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When you are: 2007

26 December 2007

All aboard...

I was sat here yesterday, on Christmas Day, wondering what I hadn't posted. A topic that had slipped my mind. What was it?

The arrival yesterday of the 10:45 Mallard service from Darton Central didn't remind me, nor did the MIL's tale of Grand Central's maiden voyage from Sunderland to London resulting in a breakdown and no further service (poor sods only have one train). I have no idea why, but there was a train from Plymouth to Edinburgh running yesterday, and it was the sight of that the reminded me. Yes, Junior met Santa the other weekend!

santatrain.jpg
The next train from platform 1
So why all the talk of trains? Because Santa was on a train when we met him.

We've been on a trip with the Scottish Rail Preservation Society before, heading up the West Coast to Mallaig. That was a long day, but worth every minute. So when MOTS thrust the leaflet for the Santa Steam Trains special under my nose my first reaction was "get it booked". With a little negotiation on date and time we were joined by the Gents.

All aboard...

The station was brimming with anticipation, like a Victorian scene of people cramming on the last train from Euston to Glasgow. Assuming Virgin Trains ran back then. Mind you, I'd rather take my chances with a Victorian train than one of Branson's, was it last year or two years ago now that he had a train load of passengers stuck on Christmas Eve? Right, that's going to bug me, so I promise to try and find the answer by the end of this post.

As the previous train pulled in, the happy children (clearly not Railway Children, they were miserable, no?) who had just met Santa were ushered into their road based transport by their parents. All happy. Well, of sorts.

Seats found, boy on the table pressed to the window (true to form on a train) and off we went. Clementines for the kids came through, and as we trundled up the line so did the big fella himself.

Mind the gap...

The jaw dropped. The little guy was in awe of the big guy. The eyes were fixed as Santa passed through the carriage, handing out presents to all the little boys and girls. I have to say little boys and girls because big boys like Genters (and I use "big" in the loosest sense) didn't get a present. Hence the sulking later. Pacified by having two warm mince pies. Hmm, pie.....

Oh, yeah, little guy. Santa reached out to him with his present. The little fella reached out with both hands and gently took his gift. And the big man carried on, all the time with a pair of eyes fixed on him.

Jaw-dropping. Fantastic.

All change...

A sing-song on the way back set the festive mood. And highlighted to me (and Mr G) that we have some serious reading to do, because "Good King Whatshisass" didn't fall out of a window onto red hot cinders, apparently. It seems a giggle at the time to put the "adult" words into songs, but when they become the only words you remember it doesn't help in a family environment like that in which we found ourselves. So, humming quietly, I decided it was time to learn some basics for teaching Junior.

So, back to the station and all change.

The last BR microwave burger

At the station a welcoming cuppa and mince pie was available for the older kids. Pah, keep your books, junior! None of the old fashioned microwave burgers the Great British institution that was British Rail used to serve, but a nice simple warm fare to end the trip on. Jubbly. Jubbly jubbly for those with two pies. Who ate all the pies.......?

Many thanks to the Gs for the company. Apologies for the flying key that almost took out Mr G's left eye (I will try and get Junior to improve his aim for next year!).

Choo-choo.............

=======================

Right, promise fulfilled. I would have said the breakdown was in 2003. Wrong, it was 2001. And here it is, the story on the BBC.

25 December 2007

Mummy's best Christmas Present

Was it the White & Company luxurious bathrobe? Was it the Nintendo DS with More Brain Training? Or was it the Chanel Chance?

No, it was something far cheaper than any of those.

Last weekend the boy laid in bed with us after waking up, spending some time playing hide & seek under the quilt, some time draped over his Dad watching Thomas & Friends, and most notable some time switching between Mummy & Daddy giving kisses. Out of the blue, here he comes with the kisses.

So that week we managed to get a kiss goodbye when dropping him off at nursery. Nothing spectacular, just standing there open mouthed but head tilted back waiting for the smackers.

He has form, as I look back I can see that he does something, waits a little while, then decides he's mastered it. And today, on Christmas Day, he's mastered the art of the kiss. He can pucker up, but looks like a goldfish on steroids. "And does Grandma get one" - nothing. "Does Grandma get a kiss?" - result. We've mastered the word kiss, the blowing of a kiss, and puckering up all as invitations to get a kiss. What a party piece this afternoon.

MOTS was delighted with her most precious of Christmas presents. A kiss from her boy. She was even more delighted with the fact she got the full box set!

Magical.

I hope your Christmas was special too, whether it's the first with a rug-rat in tow, or if you are making the most of the last one without.

06 December 2007

Buy ICI shares

Just a little bit of investment advice. If your pension fund has gone down the tubes thanks to the pillaging it got from Gordon Brown, then here's a sure-fire way to make money:

Buy ICI shares.

Junior has brought the odd piece of artwork home from nursery, with others kept there as part of bigger displays. This week alone he's been painting the reindeer and Santa for the Christmas wall. And he's come home not too covered, as they have aprons, but covered enough.

So we've been thinking about our next purchases. And those are a table and chairs from IKEA, along with a shed load of paper. I know at school we used to get odd ends of newspaper print from the local newspaper, but we have no idea now what the current script is in that arena, so we got a big roll of paper from IKEA for £4. To go with his chair. And table. Only they were out of stock of the table and chairs so we're having to wait for them.

Now, the investment advice. We also got a tub of jumbo Crayola crayons, 24 of the potential decorating wreckers in a tub. We only have one room left to decorate, and I'm sure the boy will help us "redecorate" some others. So prepare for sales of Dulux to go up sharply within the next few months.

This will inevitably lead to a beating of city expectations, a "buy" status placed on the shares, and an increase in share price for the owner of Dulux, Imperial Chemical Industries.

ici.jpg
ICI - a sound investment

As the graphic here shows, the price is set to rocket, so if you want some sound investment advice, BUY now!

28 November 2007

Baby's first...parent's evening

Always one parents will dread is parents evening, will Little Johnny be the disruptive one, or will he turn out to be teacher's pet? Will he be looked upon by other in the same way his parents do? Can he do no wrong in our eyes but be a little git in reality?

So we invented "parents evenings" to find out the truth. Or so it seems.

MOTS headed down to nursery on Monday night to find out the truth. And thankfully there were no great surprises to be had. The key points were:

  • Has a fantastic bond with one member of staff (not a key worker, so not a "I want to be with them all the time" type of bond)
  • As previously discussed, is a bit of a "Houdini", as he bolts for the open doors
  • Will play quite happily with other kids
  • Has one toy he's fond of and can get a little possessive. Unfortunately there's a little girl in on Tuesdays who like the same toy, so has to be managed
  • We now know why he's not very hungry on an evening, his lunch portions are huge
  • He's not missing his afternoon bottle, which he hasn't had for ages now. Some others are still on 4 bottles a day, he's on the 2. Has missed them when he's been off colour though, especially when the other babies get their afternoon bottle.
  • Has a "profile". I though "profiles" were something the CIA drew up on their most wanted, or that shrinks created in the hunt for crazed klillers. Either way, proud of the boy for his aspirations.
  • Oh, his profile. Contains the phrase "attention seeker". He does this by taking a sock off, giving it to a member of staff, then running away so they have to chase him to put it back on.

I'm sure I missed something in translation, I hope MOTS will get round to filling in the blanks.


26 November 2007

What goes up...

Gravity? Milk? Nah, can't be milk, in the early days that's a case of what goes down must come back up.

So what's our latest worry?

Stairs. "But you've been worried about the boy climbing stairs for a while" I hear you cry.

True.

He has been climbing for a while. Even did it on his own one night last week, MOTS was making tea, I was reading the paper (headlines only, don't get time to read the small print), had the back turned for a minute or so, heard a little voice, and he was at the top of the steps stood in the open gate looking back down and shouting to be picked up. He now scales the stairs unaided. UNAIDED. More folicals disappear never to be seen again. I can't afford them. I have very few left. I need to look after the ones I have still got.

The gate at the top is a pressure gate, not a screw-in, so it has the bar across the floor. I don't like the bar, but I prefer the pressure gates so that's what we have. It also gives the boy something to treat as a line which should not be crossed without being picked up, which works quite well.

Until yesterday.

5 minutes from London City Airport, the pilot comes on - "We are now starting our descent". Well, that pilot was boy wonder yesterday. He began his descent, and once he'd started didn't stop until the engines were stopped and the seatbelt signs turned off.

So, what goes up, must come down. Super fresco didn't make it easier, he's not Graham or Brown.

20 November 2007

Trust HM Government with your kids?

Well if anyone wants their bank details out in the open, please leave them in a comment here. Alternatively, have kids, claim Child Benefit, and let HM R&C lose them for you.

This country is run by Waldorf and Statler!

11 November 2007

MT4 beta gone, long live 4.01?

I've upgraded MT from 4 (beta) to 4.01 (full release) and hit upon a problem with dynamic publishing. This will mean the "last 10 comments" section in the right hand side there will show "last 10 comments since the main page was last rebuilt".

Handy.

Anyway, hopefully will be back up and running with dynamic publishing soon, if not I'll just have to keep on rebuilding regularly.

09 November 2007

A Wee Cough

With apologies to any Scot with a tickly throught, we've had a week off work this week. As it was a break from the norm, what did we get up to?

The starter for 10: Fireworks. Saturday night was the local fireworks display, so we headed down to watch that' That offically became his first "second" event, ie the second time he's been to something. Well, not really, he's been swimming numerous times, been to dozens of gala dinners... but it's a notable annual event that tells us he's getting on in years now.

Sunday. We made like a Canadian goose and decided to head south for the winter. A few visits were had, firstly to Granny's, then to the Stevensons (all 2.4 of them), then for an overnighter. That was fun, a bit of an experience, aprehenssion all round. We slept as a family in the same room on holiday but back then we let boy wonder get off to sleep on his own, with us retiring later. This was a hotel job, so we were in the room he was going to sleep in. After throwing his puppy out of his travel cot a couple of times (thanks for the loan, Nic) he soon settled. Maybe it was the day's excitment. Maybe it was the comfort of the travel cot. Maybe it was the full bottle he'd just had. Nah, it was Mummy & Daddy watching Jeremy & Co take 3 old bangers across the African plains that did it. He nodded off just as The Stig's African cousin took the wheel of Clarkson's Lancia and thrashed Sunday-drove it around a makeshift time trial.

Monday. Start the day on a full stomach. Or an eyeful, whatever. Yes, she was blonde, and caught his eye whenever she walked past. That poor waitress. She was certainly under 30, because as JJ would say she hadn't been beaten with the ugly stick, as apparently it is in those parts. A surprise visit to Grandma & Grandad's saw a surprise power cut, so no welcoming cuppa. Thankfully the power was on at the local retail mecca, Metrohell, so we wandered down for a spot of Christmas ideas. Can I just say that this year M&S completely suck. MOTS has asked for a new robe, and the ones thay have (did check Metrohell (big store) against our local one (not as big) and they are utter shite. Just the sort of thing you expect some old dear to wear in hospital. With matching slippers. Oh well, plan B then.

Tuesday. Into the big city for a spot of lunch. Having to contend with the Bankers out for lunch (why does my spell checker refuse to accept a w as a valid character?) wasn't easy. We were in a different time zone. We were "relaxed". Well, it was the most stressfull "relaxing" lunch I've ever had. No longer is boy wonder content with sitting playing after he's finished, he wants down and away. Which doesn't really sit well with being out somewhere. So that's our lunches out shafted for a little while, at least until this phase passes. Or we grab them on a school day when he's in nursery.

Oh, the exciting part - Daddy rang the three 9s. Walking down the main street there was a bin on fire. The bins in Edinburgh have tops on them, so you stub your fag out on the top, then put it (and any other waste) in through the sides. Someone obviously hadn't bothered with the top bit, or not completely anyway, as the flames were licking the underside of the top. With fud after fud walking past, some right up to the bin to deposit more combustables, I did the honourable thing. Walked past and left it. But nobody else is doing anything. What if there's something nasty in there? What if the plastic starts melting? What if a kid goes to put somethi.... 999. We knew exactly how far they had to go to get to the fire as we used to live not far from the station. Even with that, call to extinguished was 5 minutes. Not bad. I was worried that after the call was made the flames died back, started smoking, then nothing. I thought my mobile number would be blacklisted from thereonin. But, as the first firefighter approached the bin, the flames licked the lid again. Never before I have been happy to see flames in a public place like that!

Wednesday - Deep Sea World. Over in North Queensferry is Deep Sea World, home to one of the longest underwater observation tunnels in the world. Well we'd been before as a couple, and made this our first family visit there. We dropped lucky, the sharks were due a feed (twice a week there, sometimes once a month in the wild - fed more often there to stop them eating their aquatic neighbours!). Unfortunately, the girls weren't nugry in any rush to get to the divers, and the old boy just wasn't hungry. Which meant boy wonder's tiredness cut short any chance of seeing the feeding. But it wasn't a disaster of any description. Every tank, the rock pools, the seal sanctuary, all a big big hit. The tunnel itself got a good trekking, or five. We can safely say he likes aquatic animals as well as the land based ones.

Thursday & Friday - Thursday saw Daddy heading to IKEA on his own to pick up some shelves, so a nice relaxing coffee lead to another before diong battle with the check-outs. And with Family card members getting free coffee Mon-Fri even better! I was gutted at spending £1.25 on a croissant only to then see a full English for 95p. Bollocks. Total and utter bollocks. No wonder I was the only much going continental.

It's now Friday night and back to a normal weekend. I guess it'll be park & cafe tomorrow, followed by swimming on Sunday.

Nothing like a bit of regular hum-drum to round off a great week.

Baby's first...second things

We're onto the first lot of Baby's second... This is a frightening thought, especially as we head rapidly towards his second Christmas.

There are others out there - the G's approaching their first Christmas (they got a lot more notice of this event than we did), and many other bumps out there that we know and love won't make it in time, or only just in time, this year.

His real, and I guess only "first... second" would have to be the fireworks. He had a late night pass especially for them. Last year he was only a couple of months old, in a Baby Bjorn strapped to his mother's chest, all fully wrapped in her fleece, and slept through the whole thing.

This year, he was wide awake. Oh yes, he was wide awake. The countdown... 5...4...3...2...1 ...0

As the floodlights went out he was watching the other kids with their glowsticks. The whoosh of the first big opening firework going up did nothing for him. The huge bang as it burned in ball of multiple colours - that got a reaction. His reaction was absolutely amazing. Really fantastic. He just lifted his head slowly towards the sky, looked up for a second or two, then looked back down at the glowsticks. A total non-event.

By the third big bang he realised there was actually somthing going on up there worth watching, so sat on my shoulders quite happily. Still keeping one eye on those glowsticks, he did enjoy the rest of the display. The finale came, he bounced up and down on my now tiring shoulders, and clapped when everyone else did. I am sure that last loud bang was my shoulder popping from it's socket as he jumped at what was a througoughly enjoyable night.

So there we have it, Baby's first... second thing. It's all just a numbers game from here, I'm sure of it. Must get him watching Countdown...

And now that we have officially declared his first second to be fireworks, he can't have another first second. Which rules Christams out in this category. I hope I can wipe it out of every category. Bah humbug!

25 October 2007

Drought of new posts, drought of new pictures too

And for those with access to the album, there's a heap of new pictures up since his birthday. There's an issue my host is looking at whereby any address drops the www part and reloads the page, so you may be asked twice for your password - don't worry, you didn't type it wrong.

** NOW OVER TWO PAGES ON THE MAIN INDEX **
There are 3 categories of newer pictures on page 2, so please look there as well. At this rate I'll need to increase my hosting package with the space he's going to take up!

A drought of new posts

I apologise for the drought of new posts over the last few weeks, it's been a little busy around these parts. What with chasing after Forest Gump here ("run, Forest, run") and dealing with the worst nappies I've ever seen in my puff (for 3 weeks) and having the winter vomiting virus spread through the house (and guests), the blog has suffered a little.

Which is a shame because we've had some really memorable moments.

First off, the walking. Looking back on the blog the last couple of posts were set around the time he'd taken his first real steps, that I missed despite being in the room (I'm not bitter about it, honest), so we've seen some real advances here. It wasn't long at all between those first drunken like steps to full on running. The rate of development was astonishing, one minute he's just balancing, the next he's walking with purpose, the next he's off at a hundred miles an hour, taking corners better than Lewis Hamilton.

Steps are so passe. We don't climb those any more, we walk up them. The only thing is the legs are a bit too short at the moment, so he needs a little help from Mummy or Daddy for balance, but we only use feet to climb stairs now, not knees. Unles we're not there then knees will just have to be suffered because the climb is much more important than the method!

Words. A more recent event - there's a definite "Daddy" in there along with a certain "Mamma". And a noise tonight that was almost perfectly n tune with the Hollyoaks theme tune.

A short post for a lot of goings-on, hopefully now we're past the busy and traumatic periods there will be more regular updates!

09 September 2007

Blog outage

The blog database is giving me problems at the moment, some posts are "lost", but accessible from the archives. Hang in there while I fix it.

17:40 - Fixed, all should be OK again. Due to database issues with beta version of MT.

07 September 2007

Holestone Moor Barns

We had our first family holiday at Holestone Moor Barns, with the Bowes family kindly coming along to help keep us on the straight and narrow.

So where did we go, and how was it? Was it suitable for us? With two young children in tow? And one of those just on his feet?

I can't remember how we got the Premier Cottages leaflet, it was probably one of MOTS' random leaflet collecting moments. She does insist on pillaging the earth's paper resources, and it does break the backs of our paper recycling collectors. But this one leaflet came up trumps.

A quick shufty on the website, and through the full brochure we'd sent for, and we stumbled across Holestone Moor Barns fairly early on. It was immediately ruled out. The big money picture just screamed out, it looked excellent. With the double-height lounge, massive gable end with open ceiling, it just said "too expensive for us". So we looked elsewhere.

After looking at a couple of alternatives, with disappointment and realisation that young kids aren't really catered for, we came back to Holestone Moor again, it just seemed to pop open on that page on the brochure. Possibly due to the previous thumbing it got. What the hell, let's give it a shot. MOTS got the availability and prices, and we were a little more relaxed about that "expensive" shot. After agreeing dates with the Bowes, the booking was made quite a way in advance. Which sort of made the BBQ for Junior's birthday date specific, had to be the weekend before as we would be on the road the weekend after.

Now the one thing that really surprised me was hearing from Vicki, the owner, that she gets phone calls from parents such as us asking about the floors, and them taking the answer as a reason not to book. Well, their loss is all I can say, which means more chance of availability for us, this year and next. For our "only just on his feet" 1 year old, and the Bowes "grease lightning" two and a half year old, the beautiful stone floors never caused a moments worry.

The family angle on the place:
Our cottage was The Stables, the 2-bed smaller of the two. And no, not the one with the big money shot gable end double height lounge with fantastic stone detailing above the fireplace. There was room enough for the travel cot (thanks for loan from Vicki & Steve) and an inflatable bed, which caught Vicki's eye as a possible future option (one thing we learned quickly is there's constant change and tinkering going on). What really struck us was the child-proofing we had to do. Nothing. There was a big glass vase in one full height window that Junior took a liking to, but with a distant eye cast over in that direction it was never an issue. The baskets on the hearth full of logs for the wood stove saw some action - our little monster dropping the toys of the Bowes' little monster in among the logs. And that was it, we only moved a table lamp onto a windowsill, the rest was just needing nothing more than a watchful eye.

barn_lounge_small.jpg
The big money shot:
The lounge in the Barn
Steve & Vicki pride themselves on their welcome, and the welcome we got was one to be proud of. It didn't just last the short time it took to show us round, but through the whole week. From the loan of a safety gate (handy for keeping them out as well as in), the massive fruit basket for us, the BBQ equipment (everything except food and drink - everything), big information file, the list goes on. Even with grouchy kids Vicki was there to let us into "Chickenopolis" to feed the chucks. And that was the one regret - the order of eggs from Tesco. Won't be making that faux pas next year. Vivki, if you read this, half a dozen eggs for arrival, please!

And that was the start of it. The facilities on site were fantastic. With a grassed area with picnic tables and a climbing frame, a games room with table football, pool, ping pong and a couple of TVs for good measure, the upstairs play room for the smaller children well stocked with toys, the pond, "Chickenopolis", the meadow, the woodland (with sunhouse in the middle), space for running about was certainly not missing. The only thing we never used was the fridge in the games room. We should have declared that the "beer fridge" for the boys.

The larger Barn, the one with the double height gable open ceiling big bay window huge money shot picture, has 5 bedrooms, all beautifully decorated to individual themes. With a double, 2 twins and 2 triples to sleep 12 this cries out for big families or groups of families and friends. We got a cheeky look around as it wasn't let the week we were there (ie we had all the facilities exclusively), and the whole bay window big money shot really does do the place justice. If only we had enough friends, we'd be in the barn like a shot.

hmbarns_wide.jpg
Not recommended. Not until my booking's made at least.

In terms of location we couldn't have been better. Right on the edge of the Peak District National Park, with so much close by we never ventured more than 30 minutes away to get to anything. Of course, if shopping in major retailers cloned shops is your thing, Meadowhall at Sheffield isn't far off. But then you may as well stay in Manchester and go to the Trafford Centre. Or Bluewater in London. Or just go into Leeds city centre. I'm no fan of going away and going to big chain shops you have at home, what's the point? So this little bit of rural England is a great escape. Oh, and how dark at night?

OK, bottom line: Would we recommend it?

No, certainly not. Because we want to ensure availability when we come to book again (for 2009 that is, 2008's booking is already confirmed). So stay away from the place. Please....

Many thanks again to Steve & Vicki for truly 5* hopitality. It's easy to see the hard work that's been put into the place to get and keep that English Tourist Board's 5* rating. I am thrilled as I type to read the news on their website posted today about their last tourist board assessment.

Website: www.hmbarns.co.uk

rattle.jpgSilver Rattle: For a place to have a holiday






==============================

Inspired by our stay, there's been a minor change to the site tonight. The new Alder's Tone banner:

crich-large.jpg
A view from Crich Tramway Museum, taken with 7 pictures, stitched and cropped.

Baby's first...Holiday

The first family holiday has been booked for quite a while, and we'd invited the Bowes along for good measure, sanity, and a sneak peek into the life and times of a two-and-a-half year old. So what did we get up to, and more importantly did the little 'un enjoy it?

First holiday, first night away from home, first steps just before going, first time leaving the house without enough food packed to see us through 'til we get home. Surely it was a disaster?

The morning start wasn't particularly early as we couldn't get the cottage until 4ish, which wasn't a problem at all. What was more of a problem was my set of dangerously under-inflated tyres and one almost bald rear tyre. Thankfully, down to LOCAL traders, we got a new tyre first thing on Saturday morning to set us on our way. Oh, and the other three pumped up a touch too.

We tried to take a decent road to Newcastle, but ended up on a farm track behind caravan after caravan after caravan after tractor after caravan. I'm with Hammond on this one, Tina Turner and her Bunsen Burner rules!!

A stop for lunch at Junior's request came minutes away from Scotch Corner services, so in we went. We have used Little Chef before through choice, but this was absolutely bloody awful. The food was not pleasant at all, presentation points nil, no taste, dirty place, poor service, and Dick Turpin prices. Everything the motorway services used to be but are trying to leave behind. Perhaps they should get round to Scotch Corner sometime soon, because it has clearly been forgotten about.

After that the journey improved, with a stop at the Bowes mansion for a cuppa and a snack for Junior. Then the fun started again, with the tyre pressure warning coming on once we hit the M1 again. After a stop and check, it just needed a reset and we were off again, albeit gingerly.

Holestone Moor Barns - as we pulled into the courtyard outside the cottage there were two notable moments.
1) The engine being switched off and me sinking my head into my hands on the wheel
2) The fantastic reception we got from Steve & Vicki, the owners

So far that's Junior's longest journey by car, a trip we would normally have done with no stops. Alas, the days of non-stop travel are well and truly over. At least we don't have the "are we there yet" commentary from the back. That particular joy is yet to come.

The Sunday was a slow start, with a visit to a local farm park. Plenty of animals to see and feed, the baby ferrets being of particular interest to MOTS. Junior preferred the bigger species, from chucks upwards.

Bank Holiday Monday - we left the cottage (were we mad?). Crich is home to the National Tramway Museum, which also had a vintage vehicle day on as an added bonus on the Monday. Junior wasn't too happy on Monday, as we later worked out this was down to the jabs from the previous Friday. The two tram rides brought out the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in him - "ding ding, 'hold tight'" and we're bouncing at the front of the top deck, holding onto the front rail of the tram, happy as Larry. "This stop for ....." and we're at Hyde's stop, screaming, back stiff and arched. "Ding ding, 'hold tight'" and the Doctor's back.

We have a small number of old postcards and like to look through the ones on sale at stalls when we can. We had exactly that opportunity at Crich, mostly of trams funnily enough. There was one that caught the eye of MOTS, here was a real and distinct possibility that the pit pony, and more importantly the chap next to the pit pony, from 1909 was Junior's Great Great Grandfather. A call to Granddad (whose Granddad it would have been) resulted in a "not sure" answer. Do we buy the card? At £60 we'd better be more than "not sure". Anyway, as it turns out, there is doubt remaining to this day. We didn't fork out the £60 on a remote possibility, but wanted to get the contact details from the dealer in case it turned out to be a distinct possibility. He refused to give us anything. No name, no phone number, nothing. To me that means he thinks we could be Inland Revenue, so he's clearly in my mind a suspicious charlatan who doesn't pay his dues to Her Majesty's Treasury. I would like to think it was, and that Junior has seen a picture of so many generations past.

By Tuesday we're still not feeling 100%, still off the food a little. So the visit to Matlock and the Peak Railway went less than smoothly. He did have some of our fish & chips, and did enjoy the steam train. When it was moving of course. Daddy didn't like the climb up the temporary scaffolding steps put in place while a new road bridge is built. Secretly Mr Bowes wasn't struck on the idea of it either, but complained far less than I did.

Wednesday. Good God what a change. Having the most fantastic baker's lunch from Bakewell sat watching the fish in the river, the appetite came back with a vengeance. The cheese & onion pasty wasn't safe, nor the pork & apple or pork & tomato sausage rolls, his sandwiches, the fromage frais, all vanished without a trace. All this while I got the best photo of the week - Mr Bowes and the fruit of his loins walking peacefully along the banks of the river with the medieval bridge in the background, with other people in shot totalling none. Not happy with lunch Junior filled his load even more in the afternoon while we sat having afternoon tea at the Denby pottery. Very civilised, what what.

The best day for Junior was Friday, with a visit to the seaside resort of Matlock Bath. They have fish & chips in abundance, rock, amusements, promenade walks, illuminations, cable cars, everything a seaside town should have. Except the sea. Built up from the spa which provides water at a steady rate of 19 degrees Celsius, this is an inland Blackpool. Without the chavs. The aquarium caught Junior's attention the most. He was fascinated by all the fish, large and small. We think we have found his calling in life - he loves our cats, he loved Steve & Vicki's cat, the farm, the fish. That's it, we're having to save up now because vets courses are not the cheapest.

Just one little accident through the week, as he's now walking (yes walking) he mis-judged the distance to a chair and went down like a sack of spuds, getting a big egg on his forehead where he clashed with the bar across the chair. Not that he was bothered by it, and it was gone without trace by morning.

Totally uneventful trip home (apart from the rant coming up) with Junior getting bored 10 minutes from home. That's what I call a result! Right, the rant. Caravans. Why? For the bulk of the year they are static. This is no good for the tyres. They get hard, the pressure on them in one place leaves the bulge on one side of the tyre weaker, and liable to crack. And when the idiot at the wheel gets that tyre nice and warm on the motorway BANG - it's all over the carriageway. Sure enough we passed one on the M1 with bits of steel and rubber strewn all over. Rent a cottage instead, it's much more civilised. Or buy a static caravan. Tax them to pay for the policing and clean-up of the blow-outs, to offset the extra fuel the 30-mile tailback (I think ours was more like 80 on the way down) is burning. Tax them hard. For the love of God, ban the caravan.

Many thanks again for the input from the Bowes, it certainly would not have been the same had we been on our own.

Time off work? Let me get back for a break, please.

It's been a funny old couple of weeks, what with being off work but actually going back for a rest. There's been lots going on, and no doubt I'll lose plenty along the way, but here we go anyway. First up, the unique horror that was the first birthday party.

That's already been covered in this post. But worth bringing up again just to realise the horror is over. Until next year. Hmm, who mentioned 2nd birthday party? Not me, that's fur SURE..

Second up, the aftermath. I've not dared to venture into the dining room since, the standard "let it dry and it'll hoover" approach to mud on the carpet didn't work, so it's cleaning time. Minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. With Junior being less than 3 months into his attendance at nursery he wasn't allowed reduction in fees to be off until, coincidentally, his birthday. That gave us 2 days of paying full fees while off work. The solution? We need to clear up and get ready to go on holiday, so he may as well be in. OK, for those who know and love (some do) the Yorkshireman in me "we're paying for it, we may as well get it". Arrived late, picked up early, but still gave us some time to ourselves to get the house sorted.

Then the big day comes. Birthday boy! MOTS had this romantic notion about taking him to the beach on his birthday, but alas it was the typical 2007 summer's day and quite wet. What did we do instead? Take him to Clarks to buy his first set of shoes. Some birthday! Not quite that bad, we did mark the moment at 10:52 in the park on the swings, MOTS having just made it back in time from having her hair done. Then we went to Clarks. As it brightened up later we did make it to the beach after all, with MOTS getting some nice photos, one of which was akin to a children's catalogue. Hat by Boots, dungarees by JoJo Maman Bebe, toys by ELC.

Thursday - Anstruther. With the Gents off work we headed in convoy to get the UK's best fish and chips (no longer Scotland's, apparently). Marked by the neds revving up and down in their "unmodified" Corsas, Pug 107s and Puntos ("unmodified" when it comes to insurance quotes, of course), a lovely lunch sat burning happily in what was the one day of the Scottish summer this year. I was very disappointed in them, not getting a full portion. My only complaint being that my son nicked some of my fish, and with it some chips. I never signed up to sharing my fish and chips when we decided to have kids. I don't see that one in the contract at all. Thursday and Friday saw some big build up to a major event going on, not really quite sure what it was, but we didn't see the lad for dust once he was up on his feet and away. Fantastic timing, we just buy his cruiser shoes and the little git decides "nah, don't like that, I'm offski".

We managed a few feet across the carpet, stopped only by the change in height of the floor where his playmat sits on the rug. Thwarted by a bit of rug and a half inch of foam!

As it's jabs time again, ie third MenC at 12 months, we had an appointment through for his birthday. We couldn't do that to the poor lad, so rearranged it for the Friday. He was really good with the last jabs, so we thought he'd be fine with these too. As it turned out we were right, he was smiling again before leaving the surgery. Calpol? No thanks... The only side-effect being, as before, he was off his food a bit 3/4 days later but when his appetite came back, boy did it come back.

Next stop South Yorkshire...

22 August 2007

Happy birthday son!

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Birthday? Already? Blimey...

A long time ago in a hospital far far away...

A year. A whole year. I can hardly believe it. But it's here, the boy's first birthday.

Happy birthday, son!

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21 August 2007

The unique horror that was the first birthday party

In The Unique Horror post about the forthcoming birthday party we discussed the options for the MO for the day. Now it's over and done with what was it really like?

Never again. Never ever again.

Some folk are really natural hosts, and we don't fit into that category. So when we had a house more full than it's ever been before it's difficult to keep track of where everyone is, how full the glasses are (even with open invitations to the beer fridge), we're just not cut out for it. Which I guess is why I found my space and hung onto it. The fact it was in front of the grill and I had an endless supply of food and beer coming helped.

I only saw my boy a couple of times, so it looks like my two-step plan for the day was exactly how it happened. Fantastic!!

The lad did really well too, I never heard any reports of him crying, even when he missed a meal (sort of deliberate), went for a nap, went to bed to leave the die-hards going.

The last year has been something special, and I'm so pleased so many made it down (or up) to help celebrate the day with us. More importantly those who shared the day with the boy, we were just there to supply food and drink, and we knew it!

Since Saturday I've been looking back at 52 weekends ago, and realising just how surreal everything was. Wandering through the corridors of the hospital to stretch the legs, to get food, to generally pass time. I remember the feelings of loneliness down there when I wasn't upstairs in the delivery suite, knowing everyone looking after MOTS was over in that part of the hospital. The strangest feeling of it was the fact a process had started, and it wasn't going to stop, that this was it, we were about to become parents, whatever that entailed. And we weren't ready for it. And that we had zero control over what was happening now.

We both got sleep that Monday night, not a great deal but we got some. That was in between the check-ups which were several hours apart. "Next exam in 4 hours". The first hour always dragged, but then the last couple of hours seemed to fly by. Just as doing nothing is really tiring, waiting can be so quick too. With several hours between exams one should have had plenty of time to read that article on some mundane rubbish in that lads toys magazine I'd got, but for some reason time was up and I hadn't looked at it - I hadn't had time. HADN'T HAD TIME? What????

With Richard finally getting me to start my own blog not long before the birth it naturally became centred on boy wonder. Which in hindsight has been fantastic, this has settled a number of differences on when things have happened because I know they are in here. OK, so sometimes not in my favour exactly, but sometimes it is. So the lad will have Richard to thank later when he can't get at any of this because MySQL has long since been replaced with some incompatible rubbish that has more security holes in it than a copy of Windows.

We've had an enormous amount of support this year from those around us, which has been fantastic, and for which we're very grateful. Right from the best bacon sandwich I've ever had to the wholesale moving of the Jeffrey's house into ours bit by bit. Yes, Ali, your BBQ will be cleaned before I ring you to come and collect it! 2 burner plus side ring gas BBQ in B&Q at £40 just now. Hmm, time to say goodby to charcoal I think.

But the real stars of the show are my family. I could never thank MOTS enough for what she went through and does for that lad, because whatever she's doing he's happy and that makes me proud. Every time he come to me though choice it melts another piece of my heart away. I can only be thankful I am not the polar ice cap otherwise that whole global warming thing and ice melting, well there'd be no polar bears left (beautiful creatures they are).

So in party terms, that was a success I feel. A little food left over, booze down to an almost acceptable level, nothing expensive broken. But never again, that was too many. The half-dozen left huddling under the gazebo (R.I.P.) in the rain but too drunk to care was a nice quiet end to a busy day. When I say quiet... "Who let the dogs out???".

The aftermath of the party has clearly given me time to reflect on the past year, and here on the eve of his birthday that's a really nice time to do it. It's just the three of us tomorrow, which will be really nice. Even his latest jabs which were scheduled for tomorrow have been re-arranged, so it's up to us what we do, where we go, who we see. The three of us.

The three of us.

Baby's first...[list in here]

We've got a whole heap of firsts coming up this next couple of weeks, hopefully the walking will be one of them. Now we're getting more and more steady on our feet the boy has decided to be adventerous and started jumping too. And without the aid of holding onto furniture!

As he's not in nursery now for almost a fortnight we're expecting him to go back walking, they did comment tonight that he was so desperate to get on the move and that he really was standing on his own a lot today. So it's not just our wishful thinking then!

Hopefully plenty to report on soon. I'll let him get his birthday out of the way first!

17 August 2007

Knowing your place in the pecking order

Why is the man of the household referred to as the "head of the family"? OK, that's a little old fashioned, but there is compelling evidence that this is history.

The evidence in our house was presented to me on Tuesday night. Not only did it suggest I wasn't on the top spot, not that I ever thought I was, but explicitly stated I was right at the bottom of the rankings I never knew existed.

How to make a short story long:-

Coming home on Tuesday night, having left the office in fine weather (fine for this summer, that's for sure) we came through some low-lying cloud and into what had been some heavy rain. Heading to the nursery it was light drizzle, but had clealry been heavy earlier on, with the amount of water on the roads. Oh great, we've missed it.

Pulling up onto the drive, the timing was perfectly bad. Just as the car came to a halt the heavy rain returned. We decided to wait a minute or two to see how it panned out, but realising it was set for a while I did something that most who know me will be shocked by. I offered to be a gentleman and run to the house to grab a brolly to hold so my wife could get out of the car half dry. The fact I did it for my boy was neither here nor there.

With the decision to bolt for it made I opened the car door. An certain amount of water had collected by the door seal which suddenly found itself liberated from its gravity-blocked state and did the inevitable. It fell straight down onto the arm that was being used to push the door open. My arm.

An expletive suitable to the situation rang out as the door was firmly closed again. The next sound was the sound of humility. The boy was sat in the back giggling at his Dad's misfortune.

Was I anything but proud of this? Oh no. The giggling is infectious. The pair of us up front laughed too. This was a "passive" giggle rather than an "active" giggle (active = taking part in some activity, eg funny faces, tickling - passive = being observant but not activley involved in a situation).

Laughing at his Dad's misfortune. There we have it, the put-down. The evidence that I am indeed the bottom of the household, not the head.

06 August 2007

Baby's first...bus arrivals?

You wait all year for a bus then 3 come along at once. Or so the old saying goes.

We have been waiting for the boy to take his first step and, like the preverbial buses, he managed three in one go.

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3 steps
Now this happened yesterday, and I missed it. Not for being at work, not for being out on the beer, but for as simple line of sight problem. The bottom of the bed was in the way!. I can now see a market for a glass-constructed bed frame, never could before. Funny how your view of products change once you become a parent.

He's been building up to it for a while. Sure, we can walk holding onto Mummy or Daddy's fingers, it's just that we choose not to because it's quicker to crawl. Sure, we can use the walker to scoot across the floor, but we choose not to because it's quicker to crawl. But he has been getting steadier on his feet, standing on his own, holding on with one hand, holding on with no hands while he uses one to hit the item of furniture he's stood against. Even this hitting the furniture constitutes using it for balance in my book.

On Saturday he was a livewire on the train, hardly settling at all. Some of this time he was stood on the table pinned up against the glass, whacking it and trying to see if it really was toughened safety glass. But then something strange happened. He stopped hitting the glass. He let go completely. And for a number of seconds hitting double figures he stood, unaided. On a moving train. At high speed. Something even I have difficulty with. At low speed.

On Sunday morning I heard MOTS shouting for me to look at him. He was standing alone again, this time without the added hindrance of hitting the standard track defects at 125mph.

But I was too slow. I missed him standing on his own two feet. I missed his slight imbalance as he lifted one foot and moved it forward. I missed him place this airborne foot on the carpet, realising the other foot was now lagging behind. I missed the rear foot being lifted and brought forward to match the new level of the forward foot, and the misjudged distance meaning the rear foot now becomes the forward foot. I missed the previously forward foot but now the rear foot taking its rightful place as the forward foot. I just caught the sack of potatoes impression he made as he collapsed to the ground.

Damn! His first three steps and I missed them. And I was only 5 feet away and in the same room! But for a bed made of glass...

It's not a major event though, everything he's done so far has been a case of "done that, don't need to do it again". Most developmental stages have started with an initial showing, then a gap, then just getting on with it sometime later (eg rolling over, crawling). So we're expecting the next steps not today, not tomorrow, but when he can be bothered in a few weeks time.

02 August 2007

Unleaded or diesel?

Saw this story on the BBC news site today, and one question rang out:

Too much lead? Surely that should be "any lead".

Switch to diesel, that's my advice.

01 August 2007

If you're happy and you know it

With all the recent excitement (if excitement is the right word) we sort of missed out on the real goings-on this weekend, and that was the next step in learning to copy what mum & dad do.

We've been having raspberry blowing contests for ages, sometimes getting more giggles from MOTS than from Junior. And the start of the "You've got what I want because I want what you've got" type of signs have been there and increasing in frequency. The odd wave goodbye too over the last few weeks.

But now it's all coming together. Waving goodbye is almost always. I say almost always because at nursery there's far more interesting stuff going on other than saying goodbye to us, so he just gets stuck in and forgets us, the wee shite. The welcomes are getting more and more enthusiastic, with me tending to get more of a hello than MOTS. But then as a weekend dad that's no great surprise.

And we're onto the clapping. This came on this weekend, with Grandma and Grandad being there to see the early stages of it and Granny & Grandpops being there to witness the perfecting of the act. No more clapping by slapping one hand on a leg, oh no, we're on the real deal now. This is just the latest in the increasing line-up of things he tries once, betters the second time, and has mastered by attempt 3.

He wasn't clapping at lunchtime yesterday, however. With his sore tooth we decided to give nursery all bottles rather than some solids for him, to save them being really careful. And the report we got this morning is that at lunchtime when the others were getting their bowls and he was getting a bottle he wasn't too chuffed, apparently he wanted his solids. Bless....

29 July 2007

Baby's first...Trip to A&E

It was inevitable. You can't go through life with kids and not rush to A&E at the children's hospital at some stage. We know of trips involving nothing more than a cold, through to raisins stuck up the nose and onto broken bones. Ours, this morning, was for a smashed tooth.

Junior decided to take a bite out of the coffee table this morning. It would normally follow at this point that gravity takes over after a slight slip, and that the top jaw comes smashing down onto the coffee table. But oh no, he's different, he decides to stand up, hitting it from underneath.

The usual bad parenting kicked in, ie no reaction. Until the cries started, which weren't normal. Then the blood started pooring. Then the crying turned to panic and almost hyperventilating. It took all of a split second to realise it was an A&E job.

Thankfully he calmed down pretty quickly, and slept most of the way in. And was all smiles again for the doctor (yes, young, female, blonde). The prognosis for one tooth isn't good, it may be coming out. Only 2 months he's had it and he's obviously fed up with it already. Which means daddy gets his gummy boy back for a while, he he's left with a gap in his teeth from now until all his big teeth are through. Which means we won't be able to mock him for having a gap when he loses his first tooth proper.

On the way home MOTS asked how much the tooth fairy was going to be due him, especially as it was an accidental one. Is it coincidence that the word "dental" is at the end of "accidental"???? Hmm, not sure. I did say it was unscheduled, and as the tooth fairy didn't know it was coming that she hadn't had time to save up for it.

And almost word for word Grandpops said the same, independently, when we got home. Yorkshiremen to the end!

So, dentist here we come...


26 July 2007

Latest pic of the boy

Here's the latest picture of the boy, for those who don't have access to his online album.

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Another climber!
Couldn't resist it. That of course is Sir Chris Bonnington (picture lifted from the BBC with no apparent copyright, hence I left Sir Chris' site alone 'cos that did have explicit instructions not to use them).

As you can guess, with the use of Sir Chris in this post, our own little lad is become something of a climber. Not like the ivy or fuscias or whatever is this year's choice of plant that grows up the side of Grandma & Grandads house,
but stairs it is.

And he masters them well.

From his first try and managing three steps, to his second last night and getting stuck on the corner step (we have a staircase that rises around 4 steps, then turns on itself through a few steps to straighten up again for the final climb). It was this first angled step that baffled him, being deeper at one side and narrow at the other.

Today, however, this was not a problem. He'd obviously slept on the issue and worked it out overnight. Up the first stage, around the turn, and part way up the final ascent before turning round and realising his sherpa (MOTS) was behind him. At this point he gave up, preferring to return to base camp.

The summit is only 2 steps away, son.

17 July 2007

The unique horror that is the first birthday party

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Until we drop
Not my words, but Berkmann's. I've had a look for Marcus tonight but can't find him. DISASTER, my bible has vanished. And there's a couple of newbie dads to be I know out there who could use him. Perhaps I should cut this lending Marcus out crap and just get them to buy their own copies?

Back to the party. It's coming, and I'm really looking forward to it. Here's my 10 step plan to maintaining peace, tranquility and serenity.

  1. Have a beer
  2. Ask if anyone else wants a beer as I'm having another one
  3. Have another beer
  4. Think about a wine, but have a beer instead
  5. Ask if anyone's helping themselves to a beer to get me one too
  6. Have another beer, whilst keeping an eye on the gin
  7. Have another beer
  8. In for a beer, in for a gallon
  9. Wonder why my "special case" of beer is almost half empty. Think what the hell and have another beer
  10. Realise I'm past the point of no more gin, and settle for another beer

Or failing that, my alternative, wet weather plan:

  1. Send out invites (CHECK)
  2. Panic over where to stick everyone if the weather's wet (CHECK, but repeat)
  3. Fear that our usual "invite 6 & feed the 5,000" routine will actuially turn out to be "invite 5,000 & feed 6"
  4. PANIC - the garden needs a lot of love
  5. CHILL - we have 4 weeks left, the grass will need cutting again anyway if I do it now
  6. Wonder if I should book the delivery slot from Tesco for Friday night or Saturday morning
  7. Weigh up whether a birthday cake from Costco will feed 5,000
  8. Draw the conclusion that it'll be alright on the night, so stop worrying
  9. Think quizically about why I'm thinking about his birthday so soon after his birth
  10. Realise there is only a two step plan for the birthday:
    1. To make sure he gets passed around like a parcel and invite everyone to take their turns in wishing him happy birthday with long cuddles, ie free babysitters
    2. Get pissed

Fool-proof plan. It is no coincidence that the summarised two-step plan looks remarkably like the original 10-point plan.

I'm going to love his birthday!

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15 July 2007

Changing a nappy - a guide from birth to one

As we approach baby's first birthday (the invitation's in the post) I'm starting to reflect back at the last year. As I sit here on a pleasant Sunday morning I can smell that all too familiar indicator that a nappy needs to be changed. This paragraph is actually the last one I've written, only because I got the whiff! I'm about to hand over to MOTS so I can get dresssed to go swimming, so perfect timing, lad!

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Get the hang of ...changing
Changing a nappy is the same trauma every time. It doesn't matter how many you change, there's always a drama. It's an ever-changing process, so here's the run-down of the various stages of changing the nappy of a baby from birth to one.`

The stages here are generic, it matters not whether you're on disposables or re-usables

Pre birth:

  1. Buy nappies
  2. Buy nappy storage
  3. Stack nappy storage
  4. Take nappy out to look at
  5. Spend 10 minutes turning nappy around, wondering what to do with it
  6. Ask partner - "What do we do with this?"
  7. Spend another 10 minutes turning nappy around, wondering what to do with it
  8. Ask partner - "What have we done?"
  9. Give up, go to bed.

The first couple of days:

  1. Listen to midwife
  2. Forget what midwife said
  3. Play Russian Roulette with partner over who will get the first dirty one
  4. Think after a day and a half it's going to be you
  5. Know after a day and a half it's going to be you
  6. See the first one - sweet mother of Christ, what is that?
  7. Wonder how cotton balls soaked in water is going to remove that black gluey tar stuff
  8. Reach for baby wipes
  9. Get baby wipes confiscated by midwife
  10. Spend next three days cleaning first deposit
I should point out here that we were lucky when it came to the meconium. MOTS was lounging in bed while I got the nappy change. Had a peek, nothing there, and with the nappy off it starting coming. So I just held Junior's legs up and let it drop onto the nappy, very little to clean up. So, so, so very lucky.

The next few weeks:

  1. Check colour chart to see if baby is getting enough milk
  2. In the new found sleep deprived state you're in, mistakenly spread butter looking substance on toast
  3. Have puking contest with baby

From introduction of solids:

  1. Be thankful the runny buttery stuff is replaced with a smooth paste
  2. Wish you were back to the relatively odourless buttery runny stuff
  3. Wonder how it can get all the way up there
  4. Wish you had a clean babygrow with you

This post says it all for that stage!

From 7 months:

  1. Lie baby flat on changing mat
  2. Remove trousers
  3. Lie baby flat on changing mat
  4. Remove nappy
  5. Lie baby flat on changing mat
  6. Clean up
  7. Lie baby flat on changing mat
  8. Put new nappy on
  9. Lie baby flat on changing mat
  10. Put trousers back on
  11. Lie baby flat on changing mat

From around 10 months:

  1. Lie baby flat on changing mat
  2. Baby stands up
  3. Take trousers off while baby standing - it's easier
  4. Lie baby flat
  5. Start to take nappy off while baby sitting up
  6. Nappy comes off when baby is now on knees facing wall after tangling your arms around his legs
  7. Hope that squelch you just stuck your hand in came out the top end
  8. Forget Sudocrem - it goes everywhere these days
  9. Sprinkle talc, using bottle as a distraction
  10. Lie baby flat on changing mat, grabbing ankle to lift
  11. Wonder how you ended up with baby's ankles in wrong hand and baby now in "wheelbarrow" position
  12. Put nappy on backwards
  13. Give up with trousers

There's more challenging times ahead, ie when he starts walking, when he can remove hims own nappy and run round in the buff, so I have come to accept this is an ever changing process that is never meant to be mastered.

If you can't master it, errm, what's the second line?

Daddy's first...Trip away from home

I've just had my first trip away from home, so my first night away from Junior. Almost 11 months now, and with MOTS having had hers what seems like ages ago, it was my turn to enjoy a night away.

Apart from I was at work, at the office in the Village.

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Hotel view - better than a full nappy!
Who says you can't mix business with pleasure? The only things you shouldn't mix are possibly (in increasing order of volatility):

  • Beer and wine
  • Petrol and a naked flame
  • Babies and a tidy living room
  • Jordan and Jodie Marsh

It did feel longer than it really was. As I headed to the airport early doors on Wednesday morning I'd missed on breakfast and the morning routine, which MOTS had to do on her own (she practically does anyway). And by the time I got home on Thurdsay night he was in bed, so I never got the welcome home. Until he woke up for his supper, then it was magical - up on his feet stretching out to be lifted from his cot, bouncing like Tigger.

Earlier in the week we'd had a couple of moments. Not because I knew I was going to the Village for a couple of days, just how he was behaving around me. He'd really given me the big love over the weekend and early in the week, especially trying to settle him for bed. He's got this thing for studying my face at the moment, fingers in my mouth, touching my eyes (although the eyeballs hurt when he goes from touching to poking in one fell swoop).

Did I miss him while away? Hell no, several bottle of Becks saw to that one. Once they wore off though, of course I did. Having just gone through the process of falling in love with him all over again when he was studying my face it was going to be strange not having my eyeballs poked, nose picked and bottom jaw tugged on for a couple of days. Nice strange and strange strange at the same time.

25 June 2007

Triple horror bill this weekend

Three events this week that show our little boy is just that, rather than a baby. Every couple of weeks it is the same - "he's really come on in the last couple of weeks". This weekend we had three things showing us yet again that he's growing up. And as these are horrifying, I'll put them against horror films.

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Fear of stairs
Saturday. There's a scene in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle where, walking downstairs into the basement, a hand appears through the open-backed riser and grabs an ankle. So are we talking about stairs? Oh yes. Monkey boy made an attempt at climbing the stairs, with a degree of success. One knee up on the first tread, second knee up and that's our first stair climbed. He clearly was overcome with the lack of oxygen at such an altitude and climbed back down again. Which just goes to show he'll never have the urge to go up Everest or anything.

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Fear of swimming
Sunday. Has to be Jaws. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... the pool we went to had re-opened the previous day after being closed for maintainence. Given this was Monkey boy's first swimming trip MOTS was expecting a grand total of 10 minutes in the pool before the screaming started and everyone started yelling "SHARK". He was more of a Chief Brodie, liking the water so much that after half an hour we was still wanting to be in it. Well, more like the mayor who wanted everyone to stay in the water, but Chief Brodie was a nicer guy so I'd rather he was more like Brodie. The only reason we thought "time to go" was the dorsal fin coming towards us. And the fact Monkey boy was getting tired.

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Fear of bathing
Sunday. A double-bill matinee. With the earlier swimming session an early bath was called for. Now bathtime is something to behold. Hair washed, body washed as quickly as possible, then lie flat on the back for an extended period of leg kicking and serious splashing. Except the last bath the other night, he just wouldn't lie down. He was tired at the time so we thought nothing of it. Until last night, with the same situation again. Lie on my back? No danger. I want to be on my knees, sat, on my belly, twsiting round. Backs are for babies. And with that we realised that our baby was becoming a boy, with his own thoughts and preferences, the end of a bath-time chapter. So, the film? A fear of all things shower and bath? There can be only one screaming in the shower scene.

This post was written and published by Norman Bates.


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Picture sent in by Snoopy, 30 June 2007:
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20 June 2007

I wonder about that boy

I do wonder about that boy of mine sometimes. He shows signs of real intelligence, then follows it up with something really dumb. Tonight's mutterings show both of these in one act.

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Too many blondes? NEVER...
Let's set the scene here. Hollyporn. Need I say more? Quite apt I nicked an image from C4 that is pertinent to the boy's faux pas this evening.

Hollypornoaks has to be one of the most useless bits of television going. It's basically Baywatch in Cheshire. But it works. And I'd challenge any red-blooded male to watch anything else at 6:30. Why 6:30? Because they can. Perfect timing, with dads getting home from work, what's on before the news? Ahh, Hollyoaks. But I'm only watching it to pass the time before the Channel 4 news, honest.

Where do they grown them? Not in Cheshire, that's for sure. I drove through Cheshire once, stopping at a motorway services, and I can guarantee I never saw anything resembling the Hollyoaks babes.

And then there's Jess, the student who has no idea what shoulders are. Shoulders in clothing that is, her own are always exposed. Not even our lass was that "well dressed" at uni. In fact, none of the students were ever that well dressed. Some of them weren't even dressed at all.

It's a fantasy land. Mainly for the sad dads out there. And I know full well I can list a number of male friends who know exactly that's the truth, but "watch it for the drama". As do I. After all, there's the odd murder and attempted murder, so it must be drama, right?

Tonight's episode had a scene with Justin and Warren's younger sister (just in town), Katy. The boy is stood by the TV unit, holding on to the TV base to steady himself. He's been stood there for a while, getting cocky showing off at being able to stand up and stay standing up with no help from his parents but from the odd bit of furniture.

So there he is, a mere 6 inches away from a 37 inch LCD TV with the above scene on it, pretty much that exact image. As you can well imagine Katy must look huge to him. At this, with him looking up, I'm proud that he's showing signs of being a chip off the old block. And then comes the dumb part. He scanned his eyes down the side of the TV. Down past all the buttons. Realising he has a free hand (as he's holding on to the TV unit with just one hand - remember, getting cocky) the aforementioned free hand reaches out, one finger extended. Then the TV goes black. No sound. No larger than life Katy. NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Does he realise there was serious totty-watching to be had, and he just switched it off? He'll learn. Oh, he'll learn.

17 June 2007

Daddy's first...Father's Day

Happy father's day out there to all dads, especially to the first timers like myself, and those not quite there but know they'll be celebrating it next year. For those in the latter category, ie Graham, congratulations!

fathersday.jpg
Happy Father's Day...
It's been the most covered topic of conversation in our house this last week or so, more than Mother's Day was in March. The first half of the year covers most things for us, with my birthday first, MOTS' birthday close behind, then Mother's Day and finally Father's Day.

With my days are at either end of the spectrum it means there's competition to be had. MOTS makes the opening bid with my birthday, to which I get a quick return. Then I can choose to raise when it comes to Mother's Day. But then the final trump can come in June for Father's Day.

As long as I get a card and some quality playtime with my boy then that's all it'll take to make me happy. Anyhting else is just material.

I got an early card on Wednesday. I was putting his nursery report book back in his back when it jammed on something, on inspection it was a hand-made card from nursery in his bag wishing me a Happy Father's Day. It was made by the older kids, written by the staff, and there was a scrawl of pen at the bottom. That's the first thing he's ever written, even we haven't tried him with a pen in his hand for any card signing yet. Totally made my day on Wednesday did that, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat all day.

10 June 2007

Tale of two blinds

Junior's room faces slightly North-West, getting full sun at this time of year from mid afternoon into early evening before the sun drops behind the trees of the local wood. Needless to say it gets a bit warm in there, and very light, which isn't too great for a 9 month old trying to sleep.

So blackouts are the answer?

vw.jpg
Measure twice,
cut once.
We have blackout curtains that sit behind your normal curtains on the same hangings, but these are on a wooden pole sitting some short distance from the wall, so gets light bleeding in around the edges, ALL edges. With the hight of summer approaching, apparently, then this won't be ideal. So what about blackout blinds?

IKEA's blinds, £18.99 for our window size, cut down, installed like a breeze. Why? Because we measured twice and cut once. That was for both the measuring of the gap the aluminium pole had to fit between, and the pole itself before cutting. First attempt at fitting, spot on.

Now, who do I know that had the opposite experience? Hmm...... Measure once, cut too short? Ring any bells? Sorry, Chris, had to be done....

08 June 2007

MT4 beta upgrade coming up

Thanks, Richard, saw on the FOB that there's an MT 4 beta on the go. I'll get this up and running so the blog may be a little unpredictable for a few days while I upgrade and configure and generally get used to it. I'll post a comment when it's complete.

31 May 2007

Haemorrhaging cash

It's a constant process of handing over the plastic, punching in the four digits, and waiting for the bill to arrive. I've become so uninterested in even seeing the bill I have set it up to leave by direct debit. The big things make a huge impact for a short time, but the little things just keep on coming.

There's been no counting of the expense of having Junior, because the return on investment has been fantastic. But looking at it pragmatically I realise I worry about spending in the wrong areas.

How?

Well, another major milestone last week with the arrival of the new car seat. Forward-facing, no less. Is that one of the items in the morphing process that takes place between baby and toddler? If it it then God help us, we're morphing. With the arrival of the car seat brought about new accessories. What? Well, you don't buy a new dress and not get a new handbag do you? What the f**k?? The hanging Pooh bar that Daddy bought the day Junior came home from hospital only suits a rear-facing car seat with a carrying handle. he new seat doesn't, and hasn't. So that's a new toy needed, one that hangs from the back of the front seat that he can play with whilst seated.

£200 for a new seat and we need a new toy to go with it? OK, that one I can see.

What I can't see is the constant shelling out for nappies and food, although he's not on jars (only on home-made solids) so there's a blessing. The rear-facing car seat has cost just shy of £20/month and will be retired. And that is very "ouch". But in the blink of an eye there's probably that in nappies (and accessories) and food (and accessories). So why did I baulk at £200 for a new car seat that should last almost 3 years?

29 May 2007

Baby's first...Steps

What exactly counts as a first step? I have no idea. Is it when one foot goes in front of the other, regardless of external help? Or is it when unaided by parents but steadied by a walker? Or when there's NOTHING else to hang onto? Or when the steps are made after getting off the floor without help too? Too many options.

Help.......!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!??!?!????!?!!!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?

We're past the one foot in front of the other stage while holding on to parental fingers. I'll just keep up to date and hopefully declare a "first step" only when we see fit.

Baby's first...Day in nursery

Monday 21st May saw Junior's first day in nursery. With MOTS' return to work imminent there's some time between the start of nursery and the return to work, just to help the transition.

The first morning was a "getting to know you" type affair, with MOTS there for some of the 3 hours, away, back to pop the head in briefly, and returning later to pick up Junior later. As the session started at 09:00 I expected a call shortly after 09:30.

I forgot to run a book on when the whailing would start. But had I, the money would have been between the two sets of doors at the main entrance, on her way out. I had expected that. It was almost certainty. I would have sold my mother to cover the stake on that bet.

09:38 - Whaa, whaa, sob sob, whaaa sob I'm sob sob, haa-haaa-haaaa-hhaving a sob sob coff-sob-sob-ee. In English, please? Needless to say MOTS wasn't too great at leaving him. OK, important things - where did you start crying? When I put him on the floor in the baby room.

DAMN! Bet lost, my mother's future uncertain. Hang on, I forgot to run the book, so saved from a life of debt. Pheww....

After some recomposition work MOTS popped her head back in around 11 to find Junior fast asleep and unaware of her visit. Collection at 12 and all was well.

Day 2 in the big baby hoose. A 9-to-5 day today. No tears. Great mood. Great mood being Junior's report card for the day that is, not a great mood for MOTS. And the verbal comment? The nursery wishes they could have 12 like him. Guess it went well, then.

Day 3 in the big baby hoose. As we've gone from Tuesday to Tuesday without being in I half expected MOTS to regress a little. But no, she was fine. Probably because Junior was trying to get away to the other kids before his jacket was off, and on collection he was causing a girl to cry because he was leaving. Awwwww, sweet.

So from my perspective how has it been? Last week was strange, not knowing who was looking after my son. I knew where he was, but not who he was with. And that wasn't the greatest feeling I've ever had, but I know MOTS had at least met them so I had to take that leap of faith. Sometime soon I will get to know the staff, with drop-offs and collections coming up once MOTS is actually back at work. Until then I just have to keep busy and not think about it.

19 May 2007

Toys R Us - but safety isnae

So why isnae safety us? Well, on a visit to Toys R Us today an accident happened. And it was their reaction to it that I couldn't get over. Safety is not allowed, apparently. They are not allowed to buy safe equipment because head office say so. That's the honest truth what I was told when I reported an accident. So here's the letter to head office.

Today I visited the Toys R Us store at Fort Kinnaird retail park, Edinburgh, with my son of 8 months and his parental grandmother. The events that followed soon escalated a minor complaint into a major concern.

On the shop floor (last aisle of the store, in front of the pre-school Fisher Price and Bruin branded toys) a member of staff was seeking passage through to the store front pulling a trolley. On this trolley stood, on its end and standing approximately 7 feet high, a child’s slide, both metal frame and plastic slide. On negotiating passage through the customers the slide toppled and fell. Despite the best efforts of his grandmother to stop the slide falling, my son was struck in the face by the falling slide.

I immediately challenged “Andy D.” for not having the slide tethered to the frame of the trolley (which had high handles at either end but no sides). He said “we don’t have any” and after a short retort from me suggesting he should go and get some he carried on to the shop front with his unstable load. "Andy D." apologised for the accident.

My son was unhurt, apart from a small scratch near his left eye. The incident was reported to customer services and an accident report lodged. My report was to be a minor suggestion about work practice. What I was told shocked me to the very core.

“We are not allowed to buy tethers”. “We have no budget to buy stuff like that”. “Head office make the rules”. “You probably think this is a poor excuse”. Only one of those quotes I totally agree with. I was at a loss to hear that the store has no budget to buy safety equipment. Even after being challenged about the safety of his actions a member of staff continued to carry goods in unsafe manner. “Andy D.” struggled getting through the till area, with the slide almost toppling a second time, AFTER being challenged, AFTER being told to get a tether, AFTER my son was struck.

I consider my son lucky, had his pushchair not taken the main impact of the slide as it fell his injury could have been much worse.

We all make mistakes, it’s how we deal with them that matters. In this incident it was the failure of “Andy D.” to seek help after an incident, and the pathetic excuses offered by customer services and a total reluctance to take any responsibility that suggest Toys R Us need to look at safe working practices and increase the priority given to safety.

For the sake of a few pounds for a tether strap for each trolley this is wholly unforgivable. What started as a minor incident has uncovered a wholesale disregard for safety, which I will not let lie.

I would like your views on whether this is a reportable accident under The Reporting of injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995, and I will verify them with the Health and Safety Executive.

Time of accident: ~ 12:10 Saturday 19 May 2007.

10 May 2007

Birth is only the half of it

I'm bordering absessive on dates, half-way markers, % until x sort of thing. which is why, when MOTS truned 27, I gave her constant abuse for being 90% of the way to 30.

So, today marks a major milestone for Junior. The time since his birth is equalled by the time before his birth. He's been with us equally inside and outside the womb, making his date of birth the mid-point of his life.

06 May 2007

Grand Day Out

A truly mixed bag of things going on this Bank Holiday Weekend. All ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, monumentous occassions, and complete and utter disasters. And three awards coming out of it, too. One of the awards has been specially commisssioned and makes its debut.

And like an Oscar acceptance speech, this is a long one...

granddayout.jpg
Cheese, Gromit...
I'll start off with the title, and why it's "Grand Day Out". We had a trip to York scheduled for Saturday (the day after Star Wars day - May the Fourth be with you). We were making the trip by train, so had to think about what we took, and make sure we took enough to last us the day but not too much so as have to carry it round with us.

Thankfully, life is so much easier with the Silver Cross POP, so getting on and off the train and stowage is a non-issue. Mind you, it may have been had we travelled in standard class, it was rammed, but we were "up front" and had plenty of room.

So the day starts off getting the train. No dramas whatsoever, not even for Junior having his feed on the train. He was so well behaved it was unreal, all the way down. Just about the time he should have been looking across the Thirsk valley at the white horse he was sleeping, so missed both that and crossing the border into God's own county.

En-route I ventured into the spacebog to change his nappy. And that was mistake number one. GNER have recently spent a fortune on refurbishing their electric 225 fleet, completely new interiors, wi-fi access and such. Two design flaws though.

  1. Smoking accommodation created, yet smoking banned shortly after (foresight, not)
  2. Baby changing facilities

So what did I find wrong? It's the first time I've changed a nappy on a train, and was far from impressed. The toilet I used was, as described above, a spacebog. A multi-purpose disabled access-come-baby changing room. Only it doesn't work for the latter.

The table is folded out from the wall, short end against the wall leaving the thing pointing out into the middle of the room. It's flat, with no restraints, and only a small ridge of an inch or so running part way down either side to stop Junior rolling over either of the sides. There's nowhere to stick the changing bag, so this was perched on the sink edge, which is in a recess under the mirror. So, back to junior, starting to undress him. Turned to the bag to see it filling with water. The taps are automatic, detect the presence of the hand, or in this case a bag full of dry nappies, and starts to pour. All the disposable bibs we'd got from the Baby Show last week - soaked. 3 nappies - wet. Bag bottom - soaked. While trying to stop Junior rolling around, I had to empty the bag and pour the water out onto the floor (lino floor, drain in one corner, and plenty of towels for me to mop up too). The only saving grace was the nappies were only wet on the outer, the insides were fine so they'd dry out. The bibs were binned.

gateshead.jpgGNER are winners of the brand new "Gateshead Carpark Award for Bad Design". It could be better, there's a huge space for turning wheelchairs with plenty of unused wall space that could house a folding table for baby AND for bags. But oh, no, the thing had to be designed by someone who has never change a nappy in their puff, never mind on a train.

As we got off the train, a number of spotters were on the platform. We waited, and were rewarded with the sight of the "Duchess of Sutherland" hauling a charter service to Scarborough.

Major part of the day coming up. I can't describe just how close I was to going over the edge on this one. It was so special. It was emotional. It was Junior's first touch of Yorkshire soil. After finding the perfect patch, in the gardens at the side of the Minster, off came the socks and with a blaze of hallelujahs did those feet walk in the valley of righteousness. As those tiny bare feet touched the land of his father for the first time the spot had to be right. To capture the moment properly it had to be unmistakably Yorkshire. A photo with just him and grass could have been anywhere, but the Minster is just the ultimate accolade to Yorkshire. That’ll do then.

Lunch. MOTS fancied a pizza, so was torn between Pizza Express and Zizzi. Zizzi won the day, being a bit more open, less crammed in, and quite child-friendly. We were offered help up the few steps in, offered and brought a high chair (from the big stack of high chairs), and general made to feel welcome as a family. It was not all it seemed, however.

fullnappy.jpgWe ordered drinks, and a ciabatta while we waited for the mains. We had timed it just right, as our mains were coming out Junior was getting hungry. So in this child-friendly restaurant I asked for his frozen home-made veggies to go in the microwave for 1 minute. And then it kicked off. Company policy, no way. “Contamination” being the excuse. Worried, of course, about being sued, and openly admitted that. After returning to the table and discussing with MOTS, I returned to the manager who greeted me rather, shall we say unfriendly - “Do you have a problem with what I’ve just said”. Well actually, yes. Here’s my name and address, if you want to follow up and chase me for the money please do so. After a brief discussion about if it wasn’t safe to zap Junior’s food how could I be certain it was OK for mine, etc etc, we left, with only a few mouthfuls of lunch eaten.

The best of it? The bowl Junior’s food was in had a water-tight lid. And the manager tried to say he had a family to look after and didn’t want the sack. And that I wouldn’t find a restaurant in York that would microwave the food. I saw that as a challenge to prove that the whole city wasn't unhelpful in their attitudes towards feeding babies. So we set off to see if the Yorkshire spirit was still out there.

rattle.jpgOrgasmic, overlooking the Ouse, is a café-bar that we have been in many a time before on visits to York. We headed in there, still quite amazed at Zizzi’s false show at being child-friendly. The first member of staff we saw was hit with the question “will you nuke baby food”. And the response? “If you are happy for us to do that, then we’re more than happy to do it for you”. With that, MOTS was almost euphoric. The member of staff in question was amazed at Zizzi’s response. We ended up with pizza (second order of the day), a couple of drinks each, excellent service, and that boy of ours getting smiles and funny faces from the wonderful waitress who’d saved our day every time she passed. After lunch Junior was getting tired, and with the hustle and bustle inside we moved outside, looking out over the river (it was quiet at the time but got busier later when the sun came out). It's a perfect location. If memory servers me right, it was in Orgasmic a while back that we picked up a card for pole dancing lessons...

In comparison the rest of the afternoon was uneventful. On the return journey home I had to do another nappy run. And GNER win the second “Gateshead Carpark Award”. Two in one day, well done! We were on a HST (aka Intercity 125 High Speed Train, the 30-odd year old diesel boneshakers) on the way home, so small toilet spaces. But the changing station was much better, bigger surface, in the corner, and a single strap for restraint. It folded down from the wall to an approximate angle of “far from flat”. Why? As it folded down it got caught on the toilet roll dispenser which had been attached to the wall just a few centimetres too high. The toilet in the next vestibule was fine, however.

The awards winners are:
GNER - The Gateshead Carpark Award for Bad Design. Twice
Zizzi - The Shitty Nappy Award for being child-friendly but not
Orgasmic - The Silver Rattle for saving the day, and for making the challenge set by the manager at Zizzi so easy

04 May 2007

Baby's first...tooth (2)

Teeth are like buses. You wait ages and ages for one and then two come along at once.

Number two through today.

03 May 2007

Baby's first...tooth

It's been while coming, given the date of the first post on the warning signs of the first tooth, but it's finally here.

So what has the journey been like so far?

poltergeist.jpg
They're here....
Well, looking back at the previous post on the subject, it has been a long and drawn out process. 6 months of signs, the bulk of those 6 months were rather uneventful in the teething respect.

Bumps and ridges have formed over time, nothing quick, just slow growth. Until this last couple of weeks, which have given us rather dramatic and rapid change.

I would have put good money on one of the top teeth coming out first. Last weekend there was a marked change in the appearance of his top gum. No longer was it a little rise, but two super-stretched pieces of plastic looking blistered bits of gum. But, this weekend the rank outsider, just like at the final turn at the Grand National, came from out of nowhere and made a race of it, taking it all the way to the photo finish. There was HUGE change in the bottom gum over the last 2 days. Two days.

MOTS had a false alarm earlier this week gievn the rapid change. But there was no mistaking this morning's appearance from the bottom gum, a shiny white enamel tooth. His bottom middle left tooth is out, showing off to the world. And it looks like the next three will be close behind.

gnasher.jpg
Gnashers
It's not the only development we've seen this last 10 days or so. Far from it.

  • Mobility
  • No longer do we get the odd roll here and there, sometime a double-roll. Oh no, now it's the crocodile death roll. When added to the new-found ability to push backwards, get up onto knees (albeit with face buried in the carpet) any form of movement is just about possible.
  • Dexterity
  • He's not getting any Mr Men stories just lately. I have tried to pick them back up again this week, but he just wants to play with the book and won't let me read it. The process is the same, hold in right hand, grab with left hand, let go with right hand, turn through 180 degrees (top away from, bottom towards himself), grab with right hand, and repeat. And repeat, until daddy starts to think he'll be cack-handed like his mother.
  • Awareness
  • He's much more aware of objects around him, and they if they are not bolted down then they are fair game for grabbing. Oh dear lord, it's started... The magic eye for the Sky box is the new favourite toy.
  • Posture
  • While playing with some blocks the other day, I gave Junior at shot with them too. The session we had together was really good, with him sat on the rug. He was really stretching out for the blocks in all directions, and not toppling over. This 15-20 minutes we had is the longest he's gone without toppling, and given the amount of stretching and the multi-directional stretching he was doing I was quite impressed.
  • Speech
  • I was most pleased with speech, and the number of words that are almost legible. After a heavy night on the beer after work last Friday I managed to order my steak pie supper at the chippy on the way home without any issues. Fantastic!

This last 10 days or so has been the biggest change I've seen to date, and not just because of that little tooth. But, it can't all be good, can it?


... he's really going to stay a happy and content baby and that he's going to be the freak that pops his gums overnight with the blink of an eye.

I could, of course, win the lottery this weekend.

That's what I wrote last time about his teething. Well, I can safely say that one out of two aint bad. Sadly, I'm not typing this from a yacht in Marbella, so it's a fair guess that I didn't win the lottery, and that it wasn't really a rough ride cutting the first tooth. He has been a little off his food, not wanting all his bottle, not wanting his supper at all, but not all the time. Disturbed sleep, turning in his sleep, all new things to us all. But, there's not been a great amount of disturbance through the night, usually just a single cry. One night last weekend though, MOTS was up 4 times, the first times in months. And she's been a star taking the nightshifts again as she gets the chance to catch some more zeds after his breakfast (he goes back to bed after breakfast, lucky git).

We have been, and clearly continue to be, so lucky with him.

02 May 2007

Seeing things through different eyes

Last year, with MOTS only a couple of months pregnant, we went to Glasgow's SECC to The Baby Show. This year, with junior around 8 months old and MOTS most certainly not pregnant, we went through again.

And what a difference.

It was amazing to see so many of us last year this year. By that totally unreadable sentence I mean this year we saw so many couples who clearly resembled what we must have looked like last year. They were easily spotted, ranging from the startled rabbit to the I'd rather watch a horror film types.

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Startled rabbits, wise owls

The stuff there was really different, too. There's the usual dross, the expensive photographers who promise everlasting oh-so-kitsch images. There's the innovative "must have to make your life easier" products, the ones why you wonder why they are there given you buy the stuff regardless.

So, what was hot and what was not?

This year it was all "personalised CDs" and stitched blankets. Pick a song list, burn a CD and we'll print a label with the kid's name on it. Or stick the kid's name on a blanket.

The innovative, which we got caught by twice. One was the travel high chair - we already had one, and we amazed the seller as MOTS was the first person she didn't personally know who had one. Sadly, junior didn't get a call-up for a photo-shoot to be the face on their new ads. The other was the cuddly dry robe. Junior has outgrown his hooded towels, this is the big daddy of them all, all natural fibres (bamboo) and really nice.

The fashions, which weren't really for MOTS (not pregnant) or Junior (seen his wardrobe?).

The preying on paranoid parents. Do you really need a camera monitor, hooked permanently into your TV set?

We did get a playmat we saw last year. That was about the only given.

The absent - no Simply wipes or Sudocrem on show, no freebies in that department. Somewhat of a shame, the free samples of Sudocrem come in perfectly small tubs to be ultra portable for those days out.

The booming. Babybond were there last year, we'd found them before the show, but saw them there anyway. They had a 3x1m stand last year. This year, a much bigger stand, with a scanning machine on site and appointments through the day there and then, making an absolute killing.

Last year we were the startled rabbits. Everything was either "we could do with that" or "that's a great idea" or "we need to think about that". This year we still had all of those, but also mixed in with "waste of time", "ripoff" and "that's for what, exactly?".

So what was the biggest difference between the two shows we'd been to?

Us. And our different eyes. It's amazing just what a little experience can do to influence your outlook.

26 April 2007

A touching moment...

From a very early age Junior has shown pleasure at seeing his Dad come home from work in an evening. But this Monday was something else.

I have always come in and said hello straight away, but on Monday night I broke the routine and headed for the day's post first.

As I opened the door, with the usual alarm chime sounding, Junior realised Daddy was home. He was bouncing at the time on MOTS' lap on the sofa, which increased in rate and magnitude at the excitement of Daddy coming in.

Only Daddy didn't come in, he turned left instead of right and headed for the pile of unopened envelopes.

"I think you need to say hello to your boy", instructed MOTS
"I'll just flick through the post", deferred I
"I think you need to say hello now", suggested MOTS
"Just a minute", confirmed I
What I hadn't seen was the reduced bouncing and the trout face being displayed. What I did hear was the slight whimper. At this point I entered the lounge to see Junior looking up and sport a big beaming smile, followed immediately by a return to increased bouncing.

As I've never had him in this situation before I've never noticed it. He's always pleased to see me, but that's a reaction to something being there. A reaction to a specific situation. Monday was different, it was an adverse reaction to the absence of a situation. It was the acknowledgement that he was either used to something happening that didn't, or just missing something that was expected.

Either way, I was really pleased at his disappointment that I hadn't said hello. I really felt like I had made the transition from "father" to "dad", and even as I type I'm fighting the lump in the throat and tears in the eyes.

17 April 2007

Baby's first...Certificate

Junior has got his first certificate! Nothing special, but a certificate nonetheless.

He attended his first "Sing and Sign" session this week and loved it. So, that'll be him signed up to the full classes then!

Link here.

11 April 2007

Baby's first...flight

It’s been a busy week of it over Easter, and only now, on Wednesday afternoon, have we truly got the place to ourselves again. It’s also been a weekend of firsts, again, culminating in baby’s first flight.

Well, when I say flight, he’s been on a plane. It never moved an inch though!

First off, on Thursday the Bowes heading up to meet the son and heir, with their son and heir in tow. It was an experience, having an insight into what our little angel will become in around 18 months time – what a cutey. It was a pleasure too, seeing Mr B as a real dad, not like this pretend thingy I am just now, just pushing a pushchair around doesn’t qualify. Interacting, playing, hanging the kids upside down – now that’s parenting.

Sunday was a trip South, or North depending on perspective, to meet the Leathams for the first time. An attempt at meeting half way didn’t quite add up, not even for the mathematician and two statisticians amongst us. Still, I had a longer trip to worry about, the guilt trip I was sent on for not providing my chef duties last August (sorry, wife in hospital and all that…)

Easter Monday. What did daddy do? What any self-respecting dad does on Easter Monday and cuts the grass. Only psychopaths leave the house on Easter Monday, getting caught in the traffic.

concordelandinggear.jpg
Fly on THIS?
Tuesday, and the arrival of Grandma and Grandad for the night. With Concorde G-BOAA being homed at East Fortune in East Lothian we decided to take the drive out and pay a visit. Boarding cards in hand one of the museum staff kept us chatting with tales of her coming back to work three weeks earlier and looking forward to her one-year-old’s upcoming birthday party, which has ballooned from a small family affair to full-on staged event complete with bouncy castle. With only a few short months to go I aint looking forward to it. More Stella, Vicar? Moments later we climbed the steps and onto the worst museum exhibit ever. Why worst? Because it should be at 60,000 feet mid-Atlantic, not a museum piece, that’s why.

So, while not actually taking off, Junior’s had his first shot on a real aircraft which he seemed to enjoy. Shame we’ve decided he’s more of a pirate than an astronaut, so will be sea-based. Can’t get everything right, eh?


Picture used in this post:
Close-up of a section of the front landing gear of Concorde, showing cables clearly not meant to be plugged in (or so you'd hope)

01 April 2007

Bye bye baby

In the immortal words of the Bay City Rollers, "Bye Bye Baby".

There have been many things along the way, a lot have been written about here, that show our baby is growing up, but yesterday I realised we've lost our baby forever.

How?

We met Gent Junior for the first time. And with the two together at just over 2 weeks and just over 7 months, our monster is huge! Bye bye, baby!

Filmstalkers of the future

Now here's a good idea. MOTS picked up a leaflet in the changing room in a leading supermarket yesterday. In this instance this is a good thing, as MOTS came across a service she did not know about but would find useful. In that respect the advertising has worked, unusually.

And the service? Odeon's "Newbie" screenings.

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Young Filmstalkers
What a great idea!! There has to be a large number of parents out there who just on't go the the flicks any more because it is just too much hassle and too expensive (see below) to go without junior(s) in tow, and too much worry about them upsetting others if they do have junior(s) in tow. So the answer? Odeon's Newbies.

"But it only costs £6 to see a film". Yeah, OK, real world now:
Baby sitter - £5/hour, double after 11pm plus taxi home. With travel, film, food, looking at a good 5 hour slot before you leave
Meal out - £25/head including drinks, because you have to take advantage of the fact you're out without junior and make the best of it you can

It soon mounts up!


So, why not take the kids and have Filmstalkers in the making? Genius. Absolutely genius. They just need to extend it to Saturday mornings so the whole family can go, including working parents / partners, and it's perfect!

Oh, don't go expecting to see The Hills Have Eyes II, it's 12a or lower certificates!

20 March 2007

Mobile

One small milestone for baby, one giant worry for parentkind.

That's the transition from having this small screaming thing to having this small screaming thing that moves. Quickly.

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Where's the baby?
I have mentioned Jack Jack before, and been reluctant so far to enlighten those who have not yet seen The Incredibles, but now the time is right to do so. But first, go out and buy it, watch it, then come back. It's Pixar law, you have to do it. If you have small children it's very educational. Especially for teenage girls embarking on their first baby-sitting experience.

Jack Jack Parr, the gifted son of a super hero couple, star of the Pixar short film Jack Jack Attack, is a fictional character with super powers that can make him speed around in the blink of an eye. It is supposed to be a humourous animated film. It is supposed to be funny. That is, unless you have a 7 month old who can do exactly the same as Jack Jack. And then it turns from fun to fear, along with a realisation that this fictional character is actually as close to reality as you can get. All except the floating through the air part. And maybe the laser eyes and the bursting into flames. OK, the bursting into flames is clearly artistic license.

Crawling is up on the agenda just now, not that it's started just yet but that it's imminent. It seems so long since Jack Jack was able to roll over and we'd miss it, wait a few days then miss it again. Now we can roll him on his back and watch him roll onto his front, roll him back and watch it again. And again. And again. And again. And I'm bored now, but he's still rolling. Still rolling.

What's amazing us the most just now is you can look away for literally 2 seconds (I never thought parents could say "2 seconds" and mean anything less than a minute, but now I know "2 seconds" means "a time period somewhere between one and three seconds") and miss out on something. That something can be:

  • Turning from back to belly

  • Spinning through 180 degrees

  • Pushing backwards and moving a few feet, off the mat, onto the rug, off the rug, onto the carpet, across the carpet, heading for freedom...

It's going to open up a whole new world, one where everything has to learn to levitate or be grabbed, and that includes the cats. Why don't they build family homes an extra three feet taller? And furniture three feet higher? And plug sockets in the ceiling rather than nearer the floor? I'll tell you why - so Ikea can sell you little bits of plastic to put in your plugs, clip onto your cupboards, slip on the corner of your coffee table, just to squeeze even more cash from you.

It's a funny old milestone. One that shows development, yet presents fear into parents.

I'm afraid. Very afraid.

But there is hope. And that is in the form of what is now affectionately known as "the prison", which we touched on earlier in this post. I'm playing around with giving it a proper name, like HMP Alderstone, but then I'd have to have "the block" and provide work and privileges, and is it worth it?

17 March 2007

Mealtime = Funtime!

Times they are a changing, and at present this is most notable at mealtimes. Sure, Junior is rolling over at will now (we've actually seen it this afternoon, so know he's not "Jack Jack"*), but mealtimes are the biggest changes we're seeing just now.

Last week we saw our first three course meal. The menu went something like this:

Leek, sweet potato and pea medley, served in a sterile bowl by a proud dad
210ml of milk, served in a contoured bottle
Raspberry Petis Filous in plastic pot, with a side helping of flexible spoon

The reaching for the bottle is no longer news, but the self-catering is. He's holding his bottle himself now, having done one complete feed on his own. That wasn't quite there with the "you feed yourself while I surf the web" type, but there was no support from either of the parents as far as the bottle went.

Solids are always good to watch, the face always gets screwed up on the first spoonful, thereafter it's wolfed down with some spoon grabbing going on.

Big change this week, we go from 5 feeds a day to 6. At the same time a bottle is dropped and replaced by a solid only. The pattern will now be alternating between solid and bottle, with no solid AND bottle feeds, it's one or t'other from hereonin.

marmite.jpg
My mate...

The next couple of weeks should be interesting as new foods are introduced. This week we're looking at rusks which are home-made from recipes rather than bought - have you seen the sugar content of Farley's???? Next week we move onto toast, meat and fish. I hope to be at home for the toast, as it's done with Marmite. I've stopped asking questions, that's what the weaning plan says so that's what we try. And if he doesn't like it then Daddy's here to finish it off. That's what dads are there for, right?

I have just found out that MOTS has never tried Marmite. WHAT? Are my in-laws from the planet Zogg or something? I thought Marmite was a staple diet for kids? There's a right of passage here, just like being beaten up for your lunch money at school, becoming a regular in the local pub long before the 18th birthday, Marmite has to be on the menu at some point. It's child law. Anything else is, well, child abuse.

Anyway, MOTS has been introduced to the delicacy and is in the "Hate it" camp. I must admit it's got to be around 13-14 years since I last had Marmite on toast, and having shared a teatime toaster-load with MOTS this afternoon I can safely say the experience didn't hold true with my fond memories. Looking back at my last jar I have to say I was a student, and hardly ever made it back to the flat without first passing the pub, so the several pints of 80/- may have had some effect on the taste.

So, in the space of a paragraph, it looks like I've gone from "Love it" to "Hate it". Hmm, interesting times ahead indeed for the boy.


* See the short animaton "Jack Jack" on The Incredibles DVD and you'll know what I mean.

14 March 2007

Congratulations the Gs

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Well done the Gs!
Congratulations to the Gs!

Many congratulations to the Gents on becoming parents in the small hours this morning, and to the two sets of seniors on becoming grandparents.

Today will be magical, long, tiring, and even better if someone makes Dad a bacon roll when he gets home!!

Can't wait to see the three of you.

08 March 2007

39 Weeks on Saturday!

39 Weeks on Saturday, the baby is due a week on Sunday, at some point shortly this is no longer going to be about a bump but rather a living breathing person! Here's a brief summary of the most recent goings on....

....baby Gent is now 4/5ths engaged, or rather was on Tuesday. Accoring to Mrs Gent there are some seriously weird feelings going on tonight and I think that is getting very close to 5/5ths...is that one then?

Cramming - I have found I am cramming as much into my days and nights as possible at the moment! I am going to the cinema with Sarah more than ever, we are going for currys (I know I know) and Pizza Huts like they are going out of fashion and justifying everything I do with a "Well it might be the last time for a while".

Nesting - its been in evidence. I was spring cleaning this weekend as directed by Mrs Gent. Cupboards were cleaned out, items were organised just so and I realised that we were clearly VERY close now. Whats that about clean windows Lee?

Feelings, Nothing more than Feelings - Sarah is now saying she is getting all new and wonderful feelings and pains which lead me to believe we aint far off now folks. Beam me up Scotty as if ever I needed a drink, strong, its now...and.....I......cant!!!!

Too much information - I believe Raspy was conceived on Tuesday 27th June 2006. Brazil beat Ghana as I stated in a previous post but here are some genuine quotes I found amusing from the players post game - were they commenting on the ACT itself or their game:

Ronaldo: “It takes a lot of hard work, it’s not easy. You need to make a lot of sacrifices and put in a lot of hard graft. What are my objectives from this point on? I want more, more, more! I want to keep scoring. Only those people with something to give can expect to receive.”

Ze Roberto: “It’s an amazing feeling to have scored. One thing we struggled with today was keeping possession. One of the reasons that happened was because we went in front early.”

Gilberto Silva: It is crucial to play a hard game

Genuine bona fide comments....spooky!

Still nervous, still excited, still realising that you know what, when you were on a journey as a kid in the car you would almost always ask one of your parents......."Are we nearly there yet???......well yes son or daughter, we are nearly there..oh yes. :o)

27 February 2007

Its now 37 weeks...

Yup it is now 37 weeks since Sarah and I had one too many wines on a warm summers night. 37 weeks on Saturday past to be precise. Time goes by extremely quickly when you are waiting around and counting down the days. I have no idea how to sum up what the past month or two have been like as quite simply they have been a blur..

We have been to classes to learn what to do when Sarah is in labour, how I can support her, pain relief, had a tour of the ward, been told about health visitors, mid wives, the role of grand parents, how to change a nappy, how to bath a baby, what to buy, what not to buy, I've built cribs, cots, drawers, toy boxes, painted rooms, put up curtains, ordered carpets (one for the nursery, one for the bedroom while we are at it...sigh), bought bedding (sounds like a hamster), night lights and learned how to put up and take down the pram/buggy etc etc. I am out of breath writing it.

When Lee asked me to write on this site I had a vision of devoting a Saturday morning to it with a nice cup of tea and relaxing. Not a chance. When I dont have anything to do I get this unerring feeling that I SHOULD be doing something to prepare. Put simply I am on edge, hyper and the adrenalin is pumping.

Its like Christmas Eve without knowing when Christmas is actually going to be - oh, and added to that you have NO IDEA what you are going to be doing on Boxing Day. It certainly wont be sleeping as per usual.

Lee occasionally meets me for lunch and we have an hour in the canteen. It goes like this: Lee "So hows things with Sarah?". Me: "blah blah blah". Then we walk back via my desk after an hour and I say "Oh, and how are you by the way?". I know I am doing it but if someone mentions baby its like releasing a valve.

I have no idea whether I will post again before Junior arrives but I will certainly put a final post on here (before handing it back over fully to Lee - ta mate!) letting you know whether its a boy or girl, name etc. Cheers!

SPAM from @alderstone.co.uk

If you've come here because you've received an email from some random address @alderstone.co.uk and want to stick it to me for sending you SPAM, rest assured you've got the wrong guy.

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Fritters, anyone?
Spammers frequently use domains not belonging to them to form the reply-to and from addresses in an email, and it's a common problem. One that won't be sorted out unless we have a concencus on authenticated SMTP, which itself has many pitfalls. So, please, if you have received an email trying to sell you anything from Viagra to body part extensions allegedly from some-random-address @alderstone.co.uk, IT AINT ME.

Bill Thompson of the BBC has been hit by this and writes a good article on the problem.

So, for anyone here looking for the annoying little bar steward who's filling their inbox, sorry but you've hit the first hurdle in the wild goose chase and come to the wrong place. If you're keen on trying to find where the email really came from is to look at the headrers and tracing the IP address of the source. Know what some of the headers are, but not others? Take a look at http://www.stopspam.org/email/headers.html

Baby suppliers - moans & praise (Part 3)

Another blacklisted company, for advertising one price on their website and charging higher, And a company with a second mention on the blog, having not refunded a return that was made in accordance with the Distance Selling Regulations 2000.

Baby Curls
fullnappy.jpgEarly February MOTS ordered two new Grobags for Junior, one of which was (and still is) advertised at £21.50. Yet when the charge is raised and the bill comes in, it's £23.50.

Two emails to them, one ignored the other came back with "there's an error on the website". £2 won't make us any richer or poorer, but it's false advertising, it's against the law, and they obviously don't care about customer retention or rectifying known issues with pricing.

Boots
MOTS ordered a portable high chair from Boots, the fabric kind that sits on any standard chair, folds up into a neat little bag and can be popped into a changing bag for complete portability. Only it was cheap rubbish, so under the Distance Selling regulations it went back and we bought a better one. So far no refund.

Two suggestions, folks:
1) Charge the advertised price
2) Honour your legal obligations

Both are being chased.

20 February 2007

Interim Appraisal time

Here it is, the interim appraisal. Common in the workplace, also known as the "6 month review".

Is it that time already? But we haven't even got our objectives set yet!!!!!

So here's the ratings:

Sleep - 10/10
Since around the 6 weeks marker we've been getting near to adult sleeping patterns. And for us that means very different things. I'm used to being up by around 8 on a weekend and MOTS is more like her dad who tends to rise a little later, Monday if he could get away with it. Perfect score now, and has been for a long time.

Weight - 9/10
He's strayed from the 50th percentile, but has remained static above it. We thought he was perfectly textbook until this happened. I just know that tub of Ben & Jerry's was a mistake.

Input - 8/10
Feeding has been a bit of a challenge, particularly in the early days when MOTS was trying to do her best while at the same time trying to explain to midwives that 0.3ml of colostrum just isn't going to satisfy even the least hungry of babies. Mum 1, midwives nil.

Output - 7/10
To be fair, nobody said this was the easy part. Poor rating here given the absolute carnage that was last weekend.

Love - 10/10
Unconditional. And that's both ways. There's no greater sight than the boy laying eyes on his daddy and reacting in ways only a dad could appreciate. The utter excitement, the flailing arms, the kicking legs, and the beaming smile accompanied with the screeching sound of an early "good evening, father, hope your day was well" make this the best. And it's always good for making the missus cry with happiness at the sight of all this love going on.

Maths - 0/10
Martin's post on matching numbers brings it all home. As humans we like "special" numbers. Like how many people try to buy a registration plate with 666 on it? Or try and have their baby born on 01/01? Or even the upcoming 8/8/8 next year (keep it in your pants a while yet if that's the date you're aiming for). We've had nothing in the way of these funny numbers, or rather not taken any notice of any. Until I pointed out this morning, that at 26 weeks old today, the boy is 10% of the way to starting school, given he'll start almost exactly on his 5th birthday. MOTS wasn't too keen on this, maybe because for the entire period from her turning 26 to turning 28 I constantly reminded her that she's nearly 90% of the way to being 30, 90% of the way there, over 90% there. Well, the boy only has 90% of the way to go before he starts school. Quick, down to WHSmith to get his books and pencils sorted!

PE - 9/10
We're not quite to Olympic standards just yet, and with only 5 years to go it's looking doubtful this time around. But athletics does seem to be a favourite at the moment. The boy has shown a keen interest in football from an early age (season ticket holder for the local club aged 3 weeks, thinks his dad is Lineker, Hanson or Shearer), progressing now to playing. Showing an interest in bouncing too, he can take own weight on his legs for a few seconds at a time with help no more than to offer a bit of balance.

Transport - 0/10
The pram is no longer. Granny bought her grandson a Silver Cross all singing all dancing Sleepover Classic but it's had its day. This weekend it was offically converted from the pram into the pushchair. The boy loves it, the wife on the other hand, wasn't too keen on the idea of her little baby not being such a little baby any longer. If only we still had the hormonal cry chart going. The hardware scores 10/10, but I must mark Junior's progress and the effect on us, so as he made his mum cry it's a big fat zero.

Economics - 12/10
Just to make it clear that economics and budgets go out of the window...
mastercard.jpg
Cost per dribble?

Tin of formula from Boots - £6
Pack of nappies from ASDA - £8
Baby wipes to clear the mess - £1
Watching the boy smile and giggle as you change him - priceless

There are some things in life money can't buy. For everything else there's daddy.


Summary of achievements
What a six months. It's been bloody hard work, and there are times when we wonder why we did it. Well I don't but I feel I must put "we" for the benefit of self defence. But then we get one good minute in an otherwise nasty day and the answer is usually smiling us in the face.

Here's looking forward to the first birthday (What did Berkmann say about that....?)

12 February 2007

Piss, Shit & Vomit

In an early post I briefly mentioned that in Berkmann's book "Fatherhood: The Truth" a brief chapter covered "Piss, Shit & Vomit". I also added, with a sense of expectation, that it was possible that the ratio of chapter:book was not in fact related to the book:reality ratio. How correct I was.

In Baby's first...solids I did say there were two ends of the solids conversation, and as the entry level has been covered now is the time to tie in this and Berkmann's chapter. Yes, it's the big exit.

Unlike in Eastenders when the big exit is in the back of a black cab, the big exit this weekend was out of an ill-fitted nappy. For that one we'll blame MOTS given she'd applied said nappy and cunningly left the house to go shopping, obviously well aware of the impending carnage.

Part way through Saturday morning it was discovered that a nappy change was required. And oh boy, was it required. Out of the side of the nappy, down the left leg, in amongst the toes. Thankfully the sleepsuit acted like something from NASA, containing everything therein. It was disgusting, and the smell (how can carrot smell so bad?). Oh my god, the SMELL.

Delicate removal of the sleepsuit was required, as was the vest - this was covered too and had to come off over the head. A head that was the destination for all things grabbable by hand, given eveyrthing goes in the mouth at the moment. So it was tricky to say the least. Leg still covered, keeping them down to keep Junior from grabbing his feet (and trying to chew them). Under control - just. Shit everywhere.

Half a dozen wipes later and we can almost see some bare leg again, but still needing a LOT of attention. Then came the piss. All over me it went, hand over to stop the flow, but it may have well been a leaking pipe in the Thames Water area, it just didn't stop flowing. So that needed a mop-up, all the while still holding feet down to prevent shitty feet being chewed. Totally fed up and about to cry.

A short struggle later and I had cleaned up enough to relocate to a freshly waiting clean vest and clothes. There's light at the end of the tunnel.

So what's missing? Ahh, the vomit. No sooner had I managed to get his vest on he puked, and puked well.

So there we go, in the wrong order but all three elements present and in volume.

MOTS made her appearance at exactly the right moment, just as I was tipped over the edge and about to give the clothes a cuddle and shove the baby in the washing machine. Thanks, darling!

Just one question: How can something change the composition of milk, fruit and vegetables into that?

**I have decided to leave out the normal graphic for purposes of maintaining decency and taste on the blog.**

10 February 2007

** PLUG ** Race for Life sponsorship

An unashamed plug, nothing to do with the normal topics of the blog, but dear to the family nonetheless.

MOTS is doing the Race for Life this year, so has set up online sponsorship. Not bad considering she wasn't going to get sponsorship at all, but I persuaded her as every little helps. Please excuse the use of a corporate tagline of one of the main event sponsors.

To help MOTS raise money for Cancer Reaserch UK, please donate here.

29 January 2007

Baby's first...Solids

There could only be two topics of conversation when the word “solids” is involved, and both are at opposite ends of the digestive system. Tonight’s topic is, thankfully, entry-level.

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Gruel for beginners
Baby Rice. To look at it doesn’t resemble either. Certainly doesn’t taste like either. So what the hell is it? It looks like some sort of crystal meths before it’s made up with baby’s regular milk and is about the least appetising pile of slop I’ve ever seen. I’d go back to 1979 and have my old school’s semolina pudding with a blob of jam all over again rather than eat that mush. So it does me no good to know that Junior has had his first “solids” this evening, given what he’s eaten, only because never in a million years would I (a) classify that as food or (b) eat it myself.

Wednesday’s a bit better – a cube of real food on the menu! Until then it's like a scene from Oliver Twist - gruel, gruel and more gruel.

So how did it go? It was like preparing for a major play, sterilising the bowl and a spoon, as well as the usual bottle, checking the lighting, the camera angles, I'd even gone to the trouble of bringing in ushers and had ice-cream on standby. Unfortunately the audience was via live t'internet link-up, so I couldn't really charge admission or extra for premium seating. We'd had a full dress rehearsal at the weekend and for fear of him being carted off by social services I can't say exactly what he doesn't dislike, but **hic** Daddy loves it too, 'cos it's my bestest mate evver, **hic**.

Break a leg? He nearly did, having wedged it between two bars of his cot when he went down for a post-solids powernap. That boy...

24 January 2007

From here to Maternity

Ok so I covered my classes in the last post, but Sarah has also been to a couple of antenatals and we have both been a tour of the maternity ward. Sarahs antenatals have been women only and covered labor and breast feeding. Standard ante-natal stuff. The tour of the ward on the other hand was pretty intense.

January 16th 2007 – my 33rd birthday – and I was back at St Johns hospital with Sarah. It was a great opportunity to see the lay out of the hospital and the maternity ward specifically. We began in the room I had been in the night before and sat down once more. There were perhaps another 6 or 7 couples there and we began with a video on pain relief during labor. It had clearly been filmed in the 1980’s and featured the who’s who of perms.

As the lights came up after the video Sarah appeared distracted. She was looking over my shoulder at a….whiteboard. “What’s that? Support during labour? Grapes!? Feed the cat!?!? If you…” ”And so class what did you think about pain relief?” asked one of the mid-wives who was taking our tour. PHEW.

We then began the tour itself and it was information packed. In fact my memory of it is something like this (try to keep up), “ok this is the ante natal rooms and from here the café is two floors up through the fire exit that was back there on the left and down stairs. Just buzz if you need to go as you may find it is closed. Opening hours and closing hours are on a sign at the top of those stairs over there next to the fire exit. We now move to the maternity ward itself, use this antiseptic soap when you are coming and going. Even if you are just stepping out side to use your mobile.”

“Can we use our mobiles in the hospital?” someone asked, probably worried the mid-wife would pass out unless someone gave her time to breathe IN.

“Sure you can use them, I mean not in the ward, but in the corridors. Although you may want to bring 10ps for the public phone we have. Ok here are the maternity wards, 4 beds to a room, radio, storage space etc. There are also single rooms but you might want company so unless you really want one you will be in here. Here’s the room for breast feeding, here’s a TV room and here’s a room if you just want to be alone.”

And so on and so forth. It was a LOT to take in. What was very useful about it was seeing the different rooms we would be in at different stages. There was the assessment room which was the initial room we would start in where Sarah would be “checked out” to see how far we through labour she was. From there we saw the labour wards themselves and to be honest that was an eye opener. You looked at the bed and knew this may well be where you met your child for the 1st time. We then went to another labour ward which contained a bath for either during the early stages of labour to relax the woman, or indeed for a water birth. I could tell Sarah liked the look of this as did I, it had a slightly more relaxed feel to it. The only thing being you could not have pain relief apart from gas and air – if you needed anything more than that then you moved into another room.

The tour ended and having seen the labor unit and maternity ward I think it did two things, put our minds at ease and yet got us picturing the process and got the old tickers racing. A very worthwhile experience.

If you have got this far let me bring this to a close by focussing on the central character to this story for one second - Junior. It loves my singing, or hates it depending on what you think a lot of movement means. It is moving around constantly and we think we saw it having hiccups this week! Finally, for the 1st time I was able to place my ear to the womb and hear what I believe to be the babies heart beat. AWESOME, just amazing. I feel I have bonded already with the kid - is it possible to love a bump? Enough of the gushing, I'm off for another listen.....

Again...did I mention it's all getting VERY real?

I cannot believe that it is less than 2 months until junior arrives (should our ETA be correct). The best way to describe how I am feeling at the moment is excited and wanting to speed up time, along with totally unprepared and wanting it to slow down. A vast array of emotions but the over riding one is of antcipation. I am looking forward to the coming years with a real sense of purpose. Will there be hard times, sure, any regrets, not a chance. And having seen the effect Iain has had on Lee and Debs it just makes me more excited about the future. Back to being unprepared though - well the antenatals and Dads 2 be classes have started so...

...surely these will assist in making it all plain sailing! Not quite, but they have certainly been extremely useful so far all be it my head has quite literally span each time I have left the class (I have had 2 Dads 2 Be classes now). Lets start at the beginning - Monday 15th January 2007 (incidentally my last day of being 32..sigh) - and I headed to St Johns hospital. As I sat in the car park I envisioned myself being one of potentially two or three blokes who had signed up - wrong, 12 other blank faces were sitting in the room when I arrived - all sheet white and terrified. The first class was all about labor - there were slides and captions on the different stages. My favourite part was watching a guy Brian go into a spin when he realised just how many contractions his wife may have while he drove to the hospital! Then came an excercise where we split into groups of four - my group were led to a white board headed up "Ways to support your partner during labor"
We had 10 minutes to put down as much as we could come up with starting nowwww. Maybe it was the slides we had just seen and the realisation we had a LOT of supporting to do, perhaps it was that it was the first time we had really thought about it, or perhaps we just did not want to say anything silly however we simply stood and stared. Time passed and the canvas remained blank. Finally Sam, who was six foot both ways finally said “Massage”. That was it, one word, then “Aye I read it once in some book, give them a massage”. Cool we thought, get it down. It opened the flood gates and soon we had “Feed the cats” and “bring grapes” – I felt we had all the angles covered. Michelle approached us and some how managed to keep a straight face “That’s great lads, now try to think of other things, you know physical support, mental support, that sort of thing” and she turned and walked over to the next group. A few minutes later and it was time up. We started off by going through our list with the rest of the class. “So guys, how are you going to support your partners during labour, let the rest of the class know” Michele asked. Here was our moment. “Ok guys here’s our list”

Massage
Bring Grapes
Feed the Cats
Physical Support
Mental Support

I thank you. The rest of the class nodded in agreement, Michele said a silent prayer for our partners.

Thankfully I knew that Sarah would never see the list and that I would have a proper think nearer the time!

The second class was a little more calm - again we went over the support side with my personal lowlight being when Michele made 12 grown men stand up and demostrate some positions for labor with the person on their left. The curtains were NOT drawn and nurses could see in as they walked past. It was like sadistic and very scary twister. The we headed for the maternity ward and watched a 1 day old baby being bathed - fascinating. The dad looked in shock, total shock. 2 classes it had taken the mid-wife to encourage us and make us grow in confidence, in a split second it was shattered. Then as we watched young Libby being bathed you could see the fear turning to excitement again...

All in all a couple of very useful classes for someone as naive as me - 2 more to go!

NHS Postcode Lottery

I've mentioned before that there is a postcode lottery when it comes to maternity care in the NHS. So far this has been in and out of the press at a trust level, but what about getting into a trust and looking to see if there's a postcode lottery within a trust, rather than just between trusts?

For the smart cookies amongst us you will have figured out by now that as I'm doing a post on the subject there must be. So what have we uncovered so far?

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Take a ticket
One would expect that first and foremost, as the NATIONAL Health Service there would be a NATIONAL standard of care. But we know this is absolute pie in the sky stuff, so down on an individual trust level surely this is more of a reality?

My guest author, Chris, and his wife live in the Lothain NHS trust area. As do MOTS and I. So given we received health care from the same pot of cash you could expect the same level of healthcare? How wrong we are.

I feel I should first point out the differences between us here, just so we can try and identify why there is a difference in the care received.

  • Age - MOTS and I are slightly older

  • Address - we live at a different address, but within the area covered by NHS Lothian

  • Hospital - our babies are to be born at different hospitals, but within the area covered by NHS Lothian

  • Hair - I'm losing it more rapidly than Chris

So what differences are we seeing in the service provided?

  • Chris & Sarah get a tour of the hospital before delivery. We did not.

  • Chris gets "Dads-2-Be" classes. I did not.

No excuse for the differences, the same Trust in the same overall organisation, discriminating based on one of those differences pointed out above.

If I find out it's because I'm losing my follicals, I'll lose more than that.

22 January 2007

Movable Type upgrade 3.34

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Essential works
Another upgrade is available for Movable Type, so expect a short outage at some stage later this week when I upgrade.

21 January 2007

It's a rollover!

Just a quick post for the record today. We've had our first rollover, from tummy to back, yesterday afternoon. And Daddy missed it 'cos he was out in the garage tearing his hair out trying to "tidy up".

This does open up a whole new world though...

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But not a £40m jackpot
No more turning round to grab a clean nappy when he's on the changing station, no more leaving him in the middle of the bed to go to the loo, no more leaving stuff on the floor, no more leaving him under his gym on the futon in the office, no more safe zones.

Looks like we're a step closer to having to go shopping for all those little safety catches that stop cupboards being opened. Oh joy!

On the topic of movement, and thus negating the previous statement of this being a quick post, the little lad has been pulling his bottle towards him for the last couple of weeks now. More so when Daddy encourages him to do so by holding it just within reach but not close enough to bring his head forward. It's really good to see the skills improving day by day, even if yesterday's first rollover does strike fear into the very hearts of our general untidyness.

16 January 2007

Another holiday season, another BA strike

I wanted a rant at British Airways staff for going on strike again, but wasn't quite sure how it would fit in with the family oriented nature of this blog. BA have handed the answer on a plate, the strike is rumoured to be during half term holidays, just as families are jetting off for a quick break. This sticks with the norm of hitting holiday periods.

This is a deliberate ploy by the unions to cause as much disruption to as many people as possible, and mainly those with small children in tow who well then get upset in the airports when they don't get to go on holiday.

This course of action holds no place in a service oriented business. This sort of action has no place in any business.

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The world's favourite strikers
BA are totally reliable, another holiday season and we have another strike. Reliable for the wrong reasons, clearly. What the unions fail to recognise is that the constant striking damages the company's image and reputation. I have used BA a lot , mostly business though. I have only flown BA on leisure a couple of times, and then only on domestic flights to get another carrier's international flight. With the damage the unions have done and continue to do to the company, if there are other like-minded people out there who see this as a "don't use BA during holiday periods" warning, then they will succeed only in bringing the company down, either through bankruptcy or take-over. Either way, what security will the members have then?

Just to reiterate, I will not consider using BA as a carrier to get me on holiday for fear of being stranded. Oh, go check your insurance policy too, does it cover strike action?

BBC story.

15 January 2007

Mummy & Daddy's first...nights out

It had to happen eventually, and I'm surprised it's taken this long to be honest. Mummy & Daddy have had their first nights out without junior, which also make them "Baby's first...nights in"

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Worried? Nah.
The first night was the second we'd arranged, and the second night was the first we'd arranged. Confused? We've had two nights out this weekend, Friday and Sunday. Sunday being the first we'd organised but second outing chronologically.

Friday night was the big one though, the first time we'd left him and headed off out on our own. We were a little apprehensive, not for him because we knew he'd be safe with the Jeffreys, but for what we'd be like. I guess we both thought we'd be constantly wondering if he was behaving, if he was screaming the place down, if he was too demanding, not settling etc. The reality was somewhat different.

The occassion was the relaunch of a local restaurant for which MOTS had won us an invite. As things panned out we met a couple in the bar with whom we shared a table, so that kept the conversation flowing and away from the questions above. That was an absolute bonus!

The first night arranged / second night out was just a quick couple of scoops in the bar of a local hotel. The conversation did go a little in the direction I'd expected it to on Friday night, but nowhere near as deeply given we'd already gone through the first night out two nights previously.

All in all a good weekend. So thanks to the Jeffreys for keeping Junior entertained on Friday night, Mike and Zoe for keeping us entertained on Friday night, and Mrs Stewart for coming over to us on Sunday night and not drinking too much Bombay Sapphire in the process!

08 January 2007

We are having a baby THIS year.

We always had Christmas and New Year to think about before the birth - not any longer. Dont get me wrong, this is not a bad thing but it is, well, another milestone on the journey.

All of a sudden it's not next year this and next year that, it's this year all the way. Have I said yet this is going fasssst. I cant wait and yet feel like I am still ill prepared!...

...however this month is filled with antenatal classes and for me Dads to Be. I cant remember if I mentioned these - I have 4 classes at Livingston on 4 consecutive Monday nights. They cover everything from labor, to baby massage, to changing nappies, bathing the child etc. They even let you hold a real baby - I've set that one up for you Lee, dont let me down. ;o)

I think these classes are a god send. For someone who has never been around babies I think I will learn a lot. Sure there is the usual trepidation as I am heading along on my tod to a class thats catch phrase is "Run by men for men". I am wearing Nikes in case there is anyone there named Bubba.

So I'll let you know how they go. It is going to prove to be a VERY busy month and I can see it being February before I know it - then its just one month to go. I need air....and gas!!!

Anyway, onto something I typed earlier...

Don’t Cramp my Style!

I would say Sarah has been very lucky throughout the pregnancy with regards to physical ailments. She was not sick in the 1st trimester. She did not become bloated. She did not have any really disgusting cravings. In fact, life did not change that much…until now.

Life has become very much like one big monkey chant “Ooooo oooo ahhh ahhh eeeee eeee ooooo”. Every move is now accompanied by its own little sound.
Sitting down: “ahhooo”
Getting out of bed “arrrhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh uppp”.
Getting up to make a cup of tea “Chris make a cup of tea….I’m pregnant.”

I've become used to these sounds, I can live with them, however…

They say when a lion roars in the jungle it can be heard for 2 miles and the ground underneath your feet can vibrate a mile away. It is a sound that strikes fear into all those within the close vicinity. To be frank, it scares three types of s**t out of anything or anyone who realises this sound is coming from something not to be messed with.

Our house now has one such sound - when the female of the species goes something like:
”Jeeezussssssssssscrammmmmppppppinmylegggggggggggggaghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

It was normally followed by the male of species:
“Holy shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiining light is on and its 7am and I cant get my breath back, what the ffffflick of the switch happened??”

Yup, cramp is setting in each and every time Sarah stretches her legs. When does she stretch them? When I am fast asleep and she is lying not 2 inches from my ear drums! Pregnant women in constant agony, a perpetual state of pain even, simply feel it is their god given right to act as they please. Sigh.

01 January 2007

Happy New Year

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2007!
When we embarked upon 2006 we had an expectation of what was to come. We sort of knew at the start of the year that we'd be parents, but didn't confirm this until after we had the house back to ourselves. And from early 2006 to the end of 2006 it has been an incredible journey. So as I sit here on Hogmanay, wondering why I'm sat in front of a PC rather than out on the town (hmm, that wind might be one reason) I look back and wonder if it was all worth it.

EVERY MINUTE OF IT!

So whether you're part way on your own journey, in the departures lounge, or still trying to buy a ticket, my family wishes you a very Happy New Year!

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