Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Council fined after boy impaled

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Council fined after boy impaled

The sort of thing to give a parent nightmares!

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US woman gives birth to octuplets

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US woman gives birth to octuplets

And she says she plans to breast feed them all!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Curly Girly


Lucy can be fiercely independent. It's already well documented that she stomps around the house as if she owns it and appropriates whatever toy she might see Oliver playing with if she feels like it.

But this week she has added to these displays of assertiveness. Firstly when I put her to bed the other night she insisted on holding her milk herself. I wasn't allowed to help at all. If I put my hands near it she batted them away as she drank. I sat there feeling somewhat redundant, but also amused and impressed.

Then she decided that after months of protests, screaming and running away when we try to dry her hair after her bath, she would instead dry it herself. Here she is demonstrating this new skill whilst also showing off her natural curliness.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

First on the plane

Several friends in the US have told us that they plan to come over for our wedding this summer. But times are hard and circumstances can change so we have told ourselves not to be disappointed if some don't make it.

So yesterday Hayley was very excited when her friend Dani not only called to say she and her daughter Stephanie are definitely coming but then emailed her airline ticket confirmation!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Big girl's cot


Now that Oliver is in a bed, Lucy has upgraded from her original cot to inherit Oliver's cot-bed. It is much more roomy. She slept in it on Sunday evening for the first time after I had to dismantle it to get it out of Oliver's room.

She has slept well since her move. A couple of times she has woken crying but after a quick cuddle goes right back to sleep. She still pushes right up to the top of her cot so I put her old "bumper" around the top so her head is more comfortable.

But she does move around a bit more in this roomier berth. She is pictured this evening at the "wrong" end of her cot (no bumper).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Historic Day

I'm writing this blog for my kids. It's a record of their lives and of my life watching them grow up. And mostly that's it. But from time to time I manage to remember to pass comment on the world around us.

Today is such a day, because today the first black president of the United States was inaugurated. OK, so it's not my country, but it's an historic moment. I was born in a year when the southern US states saw race riots. A time of segregation. A time of deep racial division.

Today Barack Obama became president and it marks out all that is good about the United States. Americans talk a lot about freedom and opportunity. Today America walked the talk.

Regardless of how successful or not he might be in the next four years, the hope of the millions, perhaps billions of people around the world stands as testimony to the human spirit, particularly as the world appears to be tumbling headlong into a financial crisis the likes of which has not been seen in most of our lifetimes.

But today was not one for thoughts of stock markets or banking. Today the world marvelled at what America has done.

And perhaps as remarkable is the fact that although this will be remembered by history as the moment America first elected a black man, for those of us watching today, our main thought was not that America had elected a black man, but simply that America had elected the right man.

BBC NEWS | Education | Children's six-hour screen day

BBC NEWS | Education | Children's six-hour screen day

Call me a Luddite, but this sort of research makes me want to limit the kids' time on computers, especially if it deters them from reading books and/or playing sport.

BBC NEWS | Education | Call for more male nursery staff

BBC NEWS | Education | Call for more male nursery staff

This is an interesting piece of research, but the last line of the article is the most telling.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Nap time

When Oliver was 10 days old he was given a toy by his God-parents David and Susan. A rather simple, woollen dog from the Grannimals range. He came pre-named: "Julien". At 12 inches high he was an unassuming, modest character. Much less ostentatious than many of the other fluffy toys Oliver had received on his arrival.

I had no idea how important Julien was to become.

We used to give him Julien to go to bed. But he was just one of several toys in his cot and they were all out of his reach anyway. Then when Oliver was still quite young we decided to wean him off his dummy. In place of his dummy we gave him Julien as a comfort. At nap time, to get to sleep, instead of sucking on the dummy, Oliver would hug and bite the nose of Julien. It was the same at night.

From then on, Julien was no longer a nice toy, he was essential! Panic would break out if he couldn't be found. We quickly realised that a substitute Julien was needed. But we couldn't get one in the UK anywhere. The only one we could get was a smaller, 7inch version. And so "Little Julien" arrived and the original Julien gradually came to be known as "Big Julien". (In hindsight this now sounds like a character from a gangster movie. "Oh and who's that", asks a stranger of Oliver. "Big Julien" he replies. "Oh..." says the stranger backing away nervously.)

For a while all was well. Oliver was happy with either Big Julien or Little Julien, though the former was preferable. But eventually it had to be Big Julien in his cot at night. At this point we asked friends in Connecticut to bring over another big Julien when they came to visit!

And so we now had two Big Juliens! And when the real Big Julien was left somewhere we simply substituted the other one. Perfect! And all was well with the world.


A couple of months ago ago after Oliver had left the real Big Julien at a playgroup we quickly produced his double. But then Oliver came home with the real Julien and his double was still in the living room. Suddenly I heard "Look, look Mummy, TWO Juliens!!!!".


So I quickly explained that this was Julien's cousin Julius (wow what originality) who had come to visit from the USA. And at the end of the day Julius said goodbye to fly home. Phew! A lucky escape. We got away with it.

But then, a few weeks ago, we lost Julien again. Oliver wanted him and was already in his cot for the night, so I quickly grabbed cousin Julius from his hiding place in our room and took him in to Oliver. I handed him to the little man in the gloom and turned away to go downstairs. As I reached the door I heard the dreaded words.

"That's not Big Julien!"

Oh no. What should I do? I know. I'll do what any right-minded decent parent would do.

Lie through my teeth.

"Yes it is, he's had a wash".
"No, it's Julius. It's not Big Julien!"

It was no use. Looking at Julius, even in the dark of Oliver's room it was clear his ears were far less floppy than Julien's. And he was all round Julius was just less worn and less saggy. It was no use. The game was up. I apologised to Oliver for my "mistake" and went searching for Julien who, fortunately, I found.

And so now Julius and Julien can be seen together without fear.


And judging from the way Julien was briefly forgotten with Wall-E's arrival this week, the day will come soon enough when Julien will spend more time just sitting in the corner of Oliver's room. And we'll look back and laugh at the times we scrambled and searched for Julien in a wild panic.

Or rather, we would if it wasn't for the fact we got Lucy a "Big Lucien" the large rabbit Grannimal who she takes to bed every night. And you can't get one of those over here either!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Big boy's bed


Yesterday Hayley took the kids out for the afternoon to give me time to re-arrange Oliver's room and build his single bed. His "big boy's bed". (Not to mention picking up the mattress. It just fits into a Zafira over the top of the seats in case anyone should want to know for future reference.)

We recorded the moment he first saw it. His response was less to his bed and more to the Wall-E toy I had secretly ordered for him to go with the duvet cover and pillow case that he had picked out a couple of weeks ago.

He took a while to settle down to sleep, not surprising really! But then we didn't hear a peep out of him until it was time to get up. Success!

Another milestone. Hayley said she felt a bit sad. I have to say that didn't hit me this time. I guess I was just too excited!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Three little words (17 months old today)

Today - at exactly 17 months old - Lucy strung together three words for the first time. They were addressed to Hayley. "Put me down"! Our friend Sara apparently witnessed this as well.

But I prefer the two words she said as I left her to have her milk with Mummy this evening. "Love you!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bedtime Bop

I had been intending my first public performance on my ukulele to be a well rehearsed and polished little show, possibly even premiering one of my own compositions.

However, tonight after I persuaded Oliver to leave his bath by coming and playing ukulele with Daddy, Hayley turned up with a camera and captured our fun.

As Oliver is so fond of Gus and Fin's version of Blitzkrieg Bop, he had no trouble dropping in on cue when I started to mimic it. And his cuteness hopefully makes up for the fact that I haven't learned all the chords nor half the words.

(And yes it is very dark. We don't live in a cave, the light was dimmed a little for bedtime.)

BBC NEWS | England | Bradford | Mother 'watched injured girl die'

BBC NEWS | England | Bradford | Mother 'watched injured girl die'

I am speechless. Bewildered. Angry. Despairing. How can this happen.

I've got another uke!

Whay have one uke when you could have two! Isn't she a beauty!

In fact this indulgence was not of my making. I had been mulling over the option of treating myself to a better instrument after buying the cheapest option a couple of weeks ago. Imagine my surprise when I came home to find my darling fiancee had been out and bought it for me!

This means I will be obliged to learn more chords and put more effort into playing it. Oh the burden of it. How will I cope.

Oliver is now very happy to have inherited the pink ukulele. Or as he calls it "my (teeny) guitar".

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

BBC NEWS | Health | Lack of sleep 'raises cold risk'

BBC NEWS | Health | Lack of sleep 'raises cold risk'

Well tell me something I DIDN'T know!

If you do one thing today...

Please take 1 minute to go to the Demand A Stance website and (in 3 clicks) ask your UK (or US or Canadian) representative to take a stance to end the bloodshed of innocent children in Gaza and bring peace to the region.

Regardless of which side you might take, please speak up now.

It is only by taking individual actions such as these that we might collectively achieve peace in 2009.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Would it kill ya to comment?

It's annual de-lurker day, so leave a comment or else!

Or else what? Well, heck, I'll head off into a black hole of cyberspace and take this blog with me.

Whaddya mean you don't care!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Best intentions and best laid plans

After the Christmas break, Oliver has for the first time been a bit upset at going to his nursery. It's happened the last couple of days. His teacher tells us he always settles within 5 minutes.

Last night, knowing he might not be keen to go, I said to him that if he went to nursery today I would come and pick him up. Then this morning when Hayley dropped him off he checked with her that I was going to pick him up.

So I went to collect him this afternoon full of anticipation. When his teacher brought him out to the room where parents wait to pick up, he saw me and said with a look of real disappointment "Oh no, I wanted my Mummy to pick me up". It was so sincere that I gained the amused sympathy of the other waiting parents. He did then cheer up but it was an ironic twist after I had quit work early (well, after only 8 hours) especially to make sure I kept my promise.

Lucy language

I remembered some other things she is saying at the moment.

"Who dat?" (Who's that?)
"Up der". (Up there.) Usually pointing at the tin of chocolates.
"More more" usually relating to food!
"Dyeah" which means Yes.
"Again". Whenever I tickle her or when she likes a song on TV or the computer.
"Bye bye" She says this so clearly and waves. She did it to me this morning as I left for work. Heart wrenching.

She will repeat pretty much anything you say, or at least try to. I think she's learning amazingly fast. This is such a great age!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

How much fun can you have in 53 minutes

I hate getting home so late that one or both of the kids is in bed and asleep. For that reason it is rare that it happens. I take it as a sign that my life is out of balance if I don't see the kids for a while before they go to bed.

At the moment I am starting work by 7.30am, so I certainly should be home to see them. But today was a long day and I got home at 7.07pm. Although Oliver should be in bed by 7.30pm (hah, yeah right) it tends to be closer to 8pm, which I treat as the "must be in bed" time, to give Hayley and I a chance to see each other at the end of the day.

So that gave me 53 minutes in which to have fun with my babies! They were in the bath when I got home. As Hayley told me about her day (complete with threatening road-rager who she called 999 about!), Oliver and Lucy sat in the bath. Oliver decided it would be funny to fill the toy tea-pot with bath water and pour it over Lucy's head. Lucy seemed amused at first but tired of this game more quickly than Oliver who would have continued at length had I not persuaded him not to.

Then I got him out of the bath. My hands were still freezing from the drive home so as I lifted hime out of the bath he whooped and giggled saying "Oooo your hands are cold!", then encouraged me to keep prodding him with them.

Into the bedroom where he lay on the bed playing my ukelele while I tried to dry him. Then he stood up and carried on, by now singing a song I'd never heard before. "Did you make that song up Oliver?" I asked. "Yes I did", he beamed and danced about singing. "At nursery." Then he told me he was playing Rock and Roll. He has picked up on this from watching the Wiggles. Last night while we watched some YouTube footage of The Ramones in concert, he told me "this is rock and roll isn't it Daddy". I was quite surprised.

Back to tonight, when he also told Hayley "you're a silly billy". Where has that come from!

As I dried him he sang Blitzkrieg Bop. He doesn't know the words, just the sounds, but it was so funny to hear. There was my 3 year old son, enjoying the music of The Ramones as much as me. How cool is that!

Then, before I could get his pyjamas on him, he made what is becoming a nightly beeline to get under the covers of my bed. We then have a ritual. I have to pull the sheet back, then straighten up rather more slowly than necessary so that by the time I reach down to pick him up he has pulled the covers over him again, just as I reach down to grab him, ending up instead with a handful of duvet. This has him in stitches.

After a few repetitions of this, I duck under the covers and tickle his thighs. THis has him laughing so hard he almost runs out of breath (though I never let that happen!), leaving him with his face in one big, open-mouthed, silent laugh. Then he begs me to stop, before regaining his breath after 3 seconds and imploring me "again!"

After a few minutes of this we got him into his pyjamas. By now, Lucy, who was in the charge of Hayley (or was Lucy in charge of Hayley), was ready for her milk in her room, so she bid us each goodnight with a kiss.

Oliver and I then headed off to his room where we have always sat on his futon sofa bed to read a story. But that went to the charity shop today in readiness to make room for his bed, so we sat on his old foam mattress. We read three stories from "Stories Jesus Told" and played with Julien putting him to bed in his box. Then getting him up again. Then putting him to bed. Then... you get the picture.

Finally we headed off to clean his teeth which he did cheerfully and impeccably before there was time for him to play with his pteradactyl and Upsy Daisy as I serenaded him with my ukelele version of Blitzkrieg Bop.

And then it was time for bed.
"I love you" I told him, having noticed Hayley got a rare "I love you" back earlier.

"I love you" he replied. Then "I love you too Julien" as he cuddled up to him.

It turns out you can have lots of fun in 53 minutes.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US boy takes car in school dash

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US boy takes car in school dash

I know it's terrible that he was allowed to do this, but you have to take your hat off to him, if only for his burning desire to get to school!

I love Lucy

I probably shouldn't be the one to say it, but Lucy is a bit of a Daddy's girl at the moment. When I came in last night and she heard me greet Oliver, I heard her shout "Dada!" and run into the living room with arms outstretched to be picked up.

Of course, this is entirely because she loves her Daddy to bits and not at all because Daddy is daft enough to carry her around more often (and higher from the ground) than her Mummy. You can also disregard her other apparently mercenary behaviour such as reaching out to Mummy from her Daddy's arms as soon as Mummy says she is going out in the car. Deep in my heart I know that beneath that apparently mercenary exterior beats a heart of gold and she loves me all the way to the bottom of the tea bag box which she is so fond of emptying.

To be fair to Lucy, she is incredibly fair when it comes to giving out her affection. She will give one of us a kiss then lean over to give one to the other. She's a very affectionate little girl at the moment. She will come into bed with us in the morning and cuddle up to us giving us hugs.

This, sadly, is in sharp contrast to another one of her behaviours at the moment: hitting! I don't know where it has come from but she hits us. She also hits Oliver. In fact she is prone to hitting anyone she fancies. The other day she head-butted Hayley on the nose, leaving her holding her face in agony. After she has done it and has been told "we don't do that" and to "be nice", she will invariably stroke your face and perhaps offer a kiss or pat your back.

I'm hoping it's just a phase, like the phase of throwing all her food and drink on the floor which gladly seems to have passed. AFter a while she made a point of showing us that she wasn't throwing it on the floor. Hopefully she's on the way to doing the same here when she shows us she can be nice.

Either way she is still adorable and with her improved speech, interacting with her is becoming more fun each day. She has been able to say "get down" when she wants to get out of her high chair, now also augmented by "outside" when she wants to go out, "choc choc" when she wants chocolate, "bo bo" which means her water and best of all "Mummy" which she says with quite a Mancunian accent.

She may be a little hooligan at times, but she's our hooligan and we love her.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Teeny guitar

I have already lost access to my ukelele, at least when the kids are around. Oliver in particular has really taken to it. "Can I play your teeny guitar?" he asks in his cutest voice.

He watched the YouTube video of Blitzkrieg Bop played on ukeleles that Dan posted the other day. Watching has now become a nightly ritual. Here he is playing along with Lucy dancing on Mummy's knee in the background.

The funny thing is that I once saw The Ramones in concert in the mid-80s and they played everything about twice as fast as on their records, which is more or less what these guys are doing. The difference is that it really works on ukeleles!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Next year's nursery?

We visited another local nursery today with a view to possibly moving Oliver there starting next September. There's nothing at all wrong with where he is, but as his birthday is in September, he started nursery almost exactly on his 3rd birthday, so he will have another whole year in nursery before school. So we figured it might be nice for him to go somewhere else rather than "repeat" a year.

To be honest it's not just that. The place we visited today always gets rave reviews from people whose kids go there and it consistently gets a rating of Outstanding from Ofsted.

We went today and I have to say we were impressed. It was an Open Day so we just turned up, but we were shown round by a lovely teacher who showed us all the different areas for different activities and explained the themes they were exploring and how they work them into the areas. I was impressed by how well thought out it was, by the standard of equipment and also by how she interacted with Oliver.

Then I saw the outside play area and I was ready to sign up myself! Oliver and Lucy do already come here occasionally as it has one room in an adjoining building where childminders can bring kids, so Hayley takes our two along with her minded child. Oliver apprently frequently stands at the window watching the kids playing outside saying "Can I go outside Mummy?"

I guess it will depend whether we can get a place (though that sounds promising) and also on how easily we think Oliver would settle in. He does have some friends who are already there so I feel quite hopeful he will be able to move.

It all seems a far cry from my own childhood, when the village had one playgroup set up in a shed by my Mum and a friend. I think it only ran once a week. My Mum told me the other day that it was an old chicken shed that they whitewashed. What a contrast to Oliver who goes to multiple well-funded playgroups and will even have two nurseries on his CV before he is five!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Take this as a warning... (prepare to be uked)

It's not my fault. It's all the fault of Dan over at All That Comes With It. "Buy a uke" he said. "They're only £15" he said. (Actually it was £17.50, but that's his fault too for creating a world-wide inflationary fad for uke plinking.)

It was purchased this afternoon on a whim as we meandered home from Tesco. I went for a pink one in honour of Lucy's new-found enthusiasm for this new-found instrument (see comment on Dan's post today) and because Oliver still loves anything pink.

I haven't learned to play anything on it yet, but Oliver was straight in there. On our trip to the airport viewing park this afternoon he stayed in the car, first persuading Hayley to unwrap and hand over my new, un-played instrument, then strumming merrily away while Lucy and I braved the freezing weather to watch close-up the technological miracle that is a jumbo jet taking off.

I now feel obliged to join the uke euphoria and post a tune sometime. But how can I compete with this performance by the little man. Not only does he have a stylish beanie and nonchalant demeanour but he even takes time, mid-song and rock-star like, to wave to his fan in the next car (a baby that was waving to him). Judge for yourself.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bed hopping

We've been doing some preparatory work today for some changes to sleeping arrangements in our house. No, Hayley hasn't finally kicked me out to the spare room for my snoring, we have decided to upgrade our children's beds.

Oliver is still in his cot-bed which is still in its cot format. He likes to snuggle right up to the bars. And when I have asked him about turning it into a bed he hasn't exactly sounded dead keen.

Having said that he has slept in a bed a few times. Down in Wiltshire at Sammy's house he slept in a single bed to which we fitted a bed-guard. Unfortunately we forgot one of the straps that secures it and since Oliver liked to push right up to it, one night he actually fell out of bed! I heard it happen and went in to find him dopily hanging off the side of his bed, semi-tangled in the bed-guard! Surprisingly he made no protest as I lifted him and the contraption back into place, securing it more firmly from then on with my belt (and later when I needed my belt Hayley used pairs of tights which were equally effective!).

Over Christmas he also slept in a single bed, but this time with another bed right alongside it. Several times I went in to him to find him half way across the adjoining bed. So I think that bed-guard will see some use when he does get his single bed. And getting it he he is! Yesterday we purchased a rather nice single bed and a corresponding spring mattress.

So when Oliver moves into his bed, Lucy will inherit his cot-bed. She is currently in a smaller cot and will probably appreciate the extra space. Her bedroom, the fourth and smallest in our house, will only just fit this cot-bed and we have spent part of this afternoon re-arranging her furniture and tidying up her room ready for the changeover. So tonight she is sleeping on the other side of her room, where she will soon slumber in her new berth.

It struck me this evening that we should probably buy another bed-guard, as it has become a more frequent occurrence in recent times for one of the kids to end up in our bed. In fact, so frequent has it been that only yesterday after several weeks of having the bed-guard fitted to my side of the bed ("just in case") did we remove it.

Of course the theory is that these new cribs for our offspring will help them sleep better and get us all some rest. Ah, the very thought is bliss! Then again, I can already anticipate the pitter patter of Oliver's feet in the morning, coming into our room as bright as a button, to "encourage" us to get up.

Invitations and stationary

As we enter 2009 we can now say "we are getting married this year". Still sounds a bit strange. And when I think how quickly time has flown since I proposed last August, it is scary how little time we have left.

With the new year Hayley has been prompted into action. She has ordered some samples of wedding stationary. Seven kinds in fact. "They were only £5 P&P" she said. "£5 each?!?!" I asked, trying to re-start my heart. "No, in total." Of course. I knew that.

Some day, all their play will be like this

OK, I'm dreaming. But it certainly is nice when they are so happy together like this.

Where do they all go?

Odd socks

This is Oliver's current collection of odd socks, down by three after I put away all the clean washing this afternoon. I think of each sock like a lonely soul, its place in the row like a little yellow ribbon, waiting for the return of its other half.

I suspect Oliver might outgrow a few of these hopefuls before they are re-united with their partners.

Chicken Pox medication

Please note that I have no medical expertise and the following post is my personal recollection of advice received from pharmacists. It is for my own reference and is not an offering of advice to others.

Both kids have been having a Aqueous Calamine cream applied regularly to ease the itching. The aqueous form apparently also reduces scarring.

They have both been having Calpol for the general discomfort.

Oliver has been having Piriton, but one of the pharmacists said it was no longer recommended for children under two years old. The box said it was OK and another pharmacist said they knew of no such advice. Consequently we gave it to her only once at the height of her discomfort.

Finally Oliver has had another cream, Eurax, which was given to us by friends whose little girl has just had chicken pox.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Half man, half chicken pox

Oliver after one of his many coverings in calamine lotion.

Oliver is suffering badly with his chicken pox. He is covered in itchy spots, particularly in regions which spend the most time covered by clothes or (at night) a nappy, if you get my drift.

Bless him he was quite distressed tonight when I applied calamine lotion after his (not too hot) bath. "It hurts Daddy" he kept saying. He even has a spot on his lip and mouth ulcers to boot. Last night he slept badly and as if that weren't enough he somehow ended up wetting the bed so he needed a complete change of his pyjamas and his bedding at 2.15am.

Tonight he's had Piriton and Calpol before bed, he's wearing cotton pyjamas and has just a cotton sheet and blanket for now. He always gets hot to start with. I'll add a blanket or quilt later. I also offered Bonjela but he said his mouth was OK. He was quite cheery reading his bedtime stories and went straight to sleep.

Meanwhile Lucy doesn't have half as many spots and is relatively untroubled by it all. She can be seen scratching at her chest every now and then but is largely herself. She too has spots in under her nappy but not half as many, nor apparently are they as bothersome as Oliver's.

Already, less than an hour after going to bed, Oliver has woken once and Hayley has re-applied some lotion to where he is scratching. I think it could be a bad night again so I'll sign off.

It's hard to watch them suffer, but at least I know there is an end in sight. It does serve to remind me that there are others who can't say the same. My heart goes out to them.

Oliver inspects the chicken pox spot on the underside of his big toe.