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December 5, 2014

There comes a time…

IMG_20141106_165935There comes a time in every family’s life when their copy of Janet and Alan Ahlberg’s The Baby’s Catalogue needs replacing. “Uh oh,” said Iris, pointing to where the book had split in two, on the “Accidents” page, no less. Though we’d seen it coming—this was the book I took care to always have in my bag when Harriet was a baby, so that when Iris was born, the spine was already shredded, and she took great pleasure in furthering the damage herself. Until the whole thing had come to pieces.

It’s a turning point, and we’ve been encountering a lot of these lately. Iris turns 18 months old exactly today, and I’d forgotten what a huge turning point this age is. Her words are coming fast (and often furious): car, and truck, and yuck, and cheese, and banana, and please, and Mommy and Daddy and Hatty, and her grandmothers’ names, and shoes, and book, and most curiously of all is “hockey”. We have no idea where she learned that one. She loves cats and dogs and babies. I take her to the library baby program, where she ignores all programming and instead walks around the circle tickling the other babies’ feet.

irisShe sees the whole world as a series of climbable objects, and while her compulsive climbing instills fear in all those who love her, it’s true that she rarely ever falls. She knows the right techniques for capturing out attention: teetering on tabletops, screaming in quiet restaurants, and placing tiny objects inside her mouth with a defiant gleam in her eye. She gives excellent hugs, is a champion napper, has her teeth coming in in all the wrong order, and usually tries to give gentle touches instead of hitting and biting (though she doesn’t always succeed). She gets less bald with every passing day. She is at that age at which sitting at the table for more than three minutes at a time is impossible, so she comes and and goes. She just recently learned to jump. We adore her, and are blown away by how smart she is and her insistence on doing everything herself—well, even. But we’re never having another child, because our children seem to get increasingly Iris-ish with every one, and an Iris who out-Iris’d Iris might kill us. So we’re just content to love this one madly.

ADSC_0452nd then there is her very patient sister, who turned 5 and a half last week (which is 66 months old, for those of you keeping count). She continues to be excellent with just the right amount of naughtiness that we’re sure she’s a real child. She likes school and watching her learn to read is so exciting (and it’s also so exciting to see how useful Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books are in this process. We’ve enjoyed these books for years, and that such good books can also be the best reading tools is amazing). We’re reading Tom’s Midnight Garden at bedtime now, which is exciting because there’s a literary Harriet in it, and also because it’s the second book I read right after she was born, a time I was thinking about last night as Tom and his Uncle discussed there not being just one time but instead all different kinds of time (and his Aunt pointing out that it all leads to indigestion—it’s such a good book!). Harriet has reached this marvellous age where she wants to be helpful, and she actually is. I like her so very much, and adore her company. It’s not a lie when I tell her that picking her up at kindergarten is the very best part of my day. (Well, after bedtime, of course).

IMG_20141120_165025Technically, now that Iris is 18 months old, there’s no resident baby at our house anymore (though I don’t believe this, of course, and Iris’s baldness is permitting the illusion to be sustained). Just because we’re running low on babies though doesn’t mean we don’t still need a copy of The Baby’s Catalogue, so we bought another one, a pristine edition that is sure to get a bit battered, but probably not as battered as its predecessor. This wonderful book is full of the ordinary moments—all the incidents and accidents—of ordinary family life, and it’s such a part of ours.

I hope it always will be.

5 thoughts on “There comes a time…”

  1. Sarah says:

    Oh, just the perfect post — so lovely! Our Baby’s Catalogue is well-used but still intact. One of the high chairs (the red one) was mine when I was a baby & is still in use at Granma’s house so that page is popular, but the ‘accidents’ page is everyone’s favourite. And Tom’s Midnight Garden is such a wonderful book to share together. Watch out for the ending though — I’m known for sobbing so much that it’s hard for the listener to get the gist of what’s going on (Hatty’s sons! Just too, too heartbreaking!).

  2. theresa says:

    That’s it. I’m buying this one for my grandbaby for Christmas. (I loved watching her uncle read Goodnight Moon to her a few weeks ago. She gripped the pages and was completely absorbed.) Thank you for your ongoing enthusiasms and suggestions.

  3. Alexis says:

    I love the kid posts.

  4. melanie says:

    Such a lovely post. Iris is adorable. Oonagh is very much enamoured with Baby Cad-log (as she calls it). It is often the book she takes to bed with her (because you know, one can’t go to sleep if they don’t take a couple books to bed with them). Ours is falling apart, as is Each Peach Pear Plum, and The Jolly Postman – all of which I plan to replace someday so I have decent copies on hand for when I’m old and small children come to visit. Oonagh is getting a copy of The Jolly Christmas Postman for Christmas and I bought it months ago and have been quite proud of myself that I haven’t pulled it out yet. I think if I had random literary wishes to use I would wish that the Mrs. Ahlberg didn’t die so young and so they could have kept on working as a team producing such wonderful children’s books for us to read.

    1. Kerry says:

      I think about Mrs. Alhberg often—so sad. Did you know about The Goldilocks Variations though, Allan’s new book with his daughter Jessica? It’s pretty terrific.

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