School, Work & Me

1-DSC00565

click to enlarge

School – even pre-school – changes things!

In April Jake & Ellie started pre-school on a trial basis for a few hours & a few days a week; this term they’re there for the full 5 days.

We’ve been exercising our option of taking them out at 1.15 rather than the full day to 3.30 but now they’re actually asking to stay on!
Continue reading

Advertisements

How to Cook

You may have noticed  – and the readers of this blog, all 3 of you, I’m sure are smarter than the average bear – that this purports to be a parenting blog.

There’s a bit of an elephant in the room here though. Cooking is quite an important part of raising children, & it’s not my strong-point: hence the absence of posts about it.

I’m not suggesting that you cook an elephant, by the way: I suspect even an AGA couldn’t manage that. Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.

Continue reading

Memories

When I’ve spent time at the old house* I usually come back in a somewhat reflective frame of mind.

Take this picture, for instance, which I posted back in June & meant to explain but never did:

DSCN0095

I was working really hard: clearing, cleaning, supervising tradesmen, sorting, throwing out rubbish, organising storage & removals, trying to get leaking roofs fixed or replaced in torrential rain, sanding & revarnishing the 100-year-old wooden floorboards: that was a nightmare! I was desperately trying to get the place ready to go onto the market as soon as possible. I needn’t have bothered, as it turned out: despite dropping the price a lot – too much, I think – we still haven’t sold it.

One of the jobs then was cleaning the chalk off the back wall. This wall. It was some of Jake’s & Ellie’s first attempts at art, at making shapes. It will eventually lead to writing, drawing, who knows what else.

To wipe it all off, to erase it from existence, to remove their precious scribblings: it  just seemed wrong. I really didn’t want to do it. But I had to.

1-DSC00326Everywhere I go there I see memories. The big garden I loved so much: we had so much fun there, especially in their second year when they were more mobile & playful & I was their main carer. They loved messing about with sand & water with the play-tables, & playing with the hose. Jake never ceased to amaze me with his ability to find & pick the ripest & juiciest blackberries from the vines which were threatening to dominate all else there. Sometimes we’d just sit on the seats & watch our world go by. Other times we’d climb around & explore, & be fascinated by the insects, birds & frogs we might find. We weaned them in that garden, & would eat outside as much we could in the warmer months. In the house there are toys still there that we haven’t had room for in our little, supposedly temporary house.

1-DSC00325So many memories! They’ll never leave us, of course, but the house feels empty; just memories there now. I feel like it should be full of the sounds of laughing, running children – but it’s still, & quiet. Too quiet.

And it got me thinking : some of the most precious moments that we as parents will carry with us will be from these times: when our young loved ones were 2 or younger.

The age up until which we human beings are meant to have little or no memory of anything that happens to us.

So things that we’ll carry with us & that will be some of our most treasured memories will be things they’ll know nothing about?

I can already see myself reminiscing with Jake the teenager about the blackberries, & getting: “Oh Dad, stop being so soppy!”, before he runs off to his room to play some very loud music. Via his Ninsamyo Holodeck, probably.

Just one more of parenting’s, & life’s, ironies I guess.

I wonder what else this Daddying lark has lined up for me?

Now, if I could just remember where I put my keys…

* A year ago we reluctantly moved from our home in the Midlands to Wales because of work. We had a little place there which we had been renting out, & the plan was to move in there for a few weeks while we sold the old place, then buy a new family home in Wales. But we haven’t been able to sell & we’re still living in a house which just isn’t big enough for 2 adults & active twin toddlers. So we’re stuck. But we do have a Plan B.

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:

Happy Mother’s Day!

It was all very hush-hush.

At Wednesday playgroup the task was to glue petal-shaped bits of coloured paper onto a CD.

But as the only Dad there I was privy to Inside Information. The organiser took me to one side, looked around furtively, then whispered conspiratorily into my ear. “Don’t tell anyone, but this is actually for Mother’s Day. We’re going to take photos of the children & put them on the other side of the CD for you”.

It’s great being In on a Secret. She also told me that she was in fact Jesus’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great- (I lost count) niece, but I ignored that.

I don’t know what happened to the Mums’ CDs but mine, complete with photo, was thrust into my hand like a baton in an Olympic relay race as I left the building. Only pausing to point out that it was the wrong one, & those definitely weren’t my children in the photo, we quickly swapped & I ran off before our sordid little secret was uncovered.

It looks good I think (barring the loss of 1 or 2 petals):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly their own work too; I pretty much just pointed them in the right direction.

So, this morning, with a flourish, I presented it to the Mummy: “Happy Mother’s Day!”. She loved it!

She was also very good in overlooking the fact that Mother’s Day is actually tomorrow. Yes, I got the day wrong.

But it’s the thought that counts, right? Right?

So, er, Happy Mother’s Day, Mums! For tomorrow. Maybe you should read this again then…

The Twins They Are A-Changin’

Whoever of us is looking after the twins during the week – usually me – takes them to an activity of some kind every day, & all of us try to go out as a family at least once on the weekend. We think it’s really important for their social development to be mixing with other children of all shapes, sizes & backgrounds & their parents & carers. They also learn & develop new abilities: for instance arts & crafts, signing, singing. It’s also just good to get out of the house sometimes, not just for them but probably also for us.

These pictures (taken in December) are from one such activity, called Tumble Tots. It focusses on teaching physical skills like climbing up & down ladders & ramps, rolling, jumping, throwing, stepping over & on obstacles. It also features action songs & dances, but they’ve figured out that if they don’t take part in that then they get the apparati to themselves, the little scamps…

Ellie peeping through her window

King Jake on his throne?

I think it’s their favourite activity, they’re always so enthusiastic. They run around excitedly, especially at the start, often making it difficult for me to keep up – although 1 of the staff usually helps out. They seem to like to push themselves, something they didn’t seem sure of 1 week they’ll be more confident with the next. And they like to claim & sit in their little perches, as you can see…

In preparing this post I remembered I’d posted about these classes before. Looking back at that post from 8 months earlier  it amazed me how much they’d changed & grown in the intervening time. Not just physically but emotionally. Here’s a picture from then, of Jake looking really scared about crawling up a ramp: 

I couldn’t help but contrast how physically & emotionally confident & at ease he seems now as compared to then. OK, 8 months is a fair old whack of their young lives, & probably translates as *ahem* quite a few years for someone like their old Daddy. But even so…

We see them day-to-day & share in their joys & sorrows, their triumphs & frustrations; it’s easy to lose track of how far they’ve come in such a short time. Sometimes you just have to take a step back & a look back to see how far they’ve really come.

The Things They Say & Do

Jallie are at an age now (23 months tomorrow) where they seem to say or do something new every day: living & learning with them, watching them grow & develop, is wonderful.

That’s why I usually have no shortage of ‘3 Brilliant Things’ to record daily over on my blog of that name, when I make / find the time that is.

I’d thought also to do a weekly highlights post here, & was going to call it ‘3BT Tuesday’ or something equally catchy. Then I saw that Chris over at Thinly Spread has started a weekly linky thing called “The Things They Say & Do”, where you post memorable things your children have said or done over the last week & link the post to her blog.

So I put 2 & 2 together & came up with a brilliant idea: if your daughter slags you off on facebook, don’t go on YouTube smoking a fag & shoot her laptop with your gun: not helpful*

After I got that sorted I thought it might also be good to combine my 3BT thing with Chris’ linky, so here it is:

On Tuesday Ellie copied me spinning a teaspoon around in a cup with amazing success: great fine motor skills!

On Wednesday after treading on my sore finger, with her boots on, over a wooden floor (I may have said “Ouch!” or something similar) Ellie looked straight at me & said “Sowwy Daddy”.

Jake, to me, on Thursday: “I like Ellie”.
Me: “You like Ellie?”
Jake, nodding & smiling: “Yeah”. He then walked over to her & gave her a great big hug.

Ellie yesterday, sitting on the floor after falling on her bottom: “Hello Daddy. Hello Mummy. I fell over”.

I hope Chris doesn’t mind me doing more than one! Why not have a look at the other posts there, they’re funny 🙂 

* I kid you not 

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 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.