Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ho Ho Ho!

Christmas is almost upon us. We are on the road again this year, something that I learned to really appreciate last year when we were knackered first time parents. It is really comforting to be among family and loved ones at this time of the year, and crucially not to have to do any of the legwork. Well, that's not strictly true. I will wash the odd wine glass or 20 over the next week I'm sure. However the real hard working of hosting Christmas is the preparation. Deciding what you want to cook, buying all the ingredients, planning the day with military precision, ensuring you have entertainment planned, etc. We will just have to turn up, look thankful and tuck in. And I can't wait...

Saturday, December 06, 2008


I exposed Jamie to some art this week. We met up with a friend of mine at Tate Modern for lunch. He was very well behaved and the staff in the cafe get a big thumbs up for child friendliness. They brought over a high chair, swept the buggy away to a less crowded part of the restaurant, brought him some crayons, and even heated up the soup I had brought for him. Well done the Tate!
As usual, Jamie was insatiable, so as well as wolfing down a whole banana, a clementine (or satsuma - at any rate, his fruit of choice at the moment), a yogurt, and his soup, he started begging for food from my plate. I feel bad about giving him chips, but at least they were fat chips, which are healthier, right?
After my friend had gone back to work, I thought it was probably a good idea that he worked off some of his dinner so I took him to the turbine hall, where the large exhibits are held. The last time he was here, he was still a babe and slept all the way through Shibboleth, as the massive crack in the floor was known. I took some fantastic video of him sleeping through this which I keep meaning to put to suitably atmospheric music - one of my pending projects alongside more pressing ones such as fixing the stair gate at the top of the stairs, and putting up shelves in the living room, and... oh, don't start me.
This time round he was a lot more lively and loved the space that the Tate affords and the glass walls that separate the turbine hall from the main body of the museum. The main installation was particularly interesting. The hall was screened off with opaque, coloured plastic strips which he loved pushing through into a hall filled with lots of yellow and blue bunk beds - a bit like an Ikea warehouse. His favourite exhibit however was a large scale (about 20 times actual size) skeleton of a cat. After he'd noted this he ran around like a small, demented robot, shouting "Cat! Cat!" which was particularly amusing as there was a group of arty types being given a lecture on its meaning. Well, it was obvious wasn't it, it was a massive cat!
Personally I thought his analysis was particularly insightful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Klutz mum

Whenever I'm with the other mums I always seem to end up feeling like the least able to handle my child, at least in the effortless style that they do it. I sort of manage to do everything that has to be done, but in the manner of the 20 stone guy who finishes the marathon in seven hours, sweating profusely and with bleeding nipples. Mission accomplished, but he's hardly going to worry Paula Radcliffe.
Today we met for lunch in the City near where two of the working mums are based. I was about half an hour late due to bus problems and heavy traffic rather than my own ineptitude. I had planned to walk it, but was running a little too late for that. Or so I thought. I reckon I would still have walked there quicker.
So by the time I got there, everybody else had their children under control, ordered lunch and was chatting away happily. I barged in late, tried to wedge the buggy under the bar and seemed incapable of speech for several minutes. Jamie woke up and started squawking and had to be held by me and nobody else, so I wasn't able to get his nutritious lunch out and he filled his face with chips from somebody else's plate. Even with baby food smeared on her shoulder, one mum looked more in control than me.
Maybe women are born to it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New wheels

Jamie is a lot better now after what seemed to be an early dose of the norovirus. That's my diagnosis anyway as both mummy and me came down with it. Hopefully that's our lot for this winter.
To celebrate, we bought him a new buggy. He has needed one for a little while as he's outgrown the Bugaboo. It's a strange experience driving him to nursery this morning in his new Maclaren. The Bugaboo is like the Humvee of buggies. It's like a bleeding tank and feels as if you are driving something that commands respect, and pavement space. People almost have to leap out of the way.
The new buggy is an altogether flimsier item, but it is a bit more manoeuvrable - with the Bugaboo you need a three point turn to get it in and out of tight situations. Jamie seemed to like it anyway, even though he is facing the 'wrong way'.
The recent research into the effect of forward facing buggies on child speech is all very interesting, but it's actually quite difficult to get a buggy for older kids that can be switched round. Personally, I'd feel like a paranoid parent pushing a one year about in one, as if I couldn't inflict the madness of the world on them. They're inquisitive little things and want to see what is going on in the world rather than just gazing adoringly at mater/pater's haggard, sleep-deprived visage all day. Give them a break!
We went to a rather lovely birthday party yesterday for one of Jamie's little friends. As this one was on a Sunday, there were more adults around that at the other one I wrote about. Consequently, there was lots of lovely food and drink. The parents are Italian so the spread was great, as was mine by the end of it - lovely lasagne, succulent chicken and gorgeous sweetmeats. Jamie was enjoying munching his way through this feast but eventually succumbed to a bit of a meltdown as he hadn't slept more than about 20 minutes that day.
Now that the birthday season is almost over, bring on the Christmas parties.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not well

Jamie is quite sick at the moment. It started after his afternoon nap at the nursery yesterday when he started throwing up and rapidly went through all of his clothes and a few others they had dug out for him. He was being given a sponge bath when I arrived and was in a bit of a state, but soon calmed down. Unfortunately it continued back here, so we just bathed him and put him to bed. The little munchkin was so tired he fell asleep in my arms as I was puttng on his sleeping clothes. He woke in the night and I tried to give him some water, but he threw that all up. Charlotte fed him and we brought him in with us.
He slept through until about seven, although I didn't as he manages to expand to fill the biggest possible space for such a small chap. I ended up clinging on the edge of the bed with a scrap of duvet. He's sleeping again now so we'll play it by ear. He didn't keep the little breakfast he ate down either. Bizarrely he seems okay as soon as he's emptied his stomach, and is not being especially clingy, which you might expect.
It's scuppered our plans for singing class today, which is a shame, but he's probably not up to it, and it would be unfair to inflict him on other children in his predicament.
Mum is down this weekend, so has seen him walk, which is lovely for her. I'll need to try and shoot some video of him walking as we don't have any yet. I need to get him while he's still relatively unsteady and before he becomes a total expert.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Up and running

Well, almost...
This weekend has seen Jamie crack the walking. He has been gearing up to it for the past week, but somehow everything has just clicked into place over the last few days. He is suddenly really confident on his feet and opts for walking as often as he does crawling. Four limbed travel still has the edge when speed is required, but it can only be a matter of time before he has worked up a bit more speed on two pins.
At the moment he has a sort of zombie gait where he waddles towards you with arms outstretched above his head. He is so cute when he does it as he inevitably has a massive grin on his face. I don't think he can quite believe he can do it yet. Nursery was really impressed by his new found skill, and they are very complimentary about him generally. He eats well, lets them know what his needs are (usually food), says his words and does his animal noises, and mixes with the other children. This morning, Souleymane, one of the children who has just moved from the baby room to the toddlers group, came running up to me as I brought him to nursery and went "Hello Jamie!" Jamie already has his own social circle it seems.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Balancing act

I picked Jamie up from nursery this afternoon. Fridays are always really nice as Charlotte works from home, so she is only about 10-15 minutes away. He has been a lot more at ease this week. No tantrums when I leave him in the morning, which is the point when he has been a bit clingy in the past. This morning he was beaming as I dropped him off, gave me a little kiss and waved goodbye. Off you go daddy!
He has been walking more this week and has been showing off a bit today as his newfound ability was commented on. All the kids were wearing pyjamas for Children in Need and had brought in their favourite teddies, or in Jamie's case, a cuddly cow. I walked him along the corridor when we left and the nursery manager and deputy manager both commented on what a good day he had had and how well he has settled in. "He's such a well balanced little boy," said the manager, which made me feel really good. I don't think she was talking about his walking.
This week has been a bit stressful for me as business has been quite slow. Then there was news of redundancies and closures at Haymarket, where a lot of my work comes from. This really set alarm bells ringing as I started to envisage meltdown of the household finances. As it happened, that day saw the delivery of a batch of prints I had ordered for a photo album of Jamie's last three months. Looking at them made me think how little I had to worry about and how much I have to be thankful for. We're never going to be financially strapped, so all I was worrying about was the extras, and if it comes to it, we can trim our sails for a bit.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Nice day

Jamie and I had a lovely day. We started at singing class at 11am where he is starting to look worryingly large compared with the other children. Stephanie, who takes the class, asked if he was walking yet. It sometimes looks like he might be as he is very steady on his feet and can even bounce on his legs and do a little dance. When I replied that he couldn't she showed me an amazing trick where she stood him against a wall and then moved away from him. This seems to put his posture in the walking position and he then totters formward towards your open arms. It's fantastic and so simple. Why has nobody ever told me this before? Is it some sort of secret?
After that, me and some of the mums went to the local cafe and chatted frantically. Well the others did. They seem to be a bit newer on the scene and anxious to make contacts. I wasn't being aloof, more trying to keep hungry bird from grabbing red hot teapots and pouring them over himself while I tried ot prepare his lunch. The younger babies were supping gingerly on pulped vegetable matter, while Jamie was attempting to scoff anything that wasn't nailed to the table. They all seemed very nice though and I now have a new potential group of friends, even if they're only once a week friends.
After this we went to the Museum of Childhood to meet up with a longer standing baby friend. Jamie slept for a whole two hours before practising his new walking technique at a local children's centre. Stephanie said he'll be walking by next week.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Before we had Jamie I held what is probably quite a common attitude to dummies in that I thought they were quite common. We resisted giving them to him for a couple of months, despite what the text books call his "strong sucking reflex". This basically means that he could just about dislocate one of your fingers if he got hold of it.
Dummies are, after all, only for parents who can't control or minister to the needs of their children and we wouldn't be like that. Oh no. However it's amazing what night after night of sleep deprivation torture will do to you. Eventually after trying lots of things, such as... er, I can't remember any of the alternative strategies. But it wasn't like we just gave in.
When we eventually gave in and presented his little screaming mouth with this plastic and latex construction, it was like Armistice Day. The incessant noise stopped, and was replaced by the sounds of birds singing outside and the whoosh of air as he sucked away on his teet. He really did become a lot calmer. It seemed to help his colic, made him sleep better, aided his digestion, and actually seemed to make him more intelligent. Okay, I made the last bit up, but the difference was so great that we have since wondered why we didn't do it earlier. At least we had tried dummy free living.
Not that this has stopped me slightly embarrassed about them. None of his little friends seem to have them, and neither do any of the nice middle class babies at his singing class. Of course, it is quite difficult to sing with a piece of rubber stuck between your lips. I don't think I have ever whipped it out of his mouth when I have spotted somebody I know approaching, but it is the sort of thing I probably would do.
I sometimes wonder if he is too wedded to it. He can get in huge paddies if it isn't there, and it is a bit too easy to stick it in him if he is playing up, which he can do in spectacular fashion. It actually looks quite cute on a one year old, but if it's still his mouthwear of choice in a couple of years time, I'll be worried. However, until he reaches an age at which we can reason with him, I don't think there's much we can do about it. Unless he just gives up on it himself.
Maybe the name is part of the problem. Last week I was taking him to the singing class and knew I would be out all day. However I forgot his dummy and was worried that without it he wouldn't sleep. So I dived into a nearby pharmacy and breathlessly asked if they had any dummies. I'd obviously intruded on some private joke as they started snorting into their tea and giggling uncontrollably. Lucky I didn't need incontinence pants.
Sod's Law meant that he was asleep within a couple of minutes of leaving the shop, and he slumbered soundly for a couple of hours. Maybe I need it more than he does.
'Dummy' does sound so, well dumb. Other people call them soothers or comforters, but that sounds a bit affected to me. Let's call a dummy a dummy.
And I have discovered, they needn't lack style. You can get them in lots of lovely designs - pirates, kittens, etc - and you can even have them personalised. However at nearly £3 each, there's probably only one world for people who buy them - suckers!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Clumsy me

One thing they never tell you about in parent skool are the talons. Babies' nails grow really quickly, and by the time they are Jamie's age, they're quite sharp and rather offensive weapons. When they are little, the nails are so soft that you are supposed to be able to just peel them off. This route never appealed to me as I envisaged trying to peel off a slither of nail and taking the whole nail bed out. Consequently I've opted for clippers.
The problem here is that their fingers are so small that it's quite difficult to see what you're doing. That and the fact that they are quite wriggly at times means it is easy to nick them.
Jamie's nursery had a message up on Friday about keeping nails clipped as they can be quite scratchy. This I know from personal experience of Jamie Scissorhands, who has been known to lash out in the manner of a cornered alley cat. He also has quite a sore nip on him and has lain waste to my arms in the past to the extent that I look like a junkie or a battered husband.
So I thought I'd better sort out his nails this morning before nursery. He's actually a lot better at this than he used to be and will sit quietly on my knee and observe proceedings quite calmly. This didn't stop me cutting into the top of his right index finger this morning. After an initial yelp, he seemed to find it funny, squeezing his hand to make the blood pulse out quicker. I don't think there has been any lasting damage - it's not as if I've turned him into Tony Iommi - but it was sickener when it happened, especially as it's not the first time I've maimed him like this. Maybe we can have him declawed like a cat. It would be better for us all in the long run.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Jamie is now 12 and a half months old and still not walking. This wouldn't be worth commenting on if it wasn't for the fact that he promised so much, so early. Almost two months ago he seemed on the verge of breaking into a trot. He managed two or three steps at a time unsupported, and one memorable morning about a month ago he walked about two metres to me, taking about ten steps in the process. I say it was memorable, but such has been his reluctance to walk since then that I'm starting to wonder if I imagined it.
People say you should rearrange the furniture in such a way that babies are forced to go outside of their comfort zone to get to them. One of the problems with that, for a champion crawler like Jamie, is that there is always an easier four-limbed option. Maybe there is some way of callibrating the optimum distance that will make the idea of two-legged travel more desirable than a crawl.
I guess I should be careful what I wish for. We're already having to move more and more stuff out of harm's way. Yesterday he pulled over my electric guitar and the shelves in the bathroom - sorry I didn't tell you Charlotte. It's a good job you're such an avid reader of HH!

walking a more desirable

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Party time

Today was another of the NCT babies' birthday parties. C was the latest to reach the ripe old age of one and I attended her bash representing the Derrick-Goddard contingent. Apart from C's dad, I was the only other man there. This will be the way of things from now on I think. I have entered a predominantly female environment, and one, which I am somewhat ashamed to say, I have not fully paid tribute to in the past.
Since taking over more of the childcare duties I have become humbled by the recognition of the work that Charlotte did before me. It's exhausting in a different way to work. I'm with Jamie all day, which is great, but it really is all encompassing. Unless he's asleep or tied into his high chair (not really tied, but harnessed...) you are really limited in what you can do. Charlotte nods sagely when I pronounce this revelation, like she didn't tell me a hundred times. It's another of those pieces of wisdom about 'having children' that sort of goes in one ear and out the other until you are struck by the reality of it. For example, everybody tells you that you won't get much sleep, and you think, "A bit less sleep. So what!" But it's not like having a few too many on a school night and having to soldier on the next day at work. When you have kids, that sleep is never coming back. There is no lie in at the end of the rainbow.
Anyway, back at the party, when I wasn't bonding with my newfound sisters, I was eating almost as much party food as Jamie. He has been insatiable today, and was thrilled to be offered pitta, fish balls, cake and jelly in quantity. Amazingly he is still having dinner this evening, despite a mammoth lunch today as well. I was running out of things to feed him.
C's parents' present to themselves is a night out, which I wish Charlotte and I could have done for Jamie's. I am slightly envious of their curry, even though they could be falling asleep in their starters after organising and running today's events. As always, the host has to appear as unflustered as possible and look like nothing was any trouble at all, when the reality is slightly different as we all know. I think I'd rather got to a party than hold one - even a children's one. Especially a children's one! C's gran said it gets even worse when they are old enough to need proper entertaining. At her son's fourth party she tells how her carefully planned games, activities and diversions were exhausted in about 20 minutes leaving an afternoon of unplanned mayhem ahead.
At least these days we have Cbeebies I suppose.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jamie eats...

It's strange, and quite amazing to think that Jamie ate nothing for the first six months of his life. He subsisted entirely on milk. Since then he has revealed quite an appetite, which isn't surprising really after such a prolonged liquid diet. Starting with rather bland baby rice, he quickly began to wolf stuff down, despite the supposed tiny size of his stomach. While other babies were quite picky about what they ate, he seemed to devour everything, and in quantity. Early favourites were lovely lentils (from the sainted Annabel Karmel's baby recipe book), rice and peas, and banana mush. Now as he moves on to more challenging foods, it's not quite as easy, and some of the old favourites - notably the lentils - seem to have gone by the wayside.
I can't say I blame him on red lentils, which for me always conjure up a foul muck called lentil soup that was very popular when I was growing up - although not with me. Jamie's response to something which is not to his taste is to allow it mouthspace before squidging it out and down his chin. We still make the majority of his food, and the sight of some lovingly created dish being received this way has driven me to despair. I suppose though it's just a case of working with him. We have very little to complain about compared with some children who seem to eat next to nothing.
At nursery he is being exposed to lots of new flavours. Menus are culturally appropriate to the children who attend. As this is multicultural Hackney, that means lots of new flavours, including plantain on his first day - I think that got the squidge treatment. Yesterday it was fish fingers and beans, which he loved apparently. So much for our tutoring of his taste buds with organic, seasonal produce, and avoidance of processed foods. That will be his Scottish roots showing through I guess - deep fried, salty and sugary? Bring it on.
Actually, that's a little unfair on the nursery, which cooks all the food on site and does seem to work hard at getting the children to eat, which with his nibs at the moment is sometimes not easy.
And yet! Yesterday's report of his eating was that he was insatiable, so I was surprised when he got home he polished off an apple, a peach, a plate of pasta and a sandwich. He would probably have still been eating if we hadn't insisted on bath. As it was, he seemed to gaze down on his round little tum with some pride in the bath.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In whose arms?

I didn't think that I would have a problem putting our son into nursery - unlike my wife, who was fairly guilt ridden at having to do it. However I am now the one who drops him off every day, and there is a moment when I hand him over to his keyworker Pauline when he turns back to me with arms outstretched. You would need a heart of stone not to feel bad. The flip side is that I get to pick him up and earn myself a big cry of "Dadda" as he scuttles across the nursery floor to climb up on me. At least he does at the minute. There may come a time when the attractions of the nursery are more compelling than those of dadda, and he doesn't scuttle across, and perhaps even leans towards Pauline at home time.
Will it be today? I'll find out at about 4.30pm.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Downsized dad

Well, I never did make good on that last post. It's amazing how quickly a year goes when you're a parent. Our little boy turned one about a week ago, and my wife had to go back to work. He's now in nursery three days a week and I'm looking after him for the other two - Mr Mum so to speak. He's there at the moment. My days are Wednesday and Thursday.
This step back from what passes as my career ladder coincides with a period of some financial turbulence, in case you hadn't noticed. However the good thing about working for yourself is that it is unlikely that you will lose your job. There is no job to lose - you just get less work. At the moment, it doesn't seem to be a time for climbing the greasy pole, so I am looking forward to spending more quality time with J and riding out the economic storm in a haze of soft toys, nursery rhymes and Cbeebies.
This week we went to singing with lots of other babies. This is a regular gig for J, but I've only been once before. He actually seemed like one of the big kids as there were lots of babies there, which again made me think how much he has developed in such a short period of time. It's one of the reasons I'm doing this. I doubt I'll ever get the chance again.
Having said that - and apologies to my wife - it is really tiring being with a little one all day. Oh well, I've made my bed now.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Long time no blog

There have been quite a few changes since my last post (sounds of trumpet reveille):

- got married
- had a kid
- London won the Olympics bid

More to follow... in 2010