Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sad news

Oliver and his Great Grandmother
Nin and Oliver

Last night my Mum phoned to say that my grandmother, "Nin", in her 90s and increasingly frail, had taken a turn for the worse and may not last the next 24 hours. Although she had become very frail and confused recently it still surprised me slightly. And it wasn't the first time we thought we might lose her. She was bed bound for months once in 2000 but recovered strongly.

Sadly, this time was different. Before we could reach my Mum to say we'd travel up the next day, she called us to say Nin had died. She outlived my grandfather by 17 years. I can only hope they are re-united now as they loved each other very much in life.

I'm glad that Oliver got to meet her. Even though she could seem confused at times, she clearly loved holding his hands and singing to him. ("Horsey, horsey, don't you stop...")

My Nin and Grandad were a big part of my childhood and it's hard to take in that they have both gone.

Now we are weighing up what to do about the funeral and whether to take Oliver. I think he and Hayley will just go to the reception afterwards when thoughts are not just about the past but also about moving forward. Taking Oliver seems appropriate in that way.

Hayley and Nin (Steve's grandmother)
Hayley and Nin

Friday, September 29, 2006

I love ducks!


Oliver is crazy about ducks at the moment. I suppose you could say he's "quackers" about them. (Sorry.)

Whenever he sees a duck, whether in a book or in reality, he says "quack, quack, quack" and imitates its beak quacking with his hand.

At "story-time" at the library the other day the story-teller was holding a duck puppet to help tell the tale. Well, Oliver was straight over to the front, barging everyone out of the way, and got up onto his knees to look over the duck as closely as possible. When the story was finished she put the duck on the stage, supposedly out of the way. But Oliver wasn't going to be stopped by this and was straight up there. Eventually Hayley had to ask its owner to hide it.

Of course, his love of ducks doesn't outweigh his love of bread, so he still eats their bread rather than feeding it to them.


BBC NEWS | Health | 'Lingering pregnancy fat' danger

BBC NEWS | Health | 'Lingering pregnancy fat' danger

Although Hayley put on weight during the pregnancy - probably more than she would have liked - after giving birth to Oliver she lost weight.... but then put some back on.

Right now she's on course to be back to the fit and shapely Hayley whose mountain biking was curtailed by two pink lines appearing on the pregnancy tester. Judging from the article, if we're lucky enough to be blessed with a sibling for Oliver, that will keep her clear of complications.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wiltshire lass, Lancashire Dad, Yorkshire pud for the Cheshire Lad


Hayley loves a good roast dinner and she cooks one too. This weekend she initiated Oliver into the pleasures of roast potatoes, swede, carrots, parsnips, chicken and of course Yorskshire pudding. Yesterday he had it all slightly mashed except for the Yorkshire puddings. Today he has had the same again but with it un-mashed, complete with gravy in which to dip his food... which he did with great relish!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Trip to Blackpool

Oliver finishes his chocolate Cornetto ice-cream

Oliver and his friend Jack went to Blackpool for the day. They tried a few of the smaller rides at the Pleasure Beach, ate "all they could eat" at Pizza Hut (which was a lot!) and enjoyed ice-creams (as the video above illustrates).

There are some pictures from the day here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Walk this way, talk this way!

Oliver in playground (Port Andratx)

Our holiday brought out some new behaviours in Oliver.

  • He seems to be close to walking. If I am sitting on a chair with him on my knee, he has developed a knack of sliding down until his feet are on the floor and simultaneously grabbing my forefingers on each hand so that I can assist him in walkin wherever he pleases. Sometimes he will venture forth holding only one hand.

  • "Dat, dat, dat... yah" reverberated around the apartment all week as Oliver pointed at the current object of his interest. This was particularly common once he had persuaded me to carry him. It sounded so much like he was saying "that, that, that.... yeah". He was definitely directing us.

  • One of the songs at Rhythm and Rhyme is about "Ten little Indians in a tee-pee...". It comes complete with Baby Sign actions. At the end the Indians jump up and so does Oliver with a little assistance! Immediately he then puts his head back to indicate he wants to lie down and start again. This can go on for ages.

  • He has also developed a way to show us he wants to go to bed. After his bedtime bottle and some cuddles, Hayley asks him if he wants to go to bed. He will then either shake his head for No, or tilt his head backwards to lie down for Yes.

  • Finally, he has also found his nose and occasionally explores it with his finger with such vigour that it makes his eyes water.

  • Nose picking for beginners

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Holiday - Sant Elmo, Mallorca 2006


    We're just back from a week in Sant Elmo, Mallorca (one of the Spanish Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea).

    We stayed with my Mum at the apartment she bought with her partner Del earlier this year. I'll spare you too much detail but here are a few hightlights.

  • Oliver was well behaved and patient both before and during the flight, even though the queues to get through security were horrendous after the recent terrorism alerts. Oliver's good behaviuour on the plane was aided by snacks and a recently acquired portable DVD player. And he obligingly drank a bottle of milk just before our descent and slept until we took him off the plane. Fantastic!

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  • We all enjoyed the beach and the Mediterranean Sea in the sunshine. Hayley and I swam and Oliver enjoyed paddling and floating around in his little "boat".

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  • Between dips Oliver lazed around on the beach

  • Sant Elmo is a beautiful small town but didn't have an enormous amount to do, so most of our pictures seem to be of us eating, drinking or larking in the water. They also highlight that Oliver enjoyed several delicious ice-creams during the trip.

  • Another day, another ice cream

  • A couple of nights produced spectalular thunder storms with lightning flashes out at sea throughout the night. Unfortunately they also washed in jelly-fish, one of which stung me! We even saw a tornado form out at sea and approach us from the distance but forutnately it fizzled out. Phew!

  • Oliver took to sweeping Nanny's apartment with a brush twice his size.

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  • Nearby Port Andratx was picturesque and also had a fantastic little tea shop that was also vegetarian. Not only that but its fayre was some of the best I've tasted in 23 years of not eating meat. Of course the best part was dining with this lovely lady while Nanny baby-sat Oliver.

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    There are more pictures from our trip here.

    Saturday, September 09, 2006

    Oliver's 1st Birthday - The Party!


    Today Oliver had a party to celebrate his birthday (which was yesterday). The party was the culmination of a week of hard work by Hayley and today was no exception. She did all the cooking herself, aided by Sara to produce the vegetarian chilli and by Dawn who baked the potatoes. I made the salad!

    Oliver spent the morning with his friend Isabel so he wasn't under our feet (literally) - thanks Clare and David for baby sitting!

    About 15 of Oliver's little friends turned up with one or both of their parents, so it was quite a wild little party! We held it at the Heaton Moor Methodist Church hall (so no booze!) which was a great space for the kids to play and the adults to chat.

    Although Hayley, Sara and I seemed to be in and out of the kitchen a lot, we still managed to enjoy the party ourselves.

    Half way through proceedings we presented Oliver with a Thomas the Tank Engine cake (with one candle, of course) and evceryone sang Happy Birthday to him. He seemed a bit bemused by the whole thing. Judge for yourself by viewing the video below.

    He was quite clingy with me at times. He had fun playing with his friends some of the time. Other times he would wander off and explore the room. But often he was happy for Dad's Taxi service to carry him around the room.

    By the end of the afternoon the mountain of food was all devoured and people were asking Hayley to arrange parties for them, incredulous that she had arranged it all while handling a difficult house sale and packing to fly away on holiday the next day.

    There are some more pictures from the day here.

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    1st Birthday!


    Oliver celebrated his first birthday on 8th September. Here are his highlights.

    On getting up, Daddy carried me downstairs where I found a selection of cards and goodies awaiting me.


    After opening a few cards and presents...


    ... I did my world famous Marlon Brando impression which seemed to go down well.


    Daddy went to work in the morning while Mummy took me out to see some of my friends. In the afternoon Mummy went to get her hair done (which I always pay attention to when she gets home - Mummy likes that) while I took down books for Daddy to read...


    ...and contemplated this new milestone in my life.

    It was a sunny afternoon so Daddy walked me up to Heaton Moor where he took me for a piece of blueberry muffin at the organic cafe. Then I ate a mini milk from Somerfield while Daddy nattered away to the estate agent about selling the house. (Honestly, they've been doing that for months.)

    After that it was time for fun on the swings!


    I lovge the swings, especially these at Crescent Park which swing really high. After about 15 minutes Daddy started asking "Do you want to go home now?", but I just shook my head, laughed at him and kept on swinging.


    Eventually it was time to go home for dinner (or tea as Daddy sometimes calls it) where Mummy was waiting with a birthday cake. Mummy and Daddy sang happy birthday and then helped me blow out the candle before we all tucked into it.


    Afterwards I played with Mummy and Daddy for a while, but before I knew it the day was over. So it was time to go to bed and dream of tomorrow... and my party!

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Reading matters

    We all know that it is important for children to read books. Oliver - who is feeling very grown up as his first birthday approaches - has decided to impart this wisdom to his younger friend, Jessica (9 months), by choosing books for her to read.

    Cuddles for daddy

    Oliver doesn't much like giving me cuddles. He loves me holding him and carrying him around but he tends to have an ulterior motive betrayed by him pointing me towards the real object of his interest as soon as I pick him up. Already I'm a taxi service!

    The closest I get to proper hugs is when he has his bedtime milk. He puts his arms around my neck and lies with his head on my shoulder. Last night he did this as usual. As he slumped on my shoulder I patted and rubbed his back and said "aaahhhhhhh". But instead of just lying there as usual, I felt him pat and rub my back in return and even made a sort of "aaahhhh" sound of his own.

    I've seen him pat and cuddle other children before but this is the first time he has done it to me. Call me a soppy old thing, but as I put him to bed I had a grin a mile wide.

    BBC NEWS | Health | Older fathers 'raise autism risk'

    BBC NEWS | Health | Older fathers 'raise autism risk'

    Although the risk discussed in this article remains small, this story is still worrying for those of us in our 40s who might still like a bigger family.

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    Father-son terms of endearment

    "Come on darling", I said as I picked up Oliver on Saturday morning. Darling. Is that a bit soppy, I wondered? And so I got to thinking of all the other things I call him. "Pumpkin", "poppet", "sausage", "sweetheart", "gorgeous"... They aren't exactly manly are they. I started to wonder whether this is in any way a bad thing. I mean what can a man call his son that is both manly and also warm and affectionate?

    I sometimes call him "monster", "tiny tearaway", "henry hooligan", but these more boyish tags are hardly complimentary. "Champ" is about the closest to both manly and complimentary that I have used. And that was mostly when he was 0n day old.

    I've consoled myself in the knowledge that he is still less than one year old and therefore a baby really, so who could object to calling a baby "darling".

    But that's just avoiding the question! It seems sad to me that there don't appear to be more loving ways to address my son without them seeming un-masculine. As someone who finds himself appalled at many of the wars going on in the world right now, I can't say that "Daddy's little soldier" sits entirely comfortably, though I have used it occasionally. In fact gender stereotypes in general don't sit very comfortably.

    And even if there are more masculine ways of addressing him, I don't intend to use them if they convey any less love, because I adore the little man. And if I can convey that to him, I don't really think it matters what language I use to do it. I just have to remember in a few years time that teenagers probably don't appreciate being called "Pumpkin".

    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    Under offer (again)

    A couple have offered the (reduced) asking price for our house. Could this finally be the start of the end of the saga? Fingers crossed!

    Saturday morning rituals

    Cafe Culture - Heaton Mersey style

    Saturday morning is Hayley's morning for a "lie in". Or my "get up" if you prefer. Consequently it's the one morning I have the little man to myself for a while and we've recently developed a bit of a routine.

  • Get the little man up (as if he's not awake already) around 7am, change his nappy and dress him. During this he will complain until I let him stand up, at which point he starts trying to grab breakable objects from the top of his wardrobe which is next to his changing table.

  • Go downstairs and make his breakfast - weetabix, shreddies or maybe porridge - while he plays in the living room, before taking him into the conservatory and plonking him in his highchair to eat.

  • Little man slurps a big slurp of water from his feeding cup. He's a noisy drinker, just like his Dad.

  • Attempt to persuade little man to eat some breakfast from the spoon that I am holding and not the one he is intent on using. To be fair he does succeed in getting some into his mouth, but a fair percentage goes down his front. If it's shreddies he just picks them out with his hands. In fact the same is true of weetabix but I'm ready with a plastic bib in that case.

  • After breakfast, read books or watch CBeebies: LazyTown or Balamory preferred.

  • Chase little man around living room on all fours. He loves being chased at the moment. Bite his feet if I catch him which makes him laugh.

  • After about an hour of reading, playing and TV we go out in his pushchair to a little cafe round the corner called Fresh. There I have a cup of tea and an egg barm while the little man enjoys some nice toast and watches all the customers. Generously he offers them pieces of his sucked toast.

  • Egg barm and toast consumed, it's off home to Mummy who will just be rising, in time to feed the little man his bottle. No wonder he seems to weigh a tonne!

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    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Back at square one

    Last Friday our solicitor informed us that our buyer has withdrawn from the purchase of our house. This was the most infuriating and disappointing news we could receive.

    Allegedly our buyer’s buyer has withdrawn from her sale. I can’t say I’m surprised in a way if that’s true. Our buyer casually took six weeks to get her survey done and get a decision to us as a result of it. This was despite her buyer wanting to move quickly.

    To compound the problems our vendor has not provided any paperwork to us whatsoever even though it is weeks since we confirmed our offer after having our survey done.

    Despite attempts to resurrect the sale of our house to our buyer by moving into temporary accommodation – which we were always willing to do if necessary – she has failed to respond to all attempts to contact her from ourselves and our estate agent. So we suspect there’s something more going on. However, she appears to be out of the picture for good.

    So the house is back on the market. And at an asking price reduced by £5000 to get a quick sale. We’ve had a few people to see it already and one couple said they would make an offer, only to then make an offer on a different house!

    It’s so frustrating. We have now had every survey and search done on the house we are trying to buy and yet all that expenditure – pushing £1000! – will be for nothing if we can’t find a buyer soon and the vendor doesn’t wait for us.

    Anyone want to buy a house?