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.