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When you are: 2010

28 December 2010


My inspiration has gone.

I set the blog up, after some prodding by Richard (thanks, bud), with inspiration from one person. The writing was often aimed at generating a wry smile from him, and still bringing in other friends and family into this remote place we call a family home. Some posts have lead to other off-line activities or creations, such as the Chris Bonnington climb-a-thon when #1 started climbing stairs leading to a quick artistic rendition in Photoshop. That I'll miss. That, along with many, many other aspects of my father-in-law. MOTS' dad, the boys' Granda. Snoopy.

Trouble just won't be the same without you.

25 December 2010

[2] Baby's first...Christmas

And of course #1's FIFTH Christmas. And our first as a complete family. And our first on our own with no extended family. Wow, big changes this year then!

Last night we left out the usual fare for the big fella in the red suit and his army of reindeer. We have had a few practice runs leaving apples in bowls on each stair over the course of the last couple of weeks. When I say each stair I mean until the apples or the bowls run out, which can only mean the poor reindeer at the back of the pack are looking highly likely to miss out.

The big night itself came, and on the fireplace we left:

  • Apples for the reindeer, as uspected in individual bowls. Oh, and plates too so we didn't leave any hungry reindeer
  • A mug of hot chocolate for Santa. He's still tea-total when he comes to this house. But he can't really wash down the biscuit with a fine single malt, can he? Really?

And what did Santa leave us? Messy footprints! And a thank-you for his nibbles.

A certain volume of excitement was building on Christmas Eve. It didn't stop the boys from sleeping, they both like their sleep too much. Which meant we had a good lie-in, not bad for Christmas morning, 08:30. Even when up there was something amiss. We got up, headed downstairs, took at right and into the kitchen, had breakfast, cleared up. Are we sure we have got the right day here?

And there it is, a bursting into the lounge, eyes agog, and....

Who left those footprints?

Never mind the big stash under the tree, there are footprints on the carpet don't you know? And they need clearing up. Eventually, and before the hoover came out, the stash was spotted. The dawning of realisation, yes, he's been , we have presents, it's..... CHRISTMAS

And queue frenzy!

As an older brother #1 was very helpful. He was so keen to help show his little bruv what to do that he repeated the help over and over. Never sure whether it was getting through, he was so keen to demonstrate time and again. Even to the point of showing the little one how to play with his toys. You don't want to play with them yourself when I can, that's too much effort, here let me. Selfless that #1 boy, selfless.

So there we had it. Our first Christmas morning with just our immediate family. The usual lunch though, my request for fish fingers and sprouts didn't go down well, so we had the usual spread.

Just one question left at the end of the day:

Are we buying shares in Duracell?

22 December 2010

What a journey. Or several.

Looking back at how long it is (again) since the last post it's clear there's a lot happened, and mostly in the transport, or lack of, arena. From giving up, to pure determination, to feeling bad to feeling absolutely shit scared. Yes, we've had the lot.

It's no joke any more. When will this snow be a good boy and just fuck off? Had enough, even the big fella said towards the end of the first drop that he was fed up and wanted it to be sunny again. There's only so much mileage you can get with a snowman with an apple for a nose (clearly carrots weren't "in-season").

The wee fella has suffered too, stuck in the house more than usual. Don't know if they are related but his cold of x number of weeks and counting just isn't shifting. That's him had one now since about a week before his first tooth arrived. At least we can see when he's feeling better, the smiles just get bigger!

It's amazing how steep our road becomes with a few millimetres of snow on it. It goes from this hardly noticeable 1:1000 incline to the north face of the Eiger. Which is why, for almost a fortnight, the ultimate driving machine sat on the drive and never budged. When it started clearing it was taken out just for the sheer enjoyment of getting it off the drive again. But, before the last few piles of snow vanished, another drop. Today we've seen the fastest and heaviest drop we've ever seen here, so the only transport was those things that normally get put up in front of the fire (alas, that's broken so can't help us now).

4th December: Things looked pretty bleak out there. But nothing had fallen overnight, our street was passable (just) and as the importance of the roads increased so the amount of snow went in inverse proportions. Bravely, or stupidly, we set off for our booked trip to see Santa.

It was a journey I will never want to repeat. Just 4 miles from home on the dual carriageway we nearly had a spelling mistake. We were going to see Santa, we nearly ended up with Satan. With 2 lanes clear and 2 slow moving trucks on the inside, two faster moving trucks, plus us, plus a pickup were in the outside overtaking the aforementioned slower ones. A truck in front, then us, then the pickup, then another truck. The truck up front hit the side of the snow, or a bank of snow had fallen in front of him. Whatever happened, the first we saw was MOTS noticed the crash tension cables in the central reservation twanging in the air. I saw the left hand side of the cab unit from an angle you only want to see when it's parked up. The most common last words spoken on a black box voice recorder just before a Beoing 747 crashes into the sea went through my mind as fast as a fly's arse does when it's just been swatted.

Seconds passed.

They felt like hours.


That was the suspension on the truck as it had bounced back off the cables. And that was it, no more metal on metal contact. How we got back into the inside lane and not hit the pickup that had got there before us I'll never know. How he didn't jack-knife I'll never know. How the two trucks on the inside got past I do know, they kept on going when lane 2 hit the brakes. I don't know what make of truck was behind us as I lost the logo when he got too close to see it in the mirror.

The only thing going at any speed for the next few miles was the heartbeat. That is the closest to a pile-up I've ever been, and thank Nissan for building us a car that I could use effectively to get us out of it. Let's face it, there's no other explanation!

Made it, just!
We made it! First train of the day, and it showed. Late starting off as they had a few points problems, and ploughed snow falling back on the track. And I don't think we made it the full length, but nobody cared. Most people had made it, and we did get to go. After all, a few inches of snow helps the sleigh, not stop it, right? A hard frost last year made it look magical, this year's snow made that look like a summer's day in comparison. Stunning to look at. Almost as stunning as watching the young prick in a Mini belt into the car park all cocky then get stuck, needing a push. And doing it again on the way out. What a fud, but at least he provided much needed light entertainment. Hats off to all the volunteers that made it happen, a lot of happy kids despite the weather.

With the more recent school closures, in particular this afternoon's, transport has been more primitive. And can I say the big pram is fantastic in the snow. Obviously better in compacted stuff, but even this dust we got today has been a poor adversary. Silver Cross 1, million tons of frozen water crystals nil.

I've given up all hope of a train service tomorrow, so will be double you eff aitching until the big fella comes. That's the BIG fella, sorry for the typo!

So, in anticipation of Saturday morning, Merry Christmas!

13 November 2010

[2] One small step for toothkind

Everything's going mobile this week with #2. From his first tooth appearing on Monday, to taking his first 4 crawl steps later in the week, to sitting up himself from a lying position, to turning those first 4 crawl steps into a good yard of forward movement.

The crawling technique is funny though. The knees come up and right under the lower torso, with a sidewinder like abdominal movement giving the forward motion of one knee relative to the other. It looks very robotic as nothing below the waist actually moves, in terms of joints that is. If anyone has seen Pixar's Tin Toy short then this is just like that!

Nothing is safe now. He's grabbing everything in reach*, shoving everything in his mouth, and now he's moving like grease lightning. As of now the new nickname is Jack Jack. If you need to know why then you haven't seen The Incredibles. Or it's side story with the poor demented babysitter. Our poor demented babysitter is called Julie, though. Anyway, here it is, along with Tin Toy and Pixar's other great shorts.

* New favourite saying of #1 - "If it's in reach, it's fair game"

08 November 2010

[2] Baby's first...tooth (eventually)

It's been a long time coming, but after 7 months and 21 days #2's first tooth has finally unwrapped itself from his gum this morning and exposed itself to the fresh Scottish air, just in time for the family trip to the dentist tonight. All smiles, but now different smiles.

That's quite a few weeks of symptoms to get this far - gumming down on things, Calgel / Bonjela tubes being emptied at a high rate, thru'penny bits (nasty…), red cheeks, but when it finally appeared it was a non-event. This boy really is his big brother's clone.

31 October 2010

Happy Hallowe'en from the world's worst dad

There's been a lot of coverage in the press this week about how much of another American import Hallowe'en is becoming, with one victim of this being the very British festival a few days later that is bonfire night. Elf an sayftie have a lot to answer for the demise of our ritual burning of the poor Guy Fawkes as we British, as a nation, take part in our favoured pastime of honouring failures.

But, when in Indianapolis…

Last year the big fella had a skeleton mask and t-shirt, both of which have been worn throughout the year. The mask is nothing more than printed card with a thin bit of elastic cord tied round the back. Amazingly, given it's been in his bed, thrown around our own local landfill site (his bedroom), and generally had a good hammering it's in pristine condition.

School had a Hallowe'en day on Thursday, so in he went in the t-shirt and mask. Home he came in his t-shirt. The wind caught his mask while they were outside and, well, let's say after a bit of wind and a drizzle of rain there's little hope for it.

"Not happy at losing my mask"

Poor fella was gutted. I listened to this on the phone in the afternoon. Not "Hello, Daddy" or anything normal like that. Straight on saying has was not best chuffed.

I spotted my chance. I left work a little early, called in a couple of shops, came away with a full cloth black hood with white mesh face with a black skeletal face painted on the mesh. Brilliant! And only 49p too! Appealed to both the Dad and tight-fisted miser in me. Arriving home I awaited my normal greeting. Alas, it was not there.

"Not happy at losing my mask"

OK, son, take a look in my jacket pocket. The excitement was there in his face. His eyes opened, the pupils dilated, I could even hear a heartbeat across the kitchen. Go on, pull the zip. The excitement built, he reached in, pulled it out, opened it up and… I pinpointed the exact moment when it all went wrong. From there the heartbeat went back to normal, the eyes closed, the frown came out.

"Want my other one, the one that blew away"

I have well and truly had my first lesson in how all dads are a disappointment to their children. After this it gets easier to take, that's what I'm telling myself to get through it.

Thankfully the big night itself went better. My first ever pumpkin carving was quite good - the big fella compared it with a neighbour's pumpkin and gave a fair critique, and one visitor did say it was the best they'd seen that night. With a new full skeleton suit for both boys we scared the neighbours good and proper. He even learned a couple of skeleton joke for good measure.

Why did the skeleton cross the road? Because he was going to the body shop.
What musical instrument do the skeletons play? The trom-bone

A few kids who came to our door went away scarred (that's two "r"s there) for life after seeing MOTS with her mask on. What's that, you left your mask in the kitchen? Ohhhhh….

In the true spirit of things our next door neighbour parked his car across his drive such that the front was hard up against the hedge at one side and the boot against the hedge at the other. Nobody, but nobody was getting through there. Skeletons and ghosts, however…

25 October 2010

A Premier Week

We’re back home after a week away in Yorkshire and straight away we’re looking through the Premier Cottages brochure to see where we can go next. Well, strictly speaking that’ll be to see Steve & Vicki, but we do appear to have liked being away again this year so it might be the start of two weeks away with one of those being at A. N. Other place.

With a shorter drive than usual it was a much slower start to the holiday. Stopping near the Tyne Tunnel for lunch hardly made it feel like we had gone far, especially when in walked one of #1’s pals from nursery – his family were heading in the same direction.

With another stop along the way for a coffee, a time kill, and to feed the little ‘un, we arrived to find the cottage clean, spacious, and welcoming. Is that a disaster up there though? We’re on the first floor, the boards creak a bit, are we going to be upsetting anyone below us? I hope there’s nobody downstairs this week...

Disaster averted – our first floor cottage at Old Oak Cottages in Little Thirkleby (just how Yorkshire is that for a place name?) extended over the back end of the swimming pool, spa, changing room and sauna. So nobody downstairs to upset when the baby elephant was stomping around, which was just as well given we were actually staying in a sanctuary run by Born Free, or so you’d have thought given how often that baby elephant came past.

So what have we been up to?

It’s late October now, so things are winding down for winter. Which means special timetables, reduced opening hours, and compromises on weekend only activities as we only had one weekend day to go at. The winner for our Sunday trade was Lightwater Valley. Alton Towers it is not, but with the majority of things being OK for the big guy to go on it was a worthwhile trip. MOTS was kind enough to let me have a shot on a couple of big boys things so I had a couple of adrenalin fixes. We have decided that Alton Towers is well and truly out of the question until both boys can go on most if not everything, we just don’t want it restrictive for them.

Food featured along the way too, with cracking fish and chips (even I failed to finish them) in Whitby and the best sausage rolls I’ve ever tasted from Hunters of Helmsley – that place looked to be a goldmine. We are sadly lacking any sort of deli-come-baker of this calibre near home.

Not that we needed any more, we brought a new mouse into the house. A wooden one from the Mouseman in Kilburn – sadly not on the telephone desk that I liked or the craft desk that MOTS liked. Lottery win still absent, which is why our mice are also absent. No, just a small mouse for #1 son.

York – and in 2 separate locations we saw #1’s nursery pal again. I’ve heard of walking holidays but not stalking holidays! The NRM went down a storm, big trains, going on trains, looking under trains, playing with trains. Even crashing trains (yes, there next to the signalling exhibition is the crashes exhibition – not that the two are in any way linked, SN109…)

And back to the pool – as we did numerous times. #2 son got his first shot in the water, he lasted quite a while and had some serious underwater time going on. The big boy decided he was too big for his arm bands and so ditched them, in favour of the Ben 10 ring that was there. That did get ditched too, so completely unaided he managed over the course of one day to swim over 6 widths of the pool with no assistance at all. He’s got no chance of ditching his bands when we’re back in the wave machine at home, so I’ll expect a few strops there!

All in all a good week, a couple of firsts, some revisits to places I haven’t been for decades, and some other stuff we as DINKs used to do, but now with a family hat on instead.

23 September 2010

A Monthly Report

Wow, it's been about a month since my last post, and a few things have happened, some things have just got different, and some things have just plain stopped. I'm sure I've missed a whole heap of stuff out here, but a brief run-down of what's been going on is here in this post.

#2 is like Kylie - "I'm spinning around, get out of my way". He's happier on his front now than on his back, mainly because he's doing full 360 turns in the blink of an eye. MOTS has made a makeshift barricade that resembles something you'd expect on the Shankhill Road to keep him to one side and #1's age inappropriate toys out of reach on the other. The building material? Concrete, barbed wire, sentry posts? Alas she did look into these and apparently they are not permitted under current building regulations, so a line of cushions it was. It's only temporary to the point where he can start climbing then the prison, sorry I mean play pen, comes back out.

Talking of climbing we took #1 to the world's largest indoor climbing arena last weekend. He's fantastic at climbing up things - the witches hat in the local park is no match for him any more, and he's way under the target age range for it. At Gulliver's he mastered the mini climbing wall on first attempt, trying his hand at traversing too. And after 6 shots on the Pirate Ship I thought it was pretty amazing considering all I wanted to achieve was to keep my lunch down. The visit to the climbing arena was to visit the soft play area which we hoped would have a climbing wall as an introduction. The wall was there, but very small, and as a soft play venue it was OK but expensive. We won't be going back for another year, but that's no reflection on the facility. What will stop us is the fact that #1 charged past the entrance to the soft play and straight into the main arena, making a direct line for the big walls. He was gutted he wasn't allowed on them. Lessons start at age 5, so a way to go yet. We think it'll be unfair to take him there again until he can go on them. With that MOTS started looking for venues for lessons. The lowest minimum age she found was 3 year olds, but Sunderland is a bit of a hike. Besides, it's targeted lessons, 3 year olds can scale back walls and get in bathroom windows easier than your average Makem.

On the maturity front #1 is doing quite well, we're in a better place just now. He's come home from school today with a clean sweep of happy faces, not a single sad face all week. This is a first and long may it last.

And on the school front I've had my first curriculum meeting tonight. A meet and greet, wine, nibbles type affair. I got to see his "learning story" again, which is a good thing to see, learned a bit more about it and ended up sending some stuff in for it. The main aim was to convey to parents what the objectives in nursery are to set the foundations for going into P1. Objective met, and although the building is quite daunting (as one would expect from one of the biggest, if not the biggest, primary schools in the country) the atmosphere among the staff is something different. #1 will love going up to the "big school" as he calls it. He's going on visits just now, which started out as a punishment but rapidly changed to a reward!

A little wine was had there, which is OK because it's not a school night. Well, not for me anyway, but it is for MOTS. I'm fed up being the sole bread winner so I've given her an ultimatum to get back to work or win the lottery. The chances of winning the lottery are looking significantly better than the Commonwealth Games stadia still standing by the end of it, so with that she's back in work tomorrow and Monday for her "keeping in touch" days. Which means I get to stay at home, look after the kids, go for coffee, have chit-chat at the school gates, have coffee, sit on Facebook. Life of Reilly, I'm looking forward to it.

A spot of brotherly love too, #1 and #2 are getting on like a house on fire. The biggest giggles in the house come from the pair of them when they are interacting with each other. Funny faces galore, it's a happy house that they are making. They are now sharing a bath and splashing each other, #1 knows the routine for #2 being out earlier than he is, leaving him to splash and play for a bit longer. A golden moment of splashing and giggling is immortalised on YouTube (hidden, if you haven't seen it let me know and I'll send you the link).

I've been getting some dedicated time with #2 of late, a little bedtime routine has developed whereby he gets his bottle, then as MOTS does the business end of the nappy change I get to have an in depth conversation with him. He's getting quite chatty, and judging by the wrinkles on his forehead he must be asking his old man to stop talking pisch.

That's about it. More next month, perhaps?

Oh, one final thing. Yes, the dreaded "C" word. Not the one that ryhmes with a certain Forumla One world champion (1976), but one more feared among parents. The one with the Coca-Cola company's devil suit. The marketing men's dream day (no, months…). Yes, it's CHRISTMAS soon. Or so you would think - the shop over the road has had Cadbury's Snowballs in since September 1st, and we have our tickets for the Santa Steam Special - choo-choo! Santa's list is getting bigger by the day, I just hope #1 forgets about everything we've "put" on it. There again, what are the chances of that lottery win again….?

28 August 2010

Waste of NHS time & money

Those who ConDemned us to a life of misery post-Labour (isn't it always the case after a Labour government?) are looking for ways to reduce public spending. Well I've got one for you, and that's to remove the completely unnecessary duplication that the NHS has put me through just recently.

There endeth the political angle. Back to the NHS.

It all started a few weeks ago with a visit to the GP...

Who asked some questions. Who got straight answers. Who then asked if I would like to be referred. And got another straight answer. So ran through some information with me, risks etc etc, possible problems, what if I change my mind blah blah blah.

That over, then came the envelope that I'd been waiting for. With some information, some of which the GP had covered already, was my appointment. Alas, I knew in advance it was another "chat", and both MOTS and I had to attend this one.

Watch this DVD, says the nurse. Half an hour watching what the GP had said and I had read in the information sent through. THREE times going over the same stuff. THREE.

And then the nurse comes back in asking questions (to fill in more forms) that the GP had already asked, that I had already filled in on one form. That's an hour of my life my employer will never get back!

All that aside, there was one question that hadn't actually been asked so bluntly before, so it was perhaps only 59 minutes wasted.

And that was "Why do you want a vasectomy?"

Errm, 'cos I just spent money on two number plates for the cars with all four initials on and I don't want to shell out for another pair? Is that a valid answer?

Happy Unoffical Birthday!

As I was completely unprepared to post something in time for the real birthday, here's hoping you have a happy unoffical birthday, son!

If it's good enough for Lizzie, it's good enough for you to have two too. And as today is for having your pals rather than your parents' pals round, then enjoy it.

26 August 2010

[2] Baby's first...solids

Not strictly true as a title, in more ways than one. Two ways, to be precise.

Oh, enough of these inaccuracies, what's the real story?

First isn't a first, he's had solids before. And solid isn't true either, have you seen Heinz baby rice?

Yes, it has started. The wee fella has had foodstuffs other than baby milk. He had his first shot of Heinz baby rice yesterday afternoon, an experience that went down well. Three out of the four of us thinks the stuff is vile. Which is why we hope that the free sample we got is just enough to see us through the two "meals" that Annabel Karmel uses in her weaning regime. Who would buy that in vast quantities is a question that I cannot event begin to work out. It is gloopy horrible stuff akin with a very poor mix of wallpaper paste. But half as tasty.

"How come it's not his FIRST solids/gloop?", I hear you shout. Well, he has been tried with some other tasty stuff over the last week. I hope I have no social workers or health visitors reading this because his first non-baby milk taste was… Walls Cornetto. Just a little bit on the end of Mummy's little finger. Had a double effect, introduced him to another taste AND had a cooling effect on his swelling gums. Oh yeah, they are on their way.

So, here we have scientific proof that ice cream is multi functional. Who needs Calgel, or Bonjella, when Walls make a perfectly good substitute?


A video of this episode is available on YouTube, but unlisted. For the link please email me!

16 August 2010

Careers advice

We've had a proper look tonight at what the big guy wants to do for a career. And after some initial encouragement both parents jumped in, back-tracking, and firmly advised against his chosen career.

The video below is a firm YouTube favourite. A few months ago the big guy would come running whenever he heard the music start up. He loved this video. So much that I think he watched it too much, taking the shine off it.

But it is still listed in my favourites. And tonight, he revisited it. And during the titles told me the bird was coming up with its wings out. And that there were lots of planes, with different colours behind them. Nothing wrong with his memory, as if we needed further evidence of it. Anyway, we watched the video... [enjoy!]

As the planes near the end of their more genteel acrobatics I am informed that the big guy wants to go in that plane. Not any of them, the one second on the right. Want to fly that plane. Wear gloves. And glasses. Pull glasses down like this (using his sunglasses as a prop showing me how to do it).

Well, son, if you want to go in that plane you will need to join the RAF, learn how to fly, and be the best you can be. Sound advice I thought. It was taken on board with a simple "OK".

Crash the planes, Daddy, crash the planes.

We think you may be better suited to an alternative career, son.

07 August 2010

Holestone Four Barns

Just arrived home from our fourth visit to Holestone Moor Barns and shall we say it's been a holiday by numbers. You'd think after 4 visits you'd know what to expect, surely?

Well, we didn't know what to expect. And stop calling me Shirley.

I said it was a holiday by numbers. So I'll go through each number in turn.

Trip on a steam train.
Number of dogs nearly smuggled home in the car.

The number of stops we made on the way down. One for lunch, and one to visit the Bowes crew.
The number of boys we had in the back seat, also the multiplication factor of trouble I had expected on the way down. (1) Want a wee-wee. (2) Whhhaaaaaaaaa (need feeding). But not - everything was synchronised, all bar one lay-by toilet stop all went well.
The number of theme parks visited.

The number of visits to Witworth Hospital after the oldest stubbed his toe to the point of infection. Strictly speaking the first visit didn't count as I wasn't going to make him wait the 2 hours plus, but one visit for a clean up and dressing, the second at their request to see how it was going (it was going badly, so antibiotics given)

Also the number of different types of antibiotics MOTS has been on for a bladder infection. First two were useless as the infection she had was resistant to them, so third ones should do the trick.

The number of different NHS establishments visited.

The number of big projects Steve & Vicki have been working on since last time we were there. Drainage (forgot to ask Steve about that one), wind turbine and new access road.

The number of times round the Pirate Adventure ride at Drayton Manor Park. In succession.
The number of times on the Log Flume at Gulliver's Kingdom. Not in succession.
The number of people in the family portrait drawn by the big fella.

Number of stars Steve & Vicki proudly display. After 4 visits that's 20 we've had the pleasure of!
Number of hours (to the minute) the engine was running from pulling off our drive to going down the new road.

Total number of times I've been an ambulance driver for the big boy or for MOTS.
The number of times I can go on the Pirate Ship at Gulliver's Kingdom before feeling ill. Big fella was still going strong.

The number of hours the big fella can run around Drayton Manor Park / Thomas Land and not get bored. Only closing time called a halt to it.

The number of eggs left in the cupboard. Yum yum, breakfast sorted then!

The number of eggs we've brought home. I know the food miles for them is normally measured in feet, and this officially counts as an export, but they are fantastic on toast so it had to be done.

MOTS' peak temperature.

The number of weeks until the next visit.

Degree incline at Gullivers (Estimate). Feels more like 45 degrees, looks more like 90 degrees.

Average mpg in the Sunderwagon on the way home, door to door.

The number of minutes it took to get out of Smiths Island car park in Bakewell on Monday afternoon. Never, ever, EVER again...

The number of Airmiles it cost us to get into Gulliver's Kingdom. Cash equivalent zilch, nowt, nada, zip.

Miles driven this week.

As you may have gathered the week was centred around MOTS and the big fella both needing medical attention. MOTS for an infection she picked up before we left, and with that hitting her hard last weekend and her test results coming back to show the antibiotics she had been on were no good that meant a third lot for her. With the big fella stubbing his toe after already breaking his nail he got an infection there too, so I felt like an ambulance driver up to and including Tuesday. Vicki was superb though, almost insisting I took MOTS to the out of hours surgery without the boys, so poor Steve's tea was late because we took the offer up. Thanks, Vicki. Sorry, Steve.

But, it was a holiday nonetheless. Steve & Vicki's hospitality is second to none, so despite three days of the six being taken over with medical needs the three we did have made up for it. Well, almost. I had planned on a nice pub lunch (there's no shortage of proper pubs) and had made sure Vicki was under orders to make sure Steve lost his wallet. But, alas, as MOTS was well off anything other than water by that point we called off. I'm sure we'll do it next year though.

Drayton Manor Park was a first for us. The main attraction for a family of our age was Thomas Land. Hmm, mixed feelings on this one. Sure, the kids get excited. But to get on the main man himself is a one-way trip to the other end of the park which involves a lengthy wait. Most rides there involved a lengthy wait, and mainly down to lack of staff. Only one person seemed to be operating most rides, with the same person manning the controls, doing the safety checks, locking / unlocking the cars / safety belts. This greatly increases the turnaround time. Alton Towers it certainly is not, where the staffing levels are much higher with separation of duties being apparent. The whole thing was slowed down far too much, not ideal when you have kids that don't normally wait that long for anything. A tad disappointing, until we wandered into the "big boys" rides. Some shorter queues for bigger rides, and more thrills too. Looks like we have an adrenalin junkie on our hands, which is no surprise really.

Gulliver's Kingdom was a hit with the big guy too, although I think he may have outgrown it by next year. At his height he could do all but 2 rides, so in terms of accessibility it was spot on. Great value too, especially as we got tickets from Airmiles. But a little tired and dated in parts, but still a good day out. I can imagine the boardroom meeting when some senior manager walked in saying he'd bought a plot at Matlock Bath for a new park. I wonder what job he's doing now, because he would have been laughed out of the room. Whoever thought it would be a great idea to build a park on a hill that steep must have been seriously mentally ill. It defeats all logic just thinking how they got some of the kit in there without the use of military grade helicopters. And I'm talking about the food deliveries, not just the steel and timber. It was scary going up there in a car, so delivery wagons....?

I hope Peak Rail win in their bid to reopen the line between Rowsley and Bakewell, that would save us from that hell again! We will go back to Bakewell, it's a lovely town, but that car park is off limits. It was unbelievable how badly organised it was, lack of staff to direct, police only interested if there was any physical violence) it was brewing, one guy out of his car to kick the car behind him for being too close). My top tip is to avoid Bakewell during show week when the showground car park is closed. But don't avoid Bakewell, we found a great baker and have stuck with it. The lamb and leek pies are fantastic. Not 105 minutes trying to leave a car park fantastic, granted. Maybe 99 minutes though.

A holiday nonetheless. And a great one despite the inconveniences, as we can see the big fella growing into things, so we know we have many years left yet. Well, maybe one or two, depends on when our welcome is outstayed!

13 July 2010

[2] All smiles

Starting with the caveat that this is based on limited experience (just like the health claims from L'Oreal's surveys of 74 women, 86% of which said their products are the best thing since sliced bread), I have to say that I have never known a baby smile so much as the wee fella does.

He does get abandoned from time to time, during all waking hours only. We're not that bad at being parents if social services are watching. When he is abandoned he's usually very happy left to his own devices. But see when you return, it's big smiles all round. Not that he's complained about being left while you sort out the carnage also known as his big brother, he's just happy to see you again. Maybe it's the new face he sees, it's been that long since he saw it it's like meeting us for the first time again.

It is great, though, having some glimpse back to a time when the big fella used to be as happy to see us. We have learnt from some mistakes though, well one in particular. We didn't cheer and whoop when he (#2) managed to pull his musical bee on his bouncy chair (this made the big fella cry with fear - the whooping from his parents, not the bee). I think that was a turning point for the first born, so we're treading carefully with the second. If the wee one turns out OK we'll blame the fright of the musical bee on the outcome of all future misdemeanours of the big one. Any excuse.

So yes, at the moment the little one is all smiles, pretty much all the time. But, there is a fear this is not going to last. He's just started chewing multiple fingers at once, and drooling a bit. The nightmare that is teething is starting to cross our minds. Oh well, we can look forward to toothy smiles as we say goodbye to the gummies.

12 July 2010

Time to change...no time to change!

A few more changes are afoot at home, but little time to make or reflect on them. All too cryptic just now, but all will be revealed as time goes on.

Photos - haven't been updated in ages. I'll get on with these when I can.

Development - wee fella is coming along great, again few updates of late.

Health - first clue here in the new tagline.

Hmm, busy, very very busy.

10 July 2010

Driving licence comes of age

My driving licence has come of age. It's 21 years old this weekend! There's something else significant about the day I passed my driving test, a date for which I receive constant reminders whenever I get behind the wheel, but I just can't think what it is.

Maybe it's because exactly 10 years (almost to the minute too) after getting my freedom, I lost it again. Yes, this weekend marked 11 years of MOTS and I enduring tortuous togetherness in matrimonial hell. No wonder it's a damp and miserable weekend.

BTW, our favourite local restaurant is back on form, the food was excellent last night. Fantastic sunset as we walked along the prom, the most amazingly bright rainbow (with a slightly duller pal right to its left), and best of all one very tired 15 week old thanks to him keeping the babysitter up all night (did nothing but smile at her, apparently - what a boy!)

24 June 2010

Home Improvements

A nice family moment to share from last night. We're making some changes at for the benefit of the boys, which they are getting involved with. While the little one fell asleep in his chair and was not taken with the changes going on the big one got stuck right in.

Cost. A very topical subject in the current economic climate. I have calculated how much the guest bedroom will cost over the life of our mortgage and it's not viable to maintain it as such. The rationale behind this has already covered, but to recap - with having the two boys now the guest room has had to go. The first stage of this was completed in August, when the big fella (only fella as he was then) moved bedrooms, from the "nursery" into the "guest bedroom" when his big cabin bed got built. So we lost a bedroom.

There has been a small impact so far. The "nursery" has been mothballed so far, with the futon in there as a temporary guest room. However, the wee fella will be moving in there soon, very soon, so will become a nursery again.

So where to sleep for the wrinklies?

Well, therein lies the cost calculations. Purchase price of the house divided by square footage of public rooms, multiplied up by the real cost when mortgage interest is applied and we're looking at around fifty to sixty thousand pounds for a guest bedroom. Bugger me, that's lavish living. Maybe we should have got a smaller house and just paid for a top hotel every time the wrinklies were up, certainly would have cost less! The point is, it's expensive, and doesn't work for the family. That's what the previous post on this talked about, so that's why we need to make changes. We can't have the boys in together for the sake of a dedicated guest room.

But what to do? The temporary guest room is decommissioned as of this Saturday.

I have compiled a list of local hotels that the wrinklies will have access to, I will try to negotiate special rates for a guaranteed minimum number of visits per year and hope this will keep everybody sweet. A guest room is a luxury of space we can't afford any more. But, unfortunately for the local hoteliers, so is the dining room which could offer the wrinklies a less luxurious offering than the local 4 stars. We eat as a family at the breakfast bar, with the formal dining room used only at Christmas now. Which means the dining room gets used less than the temporary guest room that is facing imminent decommissioning. Easy answer, ditch the dining, guest room in there.

Doesn't that just mean we still have a dedicated guest room, but on the ground floor instead? Good point you made there.

We also lost our lounge 3 years ago. It's a maze of toys getting from the sofa to the TV. Where can we put all this? In the new guest room. And regain our lounge! But two rooms in one? Mezzanine level in there?

So there's the solution. The current temporary guest room gets decommissioned this weekend. The dining room gets converted into a combined play room / guest room, with or without mezzanine level. OK, no mezzanine level. The dining table moves into the kitchen with the breakfast bar removed. We eat in the same physical space, but on different furniture. The boys have somwhere to play during the day, we adults get somewhere to sit without walking through the toy equivalent of the M25, and the wrinklies get shifted downstairs when they take up short term lodgings. Is everybody happy?

The dining room conversion has started, some furniture has been re-homed in other rooms and a general clear-out of piles of post has begun. I hit IKEA this week to buy some tracks for blinds as we have glass on all 4 sides of this room, and curtains on only one at present. For it to work as a guest room some privacy is needed, so we're putting panel curtains in front of all the internal glass doors. The track I started to build last night, and in true IKEA style nothing has written instructions, they are all visual. The big fella said he wanted to help Daddy. He looked at the instructions, and told us we needed a pencil. Off he went, bringing back a pencil. Need ladders. How about using your small chairs instead? OK. Two chairs came in. Before Elfin gets involved they are rock solid, better than the ladders. Hmm, tape measure. That appeared too. Struggled with the spirit level though, work needed on that one. Tomorrow's lesson - how to use the keyless chuck on the power drill!!

That's the first time he's gone out of his way and asked to help, and he did a marvellous job of seeing what was needed and going for them, with no prompting or help at all (chair was a suggestion, spirit level a new concept). All the while his little brother was snoring away just happy to have this done for him.

The next help will be when the big guy gets to choose the colours for the 8 panels we need. I want him to be part of putting all this up, so he can see the changes happening, be part of implementing them, and more importantly be involved in the decisions too. After all, it's going to be mainly his (& brother's) room.

We're not knocking walls down or planning on taking part in Grand designs, but the changes we are making are still quite significant to how we use our space. The dynamics of the house are going through some changes with rooms losing old or acquiring new functions. The dynamics of the home are changing as we make the house work better for our family's current needs. The dynamics of the family changed last night with the big fella actively getting involved with the changes that will affect his use of our space.

20 June 2010

Happy Daddy's Day!

Double the number of cards*, double the fun. A happy Daddy's Day indeed.

* Sets the precedent for Mother's Day next March. Although it was kind of set anyway, I had two cards bought just in case the wee fella arrived before Mother's Day. As it was he was just after so MOTS has to wait almost a full year for her first card and pressie! Hmm, gives me plenty of time to save up for something special I guess.

02 June 2010

[2] Playing with my big bruv

Very short one, but worthy of the mention. At the weekend just past we were all in what is rapidly becoming the family bed (I'm sure it was once termed a marital bed). #1 turns to #2, head in hands:


And there he was, a few repetitions, hand movements and all. And there was the little 'un, happily smiling back at his big bruvver, clearly trying to say "thank you for playing with me".

31 May 2010

l'auto est arrivée

Well it does have French family after all. Besides, Japanese isn't my best subject.

Yes, Squishy is being picked up as this post goes live. And any second now the timer will stop, and I'll remove it later.

24 May 2010

[2] Baby's first...Jabs

Here I talked about Big Bruv's first jabs. Today the Little Bruv had his. A similar response to last time from the tiny one, MOTS was 100% fine (so completely different), and for me - same old same old, no beer!

Apart from that, nothing changes, the opinions regarding vaccines for number one apply equally for number two. And as the last post was quite long compared to this one, is it a sign of things to come - all shiny and new for when milestones are hit the first time, and non-events when they are hit the second time? Hmm, hope not, for the little one's sake at least!

18 May 2010

When is 43% not forty three percent?

The delivery of the Sunderwagon is getting closer so I'm looking at how I'm going to get to the dealer to pick it up. It's going to be a 2 hour train ride which I'm really looking forward to (iPod, tea, biscuits, peace and quiet) so I have been looking at advanced fares as I hope to get 5 days notice of the pickup. And I must say this has told me thetrainline needs a lesson on simple mathematics, which I hope Snoopy will help me out on.

"Save on average 43%" claim thetrainline on their adverts - TV, print, website. So let's have a look at what that actually means. In the not so small print the calculation is made on advanced fares purchased through them versus walk-on fares purchased on the day. Ahh, chalk and cheese then.

Let's start comparing like for like to get a true picture shall we? I have looked at an advanced First Class single (and to be sure of a true comparison I have made sure the SAME ticket is being compared for the SAME train with the SAME restrictions) across the following outlets:
East Coast website - £20, no fees
CrossCountry website - £20, no fees
At the station - £20, no fees
ScotRail website - £20, no fees
thetrainline.com - £20 + £1 compulsory booking fee + £3.50 credit card fee = £24.50 (22.5% more, more not saving)

Hmm, pray tell why I would even contemplate thetrainline? Shame, I used to use them a lot when I travelled by train for more than commuting.

Just for the sake of it, let's do the comparison by their methods:
At the station, walk-on fare bought on the day - £37.50, no fees
thetrainline.com - £20 + £1 + £3.50 = £24.50 - £13 or 35% saving
thetrainline.com - £20 + £1 = £21.00 - £16.50 or 44% saving if not using a credit card, if not buying on the day, if not travelling with your back to the sun, if not travelling on a day ending in a "y"...

Dubious. Very dubious. I might lodge a note with the ASA just for the sport!

Ticket to be purchased at the station in advance, with a credit card, and the "saving" I make over not using thetrainline will go on fish & chips for lunch on the way home. And a valet when MOTS whines at me for ditching the wrapper in the passenger footwell!

When is 43% not forty three percent? When it's quoted by thetrainline.com

14 May 2010

Sunderwagon soon

New date for the new Sunderwagon to arrive - May 28th @ dealer. Not long now, eh Ethel?

PS - New countdown going to expected delivery... seen it yet?

Sleep for the dentist - proud of both boys

Last night I was so proud of both my boys. I've already mentioned that the wee fella slept through last night, but the big fella also had his moment.

It was dentist day yesterday. That's a family outing, as the dentist is close to Daddy's work. MOTS brings him through and we have a double appointment. New challenge yesterday though, pick him up from school then come through. AND having the wee fella too.

But, in true fashion, MOTS did fantastic, getting to my work in good time for a slow stroll and short wait.

Once inside the routine is the same. I go first, with MOTS & number 1 sat on the sofa in the exam room with us. That way he can see, hear and take in what's going on. Then it's his turn, sat on Daddy's knee. And we have never had any problem at all. But last night we had some changes to the routine.

First off, I needed an x-ray. So that was the rest of the family bundled outside while the radiation was blasted through my mouth. No drama there, just took it in his stride.

Secondly, after my teeth were polished, he's saying "my turn". And after MOTS asked about going on Daddy's knee he opted to go in the chair on his own. He sat back, got a bib, leant forward for the chain to be put under his neck (without being asked). And as the dentist started asking "open your...." as he turned towards him, oh, your mouth is already open. So not only did the dentist get a good look, he also tried a quick polish (successfully). And the feedback he got was glowing - about 50/50 will get this far, getting the polish tried at this stage is very rare.

And then he reached for the cup of water. Well, Daddy had rinsed, and so was he going to. He'd watched every last thing that was going on and wanted to copy it to the last detail. I'm so pleased that after a few visits he's happy to go there (truth be told, when MOTS told him they were going to see Daddy he was not happy, when she said they were going to the dentist he got excited), happy to be examined, now happy for a bit of polish, and very cooperative in the chair.

[2] Baby's first...smile etc

Here he is at 8 weeks old and had a massive amount of development going on. And here I am with hardly any time to fire the PC up and record it, which is a shame because MOTS has started looking back at where number 1 was with his development. So, finger out time...

The health visitor has stopped coming, she's happy with his weight gain, even if he did go up from the 50th to just over 60th percentile. Likes his grub, that boy!

"Is he smiling?" a couple of visits ago. "Aye, from 3 weeks". And those initial smiles that were more like wind grimaces have gone to full on big beaming smiles. I got one at early feed this morning, pet lip was out for the hunger and when he finally decided to open his eyes and saw me he broke off from whinging for a few seconds to give me a massive grin. Then back to whinging.

Understandable, he must have been starving. At exactly 8 weeks old, and on my watch, we got the first full nights sleep. Supper at 20:00 last night, breakfast at 05:45 this morning. Result!

What we are lacking is the recording of such moments, and a lack of photos. Although he had more taken in the first minutes and couple of days than his big brither had, that's where it has dried up. Not much more after that. Daddy must try harder!

07 May 2010

Blooming ridiculous

It's been a while since the last company failed to deliver on our expectations. But we have a new one to add to the list of let-downs. Unlike Tesco, this one is related to the kids!

Blooming Marvellous got £135 worth of order from MOTS, an item for each of our boys and a belated birthday present for Mac. At the time of ordering they were out of stock, all due in 26th April.

26th April came and went, MOTS has just been on the website and they are quoting 28th June. A quick phone call to customer services and the orders are cancelled. We'll get the self same items from John Lewis, in stock, but at slightly higher cost - certainly not worth another 2 month wait.

On the plus side, Play have emailed me to say a DVD I ordered still isn't in stock. That's only a tenner, but if Play can send out emails with updates for small orders then surely BM could for big ones?

Almost 3 months wait - who do they think they are, Nissan??

27 April 2010

Election turn-off

Only enter here for a political rant. A floating voter who is totally disengaged vents his spleen here, and suggests that one of the party leaders needs serious physcological help.

Only enter here for a political rant. A floating voter who is totally disengaged vents his spleen here, and suggests that one of the party leaders needs serious physcological help.

Politics is usually one topic to give a wide berth, but the outlook has changed a little since the last general election. Sure, Labour introduced the Child Trust Fund, and it has worked for us. Although the rates are garbage at the moment you can't knock the intention behind them. Shame about the rest of the economy. But memories of the poll tax are still strong north of the border, so their chances are slim up here. So who to vote for? Let's have a brief, and not comprehensive look, at the parties, and not necessarily from my usual family perspective. This one's all mine.

Cards on the table, I'm a floating voter. I have voted for all three of the main UK parties, some minor parties, and up here the SNP. Even the Pensioner's People's Party got a vote one year - I admit that this was a protest vote against the big parties and the candidate didn't win, but at least I carried out my civic duty and voted.

Which raises a good point. Without delving into the history books and go on about individuals and groups that fought hard and suffered persecution trying to get everyone the vote, it did happen and we do piss on their efforts if we don't vote. There are no "accessibility" issues with voting, it is a privelege that has been fought for and we should do it.

For this year's general election, however, I'm really stumped. The big issues for me are just a few.

The gravy train is departing on May 6th from platform Westminster, with 652(ish) passengers on board. Some parties don't attend Westminster as a protest against the monarchy, so why bother being an MP? For the expenses, which they still claim. No party is immune to expenses abuse, and even those being challenged in court expect us to pay for their defence as well as their prosecution. Conflict of interest? Will any of this change to the extent it needs? Unlikely.

Policies. On some policies you can't get a piece of parma ham between the parties. They'll all continue to milk the motorist for tax. They will all continue to duck their responsibilities on ensuring a fair regime for all legal residents, and a removal for illegals. And as for the Liberal Demo9crats lumping all bank staff under the "over-bonused banker" banner is just plain wrong.

So it's going to be local issues that decide it for me. Or so I thought. I saw the candidate list in the local paper this week, and was shocked to see that only two of the candidates actually live in the constituency. 2 live in Edinburgh, one in Central Scotland, one in the Birmingham constituency of Edgbaston. Edgbaston?? Is the Liberal Democrat candidate planning on moving, or claiming for 3 homes and all the extra travel expenses? Only the Tories and UKIP have a local candidate. In these times when we are encouraged to support the local economy, if that extended to voting locally too then there are only 2 candidates. I would certainly advocate any rule which states the candidate must reside in the constituency, thus blocking "safe seat" selections (of course dossing on a mate's floor would need to be controlled)

Leader's debates. Alex Salmond is taking the BBC to court for exclusion from the Leader's debate. But North of the border there are 4 programmes for the Scottish leaders, of which 3 he's boycotting. Make your mind up, fella. "I want to be invited, but when I am I won't go". If Alex Salmond is complaining about not being on the stage with Messrs Clegg, Cameron and Blair, sorry I mean Brown, then he needs to remember these points:

  • The term "Prime Ministerial Debate" was used. The three men on stage are all possible Prime Ministers. All of their parties are standing for election in enough seats to give them a majority. Only subjective opinion may refute that, but mathematically these three men are the only three with any chance of being in Number 10 on May 7th.
  • He's not even standing as an MP. So how can anyone who will have no voting rights in Westminster put themselves on stage? Why wasn't I invited, I have the same position?
  • When he was an MP he didn't attend, still claiming a salary yet he didn't do his job, because he had another in Edinburgh. This is just a whinge of mine, nothing to do with his lack of presence in the Prime Ministerial debates.

And yet he takes the BBC to court. Wasting BBC funds that are being diverted from broadcasting to defend themselves. Salmond needs to stop behaving like this or those floaters, like me, who have suppported his party in the past will start to regard him as psycotic and not return. For the good of the SNP, and for Scotland, he has to go and get some help.

So who are we left with, locally? UKIP and Tory. There's no independent candidate to support, no minor party, so I am seriously thinking about not bothering as I can't even have a protest vote.

And that's what sickens me most, not the bahaviour of our duly elected, but the prospect of not voting at all.

22 April 2010

1 month report (at 5 weeks)

It's now just over a month since Mr Luther arrived (MOTS hate me calling him this, but it suits him perfectly IMHO). So what has it been like since this hand grenade went off in the middle of our utopian family life?

Well, first and foremost, there was no such thing as utopia. Things are tough at the moment, and were before Mr Luther arrived. Endemol (hereby the name for Big Brother) is having his ups and downs, is generally better since Mr Luther arrived but still has some moments.

But as a big brother he's great. Helpful, doting, sharing, chats about him, generally really good in that respect. So how's the little brother doing? Weight gains are bang on, but MOTS is already looking to retire some clothes. I don't see the point in size "0-1 month" or "up to 10lb". Hell, some babies are bigger than that when the stork drops them off (Mac). So while it's nice to get a massive amount of new clothes at this size they don't last long at all. So yes, weight, seemed a big gain over the last 2 weeks until you look at the graphs, and in "real terms" there's been no movement at all, tracking the line exactly, gain spot on expectation. As a percentage gain though it is quite a bit, up from 9lb 1oz to 10lb 11oz in 2 weeks initially brings on the question of pie eating.

It is completely different this time around. Even Endemol has started to tune out Mr Luther's screams while we're sat having our dinner. Hungry? No. Wind? No. Nappy full? No. Cold? No. Right, carry on screaming, we're having pork satay, we'll give you a cuddle later.

It's all about adjusting too. With me having nearly 4 weeks off work this time we got into a nice routine that came to an abrupt halt when I went back. One that involved the spare bedroom and a pair of earplugs for me, and permanent nightshift for MOTS. The theory being that I was then fresh to look after the rather active Endemol when he got up, allowing MOTS to get more sleep during the morning. That has now changed, I'm on nightshift Wednesday & Thursday nights to make sure MOTS gets a full nights sleep for being up on Thursday & Friday morning when she has both boys on her own all day with no chance of catching up on sleep. Me? I can always catch up on sleep at work, I have a pair of glasses with eyes painted on the lenses so nobody will know.

Main question from the health visitor yesterday: "Has he started smiling?" Oh yes, recognition smiles (knows his parents), interactive smiles (smiling when he likes how you talk to him), both are coming along quite nicely. And those roast chicken legs* are strong too, movement is coming already. He had to straighten them out sometime, but I see trouble ahead if he's working his way up the crib now.

MOTS was worried about last Thursday having them both on her own, and I was greeted home with "I kept my head above water, just". Hmm, expecting carnage I was very surprised. On top of keeping the boys fed, watered and cleaned up she had made dinner, two loads of washing and cleared the kitchen. That's not keeping the head above water, that's way more than can be expected with those two.

It does seem like there's little time on an evening now, but when things settle into a new routine and Mr Luther starts sleeping through things will get easier and more flexible. Until then there's one thing I think will come back from history - and that's sleeping on the train on the way home on Thursday nights.

* Roast chicken legs - a bi-product of a section delivery, they don't get to straighten out.

No sign of the family wagon yet

There's no sign of the family wagon yet. Sunderland's finest are working flat out and still the orders come in thick and fast. I have an indirect route in to the shop floor, just hope he's going to look after Squishy when it gets built.

It's still going to be a royal pain seeing it on the back of a wagon not 100 yards from our house en-route to the dealer, followed by a 2 hour train journey and a 2 hour drive home on collection day. Still, that's 2 hours of relaxation in first class with tea, biscuits and an iPod. And a further two hours of playing with the audio system to get the aforementioned iPod working. Whoooaaaaaaa, what's that car doing on the wrong side of the road??????

According to the countdown timer it's just under 94,000 minutes until collection, assuming the estimated date is met.

06 April 2010

[2] First let-down

A couple of bad experiences with a retailer today. Same retailer, different services. One related to number two son, the other not.

First issue: New TV

New TV ordered on Thursday, delivered today. Only the screen surround left the factory with a nice crack in it, small, but very noticeable due to its position. The outer packaging was fine so wasn't a transit issue. The email and website says to call the electrical helpline first for any return, they said to call after-sales as they dealt with queries such as the RTFM mob. Aftersales wanted me to speak to the helpline to get a resolution as they may be able to talk me through it (what, replacing it?), but they just told me to ring you, now you tell me to ring them??? After speaking to person number 3 a replacement was not ordered as they did not have access to the "computer systems" to tell me where it would be in stock to go and collect (as I am not waiting in a full day again). Damaged TV being collected tomorrow with refund coming.

Second issue: Baby & Toddler club

On February 8th we registered for the Baby & Toddler Club. Confirmation email arrived within the hour, then nothing. 27th March we tried again, same thing. Nothing through from February, so we called today. Someone today (today - coincidence?) has cancelled our club membership, so they will set it up again, although the first 3 of 8 magazines we won't get. And the welcome pack will be 3 weeks away. Hmm, tell you what, how about you just hang on to them? "I can see the user ID of the person who cancelled it, I'll find out and call you back". Breath, holding.......

So that's it, two bad experiences today with a company that has got too large for its customers to be important enough to respond to when they get sucked in by the advertised "clubs". So large that it spends a fortune on advertising a service that it frankly can't deliver. Too large that when problems arise you get ping-ponged between two departments that clearly don't even know their own remits.

Tesco. Just too large.

31 March 2010

Useful/less products

Having been through all this baby lark once before we know which products worked for us and which didn't. We have bought very little for the second one, but here's one that will be useful for them both.

Your order for Sunshine On Leith (Reissue) - The Proclaimers has been posted.

Brilliant! Can't recommend it enough!

24 March 2010

[2] It's all food, food, food

Day 6 in the Big Brother House. Only because we start at day 0, which is fair enough. And since just before it all started life has been centred around pretty much nothing else but food, at whichever stage in it's journey.

With MOTS (no longer Mother Of The Son, but Mother Of The Sons [a girl would have made her Mother Of The Sprogs!]) going through the backup plan of another section she had strict instructions to eat nothing on the morning of surgery, and drink nothing after 6, no milk, just water, etc etc etc. Needless to say she was a little jealous at me and number 1 son tucking into big bowls of cereal and rubbing our tummies.

It was a hive of activity after that. Dressed, nursery drop-off, then all the pre-op stuff we talked about earlier. Part way through the op MOTS clearly got hungry.

I can smell food

I couldn't, even with a good long sniff. Perhaps the faintest whiff of something cooking, perhaps, but I wouldn't have been willing to confirm it.

I could hear the surgeon behind me chatting away, the clashing of instruments, the suction of he vacuum. Oh, there's that whiff. And then it dawned on me. Hmm, time to keep quiet and not tell MOTS just yet, but that cooking smell is actually her, as the surgeon goes in with the hot irons to stem the bleeding by cauterizing some bits and bobs in there. Perhaps now isn't the time to mention that one. Not when the "cooking" smell is making her more hungry. Later, perhaps.

The poor lass didn't get her tea and toast until quite later on, after I'd dashed home. The order form was in for tea though, which she did enjoy. Don't get the fish though, it's awful.

Number 2 son was more than happy with his booby juice, I'd had a WHSmith special, remember the trauma of trying to work out logistics for feeding Grandparents (and now forgotten what the outcome was).

Friday was harder. Logistically speaking anyway. Grandma and Granda sorted themselves out along with number 1 at lunchtime, Granny & Grandpa had a late one after visiting, I didn't bother, number 2 son had more booby juice. And I let MOTS into the secret that was the cooking smells were the previous day, and having looked at her tea it appeared to me that she was found that prospect more appetising than the hospital fare that had been on her plate.

By Saturday food is starting to settle. MOTS refuses to order tea because she won't be there for it. It came.... we weren't released in time. Granny & Grandpa had a stew on for the big homecoming. Bliss.

Two days after coming home I took MOTS out for lunch. A long lunch, appointment at the registry office, and number 2 slept through it all. I was so pleased at getting out for lunch so early, MOTS deserved it. The coffee and cake in a small coffee shop yesterday went down a treat too! We are so spoiled for coffee out, two already and he's not even a week old!

Since coming home number 2 son has had a little wobble on his fluid intake, so we've hit the bottle for a top-up. Not that it's bothered him in the slightest, he has no bother going between the bottle and breast. Sounds like a great Friday night out to me!

19 March 2010

[2] The first day

As promised, here are the full gory details in glorious technicolor!

Warning - not for the faint-hearted!

The day started out just like any other. Hang on a second, isn't that a line from the musical version of War of the Worlds? Aye, it is, and that's a bit how it was.

The day started out just like any other. Alarm at o six hundred hours (what does the o stand for....?), number one son dropped off at nursery at 7:30, but no train. No train? Nope. Not going to work today.

A breeze of a journey to the hospital, most unusual for that time in a morning. We knew our requested arrival time of 07:30 was out of the question so I rang ahead the previous day. Apparently MOTS was booked in first and they like their first lady in theatre for 08:30. No problem, they said, we'll just switch her round. But clearly emergencies take precedence so it could be later, so bring magazines. Roger that.

Triage, circa 08:20. Checked in. Daddy reaching for the Top Gear magazine. MOTS - "Leave them for when we exhaust conversation, when we get fed up talking to each other". Circa 08:20 and 20 seconds, Daddy reaching for Top Gear magazine. Circa 08:20, 20 seconds a a few nanseconds clip around right ear strikes.

A little over 5 minutes or so passes and MOTS is called by a midwife. Quick chat, short wait, anaesthetist pops in for a chat, short wait, registrar pops in for a chat, short wait couple of med students pop in for a chat and to ask to take some tissue samples for a study, midwife for theatre pops in and oh and they are waiting in theatre, everyone's ready - except us.

And then we got hit by that great big avalanche. The pit of the stomach fell (it does have a long way to go), bounced off the floor and got wedged somewhere in the back of my throat. Which is just as well because it prevented the vocalisation of the thoughts running through my mind in that split second. Started with the pre-amble to six hundred hours from earlier, and ended with something that rhymes with book.

Oh well, time to limber up and think about getting into some fetching green gowns, eh? At this stage MOTS was already in her standard issue stuff.

Upstairs we went. A quick loo trip. The last I saw of MOTS was her heading to the loo. By the time I came out she'd gone, and I wash ushered into the changing room to get into my gown. Hmm, sexy. No pictures, the midwife did threaten, but didn't follow through. I liked her.

Mots wasn't just getting prepared when I got in, a little further on by the time I got sent back for the camera I'd already turned a bag inside out for, Hmm, wrong bag. How many f'ing bags do you need??? Music was a little slow and dreary, the theatre nurse suggested something more upbeat.

When you go, will you send back, a letter from America...

Oh no, we're not having another baby born to the fucking proclaimers are we? Oh yes you are....

Spinal block in, surgeon does a roll call, last check - MOTS' name and date of birth. Check. Everybody's happy, all permissions granted, got the OK from the pain doctor, all systems go.

And I would walk five hundred miles

No, no, please no. "OK, is this standard issue", I enquired. Then out came a frame, a hibbies shirt, some notes, and the rules of "3" for surgery.

  • 3 mls
  • 3 pillows
  • 3 words - "Sunshine on Leith"

I don't think you're meant to be in hysterics when your wife's lying on the table cut wide open. Some might consider it bad form.

It was very very different this time. Chat was jovial, mood was light, among the staff it was just another day in the office. Forgetting why we were there for a second, we were brought back to reality very very quickly when...


What on earth is that? Oh, that'll be our son! Reality hit with the force of an atom bomb - we weren't there for the chat, we were there to have a baby. Immediate cry, followed by "congratulations you have a boy". Talking later MOTS has a split second warning because she felt him being lifted out just before he cried, other than that we were given no indication from the surgeon that she was about to lift him out. He wasn't wrinkled like number 1 son, or grey. The extra 13 days clearly helped him get ready.

I got whisked out into the resuscitation room for photos and to be with him while he got cleaned up. And he managed to drench the midwife with his fireman's hose - twice. That was magical, being there for that. And bringing our son back to meet his Mummy properly. Once she was stitched up and moved onto the bed I passed him over, her first cuddle.

The first of many they both got yesterday.

18 March 2010

[2] Two boys!

Full post to follow in due course, just a quick one before I head off to bed after a long hard day doing nothing, chilling, and listening to The Proclaimers. Again. Five hundred miles later...

We have another baby boy! And for those who voted in favour of a girl, all I can say is "LOSERS!" Oh, yeah, the details:

Weighing in at 3.600kg (that's 7lb 15oz in old money) Alex Callum made his entrance into the world at 10:16 this morning. All he'd done since is eat, sleep and cry (quantities in that order, and not much in the crying department). Baby and Mummy both fine and doing very well. #2 has beaten his older brother in his first tests, APGAR results in at 9 & 9. 10 tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, and two huge boy bits. Another chip off the old block!

Big brother adores him already, desperately wants him to come home. Hopefully for the weekend!

17 March 2010

[2] The penultimate day

With all the possible scenarios, and the worry about the logistics of looking after number 1 son, MOTS has hung on to the point neither of us ever thought we'd see. 5 days overdue.

From the outset there was always going to be a fear of the same happening again - screaming baby, there was hope for a puppy but that faded fast after the first trimester. And that was the hormone drip she had when she was induced last time. That goes near her and my fists come near the doctor who recommends it. Hmm, the caveman protection bit aside, it's not going to go down that route.

When the obstetrician booked her in for a section it came out of the blue. That wasn't how that particular meeting had gone. Manchester United vs Charlton Athletic. 90 minutes of Rooney & co running rings around a poor Charlton side (down to 9 men due to dodgy refereeing decisions) and in the 92nd minute Man U concede a goal. Nobody saw it coming, it was wholly against the run of play. So we're booked in then. Hmm, not what we expected at the end of that meeting, but the chances it won't be needed.

And here we are, the day before that booking. And now we do need it. Two hot curries and two membrane sweeps, jiggling, strolling, running around after number 1 - nothing has got things going. And so it's off to theatre tomorrow morning. We'll be late arriving, so MOTS has been bumped from first slot to second slot, hopefully we'll be done in time for me to catch a lunchtime trip to Mickey D's. Or perhaps not!

For certain this is our last night as parents of one. Tomorrow we will have another bundle of joy. I have taken the opportunity presented by my son and enjoyed my last night with the only child (soon to be older brother) reading in his bed. Normality, but really enjoyable normality.

The downside to hanging on this long will be the stay in hospital, which MOTS is not looking forward to at all. The focus hereonin is getting out, getting home, where she will have 24x7 care. At this stage the younger sibling is a matter of consequence, but this will all change once upon a safe arrival.

Here's "dad of one" signing off now. Tomorrow I'll be signing on as "dad of two" after my newspaper article style categorisation changes.

12 March 2010


The deadline looms. And nothing's happening. Yet.

At most we have less than a week to wait now. Unfortunately, it's a bit longer for "Mummy's new car coming, Mummy's new car black". Number 1 has the new car thing well and truly sorted in his head, but just doesn't talk about the fact his life as he currently knows it is about to be turned upside down.

Mind you, neither do we. We are in denial too, so we can't expect anything else from our son.

05 March 2010

Security issue at home

Due to a security issue at home I have had to change all the passwords for external access. That includes:

  • The cameras
  • The two online photo albums

I'm not even going to try and remember who has access to them, so if you come a cropper logging in just email me for the new details.

04 March 2010

[2] Scores on the doors

The votes are counted, the lines are closed. Please do not call now as you may still be charged but your vote will not be counted.

82% say it's a girl, 18% a boy, and funnily enough only I think it could be a puppy. Results coming soon...

03 March 2010

Some things he gets, others he doesn't

With the Focus shifting... right, I can't finish the sentence that was going through my head now that I typed an upper case F there! As I was trying to say, with the focus shifting from number 1 to number 2 quite a lot recently, we can't forget what our little boy has been taking in. And while I started out saying "with the Focus shifting" obviously meaning the car, I got muddled. but they are linked, honestly! Time to straighten my mind out...

Some things he's not getting. Well, one thing really. And that's toilet. We can have great days at home, then nightmares at school and nursery. I'm convinced it's down to being too worried about leaving what he's doing to take the time out. Which means he's bored at home. No bad thing really.

Then other things just click.

"Where's Mummy's car?"
"Mummy's car gone. New one coming, Mummy's new car black"
Spot on! And show him a picture of a Qashqai, in any colour, and it's Mummy's new car. Only once has he been told all of this, so how come it takes a count of three and a threat of bed (followed through twice this week) for being told to come and take his shoes and jacket off when we get home?

We just can't afford a new Nissan every time we need him to register with something!

[2] Deadlines passing

We've had a couple of dealines pass us by recently, with hardly a second thought on them from me. MOTS, on the other hand, has given them some cranium time. And those are:

School year: No longer will number 2 start school in 2014, the cut-off passed a few days ago. Will now be a 2015 starter for certain.
Birthday: As her birthday looms, will she be x or will she be x+1? Well, that now x+1 too.

x: Random number between old and really old.

17 February 2010

Not mines!

Boy wonder is saying "not mines" when he's seen something that isn't his. And tonight, when looking in the Cow & Gate envelope MOTS got from them after registering with their website and finding the soft C&G cow he said "not mines". That's baby's. And went over to MOTS and put the cow on her tummy.

The family wagon rolls into town (not yet...)

Finally, after months of trying not to make any rash decisions like we usually do with buying cars, we have our new family wagon on order. Delivery is a few weeks away yet, and while I wait for a confirmed date I'm thinking about the other unconfirmed date that is also looming. I just hope the first delivery is as smooth as the second delivery should be.

Anyway, more details to follow when our new Sunderland built truck actually exists in a form more substantial than the few pieces of paper in which it currently does.

Like a sad old and dated song from 1986

I was horrified when I saw the year - that's almost a quarter of a century ago! Not the point though, the point is like Europe's hit, from 1986, which went to number 1 in 25 countries, it's the Final Countdown.

It's MOTS' last day at work today, so good luck to her trying to avoid blubbering too much over lunch. As we discussed this morning - when I say "discussed" I mean me pointing it out and MOTS trying everything to avoid accepting my proposition - today marks the last major event before number 2 arrives. So, if you haven't voted yet, DO IT NOW before MOTS is officially full term (on Friday).

11 February 2010

Off to bed then?

Number 2 arrives sometime in the next 5 weeks or so, we have an absolute deadline but it could be any time before then. With the time since Christmas this has been a bit long for Wrinklies to go without a fix on first grandchild, so we've invited them up for a visit to squeeze only last one in as "grandparents of one".

Just up, Granny & Grandpa. All kicked off from the weekend before, there was I on the lounge floor with boy wonder playing his bus counting game. There are 4 players, each with a big bus. She can't remember it (must be age) but Granny played it with us at Christmas. The buses got laid out. The yellow bus was laid for Granny - "Granny's bus". That's right, that's the bus Granny played with. And there, just before 8am, we got "Granny coming in my house". That night, the deal was done. With a phone call at tea-time, I asked him what he asked that morning - and it was said again. A whole fun-filled day in between and he hadn't forgotten, just asked Granny to come in my house again, without any prompting. "When", now that was a question he wouldn't really know, so that was prompted - "weekend".

All this asking and visiting took its tool, and he was rather tired. So when we did the bedtime routine out of normal order and came downstairs for saying goodnight I thought we were in for a rough time to get him to bed. Saying goodnight to each in turn, parents and Wrinklies were all sat down, with boy wonder going to each. And with a final "bedtime" off he went, opening the lounge door, going upstairs, into bed and snuggling down on his own.

OK, what's wrong? Like they say on BBC's "The Real Hustle", "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is". Suspecting a scam I went upstairs to investigate. I was met with a level of hostility - there, in his bed, was the wee fella. Reading light on, sat with a book. Turning, he pointed to me and shouted "Stay there!". And with a request to leave him alone, I closed the door again and returned downstairs to "In It to Win It".

10 February 2010

Baby's first…Homework

Boy wonder got his first homework from school the weekend before last. And like this post, it was late.

Adventure Ted and his bag of goodies came home from school on the Friday morning. In the bag was:

  • Instructions for what Adventure Ted likes to do
  • A form to complete for where we had taken Adventure Ted
  • A blank sheet of paper for a drawing of Adventure Ted's weekend
  • Pencils for said drawing

Oh, and the man himself, Adventure Ted!

The brief was simple. Take Adventure Ted all weekend, make him feel special, and he likes going out for a walk too. So take him out for a walk, talk about the environment (ie where you are rather than the amount of CO2 the average Range Rover Sport pumps out in contrast to how badly the brakes work on the Toyota Prius), draw something about your walk, pick something up from the walk, talk about the walk back at school. Fantastic, easy peasy.

With so much outdoors stuff to do nearby we decided on boats, and lots of them. We picked something up. We drew boats when we got home. MOTS filled the form out. And on Monday morning Adventure Ted went to nursery.

And on Monday night, Adventure Ted was still at nursery. Oops. Never mind, he can go in tomorrow. Only he forgot again. He wasn't there on Wednesday night, so a success at last.

Thursday, and MOTS gets to go to school. No sign of Adventure Ted at drop-off time, the teacher is worrying for his safety and is about to scramble the RAF on a search mission. Perhaps he's in the old classroom? Then, at pick-up, it's confirmed - Adventure Ted is AWOL. MOTS has an idea, just as the second "9" is being depressed on the telephone - WAIT - let's ask. "Where's Adventure Ted?" And off went boy wonder, round the back of a sofa in the classroom, where Adventure Ted was first brought out from, and pulled him out. "Here he is".

While his homework, by the time the chat was done on Friday, was 4 days late we now fear that his future educational card is marked. Either that, or he's marked down as some sort of St Bernard, and must now wear a flask of brandy round his neck whenever he goes to school. Just like I did, but that was purely for recreational purposes!

09 February 2010

The world's most ridiculous question

I was being quizzed yesterday over MOTS' due date. "Is that a definite?"

It's definitely due then, sure. Whether it arrives then is a whole other question. And this from a father of 2!

28 January 2010

[2] VBAC

All pregnancies are different, so we can't answer that. Sorry, what was the question?

That is the standard response to any question we ask of the health service. As we approach the business end of MOTS' pregnancy we're understandably nervous about the same happening again, and don't want a repeat of it. So when MOTS was asked to go and speak to the VBAC midwife I expected propaganda to be rammed down her throat.

And that is why I went along too. But, as I found out, this could not have been further from the truth.

MOTS had an appointment with the obstetrician a few weeks ago, who was there to talk about an elective cut and shut, but she was trying to push MOTS down the VBAC route. A little at odds with the appointment. And in the absence of any notes (they'd gone AWOL, probably on holiday in the Highlands somewhere, after all it is skiing season) the 64 million dollar questions around what exactly happened last time couldn't be answered.

Tuesday's appointment with the VBAC midwife, who you would think would push for VBAC and extol the virtues of it, was well balanced, no opinions given, told MOTS what her options were, listened to her thoughts (which she says are now back to what they were in October), told her that they seem perfectly reasonable, laughed, joked, told us the notes had shown up (along with their holiday photos, some stunning shots of Portree harbour), and was generally but totally impartial and informal. Both of us expected to go in, listen to propaganda based on the NHS trying to achieve targets, and come out with the balance skewed more heavily in favour of a cut & shut. The balance was tipped, true. But the other way. And not based on the virtues, but what we wanted to hear - cold hard facts, likelihoods and possible outcomes. What I think helped MOTS' case was that MOTS got to explain what she wanted from the session, she came across as having thought about the possibilities and what could happen, and what she wanted to do in each scenario. The midwife was supportive of those decisions, and offered extra advice where there would be differences to last time, such as the drip only being tried for a maximum of 4 hours, not the 24 that MOTS was on it first time. What I think helped the midwife's case was that she had read up on the notes ahead of the appointment (and didn't have them with her to refer to, it was all there in her head), knew the score and treated MOTS as an individual.

Oh, and the birth plan? Why do mums fill this in? For no reason other than to get them thinking about the birth, other than that it may as well be a crossword puzzle for what use it is at the actual event. And that's from a midwife!

MOTS seems to be much happier after Tuesday, it went a lot better than could be expected. So we are at this juncture very grateful to the VBAC midwife for her time, and for the community midwife for the referral. There are still a lot of routes that will end in a section, and this is more likely this time, but it's not 100% guaranteed. MOTS is going to give it a shot, and is happier knowing that she won't get the 26 hours of drug induced labour before an emergency caesarean section, that it will be severely restricted. And that puts me at ease too, I don't want to see her go through all that again and end up physically and emotionally drained going into theatre, as this has shown she won't get that far in any scenario.

The surreal part of the morning was going through the labour suite and MOTS not recognising the place. She didn't remember which room she was in, or the theatre, or the lift. I pointed each out to her, even the unmarked room I was ushered into to gown up in. The only bit that seemed different to me was walking down the corridor from maternity to the main drag of the hospital. And only then because I wasn't half asleep with no shoes on!

25 January 2010

Baby's first...Cinema trip.

For only the second time since junior arrived, MOTS and I are going to
the cinema. Johnny Depp was the last person we went to see before
junior arrived, and was also the first we went to see after he arrived
(in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean instalments). And
some 3 years later we're going to the cinema again. The stars this time
will be Scrat, Sid, Diego.... And, as the wee fella describes their
rather large friend, "elephant in the snow". Ice Age 3, here we come...

21 January 2010

[2] Finish line in sight - but we haven't started yet

We're getting closer, yet still haven't started preparing for the inevitable arrival. I remember going through our Y2K project at work, it was the only project we have ever done that would be implemented to a fixed deadline and to the second at that. Mandatory changes are often "by xx at the latest" which means they can be in earlier, discretionary projects can slip. So which do we fit?

The only one of these three categories we fit into right now is that there is no absolute, so it's not a Y2K. It is sort of mandatory as in it's going to happen and we can't stop it now, but we don't know if the deadline will be met or not. We could be early, we could be late. So it doesn't seem to fit like a project's deadline at all, does it? Apart from all the things that need to be done, the boxes that have to be ticked, the preparation, the actual implementation (albeit with no backout plan!), there are synergies in all but the deadline.

So what about some of those boxes that need to be ticked? What are they? Let's look at some of them shall we?

  • Big ticket items bought: N/R, have them from last time.
  • Nursery decorated: N/R, number 1 has done it already, adding his own flair and style to the Pooh border and the nice mural he's done in crayon.
  • Small ticket items bought: Tick. A few additions, a few replacements, a few loads through the dishwasher.
  • Cute clothes ready: No tick yet. They are in storage still, clean and protected, but will go through the machine again nearer the time.
  • Cot ready: No tick yet. Still on lowest setting, needs raising, needs clean bedding on, currently being used to store bags, bags need removing.
  • Pram ready: No tick yet. Still in pushchair form, needs reverting, linings cleaned, test drive, "MoT".
  • Car seat ready: No tick yet. One piece AWOL needs finding, then needs cleaning. Maybe treat ourselves to a new base unit so we don't have to switch between cars.
  • Names: No tick yet. Shortlists ready, this one won't be finalised until after the shortlisted names are put to a face to check for suitability.

All of this was relevant the first time round, and by now all but the name was in a tick status, or very much in hand. This time there are additional worries. We can look back to August 2006 and see when things kicked off. That was a really unpleasant hour to be driving through to hospital then, even without a young one in tow. This time, there's another one to worry about. It's all well and good having offers of help, but all of this is from friends who also work. So to actually inflict a very lively 3 year old on someone who has to leave to go to work is something very different to having the offers there. And then there's the unfamiliar territory, which he's fine with apart from the enthusiastic exploring - so he'll be a handful to say the least.

We have a weekday daytime plan, we sort of have a weekend plan, and we need to have a serious think about the gaps. If these gaps do get plugged, one thing is certain: I won't be spending much time at the hospital. MOTS has indicated this is not necessarily a bad thing (she did mean it in a positive way, not that she can't stand the thought of me being there - or so I hope), so it my work out OK. But it's that deadline that isn't a deadline that's a real problem. With what is effectively a four week window that's a long time to be on standby, never mind having anyone else on standby for us. I guess this is one downside to not being part of a big Catholic family with numerous brothers and sisters living on the next street. The upside is that we don't have numerous brothers and sisters living on the next street. A double-edged sword if ever there was one.

So here’s hoping for it to start around 07:00 on a Monday morning, time to drop number 1 off at nursery as normal, head through to hospital, home by the tea time pickup. The only preparation that is needed then is to feed the pigs and line them up on the runway ready for take-off.

19 January 2010

Having a giraffe!

Well, the car dealers I have spoken to over the course of the last week are all having a giraffe. As expected, all well below valuation on the Focus, all expecting too much on the replacement. But with no willingness to budge on any price, I've given up. So I'm trying it the hard way instead. Advert on Auto Trader for the Focus, and I'm willing to give Autoebid a try for the replacement. Worth a shot to not get stung by slimy dealers.

09 January 2010

[2] MOTS has started nesting

Sssshhhh! Don't say anything to her, she goes into denial if you mention it - but the nesting HAS started!

Hospital bag has been started, bottles are in the dishwasher, steriliser is out of the box, car seat is altogether in the garage, and she's sweeping the kitchen floor. 9 weeks to go and she's nesting!

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