Life Game: Potty Training Edition

Dearest Gamers,

Sorry for the long silence, but I’ve been very busy navigating my way through all the complex quests in Level 2. I won’t go into all of the stuff I’ve been doing now (the coup I staged on the Brother’s pre-school deserves a post all of its own I think) because right now I want to talk you through the Potty Training quest.

At some point during Level 2 I was given a scroll, signed by the Mummy. It said:

“Congratulations! You are now a Big Girl. I have removed all nappies from your inventory and replaced them with Pants with Cartoon Characters and Anthropomorphised Fruit on. From now on, when you perform Wee or Poo actions on the Potty or Toilet, you will receive 1 Sweet.”onderbroeken

I have to say I was a bit dazzled by this news to begin with, for several reasons:

1. I’d always been a Little Girl. What was involved in being a Big Girl? Would I still get to wrap up in a massive towel and Play Baby? Would I still get hugs?

2. I checked my stats, but I hadn’t gained any height. How was I going to get up onto the toilet? I can’t even get onto the space hopper! Or the balance bike!

3. Sweets had always been a precious commodity, rarely available in the house, and if they were in stock, they were usually enchanted by the Fairy Godmother with a “Mine”-spell. Were they now really freely available? Just by weeing or pooing in the potty? It seemed like there must be a hidden trap somewhere.

So I gave it a go a few times. I weed on the floor – got wet. I weed on my chair – got wet. I weed in the potty – got a sweetie, as promised. I tried the toilet too, which was even better, as it comes not just with sweets but with a whole flushing routine. Finally I was actually allowed, nay, required to press the awesome Button of Rushing Water.

The only trouble is: how do you know when to sit on the potty in order to get a sweetie? I started off trying as often as possible for maximum sweetie-revenue, but sometimes I’d just sit there with no result, getting more and more frustrated. The Mummy would say “Never mind, just try again later. When you feel like you need to do a wee, go straight to the potty, okay?”

I wanted to say: “But I am not yet fully aware of the urge to urinate and my response is therefore often as not, too late.”

Sadly, that was not a conversation option at Level 2.

So, rather than working out this tricky “urge” and knowing just when to go, I have been working on an alternate, subversive strategy for sweet acquisition that I would like to share with you all here.

But shhhhh, this is super-secret.

What you do is: turn the tables on the Mummy and potty train her instead.

The trick is to turn up the pressure on the Mummy to such a degree that she gives up on waiting for you to learn to recognise when you need to go, and just works out when she needs to put you on the potty on time for you to do a wee.

Turning up the pressure is easy:

1. Choose your friends carefully: only associate with fully potty trained model toddlers. They will make the Mummy feel embarrassed that you are still not trained.

2. Puddles: make as many as you can, in as many different places as you can. And be sure to look adorably distressed at the result. This dials up both the Embarrassment and the Sympathy. I can recommend the pharmacy as an excellent place for a puddle, as well as a grown up friend’s new carpet. Puddles that destroy stuff are even better: try weeing on puzzles or library books.

3. Regularity: time your puddles. Make sure it is a pattern that is easy to recognise though, Mummies can be a bit dim. As soon as she notices the pattern she will find it impossible to resist the urge to beat you to it and put you on the potty just before it is puddle-time.

It’s brilliant. I’ve got my Mummy pretty well trained now and the sweets and congratulatory cuddles just keep on coming. I’m just hoping that she doesn’t cotton on it’s actually her that’s doing it, or she might start pocketing the winnings for herself.

Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on!

Love & kisses,

The Girl

girl in garden

The extent to which a two year old understands what you are saying

photo 1 (4)“Taking Turns” Is Just A Way to Get Your Hands on A Toy You Want

Boy: Here, you can hold my cuddly for two minutes. Then it’s my turn.
Girl: Yes! Thank you!
Boy: (a little later) Okay, the two minutes are over. It’s my turn now.
Girl: (wails inconsolably) NOOOOOO MY TUUUUUURN!!!!!!! MUMMY, S. SNATCHED MY TUDDLY!!!!

Time – There Is Only Now

Me: In two sleeps we’re going to play at Mary’s house!
Girl: I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SLEEP!!
Me: You’re not going to sleep now, it’s the middle of the day. I said we’re going to see Mary on Tuesday, in two days. Two sleeps.
Girl: YAY! We go to Mary! I get my shoes and coat on.
Me: Not now! In two sleeps!
Girl: I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP, I NOT TIRED!

Life Game: I made it to Level 2!!!

Hey there Life Gamers,

 

Well, I did it. I made it to level 2! And boy is it amazing. Let me give you a run down:

Levelling up gets better and better

Last year when I reached Level 1 there was a bit of fuss (cupcakes, a pretty dress, a shape sorter bus), but it turns out that levelling up just gets better as you go up the levels. This year when I levelled up there was a cake with TINY EDIBLE FLOWERS (I knew it. All tiny objects in Life Game are actually made of sugar. No one is going to stop me trying ‘Eat’ on tiny objects ever again!). Also, the Living Room had transformed and there were paper garlands and balloons everywhere.

Then there were lots of amazing new toys for my inventory. There was a little house with two tiny rabbits to live in it (+10 Imagination, +15 Happiness). The little rabbits had a tiny little stove with a tiny little pan with a tiny little omelette – obviously I had to try Eat on the omelette, having just discovered that probably everything is made of sugar, like I said. Then the omelette and several other tiny items disappeared and I haven’t found them again. Weird.

There was also a Peppamog Pig tree house (+10 Fun) and some books (+5 Wisdom each, +10 Knowledge of the World) and…

… a new henchman. A travelling companion to accompany me on all my adventures. Yes, when I levelled up I got my very own, cuddly Mog the cat. Words cannot express my joy. Mog has not left my side since this day and has been a source of much happiness.

But anyway, on to the new skills and other features that come with Level 2:

 

+20 Willpower

Who would have thought you’d get such a massive boost? Clearly there are going to be a lot of difficult confrontations with high level sorcerers and so on in this level. The increase in willpower can be used for all sorts of important things, like avoiding having to wear a coat. What you do is Stamp Feet, Pout Lip, Fold Arms and then choose the Princess conversation options: “NO, not coat! I PWINCESS!!”

NOT COAT

NOT COAT!

It is also absolutely essential for avoiding getting poisoned. At some point you will find that the Mummy tries to feed you some rubbish about having to take this medicine because it is good for you blah blah blah (I stopped listening). You MUST NOT allow this medicine to pass your lips, because it is actually POISON. You can see from the red glow around the bottle. The best thing to do here is Flail Arms, Turn Head Away, Cry, and just shout NO as much as you can. If you make good rolls on your willpower the Mummy will probably start crying too and give up. But hide her phone because she might try Phoning for Help and then you are screwed.

Finally, if you fail a Willpower check, the best way to save the situation is by attacking the character that beat you. At Level 2 you have some powerful new weapons that can be used for a retaliation attacks: Grump, Huff, Spit, Push and Whack.

 

Jump

How awesome is jump? I knew it was going to be great. I’ve been trying to copy the Brother for ages, and for a while I thought all you had to do was bend your knees and say “Jump!”, but it turns out what you really need to do is level up. Now I can do it! I can make both my feet lift off the ground at the same time! This is the beginning of great things, I can feel it. At level 3 I can probably pick Flying.

 

Mimic

This guy got it all wrong.

This guy got it all wrong.

Source: RiddlewraithRP3

Putting all that XP into Imagination has really paid off. At level 2 I had enough Imagination to pick an excellent Special Ability called Mimic. This allows you to take on the characteristics of another character or an animal, which allows you to take part in Pretend Games with the Brother, or to sneak past the security in heavily guarded special areas in order to acquire precious and rare objects (this last use is still just a theory, but I am expecting great results on my imminent trip to the Tower of London). This is how to use Mimic: basically, you select who or what you want to be and simply declare it, followed by an explanatory sound:

“I’m a cat! Meow, meow!”

“I’m Milli! Milli measure!” (Milli from Team Umizoomi, of course)

“I’m an aeroplane! Neeeeeeeeeeeow!”

Finally, laugh loudly at your own funny joke. Repeat until tired or hungry.

 

stripesChoosing Robes

Another fantastic use for your Willpower is combining it with your Charisma to choose your own robes. It turns out that you don’t just have to wear whatever the Mummy puts on you in the morning. You can use Speak Language (English) or Speak Language (Dutch) to indicate your preferences and then the Mummy, charmed by your charisma and coerced by your willpower, will usually take those items out of your clothing chest and help you put them on. So if you run into me in Life Game nowadays, you’ll see me rocking the stripes (“Striiiiiiipes!!!”) or starry tights (“Look Mummy! Stars!”) or anything with cute animals on it (“Chute!”)

 

Expressing Love

I would like to finish this report on the joys of level 2 by disclosing a secret. I have discovered a never ending source of Happiness. I used Listen to discover what it is that the Mummy and the Daddy and the Brother say to me when they give me those wonderful hugs that fill up my Hug-bar. Then I combined Speak with Express Feelings to do the same. Let me tell you, saying “I’m love you” to your family just increases all the hugs and kisses. It turns out, when you give out love, you get even more back and your Happiness is for ever and always overflowing. Especially when you use bad grammar to do it (+5 Cute).

 

Well, Gamers, I have no idea what is ahead in the levels to come, but I feel like I’ve pretty much cracked it already here at Level 2. I am invincible and full off happiness and love and I’m wearing a pretty butterfly top. What more could anyone want?

Keep at it, all of you, and see you on the forums!

Love & kisses,

The Girl

 

Important note to regular readers: you may have noticed that there have not been very many new secrets in the sandpit. The Mummy has decided to focus more on creative writing, so posts on here are going to be few and far between. If you want to keep up with Mummy’s poetry and fiction, come and follow her other blog: http://judithkingston.wordpress.com/

Loud ‘n Proud: Independence is Messy

mummy's shoesTheoretically, this whole business of bringing up children is all about teaching them to be independent.

Is it bad that I kind of like them being dependent? Or rather, I would love them to be independent, but I severely dislike all the hassle of getting them there.

The other day I was at a friend’s house, and we fell silent when her nearly 3 year old wandered into where we were chatting, carrying a cup of milk.

“Did you get that yourself?” my friend asked him.

“Yeah,” he told her (to rhyme with “Duh”), sipping his milk.

When we had both finished having retrospective heart attacks, my friend told me that her sons do this more and more often now: they open the fridge, rummage around and pour themselves drinks.

Mine don’t, I thought. I squash that kind of initiative as soon as I see the thought developing in the Boy’s mind. I picture a lake of milk on the kitchen floor that I will need to clean up – and I hate cleaning. Carrying food or drinks around the house? No way, too much opportunity for spillage and breakage. Getting things out of cupboards? Nope. My cupboards are messy and precariously stacked – pulling the wrong item out in the wrong way will cause an avalanche. Let Mummy do it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that my children moving from stage to stage, gaining independence, doing things for themselves terrifies me. I get used to the status quo, fit my life around it, and then they go and change things up and mess up my systems. This goes for the Boy at pre-school age, and doubly so for my little girl, who is nearly two.

I like carrying the Girl up and down the stairs, strapping her into her booster seat at the table, putting her in a corner with her Mannies and letting her

Please. Just sit here and play.

Please. Just sit here and play.

play while I work. I like it when she drinks out of sippy cups and eats everything I put in front of her. I like dressing and undressing her, scooping her up and plonking her in the car so we can leave the house ten minutes before we need to collect the Boy from pre-school. I like her sleeping in her cot.

But the time for these things is fading.

Lopen! [walk]” she insists and wriggles out of my arms. She wants to walk herself.

“Stairs!” she shouts, and I am not even allowed to hold the doll or the big book she wants to carry down with her as she takes step by reckless step.

Klimmen! [climb]” she shrieks, and I have to put her down next to the car and tear my hair out as she first winds down her window, then painfully slowly, slipping and getting a better grip, she clambers into her car seat herself and we tear down country lanes and arrive breathlessly at pre-school, catching the teacher with the phone in her hand ready to call and find out where I am.

“Open! Juicy!” she commands, climbing onto the little stool that she has carried into the kitchen herself, plonking the sippy cup angrily onto the work surface. She keeps a close eye on me as I take the lid off, fill it with a dash of juice and plenty of water, and offer it to her, lid off, on one condition: “Sit down! Sit down to drink!” I tell her. She yanks the cup out of my hands again and drains it, standing up on the stool.

She can do it. She’s nearly two.

Tonight, it was like she offered me a choice.

She pooed in the bath.

“Oh! Poo!” she said, surprised.

“No! Poo! Quick, get out!” the Boy shrieked hysterically and climbed out of the bath.

While I cleared up the mess, I offered the Girl the potty to sit on. “Haha! Potty!” she exclaimed in glee. She stood up and sat back down several times. When I had contained the problem and cleaned the most urgent things I was ready to shoo her off the potty and get her back into a nappy.

“No! Potty!” she insisted and walked back and sat on it again. I let her and helped the Boy dry his hair. Then we heard a sound.

“She’s doing a wee!” The Boy exclaimed in delight.

We both hugged and praised the Girl for being so clever. She got to flush the wee down the toilet herself and as a special treat, got to wash her hands standing on the step by the wash basin.

I considered this little vignette she had presented me with: what do you want mother? Do you want to scoop poo out of the bath forever, or shall I grow up and learn to take care of myself, step by messy step?

Of course, like always in parenting, it wasn’t a real choice. She is going to become independent, whether I like it or not. So I will embrace it, and offer her the opportunities to learn and grow that she is so desperate for.

I put her nappy on, and tucked her up in her cot with Pop & her million other favourite cuddlies.

“Tomorrow,” I sighed. “Independence can begin tomorrow.”

klimmen

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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

Growing in the sunshine

IMG_2763Perhaps you noticed that the sandpit was a little quiet over the Easter holidays

We were away – catching some unseasonal summery weather in a lovely holiday home with a pool. We’d booked very last minute and had been hesitating between several options, studying pictures and descriptions. In the end we chose a villa that had a long list of rave reviews from previous visitors, and we weren’t disappointed.

When we arrived, we discovered that the pictures had really not done the villa justice. It had a vast garden, an orchard, a bird house, a separate pool house with a little fridge and a bar and – there was a children’s play house. With a fence around it. And toys inside. And a tricycle. It was absolutely perfect and we all fell in love as soon as we set foot in the grounds.

IMG_2749

Every morning as soon as she woke up, the Girl ran to the back door, pressed her nose against the glass and said hopefully: “Housh?” The Boy christened it “the tree house”, and found some peculiar but apparently very absorbing Boy-activities there that he loved (they involved making a mole hill out of gravel…) There was so much to do: the Girl force-fed the dolls orange juice, the Boy rode the tricycle, he wanted me to read the sign next to the little dog house every day, I was commissioned to Do Writing on the blackboard, we read Richard Scarry books in Spanish, we (I) did puzzles and played with the toy microwave oven.

IMG_2780

The Boy and the Girl also had heart-meltingly lovely times when they played together. The cutest was when they sat together on the gravelly ground, the Girl scooping up handfuls of “stones” and handing them to her brother, who piled them high into one of his mole hills while singing a jolly song. They did this for about ten minutes, and all that time the Girl had a little hand resting on The Boy’s leg. When she lost interest and toddled off, the Boy lay down sadly on the ground and muttered disconsolately: “I want to play with you, A.” She just ignored him and tried to make the dollies IMG_2748sit on little stools.

The last time we went on holiday it was in an apartment and the Girl had only just learned to walk. This time, things were very different and she toddled about with great glee, enjoying a bit of freedom to run around. It wasn’t easy, though. Everything was at an angle, or had steps. There was gravel instead of grass, and there were tiles instead of carpets. I was a little worried about whether she’d cope, but in actual fact, the Girl took to the challenge with infectious enthusiasm. As the days went by, she learned how to navigate the unfamiliar terrain. She remembered where all the steps were and would find something to hold on to as she went down them, saying “step, step, step” as she came down. She scrambled and slid up the steep gravelly slopes on all fours at first, but by day four she was walking up them upright, compensating for the angle by leaning forwards and taking smaller steps.

Maybe, I thought, this was just what she needed. Challenges, and opportunities to learn. She certainly got more steady on her feet.

We went to the beach, where she exclaimed in delight over the sand, but expressed some distress at it getting in her favourite strawberry shoes. The Boy took his bucket and spade and continued his mole hill project, getting very annoyed if the Girl tried to get involved or knocked his hill over. The sea, for him, was a source of water to improve the texture of the sand for mole hill building. The Girl, on the other hand, was enchanted by the water itself. As soon as she saw the sea, her tiny face lit up. She ran towards the waves, pulling me along behind her, her little feet sinking into the soft sand. She walked right in, and laughed and cheered and stomped her little feet in the waves, not caring if they soaked her, shouting “plash! plash!”

Our villa was a calm, sunny space where time moved slowly, and we had the time to watch our children play and realise how much they had grown up. There was the Girl, climbing onto  chairs and sitting up at the table next to her brother. Her vocabulary exploded in those seven days, with all the new things to see and talk about, and she chattered away saying “S sit here” and “Daddy have juice” and “oh no! ball ‘way!”

"Allo birds"

“Allo birds”

The Boy was so independent, inventing his own games, busy with little projects, but also connecting with us on a much more grown up level. He appointed himself Daddy’s swimming coach as he attempted a dip in the ice cold pool. The week was lovely and sunny, but the pool was not heated and I was definitely not going to be doing any swimming. The Husband, however, braved the cold, cheered on by The Boy who counted the steps down into the pool. In the afternoons when the Girl napped, The Boy would come and lie on the sun lounger next to mine and do drawings, stickers or his Peter Rabbit magazine while I read a book. This was a new and pleasant development.

We watched the two of them, playing and laughing and discovering, and felt very lucky. It was lovely to have this pause, this refuge, these frozen moments in time to look and think and sit back and be.

Now, we are back home , trying to cling on to the good things  from our week away. We squeezed in another barbecue last weekend and mowed the lawn to make the garden more inviting for the kids to play in. I found that I was a lot less stressed about taking the kids to play outside, having spent an entire week outdoors, and made sure that we were out for a while every day while the sun was shining.

I am also trying to give the Boy more independence and responsibility, trying to trust him more, not doing everything for him because I think it will be quicker.

And the same goes for the Girl, who I often carry out to the car or up and down the stairs, for speed. I have started putting her little feet down on the ground, taking a deep breath and accepting that things will need to take a bit longer, but that in the long run, it will lead to more independent children. So I let her walk up and down the stairs at her own pace.

“Step, step, step,” she says, placing her feet with precision, holding on to the rail with one hand and my finger with the other, her tiny bunches bobbing with every step.

Like spring flowers, we have spent time in the sun and slowly, we are starting to blossom.

 

IMG_2762

 

 

 

Linking up to Loud ‘n Proud over at Mother of Three World. Next week I’ll be hosting so come back then to share more of your proud moments!

Life Game: The Brother

Hey there Gamers,

I’m pretty much blazing Level 1. An average day will find me clocking time with the toy garage or the board books to get my xp up and then blowing it all on vocabulary. My latest discoveries are “Daisy” (gets you access to In the Night Garden books and TV shows), “seep” (the name for an undesirable state of affairs where the character you want to interact with is unconscious) and “am” (this can be added to bread to make sandwiches).

But what I want to talk about today is that very special person you might be lucky enough to run into in Life Game: The Brother.

The Brother has been around ever since I started playing and seems to be in control of the game a lot of the time. He controls what appears on the Awesome Viewing Device and also has ways of influencing what food appears on the table. I’ve been observing him closely and as always, the trick seems to be gathering more words. I’ve been trying it out myself and have had some success with words like juice and cheese.

"No! You cannot play with my tower!"

“No! You cannot play with my tower!”

It’s always a good idea to check out what the Brother is doing, because he has a lot of cool stuff that you can use. You do have to be really careful only to use it while he is looking the other way, otherwise he uses Snatch on you and it is gone again. In fact, try not to look like you’re enjoying anything you are playing with while in the Brother’s field of vision or the item will disappear from your inventory and reappear in his. This is an extremely annoying trait but I have recently mastered a skill that trumps Snatch: it’s called Snitch. Basically, using Snitch involves a loud cry of anguish and the repeated use of “Mama!” This will summon the Mummy who will use what seems like Snatch on the Brother, but is really a higher level skill called Discipline. Details, details, I know – the most important thing is that the item is back in your inventory, you get a “Sorry” from the Brother and you can carry on playing with the toy. Or abandon it for something more interesting that has caught your eye during the conflict sequence.

The Brother comes with a lot of entertainment options. He can sing no end of brilliant songs with actions, and you can play running, chasing and hiding games with him which really boost your Happiness. The best game is “Round and round the garden”, where you hold hands and he spins you round and round and then tickles you. Word of warning though: games with the Brother do have a tendency to drain your energy levels and you often take some damage due to falls and bumps or getting squished.

Squishing: this is something that deserves a special mention/warning. Although the Brother is a friendly character, he does come with some “hostile” traits. If you see the words “A is very cute, I want to hug A” float above his head, run for the Mummy as fast as you can. If you don’t manage to get away, he will grab you around the waist (if you’re lucky) or the neck (if you’re unlucky), squeeze as hard as he can, tackle you to the ground and throw his full weight on you. The number of hit points this will cost you depends on how he grabbed you and whether your head hit any furniture on the way down, as well as on the response time of the Mummy. Basically, running away is your best bet, and get a head start because he is both stronger and faster than you.

"Mama! A is playing with the tower!"

“Mama! A is playing with the tower!”

Another annoying feature of the Brother is that he’s got Snitch too. So when you’re minding your own business, pouring out the entire contents of your beaker of juice onto the dining table, he will pipe up: “Mama! A. is pouring juice!” Or when you’re gleefully pulling your shoes and socks off in the back of the car, he will say: “Mama! A. is taking her shoes off! No Baby, don’t take your shoes off, you have cold socks and feet!” Worst of all, when you manage to get down to floor level in a big shop and you make a break for freedom while the Mummy is distracted, he will shriek in distress, shout “Mama, A is running away!” and then run after you full pelt and trap you in a bear hug until the Mummy captures you again.

All in all, though, Life Game is so much better with the Brother in it. Whenever you see him, you get a massive boost to your happiness bar, which is only increased by waving at him and giving him a hug.

Finally, I will leave you with a little montage of great Brother moments:

* When a pint-sized NPC came up to investigate me, he jumped in front of me protectively and told him I was his sister.
* I love holding his hand when we go for walks. Holding his hand makes me feel happy.
* When I come to pick him up from The School, he shows me off to his teachers and his friends.
* The first night we shared a bedroom, I managed to get the Mummy and the Daddy to take me out of bed in the night for extra cuddles, and I had to spend the rest of the night trapped in the travel cot. In the morning, the Brother’s sad voice could be heard coming from our room saying: “Where is A? I want my little sister back.”

brother and sister

 

There is still time to vote for my blog in the MAD Blog Awards! So far I have been nominated in the categories Best Writer, Most Entertaining, Family Fun and Blog of the Year (but that was probably just my mother). Click here to vote, you have until a minute to midnight on the 14th of March.

Overgeneralisation: the Girl strips English of excess words

Cheezh

Cheezh

I loved essay writing – in school, at uni – but I was never very good at handling “constructive criticism”. I would always get defensive and want to explain and justify myself so the teacher/tutor would understand that really I was brilliant and beyond reproach. (Hm I wonder why I write a blog…?)

A recurring theme in my feedback was overgeneralising and hyperbole. I’d make sweeping statements for effect and claim that ‘everyone felt the same fear of death’ (for instance). A piece of feedback that I have treasured for both the compliment and its cutting wit, called my analysis of Plato’s theory of forms: “A marvellous essay, marred only by a tendency to pointless overstatement.” I like to think of this as a tagline for the story of my life.

Now, my 16 month old daughter is experimenting with sweeping statements. I know that overgeneralisation is a natural stage in child language acquisition, but she is taking it to a whole new level. As soon as she discovers a new word, she goes in search of what else you can do with it. Rather than finding out how we, experienced speakers of the English language, define this new word, she sets about delimiting it herself, expecting us to keep up as she rewrites the dictionary. Or rather, rips most of the pages out to slim it down a little.

After her first word (Daddy), she discovered ‘down’. This meant: “I want to get down” but was soon expanded to mean “pick me up”, “get me out of these straps”, “lift me out of the cot” and “I want to go downstairs and watch television”. Perhaps this word is best summed up as: “Move me to where I want to be.”

Her favourite word must be “zhuzh”. This was first said with great delight while pointing at her own shoes, and later when carrying Daddy’s shoes to him to indicate that he must come on the outing too. Then it was said pointing at boots and wellies. Then it turned out to mean socks, feet and toes as well.

I kept nodding and thinking: this is textbook stuff. She is learning to assign characteristics to words. For example, “Teddy” to her means anything inanimate and huggable. She will hug any soft toy – rabbit, raccoon, pony – and say “Teddy!” What is supposed to happen next is that she will start to notice that the people around her limit the word to the bear only and have different names for the other cuddly toys. Then she might add a further note to her internal lexicon:

Teddy: inanimate, huggable, bear shaped

Also cheezh

Also cheezh

But I got a bit suspicious when the word “juuzh” showed up. It rhymed with “zhuzh”, which perhaps explained its appeal. “Juice” has been said while pointing at any bottle, any carton, any jug, any glass (full or empty), her sippy cup, water, milk, cups of tea, wine… Then came “cheezh”. She first said it while hunting through the food cupboard – which is most definitely not where I keep the cheese. I thought: maybe she means Shreddies? Cheerios? But I was soon set straight: she greets any food with a joyful shout of “cheezh!”

This is overgeneralisation taken to a bit of an extreme. I’m sure the Boy used quite a few, if not most of his words at this age, for fairly specific things.

Perhaps she is just not a details-girl. Perhaps the Girl is quite happy to paint life in broad brush strokes. She is not learning words. She is learning categories.

Even “mama” is not for me alone. I was overjoyed when she started using the name to call for me over the Christmas holidays, but when the Lodger returned from a visit to her family, she was greeted with “mama” as well, and so was my friend who looks after her on a Friday. It is clearly the umbrella term for “female who can provide me with soothing cuddles who has nice long hair I can twizzle”.

Her latest category was a source of great delight to the Boy. She pointed at a number in one of his endless number books and shouted: “Eight!”

“YES!” the Boy exclaimed, “Eight! Haha! A. is saying eight!”

Then she pointed at a 4: “Eight!” And a 9: “Eight!” Number 2 was also eight. The Boy thought it was hilarious. But she wasn’t done there. The alphabet puzzle got the “eight” treatment as well, and Surrogate Friday Mama reported that the Girl had been pointing at a handwritten note saying “eight”. We concluded it must mean “squiggle”.

It is just Daddy who gets exclusive rights to his name. She stops in her tracks when there is a sound at the front door. “Daddy!” If we walk past the study after her lunch time nap and the door is ajar, she will peek inside: “Daddy?”

I comfort myself with the thought that at least it sounds a lot like “teddy”, so there can be just as many embarrassing no-that-was-not-who-i-wanted mix ups.

Sixteen months into life, 5 months or so into discovering words, our marvellous Girl sweeps through life using only a handful of words. She doesn’t need any more. She defines them. The world is hers to shape and control.

And that is most definitely not pointless overstatement.

Definitely cheezh

Definitely cheezh

 

What she is like

When the Girl was 15 weeks old, I had a stab at predicting what her personality was like, wondering how much of a child’s character is visible in the little baby stage. I think it is time now for an update: let me tell you what my girl is like.

Look! Bunnies!!

Look! Bunnies!!

Her defining feature is still, like at 15 weeks, her immense capacity for joy. She loves life, loves her special people, loves silliness and songs and things you can cuddle or operate or play peekaboo with. Her default setting is smiles. She gets tired and clingy, but she rarely gets really grumpy – unless her brother tries to hug her or you take her food away.

She is most definitely not gentle or cautious, as I thought at first. She is a kamikaze baby, hurling herself at everything that sparks her interest, heedless of trip hazards. She usually ends up flat on her face and has a new bruise on her forehead daily. Whereas the Boy learned what to do with doorsteps a week or so after he cracked walking, and would navigate Opa and Oma’s doorstep-heavy house with great care, the Girl keeps her eyes fixed on the prize and barrels on through. I have watched her trip over the same step three times (cruel Mummy) before she clocked, the fourth time, that maybe this had happened before and she should pause to investigate what was the matter with this particular route. She is a climber, where her brother was not, and she clambers up onto chairs and stools and boxes in order to get to forbidden objects – something the Boy has only just worked out.

She loves eating and experiments with her mouth. You can put her on the floor, release her and she will locate and target anything small and colourful in the vicinity and start munching on it: floor raisins, bits of play dough, glitters, stickers, you name it. Not everything is food, thankfully: I caught her at the cats’ bowls once, but it turned out she was just tidying up a bit and putting all the little cat biscuits that were strewn on the floor back into their bowls for them. She likes to find her own drinks as well: when I’m running the bath she will lean over and scoop up some water from the tap and slurp it out of her hand. This week – the horror – I found her using the same ‘scoop’ method to sample a little of her brother’s wee from the potty. Yup, that’s a story we’re saving for her wedding day. Suitors, be warned.

She is definitely very sociable and loving. She loves people and is always charming strangers and making new friends on public transport. When we leave the supermarket she says goodbye to the store at large, waving her little hand and saying “Hiiiii!” At the end of the day, she will flag and interrupt reluctant play to come over to me or Daddy or The Fairy Godmother and lean her head against our legs, sucking her fingers and twirling her hair.

Even at night, she prefers company. Around ten or eleven pm she will wake up crying and we all know what time it is: it is cuddle time. Kind offers from others to settle her end in more screaming and tears. It is not until Mummy comes up and hugs her close that her breathing slows and settles, she sucks her fingers and snuggles into the hug. Then I can lower her back into her cot and leave the room, closing the door behind me, and she will sleep on, her hug-tank refuelled for a few more hours.

So that is my Girl, at 14 months: loving, friendly, headlong-hurling-kamikaze toddler covered in bruises, cheeky explorer, devourer of everything, wee-drinker, singer of songs, full to overflowing with the joys of life.

Joy at stickers

Joy at stickers