Bedtime conversation

Scene: small child’s bed, in the dark. Small child is settling down for sleep. Theoretically. Small child’s mother is providing moral support.

“One… Two… Three… Four… FIVE! I’ve got five fingers!”
That’s right, Maxi.
“And I can SHAKE them!” (flaps hand wildly)

Time passes, in silence.

“I do not got a tail!”
No, Maxi.
“I do not got a tail. But when I am the Gruffalo’s Child – I WILL have a tail.”
Yes, if you were the Gruffalo’s Child, you would.
“And I can make it go up and down! When I am the Gruffalo’s Child!”
But I am glad you are my Maxiboy.
“Yes.” (solemnly) “And I only have a bum.”
Yes. (smiling in the dark)
Sternly: “And it is NOT FUNNY!”

That, kid, is entirely a matter of opinion.

Maxi’s first bike ride

Always keen to copy his sister, Max often insists on riding Claudia’s bicycle. Of course his feet can’t reach the pedals. But we inherited a second bicycle last year from a neighbour’s daughter. The frame is pretty much the same size as Claudia’s bike, but today I lowered the seat all the way down and found that his feet can *just* reach. Aha! Maybe this will work as a first bike. Max is convinced. R thinks he needs something smaller. Let’s see…

So, we went out and Max learned about pedalling, in particular pedalling forwards because it’s one of those bikes where pedalling backwards engages the brake on the back wheel (sneaky that really). He loved it. Probably he’ll still have to spend time on his pushbike to get a better hang of balancing. But maybe he’s not too far off. :-)

160125 Maxi 1st pedal bike lesson

(Click on pic to view Flickr album, including a few short videos.)

All along Claudia was at home. Alone. A big deal. Acceptable to her only because she could phone us at regular intervals.


I’m very conscious of how differently we see our second kid at any given age. With Claudia, we were super aware of every development; and at the same time we expected quite a lot of her. Max just seems more like a baby at every stage, not because he really is more babyish, but because we’re in less of a hurry for him to grow up. I think.

Three-year-old Max is a joy, a delight, and a monster. He’s impossibly sweet – except when he’s just impossible. I imagine this describes most three-year-olds. He’s certainly a more typical toddler than Claudia was, just as he was a more regular baby. Which is to say: he was an easier infant (almost anyone would be), and is a more difficult toddler (almost anyone would be). Wonderful! Charming! Incredibly lovable! But very bloody hard work. He can tantrum like nobody’s business. He has a strong and powerful will, as does big sister – but whereas she has always tended to exercise her will through sheer stubbornness and argumentation, he favours Sturm und Drang. Quite a lot of Drang and hideously noisy Sturm. He puts his whole body and soul into it, very energetically and convincingly. Succeed in distracting him for a second, however, or convince him that whatever he want really is off the cards, and the instantaneous reversion to sunniness makes clear just how artificial that storm was.

(By way of illustration: great tears, much distress because I switched off the TV. Wails! Misery!
“Max, I said no. The TV is off now.”
But I’m still TRYING!
“You’re trying to convince me? Sorry, it won’t work. No more TV today.”
[Perfect calm] “Okay.”
Yes, this actually happened.)

As tiresome as that is, it’s more than made up for by his addiction to cuddles. I am 100% here for cuddles. Even when they’re not really appropriate and frankly inconvenient, as when he’s pressing his head against me during a meal (from his own chair, next to me, you understand), I can’t resist. Especially since I’m very much aware that the day will come when he won’t be so thrilled to snuggle up to mommy; when he won’t pull my face down to him for kisses, or sigh happily as he climbs into my lap, “I’m closer to Mama. Which is nice.”

Delicious Maxicuddles are also a lure in getting Daddy to put him to bed in the afternoon – at this point, something only Armin can do. He won’t go to sleep for me, no way, no how; but Daddy can do it in five minutes flat. Again, it’s hard for Armin to resent the work of turning a restless Maximonkey into a sleeping one, when it comes with such delicious snuggles.

Claudia gets snuggles too, of course. My happiest moments are still when I see them curled up together, be it in front of the TV, in bed, or simply playing. (Max is generally pretty keen on games that involve rolling around hugging. Is good.) I think they snuggle a little bit less than they used to; but it’s made up for by a great improvement in how well Max can engage with Claudia’s imaginative play.

On a good day, they’ll spend absolutely ages together, running around being explorers or playing school or racing cars around a track. Of course, on a bad day, there will be shrieks of rage every five minutes, and, well… tiresome. (They seem to have each separately reached a moderately Difficult Phase, just lately, and the combination is not so good. But it will pass. Probably.)

He’s still a boy boy – obsessed with cars and planes and motorbikes – while also being happily In Touch With His Feminine Side, relishing dress-up in Claudia’s princess frocks and cooing over babies (dolls or real, there’s a new cousin on the scene) and begging me to wear nailpolish and lipgloss. I enjoy this very much, while being intrigued that, for instance, he’ll ask me to put him in a dress – “but don’t say ‘that’s pretty’.” It’s delightful that the two kids can still enjoy exactly the same games and films; he’s as keen on Frozen as she is, while she loves to race cars with him. Handy!

Spielgruppe is a big hit (especially Bauernspielgruppe – on the farm – where he goes just once a week). Christmas was all very well but both kids were delighted to be back in their usual routine. As I was, of course. It’s wonderful how well he’s taken to it, with no anxiety or clinginess – and his social skills are improving noticeably. He’s slightly less given to expressing affection through violence. (“I love you to death”: not just an expression, apparently.) He’s also doing toddler gym, which tends to be a pretty good workout for me as well.

And he’s finally big enough to go out and play with Claudia, unsupervised. (If this sounds horrifying, understand that they stay where I can see them from a window, that the neighbourhood is more or less pedestrianised – and that this is completely normal here. It would be odd if I didn’t send them out without me.)

He’s learning German, and Swiss German; he’s learning to count (up to 12 so far, but I’ve been warned not to teach him too much or school start will be difficult! How different to London and all the early years pressure); he’s gone from a kid who seemingly struggled to put words together to a very chatty, articulate little guy. He still tends to issue each word in a sentence very deliberately, though, which makes for a surprisingly emphatic conversational style.)

His favourite book right now is Wolves in the Walls (which was too scary for Claudia only a year ago, but he just can’t get enough), closely followed by The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child and I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed (Charlie and Lola). His favourite films are – still, always, untiringly – Cars and Planes. And Frozen. 

One of his most endearing qualities is his cheerfulness combined with a very un-toddler-like ability to reflect on his own happiness. Claudia is also a very sunny little thing, and always has been; but where she fizzes, Max basks. Typical Max sentences include: “I love this!” “It’s very nice here,” or “We are having such a lovely time.” He also shows me how much he’s enjoying his food by rubbing his tummy and giving me the thumbs-up. (He was weaned half a year ago, but before that, num-nums was a common trigger for that tummy-rubbing beam. It was wonderful having him show me how much he enjoyed it.)

As for me, I think I’ve finally reached a point where I can honestly enjoy his remaining baby time, without impatiently wishing for him to grow up. With, maybe, two exceptions. I really want him to get over nappies. (He just won’t.) And I really, really want him to get over his objection to my singing and dancing along to the radio. At least in time for me to have a few years to enjoy music before Claudia’s teenage mortification sets in…


Lots of changes happening around here. Of course, one thing that never changes is me being behind, so you’re getting this report on Elfling starting BIG SCHOOL! and Dude starting SPIELGRUPPE! a whole three weeks late. And low on picture content. Um, oops?

(A has C’s first day of school pic secreted away in his camera and isn’t letting me have it yet, so blame him for that part.)
ETA: Pics are up! Those that include other children are friends-only, so be sure to log in.)

Anyway. Yes. Summer is over – it was ferociously hot, weeks and weeks and weeks went by with temperatures in the 30s (and not much cooler overnight), so the change of season is quite a relief. Holidays happened, we had a week in Davos (with a bit more mountain walking than Elf would have preferred) and 10 days plus 1 in England (the “plus one” owing to a flight cancellation, so it certainly didn’t add anything to the fun of the trip), and working backwards from the present as is clearly only sensible with a backlog, you’ll get your update on that Later.

Because the new things happening now really are big news. Big changes. I’m very aware, with all kinds of mixed feelings (though probably not the way you’re imagining),* that the baby phase of our lives is almost entirely over. Dude is mostly weaned (barring first thing in the morning – I can’t cut him off completely just yet, he loves it too much), he’ll be out of nappies soon (I really really hope), and he’s IN SPIELGRUPPE. Two mornings a week for now; one more (in a different, farmyard playgroup) starting after the October holiday.

He loves it. He took to it instantly, without a backward glance at mommy as I went out the door. I mean that literally. Frankly I would really like him to give me a friendly goodbye squeeze, but no, because THERE ARE CARS and they have his full attention. It’s as different from Elf’s (desperately panicked, miserable) playgroup start as could be imagined.

Little boy going places

And, obviously, I love it. I love that he’s suddenly so much more a little boy; there was a noticeable change over the holidays, a major shift in the quality of how he plays with Claudia. They’ve always enjoyed playing together but now he can take a far more active role. He’s speaking in complete and sometimes complex sentences. So it’s a great time for Spielgruppe: he’s ready to socialise, make friends, even learn more German.

And HELLO ALONE TIME. For me, that is. I get to have two and a half whole hours undisturbed; I can listen to music. I can do work that requires concentration. I can do, well, whatever I want to do, as long as it’s not more than a couple of hours’ worth (so going into town is pretty much out, but that’s okay, what I want to do is sit at home and work, and be alone with my thoughts and my knitting). It’s not enough. I’m greedy; I want way more alone time than this. Not just for work – I really like spending time in my head, and I haven’t had that luxury for years, and I hardly feel like myself any more. But here we are, and it’s a start.


Elf, now: Elf is a first-grader, and in the school we wanted for her (we had absolutely no control over this – you don’t get to request a school allocation), which is a bit of a surprise, although a welcome one. It’s very small and ever so slightly further away, and all her friends, even the ones who live on that side, are going to the school on our street. So: yay Watt Schulhaus! Lovely teachers, lovely principal (who specifically wanted C “with me”, because our daughter is awesome, and as I understand it that’s why she’s there). But boo for a new class with a whole new group of kids. She knows a handful of them but basically has to make friends from scratch. I have no reason to be anxious about this. She formed friendships very fast in kindergarten, when she was still struggling with the language, so it’ll be easy peasy now, right? And yet, I am so very anxious. Parents, man. I should just chill.

Besides social anxiety, I’m full of vicarious academic anxiety. No, not that she’ll struggle, of course! More that she’ll be bored and unmotivated. They’re off to a slow start and I know how much she can already do – she isn’t even getting a chance to use any of what she knows, so far. But it’ll be fine, right? It’ll be fine. By her own account, she’s loving school and very happy so far. Mommy needs to chill.

One more new thing: she’s started Geräteturnen, ie proper gymnastics. (“Turnen” here is generally used to mean gym in the American sense – phys ed, sort of thing. Games. Geräteturnen = gymnastics with equipment, and competitions.) She is very excited about this, as am I. I never did any kind of sport at school but if I had had the chance, I would have loved to try gymnastics. And Elf is just stoked. I don’t think she’s particularly talented but she’s mightily enthusiastic! She has spent so many hours this year working on her cartwheels. (Still floppy.) The one kindergarten thing she was especially sad about leaving behind was the “Stange” (cross-bar thing in the playground, she used to tell me in great detail about all the ways she was figuring out to flip round it). So yay Turnen!


* I’m not sentimental about losing my baby. A is, a bit. And it’s absolutely true that M is an incredibly delicious baby/toddler and this rapidly passing stage is to be treasured. But I love watching kids grow, and am very aware of how much easier things get for me as they do grow. So that’s not it. But: things getting easier means fewer excuses for me. And I’m pretty uncomfortable, right now, with questions of what I’m doing and where I’m going. So: mixed feelings. I want to move forward, but don’t have a vast amount of faith in how much forward I’m actually moving.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I realised that I never wrote about the monsters, and there is a real danger that we might eventually forget about them, and that would be unthinkably terrible. So: let me record for posterity how a 3-year-old Claudia felt about monsters under – er, in the bed.

Some toddlers are scared of monsters. Some, apparently embrace them. Claudia had a whole passel of baby monsters who tickled her feet while she was going to sleep, and made her giggle.

(They weren’t the only invisible bedmates. Three of her preschool friends cuddled her to sleep also. They lined up in the same order every night, from least to most beloved, thus: “Himmat will look after Krishan, Krishan will look after Eshan, Eshan will look after me, and I’ll look after Suki.” Suki is her number one doll.)

The monsters came out with us, too, from time to time. They’d walk in a line behind her. One time, we were off to a party and one of the four monsters accidentally failed to get off the tube with us at our stop. “It’s okay,” she told me, “he’ll stay on the train and wait for us on the way back.” He didn’t, though. Apparently he got tired of waiting and headed home alone, so we caught up with him there.

I never found out what the monsters look like. But they were always around. I miss them.

Update: I wrote the above in August, and apparently I saved as draft instead of publishing. Whups. However! I have since asked C whether her baby monsters were still around. No, she said… but I’m glad I asked. Because they’re back.

Of course they’re not babies any more. They’re grown-up now, but still little. They huddle on the floor beside her bed, and she can lift them up to snuggle, one by one. They followed her out, the other day, to go and play with her friend Giacomo. Oh, and they’re making new baby monsters. Because mommies and daddies do that – even mommy and daddy monsters.

Claudia received a small weaving loom for Christmas – one like this. She took to it with great enthusiasm, producing a small and colourful thing that we agreed might be a doll’s house carpet… and so she declared her intention to sell the pattern.

A fine and woolly piece of diminutive decor.

A fine and woolly piece of diminutive decor.

Well, sure. She knows I sell knitting patterns online. She loves the idea that (occasionally) money rolls in all by itself while I’m doing something else entirely. She thinks she sees a way to cash in even more than she already does from pocket money and the tooth fairy!

“I will sell it for A HUNDRED FRANCS,” she declared. I suggested that nobody would buy it for that. She was greatly disappointed but allowed me to talk her down to five francs. No further. Below that, she figures, it just wouldn’t be worth her while. I pointed out that if the price is too high, nobody will buy it, but if the price is fair, she will make more sales and can earn more. She remains unconvinced. I explained that people are reluctant to buy patterns from new, unproven designers, that many people publish a whole heap of patterns – even for free – before making a single sale. I gently suggested that perhaps her rather ad hoc instructions for a very simple item might not be worth that much, to the average customer.

I got the Stubborn Face. She has the stubborn gene from both sides. She is stubborn squared. It’s premium Stubborn Face.

Here, then, is the first published pattern from Elfling, aged five and three quarters. It’s all her own work – although she can’t write (much) or type, she made and photographed the sample (including figuring out how to weave, since the loom came with NO instructions and I’ve never used one), made the artistic decision to include a black and white photo, and dictated the pattern instructions.

As her publisher, I have made the executive decision to make the pdf freely available, on the tip jar system. As it is easily viewable and downloadable, you can review the quality and style without making a purchase. If you like it, you can donate what you feel it is worth… whether Claudia’s recommended donation of Fr5, or another amount – say Fr1 – that might help her to learn about market forces.

Or, of course, nothing at all. That’s a lesson too.

Happy weaving, everyone! And a special thank you to Ravelry’s BdLasGi, for the encouragement.

Dollhouse carpet pattern

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You wouldn’t know it from the ringing silence around here, but Max has indeed been growing, not only in size but in charm. And now he’s TWO.

Pretty much everything I wrote six months ago still holds – he’s delightful, cuddly, obsessed with brum-brums, devoted to Claudia… but with one notable exception. I’m not sure I’d call him “fundamentally chilled” at the moment. Maybe it’s the teething, or developmental wossnames (he’s sleeping terribly again, despite three glorious weeks of quite spontaneously sleeping through the night). Very likely it’s just a phase. But while he can, on occasion, potter around in relaxed fashion, it seems more by accident than design. More often he’s loudly demanding attention, either by physically grabbing and push/pulling me to come with him, or through the time-tested tantrum method. (Which always prompts Armin to sigh, “Claudia never did this,” which is a dirty stinking lie. She certainly did. Though I do think it’s true that her super-intense tantrum period was a lot briefer.)

When he is quiet, the universal parent rule applies: better RUN and find out just how bad the destruction is! Yes, those white walls have been defaced. And the sofa. And the coffee table. And the floor. On this, I have to agree with A: C never did this.

He continues to take great leaps physically (quite literal leaps – jumping is a hot favourite game), and to be a bit behind in the speech department. We communicate very well, and lately he’s been trying out new words seemingly every day – often carefully repeating after me – but total vocabulary is still small. In fact, I think a list of Max’s words, in approximate order of when he started using them, might do very well as an indication of his personality. There are a lot of special Max words, sometimes just sounds that he uses with a very specific meaning.

Mama = sometimes actual Mama, but more often “feed me now” or sometimes just “attention now please” (from anyone!)
Brum-brum = car, truck, bike… anything with wheels (originally – see more specific words later)
Dada (rarely)
Nana = sometimes his actual Nana, most often Claudia, who knows why
Lala = C’s friend Lea, a hot favourite, because (encouraged by C) she used to pick him up and swing him around
Moo, baa, woof-woof, ow (= meow = cat)
Ow = actual ow
Voom = fast, or “let’s go” (gesturing with both arms)
Wow-ow = round and round/circle (gesturing)
Tooter = scooter/bike (he doesn’t distinguish; this is a VERY IMPORTANT word and probably the most used of all)
Snoring sounds = sleep

Mmm, nyum nyum = obviously, enthusiasm for food, either about to be consumed (pointing to open mouth) or just consumed (rubbing tummy). The gesturing is pretty much obligatory.
Guv = glove
Clook = train, maybe because of toy tracks that click together
Boo = tunnel, who knows why. Maybe something to do with peekaboo?
Duck = truck
Daw = draw
Alle-alle = empty (this is German kid language, apparently)

There will be more photos, but not quite yet. I will however leave you with some Motion Pictures (two automagically created by Google, one actual video)  giving you a little taste of our Maxilein.*

Very busy and important.

Very busy and important.


SOMEONE’S got to take care of the doggie!

* You’re not hopelessly confused/forgetful, and I’m not mistyping. Maxilein (“little Max”, for the German-impaired) is a favoured nickname. Maximilian is his never-used actual name.


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