Monthly Archives: June 2007


I turned on the hot water tap in the bathroom, and was waiting for the hot water to come through.  


Lillian was looking very cross.

“You don’t waste water!”


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my name

When its time to go home from “school” there is often a little pile of paintings or other “artwork” to take with us.

Today, amongst the usual random scribbles, was this:


I asked “What does that say?”

“That’s my name.  L…I…L…um….”

Presumably she was being helped by one of the carers.  So she may not be able to write her own name yet, but she seems to understand the concept of there being a word which is her name, and which is spelled a particular way.

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Towers of bones

We’ve been eating osso bucco more often lately.  Lillian loves the bone marrow – she’ll eat the marrow out of as many bones as she can get onto her plate.  Then, she’ll stack the bones into a tower, and use the serving spoon to ladle the juices from the stew into the tower, filling it to the top.  Of course then it gradually runs out, but she keeps topping it up until her plate starts to fill with “soup”.



At the zoo today she picked up a feather. On the way out we stopped at the playground.  She wanted to have a go on a rocking horse, but what to do with the feather?

“I’m putting the feather on the seat.  I’m going to sit on it.”

“Why are you going to sit on it?

“Because I would lose it.  If I didn’t sit on it”

Technically, “If I didn’t sit on it, I would lose it.” is what philosophers call a “counterfactual conditional” – an “if…then” statement asserting a connection (in this case a causal connection) between states of affairs that do not actually exist.  To assert the counterfactual she has to use the subjunctive tense (…didn’t…would…).  Justifying an action by means of a counterfactual conditional is a sophisticated cognitive/linguistic performance.  It emerges in a child’s thinking and speaking gradually, as she uses gradually more articulated expressions to relate imagined things to actual things.  Lillian’s been doing this sort of thing for a while, but today it just jumped out at me as a crystal-clear example.

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Apple in the eye?

Since Lillian was less than one, we’ve had a CD in the car – a Fisher Price (so American accents, unfortunately) album of songs about the alphabet, one song for every letter.   It has always been Lillian’s favourite music.  Usually when we drive anywhere, it is not long before

“I want ABCD!”

She’s starting to sing along with songs now, and gradually she’s becoming aware that the singing is actually made up of words which mean something.

Today she was singing along to the “A” song.  One line was

“A you’re amazing and A you’re astounding and A you’re the apple of my eye…”

Lillian stopped for a moment and said, with maximum sing-song dramatic effect: “Apple in my eye???…. APPLE IN MY EYE???….Nooooooo…. that’s silly!”

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I haven’t did it on the wrong feet!

Lillian was getting undressed for a bath.

“Lillian, look you silly – you’ve got your shoes on the wrong feet!”

“No I haven’t…”

“Yes you have,” I reassert dogmatically, removing the shoe.

She takes the shoe and holds it up to her foot – sole of shoe to sole of foot.

“See Daddy! Match! I haven’t did it on the wrong feet!”

I had to admit, she had found a match – and a reasonable basis for her indignation.

Lillian doesn’t quite discover, but trips up on, mirror-image asymmetries.

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Dog paddler

It was a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon in Melbourne.  So what to do?  Going swimming, of course.  So Lillian gets in the backpack and we go down to the indoor pool at the Melbourne Baths.

[Parkville is in many ways an excellent place to live.  Here are some of the things within short walking or riding distance:

  • The zoo (we have a family annual pass)
  • The Museum (ditto)
  • The Melbourne Baths
  • Royal Park, Princes Park, Carlton Gardens
  • Melbourne University, with its excellent gym
  • Royal Melbourne Hospital (we’ve made good use of that!)
  • Womens Hospital (where Lillian was born)
  • Children’s Hospital (Lillian has been taken down to emergency twice)
  • Vic Markets (went there yesterday morning)
  • Melbourne CBD (Myer, David Jones, etc.)
  • Lygon St

Quite a list…]

There is no kids pool, so Lillian spends all her time in the “Aqua Play” lane in the main pool.  She is wearing her vest to help her float, and is doing a strong dogpaddle.  She tells me to stay about half way down the length of the pool, then jumps in and “swims” towards me.  After a while she takes off the vest and jumps back in.  She can almost tread water without any aid.  With me providing just a little support under her tummy, she can dogpaddle the length of the pool.  At one stage she seemed to be starting to lift her arms out in a proper swimming motion.

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Mandarin Teacher

Lillian has come back from a weekend with Teresa’s parents, and is now very confident with her Mandarin counting.
When we went to the Melbourne Baths today, she was counting the number of swimmers – in Mandarin.

She knows that Daddy can’t speak Mandarin.

“Daddy, I can help you speak Mandarin.”

She holds up one finger, waiting for me to say “eee”, i.e., one.  But I’ve forgotten everything.

Patiently she puts me through my counting drills, holding up one finger, then two, etc., while counting

eee… arr… san…

It is impressive how clearly she pronounces what are, to the typical Westerner, quite alien sounds.  In particular she has the up/down patterns which are so essential to Mandarin (the same sound can mean one thing “going up” and another “going down”).

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