The wannabe toddler at 9 months

On Tuesday, Joel will be 40 weeks old. That means he’ll have been living outside of me for as long as he was living inside of me – he was born on his due date, so exactly 40 weeks of pregnancy. Time seems to have flown by quicker now that he’s here than when I was pregnant, probably because I didn’t enjoy pregnancy and I’m much preferring having a baby to look after, even if it is hard work sometimes.


Time also seems to have flown by faster than it did with Andrew at this age. I went back to work when Andrew was pretty much exactly 9 months old, so that would be the equivalent of now if I was going back to work this time. The thought of going back to work right now seems crazy – if I was I don’t think I would be ready, but that could also be because I’ve known from the start that I’m not going back (for a few years anyway), so I haven’t prepared myself as there is no need. I’m loving the often challenging but highly rewarding role that I’m currently in but not being paid for 😉

Looking back at the past month or so, Joel has come on leaps and bounds in his development – literally! He is now crawling at a rate of knots everywhere and anywhere, and also cruising if there is furniture in the places where he wants to go. He’s trying to climb on things and getting stuck under chairs when I turn my back for just a minute. He loves the bouncer in the doorway and jumps really quite high in it for a little chap.


As for food, he’s shovelling fistfuls into his mouth like there’s no tomorrow, and has an appetite to rival that of his hungry big brother – both of them seem to take after Daddy in that they eat a lot for their size but must burn it off in all the activity they do. Joel’s lack of teeth don’t seem to be hindering his progress on the eating front; the first one on the bottom left is just beginning to poke out now. Andrew was the same at this age, with no teeth until nearly 10 months, eating what we eat with little trouble, it just took him longer until he had teeth to help him out with chewier foods.

The amount of time that Joel breastfeeds for each day has reduced quite dramatically recently, and he only really wants much milk first thing in the morning when nobody else is up (5am usually) and last thing before bed. He’ll have a bit here and there in the daytime, but nothing to write home about. The amount of formula supplementation that he is taking is now very little compared to what he was taking at the peak of milk intake just before he started eating solid foods. I’m happy about this and it won’t be long before he ditches the formula all together and I’ll let him continue to breastfeed for as long as he would like. Some days it feels like that won’t be much longer the way he’s going, but I think Andrew was similar at this age and he is still going now, albeit just 5 minutes or so before bed. Neither of them have been remotely interested in feeding when there is stuff going on and when we’re out and about since they were about 4 months old!


As I look back on what life has been like since we became a family of four, I realise that the first few months were in fact easier than I feel things are now. Of course the sleep deprivation was worse, but it was actually easier to look after one energetic toddler and one sleepy baby who would stay still if you put him down and generally didn’t complain much at all. Now I’m looking after two energetic kids – a fully fledged toddler and a wannabe toddler who still hasn’t figured out the cause and effect thing: if you let go of what you’re holding on to whilst standing and turn around, you will fall down! This is hard work for me.

It’s probably also got harder because Andrew is now wearing pants and we’re having mixed success with some days being mostly dry and others being a complete wet disaster. One saving grace in all the running around after two of them is that Joel is now having a good afternoon nap which he never used to, so I do get about an hour on my own when they are both napping in the afternoon and I can rest.


It’s all good though, and I think their activity and interest in everything around them can only be good things in the long run. I knew having 2 children with a 21 month age gap would be challenging, and in many ways it is, but overall I wouldn’t change our situation for the world. My boys are now interacting with each other and it’s so cute watching them discover how they can brother the other one – mostly this involves smiles, giggles and hugs, with the odd disagreement of course.

Next stop – a first birthday!


Baby books

As a child, I remember looking through the baby book that my parents had put together – a collection of photos and words from my early years, a kind of journal to remember things that we’d otherwise forget. I really enjoyed flicking through it, I was so interested in looking at what I was like as a baby.

When I was pregnant with Andrew, I knew that I wanted to do something similar, so that he could look back like I did. That was before I was blogging too, so the book would be the place where I would record facts and happenings from his first few years. We were kindly given a baby journal which had spaces to write specific things and stick pictures in. I was pretty good at remembering to fill it in when there was something interesting happening in his development, though I sometimes just noted it down and then later filled in a whole load of things in one go.

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Joel’s on the left, Andrew’s on the right

A little while ago, Andrew went through a phase of constantly picking his baby book off the shelf and looking through it at the photos. It took us a while to convince him that the baby in the pictures was him and not Joel – an interesting concept for a 2 year old looking at photos of his younger self.  Now he only does it occasionally, but I’m already glad that I started this book for him.

Then I had a second child, and we were given not one but two baby books. We gave the gender-neutral one to my niece who is 4 weeks older than Joel, and kept the blue one for him. The second time around has been different: on the one hand I’ve had less time to write in it and have only sat down a few times in 9 months to fill it in with words and photos, but on the other hand I’ve blogged about Joel’s early months which I didn’t with Andrew.

I like this family tree in pictures idea - I just need to cut out Grandma and Pop from a picture to complete their side of it.
I like this family tree in pictures idea – I just need to cut out Grandma and Pop from a picture to complete their side of it.

This week I’ve had a concerted effort to fill it in up to date. I got some photos printed and made time to write in it, which actually didn’t take too long in the end.

Have you done a baby book like this for your little one(s) if you have any?

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The page with hospital bands and the first ever picture of each of my boys 🙂

A half birthday

I can’t quite believe that Joel turned 6 months old this week. It only seems like yesterday that he was a newborn, all squishy, little and quiet (most of the time – honestly, he really didn’t cry much at all). Now he’s much bigger and heavier, can roll across the room faster than the time it takes for me to put a load of washing on, and is starting to make some syllabic sounds as he babbles away. I know I experienced these big changes in the first 6 months of Andrew’s life too, but it still never ceases to amaze me just how much my boys are changing all the time. It’s only when I stop and reflect like this that I am totally wowed by the growth and development of the human body – for me this is a real physical reminder of the amazing creator God who I believe in.

Joel a few hours after birth
Joel a few hours after birth

On the whole I am loving my role in life of looking after two little boys. I can’t deny that there have been some hard times – I am human myself after all, and despite my best efforts to be ‘super-mum’, I do have limitations like the possession of only two hands and two eyes (neither in the back of my head) and no super power to avoid the effects of sleep deprivation. But given that there is only a 21 month age gap, so I had two kids under two in my care for 3 months of Joel’s life, I think it’s not bad going that there’s so far only been one occasion when all three of us were in tears at one time (there have been other combinations of one or two of us in tears, mainly the boys).

I can’t claim that this is all my own doing though. I am very blessed to have such a supportive husband who helps out so much with the boys, and it’s a real blessing to both of us that his job is only a 15 minute cycle away so he gets home not long after he finishes at 5pm; things would be a lot harder for me if I didn’t have this help. We also have very supportive parents, and although they don’t live in Cambridge, they come as often as possible to help us; my mum is the most regular visitor every couple of weeks or so for a day, and Tom’s mum usually comes at half-term holidays for several days in a row; our dads have been more weekend visitors with our mums. And looking back over these past 6 months, I can see that Jesus has been with us too, helping me get through some difficult days, even those in which I had little time or space (with the demands of two children being my priority) to talk to him properly in prayer. I don’t think I would have got to where I am now in one piece without Him answering our prayers and the prayers of others on our behalf.

1 month.......2 month.......3 months
1 month…………………………………….2 months……………………………………3 months

For about the first 3 months, I would say that the hardest part of my role wasn’t looking after a newborn – he slept, fed, slept, fed, and not much else, plus I’d looked after a newborn before – no, the hardest part was looking after a newborn AND a 1year old toddler at the same time – I’d not done that before, and was still learning how best to meet Andrew’s needs that were evolving all the time.

There are not many ways in which these past 6 months have been similar to the first 6 months of Andrew’s life – the only big one that I can think of is the similar amount of sleep that I’ve had. In many ways having my first baby and my second have been very different experiences. It could partly be to do with their different personalities, but I think the main difference has been that I know more about what I’m doing and therefore feel less stressed about what I ‘should’ be doing according to society’s parenting wisdom. I always felt I was fairly laid back with how things went with Andrew, and took a mainly baby-led approach with the various aspects of parenting in the early months, but I have noticed that I’ve been even less worried about how things are going this time, I guess because I’ve seen the positive outcomes of the baby-led approach with Andrew.

4 months.................5 months
4 months…………………………………………………………..5 months

One particular aspect of these first 6 months that I’ve been reflecting on, and how different it’s been the second time around is breastfeeding (I already blogged some of these thoughts here). Overall it’s been a much more enjoyable experience this time. In Andrew’s first 6 months I kept on breastfeeding more out of determination than anything else (I am a very determined person!) and my goal was just to get to 6 months; but when I got there, breastfeeding fairly soon became something I enjoyed rather than something I thought was my duty to my baby, and that’s why we carried on (that baby turned toddler still doesn’t think he’s too big for mummy milk!) At 6 months feeding became less about calorific intake and more about the non-nutritional aspects, so I felt less stressed when I (with the help of formula in the SNS) wasn’t the only source of food as he started to eat solids.

This time I have been able to enjoy this longer term perspective right from the start, knowing that even in the difficult times of constant feeding as a baby, it would get better and would all be worth it in the end. Although there was a bit of an issue with his weight (in the GP/health visitor’s eyes) around 2 months, this soon righted itself, and I’ve just realised that I haven’t had him weighed for a couple of months, which has helped, I’m sure, in me feeling less stressed about feeding – he is clearly growing and getting heavier. In fact I think the better experience of breastfeeding, and also having learned how the health system sees breastfeeding compared to my own natural instincts as a mum, have together made the biggest difference to how I’ve felt as a mum of a baby in these past 6 months compared to how I felt last time. And as I said above, I’m sure my prayers, even exhausted and fed up at 2am, have helped.

6 months
6 months

So there we go: I survived the first 6 months of life with 2 kids, and, more to the point, so did they – hooray! Now to carry on with life – looking after a growing baby who’s looking more and more like a little boy rather than a little baby and a toddler whose ability to communicate with me is getting more and more sophisticated.

Noah and the shark – wot so funee?

One of the first blogs I came across when I started blogging just over a year ago was Actually Mummy – cleverly written as if from the perspective of a 7-year old loquacious school girl, and most posts are guaranteed to make me ‘LOL’ (not sure I’m cool enough to pull that one off?!) I spotted a while ago that she writes a weekly post featuring some of the funny things that she or her younger brother have written or said, and she invites other bloggers to link up with a post about their children’s linguistic accomplishments that week. I always said to myself that one day I would link up, once I had some data to share. And that’s just it – “data” – that gives away my background in linguistics. I have a fascination with speech development, all the more so now that I’m experiencing it first hand rather than out of a textbook.

Andrew has come out with a few funny-sounding things, but until recently these have mainly been just his not-yet-fully-developed way of saying certain sounds in single words. Now that he’s stringing several words together and saying whole sentences, there is a lot more scope for coming out with some howlers. Here are a few of the best from the past few weeks…..

“Noah shark”

For his dedication, Joel was given a Noah’s Ark book. Now of course Andrew thinks it’s his, and has been fascinated with reading it, particularly as it has pop out foam shapes – very exciting. I told him it was the story of Noah’s Ark, and a few days later, when I asked him which book he wanted to read, he replied with “Noah shark”. There was a definite gap between Noah and shark, so he’d certainly interpreted my speech with a different position for the word boundary. And that’s an example of an interesting point of language acquisition – when I say Noah’s Ark quickly there is no gap between the ‘z’ sound of Noah’s and the ‘ar’ sound of Ark, so how should he know where one word ends and the next begins (or whether it is indeed two words or one big one)? The brain of a toddler acquiring that language has to guess, and I presume that he went for Noah and shark because he knows the word shark already, but not ark.

But ‘shark’ doesn’t sound exactly like ‘zark’ ([Noah]’s Ark) I here you say? No, not in my speech, but in Andrew’s they sound quite similar. If you try saying ‘sssss’ (like a snake hiss) and ‘shhhhh’ (like you’re telling someone to be quiet), notice that your tongue is further back for sh than s, and your lips are a different shape, but otherwise they are very similar sounds; now try saying ‘sssss’ and ‘zzzzzz’ – notice that you don’t move your mouth at all, it’s just that your throat vibrates for z but not s (in techie language, z is ‘voiced and s is ‘unvoiced’ or ‘voiceless’). So it’s not surprising that Andrew hasn’t quite mastered these different sounds and that his sh sounds about half way between my s and sh. Here’s a video of him saying ‘shhhh’ – listen for yourself how it doesn’t sound exactly like my ‘shhhhh’.

“Pinny eggs”

I wrote a bit about this in the craft post explaining how we made mini eggs for Easter. I have visions of little chocolate eggs walking round with aprons on now! He still insists on calling them pinny eggs, even though I’ve called them mini eggs throughout the continued chocolate eating since Easter. I’m not quite sure why, given that he can say ‘m’ (as in mummy) and I’ve only ever called them mini eggs, but he’s obviously just got it into his head that they are pinny eggs. The ‘p’ sound is made with the same part of the mouth as the ‘m’ sound – the lips coming together and then opening again – but the ‘m’ also involves air being let out through the nose (it’s a nasal consonant).

“Foot bum”

This made me giggle, as I didn’t know what he was talking about at first. One evening he came out with ‘Andrew foot bum’, to which I replied ‘yes Andrew, you have a foot and a bum’, trying not to giggle too much. He said it again and again, and looked like he was looking for something in the living room where I was sat feeding Joel. I did think it was a bit odd that he should say ‘bum’ as I usually say bottom when talking to him about nappy changes etc., but couldn’t think what else he could mean…..until he emerged from around the corner with a yellow object – of course, our foot pump! I had been using it to blow up the ring thing that Joel sits in underneath his play gym. ‘Foot bum, foot bum’, he said enthusiastically. ‘Ah yes Andrew, the foot PUMP’, I replied.

Like the mini/pinny eggs sound confusion, ‘b’ is also made with the lips coming together and then opening again, and at the start of a word, the difference between ‘p’ and ‘b’ is the number of milliseconds it takes for the vowel to begin after the lips release – more for ‘p’ than ‘b’. So again it’s easy to see how he can confuse these sounds. At the end of a word, sounds like ‘p’ (and ‘t’ and ‘k’) don’t always get released very audibly, especially in faster speech and when the word is at the end of an utterance, so it’s not surprising that Andrew didn’t pick this up when I briefly talked about the foot pump earlier in the day.

Well that’s enough on linguistics for this week. I’m sure I’ll be back with more posts to link up with ‘wot so funee?’ as Andrew’s brain and mouth try to work their way through the minefield of mastering the English language. In the meantime, if you fancy a giggle over language from the mouths of babes, head over to the link up by clicking on the badge below.

Wot So Funee?

Trilingual adventures with three mice (not blind) – one mouse, une souris, eine Maus

Last week was an exciting time for me (and Andrew, though perhaps he didn’t feel it as much as me!) because my (no longer) baby suddenly started to show me that he recognised some words. That’s not to say he didn’t recognise them before; it’s hard to know exactly how much babies perceive from speech before they can physically respond to show they know what you’re talking about. It can be done though, in ‘lab’ conditions – experiments with babies have been designed, by getting them to turn their head to stimuli like speech sounds, or to suck on a dummy which is hooked up to computers that work out how fast they’re sucking and how their speed changes with the introduction and exit of stimuli. From these kinds of experiments, researchers have been able to figure out some of the earliest abilities to hear speech, even at just one or two days old. For example, we know that newborns recognise and prefer their mum’s voice to another similar female voice (de Casper 1980), and recognise and prefer listening to their ambient (to-be-native) language from others that are rhythmically different (Mehler et al. 1988, Nazzi et al. 1998). They’re not understanding specific words and their meanings at this age, of course, but rather the overall rhythm and intonation of the speech. They were hearing this for quite a while in the womb you see. This kind of research sounds fascinating to me, but hard work – it must take them ages to collect enough data whilst working with babies! Just think about all the times they’d need to stop for feeds/naps/nappy changes/just wanting to be with mum etc. Respect to those researchers, I say!

This little diversion into infant language recognition research (apart from showing you how cool it is) was to make the point that just because Andrew can’t speak recognisable words at the moment, it doesn’t mean he can’t understand anything. Last week was when this understanding was finally clear for me to see. We were sitting reading some Usborne Touchy-Feely ‘That’s not my…’ books. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading these, firstly let me highly recommend them. They’re brilliant for reading with babies and toddlers, as there are ‘touchy-feely’ patches of fabric or other materials for them to explore with their fingers. Secondly, let me tell you that they all have a little mouse on each page, blending in with the pictures (for example, he has a snorkel in one of the Penguin scenes…!) This means you can ask your toddler ‘Where is the mouse?’ each time they turn a page, and it gives a consistent point of reference for them to learn. This is exactly what I’d been doing with Andrew for a while, and pointing to the mouse myself. Last week was the first time that he consistently pointed to the mouse on each page himself! It was a proud moment 🙂

Us reading 'That's not my penguin...' - an Usborne touchy-feely book

Even more so because I’d been doing this with him in three languages, and he not only pointed at the mouse, but also la souris and die Maus on each page. As I studied French and German for my BA, Masters and PhD, I’d always said that I would introduce these languages alongside English to my kids. During the research I did for my Masters dissertation, which was about adult bilinguals living in Switzerland, I learnt that it is easier for young kids to learn multiple languages than it is for adults once a native language is well and truly acquired. Some people do learn other languages to a near-native standard in adulthood, but this is less common than kids who pick up more than one language in childhood and speak them to native standard (for their age at every point).

Andrew pointing to the mouse (in a snorkel) on the bottom left of the left-hand page

As we live in the UK, and Tom only speaks English, of course Andrew is going to get much more exposure to English than he will to French and German. Whenever the two of us are home alone, I speak some French, some German and some English to him. When we’re playing with something, for example the ball, I will say to him things like ‘That’s a ball’, ‘The ball is blue’, ‘Where’s the ball?’, ‘Can you throw me the ball?’ in one of the three languages. I usually concentrate on one language for each period of time that we’re playing, but I do mix them up a bit too. For example, if we’re sitting looking at an animal book, I’ll say the word for the animal in the three languages whilst we’re on that page, and then the same for the animal on the next page.

Andrew's right hand was pointing to the mouse on the penguin's back, but he moved too fast and our camera shutter speed couldn't cope!

Does this confuse him, you might wonder? Well our adult brains might think it’s confusing, as they have been shaped and molded into what they are today over several years; they’ve become set in their ways. The baby and toddler brain, however, is still being shaped and molded into what it will be one day. It has no concept that there is ‘ONE’ language or ‘TWO’ languages or any other specific number of these things we call ‘languages’, but rather it’s hearing all these sounds coming out of people’s mouths, and trying to figure out what it all means; for all it knows there could be a gazillion languages that it has to figure out. Why should a toy have one particular name and not three? That’s a monolingual adult way of thinking, which has been cemented into the brain over years of only knowing one word for that toy.

Listening to some French nursery rhymes on the stereo

Will Andrew be trilingual? Maybe, maybe not – it partly depends what you mean by trilingual (perfect native speech in three languages is one extreme of a continuum of multilingualism). I do not personally claim to be native in 3 languages, so he’ll only be getting native-like input in one, and fluent input in the other two. My main aim is to give him an awareness that there is more than one of these things called languages out there in the world. By the time he gets to school, I hope he will have a more open outlook on languages than the view I was often confronted with at school – ‘Why do you want to study languages when everyone else speaks English?’ (actual comment by my GCSE Maths teacher who wanted me to take his A-level). Yes lots of people in the world speak English, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make an effort to learn other languages too, and shape my brain differently from many native English speakers. In fact from a global perspective, bilingualism is more normal than you might think. There are more bi- and multi-linguals in the world than monolinguals, and many of these will have learnt two or more languages in childhood (another thing I learnt during my Masters research from a book called The Bilingualism Reader).

Most importantly in this language development adventure of Andrew is that I’m making it as fun as possible, as with all areas of development that I can play a part in. He loves singing, clapping and dancing to songs and rhymes, so I bought a CD of French nursery rhymes and kids songs, and we’re about to be given a German one by some friends, though I’ve been using YouTube in the meantime. Just like he can listen to English rhymes and songs at the various music and play groups we go to, he can hear other languages blasting out of the stereo at home. We were also given a bilingual French-English toy piano that plays tunes and talks about colours and shapes when you press the keys. He loves playing with that, especially now he’s really into pressing any button he can lay his fingers on! Another option I have is reading books in French and German to him, which we bought on Amazon, were given, or borrow from the library, for example Monsieur Bavard (Mr Chatterbox from The Mr Men and Little Miss range) and Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt (The Very Hungry Caterpillar). His attention span is still quite limited, so at the moment it’s more effective to just read his simple English board books with things like numbers, animals, shapes, toys etc. to him in French and German. My translation skills are good enough for that!

Dancing to some French nursery rhymes, but suddenly spotted the camera and got interested in that

Is anyone out there raising their kids bilingually? Do you find other parents generally view it positively or negatively? I haven’t had much discussion either way with others yet. Apart from with our friends who are Swiss and German living in the UK, so their child (a bit older than Andrew) is in full swing with acquiring three languages: Swiss German and German at home (believe me, they are different languages) and English at nursery and playgroups. We meet each week to speak English and German with our kids. It’s great fun all round, and needless to say we’re all very positive about mixing and matching our languages 🙂