Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Round-up 2007

Christmas Eve


  • In the run-up to Christmas we told Oliver we would put out a carrot for Rudolph and a mince pie and glass of whisky for Father Christmas. (The politically correct glass of water that seems to have been proposed by playgroups and/or nursery was never going to be an option. He drank whisky when I was a lad and I have heard nothing of him going tee-total.) Oliver even insisted on me taking a detour to Somerfield to buy the carrot in readiness. So he was an eager participant when we laid out our offerings on Christmas Eve.


  • Oliver showed no interest in looking out of the window to see whether he could see Father Christmas and Rudoph in the sky. He just wanted his bedtime milk. Once he was asleep I crept into his room and removed the Christmas stocking we had placed there together earlier. I filled it with a few presents, some lollipops and a tangerine before creeping back in and placing it back at the end of his bed. It was a delightful experience. Hopefully the first of many times to come.

  • Christmas Day
  • On Christmas morning Oliver had to be reminded that it was Christmas and that he had a stocking of presents at the foot of his bed. We took it into our bedroom and all four of us sat on the bed and opened the first present. It was a Shrek and Donkey filled with bath foam, but Shrek's head was missing! Later we found it and there appears to have been no long-term psychological damage.

  • Much of Christmas morning was passed with Oliver singing along to Wizzard and other Christmas songs that were being served up by VH1 music channel.

  • Oliver and Hayley had great fun making the stuffing balls for dinner.


  • At Christmas dinner, Oliver reminded us that it was Jesus' birthday and then proceeded to say the prayer he knows from Kids on SUnday. "Jesus friend of little children, be friend to me, take my hand and ever keep me, close to thee." He then told us we should sing Happy Birthday.

  • P1000305

  • Lucy was included at our Christmas dinner with a nice bottle of milk, though she seemed intent on something stronger.


  • After dinner, everyone collapsed in front of the TV. Mummy and Daddy cuddled up on the sofa...


    ...while Oliver napped beside us and Lucy napped in an armchair.


  • Later in the afternoon we visited our friend Lisete where we drank wine, snacked and chatted while her daughters entertained Oliver. They entertained him so well in fact that he was not at all keen to come home two hours later when Hayley and I were ready to leave.

  • Boxing Day
  • Boxing Day was spent up at my Mum's house. Oliver was most entertained by my Dad magically changing his expression by wiping his hand across his face, a trick he used to entertain me with when I was Oliver's age.


    Meanwhile Lucy explored the possibilities of a career as a concert pianist.

  • Vital statistics

    Last week we took Lucy to the baby clinic to check her weight and height. WHile we were there we took the opportunity to check Oliver too.

    Lucy is in the 99th percentile for height! But she is only in the 38th percentile for weight. So she currently has the proportions of a supermodel. Seriously though, her weight is not really a worry as she does seem to be gaining nicely.

    Oliver is in the 94th percentile for height (at 94cm), and 50th for weight (around 15Kg). So it seems he may have something like my build, as I was always slim, often with a BMI below 20 until I was around 25 years old. (Then I blinked and found I was fighting the flab like everyone else.)

    Monday, December 24, 2007

    Thank God it's Christmas

    What a week! Since I lasted posted that Lucy woke at 3am she has turned it into a nightly ritual, but thankfully seems to be able to settle herself at least some of the time.

    Yesterday was a date on the calendar that Hayley and I had been looking forward to for months. We don't manage to go out as a couple without the kids half as much as we'd like or, frankly, half as much as is healthy for a relationship. So we planned before the start of the football season to go to a few Man Utd home games together. Yesterday was the first.

    Or at least it should have been. Oliver came down with a temperature of 102 in the night and was no better in the morning. We had no choice but to cancel. Not only was this a huge disappointment but at £44 per seat it was also £88 down the drain.

    So we set about salvaging the day. Oliver was in reasonably good spirits, all things considered, so we asked if he would like to go to Brookside Garden Centre where he could ride on the miniature steam train, getting off half way round to visit Santa's grotto. Not only did he like this idea but he then proceeded to tell us what we would do when got there, repeatedly. "We get on the tracks. We get off. We see Father Christmas...."

    However, when we got to Brookside, purchased our tickets and queued for the ride, he started to say "no". When we got to the train he physically struggled to get off. Clearly this was a non-starter, so Hayley and Lucy went for a ride while Oliver and I sat alone in the little station waiting for their return.

    I managed to get a refund, just ("you can still walk round to the grotto"!) before we headed home feeling properly deflated.

    But still there was an evening out and a few drinks with friends on the cards for Hayley to look forward to. Off she went at 8.30pm and wasn't seen again until 11.30pm. While she was away, despite all appearing calm as she left, I found myself running up and downstairs, alternating between my feverish son and my happy but insistent-on-my-attention daughter. Finally Lucy nodded off on the sofa. When she awoke, instead of her usual smile, to my astonishment she screamed. I don't know why for certain, but I do know she was very tired and drank barely 1.5 ounces of milk before going to sleep for the night, screaming every time she woke between the sofa and her cot.

    Five minutes later Oliver was wailing and I went in to find him hot and upset. I gave him some Calprofen, settled him down and he asked to go back to bed.

    Two hours later, the scene was repeated, but his pyjamas and bedsheets were so drenched in sweat that we changed them all. After that he only shouted out occasionally in his sleep.

    Lucy, meanwhile actually slept through the night without crying, stirring occasionally but getting herself back to sleep. She even managed it around 5.30am when she was very sniffly and not able to breathe properly through her nose. I was amazed but delighted that she managed that. And it is worth mentioning here that in the last few days we have moved her out of her Moses basket and into her cot. (Although in fact we have had the basket inside the cot for a while to get her used to the new environment.)

    At least we now have Christmas to look forward to. Hopefully everyone will feel better from here on in.

    Saturday, December 22, 2007

    Mummy officially melted

    This morning when I came downstairs at 9 o'clock I found Hayley unusually cheerful for someone who had gone without her scheduled lie-in just to allow me to nurse a totally self-inflicted hangover.

    She had been playing with Oliver, singing Christmas Carols and putting on their Father Christmas hats. At one point she walked into the kitchen for something and after a moment Oliver, standing at the door, quite unprompted said "I love you".

    I'm still waiting for her to come back down from her cloud.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    BBC NEWS | England | Tyne | Maternal side has 'stronger bond'

    BBC NEWS | England | Tyne | Maternal side has 'stronger bond'

    BBC NEWS | Health | Baby units 'face staff shortages'

    BBC NEWS | Health | Baby units 'face staff shortages'

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007


    Yesterday afternoon Lucy had some injections. In the evening she had a bit of a temperature so we gave her some Calpol, which she wasn't at all keen on. Nonetheless she had her last bottle and went to sleep without a fuss.

    About 4-5 hours later, at 3.14am, she woke. After a few minutes it was clear she wasn't going back to sleep and she became a little distressed. So we got her out of her Moses basket (which, by the way, is now inside her cot to get her used to it) and I warmed up a 7 ounce bottle of water that had been waiting to have some Aptamil added to it. We offered it to her, thinking that the fever may have left her a little dehydrated but half-expecting her to demand milk or perhaps take just an ounce if she was really thirsty. In fact, she downed the whole 7-ounce bottle before settling back down to sleep through the rest of the night. Today she seems pretty much her old self again.

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    First sibling dispute

    Oliver has a special toy, his Grannimal, Julien the Dog.

    He has had him since he was 10 days old, a gift from his God-parents, David and Susan. As a baby we weaned him off his dummy by letting him hug and chew Julien to go to sleep. Today he is still Oliver's comforter and has to be in his arms when he has his bedtime milk sitting on Mummy or Daddy's knee.

    In an effort to give Lucy the same start in life, we picked out a suitable Grannimal for her: Lucien the Rabbit.

    Grannimals come in 2 sizes and the large variety is impossible to get hold of in this country now, so some friends of ours visiting from Connecticut very kindly brought a large Lucien over with them last week.

    Well, Lucien looks even more impressive in real life than on the web, standing slightly taller than Julien the Dog. So when Oliver came downstairs on Sunday morning and saw Lucien, the inevitable happened. "I have it" he told us.

    There then ensued an attempt on our part to make him see that it was Lucy's toy and that his removal of it from her grasp was not really acceptable. We even tried to get him to do a temporary swap, Julien for Lucien, but to no avail.

    What ensued was without doubt the worst tantrum he has ever had. It took some time for us to convince him of the error of his ways. He was screaming so much at one point I thought he might throw up. I thank the Lord that Hayley went on a parenting skills course for just this sort of situation. There's no amount of watching Supernanny that would adequately prepare you for the reality of such an outburst.

    After some time, and a lot of patience, Oliver decided that he would drop his demand for Lucien and settle for reading a nice book with Daddy instead. After that he was as good as gold. He read a couple of Ladybird books with me (The Princess and the Frog; Chicken Licken) and then, seeing I was settling down to watch football (Liverpool vs United) he said he would watch football with me, which was lovely and something he has never done before.

    A few minutes later I noticed he was falling asleep. His eyes closed, his head nodded and then he slumped gently against my side. I moved him along the sofa, lay him down and put a blanket over him so he could nap next to me. As he realised what I was doing, a beautiful smile crossed his face and he drifted off to sleep... leaving me to watch United beat Liverpool 1-0. Perfection.



    I should have known better (with a girl like you)

    Or perhaps this post should be titled D VVS2.

    Having told the world last week how perfectly Lucy goes to sleep every night, the inevitable happened. Last night, after sleeping a lot all day, she couldn't get herself to sleep and then got herself into a right state. There was much crying, which continued unabated despite offers of milk, cuddles and even a tummy rub as she seemed to be straining and we thought she might be constipated. (It's so hard to know what's wrong at this age!)

    Eventually Hayley managed to walk her around enough to get her off to sleep.

    As I type she is having her last milk of the day. We are hoping last night was a one-off performance.

    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    First jam session


    Oliver has become quite adept with his various drums. He may not yet be a musician, but he has certainly made drummer. (Sorry, couldn't resist it. Old habits die hard.)

    He drums along to various songs as he sings them with me. He uses both hands, alternating them, and keeping time pretty well.

    Well tonight he took it one step further. I was strumming along to some cheesy Christmas classics on VH1 when I suggested Oliver join me with his drum. So we played along to Slade and Wizzard and I have to say he was not the worst drummer I have ever played with!

    It was a heart-warming moment. I have always hoped he would enjoy music and playing music as much as I have throughout my life. To find myself for the first time actually playing music with my son was quite a milestone, in my life as well as his.

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    No photos of your baby! - News - Manchester Evening News

    No photos of your baby! - News - Manchester Evening News

    "A COUPLE were banned from taking photographs of their baby daughter on a swing by a park warden who declared it `inappropriate.'"

    I have to say I could write at length about why this sort of thing drives me nuts. It follows from the same paranoia culture whereby parents can no longer take pictures of their children in school nativity plays and Christmas concerts.

    I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that this year the local council is leaving it up to the schools whether they allow photography on such occasions. Could we at last be seeing the return of common sense and normal behaviour to replace the ridiculous restrictions parents have had to suffer in recent times?

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    D Flawless


    Lucy Diamond we call her. And a D flawless diamond is about as good as they get. Well, that's what I should call her right now. Poor Lucy hardly seems to get a mention in this blog. And do you know why? Because she is just about the most perfect little 4 month old girl you could imagine.

    As if sleeping through all night and smiling all day weren't enough, she is good as gold wherever she goes and at home is content playing, chatting or just being carried around in her sling. In fact she loves that sling best of all. She gets to be close to her Mummy and also to see everything that is going on.

    In the evenings after Oliver goes to bed, she seems to sense it is her time and that's the only time she is at all demanding. She is content with a few hugs in the day, but in the evening she often insists on falling asleep on Mummy, sometimes, like this evening, as soon as she has finished her milk. Then once asleep, she lies contented on the sofa under her little pink blanket. That's where she is right now, still wearing her bib (see picture above).

    In a few minutes we'll take her up for her last feed, then she'll go off to sleep without complaint, just like every night.

    That's Lucy. My D flawless diamond.

    BBC NEWS | Education | Bright poor children 'slip back'

    BBC NEWS | Education | Bright poor children 'slip back'

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007


    First blog entry from phone.

    Yes, I have bought myself a new toy. A lovely Sony Ericsson K850i phone. I found a contract with this phone that worked out as cheap as my PAYG phone, so I "treated" myself. It has a built-in feature that allows you to send a picture to a blog. It does shrink the picture slightly but it's a nice facility, saving me from uploading photos to the PC, then to Flickr, then writing a blog and linking to Flickr. Now I just click and go!

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    BBC NEWS | Magazine | Pregnant at 13, mum at 14, GCSEs at 15

    BBC NEWS | Magazine | Pregnant at 13, mum at 14, GCSEs at 15

    Sunday, December 09, 2007

    Afghan's choice?

    I just heard a news report on the radio say that the level of uncertainty about which side will emerge victorious in the struggle between the Taliban and the western-backed Afghan army in Afghansitan, is so great that many families are placing one son in the Taleban and one in the Afghan army to ensure they have a foot in the camp of the ultimate victor.

    My gut response was that this must be the definition of insanity. But how much choice do they have when on one side the Taleban threaten show-trials for collaborating if they don't enlist and on the other you have the most powerful nations in the world claiming determination to back the Afghan army for as long as it takes?

    Perhaps it is the definition of failure. Whose failure? You decide.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Goodbye Oz

    Oz and Lucy

    Today Hayley attended the funeral of her brother-in-law Alan, known to most of us as "Oz". He was a big man with a big heart and at just 56 he has been taken much too early and with just 3 months warning.

    Goodbye Oz. You'll be missed.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Bad day, rain...

    It's not been a great day.

    After a night feeling rough I got up feeling worse and after a few minutes staggering about feeling no better I conceded I should take the day off sick. This was rather irritating as quite apart from the myriad things I should have been doing at work, I had stayed up til 11pm the previous night completing work for the morning. No matter, I thought. I will dial in to the company network from my laptop. But every time I made a connection and was about to upload to the server, the connection was dropped.

    So I took 2 paracetamol and went back to bed. But the phone rang, then stopped after one ring. Then again. And again. On investigation I realised my phone line was now unreachable, for reasons unknown. My decision to leave BT this month and go to Sky suddenly wasn't looking such good value for money. I unplugged the phone and went back to bed.

    But I was now completely awake. My mobile phone rang. It was Vodafone trying to sell me insurance for my second hand pay-as-you-talk phone that I hardly use. I gave them short shrift and got off the phone.

    Not long after this Hayley returned home with Oliver and Lucy asleep in the car. She left the engine running to let them have a decent nap and I took out 2 hot beverages. Within 2 minutes of getting into the car next to her I had dropped my phone into my cup of tea. Despite rapid retrival it proceeded to turn itself off, apart from the camera flash which eventually burned out before the whole phone got hotter and hotter until it crackled unnervingly. I retrieved my SIM card and binned it.

    So now we were faced with a decision. We are due at a family funeral tomorrow, but in light of circumstances we decided I should stay here with Oliver while Hayley pays her respects and takes Lucy with her. This seemed a reasonable plan.

    The phone rang. It was my sister telling me I had left my keys at her house over the weekend. No matter, I thought. We have a spare key for my car. But could we find it? Of course not. So, even if I were a picture of health I would have a job getting Oliver to nursery in the morning. As I'm not a picture of health I suppose it matters not and we have arranged for a friend to take Oliver to and from nursery in the morning. He will just have to veg out a bit more than usual for one afternoon with his poorly Dad.

    So, to recap, no mobile phone, no car, not even a home phone. Suddenly I'm a 1960s throwback. Oliver and I will spend tomorrow as an experiment in mid-20th century living. I may read him Enid Blighton and dig out some old episodes of Listen With Mother just to complete the experience.

    Saturday, December 01, 2007

    Good day, sunshine...


    Thanks to Dan's rather touching post over at All That Comes With It, I was prompted to take this photograph of Oliver soaring through the air. It's a pastime we often enjoy, particularly when killing a minute or two waiting for the girls to get themselves ready and into the car, and yet I have never taken a photograph of it. I found myself suddenly worried that perhaps any day now I wouldn't be able to throw him that high any more. Worse still, had the day come without me noticing?

    Apparently not.

    But it will. And when it does I will do what I have had to do at every previous passing milestone: pause for a moment in poignant reflection, before embracing my boy's journey and taking comfort once again in his own own joy at undertaking it.

    And then there's Lucy. I looked out of the spare room's window at a man with a husky dog. I watched him for a moment before realising that this dog was the puppy I had grown used to seeing out of the window over many months. In the blinking of an eye it seemed, he had grown up.

    As if I needed reminding how fast the young grow. Lucy is fast approaching 4 months old and doesn't like to be cradled in my arms any more. But at least she still grabs my hands and won't let go. That's something she does much more than Oliver did. She holds them tight and looks into my eyes. And then I'm putty in her hands.

    So what about today? We visited Charnwood's Christmas Fair where Oliver sampled his first mince pie...


    ...decorated a biscuit (and ate it, obviously)...


    ...and then met Father Christmas. Despite his excitement at the prospect of this meeting, when the time arrived he was a little hesitant entering the grotto. But he settled nicely on my knee while Mummy took photos, with Lucy experiencing the whole scene from her Baby Bjorn sling (where she dozed away much of the morning).


    This afternoon our friend Babs came round. It's her birthday on Tuesday so we had some birthday cake. Oliver brought it out, we sang happy birthday then he acted as waiter ferrying cake to us from the kitchen. He chatted away so merrily the whole time.
    [Oliver enters with cake on a plate.]
    "Here's your cake Babs".
    "Thank you."
    [Turning to me...]"Would you like some cake Daddy?"
    "Yes please Oliver".
    "OK Daddy. I'll go and get it."
    [Oliver exits to kitchen before returning with my cake...]
    "Here you are Daddy. You eat your cake."
    [Later when I've eaten my cake.]
    [Oliver surprised] "Oh, you ate all your cake Daddy, well done."
    Oliver is a very sociable and talkative chap. Not really surprising given that few have ever accused his parents of having nothing to say.

    His accent is interesting. Some words such as "no" are (mystifyingly) close to received pronunciation, while others such as "sunshine" make him sound like an out-and-out Mancunian. Everything in-between either resembles my rather generic northern accent or has the occasional twang of Wiltshire that he picks up from his Mum or his relatives in the south. But whatever his accent, he is certainly finding his own voice.

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    Ready-made trampolines

    Oliver and Niamh enjoyed making trampolines out of our furntiture this evening, much to the amusement of Hayley, Jo and myself (laughing so much I couldn't keep the camera still).

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    The power of laughter

    Happy chick
    A few days ago we heard Lucy laugh for the first time when Hayley found her ticklish spot. (For the record, it was somewhere just behind her armpits.) I was unable to work the same magic on her - maybe Mummy has the magic touch. But last night, quite by accident I made her laugh.

    I did it by making a silly baby cooing sound that started on a high note and descended to a low one. Every time I did it she emitted a little laugh. It reminded me of Oliver, not just when he was a baby, but even today.

    I know you might say 'a laugh is a laugh is a laugh', but let's be honest, we've all heard a laugh at some time or other which stood out to us for some reason. Maybe it sounded like a machine gun shooting crows, or maybe it was reminiscent of the laughing policeman, or maybe, as in this case, it was the laughter of someone you already loved but now loved even more for how you felt when you heard them laugh.

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Heaton Moor watch

    Ever since mountainear commented that she visits this blog as a link with her old life in the Heatons, I have been meaning to start a regular post on what's going on in the area. After all, there's only so much of me blabbing on and on and on about how wonderful my kids are that most people can stand. (You bear it well folks. Really.)

    So let's start with where we are: Heaton Moor.

    Heaton Moor is basically split into two halves, each with groups of shops and separated by no more than about half a mile. The northern half saw much regeneration in the 90s, especially on and around Shaw Road. Our favourite Indian restaurant, the Heatons Tandoori, still prospers there. There is also a Polish deli, Pokusevskis, where I buy local honey produced in Heaton Moor and have occasionally taken Oliver on the bike for an afternoon snack in their little paved garden at the rear. There are also several other pubs, bars and cafes within about a minutes walk.

    The southern half, where we live, hasn't yet prospered so much, but the northern end is pretty much saturated, so I expect our area will start to flourish similarly in the next year or two. The Orangerie cafe up in the northern half now has a sister establishment, Room 311, which we mention often here and frequent even more. The arrival of a Tesco Express saw the demise of the little Late Shop, which has stood empty ever since. There were rumours of Marks and Spencer moving in, but nothing has happened yet.

    One of the hairdressers moved across the road a couple of years ago and in his place on the corner next to the Post Office is now an Italian restaurant, Avanti. Valentinos has flourished for many years just a few paces away and I heard a rumour that Avanti arose from a rift in the team owning/running Valentinos. Sibling rivalry I heard, though I have absolutely no hard evidence for this, so it's probably best to ignore me.

    Somerfield survived the arrival of Tesco, in fact it retaliated by going upmarket with a new deli counter. But after a few months they ditched it. So apparently we aren't up-market enough to warrant one! And also on the down side, the Victoria Wine shop that shut down several years ago is still empty, which baffles me as it is a prime location.

    However, the lovely Blue Corn organic shop is doing well and we drop in from time to time to have a cup of tea and a snack with the kids. The owners are friendly and Oliver has charmed them as well as some of the regulars.

    The biggest talking point around here was whether the much-loved (but not so well visted) Savoy cinema would be bought and redeveloped as a 300-seater Wetherspoons pub. To the relief of most, this application was rejected by the local council.

    We seem to have a wealth of hairdressers around here. Not sure why. The little women's clothing outlet on the corner of Grosvenor Road has closed down and been replaced by another very swish looking salon. Maybe I should be pleased. "Heaton Moor: hairdressing centre of the universe". Then again...

    So there it is. I'm pretty sure I've painted a bizarre picture of our little area, but that's what springs to mind. Regardless of how it may sound, it is a great little place to live for a whole bunch of reasons I haven't mentioned, mostly to do with the parks, playgroups, churches, etc. that we visit with the kids. A year after moving here, we are very happy with our decision.

    There is more about Heaton Moor at

    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    Beyond a nightmare

    As I drove home this evening to my family, I heard a report about the aftermath of the recent cyclones in Bangladesh. I heard how one mother held onto her 2 month old baby in the floods until the child was swept away from her. She found her dead body later that day.

    Another man had lost his four children, his parents, his home and all his belongings. He sat, by his own description, on the road like a beggar, barely able to function. Just existing. If someone gave him food, he ate.

    I tried to imagine the loss of these people. I couldn't. To say I would be lost without my family is an understatement. My life would be unrecognisable without them. They are what completes me. Hearing these stories, I could imagine myself reacting the same way and that brought home its reality, regardless of how far away across the world these people are. I'm sorry to say it was almost too much to contemplate, which is weak and selfish. Thousands of families over there have no choice.

    The Disasters Emergency Committee are accepting donations here.

    BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Babies 'show social intelligence'

    BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Babies 'show social intelligence'

    One of the things that always surprised me about babies through my experience with Oliver was just how advanced they are compared to what I expected at least. Here is another example.

    Of course I'm not surprised any more. I only have to look at the way Lucy responds to me, even now at 3 months old, to know that she knows which side her bread is buttered!

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Bits and bobs

    Dad in charge
    Last night Hayley went to watch a play in which a friend of ours was acting. So for the first time I was home alone with both kids when Oliver had to go to bed. The moment Hayley headed out of the door, Lucy filled her nappy, just as I wanted to get the last bit of her bottle down her. No sooner had I changed her than Oliver followed suit. By the time I had changed him and fed her we were late going upstairs.

    Normally Oliver has his milk in his room on the little futon sofa-bed with the lights out and just a night-light on. Last night we sat in our bedroom with Lucy lying under a Winnie the Pooh mobile. Obviously Oliver had to play with it and managed to knock it over, narrowly missing Lucy in the process. Despite this disruption to his routine he went to bed without complaint.

    There's a new part to his routine now that Hayley has added. After his milk he climbs up to stand on her legs and she gives him a back-scratch. I did the same last night and he loved it. Later I could hear him on the monitor quietly whimpering "Mummy". When I went up to see him he recovered his composure remarkably quickly and when I reached into his cot to settle him down he grabbed my hand, pulled it behind his back and said "back-scratch"!

    The little lady refused to have a nap during the evening, fighting sleep wherever and whenever I tried to lay her down, until finally I picked her up and lay her on my chest. Having got what she wanted, she fell straight asleep. So I watched the first half of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares lying on the sofa with her on my chest. Bliss!
    Asleep on Daddy
    Later, after she woke, I took her upstairs and she had her last bottle of the day sitting on our bed, as usual. Hayley got home from her play (which she had thoroughly enjoyed) just in time to give her little girl some milk and a cuddle before she went to sleep.

    If you're gonna do it, do it right
    When Hayley went to pick up Oliver from nursery the other day she waited in the hall, listening to the activities coming to a close. She could hear the children singing. Well, more precisely she could hear Oliver singing over the top of all the other children. After the session she discovered that Oliver had spent the morning telling everyone which songs to sing and reprimanding them when they got the verses in the wrong order. I know this will have been true because he does it to me often. It seems the horn on the bus has to go beep beep beep before the baby on the bus cries. "No Daddy, we haven't had horn yet!"

    Talking of reprimanding his parents, today at a playgroup his Mummy made the mistake of doing a wiggly-hipped dance when everyone was doing the hokey-cokey. "No Mummy" he shouted "don't do that", pointing a reproachful finger at her.

    Little sweetie
    This morning as I got dressed Oliver came to me and showed me a sweetie. Where did you get that Oliver?", asked Daddy, genuinely surprised that he found a sweet somewhere upstairs.
    No answer from the little man.
    "Can you show me where you got it?"
    "Daddy would like one Oliver, do you think you could show me where they are?".
    "Oh, OK Daddy. I'll show you. This way Daddy." And he lead me to our bedroom where he then took a packet of boiled sweets from next to the bed. "I get it for you" he told me. taking one out in its wrapper, then starting to unwrap it. After fiddling for a few seconds with the tricky wrapper he said "here you go" and gave it to me. As he wlaked away with his own sweet he mused, "I like sweeties" before leaving it on the bed.

    Love is...
    Tonight Oliver had a bath with Lucy. He shared his bath happily and even poured water gently over her tummy. I can't get over what a loving big brother he is. He is full of love for his parents too, but recently there has been a noticeable pattern.
    "Can I watch telly Daddy?"
    "No Oliver you know we don't watch telly before breakfast."
    Oliver gives me a big hug, pats my back saying "cuddle". He then steps away and says "I watch telly now Daddy?" Hmmmmmm.

    Perfect skin
    Lucy is all smiles again after getting over her illness. She decided to get up at 5.50am this morning which wasn't very welcome but hopefully it was a one-off. She has gorgeous skin now, a marked contrast with a few weeks ago when she seemed to have more little spots than a teenager. Someone at playgroup today commented "I've never seen a baby with such perfect skin." My china doll.

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    BBC NEWS | Education | Children report drinking alcohol

    BBC NEWS | Education | Children report drinking alcohol

    BBC NEWS | Health | Parents to get child weight data

    BBC NEWS | Health | Parents to get child weight data

    Last night, as Oliver sat sort of slouched in the bath, he looked down at the fat around his tummy, as if wondering what it was for and why it was there. (Been there myself!) I wouldn't say he is overweight at all, but we aren't complacent about his diet or the risks of becoming overweight, if more due to a sedentary lifestyle than poor diet.

    Right now I'd say that the former seems the bigger risk. Oliver asks to watch TV a lot. Though often, once allowed, he will lose interest after a few minutes and go and play, occasionally being drawn back by (for example) a favourite song. We are limiting the amount of TV he watches, cutting it out altogether where practical in favour of something more active, preferably outdoors. Of course that is somewhat easier on a sunny day in June than a wintery one in November.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    Salford Museum

    In the Victorian street

    Today we visited the Salford Museum which was having a Family Fun Day. There was a man blowing up balloons and lunch-boxes for the kids in the cafe. And a table where they could draw pictures in one room. It wasn't exactly Disneyland to be honest.

    However there was a reconstructed Victorian street with shops and horse-drawn carriages. On a very wet, cold November day it was something to do. And of course it gave Hayley the chance to navigate somewhere with our (read as her) new Tom Tom GPS in-car navigation unit.

    In the Victorian street

    Saturday, November 17, 2007

    Visiting our new nephew ("no name")


    My sister gave birth to a baby boy on the 9th November. Thanks to the visiting rule at the hospital where he was born (no children on the ward) we had our first chance to meet him over the weekend. So today Saturday we headed off to Dalton.

    Hayley and I vividly recall from our early days with Oliver how tough the first few weeks can be and how relieved and grateful we were when our midwife Jane came to our rescue. So we tried to give a lift on Saturday. Hayley took Julia to get some shopping done while Rob and and I took Oliver, Tom and the new arrival for a walk. I say "the new arrival" because they still haven't decided on a name for him. "No name" was how he was most often addressed during our visit.

    We drove up to the Beacon at the top of the hill, disembarked from the car and then had a 10 minute battle with the buggy. Finally we set off up the hill. I told Oliver we were going to see a castle. He liked this idea and seemed content with the overgrown obelisk he encountered on arrival. It was quite a hill for the little man but he trudged up it without complaint.

    After taking a few snaps and kicking a football around for 20 minutes or so, "no name" started to stir so we headed back down off the hill... to the pub. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and a game of pool during our stay. Rob fed "no name" and I had the pleasure of changing Oliver's dirty nappy on the floor of the pool room while he sang nursery rhymes at the top of his voice. In fact he was in good voice much of the time, singing at a volume around 90 decibels louder then the other conversations in the pub. No-one objected though, probably afeared of this strange bunch of "men" of all ages.

    When we got back to Julia's house, Hayley set about making dinner. She worked til she was sweating in the kitchen and served us all a fabulous spag bol with garlic bread and cakes for dessert.

    By the time we left Julia was tired but grateful for all Hayley's efforts. "She's amazing" she told me.
    "I know".


    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    BBC NEWS | Business | More money to help pregnant women

    BBC NEWS | Business | More money to help pregnant women

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    BBC NEWS | Health | Pregnancy smoking fertility link

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Feeling helpless

    Lucy has not been entirely herself since returning from hospital. For a start she has been napping more in the evening and then waking from as early as 4.30am, often needing to be fed by 5.30am to get her back to sleep. Coupled with Oliver's cold which has been troubling him at night, it has left us tired and I've started coming down with a cold too. Let's hope she gets back on track again soon!

    But worse than that, this evening she has been crying more than usual, several times going from happy to screaming in seconds, looking distressed and red in the face. We can't tell what is wrong with her. We've checked all the usual things and eliminated them. Her nappies suggest a dodgy tummy, but the truth is it's impossible to really know at this age. We've given her 2.5ml of Calpol as the doctors advised us, but it doesn't seemed to have helped much yet.

    It is a helpless feeling, watching a baby suffer. Her eyes seemed to have a look of fear in them tonight as she lay on Hayley's shoulder. Then she looked at me and mustered half a smile. She must feel even more confused and helpless than we do.

    New nursery update - improving

    Oliver is off to Nursery again tomorrow. Last Thursday he had a happier trip after Tuesday's initial tears.

    On Thursday morning he told his Mummy that he was going to nursery and when they arrived he asked her "Mummy come back later?".
    "Yes, Mummy will be back later."
    And in he went happily, straight over to play with his friend. When Hayley left there were no tears. Result. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    Lucy Lashes


    Lucy is starting to get Oliver's lashes. She has already mastered fluttering them at her Daddy with those big blue eyes to wrap him around her little finger. Especially when she smiles.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    Back home

    Lucy is home again. She definitely isn't her old self again yet but at least she's better than this time last night and hopefully over the worst. The test for the RSV virus was positive, so the doctors say this confirms bronchiolitis as the most likely cause of her problems.

    Hayley is giving her a last feed as I type. Her routine has been rather wrecked by this illness, so it remains to be seen whether her ultra-reliable 10.30pm - 7am sleeping will kick back in as she recovers. It doesn't look good tonight so far.

    At least she was well enough to lie on the sofa cooing and smiling at me for 20 minutes tonight. It's just a shame that I was so engrossed (read as besotted) with her that I forgot to bring Oliver's milk upstairs on time. He took it well though. Ever the understanding big brother.

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    In overnight again

    I just heard from Hayley. They are keeping Lucy in overnight again. However, they seem hopeful that (assuming it is bronchiolitis) she should be through the worst by this time tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

    So I'm off to bed. Poor Hayley doesn't have a bed in her hospital room yet.

    New nursery

    Oliver has started attending a nursery two mornings a week. We had tried to start him at another one a couple of months ago, but we were so unimpressed by it that we took him out before he ever spent a morning there without us. (He did spend at least 3 mornings with us there.)

    This place is smaller, newer and therefore less busy so far. Hayley took him last week and stayed with him. Then the next time left him for an hour. He cried when she went but within a couple of minutes he was fine. We know this because she peeped through the window for 3 minutes after he thought she had gone.

    Today it was my turn to take him and leave him there all morning from 9.30 til noon. He sounded absolutely fine about going there in the morning. He told me he was going there and I kept telling him I'd go to the shops while he was there (though in truth it was to work) then I'd pick him up later.

    Once we arrived he got very nervous, so I stayed a couple of minutes playing with him at the water tank. But as soon as I tried to go again he was crying and clinging to me. I nearly choked up myself. I am not used to seeing him like that, let alone having to leave him like that.

    We have wrestled with how best to rebuild his confidence after it was so visibly dented during the time Hayley was in hospital giving birth to Lucy. The last thing we wanted to do was to set him back again. So we've told the nursery to call us if he doesn't settle.

    Today as I left the nursery, I met a friend going in with her son who also attends there. Not long after, Hayey got a text from her saying that Oliver was happy when she left. And whan I picked him up he was happy. In fact I had to persuade him to leave the toys and come with me. Although as soon as he saw me he did shout "Daddy", ran to me and said "he's come back"!

    Tonight I took him to the shops. As I put him in the car seat I asked him about what he did at nursey. He told me he "did painting" (which was true, he brought one home), he "read stories" (that's nice to hear) and how he "shouted Daddy, Daddy, Daddy and cried". My heart sank.

    In, Out, In...

    Lucy came home from hospital today as she was managing to feed without throwing up (unlike last night) and her blood oxygen seemed OK.

    But this evening she was visibly breathing rapidly and with some effort. We rang the ward were she had been today (which we were told to do if in any doubt about her wellbeing) and they suggested we brought her back in, based on the symptoms we described.

    So Lucy and Hayley are back at the hospital right now, waiting to be seen by a doctor.

    Obviously part of me wants them home, not least because Hayley was tired today after the constant interruptions of a night spent on the ward. But equally we both want Lucy to be safe and on the road to recovery.

    Watch this space...

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    In hospital overnight


    Lucy is being kept in hospital overnight. It seems that like Oliver last December, she has bronchiolitis. Hopefully it will clear up in a few days, but given her symptoms she is being kept in to be sure.

    So Oliver and I are at home tonight while Hayley and Lucy spend the night in the hospital. I remember from the time I stayed there with Oliver that a good night's sleep is unlikely to be on the cards, although Lucy is in her own room, so if she sleeps well and doesn't set off any alarms due to low blood oxygen levels, there's a chance it won't be too bad.

    Having said that, it will be hard for Hayley to sleep knowing that Lucy is ill. I know this must be very hard for Hayley. She and Lucy have formed a very strong bond and the little lady dotes on her.

    Apparently this evening when Lucy woke she managed a weak groggy, smile, much like this afternoon. It's tough to have to see her so not herself.

    Lucy is going to hospital

    Hayley just got back from the doctors. She has to take Lucy to be checked over at the Children's Unit at Stepping Hill hospital. She's on her way there now.

    Lucy is poorly

    Lucy, a couple of days ago.

    Lucy has had a cold for the last few days and nights. She is consistently cheerful in spite of this, even when she had a temperature of 101F.

    But last night and more particularly today she has not been herself at all. So much so that this morning Hayley took her to the doctors. They confirmed she is wheezing (which was the reason Hayley took her in), said to keep a close eye on her and bring her back immediately if it got worse. They also said to take her to Accident& Emergency if it recurred in the night.

    This afternoon she was wailing and also seemed to be struggling for breath. Then she'd fall asleep exhausted, then wake again wailing. It was all very unlike Lucy, so Hayley has called the doctor again and they have asked her to come straight back in (which is out of hours). She's there now as I type.

    Before she left I saw Lucy. She looked pale and seemed to be breathing from her stomach. When she woke, she didn't give me her usual huge smile, just a tired slightly groggy look. It really wasn't the Lucy we've come to know at all.

    So I'm now home babysitting Oliver who is asleep in his cot. Bless him, when Lucy was wailing he rocked her gently in her car seat, saying "I'm rocking Lucy, Mummy" and even tried to give her a dummy.

    I have to put my faith into the medical staff at this point, as otherwise the feeling of helplessness would be overpowering. The doctor said she may need to be given oxygen. She is much younger than Oliver was when he suffered this kind of episode last December and we have been told it is more dangerous for that reason. Hopefully she will be on the mend soon. Right now it's a waiting game to find out whether she has to go into hospital or can come home. I suspect it could well be the former.

    It's kind of ironic that this should happen now. Lucy has become a real little character over the last few weeks: an absolute charmer, as good as gold, all smiles and playfulness. Last night Hayley was commenting how much she can see I have really warmed to Lucy after perhaps not bonding as quickly as Hayley did at the start. "She's going to be a right Daddy's girl like he's a Daddy's boy" she laughed as Lucy and I lay on the bed ccoing at each other.

    Bonfire Night

    Oliver watching the fireworks

    On Saturday night we took Oliver to a Guy Fawkes Night bonfire for the first time. It was at The Red Lion at Newburgh. (My Mum kindly baby-sat Lucy, just up the road at her house.)

    Oliver seemed to enjoy the idea of going to this event with its "fireworks" and "big bonfire", but we weren't sure how he would react in reality.

    As the time approached for the display, a single firework would be let off about once every minute and explode with a loud bang. This allowed Hayley and I to make suitable "whoooo" noises to Oliver to prepare him for what was to come. He seemed to enjoy looking at the big bonfire from his vantage point on my shoulders.


    But at 3 minutes to blast off he told us, "no bangs!". Hmmmmm, this was not good. So knowing the way to our son's heart we bought him a hot dog.

    Happy with his hot-dog.

    When the fireworks started in all their very loud glory, Oliver was just transfixed. He wasn't scared at all. But I can't say he seemed impressed either. I guess it was just "an experience" for him.

    The fireworks display was in two parts with a 15 minute interval. At the end of the first part Oliver suggested we "go home now." As we had just managed to rendezvous with my sister, who is 38 weeks pregnant and had just tripped over a bramble, this seemed a wise move.

    It was a nice evening, if a little short. And it was quite an emotional one for both Hayley and I. When I first met her I invited her up here and put her up in The Red Lion pub overnight. Five years later here we were taking our son to his first "bonfire night" in its grounds. It brought a lump to our throats.


    BBC NEWS | England | Shropshire | Mother dies after refusing blood

    BBC NEWS | England | Shropshire | Mother dies after refusing blood

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    BBC NEWS | UK | How much is family life changing?

    Wednesday, October 31, 2007

    Trick or Treat!

    Probably as a result of Hayley's long stay in the colonies, she really enjoys Halloween and looks forward to the kids coming round and asking (or should that be 'threatening') "trick or treat"?

    Well this year she decided it was time Oliver made a start on his Trick or Treating career. So he dressed up in his best pumpkin outfit, grabbed his pumpkin bucket to collect his treats and off we toddled to knock on the doors of a few of our friends and neighbours. Even Lucy came along, carried by yours truly in the Baby Bjorn sling. She seemed to quite enjoy it, though admittedly the fresh air sent her to sleep after about ten minutes.

    At the first house we visited we found a bit of halloween party going on and were invited in to join the fun for a few minutes. Perhaps Oliver imagined this was the norm as he invited himself straight into his friend Ben's house when we arrived there (see video above).

    Most people answered the door, though a few didn't. Those that answered the door often were prepared with a plastic bucket of sweets at the ready.

    When we got home Oliver was disappointed to discover that he was only allowed one of his treats and would have to be a good boy each day to get another one.

    After he went to bed we had a visit from his friend Alberto with his big sister and his Dad. But they were the only other visitors that evening. Hayley was most disappointed. Consequently, I type this with a mouthful of sugary lolly and a bag of uncollected treats close at hand. It could be a long night.

    Nine togs!


    Oliver got a new quilt yesterday, a light, fluffy and promising the full nine togs. TO try to enthuse Oliver about this new purchase I got into his cot. It seemed to do the trick.

    Oliver always seems to get hot and sweaty in the first couple of hours after he goes to bed, almost regardless of how cold or warm I make his room. Last night he was so sweaty around his head an neck I changed his pillow (not for the first time).

    Normally, with his 4 tog quilt, I have been using an oil-filed radiator to keep his room at the nominally correct temperature for the quilt and/or adding a blanket. Last night with this new fluffy cloud of luxurious insulation around him I left all heating off. Despite him still having a bit of a cold, he slept like a log all night. This was partcularly remarkable as the previous night he had cried out for me and needed me to go in and reassure him no less than eight times, spread evenly and agonsisingly throughout the night.

    But that's another story. I can only hope this quilt continues to work its magic on the little man.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2007


    My girls

    Five things about Lucy at eleven weeks old (tomorrow).
  • They say young babies cry 3 hours a day. In Lucy's case I'd have to say she hardly ever cries these days and if there's anything she does for 3 hours a day it's probably smiling.

  • Lucy loves the baby-gym. It's the same one as Oliver used to play under, but in keeping with her generally more placid nature comapred to Oliver, she enjoys playing under there for longer than he did and even seems a bit more vigorous than I remember Oliver at the same age.

  • Lucy's eyelashes have started to grow longer and more like her big brother's. I sincerely hope this turns out to be the case because otherwise she would probably be understandably jealous of the little man's lashes. As a friends Aunt once put it, "look at those lashes, what a waste, it's criminal on a boy".

  • Lucy is currently enjoying the use of our fried Sarah's buggy. Hayley has swapped with them for a while because this one is backward facing, so Lucy can lie down and still see Hayley as she pushes her along. (Sadly I haven't had chance to take her out by myself since we swapped.)

  • Lucy is sleeping like a dream at the moment. She is starting her last bottle a bit earlier, around 8.30-9.00pm, but still goes through the night until as late as 8am some mornings. Long may it continue!
  • Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Normal service will be resumed shortly

    If you come to this site via our home website, you may have noticed that some of the addresses that normally point to our home website are now pointing to This is because I am in the process of moving our home website to be hosted by them, but it has not gone as smoothly as one might hope (b!*%dy computers!).

    By the time it is sorted out you should be able to get to our home website at and

    This blog isn't moving. In fact I was thinking this morning what great value for money it is (for me). I don't pay a penny for it and yet I can post lots of pictures to it and generally do everything I need with it. About the only cost I could think of is that I'm supporting the ever growing influence of Google (who own Blogger), into an Internet superpower. But as I like all Googles gizmos and gadgets I can't say I'm too bothered today at their rise to cyber hegemony.

    As well as changing my web-hosting, I'm also changing broadband provider. And phone company. And gas and elctricity suppliers for good measure. You see, Hayley has been in Wiltshire for the last couple of days with Oliver and Lucy. (I still get a kick out of writing and seeing the words "Oliver and Lucy" - still pinching myself that I have TWO kids now!!) Anyway, I have taken the opportunity to shake up our finances and save a few quid here and there. Once it's all sorted I'm sure I'll be glad I've done it, provided I don't tear all my hair out in the meantime when all these hand-overs go wrong.

    Normal blogging service has also taken a back seat, but hopefully I'll catch up over the next few days.

    I know Hayley is looking forward to some resumption of normality when she comes home, as she has had a right old time of it while away. On the way down her car started playing up. To cut a long story short, it has cost £1000 to fix and would have cost more if she hadn't been able to prove that the first garage she took it to had actually made matters worse instead of better.

    Both kids have had colds while she is down there, so her nights have been rough to say the least. She even had to take Lucy to the doctor as she seemed very hot. The doctor said she has a cold and prescribed 2.5 ml of Calpol. Meanwhile I have been rattling around an empty house, trying to make myself useful but generally feeling a bit lost in the unfamiliar silence.

    But tomorrow we'll all be home together again. Then we can get back to normality and all the joyful chaos that implies.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    All's well that ends well

    In Daddy's hat
    On the way into Tesco.

    I was really looking forward to this weekend. After working pretty hard all week I was all set for a relaxing Friday evening, a fun Saturday followed by an evening watching the rugby world cup final (England vs South Africa) with our friends Dawn and Simon.

    The weekend started OK, with our customary fish and chips. Friday evening passed without problems too. Then during the night Lucy woke at around 3.30am. She often does this. She wakes, makes a few grunting sounds, breaks wind and then goes back to sleep. But this time it was different. She started to cry. We then spent the next 90 minutes trying to get her back to sleep. We know from experience that she doesn't need a feed at this time any more and we didn't want to start establishing a pattern where she feeds at this time, particularly if it is just because it gets her off to sleep. But by the time it was nearing 5am we decided she might be hungry (even if she wasn't to start with) and Hayley went off to feed her.

    When I got up with Oliver at 7am I felt rough. But once I got moving I was OK. he little man and I went off to Tesco for breakfast. Once there we had the works. There was no scrambled egg so I let him have a fried egg. He barely touched the yoke but quite liked the white. After a few minutes a noticed he had a rash on his neck. Oliver was allergic to eggs when younger but isn't really affected by them any more. Or so I had thought. When I called Hayley to ask her opinion she quickly put me straight. Although I had often seen him eating scrambled egg, he still doesn't eat fried eggs.... especially the yoke.

    I felt such an idiot. I didn't even know that about my own son. I had naively assumed that scrambled egg was more or less as cooked as a well cooked fried egg. Tesco didn't sell piriton and I had none in my changing bag, so I brought him straight home and gave him some there. His neck and parts of his face were all red and he kept scratching them. But the piriton helped.

    Oliver: blotchy and itchy after eating egg yoke.

    So my dream weekend was not going to plan. Nonetheless, I suggested to Hayley that as it was a beautiful sunny day, we all take a walk down to the train and take a ride into Manchester. Oliver loves trains and I wanted him to see some real trains and go for a ride. SO off we strolled in the sunshine to Heaton Chapel station. On the way both kids fell asleep, so Hayley and I enjoyed a swift beverage at The Orangerie.

    Oliver woke in time to arrive at the station and enjoyed seeing the trains before boarding for his ride to Manchester.

    On arrival at Piccadilly we got off... which wasn't the greatest idea as we were meant to stay on until Oxford Road: another cock-up courtesy of Dad! But this afforded us a lovely walk through the spruced up area around Piccadilly and then down Canal Street and over to Oxford Road.

    Our destination was Manchester Museum. It may not sound exciting, but we had been assured that there was an exhibition of live snakes and frogs. This is all Oliver talked about on the way. Once we got there we found entrance was free and Oliver got out of the double buggy and could run around freely (albeit hotly pursued by one of us).

    After enjoying the snakes and frogs, we found on the top floor a light and airy "attic" space all kitted out for kids of all ages. There were tables and chairs of different heights and sizes for different aged kids, paper, crayons, toy animals and dinosaurs, soft toys.... and lovely sofas with childrens' books to read. In our case it was somewhere that Hayley could feed Lucy while Oliver and I drew and coloured in dinosaurs.

    Oliver with dinosaurs and other beasts.

    At this point Hayley realised that all we had spent in the entire afternoon was £3.50 for our return train tickets. "£3.50 for a day out" she kept telling me. She likes a bargain does our Hayley.

    Hayley feeding Lucy.

    We were very impressed with the museum. One word of warning though. There are two lifts, only one of which goes to the top floor. The other is also at the "wrong" end of the Money gallery if you have a double buggy. I managed to tilt it over a little without toppling Lucy onto the floor, but it was a truly tight squeeze.

    We came home happy and on alighting the train, treated ourselves (including Oliver) to a packet of Quavers. (Big spenders eh!)

    In the evening Dawn, Simon and Isabella came round. After the kids had gone to bed we watched the rugby (in which England lost but without disgracing themselves) and got through a wildly extravagant two bottles of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. But then again, we did have a whole day out for £3.50.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    More bottom humour

    Yesterday afternoon, Oliver was sitting on the sofa watching Postman Pat while Hayley was feeding Lucy her bottle. I left the room foor a moment. When I returned I found Hayley crying with laughter. Apparently, Oliver, without taking his eyes off the TV, had lifted his right buttock, broken wind and then lowered it again without further comment.

    Poor Lucy continued to drink her bottle despite it shaking with Hayley's laughter. I couoldn't help feeling a tinge of pride at the little man's blokish demeanor.

    Lucy's full name

    If you read this blog regularly you'll know that Lucy's full name is Lucy Anne Townley. Hoowever, were you to spend any time around our little family you'd be forgiven for thinking it was something quite different.

    Lucy gets called different names by all three of us. My favourite name for her is "Lucy Diamond". We've always called her our little diamond and even sung her the famoous Beatles song which helped us to name her. (It also reminded us of our fun times at the Edinburgh fringe festival where we saw the comedienne Lucy Porter. It also means "bringer of light", which is funny because she loves looking at any kind of light. Several times I've calmed her by rocking her in my arms under the spotlights in ur kitchen. I digress...)

    Even Oliver has started to call her Lucy Diamond. The other day as I got her out of the car, quite unprompted he said "come on Lucy Diamond". So cute.

    Hayley prefers "Lucy Woosey". Other names we use include "lemon popsicle", "my little cherry tomato" (as I think she just looks like a juicy cherry tomato, with her little round face), and "our china doll" as that's just what she looks like too us now. When she was born I teased Hayley that her wrinkly little face looked more like Les Dawson than either of us, but now I think she has the prettiest little face. I shouldn't be surprised though as I also think she has started to look more like Hayley. :)

    We're still here!

    I've been working daft hours recently. My hours in the office currently extend to the weekends, but more intrusively I have started to bring a laptop home. Consequently, time I might have spent writing this blog have found me woorking on, well, work.

    Meanwhile life goes on. "Time and tide wait for no man". That thought has crossed my mind a lot recently, along with "no-one's last words were ever 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office'".

    Lucy passed the 2 months mark earlier this week. She is sleeping (yes, sleep again!)from abut 10pm until 6am or 7am, although she does start murmuring about an hour or so before she wakes which means we rarely get as much sleep as she does. She has a bit of a feeding frenzy in the evening and sleeps in after her 6am feed until around 10am or 11am, so she's going 12 hours with a feed in the middle really. (By the way this laptop's keyboard is knackered, so you'll find this post has a near random number oof letter "o"s. And I can't be bothered too correct them any more so do forgive me!

    The little lady is smiling lots. And talking too. Well, not words, obviously, but lots of lovely cooooing sounds. Tonight she fell asleep on a pillow on my lap and when she woke after a few minutes she gave me the biggest smile. Priceless.

    Oliver, on the other hand, has finally reversed the trend of the last 15 months or so and become an absolute Mummy's boy. I thought he had started to do this a few weeks ago, but it was a false start. This time there's no doubt. He demands that Hayley give him his bedtime milk EVERY night at the moment. We can't afford to let him do that every night, as some nights Hayley might be out, and anyway he'll think he's in charge... even more than he does already!

    His current big thing is "that's MY toy..." or "book" or "dinner" or whatever. He shouts it at the top of his lungs. His behaviour varies from headstrong to angelic. But mostly he is still adorable and I have too steel myself too be strict with him when I used to find it easy. Perhaps that's because he is less adoring of his Daddy and less readily compliant at this age.

    One thing is for sure, he is a very loving big brother. He is always nice to his sister, which is lovely to see.

    Saturday, October 06, 2007

    Out with Daddy

    All happy

    While Hayley went to the hairdresser this afternoon, I took Oliver and Lucy out by myself for the first time. We ventured to the park, where Oliver enjoyed exploring the undergrowth and playing on the slide. Meanwhile, Lucy lay in her buggy looking up at the leaves and throwing me the occasional contented smile.


    We headed off a little earlier than planned as Oliver had clearly filled his nappy. To ensure a smooth transition I must admit that I resorted to the inducement of an ice-cream. Everyone went home happy.

    "Tickly eyes"

    I seem to have a lot of fun with Oliver at bathtime and bedtime, which is nice at the end of what can sometimes be a stressful day.

    I've already recounted the "mystery of the sponge" game. Another of our regular games takes place when I lie him on the "big bed" to get him changed ready for his bath. Once his trousers are off and he is lying on his back on the bed, I tell him "I'm going to tickle you, because I know... that you've got tickly feet" and I tickle his feet. He chuckles and wriggles. Then I say "And I know... that you've got tickly knees" and tickle his knees. He laughs a little more. Then comes what he has been waiting for. "And I know... that you've got tickly thighs!" and I tickle his chubby little thighs. He roars with laughter until he almost has to gasp for breath (when I obviously stop). "Tickly eyes again!" he insists.

    The other night he was sitting in the bath, daydreaming, staring into space over the side of the bath. So I leaned forward until my face was directly in his line of sight, which broke his reverie and made him laugh. "Again!" But it's a bit hard to recreate that sort of thing.

    And after his bath when I am putting on his pyjamas on the changing table, we have Daddy running around the nursery flapping his arms ("Is it a bird?"), swooping with arms outstretched ("Is it a plane?") and finally diving, super-hero like down to within an inch of Oliver's face ("It's Super-Daddy!"). More laughter all round.

    I am sometimes wonder how he goes to sleep after all the excitement. It's not exactly an exemplary "wind-down" time. At least he goes to bed happy.

    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Now and Then


    Lucy's Moses basket was once Oliver's Moses basket. The other day I was playing with Oliver when I picked him up and cradled him in my arms saying "are you Daddy's baby?". He laughed. Then, realising that the Moses basket was right next to me, I laid him in it. It was a bit of a squeeze as you can see. So then I dug out the photo below for comparison. It was taken the first night Oliver came home after the hospital. Quite a contrast.

    Oliver in his Moses basket

    She smiles!

    Lucy in her buggy this afternoon with Lucien Bunny.

    Lucy has been smiling for perhaps a couple of weeks now. I got my first fantastic full-on smile from her in the early morning light as she lay on her changing mat. I asked her "are you going to give your Daddy a smile?" and right on cue she obliged. I could have floated all the way to work on the high.

    Her sleep has (dare we say it) been going well. Since last week she has started to go 7-8 hours. Going to sleep at about 10.30 and rising at 6.30, it couldn't be any better really. Well, I suppose she could sleep in until after we've got Oliver up and fed but that would be asking a bit much! So her early moprning feed has moved to as late as 6.30am but is sometimes still as early as 4.30am.

    She is always a little delight when I feed her in the early morning. I take her into the spare room and she lies there farly content as I warm her milk. Feeding her is a lovely experience. It is a quiet and tranquil time with her content and happy. I listen to 5 Live quietly as she feeds. (Even Hayley has started to do this. The other morning she enjoyed the excitement of the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix!)

    Hayley has now entirely stopped breast feeding. Lucy seems to have realised that the bottles require less work and she started to really complain when offered the breast. So it's all bottles from now on. But she had 7 weeks of breast milk (and I think we might still have a bit left in the freezer), so she has had a very good start. Certainly much more breast-milk than Oliver got. And it means I can get more involved which is nice. Maybe it's my imagination, but I seem to be more popular with Lucy since feeding her more often too!

    The early morning feeds have come in handy as a way of me getting into work early. I've had a few 6.30am starts as a result. I've also been in at the weekend. It's a sign of how busy we are. It's not exactly welcome. After all, no-ones last words were "I wish I'd spent more time in the office", but it's a necessary evil right now.

    Oliver has been showing more signs of the terriblw twos. More whinging and pester power than tantrums to be honest. But other times he can be a gem. And he is always good to Lucy so I think he's doing pretty well.

    Yesterday some friends came round. When Oliver came down from his nap to find John and Iona in the living room he said "Hi John. How are you?" Hayley couldn't believe her ears. I've never heard him as "How are you" before.

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    He knows me so well

    This morning as I dashed off to work, Oliver was sitting at his little table in the kitchen eating his cereal.
    "Bye Oliver. See you later!"
    "See you later", he replied. Then he turned on his chair and shouted to me " got your pass?"
    Forgetful? Moi?

    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Russian mother has 'giant' baby

    BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Russian mother has 'giant' baby

    Just for comparison, Lucy is a healthy baby and still weighs less than 10 pounds at 6 weeks old.

    BBC NEWS | Health | Doctors told take young seriously

    BBC NEWS | Health | Doctors told take young seriously:

    "Doctors must do more to respect the wishes and views of young patients, the General Medical Council has warned."

    Does this mean that they must make an immediate beeline for the Patientline display when Oliver tells them "I ready watch Thomas on telly now".

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    At the top of his voice

    At Green Lane playgroup today Oliver put in a memorable performance when it came to song-time. Hayley assures me that not only did he do all the actions to songs, but he also sang louder than anyone else in the room.

    I've noticed that occasionally his performance will involve singing only the last word of each line but shouting it at the top of his voice. And the other day he sang "Wheels On The Bus" in a drawling style that was a sort of cross between John Cooper Clarke doing "Beesley Street" and Sid Vicious doing his live cover of "I wanna be your dog". (What do you mean you've never heard it? It's a classic!)

    And all this despite the fact that Hayley opted for the sounds of Buddhist chants during her labour with Oliver and not the sound of The Sex Pistols first album as her friend Bev did.

    BBC NEWS | Health | New NHS guidelines on childbirth

    BBC NEWS | Health | New NHS guidelines on childbirth

    Good guidelines, but will the government really stump up the cash for this sort of service?

    BBC NEWS | Health | Allergy epidemic gets 'poor care'

    BBC NEWS | Health | Allergy epidemic gets 'poor care'

    Interesting reading, given that Hayley suffers badly from hay fever and Oliver had an allergic reaction to eggs as a baby (which he now seems to be over).

    Oliver is now two years old and he has never eaten peanuts. Now we discover experts are divided over whether this is the right thing to do or precisely the opposite!

    BBC NEWS | Health | Heavy exercise miscarriage link

    BBC NEWS | Health | Heavy exercise miscarriage link

    Is this really news? I thought everyone knew this. It's almost common sense.

    Welcome to the Terrible Twos

    The other day Hayley had her first classic encounter with the sort of scene we've all scene other parents suffer at some time: a public tantrum.

    She was walking to the shop round the corner from our house with Oliver walking alongside as she pushed Lucy in the buggy. Oliver was whinging, pleading to go and sit in the car and listen to nursery rhymes. This was not really practical given that we were short on provisions including a total lack of bread and milk.

    She was negotiating the busy crossroads in the middle of Heaton Moor using the pelican crossing when Oliver sat down in the middle of the road, crying, refusing to go on and shouting "in car, in car"! She had to lift him up off his bottom and pull him across the road. I'm glad to say he at least had the good sense to walk at this point and didn't have to be dragged as I first pictured when Hayley recounted this story to me.

    I can't confirm precisely how many people tutted and peered down their nose at this scene. Doubtless there will have been a few.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    9 pounds 11 ounces

    Lucy was weighed at the clinic today. At 5 weeks and 6 days old, she is now 9 lbs 11 ozs.

    She also showed distinct signs of giving us a smile. We didn't catch it on camera but Hayley has been saying for a few days that she is smiling. It was a kind of fleeting smile. I'm hoping we can catch the first big grin, as Hayley did with Oliver.

    The mystery of the sponge

    Oliver seems to be keen on questions at the moment. "Who's that?!" is a popular one. Also "who's at the door?", whether there's anyone there or not. (Well, I don't THINK there was anyone, but there's often more logic to what he says than I can immediately grasp.)

    Recently, while enjoying his evening bath, he found another question: "where's the sponge?" He had hidden it under his legs, quite effectively in fact.
    "Where is it?" I asked him.
    "Over there!" he replied, pointing behind himself to the top end of the bath.
    I duly searched beneath the bubbles. "I can't find it."
    "Over there!" he directed to the other end of the bath. I duly searched again. At which point... voila! He let the sponge float up from its hiding place, emitting a loud and satisfied chuckle as he did.

    Then we started again.
    "Where is it?"
    "Over there!"
    "I can't find it."
    "Over there... Ha ha ha ha!"

    And again.
    "Where is it?"
    "Over there!"
    "I can't find it."
    "Over there... Ha ha ha ha!"

    And again and again and again. It just never got less funny for the little man. He didn't even need the pretence of surprise. "One more time..." he said after I failed to notice the sponge's umpteenth disappearance. How could I say no.

    Thursday, September 20, 2007

    Gratuitous anecdote

    I have no excuse for publishing the following story which a colleague told me, other than I know it will nake Hayley laugh.

    Our Gents toilets don't have a light switch, they have a sensor on the wall where the light switch should be. When it detects movement the light comes on. After a while the light goes off.

    Unfortunately the sensor can't "see" the movement of someone who is in one of the cubicles. This means that once you enter a cubicle, the countdown begins to the lights going out.

    The other day my colleague entered the Gents which was in darkness. As the lights came on, he was confronted by the sight of a man with his trousers round his ankles, leaning out of the cubicle waving his hand in the air, trying to get the sensor to see him.

    And this in an engineering company.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    BBC NEWS | Scotland | North East/N Isles | Sheep offer clues to small babies

    BBC NEWS | Scotland | North East/N Isles | Sheep offer clues to small babies

    Personality Test

    Recently, Dan over at All That Comes With It posted a quiz allowing the reader to assess which member of his family they resembled the most and hence where they'd fit in his family.

    This set me thinking about the characteristics of my own family. But I quickly realised that fitting in with me or Hayley is less important than fitting in with the little man's peers. So I wrote my own very short questionairre to help you work out where you'd fit into the Heaton Moor toddler social hierarchy.

    Question 1: You are at a friend's 2nd birthday party. The first thing you do is...

    a) head into the garden and play with the plastic golf clubs, chipping neatly out of the sandpit with your first shot and going on to break the course record for the garden.
    b) nothing that would draw attention to yourself. Then when no-one is looking you steal a chocolate biscuit from the table. You repeat at intervals until caught.
    c) smile adorably at Oliver, who (sadly) ignores you.
    d) find a heavy object and hit Oliver over the head with it.

    Question 2: Your parents make you leave the party earlier than you'd like. On the way out you...

    a) make a dart for the table and then do laps of it, out-pacing your Mum and evading capture for several minutes
    b) assert your independence by addressing your father by his Christian name instead of "Daddy"
    c) cry because you are being parted from Oliver
    d) find a heavy object and hit Oliver over the head with it.

    Question 3: Oliver has come to visit you for a play-date. Eager to impress, you...

    a) jump two-footed into the air and chuckle madly
    b) count up to 20 unaided
    c) play nicely, sharing your toys and entertaining your guest
    d) find a heavy object and hit Oliver over the head with it.

    So how did you fair?!

    Mostly a). You are Jack. Your Dad is a sports coach. You will win Gold in the Decathlon at the 2032 Olympic games.

    Mostly b). You are Isabella. You are a child genius with a criminal streak. You have a bright career in internet banking fraud ahead of you.

    Mostly c). You are Isabel. You are pretty, well-mannered and you don't know it yet but you are Oliver's future wife (if his Dad has anything to do with it).

    Mostly d). You are Niamh. Your ASBO is due to come into force any day now.

    I ready...

    When Oliver wants to do something he doesn't say "I want..." he says "I ready...".

    Yesterday, having been in Wiltshire with his sister and Mummy for three days, he told her "I ready go home now, see Daddy".

    Bless the little man. I miss him too.

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    2 Dr Brown Bottles, standing on the wall...

    After Thursday's night from hell, Hayley and I steeled ourselves for another bad night. Of course, in the event, Oliver barely murmured and Lucy slept from 10pm until 5.30am!

    So feeling refreshed on Saturday morning, Hayley decided to head off down to Wiltshire to introduce Lucy to her side of the family a couple of days earlier than planned. Apparently Oliver has been a little diamond while down there, well-behaved and charming to everyone. And Lucy has even slept reasonably well.

    While down there Hayley has started to introduce an extra bottle in place of one breast feed (taking her up to two bottle feeds per day). The relentlessness of Lucy's appetite, needing to feed frequently throughout the day, is taking a bit of a toll on Hayley now. She copes well, but she feels Oliver is perhaps not getting as much attention as he should. Lucy has already had far more breastmilk than Oliver ever got, so it's a balancing act, making sure we do what is right for the whole family.

    Talking of bottles, we have now tried 3 types of bottle with Lucy: Nuk, Tommy Tippee and now Dr Browns. This is because she does seem to suffer more with wind than Oliver did and perhaps colic. The Dr Brown bottles should help, as does a dose of Infacol with each bottle feed.

    Oliver in contrast only ever needed Avent bottles. Dare I suggest boys are less fussy than girls? No, I thought not!

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Brotherly love