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.