Three

Please don’t go. Stay here with me. It’s not my fault, I’m only three. I’m only three!

Giving adult voice to the thoughts and feelings of a three-year-old who misses their parent, this song tears me up: in more ways than one. It hit me like a silken sledgehammer with all those feelings of loss, of separation, all the guilt and recrimination that go with it,  and the “what-if” / “what could I have done differently?” thoughts that torture and taunt.

How old were Jake and Ellie when our separation became formalised?

Three.

‘We’ had been living here in Wales in a good-sized family home we were renting while we tried to sell our old place in the Midlands.  I was splitting my time between there and the little temporary place we first moved into which is now my home. The twins were just starting pre-school and only for a few hours a week, so I was still spending a lot of my time looking after them there. It was a ‘trial separation’ in all but name; “need some time apart” I was told.

I’d found a great new home for us all, right next to their school, in a quiet cul-de-sac; with a good-sized garden, a communal green outside and with friends they could play with nearby. It was perfect for ‘us’. I’d stayed up all of Christmas Eve cleaning up the incredible mess that a family with 3-year-twins will inevitably make, and finalising the packing and moving. I then drove through the night to London to join the family with my in-laws for Christmas. I didn’t want to miss opening the presents around the tree! It’s such an important and joyous time for young children.

I did all this in the full expectation that this would be ‘our’ new family home, that we would all be moving in there together as a family. I was wrong. That’s when our separation started for real.

They all moved in and I stayed where I was. Separated.

My wife had gone back to work after her maternity leave while I carried on looking after the twins when they weren’t at school, so for financial reasons (I thought at the time) it was only her name on the title deed. I hadn’t stayed overnight there so I couldn’t claim any right of residence.

I would still come over for evenings, have dinner there & play with them until their bedtime: that’s when it it became – for want of a better word – ‘difficult’.

In my life I’ve experienced grief and pain. My favourite uncle died when I was a young boy; I was a pallbearer at his funeral. I had to take the day off school and I think I spent most of it crying. My Dad died in 2005; he’d lived to a good old age, and I’d seen him only a few months before, but it was still tough. I’ve had abscessed teeth (several times), I’ve woken up in the middle of the night after a knee operation when the anaesthetic had worn off in such pain that – as an agnostic – I prayed to die.

None of that compared to what I experienced here though. As it became time for me to go the twins would become distraught. They would plead for me to stay, shouting, screaming, crying uncontrollably. They did everything they possibly could with their little 3-year-old bodies to stop me leaving. They would grab a leg each and hang on as hard as they could, gripping me like limpets and refusing to let go. They would throw themselves between me and the door to try to stop me from leaving: all the while screaming, crying & shouting “DON’T GO DADDY! STAY HERE!”. They’d try distraction, delaying tactics, everything they could think of, to stop me from going.  And I didn’t want to go!!

But what could I do?! It wasn’t my house! They were no longer under my care!

It was, is, and I think always will be the most painful, distressing thing I’ve had to go through.

You say you love me, then you walk right out the door; I’m left here wanting more.

I was left high and dry and didn’t feel I had the means or resources to look after them as they needed any more. They would come over to my little place, and still do, but when it became time to leave it was the same distressing scenario all over again. This went on several days every week, for many months. Over the ensuing years it’s lessened but it’s still there. To be honest, I’ve lost track of time for it all now.

I only found out quite recently that they blamed me for all this. They thought that I had left them, when the opposite was true!  It’s only in the last year or so as they’ve grown mentally and emotionally that I’ve been able to explain to them what actually happened – that I didn’t leave, didn’t want to, it wasn’t my choice and that it was the last thing I wanted to do! They thought this about me, that Daddy had left them, betrayed them – for all this time! Awful!

They’re great kids, balanced, largely happy, smart, doing well at school and socially, etc. I still see a sadness in them however, a Dad-shaped emptiness, and I just can’t help feeling – despite the circumstances – that I’m to blame. All those “if only”s!

Looking back I can think of things I might have said and done differently that may have made a difference. Who knows? I can’t rewrite the past so I’ll never know. “Hindsight is always 20-20”! At the time I was so shocked, distressed, confused, struggling with my own personal circumstances and, yes, depressed that I couldn’t see any alternative.

They were only three.

They’re older now, but they’re still children: my children. All I can do is try to do the best that I can for them with what I have, and that’s what I’m doing.

DIY Daddy
Shank You Very Much
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Tired, scared, sore, smelly & frozen!

I’ve had an eventful December, especially the last couple of weeks! I’m just now finding the time to write about it.

In less than 2 weeks  I’ve been in 3 car breakdowns, having to be towed each time. The last one  – Saturday – was on the hard shoulder of a busy dual carriageway just ahead of a slip road, in the dark & the cold.

With Jake & Ellie.
Continue reading “Tired, scared, sore, smelly & frozen!”

Flying Solo, Part 2

Well we moved to our tiny little house in Wales so that the Mummy could spend less of her time commuting & more of it with the twins.

Life has its little ironies doesn’t it? Every now & then she has to go to north Wales, & today was one of those days. The roads between north & south Wales are really slow: winding, mostly single lane, over mountains & through valleys. It’s actually quicker to get to the north on the motorways from our old home in the Midlands!

She had left home before the twins were awake. They were with ‘Karen’ & her little group between 8.30 & 3, but it was still up to me to get them up, washed, dressed, make their breakfast, prepare their lunches, pack their bags & meet any ad-hoc needs that arise. It all went without incident, although it was obviously a mistake trying to feed myself as well. Next time I either get up earlier or don’t eat!

When I picked them up at 3 I was welcomed by running hugs & shouts of “Daddy!” by 2 happy little children. I love that. There had been a couple of minor upsets – Ellie seemed a bit wary of a new older boy there – but overall they’d had a great time.

For once the sun was out today! We spent a lot of the rest of the afternoon rolling around in the grass in our tiny garden. We had fun, inside & out, but they are still really demanding. They’re physically very capable, they’re smarter & are becoming very interested in asserting their independence & a lot less interested in being told what to do & having their lives run for them. I believe it’s called ‘The Terrible Twos’.

I mean no disrespect at all to parents of single children, or even of 2 or more of different ages – diligent parenting of any flavour deserves maximum respect in my opinion –  but I’m convinced that looking after twins has a difficulty level several magnitudes higher. And triplets? I can’t imagine that!

“You want some water? OK, I’ll get you some water”- “Oh Jake – did you hurt your knee? I’m coming!” – “It’s OK Ellie: it’s just a worm, it won’t hurt you” – “You finished your grapes? Yes, I can cut up some more” – “Yes, you want some water” – “You want some water too? OK” – “You’re stuck? Just a minute, I’m coming” – “Jake don’t take that, Ellie is playing with it” – “Ellie, don’t hit Jake!” – “Yes, I’m getting your water” – “And grapes” – “Ellie’s on the trampoline now, Jake, you can have a turn soon” – “Don’t eat that please – it’s really dirty!” – “Mummy will be home after dinner”. And so on.

And this is when they’re playful & happy…

By dinnertime I was already pretty tired. That however went amazingly well: for the first time I can remember they both pretty much cleared their plates! And I’ve no idea why! After a very silly fight over the trampoline it seemed obvious they were getting tired, so I resorted to the tried & tested: “Who wants cake?”. Fight over, instant attentiveness.

Luckily I did actually have some!

Ellie had been complaining of tiredness even before dinner so we headed upstairs quickly. Then it got chaotic. They were fighting over nearly everything: my battery checker, the baby monitor, my (out of juice) phone, anything. Running around, chasing, shouting “Mine!” “No, mine!”, snatching, tantrums. I was forced into “If you’re going to fight over it nobody’s having it!” confiscation mode. I think they were both not only overtired but also missing their Mummy.

There was also a poo incident, of which I’ll spare you the details. The cushion cover is beige; I’m pretty sure it’s washable…

Well I somehow managed to get them in their sleepsuits, in bed & with their milk without any major injuries or damage. As usual I read them a bedtime story. Now they’re fighting over ownership of the animals in the bleeding book!! “My bear” “No my bear!”, “My bee!” “No my bee!”. There are actually 2 bees, 1 each. The logic of this suggestion just doesn’t seem to register.

I have to admit at this point I got cross! “Please stop fighting! Both of you!”. I didn’t shout, but my voice was raised. And thankfully they seemed to calm down. Although most likely out of pity for poor struggling Daddy.

And we never got to finish the story. Will Rabbit find a new home? We may never know!

Then I accidentally managed to send them off to sleep with a laugh & smile! I asked if ‘pretty please’ could I go to sleep now? “Pretty please? With cheese?? And peas?”. Adding words 1 at a time that rhyme & were (sort-of) food-related. “And beans?”, “And grease?”. I was tired, OK? “And sneeze?”.  And was getting a little silly. Ellie especially found this hilarious & was soon asleep with a smile on her face, looking at me with an expression that seemed to me to be one of pure love. Jake, putting up his usual fight, followed soon after.

They’re very trying at times, these twins of ours, but it’s moments like that that make it all worth it & that remind me why being their Dad is still the best job in the world ever.

Poor Mummy though! She arrived home after they were fast asleep on my shoulders & so didn’t actually get to see them at all today. She tucked into the dinner I’d left in the oven while I stayed with the sleeping beauties so she could spend some much-needed QT with her friend Dexter.

So: Phew! This is a big week workwise, so I may have to do this again very soon! At least we know we can do it anyway.

There are flights to the North aren’t there? Or maybe we could hire a chopper? Anyone know how much that costs? Sigh…

This post is not only for The Crumby Mummy’s ‘Terrible Twosday’ blog hop but also for this month’s Multiple Mayhem Carnival. Have a look at them both: there are always great posts there!  Just ‘click the pics’.

MultipleMummy

A Moving Experience

It was all planned out very carefully.

The Mummy has been commuting 2/3 days a week to work in Wales from the Midlands & was sick of it. The plan has been to sell our home there & buy in Wales but we had made no progress in getting the place ready to sell nor in finding somewhere there. So we decided to move in to a small place we had been renting out while we sort everything out from there, renting out our old home at a reduced rate.

We’d been over to measure up, & had selected & paid for all but the stairs & landing to be refloored. We’d ordered & arranged delivery of a small washer-dryer & a small fridge-freezer. We’d selected a moving company & given them a list of what we were moving. The in-laws had come over to help with packing.

The flooring was being done on Tuesday April 3rd, & I was to spend the day before cleaning there. So I had grabbed what I needed for a week or 2, stuffed it all in the little car without the child seats & zoomed off to Wales on Sunday night, leaving behind a list of what to pack for when the Mummy & the twins joined me on Wednesday.

I should have known something was afoot, & not just that – as you may have noticed – I was driving over on April Fools’ Day. A month earlier I had ‘phoned Sky to tell them we were moving our TV, ‘phone & broadband. They told me that they couldn’t take moving calls until 2 weeks before the move. Their Engineers are so efficient! I was surprised but dutifully ‘phoned back 2 weeks later. I was then told that we couldn’t have ‘phone & broadband in Wales until April 11th – a week after our move! It appears that our earlier Operative was only thinking about our TV contract. Probably didn’t have room for more than 1 thought at a time I expect. I couldn’t understand why such a delay, they insisted that ‘according to their records’ an Engineer needed to attend to install the line. I pointed out that there was already a working BT line there, that the tenant had used it & so had we when we stayed there earlier. But what would I know? I’d only lived there, after all; I didn’t have The Records.

On March 28th, I got a letter saying that our ‘phone & broadband would stop at our present address on the 29th – tomorrow! After another frantic, & frankly really quite cross, ‘phone call they graciously allowed us to keep them until we actually left the house.

Serve me right for giving money to Murdoch’s Evil Empire I guess. Not for much longer I hope.

So how did the move go? Well…

Sunday April 1st, evening: Driving through Brum where the M6 meets the M5 & the car is losing speed rapidly. I manage to exit to a truck service & transport police depot before grinding to a halt. Coincidentally I’d broken down in almost the same place 3 years before except I had to go from the outside lane where the 2 motorways merged & just made it to the hard shoulder, on a corner. The AA arrives 40 minutes later & can’t fix it on the spot (clutch: same as before) so I have to be towed. Wife isn’t answering the ‘phone, she & the in-laws are enjoying a last drink & the phone is upstairs. The AA man suggests towing me to a 24-hour secure garage & having my wife pick me up, but when she eventually hears the ‘phone she tells me she’s a bit too tipsy to drive. So I get towed home. Stressometer: 5

Monday April 2nd: The car is towed to our local garage but they can’t fix it today as it also needs a new gear something or other. I decide to take the carseat-equipped Astra to the garage, transfer my stuff there & drive to Wales in it, coming back for the children to move on Wednesday. What the garage didn’t tell me is that the Ka is suspended, & we had to unpack it by a big ladder. I only had to go back once. I could also have done without the smart-arse jibes about my driving. Stressometer: 6

I make good time & reach our new home in the early evening. I discover that the only mobile I have has no signal in the house & I have to cross the road & stand under a lamppost to make calls. It’s very cold & so am I. No ‘phone & no internet while trying to organise moving my family to a different country. Great. I’m still sane, but cracking a little. Stressometer: 7

Tuesday 3rd, early morning: The carpet people refuse to start until they’re paid in cash  – which I’m fairly sure is illegal – saying it’s because we don’t own the house. We do but – oddly enough – I haven’t packed the title deeds & can’t prove it. I thought it was all paid for, & so does the Mummy when I ‘phone her. From around the corner now as the signal area has moved. CarpetWrong confirmed this so I have to find & drive off to an atm before work can start. They’re sneaky & won’t take the cash ’til they finish. I’m fitting in my cleaning around them as they work. They manage to leave the only downstairs door so that it won’t shut & the explanation they give me, which of course they leave until they’ve finished, doesn’t make sense. By now it’s already late & I have to drive back so I don’t have the option of standing around & arguing. Another good drive, fish’n’chips for dinner, & I’m  straight to bed in some old clothes as all my PJs are in Wales. Despite this I sleep long & well.  Stressometer: 6

Wednesday 4th, Moving Day. I’ve forgotten that the Sky TV bloke is due at 8 so the Mummy had ‘phoned to postpone ’til Saturday. I’ve also overlooked that we have an all-day delivery slot for the washer-dryer, starting from 8, so I zoom off in the now-fixed Ka with a few more supplies. I’m held up in English traffic though & am quite late in arriving. Luckily I haven’t missed the delivery.

Finally something goes right! Simply Removals are great: the 2 Romanian chappies are quick, efficient & extremely polite, the only issue being just slightly wonky closet doors. The washer-dryer arrives while they are unloading. I pay them in cash as arranged, having grabbed some more money on the way to the chippie last night.

I run the washer-dryer (an Indesit) through a test cycle as instructed, seems OK but a little water is left in it. It drains away on the drain cycle but the timer stays on 1 minute. Hmmm. Good enough to use, & I really need some clean clothes so I put on a load. It doesn’t drain. I discover this when I open the door & the (new) kitchen floor becomes a lake. Managing to shut the door before the flood spread, I run every cycle I can find but still no drainage. I ‘phone Appliances Direct but they are shut so I can’t arrange a repair or replacement.

Then I remember that my wedding ring is (probably) in the pocket of my jeans in the wash. I take it off often as it’s a bit uncomfortable, & if we weren’t moving it would be on its usual spot on my desk. So I have the choice of flooding the new flooring or leaving the clothes possibly including my ring in there to rot & worrying about it.

I have to spend about half an hour standing out in the freezing cold listening to messages & making ‘phone calls. The Mummy & Jallie arrive late evening, & are soon in bed & asleep. I sleep badly.  Stressometer: 8

Thursday 5th. There’s a mixup as to which of the 2 bedrooms is for adults & which is for children, so while the Mummy & Jallie go shopping I swap all the furniture between the 2 rooms. It’s not easy. In the day’s chaos I forget to ‘phone up about the washer-dryer.

The fridge-freezer is due sometime today & when it doesn’t turn up at 4 I ‘phone them up to check all is well. The signal area has moved away from me again so I have to walk a couple of blocks this time. They helpfully explain: ‘We sent an email to confirm & you didn’t reply so delivery has been cancelled’. I had specified delivery for today when I ordered, & had explained that I was moving house & wouldn’t have internet access! As I’m was trying to rearrange delivery, with comic timing, the ‘phone batteries run out. And of course we can’t find the charger. We manage to impose upon a childminder we know there to use her ‘phone: they can’t redeliver for a week. A week without a washing machine & dryer having just moved with twin 2-year-olds? NOOOO! We cancelled. I thank Jade Technologies for being so helpful. I’m being sarcastic. A vein in my forehead is beginning to make its presence felt. Stressometer: 9

While out shopping the Mummy had noticed that the Co-Op sells ‘fridges, so off we trot. We buy a brand we don’t recognise but a salesman who seems trustworthy assures us it’s reliable, & it has the features we want. Most importantly they can deliver tomorrow – Good Friday! I don’t think the salesman was expecting a big sloppy kiss. Especially with tongue. I like the Co-Op. Stressometer: 7

Friday 6th: The Co-Op delivered as promised, & the fridge-freezer seems to be working well. We mostly stand around waiting for something bad to happen. We find the ‘phone charger in the car, & I manage to drag out a crappy old PAYG with no credits but on a network that has coverage in the house. I eventually find its charger & figure out how to top it up. We use most of the £10 top-up in a ‘phone call to Mum-in-law as we pushed the wrong button & didn’t end the call.

We’re finding it difficult moving to such a small place. We keep falling over small persons running around & are having trouble finding anywhere to put stuff that won’t be grabbed by little hands & played-with to destruction. In the evening, with no ‘net, phone or TV, I rediscover an old Wii sci-fi shooter called Metroid Prime 3. Stressometer: 6

Saturday 7th: I top-up my ‘phone again & try to ‘phone about the washer-dryer. They’re closed, of course. Something to do with bunnies & chocolate. The Sky TV man comes along & plugs us in. He seems like a very decent bloke & he lives just around the corner, & he told us just to knock on his door if we have any problems. Stressometer: 6

Sunday 8th, Monday 9th: I show Jake Metroid Prime 3 in an area where there are no bad guys to shoot, explaining that it’s like Tree-Fu magic. Despite this he calls it the “bang bang!”, although personally I think it’s more of a whirrzzzhaa-chow! He becomes addicted. A few days later he sees a gun, points to it & says “bang bang!” & I realise that I’ve made a mistake & once again have underestimated him.

We spend our time looking around, settling in & waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Stressometer: 5

Tuesday 10th: I arrange for the washer-dryer to be serviced on Thursday. Wanting to find my wedding ring before the serviceman does I open the door & drain the water into a recycling bin. Which turns out to have holes in it. Cue another flood. I use a big bucket instead & manage to extricate my clothes. No sign of my ring. I hang the clothes on the rotary line & it collapses & breaks. I’m really quite grumpy now. Stressometer: 8

Wednesday 11th: In the light of the fridge-freezer delivery debacle I ‘phone Sky to get a time for when their Engineer is due. “Oh, we don’t need to send an Engineer as you already have a BT line. It’s already switched on.” The stupid &*%! seemed to expect me to be grateful. When I asked them why in Fs name they couldn’t have done this a week ago they didn’t seem to understand the question.

Ever feel like hitting someone? On the nose? Really, really hard?

Still at least we have a ‘phone line. Then we notice that we forgot to pack a ‘phone.

I go into to town & buy a ‘phone. And a washing line.

We also need an urgent prescription repeat as Jake has had an eye infection, now both Ellie & the Mummy have caught it & we’re out of drops. Ellie woke up with 1 eye closed & the other barely open. We haven’t registered anywhere & the town’s only surgery is shut. I find the emergency doctor’s office & they don’t want to do it, telling me to come back tomorrow morning & fill out some forms. My old PAYG mobile keeps cutting out. I show heroic restraint in not shouting or swearing even once. After using words like “duty of care” I eventually get them to do it, & get the prescriptions at 5pm. It’s cold & it’s raining & I don’t have an umbrella. Stressometer: 7

Thursday 12th: The ‘phone doesn’t work; it has a loose connection & keeps cutting out. We still don’t have the internet as we forgot to pack the necessary dongles with the router.

The Indesit bloke turns up, fiddles about & fixes the washer-dryer. No sign of my ring; we’d wondered if it was blocking the outlet. The explanation he gives doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sadly I suspect our theory was right & that he may have pocketted it on 1 of the many times I was distracted by having to supervise Jake & Ellie.

I get a new ‘phone &, after a lot of bother as this is not a high-tech town, manage to get  a couple of broadband dongles. Stressometer: A steady, resigned-to-my-fate 6

Now: So we now finally have a landline, Internet, TV, washing line & a washing machine, dryer, fridge & freezer that work. I’m still worried about my ring though; I’m now hoping that either I left it behind or that it fell in the long grass as I was hanging the clothes on the line. Which I haven’t been able to mow as I couldn’t find my Flymo.

Good. So how was your week?


Once Upon a Time in the West Midlands

There was a bit of trouble in the badlands of the Wild West Midlands today!

In the course of which my faith in humanity has been both damaged & bolstered.

The front wheels of our pushchair fell off this morning so I had to drive the twins to their afternoon playgroup at a local Nursery / School.

They had a terrific time, possibly the best ever there. They were running around happily, playing & laughing with each other & other children & parents there, there was a little obstacle course they enjoyed going over / through / around, pushchairs, little vehicles, they were making flowers with CDs, coloured paper & glue, they enjoyed the story, the singing & signing, the bananas & raisins, everything. It was a great crowd of parents there too & I had a great time chatting with them & with the staff.

I had a parcel to pick up afterwards so I drove off to get it. When I arrived I realised I’d left the card & my shirt back at the Nursery.

So (cue music) I jumped back on the saddle & mosied on back to get my vittals. When I turned around to go back out there was a locked gate blocking our exit. Whoa Lightning! This was sure news to me. It was reckoned that the man in the ironmongers shop next door had the key. So, donning my white hat, I strode in & asked him gosh-darn nicely if he woulda be a-minded to unlock that thar gate. He done gone & told me to – well, I won’t say. I’m sure he was a-wearing a black hat. I told him I had the young un’s on the steed, & that they’d only gone & been away from home for more’n 2 hours. He done & gone said: “So go & look after them then!”. Nice.  In some here parts he might a-been called a Varmint. A dang Varmint!

I skedaddled to the Nursery but even they were unable to talk sense into this piece-a-work! Half an hour gone, I’d took them inside, & we were still trying to get this thing fixed. At his leisure then the Ironmonger Man in the Black Hat had mosied on out of his small shop & over all of the 4 feet to the gate & had let us out. Us & many other right cross Mammas & Daddies with their young’uns in tow.

He was laughing. It was a great big joke to him.

Trouble is (& I’m leaving the slightly laboured Western metaphor now…) apparently I was now the bad guy!  As my car was at the front of the queue to get out drivers behind were madly honking their horns & yelling abuse. In front of my 2-year-olds, who’d remained astonishingly calm throughout all of this. I & a staff member were busy strapping them in as fast as we could, yet still the tirade of horns & abuse persisted! I don’t understand why people have to be like this.

Even the teacher who was kindly helping me -1 of the nicest people I’ve ever met – came in for abuse, & apparently is quite upset. I’m seeing her in a group she runs tomorrow, & I’m bringing chocolates.

I love this Nursery, its people & its activities; the twins do too. They’ve had so many great times there, have learnt so much: singing, signing, arts & crafts. But a man who has no connection to it other than proximity having the ability to effectively detain children & their carers inside, allowing & blocking access & egress at his convenience? Who appears to take pleasure in detaining & distressing small children & their carers?

This also I don’t understand.

So how has my faith in humanity also been bolstered? Firstly in the kindness of the teacher in helping me get the twins back in the car, under fire. A lovely woman: Thank You.

Secondly in the unexpected support I received from a complete stranger & total twitter newbie. He tweeted to me that he was there in the school car-park & was shocked by the abuse we were getting from the Mums there. He also told me about how inconsistent the gate-keeper is & how frustrated many parents there are with him. I won’t name him as he may not want to be dragged into my sordid little affairs, but Thank You too. You know who you are.

Good. So how was your day?

*Rides off into the sunset. Cue orchestral music, roll credits*


It’s Just Not Healthy!

As we were trying to get ourselves & the twins ready to go out to Twins Club this morning we had a ‘phone call. It was from a very smug Doctor from Birmingham Childrens’ Hospital, responding to a message we’d left

As we were trying to get ourselves & the twins ready to go out to Twins Club this morning we had a ‘phone call. It was from a very smug Doctor from Birmingham Children’s Hospital, responding to a message we’d left

– in November.

She seemed to think that this was perfectly OK, & only apologised when pressed. It was about trying to get the promised follow-up appointment that they seemed to have forgotten for Jallie’s reflux problems.

They’re OK now, basically because they’re several months older!

Sadly this level of dis-service, incompetence & rudeness seems to be considered acceptable, even the norm for the NHS; at least in my neck of the woods.

The human shoulder joint
Image via Wikipedi

Anyone who has been reading my “Dear So & Sos” will know that I’ve been having huge problems trying to get a much-needed shoulder operation done (ruptured tendon, probably the result of a fractured clavicle). It’s been at least 2 years – to be honest I’ve lost track – since I first went to the GP about it. After referrals, physio, X-rays, lost x-rays, redone x-rays, a scan, consultations I finally got a date for it: June last year. Unfortunately in the time they took for all this to happen my wife had become pregnant & given birth to twins, then 3 months old!

Even with the 2 of us at home 24 hours we were struggling. There was no way I could just ‘take time off’ for 6 weeks, even with 1 arm available. So I had to postpone & was given a Pre-Op Assessment for early September, which I passed, with the Op a month later.

3 weeks later though I’d come down with a seasonal allergic catarrh & chesty cough. Having been told I shouldn’t have the Op if I had a chest infection, I spent an incredibly frustrating week of ‘phone calls where I was transferred to every department & back again, messages left on voice-mails, many “I’ll ‘phone you back” lies & still I couldn’t find anyone who could advise me as to whether or not I should proceed. The day before the Op I finally got to speak to a Pre-Op Nurse, who said I shouldn’t. I then phoned the Waiting List Co-ordinator for the millionth time, who then had a go at me for leaving it so late to cancel! She’s lucky she wasn’t within my ‘phone throwing range. At least she didn’t transfer me to Cardiac that time, although I was getting to the point where I needed to be.

I was postponed ’til  November, then December, then November again. Lots more ‘phone calls & aggravation. Unfortunately by November I was still chesty: bumped again! Patient Liaison told me that they thought it was a deliberate scam just to clear room on the waiting lists.

More ‘phone calls, transfers etc. etc. later & I was given appointments to see the Anaesthetist & the Surgeon on December 20th & 22nd. They both cleared me immediately, & I was told that I was at the top of the waiting list.

A month later & I still didn’t have a date. I had made it clear over & over that January was the latest I could have the Op due to ending parental leave & looming work commitments. More ‘phone calls, aggravation, less hair & more wrinkles later & I was finally given another Pre-Op for: February 1st! We’d actually managed to push the deadline back a month so February would have OK,  just. What Op date did they give me? March 22nd! 3 months after being cleared by the Surgeon, nearly 5 months after the last Op date!

I’ve given up.

The incompetence, stupidity, callous bureaucratic indifference & rudeness I’ve encountered has been staggering; bad even by British business standards. To stay I’m p*ssed off about this is 1 of the century’s understatements. My shoulder is painful & getting worse, & I’m having to carry two increasingly heavy & active babies around, & up & down 2 flights of stairs several times per day.

I am aware that there are many much more badly affected than me: people, including babies, have died needlessly due to negligence & incompetence here.

Even so, the NHS has badly let me down.

Sadly in my experience this is pretty typical NHS. Its clinical staff are among, if not the, best in the world; the admin & managerial staff are mostly utterly useless.

Believe it or not the point of this post isn’t just to have a rant. From where I’m sitting it’s clear that the NHS – to use a phrase from the last Government – is not “fit for purpose”. It needs radical reform.

I know the coalition Government are shaking things up; to be honest I don’t know the details. What I do know is that its hard to find anyone who thinks they’re doing the right thing.

Please don’t misunderstand me: free universal health care is something this country should always be proud of; an example to, & often the envy of, the world.

But that’s not much good to me when I can’t get the operation I badly need, or to the thousands of others who have had similar or worse experiences.

In its present form it’s just not working. What’s the solution? I don’t know. But it has to change.

Training With The Stars

 

Some of you may have read my post "I'm Not Fat, I'm Sympathetically Pregnant!" from way back in February. Briefly, while my wife was pregnant I looked a bit as if I was too. And as far as I’m concerned I had a damn good excuse!

Now that the twins have turned up my ‘baby weight’ has mostly gone too: carrying two increasingly heavy little people up & down stairs many times every day will do that to you!

You may have noticed that I said “mostly”. Raising these little guys is wonderful but can also be pretty stressful at times. Being drunk in charge of babies is, for me, a big No-No; and given that I often suffer from baby-induced sleep-deprivation more than a bevvy or 2 is just likely to send me off to sleep. And the sweet-tooth that reared its sugary head & pumped up my belly (apologies for the slightly unpleasant mixed metaphor) during my Sympathetic Pregnancy remains. So these days during times of stress the bar I’m more likely to make a bee-line for is a chocolate one.

In short, I could still do with a bit of toning-up. And, yes, this is looking like me keeping another New Year’s Resolution that I haven’t actually made…

FHM's Bionic magazine

So it was by a happy coincidence that this month’s issue of FHM comes with a free Bionic magazine, packed with tips for getting fit the easy way from some of Britain & the world’s top sportsmen. England & Leicester rugby star Toby Flood; arguably the best footballer in the world, Barcelona & Argentina’s Lionel Messi; & Britain’s best Mixed Martial Arts fighter Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping, to name a few, all share their secrets.

I couldn’t help but notice though that World Champion Heptathlete Jessica Ennis is also on hand for a personal training session. Those who know me well should already realise which of those I’d choose for some 1-on-1 training! Her 9-point guide to fitness is really down-to-earth & something that anyone, me included, can fit into a busy day in some form or other. She's also particularly good with the mental, as well as the physical, side of getting fitter. Her guide is already pinned to my wall…

So if you fancy getting fit with with Toby, Lionel, The Count, Jessica & other top athletes FHM is out now, also including features on Skins, career advice, lesbian ballerina sex (yes, really) & smartphone addiction.(I wonder if they’d read my post about Twittadiction?). You can get £1 off by ordering online; for more information go see Nicole.  🙂

 

£1 off FHM
£1 off FHM

This is a Sponsored Post.,  All the words in it however – even the big ones – are my own. If I don't like it I don't write it!

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This Blog Is Pointless

OK: this blog is pointless.

It was meant to be about how the birth of my twin babies has changed my life.

And, how has it changed? In every way!

So I’ve sort of figured out that it’s not about me.

It’s about them.

And they have sure changed!

So, really the point of this blog has changed.

Part of the reason I haven’t posted for so long is that looking after them has been tough; hard work, tiring, stressful – for us both. It’s taken it’s toll on each of us individually & as a couple. The leisure time I’ve had I’ve mostly used to unwind.

Given all that, has it been worth it? A thousand times: “Yes!”. My kids are the most precious things to me; I realise it every time they greet me with a gorgeous smile when they see me first thing in the morning, when I make them laugh, when they fall asleep peacefully on my shoulder. They’re worth every hardship.

It’s been 6 months – yes, 6 of their 8 months – since my last post. In that time they’ve changed – a lot.

They’re Eating. Proper Food. That was then:

This is now:

They love avocado, banana, carrot sticks, baby biscuits, sweet potato, peaches, apples, yoghurt & much more. My wife is doing an amazing job of preparing most of their food herself, preferably using organic ingredients. They almost always prefer her food to even top brand shop products.

Ellie always tries to feed herself, & has to have something in her hand to chew/suck on;

Jake is quite happy to be fed.

Meal times can be great fun, but also very trying if they’re tired or grizzly. They’re not too young to throw a strop!

It was a major event when we first saw them reach & grip something of their accord. We used to joke about Jake’s daily battles with the Hippo in his bouncy chair. He’d stare at it for ages trying to figure out how to grab its evil frame. I still remember that day we saw him do it for the first time. Now they’re both very dextrous: Ellie with her food, & Jake has just recently developed a pincer grip: using his finger & thumb.

And boy, have they got strong! Changing their nappies or clothes sometimes feels like jumping into the ring with Hulk Hogan. Their grip, Jake’s especially, can be very painful when applied to ‘sensitive areas’. He got my nipple once – OUCH.

For what seems like so long this was their default position:

Then they started doing this:

Then this:

And this:

Then this: And this:

Then, written on my calendar for November 4th 2010: “She stood up today”. I’m still shocked. She does this now whenever she can from her cot, & always looks so pleased with herself, cooing contentedly! And Jake finds it hilarious when she eventually falls over…

(NTS: I really need to get my skates on to make the house safer for them)

Jake’s attempts at crawling so far mostly involve lying on his tummy, arms in front like he’s flying, legs in the air kicking like a frog & rocking vigourously while panting excitedly. He still seemingly can’t quite figure out why he hasn’t moved! He seems in no hurry – he seems to be enjoying himself – & neither am I, as watching him is hilarious! He can sit up, but doesn’t do it of his own volition. It just goes to show that babies, even twins, develop at very different rates & in different ways. In fact, that’s probably a subject for another post…

Needless to say they’re much bigger & heavier. It’s incredible to think they used to fit comfortably in a single little basket

Now they’ve outgrown not only their Moses baskets, but we’ve had to give them a cot each. Jake in particular is getting very heavy.

They’ve always had strong, individual personalities – even in the womb: That’s Ellie on top, pushing on Jake’s head to get into a better position. She seems the active, physical one, whereas he seems content to just Be: much as they have been since they emerged!

Now they’re like proper little people. They smile a lot,

they laugh a lot,

they’re  are much more aware of themselves,

of each other,

of other people,

& of the world  around them.

They definitely have bags of personality now!

I love making them laugh. Jake particularly has a fantastic sense of humour: he’ll laugh at almost anything. And when I make a joke that they don’t get they’re now both socially aware to realise that I’m trying to make with the funny, & will still humour me with a smile. Everywhere they go they seem to charm everyone they meet. They make us so proud.

And they try to talk. Jake is very fond of saying “Eh-oh” (trans: “Hello”)  Tellytubbies style.  And Ellie calls me “Dada”. My wife isn’t convinced; she thinks it’s just random easy syllables, or imitation. But when she looks up at me first thing in the morning & with a smile says “Dada” – I’m convinced. She’s also said “I like duck”, but that may be going too far for an 8-month-old.

We’ve been trying to teach them some basic baby signing words; apparently babies can pick them up very easily. Today, for the first time, they made a sign word: Fantastic! It was around lunchtime,  they were getting a bit grizzly, & Jake repeatedly made the sign for “Eat”. It turns out he was hungry. I couldn’t be a more proud Dad 😀

It’s amazing looking back over the last 6 months just how far they’ve come. I’m sure it’ll be just as amazing watching them grow & develop, & sharing in it, over the coming months & years.

And now here’s a nice picture of Ellie in her Grandpa’s cap 🙂

P.S.: I’ll try not to wait 6 months until my next post….

You Had Me At “Agoo”

It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong; the best laid plans of Dads & Mums etc…

The idea of this blog was to look at pregnancy then childcare from a bloke’s perspective: to write about how my life changes as a result.

Great in theory, not so good in practice.

During her maternity leave my wife had plans to, among other things, help me grow all our own organic vege, raise chickens & write a novel.

I was also  hoping to maintain this blog – a bit more regularly than I’ve managed so far.

Hasn’t happened! As for the reason: see my last blog entry. We’ve been overwhelmed by the time & commitment we’ve needed to look after our twins, especially now that they’re having a few problems & need extra TLC.

In any spare time I’ve had I’ve been so drained that the best I’ve been able to do is type a few sometimes coherent tweets, usually with a baby or 2 on my arm (I have a very sore arm…), or slump in front of the TV occasionally.

But I’m making the effort: I’m doing another post if it kills me (or my arm drops off).

Well they’re now 9 weeks old. In the whirlwind of seeing to their needs it’s kind of crept up on us that in the very short time they’ve been here that they’ve already grown up, & are in many ways quite different from the tiny little things we were presented with at the hospital. I was looking back on  photos from around then & it really struck me. They were still our little Jake & our little Ellie, but they looked quite different. It’s not something you realise from day to day as you’re looking after them.

I may have presented a fairly negative picture, & it has been tough. Jake has colic / lactose intolerance*: he convulses in great discomfort regularly, especially after feeding, & often can’t sleep as it keeps him awake. Ellie gets reflux, she vomits her food up a lot (although she hasn’t for 4 days now!), & has to be held upright at least half an hour after feeding, as does Jake. If we lay her down too soon she brings the milk back up, & she cries.  In the last couple of days she’s cried inconsolably without apparent reason & has taken an hour or 2 to get to sleep. We’ve tried all sorts: elevating their beds, gripe water, infacol, gaviscon, colief, different types of anti-colic bottles. The only thing that seems to help at all with any regularity is body contact with us: being cuddled by Mum & Dad. It’s a mystery.

Note: click on any picture to view full-size

 

Even so, amidst the hard work & sadness they seem to be developing into lovely kids; we adore them, anyway. We’re told that everything they’re going through is pretty normal. Between bouts of illness, they have become  hugely more sociable. They were just little balls of crying, feeding, excreting & sleeping; now they are far more aware of their surroundings & of us. We can actually enjoy their company.

They’ll smile at the slightest things: being picked up, us making silly faces;  Jake especially loves having his face & head stroked.  They’ll often break out huge, open-mouthed smiles; especially after being in distress they light up the room, & our lives. They sometimes even laugh. They love us talking to them & try to imitate us, usually coming out with something like “agoo”.

Physically they’ve changed a lot too. They’ve grown, obviously. They’re the same ‘height’ (length?) as each other but Jake is now much heavier & stockier, & is already quite strong: for instance when he straightens his legs out he can push me back when I’m trying to feed him. In fact, he’s reached a milestone very early: he can already beat  his Dad at something! Put him on his stomach; if he decides he doesn’t want to be there he can lift himself up. That’s already more push-ups than I can manage right now with my dodgy shoulder. Ellie is more slender, long-limbed – but also has really big feet! Her eyelashes are incredible  – unbelievably long. She also has become much stronger: when changing her she’ll straighten her legs when we’re trying to get them into her sleepsuit, then thrash them around when we’re trying to do up the domes. Makes the job even more difficult: kids!

They are developing distinct personalities too. Ellie’s default expression is a smile. She loves being moved around & is fascinated by changes in ‘scenery’. She is more active, her gaze flits around a lot. Jake is a lot more serious. He tends to focus very intently on 1 thing at a time. The black beams contrasted against the white ceiling in our bedroom hold an endless fascination for him. We often joke that he is doing his Beam Report: keeping track of what they’re up to, what they want, etc. Oddly this has made him more, not less, sociable:  when we talk to him he gives us his absolute attention, & often stares at us intently even while we’re doing other things.

The main thing is that, despite their problems, they’re developing normally, & are happy a lot of the time. That’s all we can ask for, really.

 

 

 

Looking after them is extremely tiring, stressful, difficult. Despite all this, if I had to choose I wouldn’t change a thing. Sorry to be soppy, but I never dreamed I would love these 2 little guys so much, & expect to continue to do so.

 


UPDATED: My daughter can also now do more press-ups than me as well. And she threw up again this morning – twice.*sigh* Hopefully though that explains her recent evening crying.

* UPDATED: it was eventually diagnosed as Silent Reflux