Thursday, January 31, 2008

BBC NEWS | England | Nottinghamshire | Mother to fight bid to take baby

BBC NEWS | England | Nottinghamshire | Mother to fight bid to take baby

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Joseph Salmon Trust

Fellow blogger Dan and some friends are supporting this very worthy cause with (by his own admission) an uncharacteristically physical endeavour - to complete the 78 mile Dales Way. Here is why...

"Joseph was a happy, healthy three year old who loved life. He enjoyed playing with his toy trains, his cars and his pretend kitchen. He had a busy social life, with lots of friends from nursery, friends who lived nearby and his little sister. He enjoyed cooking with his mummy, going on trains and buses with his daddy, and playing outside with anyone who would join in. Joseph had a passion for books and had just started to ‘read’ them to his younger sister.It felt like his life was just beginning.This all changed on 1st April 2005, when Joseph died. He did not suffer, he simply fell into a deeper sleep from which he never awoke.

The Joseph Salmon Trust has been set up in his name. It is a small charity whose aim is to offer financial assistance to people living in the Huddersfield area, whose child has died."

You can read more about the walk, the trust and how you might support it in this post at All That Comes With It. (I warn you now, it almost made me cry in the middle of a busy office.)

Hats off to Dan and Co for a great endeavour. But between you and me, boy have they got some training to do if it ain't gonna hurt!

BBC NEWS | Education | 'Muddle' on rural school closures

BBC NEWS | Education | 'Muddle' on rural school closures

It's always easier to knock a government than praise it, but this is getting TOO easy. (And I don't even WANT to knock them.)

I went to a village school so I know a little about this subject. The government needs to stop thinking about solely money and start thinking about the bigger picture: the communities these schools serve.

And anyway, they are even closing cost-effective schools to fill spaces at (in some cases) less cost-effective schools. Not to mention the financial and ecological effects of having to transport kids to less local schools.

And through all this they claim to be supporting rural schools. Bonkers.

Drinking contest tragedy - News - Manchester Evening News

Drinking contest tragedy - News - Manchester Evening News

It's amazing how our society doesn't treat alcohol as the dangerous drug that it is. Like many men of my generation, I knocked back many a pint in my twenties and thirties. Now in my forties and rarely drinking (let alone indulging), I see alcohol in a new light. Especially when I read stories like this.

BBC NEWS | UK | Charity says childcare costs soar

BBC NEWS | UK | Charity says childcare costs soar

As we've chosen for Hayley to stay home with our kids this doesn't affect us that much. Oliver is over two years old and only attends nursery two mornings a week.

But for anyone wanting to carry on working and put their kids in daycare, the costs are daunting.

Monday, January 28, 2008

BBC NEWS | Wales | South West Wales | From 'menopause' to baby for mum

BBC NEWS | Wales | South West Wales | From 'menopause' to baby for mum

"I grabbed a towel and wrapped her in it. I was in a state of shock..."

No kidding!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dancing (or not)

Lucy. Pretty in pink. Prepared for any weather.

Hayley took Oliver and Lucy to the Lowry Centre today for a special music and dance session. Oliver loves dancing so he seemed pretty excited about it yesterday when we told him. But today when he got there (and Hayley had paid for him to go in) he decided he didn't want to get up and dance at all and spent the whole session on his Mum's knee watching. Perhaps he wanted to take it all in first. Perhaps he was overawed by all the others there. Perhaps he's a free spirit who shares his father's healthy mistrust of any mass orchestrated dancing.

Whatever the reason, he had a good time anyway. Here he is pictured with Cara and Jessica who also attended.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

BBC NEWS | England | Lancashire | Girl stabbed in 'frenzied' attack

BBC NEWS | England | Lancashire | Girl stabbed in 'frenzied' attack

This happened in my home town, or at least the town where I went to school, 2 miles from my home in a nearby village. It's a cliche, but if I were there now I'm sure I'd still be saying "but this sort of thing just doesn't happen around here!"

Is my recollection rose-tinted? After all, in a "delph" about a mile from my childhood home, they dragged up the headless body of a murdered man, so we can't have been entirely crime-free.

But I still think this attack is something belonging to the 21st century. In a way I wish it were the other way round. If it belonged to the past, I'd feel the world was becoming a safer place for my kids, but I feel quite the contrary. Metal detectors in schools, proposed by the government today to eliminate knives (and presumably guns), would have been unimaginable in my day. Then again, back then a 6 foot 4 history teacher could happily drag a girl from the classroom by her ear without fear of any comeback. Progress? All depends on your point of view!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rolls Royce

On Saturday, Lucy rolled all the way over onto her front for the first time. She's been rolling onto her side for a while and sleeps on her side sometimes, but this was the first time she had managed to get all the way over onto her front.

She seems keen on her new skill. Last night I placed her on her playmat and by the time I had turned my back on her and found space on the sofa to sit down she had rolled onto her front.

Lucy has an expression that she sometimes wears which involves peering down her nose in a serious manner. When she does, we call her the Queen. Maybe I should call her my Rolls Royce instead.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

On the move

Lucy rolls over and half off her playmat.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

5 months old


Lucy is 5 months old today. She is still a very contented little lady and still a big smiler to boot.

More notably, in the last few days we have started to give her some "solid" food. Baby rice to start with, mixing in some pureed apple or some other new taste for her to try. From the first time Hayley offered her Baby Rice she took to it with gusto. Her mouth was wide open and she grabbed the spoon!

It's not really surprising. She has been trying to get at our food for a few weeks now, so we'd been thinking of starting her on solids. We only delayed because she wasn't drinking all her milk and because ideally we wanted her to get as close to 6 months old as possible. The latter being because prevailing advice is still that the baby's organs aren't fully developed to handle food until then. (Of course yours truly was probably on solids at 3 months. Times change. Advice changes.)

But once we'd fed Lucy the first time it was obvious she was ready and there was no going back. It has also helped her to sleep through the night again (touch wood). Her recent sleeplessness being another sign she may need to start solids.

She still spends as much time as possible attached to Hayley or myself in the Baby Bjorn carrier. And she seems to have shot up in height. In fact she's a big baby now. I guess she's half way to being a toddler: scary thought! Last night Hayley sat her on her knee and she was virtually able to sit up and keep herself upright unaided, just needing the occasional helping hand when she started to wobble over.

One other thing. She takes after her mother when it comes to her tongue. I don't mean she talks a lot (honest, dear!), I mean she seems to have a long tongue. Hayley is perhaps the only person I know who can touch her nose with her tongue. (Admittedly I don't often put others to the test.) And Lucy seems to be taking after her. My "Lucy Lizard".


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

OK, OK, I'm cheating because this post is appearing a few (ahem) hours late, but I've been meaning to do this anyway and I'm not waiting a year for the next one.

When I first started this blog I didn't much anticipate anyone else would read it. It was just our scrap-book/journal of Hayley's first pregnancy for our nearest and dearest. More recently I've used Sitemeter to show me where "Life Begins..." readers reside in the world. (OK, it's a bit hit and miss. I work for a French company so it looks like I go to Paris every lunchtime to check in.)

So... I'd love to know who my readers are and I'd love to hear from my regular (and irregular) commenters.

If you need a reason to bother, tell me another blog I should be reading. Or the greatest food known to man. Come on now, don't be shy, you know you want to. (And don't let the fact it's no longer Jan 10th put you off! I'm making it a de-lurking week.)

Fire, fire...!!!!

We've been having a few problems with our microwave recently. It also works as a regular oven so we sometimes use it when cooking something small, rather than heating up our big oven.

The other evening I walked into the kitchen to find the spring rolls that Hayley was cooking on fire. The microwave had, for some reason, started to microwave the food as well as cook it as an oven.

Today Oliver had a play-date at home with his friend Cara. While they were playing in the play room (known as the "messy room") next to the kitchen, Hayley walked in to the kitchen to discover the mince pies she was warming had burned badly, filling the room with smoke.

"Oh crumbs, they've burned", she remarked and started to open the kitchen windows. On hearing this Oliver came in to the kitchen and shouted "Fire! Fire!". He and Cara then ran to the dressing up box, grabbed the firemen's helmets and ran around shouting "Fire! Fire!" and laughing.

Having opened the windows, Hayley shut the kitchen door for the smoke to clear. About half an hour later, Oliver said to Cara "Come on Cara, let's see the fire."
"Is there a fire Oliver" asked Mummy.
"Yeah. In the messy room."
"How do you know?"
Hayley laughed. "I'm not going to be able to hide this one from Steve am I!"

"This one"....?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Rich Tea biscuits: made for dunking.


Oliver has discovered the joys of Rich Tea biscuits and particularly dunking them in his cup of tea. He doesn't drink any of his cup of tea, it's purely for dunking. So now when he asks for a biscuit, he usually follows it up with a request for a cup of tea.


Whaddya think I'm funny?

Hayley and Lucy being entertained by Oliver.

Lucy often just sits and watches Oliver. There's good chance this is partly down to self-preservation in case he absent-mindedly sits on her or rushes over and gives her an over-exhuberant hug. But sometimes it is just because she wants to know what he is doing and would probably join in herself, if only she could. In short, she has the advantage of a younger sibling: the older sibling is a free home entertainment system.

This morning Hayley was sitting at the dining table with Lucy on her knee. Oliver was sitting next to them on another chair. He started to bounce up and down in his seat. This made Lucy laugh. So Oliver did it more. This made Lucy laugh more, which in turn made made Oliver laugh... which made Lucy laugh more... which made Oliver bounce and laugh even more.... you get the picture.

It's probably the first time you could say that they have played and laughed together. Long may it continue.

BBC NEWS | Education | Summer-born to start school later

BBC NEWS | Education | Summer-born to start school later

This is particulalrly of interest to us as Lucy was born in August.

BBC NEWS | Wales | Cancer patient loses visa battle

BBC NEWS | Wales | Cancer patient loses visa battle

This woman came to the UK to study so that she could support her two children but wasn't admitted to the course because her English wasn't good enough. So she stayed on in the UK to improve her English. While here her husband died. She made arrangments for her children to be looked after and returned to the UK. But then she became ill with cancer.

Yesterday the Home office forcibly removed her from a hospital where she was being treated and deported her to a certain and hastened death (because she can't afford treatment in Ghana), leaving her children unsupported and therefore without education (as it is not free) and hence sentenced to a life of poverty.

A friend told BBC radio that she was "a mess" when she boarded the plane.

Doesn't it just make you proud to be British.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Conversation of the Day

The scene: Lucy in her stroller in the kitchen. Oliver making Rice Krispie cakes with his Mummy.

Oliver: "Hello Lucy chubby cheeks".
Hayley (laughing): "Did you just call her chubby cheeks?"
Oliver (smiling): "Yes."
Hayley: "Who calls her that Oliver?"
Oliver: "Daddy." (This is true.)
Oliver (offering Rice Krispie cake to Lucy):"Would you like to taste it Lucy? Here you are."
Hayley: "No darling, Lucy can't eat cake like that."
Oliver: "She'll be hungry."
Hayley: "It's OK she has special milk."

I got home in time for Oliver to give me the special Rice Krispie cake he had made for me: a single, giant white chocolate Rice Krispie cake.
"We share it?" he asked. How could I refuse.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Taking the strain

Lucy at Tesco

Hayley has taken the strain over the Christmas and New Year break while I have been ill. This morning she woke feeling full of flu, so it was my chance to reciprocate.

Oliver and I delayed our departure for our Tesco breakfast until Lucy was up and had drunk her first bottle, then off the three of us went. This was to be the first time I had taken both my kids out without Hayley there to help.

While Oliver and I tucked into our cooked breakfasts, Lucy sat happily in her car seat (pictured above) wearing her "I may be small but I'm the BOSS" t-shirt, watching us and occasionally throwing one of her toys into my baked beans. Nice.

At the end of the meal she started to grumble and sure enough it was time to head to the baby changing room. Oliver came along happily and sang to me while I changed Lucy. What a cheery chap.

We ended our trip with a ride on "Clifford the big red dog" for Oliver. Always popular.

After popping in at home, Oliver and I headed off to Whale-around (an indoor playground) for a couple of hours, leaving Lucy with Hayley who was still poorly but missing her little girl.

When we returned Oliver was still on best behaviour, despite foregoing any nap all day and he remained cheery and chatty all afternoon while I made dinner, prepared bottles (with Lucy in the Baby Bjorn carrier), played with him and even finally watched football on TV.

Tonight, Hayley went to bed at 9pm, which was as soon as Lucy had her last bottle (a bit earlier than usual!). Both kids were such treasures today that taking the lead in looking after them was easier than I expected. I still know I couldn't do half the job Hayley does with them day in day out though!

Lucy milestones

Lucy is now 4 and half months old. Here's what she is up to.

  • She now rolls on her side on her playmat and in her cot.

  • For the last week or two she has been turning around in her cot. We have added a colourful bumper down one side to stop her from bumping her head. Last night she did a 180 degree turn. She doesn't seem too bothered by ending up lying across her cot. As with pretty much everything, she doesn't complain much. She is also happier on her front than Oliver was. Today she rolled onto her front with only a little extra help from Hayley. And then she tried to crawl! Slow down little girl!

  • We've got a screamer! Lucy likes to bat merry hell out of the bird on the playmat and is quite dexterous with the other toys on there. As she pulls at them she screams! Sometimes her face goes red. It was quite scary at first, but there's no doubt she is happy. She will break off from her screaming to give you a big smile, then carry on.

  • Lucy chats away and makes some sounds consistently. A sort of "ma ma ma" sound and also one that sounds spookily like "Oliver".

  • She is a grabber too. She likes holding my fingers in her hands and has quite a grip. Yesterday she inflicted tangible pain on me by twisting my little fingers in the wornd direction.

  • She can happily spend ages in the Baby Bjorn front carrier. You almost forget she's there, she is so quiet and happy watching everything her pilot is doing. Last night she fell asleep in the carrier on me while I tidied the kitchen and made her bottles.

  • She is very interested in food now. She has been watching us eat for a couple of weeks and even grabs at your food if sitting on your knee. The other day she even pulled at the tablecloth, as if to get the bowl nearer after I moved it away. Could have been coincidence but... She has tasted ice cream and last night had some whipped cream from the Etons Mess we were enjoying.

  • Above all she loves to be talked to and to be involved. Most of the time you only have to smile at her and she'll smile back. She is such a smiler! An absolute treasure.

  • In summary, Lucy is still a little dream of a baby. Hayley left her with our friend Jo for half an hour yesterday and her comment afterwards was "she's so contented, you could forget she's there!"

    BBC News - " Labour 'failing working parents' "

    Labour 'failing working parents'

    This area is a minefield. When you look at the family make-up of the kids in poverty the biggest group is those with 2 working parents. It seems crazy.

    Personally, I think it's good to have a parent at home with pre-school kids, but once they are at school it makes sense to reward parents who want to rejoin the workforce. I'm not sure the government are yet providing sufficient support to enable either of these situations to happen for most families.

    BBC NEWS | UK | Pub chain limits parents' drinks

    BBC NEWS | UK | Pub chain limits parents' drinks

    What utter nonsense. JD Wetherspoons have introduced a policy of refusing to serve a third drink to a parent with children, even if the other parent is drinking water.

    Do Wetherspoons refuse to sell 8 pints to teenagers? No.
    Do Wetherspoons refuse to sell 8 pints to a man who may then be going home to look after his kids? No of course not.

    So why do they intervene in this ridiculous pseudo-moralistic way?

    Their story has been changing more often this morning than Lucy's nappies. One minute it is down to health and safety legislation, then it is because kids will be bored, then a spokesman comes on and says it's not unreasonable to expect someone with a child to be limited in this way.

    What happened to treating people as individuals and consdiering these things on a case by case basis? If the real cause is rowdy kids, stop serving their parents IF that happens. Don't blight the rest of us because there's a theoretical possibility that one child might get a bit restless and tip over a plant-pot.

    It strikes me they just want to shift children through and out of the doors as fast as possible and thought they could get away with this patronising policy to achieve it.

    BBC NEWS | Education | The curse of the meddling parent

    BBC NEWS | Education | The curse of the meddling parent

    Being part of Generation X, I don't like to imagine I will become a "Helicopter parent". But it all seems very far in the future right now.

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    "Happy Holidays"? What holiday?!

    What a Christmas break we've had. We've been on a treadmill of waking kids by night, fractious kids by day and illness at all hours.

    The latter has been primarily suffered by me but it's hard to tell with the kids. Even now Oliver loses all ability (and/or will) to communicate in the night when he wakes crying. When he's clearly upset I can understand this. But other times his 'crying' will stop the moment I come in and he is absolutely fine. Then he will just lie there not answering me when I ask him what's wrong. But if I try to leave he starts to cry again (although once he realises I'm not coming straight back in he will stop, as if it's not worth the effort). The most I get out of him if I do go back in and ask him what's wrong is an "Errrrmmmm..." as he tries to think how to detain me longer, or possibly a request to get up at 4am. Often I think he just wants to know I am there. The difficulty is in spotting the times when he is really fine and when he is genuinely poorly. The boy who cried wolf springs to mind.

    Oliver has developed a really strange tendency to wake after about 2-3 hours sleep. Often he is soaked in sweat, regardless of how warm or cold I have made his room, but other times there is no sweating and no visible reason why is he should wake so upset. We've seen the doctor about this and he just said (in so many words) that he probably just naturally sweats a lot.

    The tricky thing for us now is to spot when he is forming a habit of needing us to come in to him for no other reason than he wants us to be there. We already went through the pain of progressing him to sleeping through the night without our intervention. But in reality, today he is no longer consistently doing so. At this rate we'll be going through it again with Oliver just when we need to do the same with Lucy. Or maybe I'm just being gloomy and pessimistic due to lack of sleep.

    Lucy is waking some nights, as many as three times, though she never needs to feed. Other nights she will sleep right through. As she is approaching the weaning phase it's understandable that this wakefulness might occur. She is currently drinking five 7-ounce bottles a day, made up of four scoops of Aptamil-2 and three of Apatamil-1. She seemed to get constipated when we moved her to just Aptamil-2, hence her personalised blend as we phase in Aptamil-2 more slowly. But overall Lucy is still a very easy-going, contented baby and thank goodness that's the case.

    So as the "holiday" draws to a close, I am still ill, on antibiotics and being deprived of sleep by illness even if the kids sleep relatively well. It's almost enough to make you look forward to going back to work.