler coming, he runs back to the dining room to hide under the table once more.

Toddler: Haha! Fun! Catch you!

Peers under table.

Toddler: Boo! Dinosaur, grrrrr.

Toddler: Oh, gone!