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.


    Come as you are


    This morning Oliver got up and decided that he wanted to dress up in Mummy's "Tiger" shirt which lives in his dressing up box. Once I had put it on him he announced that he wasn't Oliver he was Tiger.

    He then insisted on keeping it on, over his regular shirt, even when he went to nursery. He looked a bit like Demis Roussos circa 1976. He wore it there all morning and was still wearing it when Hayley picked him up at lunchtime. In fact, he still had it on when I went to meet my family at Room 311 around 5.30pm.

    But he was such a good little chap this evening that when he asked if he could wear it in bed I said yes. So he is now asleep in his tiger shirt as his pyjama top.

    Not sure what I'll do if he wants it on again tomorrow. He could end up like those people who always wear the same coat, you know the kind, usually an Afghan jacket smelling of scented oils and looking like it first saw light of day around Woodstock. Come to think of it, his hair is getting kind of long too...

    BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Major blaze at chemical factory

    BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Major blaze at chemical factory

    First our neighbour burned something dodgy in his garden with the resulting acrid fumes lingering for more than a day, then I get up this morning to smell this. It was a few miles away but it smelled very unpleasant and not at all healthy.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    First day at Nursery

    Oliver started at his new Nursery today. He was a happy chappy as he headed off for the 1 hour introductory session.

    He has been to a playgroup there regularly in the past so the venue was nothing new. He a bit surprised to be going upstairs as he has never been up there before. But once there he was fine. He even took his slightly more apprehensive friend Charlie by the hand and led him off to play saying "Come on Charlie".

    He had a fun time and was made the VIP for the day. Afterwards all four of us went to Room 311 where he enjoyed a biscuit and a hot chocolate drink.


    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    BBC SPORT | Other sport... | Cycling | Armstrong to make shock comeback

    BBC SPORT | Other sport... | Cycling | Armstrong to make shock comeback

    Love him or loathe him, there's no denying that Lance Armstrong has been a phenomenon in cycling, an inspiration to many and a powerful force for good in his work for cancer charities through the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

    Personally, having read his book "It's Not About The Bike" and watched him win 7 Tour de France races in style, I can't help admiring the guy despite his Texan cockiness.

    But what will be more important than where he finishes in next year's race will be how he raises the profile of cancer and how to tackle it across the globe. Success in that arena may yet be his greatest epitaph.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    Dilemma 41

    Do i turn off the engine and risk them waking early and cranky? Or leave it running and bankrupt us while destroying the planet?

    Monday, September 08, 2008

    Oliver's 3rd Birthday


    Today Oliver is 3 years old.

    Over breakfast I asked him about this milestone in his life.

    We also found time to open a few presents. The Scooby Doo Ghost-Catching van that he had expressed a preference for in the toy shop a few weeks ago, failed to disappoint.

    Then it was off to playgroup with Mummy and Lucy where they sang Happy Birthday to him. There was only time to pop home then before we all headed off to Run of the Mill for his party.

    About 20 of his friends came plus some of their younger brothers and sisters. After some time playing they all had to line up on the ramp ready to go to our private suite. (Well, a room with a big table and lots of food.)


    Oliver declined the special chair at the head of the table and sat half way down the table on the benches with everyone else. A man of the people my son.


    He did manage to eat less food and in less time than most of the others and was asking for ice-cream long before everyone else was ready. Then he devoured his ice-cream in time to go and eye up his (monkey) birthday cake.


    They brought out the birthday cake with three lit candles and everyone sang happy birthday to him. He then blew out the candles (with a little help from Daddy after two attempts at the last one).


    Before we left there was time for us to go and play in the ball-pit with Lucy, who clambered about with the three year olds without a moment's hesitation. By the time we left Oliver was almost asleep on his feet. Both kids were asleep in the car within seconds of us heading out of the car park.

    At home in the afternoon we opened some of the many presents friends had bought him. He had a great time. Finally we headed off to Pizza Hut with Manny, Sara, Jack and William for our dinner. It was very quiet in there and Oliver and Jack discovered a great playground in the gap between the pillars and the front windows.


    Lucy, meanwhile, climbed up and down some steps for a good 10 minutes, finding it fun with me in attendance to hold her hands on the descents.


    Lucy ate a small mountain of spaghetti bolognese, her favourite food at the moment, before sucking all the chocolate off some chocolate raisins.


    Oliver on the other hand ate the optimal amount of spag' bol' to make sure there was room for his second portion of ice-cream of the day (this time with Smarties).


    We got home a bit late but both kids went fairly readily to bed. Oliver had the added incentive of being allowed to take his (new today) Backyardigans back-pack which he filled with his Scooby Doo characters. Sorted.

    I could write lots about how quickly my little boy is growing up. (Last night as Hayley and I sat with him, reading his bedtime story, I told her mopishly "He'll never be two again"!) But let's save that for another day. My beautiful boy has had a fabulous birthday and so did we.

    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    Folk Train


    Back in 2005, when Hayley and I were just a couple and Oliver was merely a bump, we took a ride on the Folk Train. Today we took the same ride, but this time with our two children there beside us.

    I love the experience of doing things as a family where previously the two kids hadn't been around. It always serves to remind me just how lucky we are to have them.


    You might think folk music wouldn't be to their taste, but you'd be wrong. Oliver loves any live music and we were lucky to sit very close to the musicians. Lucy also loved it, wiggling wildly and enjoying the ride.

    The journey was from Manchester to Hathersage in the Peak District (though we boarded at Reddish North). In Hathersage everyone decamped to a pub where the band played more songs to accompany our dining and quaffing. Lucy even managed a little jig.

    The whole trip was just the best time I could imagine with all of us enjoying ourselves and not even any discontented or over-tired whinging at any point. In fact, on the return journey Lucy fell asleep on Hayley somewhere during "You are my sunshine" and then Oliver fell asleep on me to the tune of "To know him is to love him". Bless.


    There is more information about the Folk Train here.

    All our photos from the day are here.

    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    The next Mr Kipling?

    Oliver went to "Cook and Taste" today, a new regular activity in nearby Reddish. (Or at least we hope it will be regular, it was not too well attended today.) It involved two ladies showing under-5s how to make something scrumptious.

    Oliver made some rice crispie cakes all by himself. Hayley emphasised emphatically that he did everything single-handedly. He wasn't allowed to melt the chocolate himself but apart from that it was all his own work.

    This was followed by making decorated recipe cards. Then finally there was a tasting session. Today it was celery, peppers, cucumber and carrots.

    I sampled one of the rice crispie cakes this evening and I can tell you it was delicious, generous with the chocolate. I don't know whether he has a long-term future in baking, but he does make exceedingly good cakes.



    Lucy is a very vocal young lady. If one of us puts her down on the floor rather than carry her round she wails like a banshee. She has a high-pitched scream that leaves me in fear for our wine glasses.

    A couple of nights ago I put her to bed. Hayley normally puts her to bed while I see to Oliver, but it's nice to swap. Lucy wasn't keen though. She was OK til Hayley came in to say goodnight to her while I gave her her milk. After that Lucy decided Daddy wouldn't do! She screamed at the top of her lungs. The little madam. After a while of batting away the milk bottle I offered her, I asked her "do you want to go to bed Lucy?". She nodded and said "yeh". So I put her into her cot. She still wasn't entirely happy but settled down.

    But yesterday Hayley saw a whole other level to her temper. In her anger at being put down on the floor because Mummy couldn't carry her round all day, she head-butted the floor! I'm hoping it was a one-off and she has now learned that Lucy vs Hard-floor ultimately only has one winner.

    New Zealand's out then

    As we enter a wet British autumn after a wet British summer, my mind sometimes starts to turn to sunnier climes and dreams of raising our children away from headlines of stabbings and a life of scraping money together to pay for a mammoth mortgage on a modest home. I'm sure we won't do it, but some days it seems irresistible.

    I didn't help when a former colleague now living in Australia recently sent me photos of himself surfing in the Australian winter. (That's winter, not summer.) We also have friends in New Zealand who send pictures of the expanse of green in which their children play. Compares favourably to the postage stamp we have in our back garden.

    But perhaps it isn't meant to be. Yesterday I was given a sign! While I was at work contemplating the fabulous mountain biking in New Zealand over my lunch, Hayley was at home giving Oliver some kiwi only to find he came out in an allergic reaction. He complained of his mouth hurting and then his face started to swell up. She had to give him piriton but even by the time I came home in the evening his left eye was partially closed, though he was happy enough by then. We can't be 100% sure it was the kiwi but it seems to have been the culprit.

    So maybe New Zealand just isn't meant to be.

    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    BBC NEWS | Health | Climbing stairs can prolong life

    BBC NEWS | Health | Climbing stairs can prolong life

    This will come as some consolation the next time I am making the umpteenth trip up the stairs because I don't have a nappy or wet wipes or the requested toy for one of my children.

    BBC NEWS | Health | Women pick men who look like dad

    BBC NEWS | Health | Women pick men who look like dad

    To be honest I can't say that I think I look much like Hayley's Dad.

    Then again, it's amazing how people see people differently. We have friends who swear blind that Lucy looks just like Hayley, while others think she looks just like me.

    BBC NEWS | Health | Older fathers linked with bipolar

    BBC NEWS | Health | Older fathers linked with bipolar

    It doesn't put a number on the increased chance of experiencing this condition for children born of fathers in my age range, it only says: "The children of men 55 years and older were 1.37 times more likely to go on to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder than those of men aged 20 to 24." Given the likelihood in general is about 1%, this still seems quite a low risk to me.

    And is being bipolar a "disorder" anyway? I think I'll leave that one alone.