‘An absolute whirlwind’ – Harry visits our friends

I sometimes imagine that having a very young toddler is a bit like trying to train an excitable puppy.
They are out of control, noisy and are hellbent on destruction.
They need to be contained in order not to wreak too much havoc and they have no safety filter so are just as likely to destroy themselves as the house.
But the key difference from a puppy is that a toddler has hands, can reach things and, frighteningly, is more than happy to pull things down.
We saw my wife’s Grandad and some great friends at the weekend. Crucially though, on location at their house.
It’s a good job they are understanding!

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Rovers on the rise

It’s very strange supporting Blackburn Rovers at the moment.

For years, we have been beaten down into the dust, slipping further and further from the glory days not merely of winning the Premier League but of playing as a competitive top division team and regularly upsetting the big guns.

Indeed, it was beginning to feel like a long time since we’d even won a few games on the bounce.

Now, 18 games unbeaten and pushing hard for promotion, I’m sure I’m alone in struggling to recognise this feeling of cautious optimism and excitement.

But I’m enjoying every minute.

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Surviving the slopes with Sophie

It had been something I’d wanted to do for years – take a skiing holiday in term time.

I’d had glorious ideas of shooting down the pistes while my class sat in a cold British classroom, plodding on mindlessly with Maths and Literacy.

Naturally I’d get an early ski lift up the mountain, spend the whole day up there and then zoom down as the sun set to enjoy asprès-ski and rest up for the next day’s activity.

Throw two small children into the mix and it looks slightly different…but what a fabulous week we had.

Sophie had been in training for this since last May – a succession of hit and miss skiing lessons had come and gone while I tried to put my idea of her as a fearless nimble toddler skier into practice.

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A note from the ward

We’ve been pretty blessed with the health of our children to be honest.

Sophie had her first week in hospital, takes her daily meds and has had one night stopover in hospital in four years.

Harry has kept himself nice and well.

Until this weekend that is – poor little dude.

We all thought it was a bit odd – the right hand side of his face sticking out that much further than his left.

But he’d been snotty – standard – and his tonsils were quite red so we put it down to that.

It was only when the swelling showed no sign of stopping that we became a bit more concerned.

Initial fears were that it might be mumps – an adverse reaction to the injection he’d had only a couple of weeks back.

That suggestion got thrown out though as the problem was deeper into his neck. Cue paeds a+e at the big city hospital, a bunch of confused doctors scratching their heads and a couple of parents feeling guilty we hadn’t brought him in sooner (not that we should have).

Since being admitted though, the only thing holding Harry back has been the lack of sleep.

Somehow whenever we got him to sleep he’d be needed for another antibiotic round or to have his obs doing.

Or we’d keep him awake in readiness for a ward round that kept getting delayed. Typical.

In the end we crashed him out this morning only to have his important ultrasound scan signalled about five minutes later.

I carried the little monkey horizontally down three floors, the full length of the hospital (or so it seemed) in the wrong direction before finally reaching radiology. He was always going to wake up when the soft cold jelly touched his neck and so it proved.

Still as the day’s gone on, the swelling has receded, his cheeky grin has grown wider and (hopefully) the likelihood of him getting home tomorrow has hopefully increased.

My wife has been brilliant and so has her work, giving her the start of 2018 to look after him, endure the sleeplessness along with him and hang out in hospitals – something she said goodbye to professionally a long time ago.

And we have been inundated with so many offers of help from so many people. It’s when you realise how big your support network is and we’re so grateful for everybody.

Oh and then there’s Sophie. She’s had a whale of a time at her grandparents (massive thanks to them) and heads back to school tomorrow.

Not the start to 2018 we’d envisaged but life goes on. Keep smiling Harry and get well soon. 

How Sophie’s shepherd nativity debut unfolded

I’ve seen a lot of school nativities in my time.

Usually, there are a whole host bunch of ridiculously cute small children wearing tinsel, tea towels and terrified faces acting out a vague interpretation of the Christmas story to an excitable sea of uber proud parents, grandparents and other assorted adults.

It’s usually lovely.

But throwing Sophie into that mix was quite nerve wracking. Sure I was very excited about the show, but what if something went wrong…?

I was delighted to get the time off work to go. My manager actually anticipated it asking me if I had one to go to. So I rushed out of work and made the trek across town desperately hoping I wouldn’t be late.

Sophie had been singing the songs with gusto at home for a good five weeks.

Initially she told us she was an angel and we were imagining white dresses halos and a pretty glamourous look.

We got a bit suspicious though when her favourite songs were We must go to Bethlehem and Look, there’s an angel. Surely angels wouldn’t be quite so startled to see one of their own?

Turned out she was a shepherd.

So tea towels after all then.

We saw Sophie coming in with her class to sit down and as soon as she saw us she shrunk back into the teacher, a coy grin plastered all over her face. 

They’d done all the costuming. A deep blue cloak, manly headdress and a little sheep to clutch. We beamed with pride although there was that ridiculous feeling inside – what if she makes a mistake? Sure she wouldn’t.

Next to me her grandparents were so overwhelmingly excited. Pity we couldn’t really see her from our seats. Her lookalike best friend was wearing exactly the same costume and sitting next to her, constantly blocking our view. Occasionally she’d stand up for a quick second, shoot us a grin and an embarrassed wave and then bob down again.

Still we knew she’d be pumping out the showtunes, a veritable array of awesome children’s carols. Every now and then we’d catch a glimpse of her face and she was so happy.

Narrators bumbled on and off, powering out their words with great enthusiasm and a very cute lack of flow and rhythm. That’s Reception for you.

My favourite character was the donkey. A child in a onesie with a girl in a blue dress and a balloon tummy following him round the stage. Classic.

Finally, it was Sophie’s big moment. The shepherd dance.

She bounded on and jumped her little heart out to the sound of Jump jump jump there’s an angel. It was amazing.

She was probably only on stage for twenty seconds or so but the feeling of parental pride was immense. So lovely. And she smashed it as well.

Afterwards she allowed herself the honour of waving frantically at us, briefly, before disappearing off with her teacher to get changed and return to 2017. The consummate professional.

And so, as we gathered up the tissues which had collected our tears of pride, we thought that was pretty fun.

Same time next year?

Why shift work has brought Christmas round more quickly

It can’t just be that now I’m comfortably into my 30s ,Christmas appears on the horizon more quickly.

I know the grey hairs are proliferating but I can’t accept that’s the reason.

I prefer to blame the ever shifting nature of shift work and the weird impact on the body.

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Life as a commuter

Three weeks since crashing the car, I’ve had a fair bit of time to reflect on what it’s like getting public transport to work.
And whether it’s 6 o clock in the morning or 10 o’clock at night, the quirks and joys of commuting are easy to see.
First of all, there’s the timetable. Within a week I’d ditched the train in favour of the tram purely because of the inconvenient times and frustrating platform waiting.
I don’t mind walking a fair trek out of my way if it at least keeps me vaguely in charge of my own destiny.
The tickets are a bit of minefield. Peak v off peak. Travelcards. Bonus excess cards. We’ve got it all. And none of it seems to save me any money.

Then there’s what to do when on the tram. Heaven forbid you speak on the phone – although silence is not quite as expected as on the tube, it’s still a heavy unwritten rule.
Anyone who breaks it is a trailblazer. I found myself unwittingly fascinated by the yarn a girl was spinning on the phone the other day to a friend who’d broken the heart of some guy. A real life soap opera.
Speaking of people, public transport is an amazing snapshot of city life. All ages, including the kids who climb on the handrails, shapes and nationalities. It’s pretty interesting watching them actually.
That is when I’m not checking out my phone like everybody else. My data has almost run out for this month already with three weeks to go thanks to public transport. Ouch.
I’ve even seen two former pupils. Naturally I kept my head down and didn’t acknowledge I’d seen them. They can’t find out I’m a real person outside school obviously.
(And to be fair I’d have no doubt embarrassed them in front of their friends. It’s better for everyone this way).
And the worst of all is when the service stops working. What do you do? Last weekend the trams simply stopped running and I found myself stranded six miles from home in the rain at 10 o’clock at night.
I did what any self respecting person would do…and inadvertently ran/walked the six miles home emerging like a drowned rat into our house about 11 o’clock.
So now we’re actively exploring a replacement car and I’ve got to say I can’t wait. Sitting in your own space, with the radio on, getting from a to b with the minimum of fuss.
Apart from the traffic. Urgh. Life as a commuter is perennially frustrating.

Another giantkilling on our watch

What a weekend.

Day off on Friday was spent tearing down to London to watch the ATP World Tour Finals – a long-held dream fulfilled.

However, just as we saw Mo Farah and Usain Bolt fail in spectacular fashion when we went to the World Athletics back in August, we were in situe to witness the downing of another favourite.

And the rising of a new hero out of nowhere.

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Harry and Sophie in footwear refresher 

There comes a point where you have to accept that your child, despite your best efforts to discourage him, is going to start walking.

That’s the time when every cupboard gets childproofed, stair gates are slammed up, anything within reach is plonked on the highest possible shelf.

It’s also the time when thrifty parents have to loosen the purse strings and buy some shoes to help them with their development.

We just didn’t expect Sophie to get herself involved at the same time.

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Happy 1st birthday Harry

When Sophie turned one, I couldn’t quite believe how fast the time had gone.

That’s nothing compared to how quickly year one has been for Harry.

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