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

BBC NEWS | Health | Pregnancy smoking fertility link

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

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

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