Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mirror mirror on the wall...

Let loose at The Trafford Centre

Today we met up with Hayley's brothers David and Nigel plus families (too numerous to list) at the Trafford Centre. To give Hayley more time to catch up with them I took Oliver off for a walk around the food court, a huge central area with numerous fast food outlets around its perimeter.

The layout consists of wooden walkways with ramps up to raised seating areas in the centre. Oliver absolutely loved these ramps. Ha would run up and down one about 10 times until, having lulled me into a false sense of security, he would suddenly head off into the seating areas through tiny gaps leaving his Dad to hot-tail after him, excusing himself as he squeezed past people trying to enjoy their KFCs (not an easy task in itself I imagine).

I would then coral him to another area to entertain, irritate or just bemuse another group of diners. Actually no-one seemed irritated. He tends to produce a lot smiles and yesterday was no exception. His enjoyment of such a simple pleasure as running free and exploring was infectious. Every now and then someone would wave to him or indulge him in a game of peekaboo and he was always ready to partake.

On the way home in the car he spotted Hayley and I eating Extra Strong Mints. "Choc choc", came the comment from the back seat. Guiltily I tried to tell him it was for grown-ups, but then decided to let him sample a very small piece. He looked it over for a while before finally licking it. His face after tasing it was an absolute picture. It gradually broke out into a big mischievous, conspiratorial smile. I'll never forget it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

How could you?!

In exactly a week's time I will be in mid-air, flying to Barcelona. I'm going to help my Dad sail his boat from Barcelona to the little port of Sant Elmo on Majorca. It's a 20 hour crossing so having 2 of us (or possibly 3 if all goes to plan) will make it a lot easier. I'll be away for 5 days.

So what does Hayley think about this?

To many people's surprise she is very supportive. We've planned for months that I would do this, although the date has slipped to later in the pregnancy than we had expected. It's unlikely she will go into labour while I am away, but we've made provision for that eventuality. And I've tried to prepare myself for the possibility that I might just miss the birth (and quite possibly never be allowed to forget it!).

The trip is a chance to spend a bit of time with my Dad and help him complete a journey that has covered two summers and seen him sail, solo and with various assistants, from north Wales to the Atlantic coast of France, across France's canals (sans mast) and now finally along the Mediterranean coasts of France and Spain before the crossing to Majorca.

So there could be another brief gap in my blogging next weekend. But I promise to come back and report on just how hard it was sailing on the Med. I'll understand if you keep your sympathy on ice.

One more?

At Play Group on Thursday mornings, Oliver usually has two biscuits. He'd probably have 22 if we let him but we set a limit of two for this mid-morning snack.

This morning he had his two biscuits and then asked Mummy "One more?", holding up his finger. "No Oliver, we just have two don't we" replied Mummy. Oliver then hugs Mummy saying "Aaaahhhhhh", before adding "More biscuit?", then taking her by the hand and leading her to the biscuit hatch where he was promptly allowed his bonus biccy.

Not sure what was more crumbly, the biscuits, or Mummy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Ice cream!!!"

Hayley and Jo went to Room 311 today to celebrate Jo's new job. WHile there, Oliver toured the premises saying hello to customers and waving. Occasionally he would engage them in a game of "peekaboo".

When the time came to order some food he naturally asked for ice-cream. Unfortunately the waiter forgot to bring it. Oliver started to complain to his Mummy about this, but she pointed out to him that he should tell the waiter. So he did. "Ice cream!!!", he shouted across the room to the waiter, who promptly looked up and replied "oh sorry I forgot, I'll get your ice cream".

Not really the shy retiring type, my son.

Mealtimes - the good, the bad and the cheeky monkey

Oliver has been a pretty good eater so far. We haven't had major food issues and only very occasional mealtime tantrums. That's "the good".

But he is definitely a stubborn little chap at times and a couple of weeks ago we had a right royal battle at breakfast. He had been developing a habit of changing his mind about what he wanted for breakfast. No sooner had we got out the Weetabix requested than he opted for Rice Crispies instead. Then once they appeared he would decide it was really Weetabix he wanted.

So the other morning when he said he wanted porridge I asked him several times if he was sure he wante dit and told him that if I made it he had to eat some of it.

As I feared, when I presented it to him, he told me "don't like it" before he had even tasted it. So we decided to take a stand. I asked him to at least try it. He refused. So Hayley and I sat there eating our breakfast (which in my case was exactly the same porridge) while he complained, threw his spoon, stamped, shouted and generally got annoyed. We kept re-assuring him that if he just tasted it he could get down from the table. We weren't horrible to him and I gave him verbal and physical re-assurance.

There was nothing wrong with his food at all. THis was simply a battle of wills. He wanted to get his own way and we needed to show him that sometimes he has to tow the line.

His complaining went on for 40 minutes. And they were 40 very unpleasant minutes. But finally, when he realised we weren't paying attention to his shouting, he quietened down, picked up his spoon, said "porridge" rather mournfully and took a mouthful. Hayley then ran over to him from the kitchen and told him what a good boy he was before letting him get down from the table.

In black and white, and without the context of how his behaviour has become more and more demanding recently, that description may sound harsh. But the point had come where Mummy and Daddy had to stop taking the easy route of doing as he demanded all the time and demanding themselves for some compliance. Basically, he has to realise he can't be the boss all the time. It was a hard morning, but something I think we had to go through.

That's "the bad".

And as for "the cheeky"...

A couple of days ago after his main course at dinner he asked for a yoghurt. He had already wasted one the previous day and so I told him as I opened the fridge "Don't ask for this if you don't want it please Oliver. Daddy wants you to eat some of this if I get it for you, OK." To which he replied in a sing-songy, bibble-babble mimicry of my warning complete with facial expressions that basically equated to a toddler-speak version of telling me "blah blah blah..!" It's hard to convey how he did it, but both Hayley and I immediately recognised what he was doing and burst out laughing. "You cheeky monkey!" I told him and we all had a good laugh. Someday all mealtimes will end this way (I hope).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You speak toddler?

Yesterday I witnessed a scene both funny and heart-warming. Oliver was talking to Hayley. His diction is pretty good for a 21 month old, but there are times when he says something and we just don't know what it is. Yesterday was one such occasion.

Oliver: "Show-er"
Hayley: "Shower?"
Oliver: "No. Trow-er."
Hayley: "Controller? Fat Controller?"
Oliver: "No!"
This carried on for about 30 seconds until...
Oliver: (Looking at Daddy too.) "Strow-er! Strow-er!"
Hayley: "Stroller?"
Oliver then shouted "Yes!!!" and jumped in the air with a smile on his face! It wasn't like he was a baby or toddler, more like an adult speaking a foreign language who had finally made the dopey English people understand him.

I'm still here, honest!

I'm determined not to let this blog go. It's a labour of love. It's just that love of life has been in limited supply recently. Home life is fine. Work life sucks. And I've been guilty of letting the bad stuff (like work) get in the way of the good stuff, like home and this blog. Without seeking pity in anway, I think it's fair to say that the large amounts of manure that life seems to have thrown at me recently have even taken the joy out of my beloved blog. Well, frankly, this will not do!

And what will poor Bumper think if I don't blog as passionately and frequently as I did when Oliver was born! Poor Bumper doesn't seem to get many mentions. It's hard to compete with an elder sibling who demands his parents time, especially when you are still in the womb. But Bumper is never far from our thoughts. And she/he is showing more and more signs that she/he will turn up on time or maybe even earlier. Hayley seems to be showing "low down" and seems to be as big now at 34 weeks as she was with Oliver in the final 2 weeks.

We still haven't got settled names for Bumper. We have a short list of 2 or 3 for a girl, but we are all at sea for a boy's name. We really have to decide before the time comes, but that's turning out to be easier said than done this time.

Anyway, enough rambling. Suffice to say, I'm back!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy at 311

Looking cute for the waitresses at 311

I love this picture of Oliver at 311. It somehow seems to capture his happy and slightly mischievous smile. I seem to struggle to catch it on camera, perhaps because I am usually chatting and playing with him when I see it. But rest assured he is a happy little chap, especially when, like here, he not only has his Mummy and Daddy with him, but the prospect of some good food too!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

BBC NEWS | Health | Double cot death risk 'distorted'

BBC NEWS | Health | Double cot death risk 'distorted'

BBC NEWS | Politics | 'Right to breastfeed' law planned

BBC NEWS | Politics | 'Right to breastfeed' law planned

Seems crazy we should even need such a law. How anyone can be offended by a woman doing something as natural as breast-feeding her baby is a bit beyond me. Is it just British prudishness?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Normal service has been resumed... hopefully

Since I started this blog at the start of 2005, there has never been more than the occasional week or so without a post. So why did I disappear (barring links to BBC News stories)?

Listening to Desert Island Disks today I heard John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" and its prophetic line "life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans". Now it's not that anything very life-changing has happened to me, it's just that my work - you know that place where you have to spend the majority of your waking days - has been pretty atrocious recently. All in all it has left me asking big questions about my future career. That might sound like navel gazing, but as I'm the sole bread-winner for the next year and the main breadwinner the rest of the time, it gives you pause for thought when a job that seemed to be going well suddenly seems to be on decidedly shaky ground.

Anyway it's a pretty poor excuse for not writing for so long, but it comes on top of Hayley starting to suffer with the hot weather, hay fever, swollen feet... you know, the usual heavily pregnant woman's afflictions. We've both been physically and mentally a bit shattered by the end of the day when I might be thinking about blogging all those good things that have happened.

And lots of good things have been happening. Oliver is becoming more and more talkative. And although he occasionally can become inconsolably upset when denied something important like having Julien join in with eating his breakfast cereal, most of the time he is the happiest little boy you could imagine.

He has even started to joke with me. Well, I think he has. Until a few days ago we had a regular conversation that went like this.
Daddy: "Have you poohed Oliver?"
Oliver: "Yes."
Daddy: Are you going to let Daddy change your bottom?"
Oliver: "No."
This was often followed by him running off laughing.

Then a couple of days ago I thought I smelled a tell-tale smell and asked him whether he'd poohed. The conversation went the usual way. So I picked him up and sniffed his bum. Nothing. I asked him again, "have you poohed Oliver?". He smiled the most mischievous smile and, laughing, said "No"! Maybe it was coincidence. Or maybe his teasing has reached a new level. Either way, it really made me laugh.

Today and yesterday have been really hot. Well, hot by English standards. About 25 Celcius and a bit humid. Oliver has playing in the garden in his new sand-pit and mini-pool. He loved it. Mostly he loved half getting out of the water then falling back in.

We also went to a little fair in Didsbury park yesterday. While there Oliver and I played with circus props: juggling, spinning plates, etc. Then we went and sat back with Hayley under the trees in the shade. I looked away from him for about 5 seconds and when I looked up again he was about 10 yards away. He is so fast!!! As soon as he saw me look he laughed and started to run off again. The place was quite packed so it was quite alarming to think that he could move that fast. He was never going to get out of our site, but it made me think. I then followed him as he ran through the park from stall to stall, attempting take the giant teddy someone had won, attempting to pop all the bubbles one girl was blowing, attempting to dig up a tree with his bare hands. So much fun to be had in a park!

BBC NEWS | Education | Call to scrap tests for under-16s

BBC NEWS | Education | Call to scrap tests for under-16s

I can't help but sympathise with this call, for many reasons. For a kick-off I come from a family of teachers who have taught at every level from primary school to teaching Master degrees in Education (teaching the teachers). My Grandfather, my father, my mother and now my sister are, or have been at some point, teachers. So I've heard a fair bit in my time about the curriculum, testing and child development in every respect.

Secondly, my own experience of a childhood that was blissfully free of exams until I hit secondary school tells me that is not essential for all kids to be examined at every opportunity in order to flourish.

And finally, as the report says, the use of the league tables to determine "success" and direct funding tends to lead to teachers training the kids to pass tests rather than giving them a rounded education.

It's not that there is no place for assessment or even exams, but the pendulum has swung too far one way in my opinion. Perhaps it is about to swing back.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

BBC NEWS | UK | Absent parents shamed on website

BBC NEWS | UK | Absent parents shamed on website

It sounds so simple doesn't it. But it's the children who will really feel the shame.