Friday, August 29, 2008

BBC NEWS | Education | Drop in 'good-rated' childminders

BBC NEWS | Education | Drop in 'good-rated' childminders
With Hayley being a childminder I've heard a good amount about the Early Years Foundation Stage. And all the paperwork. It's a bit like being a primary school teacher but on a fraction of the salary. And I speak as someone from a family full of teachers.

BBC NEWS | England | Essex | Spider forces family out of home

BBC NEWS | England | Essex | Spider forces family out of home
Frankly I don't blame them.
In our house Hayley deals with the spiders and I deal with the slugs. It's a great team!

BBC NEWS | Health | Britain's happiest places mapped

BBC NEWS | Health | Britain's happiest places mapped
Oh yeah, I'm in a happy place! (Well, near one.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

BBC NEWS | Health | Map highlights 'obesity hotspots'

BBC NEWS | Health | Map highlights 'obesity hotspots'
Oh no, we're in an obesity hotspot!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bedtime terrors?

Oliver has developed an odd behavior at bedtime recently and I am wondering if he experiencing his first nocturnal fears. Or at least voicing them for the first time.

When he goes to bed, I have noticed that he lies in his cot (which still has its bars - a whole other debate!) at the edge of his mattress with his right arm around Julien and his left hand on his left cheek. He seems to find this comforting. OK, noticable but not worrying.

For some time he has also made odd comments about Barney. Quite often, out of the
blue he will say "Barney won't bite me" in a serious but slightly concerned tone. This seemed to happen more at bedtime.

But what has concerned me is that at sometimes during his bedtime routine he will suddenly change from my lively cheery boy who is looking to choose extra toys to take to bed and find a way to have just one more story into someone quite different. He will stop talking and hold both hands to his cheeks and eyes as if to hide his face. Then all he wants to do is go to bed. When I ask him why, he's say things like "Is Barney coming?" or "Barney's not here". Sometine I distract him out of it, but other times he just goes quietly to bed.

I don't like it. And I don't know where it has come from. And why Barney? He loves Barney! I haven't seen it for a few nights but I doubt it has gone altogether. I just keep trying to reassure him and go straight into his room now if he cries out, which is getting quite exhausting as Lucy is also teething and keeping us up. (In fact I'm now full of a cold with a temperature of 101F at one point today.)

Maybe it's just a game. It's so hard to tell. But I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lucy's 1st Birthday Party


Today was Lucy's 1st Birthday party. It was a joint bash with Cara and Isabel who were celebrating turning three. It was held at Heaton Moor Methodist Church, the same place we had Oliver's first birthday party nearly two years ago.

The Mums (Hayley, Clare C. and Clare P.) did all the hard work: buying all the food, cooking it and doing most of the decorating of the room. I just had our kids for most of the day up to the party, which was a breeze as it was sunny and they were in good moods. We went to the park for a while.


Then we headed home for a snack lunch. On the way, Lucy fell asleep in the back-pack carrier, bless her. Oliver bought some flowers for his Mummy and carried them home for her.


Then it was off to the hall for the party. Lucy seemed to enjoy the whole afternoon. An area was laid out for the young children in her age range with toys on large rugs, while the rest of the hall was free for the older children to run round and play with the balloons (which would periodically pop with a loud bang).

There was also entertainment. The ladies from Rhythm Time came and had the children singing, dancing and playing percussive instruments.


Lucy and Oliver both joined in with some gusto.


Rhythm Time also started by singing Happy Birthday to each of the three birthday girls in turn, starting with Lucy, which was nice. Lucy sat on my knee for Rhythm Time.


Meanwhile Oliver stood next to us. He was a great big brother, getting Lucy her instruments before getting them for himself.

After the entertainment, buffet food was served for the adults while the children sat and ate their party lunch boxes at tables at one end of the hall.


A cake was brought out for Lucy and everyone sang Happy Birthday to her. Then we sang it again for the other two girls.

There was then some more free play for the kids before people started to drift away.

The little lady was notable for her contentedness and self-assuredness all afternoon. She played happily on the mat with toys and with the other children, even when Hayley and I were not right next to her, though there was always a familiar face for her and we always kept half an eye on her.


In fact I had the pleasure of being with the kids much of the afternoon while Hayley ran proceedings... in other words she did most of the hard work!

By the time everyone left, Lucy had decided that decorum should take second place to a nice rest.


There are more pictures from the day here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

In the blink of an eye

About a month or so ago I noticed that Oliver was blinking in a very pronounced way and quite frequently. It gave the impression that perhaps he couldn't see well. He would do it when watching TV but also at other times.

When I tried to ask him whether he could see OK he said yes. Probably not the best question to ask a 2 year old. I tried other ways of enquiring, but sometimes just planting the possibility of an answer in a two-year-olds mind is enough to prompt it.

We took him to Hayley's (and I guess Oliver's) GP and she recommended he see the nurse specialisaing in children's eye conditions who visits the baby clinic. (I forget the correct term: "opthalmic nurse" maybe?) Oliver had seen her once before as a toddler because as a baby he had one eye that opened slightly more than the other.

He saw her again today. On this occasion he had to look at pictures across a room - from about 12 feet say - and tell her what they showed.
A van. "Postman Pat's van."
A boot. (After a long pause) "Wellington!"
The pictures became increasingly small until for the last one he said "I don't know. You tell me Mummy and I'll tell the lady."

The conclusion of the examination was that he is fine and that the blinking is probably a nervous habit he will grow out of.

So maybe one of the answers he gave me had some truth after all. "I just like blinking Daddy".

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My children have been on Concorde!

What more need I say! Hayley took advantage of a cheap offer to view the one at Manchester airport after dropping a friend off for her flight. I shouldn't have been surprised given that she cycled to the airport on the day it landed at Manchester for the last time back in 2003.


Of course there should be pictures of this trip, and there were, but then Hayley's phone has gone crazy and she has had to replace it, so we've lost them!

I can tell you that Hayley, Oliver and Lucy all went under the plane and then inside, Oliver scaling the steps all by himself. Apparently it was the Concorde used by the Royal family. So Oliver sat in the Queen's seat.

As a boy I remember seeing Concorde's first flight live on TV. A big event. But I never got to fly on it. Nor even set foot on it. And now my son has been on it before me. This calls for a second visit, this time with Daddy there to share the excitement!

Monday, August 18, 2008

An announcement

Every so often, someone will ask Hayley "How did you and Steve meet?", probably expecting a succinct "through friends" or "at a party". Instead they get the following story. Settle back now, this could take a while.

Back in 2002 Hayley was living out in the USA. She had a serious car accident that left her hospital bound for several months. This came on the back of a traumatic family bereavement and then on returning from the funeral being laid off from her IT job. After a decade on the other side of the pond, she decided that perhaps the time had come to return home.

With the intention of making friends and possibly meeting Mr Right, she registered on It was there that I came across her winning smile for the first time and dropped her a line.

The first she saw of me was a picture taken on a weekend camping trip to the Lake District. I was sitting drinking a beer in The Bridge Inn, Santon Bridge.

When she came back to the UK we met up. She was out on the town with three girl-friends and invited me along. How could I refuse! She and I hit it off straight away and after a few months of us traveling up and down the M5 at weekends she moved to Stockport.

Five years, one house and two children later, here we are! Blessed with our children, family and friends.

So I decided it was time we added another chapter to the story. This weekend, I took Hayley up to the Bridge Inn for a rare weekend away without the kids. Little did she know I what I was plotting as we dined in the hotel restaurant before moving into the bar to sit in the very spot where the photo of me was taken.

"Look at me sitting right up next to you" she said. "If I get any closer I'll push you onto the floor".
"You don't want to do that. I might land on one knee".
"Oh I'll definitely push you off then!" she laughed.
Grinning and in quiet tones I went on. "Hayley, there's something I want to ask you."
Hayley is giggling. "Stop messing about."
"What's this in my pocket?" The shape of a small ring-sized box was clear enough. Hayley is laughing nervously, uncontrollably, punching me (playfully!) and saying, "What! What is it?"
I took out the ring in its box.
Hayley is now starting to fill up and saying "Oh my God, Oh my God...".
I got down on one knee , opened the box towards her and asked: "Will you marry me?"
Through her tears I could just about make out "Yes, of course", as she gave me a huge hug. I can safely say she hadn't seen this coming at all. Amazingly the other people in the pub didn't seem to notice us either!

After she had recovered her composure I was able to confess to her that the "parcel of bike parts" that was delivered FedEx earlier in the week, and which she had signed for, had in fact been her engagement ring. Fortunately she hadn't noticed" in the small print on the label. She sat there in semi-disbelief, looking at the ring with the biggest grin on her face for the rest of the evening, occasionally telling some complete stranger in the bar, "we just got engaged!"

The next morning we told the hotel's proprieter our story and she kindly gave us a bottle of wine to celebrate. She also made us re-construct the moment for the camera in the somewhat more deserted bar at 11am on a Sunday morning.


So there's the potted history. But be warned, if you ask for Hayley's version, you'd better clear your calendar for the rest of the day.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Five steps!

After taking her first step yesterday on her first birthday, Lucy this morning took up to five steps at a time after Hayley and I encouraged her to walk between us. She still seems un-nerved by the experience at times and would prefer just to be carried, but I suspect she could be walking much more by the time of her party next week.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lucy's 1st Birthday

Today we celebrated Lucy's 1st birthday.


We kicked off with the little lady opening her presents at home, aided by her helpful big brother.


Later, Hayley and Oliver decorated the cake that Hayley had bought for her. Hayley then prepared a picnic while Lucy, Oliver and I played upstairs.


Then we all headed off to the park for a long and enjoyable picnic lunch with friends in the sunshine.


Oliver ran and played with his friends,

while Lucy crawled across the grass at high speed

or stood at the railings to the playground watching the older children.

After our sandwiches, she opened her birthday cards,

then we lit a candle on her cake and sang Happy Birthday. Lucy cut the cake,

then we all had a piece, Lucy demolishing a good portion of it herself.

At one point, Lucy stood up and then stood still unaided. At this point someone asked if she was walking. "No", we said. "She can stand like this but she won't take a step". Upon which, Lucy promptly took her first step! Maybe she had been waiting for an audience.

Despite indulging in ice-creams and ice lollies mid-afternoon, we all found room for our traditional Friday fish n chips when we got home.

After all the fun in the sun, a nice bath saw both our offspring settling quickly down for a good night's sleep. The end of a fabulous day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I have to thank who?!

It pains me to say it, but it seems I have no less than McDonalds to thank for my son improving his recollection of colours.... maybe.

They are giving away mini MP3 players that play a tune when you open them. Oliver has two: one playing McFly with a blue lid and one playing the Sugarbabes with a red lid. Having failed to grasp or even take much apparent interest in learning colours, I think this might do the trick.

I do wonder whether he is colour blind. It seems odd that he never tells us the colour of things....unless it's pink. He always knows pink!

So Ronald McDOnald, it seems that perhaps despite years railing against your alleged exploitation of the rainforests and their peoples, decimation of communities and third world economies, the general ruination of the health of the western world and most recently a disproportionate contribution to climate change, I might owe you a small thank you on the side. Just don't expect me to go large with that.

Dear Lucy

Dear Lucy,

In three days time you will be a year old. I can hardly believe it.

I find myself wanting to apologise for not writing enough about you. If you were ever to go in for a quantitative analysis of how many blog posts I have written this year and compare it to the first year of your brother's life, what might you find? Well, I suspect that it might be less, but let me assure you, that doesn't mean you are in any way less loved or less in my thoughts.

I remember a colleague at work telling me that 2 children is 4 times the work of one child. I think he may have under-estimated! Although it is well-documented that you have been a very contented, smiley and easy-going baby, it is still true that having a toddler and a baby to deal with is far more work than just a baby or just a toddler. And your Mummy and I are pretty much on our own here. We haven't had a night away together since before you were born. In fact we only had one in the two years between Oliver's birth and your arrival.

Not that we mind much, but it does mean that life gets draining at times. You and your brother have apparently unending reserves of energy. You both start indicating that you want to get up before 7am most mornings and some evenings Oliver is still chatting away to his toys after 8.30pm. You go to bed about half an hour earlier than your brother at around 7.00-7.30pm. Most evenings you hit the sack happily, but sometimes have a good shout at some point in the night until we come and turn you over or move you down the bed. So unbroken sleep remains the perpetual wish in your parents lives!

Right now Lucy you are a real character. You are crawling around at about a hundred miles an hour and "walking" around the furniture. A couple of weekends ago when we were in the Lake District having a picnic next to Lake Windermere, you stood without holding on to anything for the first time. You've repeated this feat a few times but each time you seem to realise what you've done after a few seconds and quickly sit down. However, I predict you'll be walking in the next 6 weeks.

But what amazes me about you at the moment is your communication. You often mimic our words. And the first word you seem to be saying apart form "mama" and "dada" (which are sounds babies make anyway, so it's hard to say whether they really are words) is "Oliver". You clearly make a sound that seems to be Oliver and do so at times when you might want to see him.

I have to say that you adore your big brother and he loves you too. I fully expect that one day you will fight like cat and dog, though hopefully not too often. But today you are never happier than when he is around.

So my dear Lucy, please know that I love you more than you can know. And instead of looking at blog posts as a measure of my devotion, perhaps I refer you to my bad back on the right hand side for which I am currently undergoing treatment and which seems to tie in with the fact that I carry you round on my right arm for long periods of time. My "little bird" I call you, because you sit there so happily, perched on my arm watching whatever I am doing. Sometimes you are so quiet and content on your perch that I could forget you are there.

So carry on being you Lucy because we all love you and can't wait to celebrate this first birthday with you and many, many happy returns of the day.

Lots and lots of love

Daddy xxxx

Come back to what you know

I'm still here.

Despite the lack of a "proper" post for a staggering month and a half, I am still very much here. So why the silence?

There's no great mystery or single reason.
Did I fall out of love with blogging? Maybe a little.
Did life get on top of me? Well, certainly in the way at least.
Did I decide it wasn't worth blogging my family's life? No way!!!

It's just been a bit of a tough spell for lots of different reasons, not helped by warm, sticky nights worrying whether the kids are too hot or by turns catching a chill as the temperature falls and they wriggle out of their bedclothes. Each night I found myself foregoing the pleasures of the keyboard in favour of the comfort of my bed.

But I've broken the log-jam to write again and I intend to make up for my sabatical in the real world. And to make life easier I plan to post somewhat will-nilly and incoherently help avoid any further spells where being unable to find the right words led to silence.

So here's a start. I love my family. Oliver remains the gift that I will never entirely cease to be surprised to have received. Every day I am thankful for him. Lucy is so much more than the daughter I dreamed of. She is a character you can't ignore, loving and expressive beyond her age. Hayley is the linchpin of all our lives. She is the heartbeat of our family, the centre of our universe and I have her to thank for all I celebrate in this blog.

I raise a cup (of tea, as it happens) to my family. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Sent home pregnant teenager dies

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Sent home pregnant teenager dies

Sunday, August 03, 2008

First shoes


Lucy got her first proper Clarks shoes today. Her size is "3.5 G". The selection of colours available had a touch of the "Model T" about it: she could have any colour she wanted as long as it was pink.