Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day 2006

Oliver delivers a present.

Today was a very special day for us for two reasons. Firstly, we were able for the first time to invite my family round for Boxing Day dinner. We've never had the room before. OK, so this time three people still sat on the sofas with trays rather than at our new table for 6, but hey, it's still a big improvement.


Hayley not only cooked for the 9 adults and Oliver but also cooked two more dinners which she delivered to a friend. So the kitchen was a scene of frantic activity!

The second reason today was special was that we were able to tell our families some special news... which made my Mum cry (but in a good way!).

Everyone seemed to enjoy the day. And we certainly did. Oliver particularly enjoyed giving out presents, as it gave him the opportunity to tease everyone.

There are more pictures from Boxing Day here.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day 2006

We had a great day today. Christmas Dinner was for just the three of us but that didn't stop Hayley laying on a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, even though she'll have it all to do again tomorrow!

Oliver loved his Christmas dinner. But he loves any sort of roast dinner so that's no surprise.

His favourite present was a cooker that Hayley bought him. He plays with one at Alphabet Zoo whenever he goes there so she bought him his own. He played with it for hours on Christmas Day, putting things in and out of the oven and generally playing with the utensils. We once hinted at his name owing something to a certain chef. Maybe it's more relevant than we knew.

There are more pictures from Christmas Day here.

Oliver with his cooker (and yes we did briefly dress him as one of Santa's helpers!)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Top 3 phrases

In the words of the late great Alan "Fluff" Freeman, "OK pop pickers", here's the run-down of the top phrases in our home at the moment.

Mummy and Daddy say...

1. "He's such a good little boy."
We seem to say this a lot. Every child has headstrong moments, I'd be worried if he didn't, but generally his temperament and sociability are just lovely.

2. "Oh you're just gorgeous!"
Usually heard as Mummy or Daddy pick him up because i) he wants to be picked up and ii) Mummy or Daddy want to cuddle him. A happy union!

3. "No."
Said in a slow drawn out fashion, this is heard mostly as he hangs his cup/bowl/yoghurt over the side of his high-chair threatening to drop the said item. He then reapeats our "No" in the same fashion back to us. What a great game. But at least nowadays he usually doesn't drop it.

Oliver says...

1. "Bye bye".
He says this to everyone at the moment and waves at the same time. Last night we spent a long time playing with him, going in and out of the room saying hello and bye bye. He waves to people in the street and even waves to the Teletubbies when they say "bye bye" at the end of the programme.

2. "This!" (Pronounced "Dis!"). This is how Oliver points out what he wants to get hold of once I have agreed to pick him up. (He just walks up to me and stands there with his arms pointing up to me, waiting, patiently or otherwise.) He points and leans towards the object of his desire. Mostly at the moment he wants the Advent calendar as he knows it contains a ready supply of chocolate!

3. "Daddy"
He tends to say "Dada", but sometimes he looks at me and says "Daddy". Gets me every time.

Dear Bumpette

Dear Bumpette,

In case you ever look back at this blog and think "blimey, all they thought about was Oliver and I was at least 2cm long by this stage!", I would like to re-assure you that we do talk about you and think about you a lot. In fact I have started to say hello to you occasionally through your Mummy's tummy. OK, so you probably don't yet have ears but this isn't going to stop me.

We are calling you bumpette because at the moment you are a very small bump and I suppose we are currently suspecting you will be a girl. Our only reason for this is Hayley's gut instinct and the fact that this pregnancy has already been a bit different to Oliver. Mummy hasn't felt very nauseous, well at least she didn't until last night when she thought she would throw up in the living room.

I have already started to imagine how you will get on with your big brother and wondered what names we should consider.

But to be honest, in this first trimester I think we are each keeping our daydreams largely to ourselves, as the danger of miscarriage is greatest during this time. THat is also one reason why my blogging hasn't really focussed on you yet little bumpette. But I promise that will all change!

So keep growing and hopefully we will see you clearly at the first scan in about 4 weeks time. Remember to give us a wave, or at least bob about a bit! And I promise we'll have a better name for you than "bumpette" by the time you arrive.

Love, Daddy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Back home

Oliver is home again and recovering well. It's not clear whether he had a virus and/or his problems were asthma related, but it looks like just the former at the moment.

Hayley had a terrible night with him the first night he was in hospital. He had a very disturbed night needing inhalers and later a mixture of oxygen with vaporised salbutamol. When I arrived in the morning poor Hayley looked exhausted, so we decided I should do the next night shift.

During the day Oliver had regular "puffs" from the inhaler: up to 10 puffs every 2 hours! By comparison, Hayley, who is asthmatic, will take one or two puffs on the rare occasion she becomes wheezy.

When Tuesday evening came, Hayley went home after we had put Oliver to sleep in the ward and and left me with the little man until morning. It was a long and not very restful night for me, but he did much better! After talking to the nurses, we decided not to use the inhaler which he wasn't very happy with, but instead used the nebuliser with its mixture of oxygen and vaporised salubutamol which he could even breathe in (in theory at least) as he slept.

He had one session with the nebuliser at 11.25pm, but after that he made it right through the night without any more interventions. His oxygen level was being montiored and it would occasionally drop to a level that caused an alarm to go off. I always seemed to be trying to sleep when this happened, causing me to leap up from the bed. Consistently it would then go back up as he stirred and the nurse who appeared would say "oh, it's fine as long as it gos back up; the machines can be a bit temperemental". Combine this with the comings and goings of nurses and the arrival of another baby who (get this) was in because he was having sleep problems(!), and you start to see why I didn't sleep much even if Oliver did.

Meanwhile Oliver contin ued to improve. As the night went on his oxygen level went up, even without any inhaler or nebuliser.

When the insomniac baby cried Oliver would raise up his head wondering what was going on. I'd tell him it was OK and he'd lie back down. Several times the cable attached to Oliver's toe to measure the blood oxygen level (how does it do that?!) would come loose and need removing and refitting. The lights were put on, Oliver would wake, sit up and look sleepily at me and the nurse, before giving her a big smile. "Oh you're gorgeous", she told him. Then after all the fuss I would turn the light out and he would lie back down, as good as gold.

In those moments as he lay there holding Julien and looking up at me with big sleepy eyes as I leaned over him stroking his head and whispering to him "it's sleepy-byes time little man", I felt filled with an enormous sense of gratitude that I could be there for him as his source of security, of re-assurance, of his feeling that everything was OK because I was there. It is very hard to describe the feelings of love you have for your child, but those moments were ones where I felt truly connected to him and knew why I had been put on this planet.

By the time morning came Oliver was breathing well but a little fast. His oxygen level was good so I was re-assured as I lay on the bed next to his cot (feeling absolutely shattered!).

But when I got up and felt him he was very hot to the touch. I called a nurse who took his temperature. He told me it was 36.7C (where 37C is normal). He took it with a machine I wasn't familar with and I didn't catch the reading propoerly, but I knew this couldn't be right. I asked him how could he be so hot and he told me "well he's fighting it off". "Yes, so he has a temperature". The conversation continued with him telling me he didn't have a temperature until he realised I wasn't going to be fobbed off and was getting pretty annoyed. When he re-took the measurement as I requested, sure enough Oliver had a high temperature of 38.7C. The nurse quickly went off to get paracetamol. After that he was very much more friendly, no doubt trying to recover from his potentially serious error and frankly poor attitude.

There's one thing I have learned about being in hospitals: don't stop questioning the professionals until you get an answer you are happy with. Some of them will try to fob you off, others will just be unaware of what has been going on because they have just come on shift. I naturally tend to defer to the judgement of professionals, but that doesn't mean they can patronise me or tell me errant nonsense when it is my son's health that is at stake. Having said that, the nursing staff were generally all great and Hayley brought in a card and some chocolates when the time came to leave (and the same for the playroom staff who seem to get forgotten).

SO last night it was a relief to have the little man home and even though we seemed not to sleep all last night because we kept checking on him, he did well overall. We did decide to give him his inhaler by 5am, but by that point he had started to become more comfortable with it. In fact today, while I was at work (and again tonight at bedtime), Hayley was able to administer the inhaler single handed and he sat quite compliant. Kids are tough little cookies. And so adaptable!

There's phrase Hayley and I use perhaps more than any other about him these days and it's more true than ever when I think of how well he has coped this week: "He's such a good little boy!".

Monday, December 18, 2006

Oliver is in hospital again

For the second time in his life Oliver is spending the night in the Children's Unit at Stepping Hill Hospital. At the age of 6 months it was a reaction to egg that caused it. This time he seems to have a virus that has left him with breathing difficulties.

As I sat in hospital tonight looking at his toe lit up by the device that measures his blood's oxygen levels, it crossed my mind that he had been reading Dan's blog over my shoulder and wasn't about to be outdone by a mere babe in arms on the illness front. In reality, it seems that as with most viruses he could have picked this up anywhere and there's little we could have done about it.

Last night he went to bed sounding chesty with a rasping quality to his breathing. He had a restless night with us checking on him often. At 5.30am I didn't like the sound of him at all. He sounded like it was an effort to breath and his whole abdomen seemed to be moving.

We brought him into bed with us and rang NHS Direct. In the half-light he woke and seemed dosile but content. The advice from NHS Direct didn't entirely re-assure me and when Calpol, Iburpofen and two hours waiting hadn't shown improvement, Hayley took him to the doctor, who recommended he go to hospital.

At the hospital this afternoon he was given a steroid-based medicine and also up to 10 shots of a salbutamol inhaler every couple of hours. We have to hold a mask to his face while the shots are released into it. Understandably he isn't too keen on this but has been a brave little chap, if a little unhappy. After the shots the improvement in him is visible. I had to chase after him down the corridor this evening! But within 2-3 hours he becomes distressed and in need of another set of shots.

The nurse allocated to him (who has been very helpful) told us that if he can go 4 hours between doses he can go home. That will hopefully be tomorrow. But tonight he and Hayley are in hosiptal and I am in our new home alone (which feels very wrong).

By the time I left them this evening he had tried to go to sleep and dosed intermittently for half an hour or so, but it was rather bright in there on the ward compared to the darkness of his room at home and he was not very comfortable with his breathing.

A few minutes ago Hayley said that he was waking every ten minutes and that she has let him get up to watch TV with her. Whatever makes him happy at the moment. The rule book goes as far out of the window as we can throw it at times like this.

On the bright side, he had a celebrity visitor today. World boxing champion and local boy Ricky Hatton paid a visit to the children's ward and gave Oliver a Christmas selection box. The visit was filmed and although it was on all the local news reports, sadly there were no pictures of Oliver.

Also on the bright side, he is in a ward with just one other much older boy and the noise levels are very low. Having walked through the other wards I can say with certainty that we could have done worse on that score.

As I go to bed tonight, thinking of my loved ones in that unit and all the other families there, I am left with one overriding thought. It echoes those of Dan when his son recently suffered a similar condition. How the nurses are able to work so cheerfully and professionally in wards of sick and suffering babies and children is something I can only wonder at and admire in equal measure.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

We have landed!

We have finally moved to our new home!

The move went less than entirely smoothly, mostly because the departing occupants of our soon-to-be new home had been let down by their volunteer shifters and only managed to leave in the late afternoon as darkness started to fall. It was Oliver's bedtime by the time we had got everything into the house - still packed up in boxes - so we stayed at our friend Jo's house for the night. We cracked open a bottle of champagne which tasted terrible so we poured it awway and opened a bottle of Chablis instead to toast the new house and our life there together.

Hayley is allergic to cats, so the next day was spent supervising cleaners as they tried to rid the place of all traces of the previous occupants' feline companion. They spent a total of 18 (wo)man hours.

Today we are still unpacking boxes but things are gradually becoming livable.

The best moment so far was when I went in to see Oliver after his first night in the new house. His room is decorated with space ships and wild animals on the walls. When I entered, he was standing up in his cot, still in his sleeping bag, looking at a leopard and pointing at it for me to see. That's one room we won't be decorating in a hurry then.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

We are finally moving!

We are moving house this Thursday 7th December! It's only been a journey of six months, three buyers and numerous obstacles along the way.

I have sent out emails to lots of people telling them our new address and no doubt Hayley will soon be doing the same. If you think you've been missed, email us or leave a comment. In any case, any mail addressed to us at our current home will be redirected to our new home for some time after we move, courtesy of Royal Mail.

This afternoon I've been treking back and forth to the tip getting rid of stuff we don't want to move only to throw away. Before that I spent ages on the phone to utility companies informing them of our move, listening to those awful recorded messages and muzak while sitting in queues to speak to operators... whose computers then malfunctioned. Is it any wonder we'll be glad when it's all over!

On a brighter note, we might be getting a piano. A friend of ours has one that belonged to her Mum who sadly passed away recently. She would like it to go to a home where it will be played and appreciated and she would only like a token amount for it. It's very generous of her and we are thrilled as we had already discussed getting a piano for the new house, but it probably would have had to wait a long time given the fact that the new house will mean a new financially tighter regime.

Born to a smoke-free world?

England smoke ban to start 1 July

Today there has been much media coverage of the government announcement that the new laws requiring a smoking ban in all pubs and clubs will come into effect on the 1st July next year.

Hayley pointed out that if the pregnancy goes to term our new baby will be born into a world where people basically don't smoke in public places. I'm sure he/she will look back in disbelief at the idea we all had to sit around breathing in other people's smoke.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Babysitting for the brave

Tonight Hayley and about 20 fellow Mums from the area have gone out for a meal which Hayley arranged. Our friend Jo couldn't get a babysitter so yours truly volunteered to have her daughter, Niamh, round here.

Now, Niamh has the ability to refuse to go to bed for hours, but Jo assured me she is always as good as gold at other people's houses. Well, Hayley and Jo left about 90 minutes ago and so far both Oliver and Niamh have been as quiet as mice!

I kind of have to pinch myself that I am doing this. I must admit I feel I've come a long way to feel confident enough to take on babysitting two infants who have both been playing up at bedtime recently. Maybe I'll need a rethink if they both wake up crying in the next hour. We'll see...

Oliver knows Niamh well and they get on so well together. Tonight while Hayley and Jo beautified themselves upstairs before going out, I hald the fort downstairs playing with the two toddlers. They play well together and would occasionally lean over and give each other a kiss. Honestly they are like a couple of love birds!

Niamh plays by herself better than Oliver and spent time pushing around walkers while Oliver did the thing I love the most at the moment. He goes to the coffee table, chooses a book, brings it back to me and sits in my lap while we read it together. When we have finished it he gives himself a clap for reading it all the way through before taking it back to the table and choosing another one. It's just the sweetest way to spend the last half an hour or so before bathtime.

Bathtime tonight involved Oliver and Niamh sitting in the bath splashing wildly and laughing at each other's performance. I sat next to the bath watching over them, getting slowly soaked.... and loving every minute.

It's all in the intonation

I often used to wonder at parents who could make sense of their young children's speech when I could make no sense of it at all. But recently I discovered that I can understand what Oliver is saying just from his intonation and the context in which he is intoning!

We've been teaching him to say little things such as "yes please", "no thank you", "night night" and (Hayley's favourite) "love you!". Although the syllables that come out of his mouth are often some way from the real words, there is no mistaking the sing-sing intonation of his "yes please" or his "love you". It is so sweet.

His innocence and just overwhelming adorability really comes through. Well, it does to his totally biassed parents anyway.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Play time!

I took advantage of our flexi-time system at work today to take a long lunch hour and join Hayley and Oliver at a play group they regularly attend.

It was great fun, if a bit scary. There he was toddling around with much bigger kids racing around on tricycles and tractors and occasionally bumping into him or dispossessing him of whatever toy he had at the time. But let's not paint a one-sided picture. The first thing Oliver did was head for his favourite car to sit in it and opened the door to invite its current occupant, a little girl about his age, to leave. When she didn't he simply attempted to get in along side her. He tried this three times and each time I stopped him. Eventually she took the hint and left him to his vehicle. Boys love their cars I guess.

I also experienced something very unfamiliar to me: he wanted to be picked up by someone other than me! Normally when I am around he wants to be with me and everyone else comes second. Of course that's lovely for me, but it's quite tough on Hayley who, after looking after him all day, finds her self rejected the moment I walk through the door! But today it was my turn. I put my arms out to him and he raced towards me before.... veering off right past me to Linda who runs the group. He adores her. He even chooses to sit with her for the activities they do there leaving poor Hayley alone or helping another child.

Despite this I did get plenty of time with him playing with toys and on the big slide. It was a lovely way to spend an hour in the middle of a hectic day. I'm very lucky that I can live near my place of work and get to pop out occasionally like that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Step back in time

Tonight our adorable little boy, who has been as good as gold all day, has treated us to half an hour of crying and screaming when he should have been going to sleep.

He's been showing signs of becoming more restless at night recently and tonight he became extremely upset. We had to resort to controlled crying, which was tough, but he settled whenever we came in to re-assure him, so he wasn't in pain, just wanting us to stay with him while he went to sleep. We really don't feel we should do that as we don't want him to become reliant on us to go to sleep, especially after he has learned to get himself to sleep so well.

It's agonising to hear him crying like that and not go into him for several minutes at a time. I just hope we are doing the right thing.

And at the end of the day I'm grateful he only kept it up for half an hour or so. We have friends whose children have screamed for hours!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

There goes the office!

Hayley and I have just done the pregnancy test and she is definitely pregnant!

We are both very excited and yet I feel very calm too, almost as if I knew this would happen. Well, I suppose that's a daft thing to say, after all we did make love at the right time for her to fall pregnant. But for the last couple of days she hasn't felt like she was going to "come on" which is odd for her.

And tonight as soon as I asked her about it she said she knew she was pregnant because she had all the same signs. To be honest from the moment she said that I was 90% sure she was right. You can use a test, but, as they say, "a woman knows". I felt my stomach flip over when she said that. After that it was all very run of the mill really: go out, get test, come home, have test, eat dinner. OK I'm being tongue in cheek but it just feels natural.

The only negative thing I've felt all night was the momentary realisation that our new house (assuming the damned lawyers exchange the contracts tomorrow!) has enough rooms for an office. Or at least it did until this news. Somehow I think that's a price worth paying.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

BBC - Woman making final embryo appeal

BBC - Woman making final embryo appeal

I feel for this woman. I can see the arguments on both sides, but the most compelling argument for me is the one given by John Harris, Professor of bioethics at Manchester University School of Law.

"Howard Johnston gave his considered, fully informed, consent to fertilisation of the eggs, the creation of the embryos and the 'procreative enterprise'. I do not see why he should now be permitted to break this contract and withdraw unilaterally from the procreative enterprise with such disastrous consequences for Natallie."

You can read Professor Harris' views on the case alongside those of Baroness Ruth Deech who takes an opposite position, in this BBC "Head to Head" article.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

'Super-nannies' to help parents

There are plenty of programmes around on TV at the moment demonstrating how unruly children can become and how TV Super-Nannies (such as Jo Frost, above) seem to have the answers.

So it should not come as a surprise that the government has decided to augment its use of ASBOs and mandatory parenting classes with the inrtoduction today of 77 Super-Nannies who will go into the homes of children deemed out-of-control.

BBC - 'Super-nannies' to help parents

Monday, November 20, 2006

BBC - Eight-year-old held at gunpoint

I was shocked to hear this story. I was even more shocked when I heard it happened in Cheadle, a well-heeled suburb only a couple of miles from where we live.

Eight-year-old held at gunpoint

BBC - Milk allergy in babies 'missed'

Cow's milk allergy in babies is being missed by doctors, a survey suggests.

Nearly 80% of 500 doctors polled by the medical taskforce Act Against Allergy thought their colleagues confused milk allergy symptoms with other conditions.

Fortunately Oliver seems OK with cow's milk. In fact he'll probably be off formula altogether in a couple of weeks. We've been reducing the amount of Aptamil 2 in his bottle. He's currently having 2 ounces of Aptamil in his 9 ounce bottle, the rest being cow's milk.

Of course he had a bad reaction to eggs at 6 months. Fortunately he seems better with them now. He has even had some boiled egg white after several months of gradually re-introducing food containing egg.

Milk allergy in babies 'missed'

Friday, November 17, 2006

First hair cut

First hair-cut

This afternoon we took Oliver to have his hair cut for the first time. He had his very own appointment at Brendan Parr hairdressers in Heaton Moor. He sat quite happily and was well-behaved though not exactly still during his new experience. His hair has been very long at the back: he's had quite a mullet! But now he looks rather dapper after his trim.

Apparently having his hair cut will cause it to grow faster and hopefully a bit thicker too as the little man's gorgeous blonde locks are still quite thin at the moment.

Hayley took a lock of his hair to put in a locket. She took some for me too, but I'm not sure what Dads do with locks of their sons hair. Our friend Jo suggested saving it for when I'll need it myself in a few years!

I think the cost including the tip was £5. That's about half the price of mine and... well, let's just say it's quite a lot less than his Mummy's.

First hair-cut

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Morning routines


Here is Oliver's rough weekday morning routine at the moment.

He usually wakes any time after 6am but will doze off and snooze or play until nearly 7am. Then one of us goes into his room, gets him up and brings him into our room where he sits on the bed between us.

While we start to come round we put the TV on. The "Early Worms" come on and Oliver jigs about to their tune. They simply introduce the first programme which is Thomas the Tank Engine. Oliver doesn't really watch Thomas and friends as much as give them the occasional glance while climbing all over Mummy and Daddy, stealing Daddy's glasses or trying to eat his cereal (if I have managed to get some by this point).

He sits and plays or watches Thomas while Hayley gets up and dressed, then she dresses him and takes him downstairs to give him his breakfast. By the time I come down he is usually tucking into his breakfast and will always offer me some, whether it be soggy corn flakes or partially sucked toast.

I cycle to work and when I put my cycling helmet on he starts waving to me and saying "bye bye" which is somewhere between cute and heart-breaking!

Before I leave the house Mummy and Oliver get a kiss, but once outside the door Oliver pushes his face up against the door to give me kisses through the glass. Sometimes Mummy joins in too!

Then I cycle off to work with this happy image in my mind.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

BBC - 'Do not revive' earliest babies

What a minefield, especially for the parents.

'Do not revive' earliest babies

Monday, November 13, 2006

Name that tune


Oliver loves "Boogie Beebies" on CBeebies at the moment. It's a programme where kids dance specific moves to music based around a theme. So, for example, a football theme (that's soccer for our American readers) will have them kicking and heading an imaginary ball. I thought this show would be much too old for him but he seems to like anything musical right now.

When I came home tonight I sang "If you're happy and you know it..." and he immediately started clapping his hands. More surprising to me, later when I played it on his xylophone he immediately recognised the tune and started clapping his hands again.

He's really enjoying his xylophone. He had to be helped to take it out of its box this morning. After a few minutes hitting the keys with the sticks, he happened upon the sound made by running the stick up and down the keys. It's great watching him discover things like that.

Last night I sat and played guitar and sang to him. He jigged about happily watching me attempt to play the guitar while inserting the motion of the wheels on the bus or the marching of the grand old duke of York's men. He applauds at the end of each song, bless him. He also applauds his own performances on the xylophone! But if I sing or play something he doesn't want to hear he waves his hands in his "all done!" sign to make me stop! Apparently he also did that to Damien the other day at Song Time and Hayley had to explain what he meant. Poor chap!

I was talking to Jack's Dad the other day about our hopes for our sons. Being a bit of a footballer, he has discussed with mates what position Jack will play. (Centre-half if you are interested. He's going to be a BIG lad.) Being musical is perhaps the only special aspiration I have for Oliver beyond the predictable parental yearnings for their offspring to be happy, confident and to buy them a retirement home in the Florida quays. (Just kidding.)

But it seems his talents may lie elsewhere. At Alphabet Zoo today he worked out that if he took his socks off he could climb up the slide in the wrong direction. He's constantly trying to climb stairs of all kinds, climb on top of hs walkers and most often climb all over me. I wonder whether one day he'll be off to the Himalayas.

So perhaps I should buy him a Tibetan musical instrument to combine both hobbies. Come to think of it, maybe playing all that Buddhist music we had playing during labour had some effect after all!

Remembrance Sunday (2006) - Kipling and his Son

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday. To be honest it largely passed me by, which is unusual. But in the evening there was a programme on BBC1 about Rudyard Kipling and how his life was blighted by the loss of his son, John, in the First World War.

His son went to war despite extreme short-sightedness and with the encouragement of his father who was greatly in favour of the war. His son's letters as he approached the front betrayed his youthful innocence and optimism.

The story was reconstructed with actors in parts and I was moved by the scene where Kipling opens the "Missing In Action..." telegram in front of his wife, who breaks down into the most harrowing of sobbing. I thought how awful it would be to lose Oliver. Later I told Hayley about it and reflected on how I would hate him to be sent to war, especially a war created by over-arching politicians. "Well he won't be going to any war, I won't let him" was her summary reply.

But of course, we had to admit he will make his own mind up. And we were left wondering how we will instill in him the right values; values that will steer him into a good life but just as importantly to us will help him to survive.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

First Sleepover


Oliver had his first sleep-over last night. His friend Jack stayed over so that his Mummy and Daddy (Sara and Manny) could go out.

Oliver stayed up a bit later than usual playing with Jack. He went quietly enough up for his bedtime bottle but when it came time to go to sleep he complained, reluctant not to rejoin the fun with his mate.

Jack goes to bed later than Oliver and he was as good as gold. Hayely fed him downstairs before taking him up to Oliver's room to his travel cot.

Feeding Jack

He briefly complained when put down until we gave him his cuddly toys but then he was as quiet as a mouse for the whole night, unlike Oliver who always seems to let out an enormous shout when he has to turn over.

In the morning they had lots of fun including a ride on one of the walkers for Oliver and a ride on a reindeer for both of them.


At lunchtime Mummy and Daddy came round and we all went out for Sunday lunch. All in all a great success.

And at the risk of sounding selfish, we are already excited about taking up Sara and Manny on their offer to return the favour!


Saturday, November 11, 2006

The little man walking

Oliver has been walking for a while now so I thought it was about time I captured him on film.

Tonight I sat on the floor with my arms open wide. He walked over to me much as he does in the above video, but laughing as he came before falling into my arms. We both laughed like it was the funniest thing imaginable.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Oliver at the wheel

Oliver familiarised himself with the controls of Hayley's car today.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

BBC - Girl, 4, 'suffering depression'

A four-year-old is suffering from depression because she cannot attend the same primary school as her nursery friends, according to her doctor.

Girl, 4, 'suffering depression'

Monday, November 06, 2006

I love him to death but...

Recently this blog seems to have been all sweetness and light. Lest anyone mistakenly conclude that this narrative is a smug celebration of a life that defines the utopian experience, here are a few bumps in the road.

  • I miss going out as a couple with Hayley. We haven't managed anything near enough evenings out for the just the two of us and I know that's wrong. But we lack a good baby sitter who knows Oliver and with whom he is comfortable. We are trying to rectify that, but it's not easy.

  • I miss my sleep. Last week the clocks went back for the end of British Summer Time. That used to mean an extra hour in bed. Ha! Fat chance. This time it meant an extra hour of play for Oliver. Mummy and Daddy were exhausted by the time he went to bed.

  • I miss going to Man Utd, especially with Hayley.

  • I miss having the time to sit and play guitar, let alone ponder long enough to write a song.

  • I miss being able to go out and eat a meal at a leisurely pace instead of having to wolf down food in time to pacify my bored/fractious/not-getting-his-way toddler. Last weekend I met Hayley and Oliver at Jaba, an Indian deli in Heaton Mersey. He protested at sitting down, refused all food (Indian or otherwise), climbed all over us as we ate and even when I took him for a walk as he'd been demanding he protested at that too after a couple of minutes. The result? Lovely food eaten at 100 miles per hour. So much for the pleasant lunch I pictured as I headed up there to meet them.

  • So there you have it. It's not a long list really. And I'd probably be quite happy if I could just get a bit more time with Hayley as a couple again. Preferably within the next 20 years!

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    BBC - UK youths 'among worst in Europe'

    Britain's teenagers are among the most badly behaved in Europe, a study by a think-tank has suggested.

    On every indicator of bad behaviour - drugs, drink, violence, promiscuity - the UK was at or near the top, said the Institute for Public Policy Research.

    UK youths 'among worst in Europe'

    Depressing reading. But is it surprising that kids just hang out with other kids when their parents are working as hard as possible to keep their mortgages paid and food on the table? I just hope we give Oliver the right messages and support so he won't indulge to excess when his experimental teenage years arrive.

    I also pray to God we give him enough self-esteem and confidence not to have to rely on brands and designer-wear for his identity. I feel so lucky that I grew up in an era when such pressures were much less pervasive.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    BBC - Brain flaws 'linked to cot death'

    "Brain abnormalities which affect breathing and temperature control could increase a baby's risk of cot death, a study has suggested."

    Brain flaws 'linked to cot death'

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    Halloween - This is not America (unfortunately)

    Halloween Lantern

    It's Halloween. Time for "Trick or Treat"! Well, that may be true in Connecticut where Hayley lived for some years, but here in our part of Stockport it seems to be sadly out of fashion.

    Hayley made a pumpkin lantern with Oliver at the weekend, placed it in the window this evening and was ready with treats for the Halloween visitors. So how many times did we get the tell-tale knock on the door? Once! There were two little girls dressed rather like Cinderella. Nothing too scary at all. (Bless them.) And this was at 8pm, long after Oliver was sound asleep in bed.

    So all in all a bit of a let down. But at least the two girls got a handful of lollys instead of the one each we'd budgeted.

    Lantern in the window
    Lantern in the window

    I love my lollipop!

    I love my lollipop

    Hayley gave Oliver one of the lollipops she bought in readiness for Trick or Treaters. I think we can safely say he enjoyed it!


    Saturday, October 28, 2006

    Making a Pumpkin Lantern for Halloween

    Oliver helped his Mummy make a pumkin lantern for Halloween.

    Oliver loves...

    At 1 year 1 month 2 weeks and 6 days old, Oliver loves...

  • Reading. Before bed tonight he read a big pile of books with me. Sometimes he gets through the whole book while others are tossed aside after a few pages. I remember picking up a book about his birth-sign before he was born. It said a good career for him would be Critic.

  • Trying on Daddy's glasses. He steals them from my face then tries to put them on (unsuccessfully). I help him and place them on the end of his nose so he can peer over them at me, looking like a mad professor.

  • Thomas the tank engine. During the week, Oliver gets up at 7am and comes into our room to sit on our bed and watch Thomas and friends on Nick Junior 2. He loves to make the whistle sound. He also has a Thomas pushalong which he pushes around the house and is helping him learn to walk. Not to mention an ever growing number of other Thomas toys.

  • Showers. Baths are out of favour right now. He loves a shower, either with his Mummy when he gets picked up and held, or just by himself when he sits under the pouring water palying with the plug in preference to all his bath toys.

  • Walking along with Mummy and Daddy holding a hand each. He loves to do this when we are out and about. I think he imagines he is taking us for a walk. Actually he could be right.

  • Music. He goes to "Song Time", "Rhythm and Rhyme" and likes to just listen to nursery rhymes on CD which his Mummy sings along to. At Song Time, where Damien plays guitar and sings, Hayley tells me he is the most attentive baby, watching our friend Jo who sits facing him as she sings along. At the end of the song he claps. Given that I let him strum my guitar as I play at home, Damien is lucky that he hasn't attempted to do the same there.

  • Teletubbies. It's 8.30 on Saturday morning and Oliver has had his breakfast. We've read a pile of books, pretended to make cups of tea, investigated how to get a coke bottle top off and back on again. Now Oliver is happily watching Teletubbies before we go out. He shrieked with delight the moment he saw the baby's face in the sun at the start of the programme.

  • Walking. This morning he walked the length of the room to the front door. He looked so proud of himself when he looked round with a big smile. Earlier he took me for a walk with his Thomas pushalong, all the way to the little park on Craig Road near our house. His current shoes are "walker/crawler" shoes. His new ones will have to be proper walking shoes.

  • Play dates. He particularly seems to love playing with Niamh, Jessica and Jack at the moment. We only have to tell him he's going to see Jack and he shouts back "Jack!" and gets excited.
  • Friday, October 27, 2006

    Music was my first love...

    Oliver introduces himself to Daddy's guitar

    I used to be a right "muso". Actually, it's not quite that bad. I used to be a wannabe musician. Now I'm just a musician. Amateur, home-bound and largely stagnant. There isn't much time to sit back and strum the guitar. And when I do I'm usually accompanying my own unique version of "The Wheels on the Bus" for Oliver's entertainment.

    But every now and then I hear a piece of music that will remind me how much I love music and why for most of my life I have felt driven to write music myself. It might be popular or classical, The Beatles or Bach, Joni Mitchell or Justin Timberlake. (OK, I'm kidding about Justin Timberlake.) But it makes me long to write just one great song. Because music is a force of nature. I mean, good grief, even Abba's floor-filling "Dancing Queen" is enough reason for me to be glad to be alive!

    And now my love of music has an added impetus: the desire to share the joy it brings me with my son. Sitting at work today listening to my iPod to block out the chatter, Gustav Holst's "Jupiter" suddenly filled my ears. I felt a rush that echoed the music itself. All I could think was how I would love to play this to Oliver and wondered how old he would be before he might enjoy it too.

    Of course, there's no guarantee he'll ever share my tastes. And obviously he'll feel obliged to love his own kind of music when he is a teenager. But maybe once in a while we'll agree. After all, we both enjoyed the Balamory theme tune this morning.

    Back to my iPod. Immediately "Jupiter" finished I heard the familiar strains of "Hanging Around" by the Stranglers and I was struck not only by the ever-presence of some music in my life but also how its meaning to me has changed with the changes in my life. Back in the late '70s "Hanging Around" evoked a hardcore teen identity in the immediate post-punk era. Nowadays it's the song I sing to Oliver to make him smile. I wonder what the 15 year old me would think if I could travel back to tell him that's how it will be one day. I suspect he would smile.

    BBC - "Hewitt asks for alcohol tax rise"

    Hewitt asks for alcohol tax rise

    "Tax on alcohol should rise to reduce binge drinking among teenagers, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has said.

    Ms Hewitt urged chancellor Gordon Brown to "really increase" taxes on alcohol, especially on drinks such as alcopops, most popular with young people."

    I sympathise with Ms Hewitt's motives and I would not scream too much even if they put up the price of my precious beer. But I don't believe this is anything near being the whole answer. After all, drugs are very expensive but young people still find ways to acquire and take them.

    I think getting the message across that drinking to excess is dangerous in the short and long term and that being out of control is far from cool - stupid in fact - is more key to solving this problem.

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Walking: it's the way forward

    This morning before I left for work Hayley saw Oliver walk without prompting across the room for the first time. He was standing up against the coffee table and decided to go and see Mummy who was sitting against the sofa. But instead of dropping to all fours and crawling as he usually would, he walked the 4 or 5 steps across the room to greet her.

    It's the first time he has decided to travel on two feet for a distance further than "diving" distance (ie two steps and a dive). Previously he has only walked this far when we start him walking with our hands around him then let go.

    This evening he walked un-prompted and unaided across the kitchen from the cooker to the sink. He staggered slowly with his arms outstretched - zombie fashion! - until he reached the sink where Hayley was standing. She looked down at him open-mouthed with delight and told him how clever he was. He laughed, excited and pleased with himself.

    Twenty six pounds, nine ounces

    Oliver was weighed today. He weighs 26 lbs 9 ounces. He is still in about the 91st percentile for his weight and 93rd for his height. He's a big chap!

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    It's only words

    Before having Oliver I imagined that one day a word would pop out of our child's mouth in a clearly defined way. Wrong!

    I am pretty sure Hayley would agree his first word was "Dadda", but he was making "Da" sounds long before it was clear he was talking about me. Nowadays it's pretty clear when he's talking to (or about) me: greeting me as I come home; standing at the bottom of the stairs shouting "Dad"; or hearing my voice on the phone and saying "Dadda". He even progressed to "Daddy" last night in the car. (Somewhat confusingly he says "Daaaaaaaaa" when he sees Thomas the Tank Engine.)

    But he has started to add other words now too. They may not be easily decipherable to any but his parents but we at least can identify them.

    When asked certain questions - usually about things he likes to do such as go for a shower or go out in the car - he will say "Yes".

    Last night he stood at the top of the stairs looking down at me half-way down the stairs, waved and said "bye bye".

    And as I mentioned previously he sings "row row" when we sing "Row row row your boat...." with him.

    It's quite a revelation to hear these first words from him and it brings home the fact that he is growing and learning every single day at an incredible rate.

    It also makes him even more adorable.

    Older eggs pass on fertility risk

    Older eggs pass on fertility risk

    Apparently being an older father also has an impact. Older being 32 years old! There goes my lineage...

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    BBC - "Flu jabs for pregnant women call"

    Flu jabs for pregnant women call

    Pregnant women in the UK should be vaccinated against seasonal flu, government advisers say.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Fab Weekend

    The boys love pizza

    As I type I can hear Oliver thundering around upstairs on all fours laughiiing as he goes while his Mummy has a shower. Now he has crawled into the bathroom to join her and is enjoying his bedtime shower. I should be making a better fist of tidying the kitchen but I couldn't let this moment pass without capturing it.

    We've had a great weekend (despite an unpleasant little incident last night) and we haven't really done anything very special. Oliver has been such fun and we spent more time together than usual: our happy trio has shared all but an hour of the weekend.

    Yesterday saw us take a trip to Pizza Hut. Both Oliver and I love bread so it's unsurprising that we also love pizzas. Then we walked with him around Maplin. He loves having each of us hold one hand at either side of him. Occasionally we count "one, two, three..." then swing him in the air. It doubles not only as a beautiful picture-book family moment but an excellent way to speed up progress along the pavement from half a mile per hour to about three.

    Today has been fairly grey and damp. Apart from a brief playdate with Isabella this morning and a trip to Somerfield he has been at home with us most of the day. He played with us or amused himself (while I watched football - Utd 2 Liverpool 0), napped for half an hour and ate a good sized dinner to boot.

    He's so expressive now. Even an interesting frying pan can elicit an excited "WoooOOOoooo" and a chuckle. And he's absorbing things we say and do like a sponge. THis weekend he has added puckering up to give kisses and also blowing kisses. No doubt this will be done willy nilly to passers by. Etiquette tends to pass one year olds by.

    This evening has been marked by him sitting next to us on the sofa eating an apple (from last weekend) while Hayley and I ate our dinners next to him. This soon evolved into Oliver trying to get a chunk of my veggie burger but he did it in such a friendly and un-whiney way that it was as much fun as any game we'd played.

    After dinner there was time for reading (Thomas books and animal pop-up books) before a game of Chase. He starts it by crawling at high speed to the door then looking back at me as if to say "come on!". The moment I lurch forward on all fours he laughs excitedly and scurries off. If I catch him I eatiher tickle him or let him escape under my legs. He absolutely loves this game. His excitement at being chased and his potential capture is plain to see.

    FInally we had a little wind-down time then asked him "WOuld you like a shower?", "Yes", he replied. So off he crawled up the stairs with Mummy "chasing" him for his shower.

    [20 minutes later]
    I've just been up with him while Hayley gave him his milk. It seemed the best way to end the weekend, all together. He's emitting the occasional sleepy grumble quietly now in his cot. I can't blame him. It's the sort of weekend you don't want to end.

    Troublesome teens

    Last night Hayley picked up some friends from the airport. When she came home she immediately burst into tears.

    On turning the penultimate corner before our house she had been met by a bunch of teenagers standning in the road. Most of them moved out of the way, but one remained there there with his arms outstretched in a "come on then" fashion.

    She wound down the window and (polite as ever) asked if there was a problem. She was met with foul mouthed abuse (too foul to re-produce here). She was told by one of the other kids that the boy was deaf (as if this was en explanation). She drove home.

    I'm not a confrontational sort of person. I'm more a peacemaker by nature. But this incensed me. I got Hayley to point out the group who were still sitting at the top of the road and went over to speak to them. In brief I told them in no uncertain terms that they had better stay away from partner or there'd be trouble for them. Several of them protested their innnocence at this point (unsurprisingly) pointing the finger at one boy in the group who was indeed deaf. I was ready to leave it at this point but the boy then stood up and started to be aggressive, standing right in front of me with his arms out saying "come on!".

    Obviously I wasn't about to respond to this. He was only a 14 year old boy and I was acutely aware that if he attacked me, even if I only laid the slightest hand on him in self defence there was the danger of being accused of some sort of improper behaviour afterwards. So I told him to calm down and tried to talk to his friends as he was unclear in his speech and under the streetlights I had no idea whether he could even lip-read what I might be saying.

    But he kept coming towards me, intervening between me and his friends. The said friends then started to explain that he had been fighting with all of them all evening and it started to become clear that really there was only one troublemaker in the group and he was persistently trying to get in my face.

    Eventually as I talked to one of his friends he stood within inches of me and tried to (or made as if to) head butt me. As he was so close I discovered the real underlying trouble here: he was drunk. I could smell it on him.

    By this point Hayley had come over and we managed to get his address from a girl in the group while I kept the boy at arms reach (literally). She told us his Mum couldn't handle him and he would probably be sent to his Dad who would beat him.

    So we returned to our house and faced a dilemna. Should we go round to see the boy's Mum and so perhaps place him in danger of a beating? Or should we let the incident pass and possibly fail him by not letting his Mum know what a state he was in? (Not to mention the fact that doing nothing might give the impression he could get away with it and invite further misbehaviour - and he knew where we lived now).

    As we mulled this over and tried to settle down to enjoy the rest of our evening, there was a knock at the door and there he was, his friends 10 feet behind him on the road. Oh great!

    But to our surprise on opening the door he immediately said simply "sorry" and held out his hand which we each shook and said OK. He truly cut a sorry figure. No doubt his friends told him we were off to see his Mum next day and reality kicked in.

    The only thing that bothers me now is the thought that his Mum either didn't know what he was doing, or worse, she knew and had no control. Either way it's a situation I hope to God that we as parents never face.

    All the best toys...

    Future chef?

    All the best toys are not toys at all! Our living room has a large box which is literally overflowing with toys. So what does Oliver play with? The pots and pans in the cupboard of course. And the door to the cupboard itself which he swings open and shut repeatedly.

    Other great "toys" include:
  • the TV which is great for turning on and off when Daddy is trying to watch something trivial like, say, live coverage of Man Utd vs Liverpool

  • the telephone which has an interesting backlit hands-free button (resulting in several inadvertent phone calls)

  • In my room, making some calls...

  • the Sky remote control which has a worrying tendency to select obscure pay-per-view channels when in Oliver's hands. (That's my excuse when the bill comes in and I'm sticking with it.)

  • the Dust-buster vaccuum cleaner which he helpfully uses with varying degrees of effectiveness

  • Our helpful son

  • Mummy's expensive scented candles in heavy glass holders which have to be removed from the table at every oportunity.

  • the controls on the oil heater in the conservatory resulting in tropical temperatures and the imminent purchase of a fireguard

  • Still, he has to explore to learn. At least to date he hasn't repeated my early experiment with un-cooked eggs by dropping them on the kitchen floor to smash.

    Saturday, October 21, 2006

    Row row row your boat

    For the first time tonight I not only heard Oliver sing but he was singing words. Hayley sang "Row row row your boat..." to him and he clearly joined in and sang "row row". My heart did the sort of flip I thought was only experienced by teenage first loves. It was simply the sweetest sound I have ever heard.

    Fatherhood does this to me. It turns me into a soppy lump. But he is a joy and it's a privilege to be with him watching him grow day by day. And he really does seem to be a little bit different every day now.

    When I met Hayley I thought I had met someone to enjoy every day with. I had no idea she would bring me another little person who also adds so much happiness to every single day. Talk about an unexpected bonus!

    "I'll have that!"

    "I'll have that!"
    Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
    Oliver loves this shopping trolley which Hayley has just bought. He sat next to it and put in mini-boxes of breakfast cereal, plastic fruit, plastic vegetables, plastic eggs... anything that took his fancy in fact.

    I started to throw things in too saying "I'll have that" in a high-pitched (Monty Python-esque) voice as each item went into the basket. This had him in stitches.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    BBC NEWS | Health | Sleep loss in child-obesity link

    BBC NEWS | Health | Sleep loss in child-obesity link

    Last night Oliver woke or stirred and cried on a regular basis. We had to go into him at midnight, 1am, 2am, 4am, 5am and was woken without having to go in a couple of other times between. So lack of sleep is a hot topic in our house.

    But now we discover that our efforts to give Oliver a healthy start in life by feeding him the right foods could all be undone if he sleeps badly. And recently his sleep patterns have changed.

    His nocturnal stirring has worsened this week. We think we might have identified the cause as an oversized sleeping bag which he gets tangled up in. We'll see if we're right tonight as he's in a better sized bag.

    But he has also started to go down to sleep less well. I suspect it's his age. Perhaps he has realised that bedtime need not be a time of our making. So far tiredness has got the better of his protests but it is a worrying reminder of his earlier bedtime woes.

    All we can do is continue to give a him a routine, lots of love and cross our fingers. Oh, and keep sugary snacks out of the house!

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    "That's 5 small steps for the little man,...

    ...one giant grin for Mummy and Daddy".

    OK, it's not quite walking on the moon, but today Oliver has started to realise that walking can be more than just falling forwards for a couple of steps and it needn't involve holding Mummy or Daddy's hand. Today at "Bounce and Rhyme" he took about four steady consecutive steps. Tonight he repeated the feat a couple of times and then took 5 steps. This is the first time he has really looked steady on his feet far a few feet at a time.

    Until now his walking has been triggered by us tricking him into walking from one of us to the other so that he realises he can do it. Normally his walks start by grabbing my hand, but I sense that is about to change: he'll just be up and off. It's another level of independence for the little man, which is great. It's also a bit more work for us to keep up with him. It's a good job they say it keeps you young.

    A rash

    We've noticed that Oliver has started to come out in a little rash this week. A blotchy rash that looks a bit like a nettle sting: red areas with bumps that look a little like tiny blisters. We can't work out whether he is allergic to something.

    Today he woke from his afternoon nap and grumbled persistently. After a few minutes of trying to persuade him to go back to sleep lying on his Mummy (as he sometimes does) he became quite upset and we noticed the rash was on his face. Once he had calmed down it seemed to go. It's hard to know whether the cause was something on his bed, Hayley's shirt or just agitation.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Please step forward the real 21st Century Mums.

    The Observer ran an article in its magazine about 21st Century Mums. They picked out 8 categories of mother who they claimed represented motherhood in the 21st century. They were:

    The career mother
    The surrogate mother
    The older mother
    The lesbian mothers
    The single mother by choice
    The teenage mother
    The adoptive mother
    The eco mother

    The article pointed out that these ever so modern mothers demonstrated how far we have moved on from the "married stay-at-home mother of our parents' era".

    How far indeed! But their assumption that this list illustrates how we've moved in the right direction is one I question. There is a mother missing from their list of 21st century representatives: the Mum who decides to sacrifice the smooth escalation of her career and associated financial gain because she believes the first years of her child's life are the most important and the ones when the child needs their mother around.

    We looked into nurseries when Hayley was on maternity leave and even sent Oliver to one for a few short (and too often unhappy) trial visits. But after researching the subject - and particularly after reading Stephen Biddulph's book "Raising Babies" - I concluded that there was no substitute for Hayley's time and attention as far as Oliver was concerned, no matter how financially unpalatable that looked at the time.

    I'd say the majority of mothers we've come across in the first year of Oliver's life have expressed the wish to stay at home with their child on either a full- or part-time basis. Many of them have managed to do so and couldn't be happier about their decision.

    Work-life balance is talked about a lot. But it seems to me that people are now doing more than talking about it as being important, they are actually doing something about it, even if it means sacrifices. So my message to The Observer is to wake up to the real 21st century trend in mothering: valuing it as highly as any paid job, giving it the respect it deserves and our children the start in life they deserve.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    BBC NEWS | Health | Walnuts 'combat unhealthy fats'

    BBC NEWS | Health | Walnuts 'combat unhealthy fats'

    So I can continue to pour extra virgin olive oil all over my salad provided it has plenty of walnuts in it? No problem!

    BBC NEWS | Health | Pregnant women 'oily fish alert'

    BBC NEWS | Health | Pregnant women 'oily fish alert'

    So pregnant women should eat oily fish in moderation and avoid sharks. I suspect they may already be doing the latter.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    "Mummy not superhuman" shock

    Yesterday for the first time Hayley woke up to find herself feeling so full of a flu-type bug that she had to ask me to stay off work and look after Oliver. It is normally me who succumbs easily to any passing bug or virus whereas she soldiers on apparently immune to infection of any kind.

    Oliver took this as an opportunity to:
    - fill his nappy the moment I had put his breakfast on the table
    - fill his nappy for a "bonus" second time the moment I got to Somerfield with him.
    - abandon his usual habit of going for a nap without protest in favour of a long crying session.

    Hayley - who was woken by the racket - assured me this last problem was because I am so much fun and he doesn't want to be parted from me. She's such a sweet-talker.

    Man, we are so busted!

    Yesterday Hayley was poorly, so I stayed at home in the morning and looked after Oliver. For much of the time we played, read books and watched TV in the living room.

    Late in the morning Hayley came downstairs. Unfortunately we didn't hear her. She walked stealthily into the room to discover me demonstrating to Oliver how to rip up tissues. I would rip one up and Oliver would laugh and follow suit.

    My defence that this scientific experiment introduced him to several key concepts in the field of physics and mechanics seemed to fall on deaf ears.

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    A day out with Thomas!

    Oliver, Daddy and Thomas

    You don't have to read too much of this blog to realise that Oliver loves Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. So imagine how excited he was when we took him to ride on Thomas himself! (Thanks to Donna for the tip off about the day!) Oliver's friend Jack also came along with his parents, Manny and Sara.

    Oliver's face was a picture when we arrived at the station and he saw the giant inflatable Thomas (a kind of Thomas bouncy castle). But when he saw Thomas himself on the tracks he grinned a mile wide and did his impression of Thomas's whistle (which is sort of two short shouts) before attempting to climb down from my arms, presumably to head over the tracks to see him.

    He got to a short ride on Thomas and a lollipop, plus a longer ride on another steam train when we trekked over to Ramsbottom where we had lunch.

    Hayley and Oliver

    It was a great day out (even if £11.50 each for adults was a bit steep). There are more pictures from the day here.

    Oliver and Daddy

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    Soppy Daddy #2

    As Oliver climbed onto me whilst simultaneously watching Thomas the Tank Engine at the weekend, his blonde locks brushing my face as he steadied himself, I said perhaps the soppiest thing ever to come out of my mouth. "His hair is made from the straw that angels sleep upon."

    My only defence is love.

    Soppy Daddy #1

    Monday night is Hayley's night to do as she pleases and mine to put Oliver to bed. So it's the one night of the week I am guaranteed to give him his bedtime milk and consequently get a cuddle from the little man as that's one of his bedtime habits.

    Tonight Hayley decided to stay home til he had gone to bed as he has been a bit poorly today (runny nose, a bit grumpy). She sat next to me on the sofa-bed while Oliver sat on my knee and I gave him his milk. When it came time for him to have a cuddle half way through his bottle, instead of turning to me he turned to Hayley and reached out to her. Hayley didn't need a second invitation and promptly stole my only guaranteed cuddles of the week: she's a cuddle thief!

    I can't complain though. He still protests about going to Hayley in the mornings once I have picked him up, so I suppose we each get our share of his affections. Mummy gets evening cuddles. Daddy's his morning taxi.

    When Daddy is left in charge...

    Oliver is always trying to get into our cupboards to play with the pots and pans, so the other day I decided to let him have his way (while I watched over him to avoid disaster... honest).

    When he started there was nothing on the floor...

    "Chop sticks? Drum sticks more like!"

    "This is great fun Daddy"

    "As soon as Daddy stops watchin I'm going to have one of these Weetabix."

    "Oooooh, these Shreddies are a bit crunchy without milk aren't they."

    "Put the camera down Daddy. We could be here a while..."

    Sunday, October 01, 2006

    I'm all lost in the supermarket

    In a very quiet Tesco at 8.30 this Sunday morning I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard the short "Blip" sound of the countdown for "the button" in the TV show "Lost".

    Fortunately it was only the barcode scanner at the checkout.

    Oliver, who was in the back-pack, was unimpressed by the whole incident and fell asleep shortly afterwards.

    Save the world or save your kids?

    We're in the process of moving house and one of the first considerations when choosing where to move was a good local school. Consequently we've really stretched ourselves to buy the place we want.

    As a result I will have to stop my monthly charitable donations. I've been making these for years and have always thought that if a self-confessed middle-class, middle-aged man like me can't donate something then who can. But now I find myself abandoning these charities in the name of my son.

    And similar choices go on daily. I find myself putting the Fairtrade and re-cyclable goods back on the shelf on the grounds that they are "just too expensive".

    So my message to any twenty- or thirty-somethings out there is this: accrue your brownie points early and hope you've done enough to avoid bad karma by the time you have a mortgage that feels heavier to carry than your one-year-old after 5 miles.

    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!