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Zoe's reached the milestone of remembering, talking about, and answering questions about past events. So she can join in with me telling Alex about our day - if I ask her the right questions, she can fill in little bits.

On Tuesday we were in town and went in a lift, and I got her to press the number 2 button, and she was very excited about that, and walked around the shop saying "Press number 2! Press number 2!" We also had lunch with pigwotflies and baby Phoebe. Zoe really enjoyed that. She and Phoebe played together a bit, copying each other. She talked about Phoebe a lot and commented on what she was doing, and then was sad when Phoebe went home, and said "Phoebe come back soon?"
So when Alex got home in the evening, I told him we went to town and went in a lift, and I said to Zoe "What did you do in the lift?" and she thought for a while and then said "Press number 2!" and grinned, and then added "Up!" Then I asked her if she could remember which baby we'd seen at lunchtime, and she said Phoebe, and then said "Kiss Phoebe!"

On Wednesday we visited another friend, and I was telling her about how much Bethany loves Wreck-it Ralph. (Bethany was at school at the time.) Zoe clearly understood that we were talking about videos, and she said "Baba watch Ben Holly" ("That's right, Bethany watches Ben and Holly") and then "Zoe watch Peppa Pig."

She does continue to really love Peppa Pig, and can name most of the characters, and can say a word or two to refer to specific episodes she wants to watch, like "tent" or "snow" or "Mummy Rabbit tummy" or "Baby Anganga" (Baby Alexander).

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Bethany's writing is coming on really well. She did a picture of two cats, with one saying, in very legible letters, "Let me go if you don't you" - she said she ran out of room and it was meant to continue "can't come to my birthday party." ("You can't come to my birthday party" is also what she threatens us with if we're not meeting her wishes.) She's spelled all the words right, and put the apostrophe in "don't."

She also made us a wonderful card. On the front was a cat, dressed in a T-shirt with a cat on it, jumping really high on its bed, which was covered with a cat quilt. Inside it said
"To Mummy+Zoe+Daddy
I would I would love be with you
Love Bethany xxx"

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It's always fascinating when you discover a new instance of typical-mind fallacy (where you thought everyone worked the same way you do, and actually they don't). This one has to do with chocolate.

Alex and I were brainstorming ideas for a visual aid, involving hiding something with a distinctive (and preferably pleasant) smell so it can be identified by smell. I suggested chocolate, and he was baffled. He doesn't think chocolate has a distinctive smell at all, unless maybe it's hot and melting, like a chocolate cake being baked. I said if you blindfolded me and waved some Dairy Milk under my nose I could definitely identify it, and he said he couldn't at all - he might not even notice anything was there!

This suddenly explains a lot: I love chocolate, and Alex is a bit indifferent to it. He quite likes chocolate with fruit or caramel in, but can't really see the point of eating a bar of solid chocolate. If he lacks the receptors to smell/taste chocolate properly, no wonder he doesn't particularly enjoy it.

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Bethany's really into the idea of sleepovers at the moment. She's had a sleepover with one friend, both ways round, and wants to have more, and often asks if she can have a sleepover with Zoe in the same room.

Obviously lots of kids share rooms, by choice or necessity, but we've always thought it wouldn't work with our two, because Bethany is an introvert and needs her own space to retreat to, and because they sleep such different hours: at one point Zoe was sleeping about 7pm-5am and Bethany 10pm-8am, so if they shared a room they'd probably both only get 10pm-5am.

Since Zoe dropped her bedtime feed a few weeks ago, we've read and sung to her at bedtime, and then left her, sometimes contentedly awake and drowsy, sometimes grizzling a bit but then settling. But the last couple of nights she's been very wakeful at bedtime, and reluctant to be left, and cried quite a lot. Last night she was especially bad, screaming and showing no signs of settling. I hate leaving her to cry, and it's worse when there are people in the house, which there were last night because it was GamesEvening. On the other hand, we've been able to leave her to sleep and go to GamesEvening nearly every week since she was a few months old, and I was feeling resentful of the prospect of spending GamesEvening in her room keeping her company.

So I went into Bethany's room - Bethany had gone to bed but was still up playing - and asked her if she'd like to come and sleep in Zoe's room for a sleepover after all. She excitedly agreed, and was very gracious about having her expectations messed about back and forth like that. I settled her on the floor of Zoe's room with some bedding and left them, Zoe much happier to let me leave because there was still someone in the room; and went down to play games, with some trepidation.

They were wide awake, and played and chatted, but were content. Bethany turned the overhead light on, and took both their pyjamas off, and she somehow lifted Zoe out of the cot. I can't imagine how she did that. We got two hours of gaming time, which was amazing, because they don't play together happily without us for anywhere near that in the daytime. Bethany sang songs to Zoe and rad her stories. I just had to pop up once ("Mummy, I think Zoe's done a poo in her nappy!" She hadn't).

At 10pm I was between games, and went up to try and settle them (it was a very late night for Zoe by then). I turned the light off (Bethany was mildly annoyed by that but accepted it), lay Zoe down, and sang to her in the dark for about ten minutes until she went to sleep. Then I quietly offered Bethany the choice between going back to her own bed or sleeping on Zoe's floor, and she chose the latter. I left her quietly tryingto read by the light of the little night-light, and she soon fell asleep. I looked in again on my way to bed, and they were both asleep. Zoe was lying naked on top of her quilt, so I put a blanket on her.

Zoe grizzled a bit at 3am, but settled quickly, and didn't wake Bethany. And they slept through to 8am!! And we were woken by them chatting to each other, rather than by Zoe urgently yelling MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY.

Remains to see whether we'll have grumpy overtired children today after such a late night, but I'm astonished at how well the sleepover went!

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Zoe will be 18 months this weekend!

She's coming out with some quite complex sentences, like "More apple juice, please, Mummy" or "Don't 'natch Daddy Pig, Baba!" Her name for Bethany has converged to the same "Baba" that Bethany used to call herself at a toddler (and which sounds nothing like Bethany apart from the first letter. Presumably it does to a toddler.) Most of her other words are pretty standard, although sometimes she gets the vowels wrong in a word and the consonants right, or vice versa, so her word for "potato" (one of her favourite foods atm) sounds more like "patootie".

She loves Peppa Pig and can name most of the characters. She can also recognise numbers pretty reliably now, and will spontaneously do so when seeing them printed, or lying around the floor in the form of Bethany's soft toy Numberjacks. She sort of has the idea of counting, but not the order of the numbers: if you tell her to count something, or ask how many there are, she'll point at the things in turn and say something like "One, four, three, six!"

Bethany has a friend called Emileigh who visits sometimes, and Zoe calls her "Elephant", presumably because of Emily Elephant in Peppa Pig. I'm torn between finding it very cute, and worrying that Emileigh might be offended.

She really objects to getting dressed or undressed at the moment, which is frustrating.

She gave up bedtime milk feeds incredibly easily - we tried putting her to bed without milk one night and she didn't ask - and now her bedtime routine consists of many, many repetitions of a book called "Busy Bear's Party" which was a freebie from the library, followed by many repetitions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She can say "More Busy Bear" and "More Twinkle Star" even while very sleepy.

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Had a blood test yesterday, following on from GP appointment last week.

The phlebotomist asked if I knew which blood tests I was having. I said, I don't know, the doctor told me "all of them." I realise that seems a bit implausible, but it's all I was told. Phlebotomist said notes just said "fasting bloods for CFS", so she used her initiative to guess which ones those might be: glucose, iron, thyroid, a couple of other things I can't remember. Looking at my notes, she said "I'll do thyroid, because you haven't had that one." I specifically asked the GP last week if I'd been tested for thyroid levels and she said yes. I don't know if the GP is a bit patronising, telling me things like "all of them" instead of specifics because she thinks I won't understand things like "thyroid", or if she's just completely clueless.

For the rest of the day I had very high energy (even despite having breakfast a couple of hours late and losing some blood). I wondered if it was partly due to the sense of hope caused by knowing my thyroid hadn't actually been tested (and therefore the tiredness might be due to underactive or overactive thyroid, therefore there might be a cure on the horizon). I noted in my last post that the tiredness seems to abate whenever I have a new theory about what's causing it, that comes with a simple-ish fix. (Eat more! Drink more! Do more exercise! Cut out carbs!)

So it could be something like atypical depression (where the depression lifts in response to good news), or it could be something with a more physiological underlying cause, but where the placebo effect makes me feel better when I have hope of a cure.

The interesting bit is that this ought to work on a self-referential level now. If my hopeful new theory is that the tiredness goes away whenever I have a hopeful new theory about what makes it go away, then... it ought to go away. In theory. Hopefully.

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I would really like it if political candidates or parties could collaborate on a document which objectively lists their policy differences. It would make informed voting so much more realistic.

If there are genuine differences between the parties, if it's not just a popularity contest, then this ought to be possible in theory. For example, I expect both Labour and UKIP could agree on a statement like "Labour want to stay in the EU and UKIP want to leave it."

In practice, one party's leaflets are all like "We will help the economy and the NHS and local schools, and they won't!" and the other party's leaflets say exactly the same.

I realise most political questions aren't as straightforward yes/no as "should we leave the EU?" There are tradeoffs, on various economic and social issues, and the parties would perhaps make the tradeoff in different places. It would be good to know what those places are. You could come up with a series of questions, and the parties would have to agree the wording of the questions to make sure they weren't biased to make one or other look worse, and compare the parties' answers to all the questions, and see how they compare with your own answers.


In a highly contested seat like Cambridge, you get a wasteful arms race of election campaigning. Both parties (who are in the running for Cambridge) and their supporters have poured loads of money and time into out-leafleting the other party.

We want some leafleting, so people know what the parties stand for (especially if my wish 1 ever went ahead). But it would be nice if there could be some way to limit it and enforce that limit, so that people either get to keep their money, or it gets donated to a mutually agreed charity (I'm sure there's enough common ground between the Lib Dems and Labour that they could agree on one), or it gets put towards achieving some of the common political aims both parties claim to support. In a very contested and expensive political arms race, the winning candidate will have to do an awful lot of good in order to just break even, with all the money spent on electing him.


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Julian Huppert is[*] an MP with a brain and a conscience. That's a rare thing and worth hanging onto.

Don't punish him for the sins of the coalition. He voted against them on a lot of things anyway.

[*]Pedant note: "was until recently and hopefully will be again soon"

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Zoe's started to sing! She goes "Tingle tingle star" for "Twinkle twinkle little star". It's not just spoken, it has a tune, but it's not the canonical tune. She sings "Tin-gle-tin-gle-STAAAAR!" where the first four syllables climb evenly up the scale and then the "STAAAAR!" is about an octave higher. It's very cute.

She does imaginative play quite well given the size of her vocabulary. She was playing with Peppa Pig and Susy Sheep on a toy swing:
-Baa-baa turn.
-Susy Sheep's turn?
-Peppa sad.
-Peppa's sad? Because it's not her turn on the swing?
-Yeah. Daddy Pig "matter?" Daddy Pig "matter, Peppa?"
-Aww, Daddy Pig's saying "what's the matter?" to Peppa?
-Yeah. Mummy Pig! Mummy Pig!
-I'm sorry, I don't know where Mummy Pig is. Do you need Mummy Pig to cheer Peppa up?
-Can Daddy Pig cheer her up?
[I think she then had Daddy Pig cuddle Peppa, although it's hard to tell because they're both kind of spherical with very short arms.]

I'm really pleased how broad Zoe's tastes in food are. Recently I've made her prawn risotto, and Thai mince and veg, and pork casserole with apricot and potato, and mild prawn curry, and spaghetti bolognese, and she's actively enjoyed them. It's such a nice change to cook for a child who likes vegetables and meat and mild spices. I'm serving some of these things at lunchtime when it's just Zoe and me at home, and sometimes I'll make two dinners in the evening so Bethany (and optionally Alex) can still eat something composed of cheese and carbs. It's a virtuous circle - a few months ago I was sticking to Bethany-friendly food, and worrying that Zoe's tastes would never develop beyond that due to lack of exposure.

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