The Name of the Game

Jake has ‘a bit of a thing’ for gaming.

The games he wants to play on my PC, the Mummy’s laptop. my (now broken) iPod or our recently purchased Hudl are mostly aimed at older children & adults.

He’s actually pretty good at many of them – he’s amazed us with his computer skills actually – but inevitably gets frustrated when he crashes for the nth time & has to start again, or when he gets to a level that he just can’t finish.

Continue reading “The Name of the Game”

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Dinosaurs! And Magic

We enjoyed our recent visit to the Dinosaur Park.

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As well as the obvious Jake & Ellie really enjoyed playing with a baby dinosaur newly emerged from its egg. Ellie in particular: she had to be dragged away protesting as we left! There were also great tube-slides down dinosaurs’ necks which they spent a long time on.

I was quite interested in the sets of standing stones there & their history, but that will probably have to wait until our next visit.

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There were certainly plenty of dinosaurs!

This one is Mammasaurus’ Mum, apparently

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There was a hidden lake! I was very impressed when Jake identified this as “a crocodile, or an alligator”. A big one!

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Watching over Wales?

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The watering-hole:

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There was also a recreation of a stone-age village there, including a preserved ‘real’ spring held to be sacred by the Druids. People had thrown coins into it & Jake was fascinated by it. I attempted to explain by saying that people believed that when they threw coins into the spring that something magic might happen. So of course I had to produce a coin for him to throw in! He was very excited.

At home that evening I was playing music from my iPod wirelessly from my little bluetooth speakers. Jake wanted to know how the music was coming out of the little box.

After toying with the idea of trying to explain bluetooth technology to a 3-year-old I resorted to the Daddy Pig solution: “It’s magic!”.

I can’t tell you how excited he was! Jumping around the room like a mad thing, he decided that he had made magic: that this was from his throwing the coin into the magic water!

He went to bed a very happy little boy 🙂

A rant about breasts

It’s not often I get ranty here, but as a wise man once said: “There’s a time & place for everything”. I think it was Chef from South Park.

The Save the Children group are among a coalition of charities running a fantastic campaign at the moment called “Enough food for everyone IF”, highlighting child malnutrition & mobilising the powerful & the ordinary to make a change; showing us that we can.

I plan to write about it soon, and you can read the details here.

Alongside this Save the Children are also running a campaign called #firsthour, highlighting the importance of the first hour in a newborn baby’s life. Particularly how crucial for the baby’s survival  it is – especially where food is scarce & nutritional standards are low  – that they receive the miracle food that is breast milk.

There are some brilliant posts about it here & here, much better than anything I could put together. Myleene Klaas, Natasha Kaplinsky & Isla Fisher have been in the Philippines, Sierra Leone & Brazil for first-hand reports. Just click their names here to see their video reports. They are real eye-openers: for all our problems we  – I – often just don’t realise just how lucky we are here, in our relative affluence.

Photo credit: Save the Children

Two major concerns seem to have caught people’s attention from the #firsthour campaign.

1) Research by Save the Children has shown that an estimated 830,000 deaths could be avoided if every baby were breastfed within the first hour of life.

2) Save the Children have been reported as saying that they want cigarette packet style warnings to be put on baby formula products.

Many of us have seized on one or the other of these, myself included.

Now OK,  I know breast vs formula is a very emotive subject. Many women resent being told what to do or what not to do with their own bodies. I get that. And it’s not always possible for women to breast-feed & they should not be judged for not doing so. I really get that.

But hang on here, you who are so angry about this & who are trying to vilify Save the Children. Can we rewind a bit?

Please see point 1).

830,000 dead babies. Every year. That’s nearly a Birmingham of babies.

It’s likely that 3 babies died since you started reading this.

Simply for lack of breast-milk.

The research also suggests that 22%  – more than 1 in 5 – of newborn deaths could be prevented if breastfeeding started within the first hour, 16% if within 24 hours. Also that a baby given breast milk within an hour is up to 3 times more likely to survive than 1 fed a day later.

But someone wanting to put some writing on packets of milk substitute is what’s important here, is it?

Really?

I think we need some perspective here. Just a little bit.

I suspect that if Save the Children have said this that it was aimed at underdeveloped societies where women are less educated & simply don’t have the lifestyle choices that we enjoy.

I was really shocked to learn from this campaign that many women don’t even know that they can breast-feed. In many of these countries unscrupulous multinationals are spreading misinformation designed to keep these mothers in ignorance in order to sell their products. You can sign a petition about that here if you feel so moved.

Many of them as a result then buy the formula. It’s expensive, so many then have to stop buying food.

You get the picture?

This isn’t about us.

It’s about babies dying needlessly in impoverished societies.

It’s about women who are in ignorance regarding the most basic needs of their newborns & who are being kept that way, in many cases, just so some already rich people can get richer.

It’s about how we can stop these needless deaths & help these poor mothers.

I’d be quite happy if every time I switched on my beloved iPod Touch I saw a message on screen saying “You are fat & stupid & if you use this iPod Touch your testicles may fall off” – if it meant saving the life of just 1 baby.  I’d just tell it to shut up then put on “Gimme Shelter”.

So how about we all get together & save some lives? I hope to at least try.

And I’m sorry if anyone is offended by this post. That’s really not my intention.

And, for what it’s worth, our premmie twins were fed on both formula & breast-milk.

And were they breast-fed in their #firsthour?

Yes.

An update on Jake

For those who saw my tweet / update on Saturday night about A&E – & especially for those who expressed their concern (Thank You) – I just thought I’d write a brief update about Jake.

We took him in because he seemed to have a high temperature & was very lethargic, to the point where he seemed to be lapsing into unconsciousness. We were worried. He’d perked up by the time we got there but he was clearly not right. At the hospital they advised us to keep treating his temperature with Calpol & Ibuprofen, give him plenty of liquids & to bring him in again if necessary.

He’s been sleeping restlessly the last 2 nights & has got very hot. We’ve brought his temperature down as advised; how parents coped before that stuff I don’t know!

Yesterday he was in good spirits but unusually tired. His appetite was off, & we had to continue with the medicine to keep his temperature down.

As instructed at the A&E – he’s had a urinary tract infection before -this morning we managed to coerce him into peeing into ‘a special potty’, the contents of which are now at our GPs’ surgery. Ellie of course insisted on using it as well! It’s a twin thing. And they both got ‘special stickers’.

Because he still seemed unwell we decided that he would stay home with me today so I could look after him, while Ellie went on her own to Karen’ s.

Although not his usual energetic self he was in good spirits, & we had a great time together. Because he was unwell I let him have (within limits) free choice of what we’d do. So we watched children’s TV (including a really good Dora about books & a Wonder Pets featuring the 3 little pigs – 3x each) & he fiddled about with my iPod Touch! Actually he didn’t seem to have the energy for anything more active.

Worryingly he hardly ate a thing, although he did have a good drink of apple juice. They still have a daily nap, usually late morning, & by 1145 he was sound asleep on my shoulder. I’d given him Calpol about half an hour earlier as he felt too hot.

Three hours later when the Mummy came home with Ellie he was still fast asleep: that’s almost unheard-of. He was hot as well, so we gave him Ibuprofen. After that he seemed back to his normal self & had a really good snack & more juice.  The Mummy however was so concerned she managed to get a doctor to see him.

Of course by the time he saw her he was happily jumping up & down & devouring his bag of Organix Goodies! Despite this she thought that we were right to bring him in & that we should keep on monitoring him carefully & giving him medication if necessary.

He’s been fine since, eating a really good dinner & playing happily, so we’re hoping he’ll be back to normal tomorrow.

Not my most exciting post! I just thought some people might like to know how he’s getting on.

Thanks for reading 🙂

My Old House & My New Headphones

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http://www.bassbuds.co.uk/

I’ve got a brand new pair of headphones. They’re great. If you want some ‘phones you should buy them, OK? If you insist on wanting to know why, read on…

But I also want to post about my current living conditions, the 4 of us. It’s been difficult since we moved, & we’re stuck until we can sell our old house. I’ve been quiet about it: I tend to clam up when things aren’t as I’d like them to be.

It’s called ‘context’, but it’s also something I’ve meant to post about for a while now.

I enjoy blogging, listening to music, gaming. But the cramped conditions I live in can make this difficult: I no longer have a space of my own to escape to when I need to. There are 4 of us – me, the Mummy & the now 2 & 3/4-year-old twins – in a small mid-terrace 2-up, 2-down. Upstairs we just have 2 bedrooms, 1 of which doubles as their nursery, & a small bathroom / loo. Downstairs there’s just a small kitchen & the lounge / dining room; my PC, surrounded by papers in what now also passes as my office, is on the dining room table there.

When the twins are at home they’re mostly there; a lot of the time I’m looking after them; when I’m not doing that there are jobs around the house that need doing. Even when I have so-called ‘spare time’ – even if I could concentrate enough with the noise & activity around me – if I try to blog or listen to music or play a game the twins will sooner or later interrupt, wanting me to play with them or help them with something. Which is fine: I’m their Dad, that’s what I’m here for. But it’s also very frustrating.

In the evening after they’re asleep – the time of which is getting progressively later as they get older – after I’ve cleared up & done as much washing-up as I can bring myself to do I’m often too tired to manage much more than collapsing on the sofa in front of the telly.  If I do manage something more mentally active like blogging & playing music or playing a game I then often have to do so while the Mummy watches TV.

Which means 1 of us has to shut up. And that would be me as I have the magic wonder of technology that is known as Headphones.

Would it surprise you to learn that they’re no good? They were once; they are Sennheiser noise-cancelling jobbies. They’re just a bit broken. They work OK in normal mode but have a really annoying hum in noise-cancelling mode.

So enough about me; I know I have no right to complain, really, & the twins even though demanding are a joy & a delight.

No, it’s time to introduce the brand new & very shiny pair of headphones I’ve recently received & was asked to review. Bass Buds, they’re called, the 2012 Collection.

They’re in-ear ‘phones. I haven’t got on with those before & I wasn’t expecting much different with these; I find that before long they irritate & then hurt my ears. That was my first surprise: they fit inside my ears perfectly & are really comfortable; they’re really well designed.

My second surprise was the sound quality: again not something I expected from ‘phones which I’d think of as ‘basic’. They’re not: the sounds are crisp & clear, the bass booms, the treble trills & all the in-between bits are where they should be. They’re actually significantly better than my old Sennheisers: that was a big surprise.

The only negative – & it’s a trivial one – was that I found that if I pushed the jack all the way into my soundcard connector the sound wasn’t quite right. When I pulled it out a smidge it was gorgeous.

They also have a built-in mike, especially good when you use them with your mobile ‘phone or iPod. The mike controller can not only take & end calls but also play & skip tracks & enable voice control.

Surprise no. 3: they look great! They come in a variety of colours & styles, there’s 1 to suit any lifestyle or mood – as you can see from the website.

And they’re reasonably priced, as you can also see from there. And in addition quoting the code BB48265 will gain an extra £5 off.

Headphones that sound great, that look great & have a great price: I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Good, so that’s my headphones sorted. Now can someone get me a bigger house please? Thanks.

Also? Happy New Year!

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…


What’s on your MP3 Player? Who Me?

English: The 1st generation iPod Touch, with a...
Image via Wikipedia

Well I have to do this one!

Considering myself tagged by the nice man over at Mutterings of a Fool, the idea of this meme is to make a blog post about the first 5 tracks that come up on your MP3 player on shuffle play. How could I resist?

My beloved iPod Touch has 8,681 tracks & counting. This means that there’s pretty much guaranteed to be a lot of variety, which I love: lots of tracks which give me: “I love this song, I’d forgotten I had it!” or “What the *%@! is this doing on my iPod?!” & everything in between. I must confess to feeling a little nervous…

So, shuffle play on, as usual, press play, & here goes:

Cat Power: Lived in Bars

Nice start, good & mellow. I love her voice: rough yet soft, wonderfully expressive. She sings sad songs beautifully, & this is a beautiful sad song.

John Ehrlich & Leigh Roberts: House (M.D.) Theme Song

I loved the use of music in House so I bought a soundtrack CD. It’s good but the songs just didn’t have the same impact when removed from their dramatic context. The theme song seems to be based on the backing for Massive Attack’s Teardrop, 1 of my all-time favourite songs. Good but not great: Next!

The White Stripes: I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

Now we’re talking! I love Jack & Meg. How they produce such a rich, full, heavy sound with just Jack’s guitar & Meg’s banging I don’t know. This is a brilliant, intense rock reinvention of the Dusty Springfield sixties classic; I love it!

Also? The video is directed by Sofia Coppola & stars Kate Moss pole-dancing. One for the boys there, maybe…

Radiohead: Prove Yourself

Proving, as they’ve always maintained, that Radiohead’s debut album wasn’t only about “Creep”. A great album, it’s full of energetic, rhythmic, melodic rock songs, & this track is no exception. A great song from 1 of my favourite bands

J.S. Bach: Cantata #140, Wachet Auf Bach is my favourite classical composer, a true genius. With brilliantly, wonderfully complex melodies intertwining, tumbling over & through each other, his music can be utterly relaxing, exquisitely, breathtaking beautiful, supremely passionate. This is 1 of his more relaxed melodic pieces, but no less a masterpiece.

Nice one, iPod: you didn’t let me down! (Yes, I do talk to my iPod. Yes, I probably should get out more). Starting with mellow modern, ending with mellow classical; bookending 2 great rock songs & a trip-hoppy TV theme. Not too shabby!

If you haven’t done this meme yet, consider yourself tagged!

Caption Competition!

I have this photo as my iPod lock screen, & it occurred to me that it seems to be crying out for a caption!

So, over to you; leave your suggestions in the comments & the wittiest / craziest / most pithy / most accurate will definitely win a prize. I just don’t know what it is yet…

The Gallery: Body Parts

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the looks of confusion, fascination &, yes, horror on Jallie’s* faces when I took off my glasses & put them on their Mummy.

“But – but… he’s taken off a bit of HIS FACE!!! AND PUT  IT ON MUMMY!! MUMMY’S GOT SOME OF DADDY’S FACE ON HER!! W.T.F.?!!!” (That is how they talk; I’ve become fluent in ‘Baby’).

Looking rapidly from one to the other, they just couldn’t work it out.

It was hilarious!

I’m not sure what they make of them now; maybe it’s “Daddy’s face but not Daddy’s face”. I do know that every time they come within range the first thing they do is try to grab them: “I got a bit of Daddy’s face!”. I wouldn’t mind but it means I can’t read anything – including blogs & we can’t have that can we?! –  & getting their grubby fingerprints &,  yes, slobber off them afterwards is a bit of a hassle.

Whatever, Jake seems fairly pleased with himself for getting his new Crown: a piece of Daddy’s face!

* For those at the back: Jallie =  Jake + Ellie 🙂

For Tara Cain’s Gallery at Sticky Fingers