Birds, bees, needles & lots of spots

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It was during the recent trauma – and closeness – of our vigil with Ellie during her week in hospital with ‘the pox’.

She slept a lot of the time, day & night, due to her illness & the medication she was taking. She’d just recently awoken, & we were doing ordinary things, like watching children’s TV or videos, & chatting.

We got to talking about our being in hospital when she & Jake were born, when out of the blue she said:

“Doctors make babies, don’t they?”

Umm…

Continue reading “Birds, bees, needles & lots of spots”

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The Gallery: Something Beautiful

A lot of it is a blur, but I still remember the moment.

My wife had survived what was a very difficult delivery & was still in recovery.

I was alone with my newborn twins, besotted.

Jake was sleeping, Ellie was crying.

Then she reached out & wrapped her tiny little fingers around my finger & stopped crying, held on as if she would never let go & went back to sleep.
Continue reading “The Gallery: Something Beautiful”

The Gallery: Together

Jake & Ellie

Together

Conceived Together

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Born Together1-DSCF2720DSCF2772

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Babies Together

Learning Together

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Christmas Together

Um, I'm pretty sure it's cars you're meant to put in there, Ellie. But sure: we could try the big squeezy ball!

Crawling Together

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Shopping Together

Holding up the wall TogetherDSCF5016 (2)Laughing Together

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Exploring Together

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Being happy Together

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Playing Together

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Eating Together

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Plotting Together

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Cooking Together

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Not moving Together

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Kissing Together

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Perching Together

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Holding hands Together1-At Peter's

Being serious Together

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Being silly Together

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Cwtching Together

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Best Friends Forever Together!1-DSC00456

 

This post is part of  ‘The Gallery’ at the ‘Sticky Fingers’ blog. For more Togetherness click the pic:

Work

I used to work in finance. Although I have no major qualifications beyond high-school I’m reasonably good with numbers, spreadsheets & tech, and –  if I’m honest, as I always try to be here – less good with people. I’ve worked on that & my social skills have improved but at heart I am still basically anti-social! I gravitate towards screens & am often uncomfortable in social situations.

So I happened on a career in accountancy & finance, not really by choice but just as it seemed to be what I was suited for.

The truth is my heart was never in it.

Office stress 2A lot of the time it bored me senseless: sitting in front of screens for hours on end just to make all the numbers, little & large, get on with each other. At other times it was very stressful & pressured: with fixed daily, weekly, monthly & yearly deadlines for which the right numbers had to be produced. And if they weren’t then others down the line who needed the numbers got stressed as their deadlines began to loom. It could get shouty.

I hated the office politics, pettiness, dealing with annoying people, bullying bosses, tiresome meetings. There were sometimes 24-hour, even weekend-long shifts. And I didn’t even have the compensation of being highly compensated. I did OK but I often struggled to pay my bills, just like anybody else.

I guess I’ve just never been that career-minded. I have often wondered if I’m maybe just a bit lazy: I definitely value my leisure time & try to make as much of it as I can.

But when I became a Stay-at-Home Dad I, along with the Mummy of course, worked really, really hard. I’ve probably said it here before but it’s worth repeating:

It’s the hardest job I have ever had.

1-DSCF3305It was exhausting, particularly the first year. The first 6 months or so are now a bit of a blur; we basically lived in the bedroom for most of that time.

No matter how unpleasant the office was I could still come home, get away from it. It might prey on my mind, even keep me awake at night, but at least I could escape to my own space.

With our slightly premature twins & their minor but demanding health problems there was no such escape. Care was around-the-clock, 24 hours a day. Even when I wasn’t actively looking after them I was always on call, all the time. The stress of taking on new challenges way outside of my experience, with my wife, all the while with the mind-numbing, debilitating sleep-deprivation: that’s something I could never have prepared myself for.

But this time my heart was in it.

So why the difference?

Before, I worked for money. As a Dad: it was love. And that realisation makes me happy.

So: lazy? Probably not. Soppy & besotted? Definitely!

Some posts from around that time:

What Christmas Means to Me

I really like Christmas. It’s sentimental, I know, but I just really like it.

I am hardly religious: I’d rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu, to be honest.

And yes, I have all of the usual objections to consumerism, the commercialisation of an ancient religion; to the westernisation of a dead Palestinian press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer.

But I still really like it.

I’m looking forward to Christmas, ‘though I’m not expecting a visit from Jesus. I’ll be seeing my dad, my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum. They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun.

I don’t go in for ancient wisdom. I don’t believe just because ideas are tenacious it means that they’re worthy. I get freaked out by churches: some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords but the lyrics are dodgy.

And yes, I have all of the usual objections to the mis-education of children who, in tax-exempt institutions, are taught to externalise blame, and to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right and wrong.

But I quite like the songs.

I’m not expecting big presents. The old combination of socks, jocks and chocolate is just fine by me, ‘cos I’ll be seeing my dad, my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum. They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun.

And you, my baby boy & girl, my jet-lagged infant son & daughter: you’ll be handed around the room like puppies at a primary school. And you won’t understand, but you will learn someday that wherever you are and whatever you face these are the people who’ll make you feel safe in this world, my sweet wide-eyed twins.

And if, my sweet babies, when you’re 21 or 31, and Christmas comes around and you find yourself 9000 miles from home you’ll know whatever comes your brother and sister and me and your mum will be waiting for you in the sun. Whenever you come your brother and sister, your aunts and your uncles, your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum, we’ll be waiting for you in the sun.

Drinking white wine in the sun, darlings, when Christmas comes we’ll be waiting for you in the sun, drinking white wine in the sun, waiting for you in the sun, waiting for you…

Waiting…

I really like Christmas. It’s sentimental, I know…

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Not my words – I wish! – they’re by the brilliant Australian comedian / musician / all-round good-guy Tim Minchin from his song ‘White Wine in the Sun’. I’ve only editted them for repetition & a little personalisation, but I really couldn’t have expressed what Christmas means to me much better!

It’s being released as a single on December 1st, proceeds going to the National Autistic Society.

Here it is in full, performed live during Children in Need:

Beautiful, profound, brilliant, right? So let’s make it Christmas number 1!

It’s sentimental, I know, but I just really like it 🙂

#TimMinchinXmasNo1

 

What’s in a Name? (Part 2)

Do you know it took us over 2 years to twig that in naming them Jake & Ellie we may have subconsciously named our children after the Blues Brothers?

Both of us love not only the film but also its music. Jake & Ellie / Jake & Elwood. Although I’m pretty sure that ‘Elwood’ wouldn’t have been our first choice for a 2nd boy.

Seriously – 2 years!

We, or at least I, have a dilemna of a different sort now.

They’re 2 years & 8 months now. They’re not babies any more, & for some time now have taken great offense at being called that. From virtually as soon as he could talk Jake would indignantly tell us: “I not a baby, I Jake!” whenever we used the B word.

So we now call them toddlers. But, hang on – isn’t ‘toddling’ that thing they do when they’ve just learnt to walk & are still very unsteady on their feet? When they don’t so much as walk but move forwards with their feet going as far sideways as they do forwards, & fall on their plump little bottoms a lot?

They definitely don’t ‘toddle’ any more. They haven’t ‘toddled’ for a long time. Now they walk, they run, they sidestep, they jump, they climb, they roll.

In fact we had our first “I’m not a toddler!” from Jake at dinner-time tonight.

So what are they then? Pre-schoolers? They’re not even at Nursery yet – we’re planning that for next year after they turn 3 – so aren’t they a bit young for that still?

Maybe it doesn’t matter, but so many toys & other children’s products are labelled as for ‘babies’, ‘toddlers’ or ‘pre-schoolers’, & I’m not sure what ours are anymore!

So what do you /did you call yours at a similar age? Does it matter?

Whatever they are, & whatever they become, to us they’ll always be our Jake & Ellie. I just feel privileged to be able to share in their journey.

After all, everybody needs somebody to love, right? (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)

Music Monday: Birthday

One of the things you lovely people out there in the blogosphere & the twitterverse may have noticed is that something I sometimes eloquently articulate upon bang on about with insightful  profundity monotonous regularity is music, my love of it, how I listen to it a lot, how my iPod Touch is now up to (just a sec…) 8,735 tracks so far, & how I should have been a singer in a rock’n’roll band. I even have a twitter account specifically for tweeting what I’m playing on my iPod, via YouTube. At least I don’t drunkenly tweet random lyrics late at night anymore as much as I used to…

So it makes sense for me to feature music in my blog. With the sad demise of Musodad’s blog I feel moved to blatantly take advantage try to pick up where he left off & do a post where I put up a few songs that have recently taken my fancy for one reason or another & write some words about them.

And… some may also have heard me mention that it’s Jallie’s 2nd Birthday today (yay!). So that gives me an obvious theme then for my first, & possibly last:

Warning: may contain traces of soppiness. I’ll try to add a little sarcasm & some bad jokes where appropriate.

Altered Images: Happy Birthday

An obvious place to start: it was either this or the Bjork-lead Sugarcubes’ “Birthday”. Altered Images’ lead singer was the scrumptious Clare Grogan: not only Gregory’s Girl, the object of Dave Lister‘s unrequited love (& the true Kochanski), but also the scourge of Craggy Island & Father Ted when she turned up there to tell him & the boys a thing or 2. So I’ll take her over Bjork any day! Also: Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” is a bit rubbish. And I don’t care if it’s about Martin Luther King.

U2: Two Hearts (Beat As One)

Say what you like about U2 & Bono, & most of us do, this is just a great rock song; from the pre-Joshua Tree “War” album. You know what I think of now when I hear this? Jake & Ellie inside their Mummy, entwined together, separate yet one, apart but together now & always, like two hearts that beat as one.

There ya go: soppiness, with rock’n’roll!

Steve Miller Band: The Joker

This was Jake’s early theme song. Yes, we give our children theme songs: doesn’t everyone? From a very early age he’s exhibited a terrific sense of humour, getting & making jokes long before we’d have thought a young child would. OK, some of the lyrics aren’t appropriate: if I find he’s a smoker or a midnight toker I may have to have words. And I don’t know what the “pompitous of love” is but I’m pretty sure I disapprove. But it’s a good song.

Elton John: Tiny Dancer

I adore this song: Elton John at his very best. It’s almost worth watching the film “Almost Famous”, about the ’70s music scene, just for the Tiny Dancer sequence. Shows the ’70s wasn’t just prog, punk & disco!

My Tiny Dancer, of course, is Ellie. This was my early theme song for her. She’s loved to dance virtually since she could stand, & has been much better at it than her Dad for at least that time. She’s always sung beautifully too.

I also used to jig her about to this, substituting in “Ellie!” & lifting her high up in the air at the appropriate moment. She loved it! Then she’d usually throw up all over me. Happy Days.

Bob Dylan: Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)

Jake’s current theme song: “Come on the juice, come on the cake: you’ll not see nothin’ like the mighty Jake”.  He has a great sense of humour; it’s sometimes a mystery where he gets it from…

Donovan: Mellow Yellow

Ellie’s current theme song: “They call her ‘Ellie-belly’ “…

I’m starting to think that the quality of the songs we choose for our children may be on the wane…

Beyoncé: Halo

From the ridiculous to…

Beyoncé: a bona-fide Superstar, supremely talented, ravishingly beautiful, jaw-droppingly sexy: you name it, she’s got it. And this song is just epic, beautiful & moving. Her music was playing in the operating theatre during their birth, & I’m pretty sure ‘Halo’ was playing as they were delivered into the world. I even gave it its own little post.

I can’t now listen to this already beautiful song without being profoundly moved. It’s Their Song. It always takes me back to those mad, magical moments when they came into the world & into our lives. They were so wanted for so long, & it took so many tears & trials before they finally became a part of us. When they did ‘it was like we’d been awakened’: “Baby, I can see your halo: you know you’re my saving grace”.

Happy Birthday, Jake & Ellie. We love you.

I warned you that there might be soppiness! I can’t think of any sarcasm or bad jokes at this point, sorry. Maybe next week…


The Gallery: My Awesome Photo

Yeah, it’s about time I took part again in Tara Cain’s wonderful Gallery.

And I knew I had to when I saw this week’s theme.

I know I’ve featured this photo, & others in the sequence, on this blog before  – but for “My Awesome Photo” there can be only one:

Jake & Ellie, 1 day old, born 3 weeks prematurely: Together then, now & forever.

What Happened When the Humanist Went to Church

I took the kids to Church today!

Seeing as I’m not at all religious – if pressed for a label I’d call myself a Humanist – this is quite unusual.

Don’t worry though; I’m not about to go banging on doors telling you that you’ll burn to death in Hell forever if you don’t give yourself to Jaysus.

We’ve started taking Jallie to a playgroup run by a local church, & they love it! There are some fantastic toys there – a mini kitchen, a sandbox, lots of cars / bikes they can zoom around in -&  lots of other parents with children of varying sizes & abilities. There’s even free toast & tea & coffee!

About halfway through all the kids sit down around a little table for drinks & biccies: it’s so strange seeing Jake & Ellie sitting there so quietly, eating like little adults, as if it’s the most ordinary thing in the world! They seem really chuffed about it too.

There’s usually an activity, mainly for the older children: picking out leaves from different trees outside, learning how to plant seeds, etc.

It seems to be run on a voluntary basis by church people, & they only ask for a minimal donation each time.

I tend to be pretty negative about religion; when you look at the deep corruption, viciousness & intolerance that seems to be inherent in the larger, more dogmatic versions – paedophile priests being protected  in the name of God,  holy wars, etc. etc. ad nauseum – it’s easy to be that way.

But these people are just nice, generous, giving something back to their community. It’s reminded me  – not that I should need it, as I walk past a Sally Army charity shop nearly every day – that much good can come out of religion along with the great evil. It’s been suggested to me that religion is more of a catalyst than a cause, & that may well be true.

Not that they care: they just like getting to run around & have fun! And the biccies, of course…

If only all of life were that simple, eh?