Wednesday, February 28, 2007

BBC NEWS | Education | Schools to give places by lottery

BBC NEWS | Education | Schools to give places by lottery

Typical isn't it. You push yourself to your physical, emotional and financial limits to buy a home in a nice area, then the government announce that places at the local school are to be allocated by lottery!

What I resent about the coverage of this issue is the pejorative use of the term "privileged" assigned to the parents and children who live near these popular schools. It implies "undeservedly privileged".

So if, like me, you work hard through school, choose a good degree at Univeristy that will get you a steady job (rather than the sexy fun subject you'd enjoy!), and then work hard for 20 years in a competitive fast-moving industry to keep yourself in employment and able to support your family, don't expect people to recognise that you earned the privilege to live in a nice area and send your kids to the local state school.

Perhaps the government secretly want to drive people into private education. It's the logical alternative if you can't get into a decent local state school (provided you can afford it of course). As a kid from a state comprehensive school I have no natural affinity with private schooling, but for the first time in my life I'm starting to sympathise with its attraction.

BBC NEWS | England | West Yorkshire | Heart attack baby back from dead

BBC NEWS | England | West Yorkshire | Heart attack baby back from dead

I can't start to imagine the emotional roller-coaster that family must have experienced that day.

BBC NEWS | UK | Mothers 'face job discrimination'

BBC NEWS | UK | Mothers 'face job discrimination'

Why am I not surprised to read this.


You can learn a lot about Oliver from this video.

Note how he charms his Mummy with his adorable intonation of "Mama".
See how he insists that she acknowledges him saying "Dada", but equally will say Mama when she's saying Dada.
And finally when he has finished his meal he gives us a clear signal (the hand waving) this is the case... and that we can clear up for him. Note that the video ends here as we dutifuly jump into action!

There's a slightly earlier video of him saying Mama and laughing, but for some reason the sound is out of sync on YouTube. (Still cute though!)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Yes, please"

It's hard to refuse Oliver anything when he sounds so cute saying "Yes please".

Monday, February 26, 2007

Definite flutters

Hayley has been experiencing little flutters for the last few days which are definitely Bumper making his/her presence felt.

We've been discussing names too. We've got some ideas for a girl but are still struggling a bit for a boy's name. I'm sure it will come to us in time.

I'm feeling pretty sure it is a boy. But I always thought our first would be a girl and was therefore rather amazed when we had Oliver. But what a joy it has been to have a son. So exuberant and expressive. Full of noise and energy. He has reminded me how to live life: fully, every day!

As for whether Bumper will be a boy or a girl, I feel we can't lose. All we want is a healthy happy baby. If it's a girl, then we have a perfect little "one of each" family. If we have a boy, I then have two boys to rampage around with. And of course us 3 boys will always be able to outvote the 1 girl. :)

A Day Off for Mummy!

It sounds terrible. No, despicable! How can I put this. I spent the whole day with Oliver on Saturday, taking him out and about and generally having fun, and afterwards we realised it is probably the first time I have ever been solely in charge of him for a whole day.

Now, I know how bad that sounds, so in my defense let me say that it doesn't mean I haven't spent a whole day with him before! Nor does it mean I don't spend much time with him. I love my time with him. I try to be home every evening in time to have an hour with him before he goes to bed. But at the weekends I tend to let Hayley take the lead and I prefer us all to spend time together when possible.

The biggest factor in the last few months has been the amount of time I've had to give over to my Open University studies. Thankfully that will end in May.

I spend Saturday mornings with him while Hayley has a much deserved lie-in or takes the opportunity to read the paper unhindered by clamouring hands. But after that if I go out with him it tends to be with Hayley too. That's partially because I like us all to do things together. It's also because Hayley knows all the best places to go!

And, I must admit, it is because even today I probably don't have quite the same unhesitating confidence as Hayley in all situations when it comes to taking him out. It's not just that I don't know the drill in some of these kiddie places. I've always tended to defer to her when we take him out and about because she has him all week and she has always been the one who knows how to handle him best (he says, as if he is some sort of explosive material!). But now that he is communicating so much more I think I know him pretty well myself and he can tell me what he wants anyway (in so many words and gestures). Consequently my confidence with him has really grown.

So after we all went to Funizuz a week or so ago, I jumped at the chance to take him there again this weekend, this time on my own.

But before we did that we ran riot in Decathlon where Oliver persuaded me to buy him 2 tennis balls. And we popped into our old favourite, Fresh, for tea and toast.

But Funizuz was what we enjoyed the most. It's a building full of ball pits and padded climbing areas and slides. In fact there is a very big slide at the heart of it. So big in fact you sometimes see Mums coming down it with no kids!

I have to admit I enjoyed it less than the previous week. It was busier and although there are "Under 4s only" areas, they aren't policed and I spend my time looking out for rampaging 8 year olds who might trample my 17 month old under foot and not even notice.

I also find myself occasionally enraged by the antics of some of the kids. One girl, much older than him, sat at the end of a tunnel as we crawled through and started throwing plastic balls straight into his face. I was right there with him and stoppped her pretty damn quick but the little man had to be encouraged to go on. He didn't seem scared, just hesitant and bemused by why she was doing it.

Of course you have to be careful, especially as a man, about intervening physically to stop this sort of behaviour. But frankly any child that does that sort of thing to Oliver while I am around is dicing with death. I may cut an urbane and liberal figure as I read my Saturday Guardian in the car park as he sleeps, but once we're in the ball pits... well, let's just say it's a padded jungle out there.

Once back out into civilisation we drove home and Oliver fell asleep again. Worn out by our endeavours.

Prior to this weekend, my recent Saturdays and Sundays seem to have been too full of studying and jobs around the house. But I'm determined to shift that balance. All work and no play make Daddy a dull boy. And that would never do.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We have our piano!


Last week I went to see the piano that a friend of ours had offered us before Christmas. Today it was finally delivered. Hayley and Oliver were out at the time so I gave it a quick "once over" with a duster. When Oliver came in he went straight over to it saying "up, up..." to be put on the stool. As you can see (below) he didn't even take his coat off before banging out a tune.


I'm no expert in pianos so I asked the guy (from a piano shop) who delivered it whether it was any good. His rather diplomatic answer implied that it was no Steinway! However, on further probing and after playing a few keys, he basically said that it was a very old piano which may not stand any drastic repairs but it was basically sound and - with some proper tuning and a little TLC - playable.

This of course really doesn't do it justice. Apart from being a beautiful piece of furniture in its won right (and made in Manchester too), it is a piano steeped in the history of the previous owner who had it for 60 years. I feel I am not just acquiring a piano, I am continuing a story and a tradition of loving music and enjoying all that communally shared music can offer within a family and beyond. Anyone who has read Annie Proulx's "Accordion Crimes" might know what I am trying to say.

I can't wait to get someone to look at tuning and it and fixing up the odd dead keys and dodgy notes so that I can play it. Of course, Oliver just can't wait to play it.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day!


Shrove Tuesday is traditionally celebrated with pancakes in our part of the world and this time Oliver was able to lend a hand.

Hayley tried to give him a bowl of his own to mix but he insisted on mixing her bowl too (the white one).

After all that cooking there's nothing better than to enjoy the fruits of your own labour. Oliver decided to forgo the traditional seasonings of lemon and sugar in favour of ice cream and banana.


There are more photos from the day here.


A report published yesterday said that children under three years old should watch no television whatsoever and that older children should watch no more than 30 minutes rising to 60 minutes with age.

Fat chance! OK, Oliver doesn't tend to watch more than about 30 minutes per day (and often loses interest before that), but there are certain programmes he loves.

Yesterday when I got home from work I sat down with him to have a cup of tea and watch Boogie Beebies. I lay back on the sofa and he sat on my stomach. We sat watching Numberjacks, waiting for it to end. "This is a bit dull isn't it mate", I consoled him "but don't worry Boogie Beebies is on in a couple of minutes". His head shot around to look at me and exclaimed "Beebies!". When it came on a few minutes later he remained seated on my stomach but jigged and twisted about in delight at the theme tune.

The programme starts with a warm up exercise, loosening up the fingers, then hands, then arms, etc. until all extremities are covered. Oliver watched and duly flexed his fingers as requested (which was just the cutest thing to see), then arms, and so on.

When the show was over I turned off the TV and read a book with him instead. No complaint was made.

I don't think watching TV is too bad for Oliver in small doses, especially if I watch too and interact with him. (Did I mention that he had me joining in the dance for "big video time" at the end?) And anyway, I know plenty of cases where TV-watching toddlers have grown into responsible and respectable young adults.

Of course I too grew up watching the children's TV of my day. And it didn't do me any harm.... did it?!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fish 'n' Chips Night

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, in our house Friday night is Fish 'n' Chips night. And here's the proof!

Mmmmmm... fish!

As well as devouring plenty of chips (with no salt and vinegar I should add!) he also ate nearly as much fish as me, some sausage and some bread and butter for good measure.

Sausage, fish, chips and bread 'n' butter... champion!

In place of his usual yoghurt or "fruit pot" dessert, the meal was finished off with a Milky Bar white chocolate dessert, which he proceeded to tempt and tease me with, holding out a spoonful to me only to take it away laughing before eating it himself with a big satisfied smile on his face.


Hayley posted to her blog!

Yes, you read it right! After a gap of only the odd year, Hayley has written something in her blog.

There is a link to her blog at the top of this page.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Noisy boy, 24/7!

If Bumper turns out to be a boy, we are going to have a very noisy home.

Boys just seem to be noisier than girls, even at this early age. It is noticeable when there are 2 or 3 girls of Oliver's age at the house that the level of noise and mayhem drops dramatically when he has a nap. The girls play together more quietly and seemingly less argumentatively.

But it isn't just during the day that Oliver is noisy. One thing I can't really understand (and which no-one else's baby seems to do) is to be so noisy at night when asleep or half-asleep. When he turns over in the night he really shouts and sometimes screams. It only lasts a few seconds but it is loud enough to wake us up, even though our baby monitor is set to its lowest volume. It sounds like frustration and irritation as he turns over or re-orients himself because he has shuffled right up to the top of his cot.

His sleep pattern is pretty predictable at the moment. He goes to bed at about 7.45pm, often without complaint, though the last two nights have seen brief crying despite him being so tired he falls asleep 30 seconds later. (I suspect he just wants the fun to go on all night!)

Then after 2 - 3 hours he will wake and on most occasions need one of us to go into him to settle him back down. When we do he usually goes straight back down and goes back to sleep. We are trying to stop doing this but it isn't easy. Sometimes he settles himself. Other times if we leave him too long he'll get upset and much harder to settle again.

After that it varies how often he wakes us with his nocturnal shouting. Sometimes he can wake us as often as every 20 - 30 minutes but more often we'll hear little or nothing until about 5.30.

After 5.30 he will either make more frequent grumpy noises, dozing in-between, or sometimes he'll wake up and sing before quietly nodding off again.

From 6.30 he's usually awake, usually announced by a grumpy shout, but after a few minutes we hear him chatting to his various toys in his cot and we know it's safe to go in without him starting the day grumpy. (By the way his toys in his cot are Julien, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, a Man Utd bear, a little horse and a cow - oh and there are a giraffe and a tomato hanging from the side of the cot.)

By then it's approaching 7am. So you see if it weren't for the first awakening and this nocturnal yelping we'd be getting a really good night's sleep.

And of course, he always wakes more on the nights we go to bed early to try to catch up on lost sleep. That's Oliver's Law. Well, one of them.

BBC NEWS | Health | Tea 'healthier' drink than water

BBC NEWS | Health | Tea 'healthier' drink than water

Oliver only drinks water or milk. But recently my Mum mentioned to Hayley that I was brought up on lots of tea. I'm not sure from what age, but I certainly don't remember a time I didn't drink it and I still drink huge amounts of it every day.

So yesterday we got to discussing whether we should let Oliver drink any tea yet. He sees us drinking it, says "teeeeeeaaaaaaa", and occasionally is permitted a sip. But I had assumed it was not a good idea to start him drinking it. Although we did wonder whether de-caff tea was any better.

This article has swung me back towards thinking maybe he could have some from time to time.

Friday night is "Fish n Chips" night

OK, I know it's only Wednesday, but thanks to being reminded that this week is National Chip Week, I am already looking forward to what has become a weekly ritual in our house.

I pop out to our favourite "chippy" in Heaton Mersey where I buy fish and (a large portion of) chips for Oliver and I to share. Hayley usually has sausage and chips (with Oliver getting some of the sausage too). And there are portions of mushy peas plus cans of Vimto or Diet Coke to finish the order.

It makes a great way to start the weekend and it's a meal that the little man thoroughly enjoys week after week. Last week Sara and Jack joined us too. The more the merrier I say.

So why not pop over to the "Love Chips" website and tempt yourself to join in our ritual this Friday.

BBC NEWS | UK | UK is accused of failing children

BBC NEWS | UK | UK is accused of failing children

I can't say I am surprised that the UK did badly in this survey but it's quite an indictment to come bottom!

Hopefully this will kick-start more of a debate about work-life balance. I'm sure most of us would prefer to "work to live" rather than "live to work".

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Last night in bed Hayley felt what seemed to be the first flutters in the tummy caused by the baby moving.

But she also ate an extra slice of pizza last night and had a dodgy tummy this morning, so we concluded it might have just been wind.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Garlic: scourge of Vampires and Fathers-to-be

Two years ago I wrote a blog entry about how the pregnant woman's sense of smell is increased 280% and how as a result Hayley was sniffing me in a disapproving manner.

This time round her sense of smell seems unable to tolerate any trace of garlic that I might have unknowingly eaten. This evening she has held her nose, pulled her face and finally banished me to the spare room for the night because I ate a rather delicious Vegetable Madras for lunch at work today.

Of course the many benefits of garlic do nothing to persuade my beloved that I am really doing us both a favour by eating it. Perhaps it should carry a government health warning: "this plant can seriously increase your risk of sleeping in the spare room."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

BBC NEWS | Health | Big shake-up for maternity care

So, hang on a minute. If the "best doctors" and consultants will all be at regional super-centres and my humble little local hospital is just midwife led, what happens when it all goes pear shaped 12 hours into labour and there is no consultant to call?

And to think that the NHS was born out of the desire for equality of care for all.

BBC NEWS | Health | Big shake-up for maternity care

Monday, February 05, 2007

Weekend highlights

Oliver in Mummy's hat

Oliver in his Mummy's hat (above).

Hayley and I went to the cinema! We haven't managed that in ages. Sara kindly baby-sat and we saw "Notes from a Scandal". Not bad. But just getting out with Hayley for an evening was worthwhile in itself. And the jumbo bag of popcorn wasn't bad either.

Group hugs. Oliver has started to understand these now. If he sees me hugging Hayley he runs up with his arms outstretched to join in. This morning we even each got a kiss too.

"Mama". Last night I went into Oliver's room to check on him. He was asleep, but as I looked down at him I saw him hug Julien, roll onto his side and say "Mama". Adorable. I just wish Hayley had been there.

Off down the pub! It has to be done doesn't it. Sunday afternoon, Man Utd are on Sky TV, so what better than to go and watch it down the pub with a few drinking buddies while the other half looks after the toddler.

By the way, I was the one looking after the toddler!

BBC NEWS | Health | Warning on 'boutique ultrasounds'

BBC NEWS | Health | Warning on 'boutique ultrasounds'

Maybe the so-called "4D" scan we were considering isn't such a good idea after all.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Team Hoyt

How ironic. Before all this fuss kicked off about (what seemed to me) one of my inconsequential posts, I was drafting a more weighty piece about "Team Hoyt".

But then I realised that everything that needs to be said is covered in the linked piece below and the two embedded videos. So if you want to see what the human spirit is capable of or if you just want to see a truly inspirational father, follow the link below.

And if like me you find tears in your eyes, that's OK too.

The Blogfathers article on Dick Hoyt.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bumper's first Stepping Hill scan

First NHS scan of Bumper

This is the first scan picture of Bumper taken at Stepping Hill hospital. He/she doesn't have huge nose, that's a hand sticking up from behind his/her head.

He/she didn't move around much but seemed quite happy. Although I watched as attentively as possible I also had to prevent Oliver demolishing the ultrasound suite. I suspect this potential deficit of attention paid to Bumper is just the lot of the younger sibling. Just as minimizing it is the lot of Mum and Dad.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oliver on tour (part 2)

Oliver and Grampy

The full set of pictures from Oliver's Wiltshire tour are now on Flickr.

Tonight Oliver is mostly laughing at...

  • Daddy running up the stairs. He stands at the top of the stairs rattling the stair gate until I run up from the bottom in a few quick bounds and press my face against the bars causing him to retreat in fits of laughter. At one point he was laughing so hard he collapsed onto the floor doubled up.

  • "Finito!" My Mum first made him laugh with this word on holiday in September by saying it in a high pitched excitable fashion. It was still working tonight as Hayley explained to him that there was no more milk in his bedtime bottle. The chuckling sounds just as cute over the baby monitor.

  • Mummy trying to grab him from Daddy's arms. It's a new bedtime game. Hayley sits on the sofabed in his room watiing to give him his milk. I carry him over from his washbasin where he has been cleaning his teeth, but as I near Hayley she reaches up to grab him and I rush backwards and away with him. We repeat this several times, each time Oliver leaning out towards Hayley before excitedly recoiling when she lurches forward in dramatic fashion to grab him. Miraculously he still goes to sleep on cue only a few minutes later. Bliss!