Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And a pox on your house sir!

Chicken pox to be precise. Both kids have got it. Lucy's spots appeared about a day ahead of Oliver's but the little man seems more bothered by it and his spots are more prolific. They are both bearing up fairly well though. Oliver has been napping more. Lucy has just been, well, Lucy, but with some added scratching.

Watching them scratch has set me off itching and scratching too, illogical though that may be. I think maximum itchiness will be reached sometime tonight or tomorrow. Perhaps we'll all scratch in the New Year together.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Plumbing update #2

A plumber has now been and fixed the leak.

There is still residual dripping in the kitchen, but hopefully we have turned the corner. The heating is back on and I can almost feel my fingers again. So I reckon there's a good chance the house will be dry enough for the rest of the family to return later today.


Plumbing update

Nearly a day after we discovered our house had decided to try to become a water feature in our absence, we are still awaiting a plumber.

We were fed by friends yesterday evening before having to head back up to my Mum's house for the night. We hadn't bothered to unpack the car since arriving back from there earlier in the day.

I am currently huddled in our spare room with a not-very-effective heater, this PC and the phone.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It never rains...

It never rains, but it does occasionally leak heavily. Today we got home from our short stay at my Mum's house for Christmas and found that our kitchen ceiling was soaked with water that was dripping into a small lake across the kitchen floor.

So lighting in the kitchen is out, using the central heating is out and cooking (which would require night vision goggles) is also out.

The last ETA for the insurance company's emergency plumber of "tomorrow" was not greeted entirely gladly by me, so they have marked our case very urgent and are trying to do better.

Meanwhile Lucy, who has not been her self the last couple of days, is screaming more than usual and as Hayley left our un-heated, semi-lit home a few minutes ago to enjoy the hospitality of friends in warmer dwellings, Oliver decided this was a good moment to have "a little accident".

I am now waiting by the phone, which no doubt won't ring and I'll have to chase the insurance company up again. Things can only get better. I hope.

To tell you the truth, all of this, temporarily stressful though it is, has not spoiled my day quite as much as the fact that I took lots of pictures over Christmas using a superior camera, only to have the SD card reader corrupt the files in transfer today. There was one beautiful shot of Hayley and Oliver in profile, laughing, face to face. Now lost. I'm gutted.

As I say, things can only get better.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nap time


This morning Lucy fell asleep on the bed to the sound of the hair dryer, something Oliver used to do too. So that she couldn't roll off the bed, I went in and lay next to her, but she immediately woke. Still very tired at this premature awakening, she refused to settle until I lay her on my chest.

I then lay there for another half an hour until she woke. Amazingly, I was so tired that I dozed off myself for a while. Hayley captured our less than comfortable dozing position.


It reminded me of the first week of Lucy's life, when she also liked to fall asleep on Mummy or Daddy.

Comfortable on Daddy

Today's lesson is...

Today's lesson is that change can happen in an instant. This is a valuable, sometimes life-changing lesson that several life coaches have propounded in their own particular ways with varying degrees of plausibility. I find Tony Robbins provides a believable and useful take on this idea.

So I was grateful this morning when my children gave me a reminder of this valuable lesson. It was a calm and happy scene. Lucy was helping me to fill Oliver's bowl with Shreddies while Oliver was playing happily in the adjoining room.

Suddenly, I heard Oliver screaming "Help, help". I dashed to his aid. I arrived to find that it was not Oliver who was in peril, but Ronald McDonald who had got his tractor stuck on top of a tower. Relieved, I went straight back to the kitchen, to find Lucy had poured the full contents of the large pack of Shreddies over the kitchen floor.

Yes, change can happen in an instant.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve


As is traditional in our household, this evening we left a carrot for Rudolph while Father Christmas will be treated to a mince pie and a glass of whisky. Today when Oliver went to see Father Christmas (again!) while celebrating his friend's birthday at Brookside Garden Centre, he asked the bearded one whether he wanted water or whisky tonight. To his great credit in these PC times, Father Christmas requested a wee dram. Good on ya Santa!

After taking this photo I attempted to engage Oliver in a discussion of the coming night, but he was more interested in devouring a carrot the size of the one he was leaving for Rudolph.

Insert appropriate swearing here

As you may notice, my beloved blog has a new look. One I didn't want. I tried to do something clever using CommentLuv and it's all gone wrong.

In fact it's not their fault, it's this darn stoopid Blogger Layout tool which I have resisted until now as I suspected it would trash my old template in favour of some pile of mediocrity.... and I was right!

Ho hum. Trust me. I will not rest until the old look and feel is returned. Grrrr...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

BBC NEWS | Education | Bad parents 'widen ability gap'

BBC NEWS | Education | Bad parents 'widen ability gap'

BBC NEWS | Education | Violence: Schools seek police aid

BBC NEWS | Education | Violence: Schools seek police aid

Despite the positive spin given by some, it' still not a happy state of affairs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


At the moment Oliver has a real dislike of getting wet. Even a small drop of water on his clothes incurs his displeasure.

Lucy on the other hand loves playing with water. She also loves cleaning. Here she is combining the two by giving one of our chairs a good wash.

Mummy's little helper

Today at HMEC's children's Carol Service, Oliver decided to take responsibility for Lucy.

When Hayley sat on a chair with her childminding child on one knee and Lucy on the other, Oliver said "Put Lucy in my lap Mummy". So Oliver sat on a chair next to his Mummy with his sister on his lap.

Lucy sat then there but inevitably decided to get down after a while, despite Oliver's best efforts to keep hold of her. When she did escape, Oliver called after her, "Lucy, come back here and sit down", before having to go and retrieve her. It's not surprising he couldn't keep her under control, as Lucy's chosen mission today was to steal as many other people's Oreo biscuits as possible.

Tears, Tantrums and Christmas Carols

No blog post for a few days? I'll give you three guesses why.

Sleep. Or rather the lack of it.

For most of this week until last night, Lucy has been waking us for long periods of the night. It's hard to tell with Lucy whether this is because she is ill or because she wants to get up. In recent months she has developed a stock response to all problems: high-pitched, full-volume screaming. It's the same response whether you refuse her demands to be picked up or if she has fallen and genuinely hurt herself.

I've never seen such a temper on a 16 month old. She throws herself on the floor. She then lies there screaming and kicking. When this abates she pushes her self grumpily along the floor until her haad hits a piece of furniture (usually soft, fortunately). Common advice is often to ignore a child throwing a tantrum as long as it's safe. Perhaps then I should convert the playroom into a padded cell. She even sometimes head-butts the floor in anger! It is really quite a frightening and distressing thing to see. (Obviously we intervene if it gets to this stage!)

When approached in recent nights she has thrown a tantrum when we try to put her to bed then thrown another when we try to pick her up to console her. We tried every medication and teething gel but still she cried.

Once we got her in our room with the telly on though there was a marked improvement. Hmmmm. I'm still not sure whether she just wanted to get up or was feeling unwell, but in any case she ended up in our bed with Hayley.

The two nights ago Lucy slept well but Oliver had the worst night's sleep since he was a baby. For the first time in living memory we put him in bed with us. He fell asleep there and I transferred him back to his own bed. He woke every hour from then on, sometimes several times an hour.

The next morning was his Christmas Carol concert. He has been singing carols and doing the actions for us at home that he must have learned at nursery. We have been really excited and looking forward to this concert. All the parents sat down and after a few technical hitches the children entered.

When Oliver came into the room he looked so pale, drawn and tired. Then he saw us and burst into tears. I just wanted to go and grab him and take him home, but he sat on the knee of one of the assistants and he perked up enough to sing the first two carols and do the actions (starting with Here we go up to Bethlehem). But about 20 minutes in, after several yawns and increasing wriggling, he was taken out as he seemed less and less happy.

It turned out he had had a nap already and perked up when we took him out to the car. It was a real shame that he wasn't himself as he loves singing and often will direct Hayley and I in song and dance at bedtime.

Back to his sleeplessnes. He has been complaining in the night of a pain, apparently in his chest, but it's not really clear. The doctor advised that children that young sometimes know they feel unwell and the pinpointing of the pain is beyond them. Anyway he has been on Calpol, Nurofen and as of yesterday Milk of Magnesia.

Last night when he went to bed he complained again that "it hurts" and "I'm poorly". But having given him all we could in medication I sat with him in his room until he went to sleep. In fact, exhausted from lack of sleep and a long day myself, I lay on the floor of his room with my eyes closed and told him we should both close our eyes and go to sleep. To my relief, this worked.

To be honest he seemed overtired (unsurprisingly) more than poorly. He woke a couple of times in the night but at least it was an improvement on the night before. He asks to come into our bed when he says he's poorly and I'm still not 100% sure that he isn't just trying to achieve that objective. Certianly this morning he claimed to feel poorly when asking to get up, but the moment he was up he was happy, full of beans and with all complaints and ailments vanished.

When Oliver was a baby I always looked forward to the day when he could tell me why he was crying, tell me if he felt ill. I feel that way about Lucy now. But these last few nights with Oliver have made me realise it is never going to be quite as straight forward as I imagined.

BBC NEWS | Health | Sleep may cut childhood obesity

BBC NEWS | Health | Sleep may cut childhood obesity

Following on from the previous article, this study seems to suggest that exercise (and hence good sleep) is associated with avoiding childhood obesity. Common sense really.

BBC NEWS | Health | Obesity 'set before age of five'

BBC NEWS | Health | Obesity 'set before age of five'

With kids in general being faddy eaters, this sort of headline won't make welcome reading for any parent. Our two are OK when it comes to eating some fruit and veg, but complacency is not an option.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yes! (Or rather, No!)

I'd been meaning to post about the referendum on a Congestion Charge for Manchester. (Or more accurately, a congestion charge for Greater Manchester as the proposed zone includes 13 metropolitan boroughs.)

This morning as I lay in bed, knowing the result was decided as yesterdays ballot return deadline passed, I reprimanded myself for not posting about it before. Heck, I could have even set up a whole new site about it! What if the result was the wrong one when if it weren't for my laziness I could have swung the few vital votes?

I needn't have worried. The result was a resounding "No".

When I first heard of the proposed congestion charge I was entirely open to the idea. But as time went on and I saw what improvements were on offer as a result of the charge, it became clear to me that it wasn't a good deal.

Let me give you some illustrations.

The charge is designed to ease congestion caused by commuter traffic heading in and out of Manchester. To do this, an outer and inner zone were defined. Traffic passing into those zones in the morning "rush hour" would be charged, as would traffic passing out in the evening "rush hour".

So if, like our family, you live half a mile inside the outer boundary (mostly defined by the M60 motorway), you would be charged for taking your child to nursery half a mile outside the boundary as you return from dropping him off. It's only a short local journey but it is charged the same as if we've commuted 40 miles in a company car. Thankfully Oliver's nursery is now on this side of the boundary, but his old one wasn't so it's a real example.

Many years ago I moved to Stockport so that I wasn't commuting 80 miles a day to and from work. Ever since I have used my bike quite often to commute the much reduced 6 mile round trip to/from the office. (I did today as it happens.) I kept a record for a while and found that in recent years my best efforts saw me commuting by bike between 30% and 50% of the time over the year.

But we still have two cars as the demands of combining work and family life make it feel almost a necessity. We've discussed before the possibility of getting rid of one of the cars. It would need me to increase the number of times I commute by bike and let Hayley give me a lift much of the rest of the time. It's far from ideal but perhaps just about feasible.

But the congestions charge would have made that an impossibility. I work half a mile outside the outer boundary so on returning from dropping me at work Hayley would be charged.

"What about public transport", I hear you ask? Well, the cost of the journey to work is about 11 times the cost in petrol. Having to use two buses, it would also take at least 3 times as long. Quicker to walk in fact.

"What about the promised improvements in exchange for the charge?" Well, the Metrolink (tram) system wouldn't be extended to Stockport. (it was promised and then cut several years ago.) There would be no new bus routes, only more frequent services on some routes. Oh and they would refurbish the bus station. Whoop-ee-doo!

The final nail in the charge's coffin for me was the totally one-sided reporting of it - pulled up by the regulator at least once - and the patronising premise that the proposal was the only option and the only chance of getting some money to improve public transport. Poppycock!

The sad truth is that the two-ring scheme is far too clumsy an instrument with which to fairly levy a travel tax on those doing the most damage. Having made a green decision nearly two decades ago to reduce my carbon footprint, to live and work in the same community, to think global and act local, I'm not exactly jumping at the chance to pay the same as someone who drives 100 miles a day from their country pile.

It's an opportunity missed, without doubt. I hope that in years to come a fairer system can be devised. I mean we already live in a world where every other car has Sat Nav, its driver almost certainly has a mobile phone and the roads are watched by an army of cameras. Can it really be that hard to figure something out?

You can read about the congestion charge voting here (where there are also links to other relevant sites).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wrapped around his finger

After smooth talking his Daddy the other night, tonight it was Mummy's turn to be wrapped around the little man's finger. With Lucy in bed, Hayley joined us on the sofa in his room for a bedtime story. As she sat down he told her "you're my most wonderful friend in the whole world". It brought a tear to Mummy's eye.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's Father Christmas!

Ho ho ho!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Soppy Daddy

As I put Oliver to bed tonight, quite unprompted he said "I love you Daddy".
"I love you too little man, more than anything in the whole world".
"Are we best friends?" he asked.
"Yes Oliver and we always will be."

If you need me I'll be unashamedly on that cloud over to the left, just next to the perfect sunset.

BBC NEWS | Health | Cold sores 'an Alzheimer's risk'

BBC NEWS | Health | Cold sores 'an Alzheimer's risk'

Both Hayley and I are prone to cold sores when run down. But at least this points to a potential cure in years to come.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Oliver and Tigger

DSC01578, originally uploaded by Steven Townley.

Beanie - £1.50 (Tesco).
Coat - £5 (Decathlon).
Tigger - 50p (a raffle).
Oliver's happy little face - priceless!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Officially a big boy

Hayley and I have a joke about how fast the kids are growing up. To slow down their inevitable transformation from cuddly little darlings to willful nest-fleers, Hayley re-defined the ages of growing up.

"Baby": 0 - 5 years
"Toddler": 6 - 17 years
"Boy"/"Girl": 18 - 39
"Man"/"Woman": 40+

Of course we want them to happily flee the nest one day and be independent, but not too fast. I live with the re-assurance that nature invented teenagers to help parents make the transition from "Please don't go..." to "The University of Eastern Siberia looks nice...".

In my mind I've recognised Oliver as a little boy rather than a toddler for some considerable time. The only remnant has been his wearing of nappies. So for me his transition which started a couple of weeks ago to a nappy-free world signifies a good-bye to the last vestiges of toddlerdom.

The little man has made the transition at his own request and has done so remarkably easily. There has hardly been a mishap since the first day or so. I guess that's the up-side of not pushing him and waiting til he's ready.

So now Oliver is officially a big boy in his "big boy pants". And very proud he is too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lucy loves...

At 15 months old Lucy loves...

Dancing. She has the cutest little wiggle, as already witnessed back on the Folk Train. She dances at the drop of a hat. Recently at Green Lane playgroup she unilaterally marched off for song-time entirely carefree as to whether her Mummy was coming along or not. She knew this was her favourite bit of the morning with song, dance and musical instruments to bang.

Merry Go Rounds. Lucy thoroughly enjoyed riding on the merry-go=round in the town centre. She's the one you can hear shrieking and laughing with delight in this clip.

Doing things her own thing. The little lady is very independent. She goes off on her own at playgroup and is often content to play alone. She also feeds herself with a spoon, refusing assistance until those tricky last bits that can be hard to get (though often her bare hands are employed at that point). And corn on the cob holds no fear for her either.

Playing with her friends. Of course she also like to play with her friiends, especially the Hayley's current minded child who is a similar age. She is always delighted to see her arrive, shouting her name (of sorts), even hugging and kissing her.

Doing things with her brother. Lucy loves to do things with Oliver. She really loves to join in with him. SHe worships her brother and he loves her back. Often he'd prefer to play with his cars or dinosaurs or whatever by himself, but she can be insistent in wanting to join in. Other times she just wanst to steal whetever he's playing with and run off. This sort of relationship makes her remind me of my own sister who is a similar number of months younger than me to the gap between Lucy and Oliver. Here she is watching a Bob The Builder DVD with him.

Screaming! Lucy has recently decided that screaming at the top of her lungs might be the best strategy to get her own way. Woe betide the person who tells Lucy "No"! The other day when I was ill in bed with a banging headache I heard her scream with little let-up for 20 minutes. And I really mean scream!!!

Cuddles in the morning. In contrast to the previously described screaming monster, she can be the cuddliest cutest little doll when she gets up in the morning. She will snuggle into me on the bed while sitting warm in her bag, giving us hugs and kisses.

Teletubbies. As she wakes before Oliver at around 6.20ish recently, we have started to let her to sit in the bed with us watching Teletubbies (which is on at that time on BBC2). She seems to really like it. In the Night Garden has also caught her eye too. I sometimes watch that on the BBC iPlayer with her early in the morning if I am trying to let Hayley sleep in a little longer.

Throwing things (on the floor). SAdly she still thinks throwing things, especially food onto the floor, walls and curtains, is pretty much required behaviour. She knows its wrong, but will she stop it? Of course not. Where's the fun in that!

Helping with the washing. She likes to get the wet clothes out of the washing machine and transfer them to the tumble dryer. She is so enthusiastic that she recently she transferred nearly all the washing while Daddy limited himself to retrieving the "No tumble-dry" items. She's even quite thorough when checking we've got it all.

Milk! Whenever she can't think of anything else to ask for, she will ask for milk, making the baby-sign for it.

Eating. Despite a recent tendency to reject healthy foods and demand if at all possible something fatty, she does generally eat well and certainly isn't at all underweight.

Stealing Daddy's glasses. I have taken to wearing my contact lenses as much as possible because not only does she have fast hands and takes my glasses in an instant, but often she will throw them on the floor, sometimes laughing for good measure.

Laughing. She has the funniest little put-on, forced chuckle. It's a bit like that of Oliver's friend Jack, who co-incidentally is one of her favourite people.

Being carried around. Lucy can often be found standing on my feet in the kitchen, hanging onto my knees, looking up at me imploringly and starting to whine. This is her way of asking to be picked up. She would happily be carried around for hours at a time if we let her.

Using the phone. I guess she sees Hayley use the phone quite a bit. (Less so me as I'm out at work all day and anyway I don't yabber on half as much as my darling fiancee.) She will often pretend to be on the phone with toy phones. But if at all possible she prefers to use our real phones. I am mighty careful not to let her get mine. Hayley seems to have more faith in her not to throw it against the wall. I'm not sure why.

Kicking back... Lucy can sometimes be a very laid back little girl, such as when she decides to stop whatever she is doing and lie on her back on the floor. It doesn't matter whether she is under our feet in the kitchen or on the bathroom floor. She pays no attention to what is going on and lies right on down. It's as if she thinks she rules the place. Hmmmm...  

BBC - The One Show - Get Involved - First page of the stress test

BBC - The One Show - Get Involved - Stress test

I just took the test and scored "Moderate" stress levels but my score ranked me in the 93rd percentile of the population. In other words I'm more stressed than 93% of the country.

Blimey. Do you think I should worry about that?

Well, I revisited the questions and (I think) only changed one answer and got a stress rating of "Mild", but was still in the 86th percentile.

Good job I don't have time to worry about it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


You could set your watch by it. The kids will be quiet all evening while we are up. But the moment our heads touch the pillow, that's when they start to make noise. It might be oliver shouting out in his sleep. Or it might be lucy crying out for no apparent reason. Often they settle in seconds and are best left to do so.

But tonight is one of those nightmare scenarios. Lucy has woken and is screaming. We pick her up, she screams for her cot. We leave her to sleep she screams at that too. We offer calpol (which she often accepts), she goes mad. We offer water, she goes mad. She's had a temperature but seems ok now.

The choice: leave her to cry herself to sleep (which is how controlled crying ends up too) or force the calpol on her. We choose the latter, using the syringe thing that comes with some of the medicines. Its an unpleasant task, but preferable to possibly leaving her in pain. We also try some Anbesol in case we've missed a new tooth. And change her (still clean) nappy.

She settles again then after 2 minutes starts to cry. We get her out and although initially calm, within a minute she's crying again.

Meanwhile Oliver is disturbed by all this racket and cries out for a few seconds. I go in to find him asleep with his hand on his face in his customary "going to sleep" fashion.

By now Lucy is in our room with the lights on. There is a suspicious lack of crying and even some laughter in this less sleepy setting. Water is also now accepted. We try to put her to bed in my place but the quilt is entirely unacceptable to her. We try her in the same spot next to mummy but in her bag on top of the quilt. After an initial protest this is accepted. I bring the Bambino heater from her room to ensure regulation temperature is maintained before gathering my things to head to the spare room for the night.

An hour after the wailing started I leave mother and baby with a kiss and a goodnight. And a reminder that once she's better i want my bed back!

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Game consoles to keep elderly fit

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Game consoles to keep elderly fit

As the winter wind bites and my bike remains unridden in the garage, I wonder whether our own home should install this life-enhancing system. (It might help work off those love handles anyway.)

BBC NEWS | Health | 'Love handles' risk early death

BBC NEWS | Health | 'Love handles' risk early death

My love handles don't seem so lovely any more.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jim-jams, jabs and jibbering wrecks

What a week. Its been right up there with those early sleepless nights with Oliver as we struggled to get him to breast-feed.

First Hayley was ill so I had to take time off work to look after the kids. Then before she fully recovered I became ill. While Hayley was still rough and just before I took entirely to my bed for three days, Oliver became ill. Yesterday, as Oliver seemed to be better and both parents were struggling to avoid getting any worse again, Lucy decided it was her turn to catch it.

After a trip to the doctors this morning I have a prescription for anti-biotics in case my temperature goes up again. It's been up between 101 and 102 every day until today and some nights I have had to change my clothes more than once because I've been so drenched in sweat. I've also been granted a discretionary flu jab once I'm over this.

Hayley is still not 100%, but ironically her minded child had a temperature this morning and went home at lunchtime. The child's Mum was suffering too, to the point of vomiting which is also one of the symptoms of this lovely strain we're all battling.

Barring a further relapse I'll be back at work tomorrow. I know things are, well, shall we say "a bit hectic" there at the moment, but it's sure going to be a relief to be back to boring old "normality".

"Down thee 'atch"

I don't know where this came from, but Oliver now loves to say "down thee 'atch" (i.e. down the hatch) in a rather pirate-esque accent. I use it now when he's eating - a handy tool to persauade him what fun it is for him to eat his dinner rather than go and play or watch TV.

We sat on his sofa last night at bedtime with the little man drinking his milk. Every time he went to drink some he'd say the phrase, then I'd say it and he'd be unable to drink for laughing. We ended up in that lovely situation where neither of us could talk for laughing, just silence in the room apart from us trying to catch our breath. It was a splendid (if temporary) tonic for my current flu/cold/whatever-the-heck-it-is. OK, we had to change his pyjamas because he got milk all down them, but it was a small price to pay.

This morning I showed him the hatch on his pirate ship and explained that's what it meant. He seemed to get it. "Down thee 'atch" he said, as I threw his box of treasure into it.

This afternoon although the joke might have past its best, I got him to say it one more time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big boy pants

Oliver has been showing more signs of being ready to leave behind the world of nappies. He asked yesterday to wear underpants ("big boy pants") instead of a nappy. He then went about 7 hours completely dry. We asked him frequently if he wanted to do a wee or poo but he always declined. Eventually he had a little accident!

He has occasionally told us he needs the loo in the past, usually with no apparent need once he gets there. But memorably he once told our friend Clare he needed a poo, she didn't act immediately and when she found he had pooed shortly afterwards he said "I told you I needed a poo"!

Boys are allegedly harder to potty train. I certainly think oliver hasn't seen any point to our suggestion of giving up nappies until now, despite us selling the benefits of no nappy changes and being a big boy, pointing out his friends who are potty trained. But this time he seems keen to wear underpants, picking out his pair for the day, so maybe he'll complete the transition.

Monday, November 17, 2008


It's been a tough few weeks and I think it finally took its toll on Hayley this weekend when she uncharacteristically was laid flat by a flu bug, rarely leaving her bed during the whole weekend. Even today she didn't appear until the afternoon. It's the most ill I've known her to be since Oliver was born.

To add to the workload Lucy has been inexplicably monstrous in her behaviour at times today. I think it might be down to the nappy rash she's currently suffering, caused in turn by diarrhea. Even so at times she veered between happy and demonic, screaming the place down apparently over some trifle, such as being told she couldn't go into the cupboard. She even had to be offered 3 different meals this evening before her screaming abated and she ate something. Not like her at all as she normally devours all that is laid before her. She turned down pizza, then spag' bol' (her favourite!), garlic bread (another favourite), before finally accepting a Quorn sausage and some Uncle Ben's rice.

Fortunately Oliver has been a little star, even when he developed a temperature himself this afternoon. He just lay down on the sofa and went to sleep. He offered lots of affection to Lucy and when she calmed down he would say "Are you alright now Lucy" in such a concerned and caring tone. He melts my heart.

If the little lady isn't herself tomorrow I think we'll take her to the doctor. I know she can be a bit of a diva, but today has taken things to a new level, not like her at all.

Hayley's temperature has come down this evening so hopefully we are turning a corner. But as she is said by the doc to be very contagious, I'm off to bed now to build up my immune system after several nights of broken sleep and early starts.


There are lots of things that go missing in our house. Sleep is one of them and time comes a close second. But I don't expect anyone to return those to me. No.

However, there is a slim chance that someone out there in the world might just be able to appease one or more members of my family by telling me where I can recover any of the following missing items.

Spiderman's hat. Last seen on Oliver's head.
Mr Potato Head's eyes. What use are his glasses with no eyes!
Lazytown radio. The headphones are just no fun without it.
Oliver's Manchester United hat. It matches Daddy's, which is also unaccounted for.
Oliver's swimming goggles. Not only for wearing in the pool apparently. No wonder we've lost them.

The trouble is that Oliver almost always likes to take a small assortment of toys with him when he travels, just a handful you understand. But these handfuls don't always return from the car or even the end destination. So if you do come across a piece of Mr Potato Head while you are out and about in the world, have a heart.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dads Playgroup


This morning I took Oliver and Lucy to Heaton Moor Evangelical Church where they were running a playgroup for Dads. The format was exactly the same as the one Hayley goes to every Wednesday, so it was nice to experience it at first hand.

Oliver and Lucy needed no encouragement to go off and find their favourite toys. Oliver headed for some cars while Lucy headed to the kitchen area: a quite untypical example of them aligning with typical gender roles. I followed Lucy around mostly, helping her with the puzzles, well, picking them up when she threw them all on the floor is a more accurate description. Then Oliver came over and did some dressing up.

The two of them both had a good ride on the rocking horse and police bike (pictured above).

Then Oliver went upstairs to do the craft with Judith (wife of my work colleague Graham), which this week was putting paper hair and facial features on a drawing of Daniel of lion's den fame. In fact there was another familiar face from my work there, Oliver with his son Evan. I knew one other guy there from a barbecue in the summer and that was about it. Everyone was friendly enough, but when these things are run for Dads so infrequently it's hardly surprising that we don't form the same sort of networks that the Mums do. Not that I'm criticising, I think it's fantastic that the church put this group on. I just hope they re-run it often. Judging from the turn-out it would be justified.

While Oliver did his craft, I took the opportunity to have a cup of tea and the discarded portion of some toast I ordered for Lucy.

Later, everyone went into another smaller room for storytime. Followed by some songs and play with musical instruments. When it came time to do songs in pairs, Oliver and Lucy joined together without any prompting to do "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" which is Lucy's favourite. I was so proud of them, especially Oliver who rowed with suitable gentleness for his sister. It brought the biggest smile to my face to see them playing together so nicely.

Both of them took part in the rest of the singing with some gusto, but Lucy especially enjoyed it. She touched her head and toes for "Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes", wound the bobbin up on cue and clapped enthusiastically in "if you're happy and you know it", at the end of which she clapped and cheered so loudly that the leader said "Yes Lucy that was very good, it does deserve a clap".

After that it was just tidy-up time and it was all over. I hope they run it again soon. We'll definitely be returning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saying good-bye


It is hard to find adequate words to describe today or my feelings about it, so I will try to keep this simple.

I was immensely proud of Hayley today. At times she was understandably inconsolable with grief but at other times she was astonishingly strong. She even found the emotional and physical strength to carry her Dad into the church along with her younger sister, three of her brothers and her nephew.

The vicar spoke at some length about Des's life, his character and of how we should remember him. He spoke warmly and evoked happy memories as well as helping the bereaved deal with the more difficult side to the aftermath of his death. I thought it was a wonderful and deserved tribute.

The last few days have been difficult for many of those left behind, made more difficult by family tensions and even by Des's last written will which was somewhat baffling to most of us and the publication of which could have been handled better by those with that responsibility. But Hayley has drawn strength from the knowledge that she and her Dad shared a special bond in life and that we still feel his presence even after death.

We have also all been helped by the kind support of friends and family for which we are very grateful.

Now is the time to move on, but slowly and often looking back. The funeral may have been goodbye, but though Des is gone he is not, and never will be, forgotten.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Desmond James Rodgers (1933 - 2008)

Oliver, Lucy and Grampy Des
Grampy Des with Oliver and Lucy, September 2007

It is with the greatest sadness that I have to write that after a short illness Hayley's Dad died on Tuesday.

About three weeks ago he was admitted to hospital with relatively little concern. However tests revealed that he had advanced lung cancer with secondary tumors.

For the last few weeks we have spent much of our time down in Wiltshire so that Hayley could visit her Dad as often as possible. Some relatives were kind enough to let us have their house as long as we need it.

On the Wednesday before he passed away, Des, his partner Nancy, Hayley and myself took part in a service at the hospital chapel which was attended by about a dozen other close family members. In the service the vicar blessed and gave thanks for the relationship of Des and Nancy. She then blessed our upcoming marriage and blessed Hayley's engagement ring and a ring I chose for the occasion. Finally she performed what would normally be the first part of the wedding ceremony which is to ask who gives Hayley away to me. When she asked, Hayley's Dad said loud and clear "her father does". He then passed Hayley's hand to mine.

It was an emotional occasion, a mixture of immense sadness but also happiness and gratitude that we were able to fulfill our dear wish that Des should give Hayley away.

In the final days Des just wanted to come home from hospital, but sadly he died the day before he was due to be moved. He died around breakfast time just as Hayley was dropping off the kids to go and see him. Agonising though it was for her that no-one was there with him, he did not suffer and it seems he died peacefully.

Hayley was always close to her Dad, the apple of his eye. At Lucy's Christening my Mum told Des how glad she was that I had found someone who made me so happy and who was a wonderful mother to her grandchildren. He simply said "She's the best." I couldn't agree with him more. Des was a friendly, jovial and kind man who has passed all these qualities on to Hayley. He can never be replaced, but I will do my best to love and cherish his daughter who he has passed into my care.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Philosophical Rhino

6.45am on Daddy's bed, as Daddy lies quietly savouring the final moments under duvet, Oliver sits next to him playing with his toy Rhinoceros.

Speaking as the Rhino, Oliver says "I'm a Rhinoceros. I don't know why I am."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who goes there?

We have a "ding dong" two-tone doorbell for our front door. For a while after we first installed it a few months ago, whenever it rang Oliver would jump up and run around shouting in a mock serious tone "It's the doorbell, it's the doorbell" and run to the door to see who it was.

This tendency has diminished now, to be replaced by Lucy's take on visitors. Whenever anyone tries to leave the living room to go to the front door, or to go anywhere else for that matter, she will immediately race towards the living room door to come with them. If they are answering the front door, she will squeeze her way past their legs trying to see who it is. Our friend Jo has nick-named her "The Gatekeeper" in honour of this diligent scrutiny of all potential visitors.

Talking to children about death

This post was written on the indicated publication date, but was not actually published until after Hayley's Dad had passed away.

I haven't posted anything yet about the fact that Hayley's Dad is seriously ill and that sadly his illness is terminal. I did intend to post something last week when Hayley first visited him, at which point he was still undergoing tests. But I have now decided that I will not post anything for some time, perhaps even until after he has passed. But it is such an integral part of our life and of the experience of being a family that I feel it would be strange, even bizarre, to make no mention of it.

I have been looking for guidance about how to talk to Oliver about his Grampy's illness and prospective death. A particularly full, insightful and helpful article is provided by Hospice Net.

All we've told him so far is that Grampy is poorly and that Mummy went to see him to make him feel better. We also explained when Hayley was tearful that Mummy was sad because Grampy is poorly.

Explaining to a 3 year-old is a balancing act between ensuring you are honest to maintain their trust and not burdening or confusing them with complicated explanations.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sixty to nought to sixty


Today I collected Oliver from nursery on my bike. It's the second week running I've done this on Friday (for reasons that will become apparent sometime soon) and on both occasions I've been lucky to have glorious sunshine.

On both occasions also we went direct to the playground in our local park for some fun in the sun. This afternoon when we finished, rather than walking home with an ice-cream as we did last week, Oliver requested a ride before we went home. So I took him along some off-road paths in our area as he merrily sang away. He had been full of beans from the moment I collected him from nursery, charging around the park shouting "Come on Daddy" with a big smile as we ran over to say hello to some child he knows in passing and who looked nonplussed when he greeted them like a long lost friend.

After a particularly fun downhill section, he shouted "let's do that again", so I dutifully turned about and headed back up-hill. But within a minute he had gone quiet and I felt his bike helmet poke me in the back. He had fallen asleep. From full-on to flat-out in 60 seconds!

I reclined his seat before meandering to the chippy, our regular Friday evening destination, where I managed to order from the door and then pay without him stirring.


I then got the little man all the way home (with our lightly battered haddock, chips and peas warm against my stomach, under my coat) before he woke. Then, after this 30 minute nap, it was immediately like he'd never been asleep. I wish I could do that!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

BBC NEWS | Education | Lessons on sex 'to be compulsory'

BBC NEWS | Education | Lessons on sex 'to be compulsory'

A good idea, provided it is handled appropriately. I'm not sure what age it should start though.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Firelady Lucy


BBC NEWS | Politics | Flexible work changes 'reviewed'

BBC NEWS | Politics | Flexible work changes 'reviewed'

So much I could say about this. Let's just say it is short-sighted and typical of government (of all persuasions) to penalise parents, an easy target.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tough times

This post was written on the indicated publication date, but was not actually published until Hayley's Dad had passed away.

Some of our nearest and dearest are going through tough times at the moment.

Hayley spent several days in Wiltshire last week because her Dad is in hospital. The diagnosis is still not certain despite him being in there for over a week. Cushing's syndrome seems to be the current conclusion.

It is a difficult and worrying time. Her Dad's moods and demeanour have been altered by the imbalance in his body, which is distressing for those around him as well as himself.

While Hayley and Lucy were in Wiltshire, Oliver and I stayed up here. He was fairly content but was glad to talk to her on the phone. On Saturday night when I told him she was coming home and would be here when he woke up he said "I hope so".

On my side of the family my Mum's partner was in hospital last week after a nasty turn that was worryingly similar to his first heart-attack a couple of months ago. He's out again now.

Meanwhile my sister has slipped a disc, meaning my Mum is trying to help more with her 10 month old baby, despite having a few ailments of her own to contend with.

I have to say all these things have come as a bit of a shock. No-one I've mentioned was living unhealthily and they all seemed in pretty good shape until these latest turns. All we can do is try to support each other and count our blessings.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Skating shoes


As promised yesterday, I took Oliver to Toys R Us where we selected a pair of skating shoes. They are "Bob The Builder" skates that go over his regular shoes. They have a safety feature that limits the amount of movement in the front wheels, which is handy as without it he was a bit wobbly on our hard floors to say the least. An early backwards fall convinced me that wearing his bike helmet was essential and as it was a chilly day I left the heating off for a while and let him wear his padded jacket in lieu of elbow pads.


After that we went to his Nanny's, where the floors are carpeted and the little man kept his "scaping shoes" on all afternoon.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Video calling to the rescue

At times like this when Hayley is down in wiltshire with Lucy and i'm at home with Oliver, video calling is a real boost. The images may not look great as stills, but as video they convey a lot. As soon as Lucy saw me she said Dada! I captured this shot yesterday when my girls were in Subway, Hayley struggling to prevent Lucy from inspecting the entire shop including all its customers and its kitchens.

Scaping shoes (The start of pester power?)

From the moment Oliver woke this morning he started asking me whether he could have some "scaping shoes". At first I had visions of the little man climbing out of a window or running from the law after a bank robbery (though these days all the "bank robbers" seem to be on the other side of the counter).

But no, it seems he means "skating shoes", those fancy shoes some kids have with built-in wheels. Given that I couldn't see a good outcome to such a purchase, I fended off his requests by saying that they probably only make them for big boys and girls. Unfortunately I often tell him he's a big boy, it tends to help legitimise my requests that he not mimic Lucy's wailing or hit her over the head for fun. So he came straight back at me with "But I'm a big boy Daddy, so can I have some scaping shoes like the other boys and girls?"

It was this last bit about "like the other boys and girls" that struck home. He has often coveted a friend's toy, usually temporarily, but never has he burdened me with the guilt that "other boys and girls" in general have the object of his desire. He was so sweet about it that it was all I could do not to promise him a pair on the spot, but seeing as that could spell tears and disappointment tomorrow I resisted.

It's just another small signal that he is growing up and becoming aware of the world around him. I just hope it doesn't happen too fast.

I've told him we'll ask about these shoes when we go to the shoes shop to check his feet in his current shoes. Tonight he added another requirement to his intended purchase. "We'll get some pink ones Daddy. Pink scaping shoes." I should have seen that one coming!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Charity CD

In my post three days ago, I mentioned how difficult I find it to contemplate either of the kids being seriously ill. Today I received this email from my company social club.

Rex Stinson is a singer/songwriter from Bury. His 4 year old daughter Ruby is terminally ill and has been spending time at Derian House Children's Hospice. It is difficult for us to imagine what Rex and his family are going through at the moment. Using his considerable musical talents, Rex has released an album called 'Precious Child' to raise funds for the hospice. The album contains 12 tracks, including 9 original compositions with a broad range of subject matter including Rex's experiences at the hospice.

As a songwriter my experience has always been that it is only with some degree of emotional distance that I can translate my feelings into music. So I have nothing but admiration for Rex, that he not only copes with what he is going through but also raises money through his music at such a difficult time.

I'll be buying a copy from work tomorrow but if you are interested, check out Rex's myspace page where you can listen to tracks and order the CD.

BBC NEWS | Education | Cricket has a spin-off in class

BBC NEWS | Education | Cricket has a spin-off in class

Monday, October 13, 2008

Through a fog

Oliver slept better after the inhaler and medicine, though he still shouted from his semi-slumbers without ever waking up fully. I feel like I spent the entire night listening for him. When I woke I was still "on alert". But now I'm just tired, as if a goldfish bowl is round my head.

Hayley reports that this morning he has not been entirely himself, a bit emotional, but he seems OK and not struggling like yesterday.

We are doubting the high dosage of salbutamol recommended by the doctor though: up to 8 puffs at a time. We are going to see our own GP about it and in the meantime stay down at 2 at a time (4 at bedtime) and monitor him, giving more if needed. This comes on the back of comments from the pharmacist who was concerned at administering such large "uncontrolled" doses.

Restless night

It's 12.30am and the little man has already woken several times. Just given him 2 puffs on inhaler and cough medicine. Fingers crossed it will do the trick.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Even Spiderman can fall ill

Ever since having his face painted as Spiderman a few weeks ago, Oliver has shown an interest in the webbed super-hero. So when my friend Dave at work told me he had bought seven episodes of "Spiderman and His Amazing Friends" on DVD, I jumped at the chance of an "evaluation copy". Well, despite it being for an age-range somewhat higher than Oliver's, he has been rather entranced by it and asked for it in preference to any other TV this weekend.

In fact, we even bought him a Spiderman outfit on Saturday. We then went to Room 311 for lunch where he entered the disabled toilet and baby-changing room as Oliver and re-appeared as Spiderman, complete with full-head mask.


He not only charmed all the women on the next table and several other customers but brought a smile to the faces of several people as he walked home in full costume.

But last night our super-hero complained of feeling poorly when he went to bed. He seemed happy enough as he went down, but he woke after a few hours with a persistently bad cough. He kept waking despite trying to go back to sleep. We got him up and gave him some medicine. He complained of pain in what looked to be his stomach but in hindsight was probably tightness in his chest. He wasn't wheezing though and at the time, having seen him insist on disobeying Daddy by drinking his own weight in bath water, I wondered whether he had a dodgy tummy.

Today he woke cheery but still coughing. Hayley took him out while I got a lie-in, after which I cleared the spare room and packed away Lucy's moses basket to the attic (finally!). When Hayley returned from an afternoon in the park she said Oliver had been coughing and wheezing.

So at 5'ish this evening she took him to the out-of-hours doctor, who said he might be asthmatic and prescribed a salbutamol inhaler, which Oliver already has. So tonight the little guy had to take 4 puffs of his inhaler for the first time in perhaps 18 months. He doesn't like it but he was brave and did it with no complaint other than on the first puff. He did seem more keen after the promise of star stickers and (consequently) chocolate.

I have to say that I count my blessings that the kids have no major illnesses and have only occasionally been hospitalised. I am a complete coward at the thought of either of them suffering anything major and when faced with news stories of other parents with suffering children I am filled with a mixture of empathy, dread and selfish relief, knowing that "there bit for the grace of God...".

I know lots of kids have asthma, but I also know it can be very serious. Of course it's not even sure that he is asthmatic and I suspect he's just as likely to simply be vulnerable to these chest infections. I'm not asthmatic, but I clearly remember a childhood punctuated by standing with a towel over my head and my face inches from hot water breathing in steam.

But Hayley is asthmatic and apparently it runs on families, so the jury is still out.

Whatever the final diagnosis, I suspect I will never stop feeling like a part of me is ill too when he coughs in the night or has a temperature in the day. I just hope I can always be there for him and help him through. Oh, and be half as brave as my little superhero.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Add your own caption


Friday, October 10, 2008

Booking the registrar

We had an appointment with the registrar at Stockport Registry Office this afternoon, to book their services for next August.

The interview was in two parts, each of us seeing him separately and him asking us the same questions. Seems to odd to think how geared up it is to detecting false marriages or bigamy. As you sat at the desk answering there was a large notice in front of you reminding you that providing false information was prosecutable as perjury.

But the most bizarre moment of the afternoon was when he told me about the oportunity to re-register the childrens' births with Hayley's surname changed to be the same as mine. This was fine in itself but then he asked me, "Did you register the children in your surname or your partner's?"
"Mine" I replied.
"Ah, well it would have been better to register them in your partner's name".
"Oh, really? Why's that?" I asked, genuinely curious.
"Because then if you ever split up she wouldn't have to explain why their name is not the same as hers."
For a split second I wondered whether I had heard him right. I had.
I contemplated mentioning that when you have just jointly received arguably the greatest blessing life has to offer, the possibility of everything going pear-shaped many years downstream is not closest to your mind.

Of course in years gone by the different names on the birth certificate would have been a much bigger deal, so I can at least see why the chance to make the change seemed worth mentioning to him.

At the end of the interviews, despite both of us momentarily struggling to remember how old the other is under interrogation, we seem to have been accepted as suitable to marry. I'm sure the kids will be relieved.

Friday, October 03, 2008

And now, some music...

Oliver has just discovered "Yo Gabba Gabba" (which appears to be a very American kids' TV show dubbed into "English English"). In particular, last night we watched the above performance on the show by The Shins, playing their own composition "It's okay, try again". In fact we watched the song 5 times. And he is watching the same episode again this evening.

Last night after the song he asked me "can I have a guitar Daddy and we'll put it round my neck like the man"? How could I refuse. Not only had he been a little star all day but there's nothing I wouldn't do to encourage my kids to enjoy playing music.

So this afternoon Hayley took him and bought one. He seems pretty happy with it, striking rock poses around the living room. And now Hayley is talking about a proper guitar for him!

Oliver watches Yo Gabba Gabba from the comfort of Mummy and Daddy's bed.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


The little lady managed to injure herself a few evenings ago. She was bashing seven bells out of the TV screen when she decided to turn round backwards, bumping into the coffee table in the process and bouncing forward against the fire-guard, catching her nose on it in the process.

After the initial shock, it doesn't seem to have bothered her at all. Although it has gained her much sympathy from anyone who has met her this week.

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Free meal plan for Scots pupils

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Free meal plan for Scots pupils

Not much use to those of us south of the border.

And typical of many an administration to take the credit for introducing something good while handing over no additional cash to fund it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The weird and the wonderous

I've had an odd couple of days.

Yesterday I had what politicians would call "a frank exchange of views with line management". I'd call it taking unfair verbal pounding. In all my 21 years in industry I left work yesterday more stressed, and indeed distressed, than I can ever remember. I must have looked depressed when I got home as a friend of ours who was there immediately offered to babysit so Hayley and I could go out for the evening.

This morning, still feeling bewildered and beleaguered, I was weighing up whether to go to HR or to first write up the events that had so concerned me, when the said manager asked me for a chat. This turned out to be an immediate apology for the events of the previous day which they admitted they hadn't handled very well. It was the least expected but most welcome turn of events and this magnanimity went a long way to improving my disposition.

Then this afternoon I had an MR scan. It's the one where they slide your whole body inside a long tube. I was completely relaxed about the whole thing. Before they slide you in they lay you out carefully, place headphones on your head and ask your choice of station. I went for Mark Radcliffe on Radio 2.

But the moment I started to enter the machine I realised just how incredibly claustrophobic it was going to be. There is a button in your hand to press if you want to come out. That in itself was a reassurance. I quickly decided that with nothing really to visually focus on, closing my eyes and relaxing as if lounging at home was the best strategy. Of course I had to simultaneously try to keep very still, but this worked well.

The noise of the machine is not as horrendous as some reports I'd heard. Maybe they have improved in recent years. There were lots of long beeps and buzzes and chugging sounds but nothing alarming. I was in there about 20 minutes I guess, which is a long time but after each scan the operator talks to you saying "another scan of about 2 minutes about to start" and the occasional "are you feeling OK?". After a while I felt quite relaxed. In fact at one point a trailer for "Little Britain USA" came on and I almost laughed!

Afterwards while waiting for the CD of my images I got chatting to an older couple after assisting them with the coffee machine which just happened to be the model we have at work in the conference rooms. We chatted away about my kids and about when their kids (with the same age gap as mine) were the same age. As the conversation meandered, I learned that the recycling centre at Worcester has a special repository for windfall apples. The man speculated that the staff take them away in the evening to make scrumpy. A lovely notion.

When I got the CD of images I got chatting to the radiographer, asking about the long list of medical questions they ask before they admit you and how they might affect whether you can be scanned. I learned about various heart pumps and fluid drains and how they can or can't be accommodated. Fascinating stuff.

Finally this evening when I took the images to my consultant, he couldn't get his fancy laptop PC with Microsoft's latest operating system to view them! Clearly not very PC-literate, even if I'd trust him as a surgeon in the operating theatre (as indeed we already did when he operated on Hayley a few years ago), I ended up taking his laptop off him and trying to get the damned software to run. After overcoming a few hurdles it kept giving a software error that was too application-specific to decipher. So I took the CD away and arranged to go back next week when they can send him the hard copies. The consultant couldn't say anything to me without seeing the scans. When I get invoiced for this lack of diagnosis, perhaps I should invoice back for not quite fixing his PC and call it quits.

When I got home I managed to view the images myself on my PC (running Microsoft's previous operating system). I have no real idea what most of them show, though my spine is very clear in several of them. It's an eery feeling to be looking inside my self in such a literal rather than philosophical sense. The whole scan experience has actually been strangely awe-inspiring and uplifting. And though I'm not quite sure what to make of these strange images on my PC, I do at least know I won't be buying Windows Vista any time soon.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shooting update - BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Man quizzed over shooting bailed

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Man quizzed over shooting bailed

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Damages for parents in care case

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Damages for parents in care case

Only £8000 compensation? What a joke.

Even if they get back their reputation, they'll never get back those precious months bonding with their daughter.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chips and blocks

One thing lots of people say, even when they differ about which parent our kids resemble, is that they look alike. But I think someone summed it up for me the other day when they said "Your kids look alike, but she's the spitting image of her Mummy and he's the spitting image of his Daddy".

So the old v1.0 and v2.0 t-shirts from Think Geek got another outing this weekend.



Version 1 and Version 2

Lucy latest

  • Lucy is now 13 months going on 13 years.

  • Lucy has a thing for shoes. They are normally lined up in front of the fireplace. This evening she collected them one pair at a time and brought them over to me, sitting down in my lap before handing them to me to put them on. Then we'd take them off and try the next pair. Imelda Marcos, look out!

  • Lucy has a thing for chairs. She will climb on and off them for ages, especially if Daddy will help with the "getting off" part.

  • We bought a slide for Oliver at around 20 months (the start of his second summer) and for the first few days or weeks stood over him making sure he didn't fall. This same slide was conquered by Lucy on Saturday! I was alarmed to see her get herself onto the first step unaided, but didn't imagine she would go higher as the next steps had a bigger gap and at a steep angle. How wrong I was! As I stood over her I watched her scale the whole thing then position herself at the top ready to slide down. Consequently the slide is currently lying on its side in the garden to keep her at bay.

  • She isn't sleeping the best at the moment. We end up going in to her a couple of time a night at least. Sometimes she settles herself, but often her first cry is so piercing that one of us bolts out of bed automatically. Most times she settles straight away. Last night I found she had put her arm through the bars of her cot and then couldn't wriggle it back out again. We've also had a couple of times when she doesn't want to go to sleep and when left will scream at length, only to be happy as Larry when the light is turned on and wanting to get up and play.

  • Lucy only has two moods: angelic and demonic. When demonic she will scream her standard ear-shattering scream, whether it be because someone is standing on her hands or because she was given the wrong cup. To be fair she also has a whingey frustrated cry which she does when not carried around on demand. And finally she has a whiny whimper which she is currently making at any adult who speaks to her barring me and Hayley. Having said that, she is mostly angelic.

  • Lucy is a full-on toddler now. There's no stopping her. Yesterday at the Christening she loved getting around the room on her own and clearly considered her self "just another three year old" as she chased around after balloons with them.

  • The little lady can eat for England. She regularly out-consumes Oliver at mealtimes. I don't know where she puts it all. Well I do actually: in her hair! She loves putting things on her head and food is certainly not excluded.

  • Lucy is a little Hayley. "Hayley v2.0", if you like. She not only looks like her Mummy but also sticks out her tongue when concentrating and now is starting to get her curly hair too.

  • DSC01189

  • She has started to go and get books and then come back and sit on my knee for me to read them. It's adorable.

  • Over the summer Lucy's hair has become more and more fair. Quite a contrast to her very dark hair of the first few months. She now has golden locks which are starting to curl as they grow longer. Along with her beautiful blue eyes and cheeky face, I think she's just a little cutie.

  • Best of all she is a very affectionate little girl, not only to her parents but also to her brother and even other children. Throw in the fact that she likes to tease us, play peekaboo and even torment her brother by stealing his toys (taking one and then waiting for his reaction!) and you have just about the cutest daughter I could imagine.

  • DSC01066

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    New pyjamas?


    This evening we picked up this United shirt which a friend had bought for us while on holiday. Oliver immediately asked to wear it and after dinner asked whether he could wear it to bed. How could I refuse.

    He has been a little star today. After an inauspicious start which involved repeatedly refusing to do as he was asked by his Mummy, he recovered to dress up nicely, behave well in church, play nicely at the party and even voluntarily go and lie down when he started to flag a little. He was rewarded with a ride on Daddy's bike and extra chocolate after dinner. Not to mention being told about a zillion times what a good boy he was and how proud we are of him. Oh, and I acted as his horse, down on my hands and knees crawling around the house, for 20 minutes before bathtime. And did his new favourite trick for him for as long as I could muster: throwing him into the air while spinning him through 180 degrees at the same time. We call it "the twizzle."

    Here's the little man, asleep in his bed this evening, Big Julien at his side, in his new favourite pyjamas.


    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Who says romance is dead


    Indiscreet though it may be (given that Oliver has so many other lovely female friends), I have previously alluded to the fact that I would happily marry off my son to his lovely, well-mannered, pretty little friend Isabel. How heartening then to hear that Isabel has told her parents that she is marrying Oliver when Hayley and I tie the knot next year. And even Friday fish 'n' chips took on romantic overtones when Isabel joined us this week.


    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    New hair cut


    Oliver had his hair cut this evening at md hair, the salon round the corner from us in Heaton Moor. A bit pricier than his old place, it came recommended to us by a former neighbour with a son a bit older than Oliver who also had his hair cut by the same guy (pictured).

    Hayley reports that the little man behaved impeccably throughout and then at the end announced "I want product in my hair, like my Daddy". Steady little guy, don't give away too many trade secrets!


    BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Man injured in shooting incident

    BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Man injured in shooting incident

    One of Oliver's friends lives on this road. He went to a birthday party there just a couple of weeks ago. In fact we all went to another birthday party just round the corner from there on Sunday.

    I'm always shocked when something violent happens in our area. It doesn't feel a threatening place to live at all. I wouldn't have thought twice about walking down that road at 9.30pm. Without wishing to sound pessimistic, I suppose the lesson - like the lesson of yesterday's headline news - is that nowhere is a bubble. Nowhere is entirely safe.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Life in the fast lane

    Now that the little lady is walking she toddles about investigating all she can and having lots of fun racing away from us on two legs instead of four. But all this gallivanting around can be tiring. How handy then that she can go to sleep at the drop of a hat!


    Above she is pictured on arrival at Room 311 in the Bush Baby carrier. Being carried can be soporific. But not as soporific as the swings. Hayley gave Lucy a few gentle pushes on the swing at the park the other day. By the time Lucy's swing had stopped, Hayley noticed that the little lady had nodded off! So after a quick photo Hayley took her out and popped her in her buggy for a more comfortable snooze.


    When daddy's in charge

    Hayley has been on a course tonight. Consequently daddy was is sole charge of getting both little darlings bathed and into bed. To speed things up I let them clean their teeth in the bath, though Oliver did it properly again after his milk. Oliver decided to play up at the worst moment, just as i was trying to put the little lady down. I then briefly ended up with both kids crying, but recovered to see them both go happily to sleep pretty much on time. Phew!

    BBC NEWS | Health | Parents 'need lessons about ADHD'

    BBC NEWS | Health | Parents 'need lessons about ADHD'

    The advice is now to prescribe Ritolin only as a last resort. Makes sense to me, particularly as its effects seem to wear off.

    Then again, I've not had a child with ADHD.... yet.

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Harvest Festival


    Hayley took Oliver and Lucy to a Harvest Festival today, a kind of Autumn fair on Heaton Mersey common. When they came home I was surprised to see Oliver had his face painted. He isn't usually keen on anything quite that messy. "I'm spiderman!", he told me.

    He was also wearing a Fire Fighter badge and had been in a real fire engine. How cool! (If I'd known I doubt I would have stayed home and dutifully cut the grass.)

    Sadly there are no photos of the festival as Hayley's phone was out of memory and there's little time to start deleting photos with both kids in tow. She did report back though that there was local produce including confectionaries, beers and cheeses.

    By the time they came home they were whacked! However they woke from their slumbers on arrival at the birthday party of Oliver's friend Callum. Another fun-packed day.


    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    Day and night, up and down

    Lucy had her MMR jab a couple of days ago. She took it well at the time but has been restless the last couple of nights. That could also be down to a change in her diet. We ran out of SMA-LF and risked giving her a bottle of cow's milk as she has been eating more dairy recently. A mistake maybe.

    Meanwhile Oliver has woken two nights running saying "my face hurts". I can't tell if it is an earache or more likely a toothache. I hope it's not the latter but we've had to give him Calprofen both nights. Both times it seemed to do the trick. I'm sure he wasn't acting up either because I'd get him out of bed for a reassuring cuddle and then he'd ask to go back to bed, only to find he was still in pain and, confused, would ask to get out again. Poor little guy.

    Daytimes have been a bit happier. Oliver is enjoying nursery and stayed for lunch for the first time on Friday. Apparently he got to sit next to his friend Callum and ate lots of sausage casserole. Meanwhile I was downstairs from him at the "opportuniy group" with Lucy. She led me around from the sandpit to the painting but mostly to the slide and trampoline. We had a great time. (And it gave Mummy a couple of hours to sort out Oliver's clothes and re-organise his wardrobe. Great job Mummy!)

    Afterwards we picked up Oliver from upstairs. "That's my Daddy", Oliver proclaimed to his teacher when I was standing there to collect him. He was then Mr Hyperactive. Full of laughter and playfulness. Great fun.

    Today was harder going. Perhaps because of last night's disruption. Lucy ended up in our bed, so I ended up in the spare room where Oliver was temporarily in with me but then moved back to his own bed at his request. Whatever the reason, Oliver was not on best behaviour to start with today, changing his mind about everything and whingeing into the bargain, eventually descending into outright defiance and tantrums. Hayley had to take Lucy ahead to Alberto's party while I persuaded Oliver to be a good boy.

    Once there he played mostly alone or with me or Hayley, occasionally playing with a couple of other kids. He didn't know most of them. And once again the bouncy castle held no attraction for him, though Lucy did have a little go and quite enjoyed it!


    Afterwards we went for something to eat - 95% of Alberto's party food was meat-based! - and to meet our friend Babs. Oliver was on much better behaviour throughout, waiting patiently in the Travel Agents as we enquired about weddings overseas (all options are still being kept open as the price of a UK wedding seems to keep on escalating!) Then he sat and ate his lunch before playing with some toys whilst sitting on a sofa between me and Hayley. A cheery chappy.


    Afterwards I took the kids to the park while Hayley had a few minutes peace to chat to Babs. Oliver rode his bike there while Lucy got a ride in the Bush Baby back-pack. Once there we had a lovely hour in the sunshine.

    Tonight Hayley is at the cinema with the girls seeing a chick flick I've never heard of. Meanwhile Lucy has already woken once. Off to bed for me then, it could be one of those nights.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Scary Monsters


    Oliver saw this mask in the Post Office window this evening and decided it was the one for him. Thereafter he has enjoyed scaring his parents with it. The little devil.


    This morning when I looked at the calendar the date had a familiar look to it. Then I realised: ten years ago today I got married.

    Almost exactly three years later I was separated from my then wife, unexpectedly single again, in my late thirties and far from having the family I dreamed of and had rather expected. Ouch!

    So do you know how I felt when I saw that date today?

    Proud. Proud that I turned my life around and made my dream a reality. Because almost exactly four years after I had found myself separated, I was sitting in a hospital cradling my newborn son in my arms.

    Father and Son

    What happened in those four intervening years was no accident. I knew what I wanted, I knew there was someone out there for me: I just had to find her and make her mine! Along the way I learned a few things. I learned that when the chips are really down you find out who your friends are and that sometimes it's not who you expect. I learned that some people seem to take the opportunity to kick a man when he's down. But I also learned that I was strong, determined and unwilling to let go of my dream no matter how hard it got. I believed that "what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger"! ("Bouncebackability" we football fans like to call it.)

    And today I have my reward. My son, my daughter and my fiancee, all of whom I love from the bottom of my heart. I live a life in full colour because I share it with them and for that I am thankful daily.

    So if you stumble across this post at a time when life seems cruel and the future bleak, my message to you is this: find yourself, be yourself and believe! I did. And unashamedly I must tell you that I'm living my dream.


    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Like clockwork


    Around bathtime I tend to put the radio on, tuned to Radio 4. I like to get the kids in the bath before The Archers theme tune comes on at around 7.02pm. That way I know they've had about a quarter of an hour by the time the music plays at its conclusion. It's all part of the bedtime ritual and Oliver knows this is the signal to get out (which of course prompts him to lie down for an extra "swim").

    So it's a measure of the military precicion with which we run our operation that this picture, taken at precisely 7.02pm, shows Oliver fully dressed on his way to the messy room eating an apple as Lucy decides that now would be a good time to move her favourite chair from the living room to the kitchen.

    Runs like clockwork, our house.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Lucy latest

    Lucy is really walking much more now. As of the last couple of days she has started to walk much more often than she crawls. She is a real toddler and so cute.

    Yesterday when I got home Oliver ran over to me and gave me a hug as he often does. Then from behind him I heard a shriek and over came Lucy who I picked up and hugged too. When Oliver tried to get another hug she smacked him in the face. Unfortunately this is one of Lucy's traits: she hits us! Often it is just to tell me to put her down now please. Fortunately I have started to recognise her sound - semi words - for "get down". I find it surprising that she is making recognisable sounds but she really is. "Bobo" is water, for example.

    But she also does some "baby sign". The sign for milk is very clear and she also asks for food.

    Until tonight I would have said she is hardly ever throwing up in the evenings any more. She used to do it a lot, apparently gulping down her milk too fast. But tonight it happened for the first time in a while. In fact she threw up after we'd put her to bed which is worse really as we weren't prepared and only knew because she cried and we went in to her. It night have been down to the ice cream she ate at dinner. That's another area of uncertainty. She is still on lactose-free milk powder, but we are introducing more dairy into her diet to see how she gets on.

    She still puts up a fight when you try to change her and can scream like a mad thing over small inconveniences, but she is absolutely adorable and a very demonstrative, loving little girl. She comes into our bed in the morning and will lie there cuddling up to us. Or give us hugs and say "aaahhhhh" like her "Po" Teletubby toy.

    Oh and she likes putting things in her hair and on her head, sometimes socks, sometimes like this evening pieces of choclate cake. Fortunately she also likes a good bath.