We recently has some extreme snow. Extreme in the sense that I can’t remember experiencing so much of it nor the length of the prolonged heavy snow showers. Local and national news (for it hogged the headlines for days and affected many parts of the UK but in particular, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Scotland and anywhere on the East Coast) reported that this was the worst snowfall for over 20 years in Derbyshire.

It was fab.

I got to work from home for 4 days in a row. The trains were severely affected and for 2 days there were no trains running through Chesterfield, and unfortunately I rely on the trains to get to and from work.
At its deepest the snow came up to Maisie’s waist. On a couple of days I struggled to find fresh milk in the Chesterfield shops I could get to (and were actually open for business). Also, for a day or two bread got a bit scarce.

It ruined many of the gutterings on our road. The weight of a foot and half of snow weighing down on flimsy gutterings was too much for several roofs (or is it rooves? or is that just for ‘hoofs’ and ‘hooves’? I dunno).
The snow did pose logistical problems though, like how to get 2 children to nursery without the use of a buggy and since the road was difficult for even an adult to get down. Also, the cars on the road were snowed in for days.

On the Saturday morning (the snow had been around since Tuesday) a group of hardy neighbours got out on the road with shovels and picks to loosen and move the ice and snow which was holding our road hostage. We started as a 3 and by then end we had reached the end of the road (3 hours later) we were 10 strong. We managed to carve our one tyre track only though.

Incredulously, one ungrateful and grumpy man who lives about half way down the street passed our merry band of workers on returning from a shopping trip with his (presumably long-suffering and meek) wife. Rather than congratulating us all on spending all that time and effort clearing the road for all residents, started shouting at us sarcastically and angrily saying that we had done a great of blocking everyone’s cars in and how (“the hell”) would people get out.

Unbelievable! And rude! One of the more volatile members of our group started walking towards him with shovel in hand shouting back. I was happy for him to speak on our behalf. The language rapidly went downhill. The peacemaker of the road quickly stepped in and calmed the situation.

8 days and some milder temperatures later, there are still small piles of stubborn, icy slush lingering around, refusing to melt completely.

There is a second wave of snow to come starting tomorrow night according to the weather reports. Surely it can’t be as severe as last time. Or can it? :)

Bloody Students

Long time no blog? Well, fasten your seatbelts folks, for two things have irked me.

The first is less serious and merely in relation to the thoroughly inappropriate clothing some are wearing currently. Whilst the nation lies under a layer of snow and ice the severity of which has not seen by most parts for over twenty years, gormless students continue to wander about the campus in footwear resembling thin slippers. Some of them even seem to think this is the right weather for pulling on a pair of shorts. Honestly. This brainlessness was particularly evident when our building had a fire drill (sorry, that was the toaster in our kitchen’s fault although I wasn’t using it at the time I might add) the other day. Sensible staff congregated outside the building in the designated area (far enough away from the potentially incendiary building) in an orderly fashion wrapped in coats, scarves, hats and gloves, waddling like penguins whilst those wearing bright yellow tabards decided on whether or not it was to return inside. The students on the other hand flocked around, smoking, chatting (shouting) in disrespectfully blue tongues and reminiscing about ‘last night’ in their assorted items of flimsy beachwear. Flip flops? In November?? I felt immensely righteous trotting back in through the main doors as staff were (eventually) recalled to enter the building. Righteous because we were prioritised to return back inside over the students. Felt like saying “excuse me, important staff member coming through”. I shouldn’t really moan. They pay our wages so we’d be stuffed without them, but come on, isn’t it time some of those wardrobes were re-evaluated?

The second thing is seeing these bunches of idiots ‘trashing London’ in what was supposed to be a string of peaceful demonstrations. Student fees were always going to rise and these so-called demonstrations were never going to change a thing (in my mind anyway). The Lib Dems have no backbone. That much is now official. I do wonder if those young individuals pictured on the news shoving things in the faces of police officers really ARE students themselves or just there for the rumble? I pity the officers drafted in to supervise these protests. And whilst I am pretty indifferent about our Royal Family and am amongst those who question their modern relevance (other than bringing in a bit of tourism) I really don’t think they need to be exposed to anarchic mobs as happened to Prince Charles and ‘Camill’ last night. Shameful. How do we ever prevent these VIPs from being assassinated I wonder if they can be driven like lambs to the slaughter straight into a street full of volatile protestors? Wonder never cease.

Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant there. Don’t worry. I’m already over it :)

It’s ‘texted’ if in the past tense, period.

Working at University means you are inevitably exposed to the rambling, excitable though often inane conversations between students. This is ok though and I am often entertained by some of the grammar and slang I hear. Things like “OMG” or “my bad” are endearing I find.

However, this is not always the case and I have come to take particular exception to one verb misuse and sadly it has become prevalent. I am of course referring to conversation such as this:

Student 1: So anyways, I text her right, and she text me straight back

Student: Yeah, she text me as well

I’M SORRY! IT’S “TEXTED”. It’s the past tense and therefore it is texted. Or even better, it’s “she sent me a text message”.

This has made me realise something. Language is always evolving. That’s something we cannot (nor should we) stop. And besides, it’s a good thing. Languages which do not evolve tend to die out. And technology is one of many areas which help to shape the changes. However, I think there are certain grammatical ground rules which should not be interfered with and verb tenses are one of them. Messing with these is tantamount to messing with the space-time continuum. However will be ever know whether we are referring to something which happened, is happening or will happen? The world might well go a bit Salvador Dali.

new ‘Rabid dog on the loose’ game

Yes, we have a new game. It’s called ‘rabid dog on the loose’. It’s quite simply but highly entertaining. I crawl about on my hands and knees panting, sniffing and barking. Maisie and Lois think it is a bit hilarious although their participation (patting me like a dog and jumping on top) is hindered by a small amount of fear and mistrust. Maisie feels the need to keep reminding me that I’m not really a dog. I think those words may be for her own reassurance more than anything else. Anyway it’s fun and judging my his face, it certainly gives Louis one or two things to think about.


I was listening to Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album on the train the other day. Well, I was listening to the mp3s which I’d ripped from a time back when I used to own the CD. I have since sold ALL my CDs after deciding that I didn’t need them. I had them all digitised and backed up on a hard drive. The CD cases were really just taking up space and besides, we love to de-clutter these days, oh yes. Anyway, it is still a very listenable album, beautifully produced, a rare mix of instrumentation, some pretty virtuosic performances (that bass riff in the middle of ‘You can call me Al’ never loses its appeal) and some really clever lyrics and vocal choruses etc.

However, I was aware whilst listening to it that I must have ripped it with some stingy compression settings. The quality could be better. The volume is lower than most of the other music on my ipod (and I hate that I am a slave to Apple these days).

So I thought that maybe I could buy the CD again so I could re-rip. I looked on amazon and discovered there was actually a remastered version of the album too. Cool! Unfortunately and to my amazement both the original CD and the remastered version are now very hard to get hold of and people are selling them for silly money used on amazon marketplace. Wow.

I now wish I hadn’t sold my original copy because it was potentially worth as much as the entire collection went for on ebay. In fact I’m wondering whether selling the entire collection was such a wise move after all. Oh well. I’m lying in the musical bed which I made.

Chatsworth & Us = New Best Friends

chatsworth After retuning to live in Chesterfield we signed up to be friends of Chatsworth which essentially means we give them a chunk of money and they let us wander around their gardens, farm and adventure playground for a year. We’ve already had our money’s worth so it’s a bargain really.

It’s one of Maisie’s favourite places to go on a nice day, not least because she likes the Guinea Pig petting hour. Kids are allowed in and given a towel to put over their legs before being randomly assigned a guinea pig to sit on their lap and be stroked. Maisie keeps being given a black one which she has called ‘Maisie’. She grown quite attached to it and was slightly disappointed when we went last time and she was given a brown one.

I’d rather have a bowl of coco-pops, Mummy

That’s right, Maisie and Lois have discovered Coco Pops. It took me a bit longer to acheive that, no wait, they didn’t invent them until the 80s I think. Hmmmm. Not sure. Anyway, they lurve em and fair play to them – the chocolately milk which occurs is very slurpable. Unfortunately, coco pops make a bit of a mess. Lois likes to get chocolate milk in the folds of her neck which dry and form dark brown dirt lines for the rest of the day.

Garlics and Leeks

Lisa is growing garlic and leeks. I’ve never done this before. They seem to be coming along quite nicely. I’m a lazy summer gardener. I like things that just grow themselves really and assumed both of these would take some maintenance.


halloween Maisie came back from nursery on friday having won their fancy dress competition. She was nominated as best-dressed person (the award title was more glamorous than that). Couldn’t help but feel a little pride on hearing this news. And that’s it – the bar has been set pretty high now – I’m expecting awesome A-level results.

Sludge comes to our road

Last week I  left the house to walk to the train station to find that in the darkness I could see what looked like large amounts of sludge creeping down our road. They’ve been doing some roadworks the last few months (it was only meant to last 6 weeks but they keep messing things up and having to fix their mistakes) and the roads around our house are not looking in good shape. Anyway I texted Lisa who later replied “Oh, it looks like the road’s exploded again’ in a matter-of-fact way that amused me. The road has indeed on more than one occasion been raised due to burst water pipes or something. It looks very much like something from Ghostbusters. This time however mountains of sand have been added into the equation. We are considering writing a letter of complain as we are starting to walk the sludge into the house but we’re not really the complaining types. But maybe we should be? I dunno.

Video game based wild west shennanigans

I’m playing a new video game – Red Dead Redemption. It was purchased purely on the strength of reviews. So far, I’m loving it. It is set in the Wild West and you can roam freely about on foot or on your horse (or even on a wagon!). The scenery is pretty breathtaking and the continual soundtrack is very authentic – just like watching a Cowboys film. Not seen any Indians yet although I have jumped onto a moving train and walked along its roof which was a nice experience.

You are supposed to go around doing good, favours for people etc. However, you can be a bad boy and go around shooting random people and animals (chickens, dogs, deer, racoons etc.) which is fun for a while but you get a bounty on your head and people come and try and hunt you down. This is also fun and you can see how long you can do bad deeds before getting brought down. I holed myself up in a house to test this out very much like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid.

Another thing which is good about this game is Maisie can watch (providing I resist the temptation to shoot stuff) and marvel at the horses, cattle and general wildlife. Lisa also seems to be quite tolerant of this one as it doesn’t involve ‘incessant shooting noises and explosions’. The game features some very fine voice acting, although I think the main dude sounds very much like Bill Clinton, which actually adds to my enjoyment. It’s like a parallel Universe. What if Bill had taken a different path in life? No politics. No sign of Monica Lewinsky out in the desert so far. Just a regular guy doing nice stuff for folk with a little bloodthirsty vengeance thrown in for good measure.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the game is having horse-mounted gun battles out in the wilderness. Taking a foe down off of his horse mid gallop with a well placed shotgun or rifle shot is satisfying as hell. Then circling back, getting off your stead and rummaging through his pockets – priceless.

Some of the quests I have been involved in so far have required me to herd pesky cattle, rescue a man tied up and being held hostage at a campsite, picking some flowers,  protecting some crops from being eaten my rabbits overnight and mounting an offensive out in a gully against a band of vagabonds.

Great fun! I feel this a title you could get completely lost in. And probably will...

Retro-gaming: Why walking down memory lane can be tiresome

Spyhunter: rage-inducing
I am a computer games fan. Have been since we got our first Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Man was that an exciting time. I’m not sure I really even knew what a home computer was for when it arrived. It didn’t take long to discover that although you could do stuff like program a ball to move across the screen or to draw the three sides of a triangle, this little baby was really all about the games :)

Games like Ant Attack, Horace and the Spiders, Renegade, Halls of the Things, Bard’s Tale (the list goes on) have been cemented into my nostalgic memory forever. You can’t touch this.

After many years and an upgrade (Spectrum 48k+) I begged the breadwinner to buy me an Amiga. That was also one FINE day. Possibly more exciting than the spectrum’s arrival because:
  1. it was mine all-greedy mine as opposed to having to share it with other family members, but also because
  2. I knew what this fresh beast of a computer was capable of, and it blew the spectrum right out of the water
This period of joy however was preceded by a period of extreme research and consideration. I had to make a choice between the Amiga and the Atari-ST. This was an extremely important decision. I couldn’t afford to choose the wrong machine and live with the disappointment for years after. I definitely made the right choice. The Atari was woefully inferior in the games locker in my opinion. And so, the trusty Amiga lasted for many happy years. But like all good things, it  had to come to an end, and this happened mainly because:
  1. I got a new toy – a ‘girlfriend’ (who I discovered wasn’t really excited by computer games) but also because
  2. at said girlfriend’s house one day, I saw one of her brothers playing ‘Doom’ on an IBM-PC and it looked rather good.
So, the relatively short-lived era of PC-based gaming began but didn’t last long because I soon realised that all that faffing with video cards and drivers and memory was way too much of a bore and besides look what popped up, The PlayStation.

Now, I’m not really a PlayStation whore but I do confess to buying one simply so I could play Resident Evil. Our allegiance didn’t last long once the Dreamcast had made its existence known, offering up ‘Resident Evil: Code Veronica’ and boy, was that worth trading in for. Veronica was fab.

Sadly, I liked the Dreamcast and it looked so cool compared to the PlayStation which appearance-wise was always trying to take itself too seriously. It was the console that was experiencing an early and difficult puberty whilst the Dreamcast rejoiced in still being a child. But Sega (the manufacturers) threw the towel in when faced with the stiff competition in the form of Nintendo and Sony’s bitter ‘our-console-is-supreme’ competition.

Enter, wait for it, the “X” box. I got one based mainly on my brother’s insistence that they are worth getting and I’ve never looked back.

The problem these days is (and apologies for taking waaaay to long to get to my point here) that after consuming all the high-definition goodness that microsoft’s fantastic gaming console has to offer, retro gaming, for me, simply does not cut the mustard. Hell, it doesn’t even cut the redcurrant jelly or the mint sauce. I want to weep when within seconds I lose patience and thus interest with games I once adored.

It also raises another question. Did we used to be uber-patient back in the 80’s and 90’s? Because I certainly don’t possess that quality now. I guess we must have been. We played these frustrating games over and over again. ‘Spyhunter’ though was one of the fist games to test my then very generous patience. It caused me on a couple of occasions to throw my Spectrum 48k+ down our cellar steps. It survived the first round of abuse somehow (like a resilient wife at the hands of a Stella-fuelled husband) but sadly it didn’t get up after the second time. “Talk to me down there – I need to know if you’re okaaaaay”

I wasn’t always that high-maintenance. I started off with joystick abuse but sometimes when the irritation got serious, bashing a controller on your knee or head (why those were the instinctive choices I don’t know – I mean, why didn’t we just ram the damn things into your groins??) wasn’t enough to quash the annoyance, Like an addict I had to notch it up a little and well, throwing the computer down some uncompromising stone stairs did just the trick. Then, after a couple of minutes of calm time, the guilt and the regret set in and that didn’t feel too brilliant.

For me, I think this form of games-related rage is based on two key criteria.
  1. A feeling of extreme anger based on your inability to complete a level, kill a boss, jump onto a platform, whatever
  2. Perhaps even more potent is the frustration of losing to another player and them rubbing it right in your face.and you having to sit there like a loser, taking the shame.
I wonder whether in the future I will harbour the same reservations about returning to my old xbox games for a spot of retro gaming action? Or will they have become too tiresome?

Mobile Lois

Chatsworth in autumn colours
Lois has started walking. We believe she’s been able to for some time but something prevents her from wanting to. She can manage a few steps and happily stands and plays with toys. She happily goes from squat to stand and then back down again but walking is still a bit of a hassle for her. She’s starting to make a variety of different noises in an attempt to pronounce words too and she’s loud. Boy is she loud. She makes other nearby families move to further away tables in cafes. I’m sure she’ll find the volume switch soon :)

A bug has been doing the rounds in our house which for me highlights how incredibly challenging it is to be a parent when you are unable to care for yourself let alone other minor dependents. I was in bed for 48 hours and vommed and cried (the former I hadn’t done for at 3 years, the latter for maybe 8?). On one occasion when I couldn’t quite reach the toilet I managed to generously line the bottom of the bath (it’s quite a big bath) with partially-digested golden porridge. At least I think that’s what it was. Not sure what else it could have been. Also there was the diarroea. Man, was there a lot of that!

Anyway, I got over it and now Lisa has come down with it. Isn’t that just the way.
Since last blogging, Maisie has now become a regular and happy user of her potty (and sometimes the toilet!). We no longer need to reward its use either, she just goes and does it. The gifts may have ceased but the proud smiles all around are still very much part of the process. So she now wears pants instead of nappies (except for during the night).

The ‘Kinect’ (wireless, controller-less input device based on sensors which triangulate your body’s position etc.) is due to be released on the 10th November, I suddenly decided yesterday that I needed one on the release day and that I hadn’t bothered pre-ordering one and that maybe I should look into doing so. Everywhere was sold out except Argos so I quickly ordered one. I’m not 100% confident that it will arrive on the 10th although they seemed to be saying it would. After ordering I logged in to ‘track my order’ and they are now saying it will ship tomorrow. Hmmm. I very much doubt it. I suspect Maisie like it because she currently likes the idea of xbox games (and loved watching me play ‘Where the WIld Things Are’) however she just can’t cope with using the controller. Also, the Kinect has a launch title called ‘Kinectimals’ which is a bit like a glorified virtual pets game by the looks of things but the beauty of it is she can stroke and snuggle a baby tiger (other species are available) with getting horribly mauled in the process.

Someone shot a emperor stag yesterday in cornwall in the news and now there’s a massive hoo-har cos it was 9ft and about to start mating and passing on its rather desirable genes. Not sure why we think that shooting anything is a good idea in the first place really anyway.

On friday it is ‘fancy dress day’ at Lois and Maisie’s nursery what with halloween being close and all. We asked Maisie what she would like to dress up as for that day and she said ‘a cat’. Not just any old cat though, she wants to dress up as Louis. Also she has decided that Lois can should be a ‘wicked witch’.Seems a bit unfair, no? Anyway, she then changed her mind and decided she wanted to be the witch from ‘Room on the Broom’ so Lisa bought her a rather cool witch outfit but I think she has since reverted back to the cat idea again. Choices, choices.

The house is beginning to fall apart due to the enhanced wear and tear which comes with two small children and also because due to said small children, we don’t have time or money to remedy the erosions. The carpets and sofas and looking increasingly tired.

The sleep however is on the whole vastly improved on this time last year for example. Maisie is going to bed more readily. Her bedtime involves me reading her some stories before Mum brings her some milk up and sits with her until she falls asleep (whilst reading her new Kindle e-book reader). She also tends to sleep better and often without waking. Lois is pretty good too. She is placed in her cot and she normally falls straight to sleep. Some recent teething issues and illness (we think) have caused her to wake up more often lately but all in all it’s a big improvement on our last system, the system I will now refer to as 'the ridiculous-and-hopeless-hello-are-we-parents-or-zombies-you-decide method’.

In-car Entertainment

IMG00016-20100926-1146 Just because you happen to be travelling somewhere by car, this shouldn’t mean the entertainment should cease. No indeed, the show must go on, especially with our nifty dual-screen in-car dvd player for Maisie and Lois. Now you don’t have to go on an aeroplane to watch a tv

There’s poos and wees in the hills

Maisie has been using her potty successfully and we’ve now had our first wee and first poo. Exciting stuff. Lisa came up with a brill idea (not sure if she copied someone else here or not) and that was to buy lots of cheap little toys from charity shops, wrap them up in fancy paper and then encourage Maisie to use the potty with the promise of a present if she produces anything on it.

It was frustrating at first because she was happy to sit on the potty, and she wanted a present but just didn’t know how to do anything.

Well, now she’s weeing quite freely and demanding presents each time. Mum is having to keep the present stocks topped up.

I found that this potty use was such an important milestone. Far more significant than things like a first word or a first birthday. I think the promise of a nappy-free existence (and the financial savings!) is a very desirable and positive thing.

Lois meanwhile is an expert potty user now. I think in view of our experiences, all parents should try and encourage early potty adoption rather than waiting until they are toddlers which seems to be the norm.

At the weekend, there is going to me a party/bbq for relatives to come over and meet baby Abe, many of whom haven’t already had the pleasure. Our brood is invited too.

I want an ipad. I’ve managed to keep telling me myself I don’t up until now but I read an article yesterday about how you can use it to paint (using your fingers!) and it looked really cool. So much more intuitive than a graphics tablet (or a mouse).

I’m sure they are uber expensive and Lisa would have a fit if I waltzed home with one. I shall have to wait.Yeah, wait and save. I’m not very good at saving. I’m not very good at waiting either really. Ho-hum.

Potties, stickers, crawling and blue fingers

Lois has started crawling. It’s not dignified but it gets her from A to B. She sort of uses one leg to proper herself forward and the other one, tucked underneath just sort of gets dragged along. She has been standing up for a few weeks now, bopping and holding onto carers’ fingers for balance (holding on so tight the other day whilst I was chatting to Lisa I suddenly realised the end of the finger she was clutching had gone cold and quite blue to the eye).

So, the stair-gates have been resurrected about the house in light of this new-found mobility. Ah well, it gives Louis some hurdling exercise.

Maisie said about her sister the other night “Lois doesn’t like to stop eating does she?”. There is more than a little truth in that statement. The nursery have also recorded in their notes about her something along the lines of “Lois is most content when her nutritional needs are begin met”.

Other development include our second attempt to potty-train Maisie which is going better than the first one. It seems we may even crack it this time as last night she did her first wee on a potty. She looked so pleased with herself. Mum came up with a great idea to try and encourage potty use – she bought lots of little toys from charity shops and wrapped them up in exciting gift wrap and then showed Maisie a box of presents on the understanding that every time she uses the potty she can pick one. Last night’s reward was a new dinosaur (we were running dangerously low on those I can tell you, nart!)

My Mum was been looking after Maisie and Lois on Wednesdays which had been a good arrangement. She gets some quality granddaughter time, Lisa gets some quality “me” (housework?) time.

We have also bought Maisie a bike. Actually we bought two. We spent last Saturday cruising the bike shops in Chesterfield. We ended up buying a thomas the tank engine one from Tesco on the basis that it said 2yrs+ and all other ones seemed to be 3yrs+ and just a little too big.

We got it home and built it only to find that it was too big and Maisie’s legs were some distance from the pedals. Poor Maisie was obviously disappointed by this and did not go to bed happy. Whilst I was putting her to bed she said “Mummy could get a bike!”. We took it back the next day and bought a better one from Halfords instead which she could just reach the pedals on but after a trip to the park meant that both parents would need to be present whenever the bike came out to avoid disasters.

People who do things

I heard someone at this University talking about children's language acquisition and he said something about how there is a bit of a leap conceptually in being able to go from describing what someone is doing to then describing them as someone who DOES that. An example used was showing a child a picture of some people playing football and asking what was happening. The child replied something like "Some people playing football". The child was then asked something like "So, what are these people called?".Instead of saying "footballers" the child looked glum and thoughtless. Game Over.

So, I thought I'd try this theory out with Maisie last night. I said "Maisie, what do you call people who play football?". She looked a bit confused and said "I don't know".

"Footballers!" I said. She didn't look very interested.

"Ok" I said "What do you call people who go shopping?". She shrugged again. "Shoppers!" I said.

Suddenly, she looked interested and interjected "What about people who go to Grandma's?".

"Erm, Grandma-ers?" I replied.

I think we cracked it.

Some people!

We sold our fridge freezer on ebay. We have an integrated one in the kitchen so since we’ve moved back there is no need for our old freestanding one (even though it is rather nice with its graphite finish, spacious interior and samsung emblem!)

I listed it on ebay and someone bought it. They came round to collect it yesterday as arranged. However, not only was the dude an hour late (which meant it interfered with the tea and bed time routine) and hadn’t been reading his emails nor a clue where to collect from but he also turned up on his own. WHO DOES THAT? Comes to pick up a 7ft fridge freezer on their own??

I ended up becoming quite frustrated with it all and once we had laboured to get it out of the house, I left him to faff with it (and boy did this man know how to procrastinate!) in the back of his van which was parked on our drive. I just apologised (vaguely) and then closed the front door and got on with tea, by which time Maisie had already fallen asleep on the sofa in all her clothes and an old nappy. Let the bottom-rash begin!

David Beckham today publically blamed the England players for the team’s non-tournament this summer. He’s probably right, however at the same event, he also announced his intention to continue playing for the national side. A brave statement considering he’s just dissed his dressing room companions. Gotta love that chap.

Lois has been doing more walking. She’s using the same walker that Maisie used when learning to be autonomously upright. It’s a very useful toy if you don’t take into account the range of chirpy annoying songs it produces.

Maisie brings her first tune to the song table

Maisie seems to have learned a new song, presumably at nursery since the words and hand movements are a mystery to me and Lisa. It’s incredibly cute. She just moves her hands over each other as if handling a hamster on the move and I’m not sure about the tune but the words seem to go…

“Roly poly down down down…
Roly poly, up and and up”

She also moves her rotating hands downwards or upwards at the relevant time during the song.

And then something about “everso large” and “everso small”. She won’t just do it on demand. You have to catch her in the right mood and ask nicely.

Lois has a few favourite phrases (noises?) at the moment. One if the inevitable “Da-da-da-da” (despite Mum’s desperate interventions) and then there’s the “Goyayoyoy” and a strange noise she makes at the back of her throat as if clearing her throat. Not sure what that one’s all about, but hey!

Maisie has started dreaming and currently seems to be having a bit of an issue with unwanted bears and owls featuring in them. This don’t impress her much. Sometimes when I am summoned to her room she says “There are no bears are there?”. My answer is always the same.

One, twice, three times a hosepipe

The weekend has very hot, sticky and muggy. On Sunday afternoon, we decided to get the old paddling pool out which we thought at the time would be a fantastic idea. Sadly, its reappearance proved to be the catalyst for some rather traumatic events.

Firstly, I ventured into ‘spider outhouse’ and retrieved the paddling pool and hosepipe reel. Mum and Lois were settling down on the grass beside the empty pool and I went to attach pipe to water mains and switched it on. Maisie, holding the hosepipe began to wander down to the bottom of the garden to join the others and fill said pool. Seconds later I heard screeching as Maisie innocently walked towards Lisa and Lois with hosepipe in hand (and not pointing downwards) and soaked her sister and Mum. I perhaps shouldn’t have trusted her but assumed she would just put it in the pool. My instructions were not robust enough.

After much flapping and screaming the trauma was over. Fingers were pointed and harsh words were spoken. Mum went inside to get changed as it was her who bore the brunt of the water canon, on this first occasion anyway :)

I put the troublesome hosepipe end in the pool where it was supposed to have been left and it immediately started glugging away, filling the pool. Tranquility was restored. I went off to fetch a couple of glasses of wine but had barely got to the kitchen before I heard a fresh wave of screeching from the bottom of the garden. I danced through the washing lines to the source of the trouble and the hosepipe had slithered out of the pool and repositioned itself on the grass pummelling waves of h2O into poor Lois who had been left sat on her own. Maisie was almost as traumatised simply watching the drama unfold. Mum came out with fresh clothes and a grumpy face.

Poor Lois was completely saturated so I placed the hosepipe head firmly in the flowerbed and I went to fetch a change of clothes for Lois.

As I was running down the stairs with the new garments I heard a third pandemonium outside. I can’t remember exactly how it happened on this occasion but suffice is to say Mum and Lois got sprayed again and once again Maisie stood helplessly witnessing the ordeal. Mum’s new clothes not only had digestive biscuits smeared all over them (Lois’s comfort food after the previous incident) but they were wet (again).

Thankfully it was nearly tea time, so we turned off the cursed hosepipe, emptied the pool (it wasn’t actually very full) and went inside to reflect on the farcical aquatic terror.

Sleep is for the weak


Here is an old photo of two sleeping children. It’s one to cherish, for this seems to be a rare occasion and a routine which has been disturbed by attendance at nursery where the whole group lie down in the afternoon on little mats and have a group snooze. What a lovely idea that is, although to be honest I still struggle to imagine it actually happening. I’ve been assured that it does.

Pooh in bed, poo on bed

It happened again. And once again it was an unexpected and unpleasant experience. I was putting Maisie to bed last night and she was waving per large Winnie the Pooh hardback story book about. As we clambered up onto her bottom bunk, I noticed something on the book and I picked it up and instantly recognised it as a chunk of dry poo. Before I had time to work out where it had came from I had almost placed my other hand on the remaining cluster of large pellets laying in a little nest on her duvet. After clearing up the mess and convincing Maisie it was ‘just a poo’ (who, it turned out, was possibly the least traumatised of all of us) I got in the bed with Maisie and her book. “I want the one with Pooh in it” she demanded, somewhat ironically I thought.

Since Barney has been deprived of one of his back legs, we reckon he wouldn’t be able to have got up onto the bed and left the surprise. So, it must have been Louis. On the positive side, at least time around it wasn’t a squidgy one :)

Lolly backchat

Having given Maisie an ice lolly the other day she had a few licks then wandered around with it in her hand.

I said “Maisie, are you eating that lolly, or just wandering around with it in your hand?”.

She replied immediately and calmly, “I’m just wandering around with it in my hand”

Can’t help but feel that attitude will serve her well in life.

Ode to our Wazza

Dear Lord, please let our talisman shine
Shield him from injuries of the metatarsal variety
Protect 'that knee', 'that ankle' and 'that groin'
Allow for his deftness of touch and unblinking eye for goal
Find him the space in which to be audacious, creative and glorious
Celebrate with us his brute strength and single-minded determination
Shower him with 'net-busters' and in doing so, show him the path to the golden boot
And yet lead him calmly from the temptation of the red card and the mindless two-footed lunge
And placate his tempestuous mind and vociferous tongue where referees are concerned
But most of all please Lord, let it not go to penalties...

Ebay feedback score reaches 400

A momentous score really. Now if only David Beckham could have won THAT many caps for England

Nursery dry runs

Lisa took the 'little ones' over to try out their new nursery for a couple of days. On the first day she stayed there with them for a couple of hours. On the second day she left them alone for a couple of hours. Lisa said she had to try very hard not to cry (at least that's what she told me). I'm secretly glad it wasn't me leaving them. That would have been tough.

Because the girls are 21 months apart, they have been allocated to different age groups (situated on different floors of the nursery) which is a shame really although I understand they need to keep kids of the same ages together.

When they returned yesterday I sat a cheery Maisie on my knee and asked her what she did at nursery. She replied loud and proud "I had a little cry" as if that were the highlight of her day. Momentarily upsetting :(

I think despite this rather bold confession, she got on fine. Hope so, anyway. They are starting for 2 days a week as of next Thursday!

Shaping up?

At the weekend I purchased after having had my eye on for some time a pair of Sketchers 'Shape-ups'. We were out shopping so I popped in to try a pair on out of curiosity really but they instantly felt so lush I just had to buy them there and then. Lisa muttered something about my probably only wearing them twice then never again. Later in the day, having tried mine on, she ordered a pair for herself.

So, anyway, it will be interesting to see if they do what they claim to (burn fat, tone up muscles, improve posture etc.) and if my knee problem is in any way alleviated (or made worse?)

Watch this space

Getting ready for the move

We are getting ready for next month's move. Lots of things to organise, plan and sell (thank God for ebay!)

It's all a bit of a logistical nightmare really trying to co-ordinate removal men, two sets of estate agents, 2 small children, Lisa starting back at work, me commuting on the train, 2 cats, bonds, keys, cleaners etc. etc. etc.

One of my concerns is also in the midst of all the shenanigans the World Cup will be on and I fear that depending on arrangements I may not be able to watch the important matches!

I have been drinking green tea. I am now officially healthy. The two great things I've discovered are:

1. It tastes quite nice now they make green tea with cranberry or green tea with early grey. Green tea on its own is still a really acquired taste I reckon

2. It does not stain your cup (like normal tea or coffee) and that's got to be good news for the teeth

3. You don't have to faff about with buying and storing milk and constantly making sure you're not pouring cheesey yoghurt into your cup.

Ok, so as I was writing the list, it turned into 3 points, sue me why don't you :P

How NOT to behave in Marks & Spencer’s Cafe

16052010 Here is us (well, Maisie in particular) demonstrating how one should not conduct oneself whilst sitting in the cafe of Marks and Spencers in Horwich, Bolton.

Not the general lack of respect, the shoes on the fancy sofas, the noise levels and sticky chocolate cake fingers which are going unchecked.

Them knees, them knees, them pesky knees

After having suffered from quite debilitating knee pain for the past 2 or 3 years and having seen physios, GPs and consultants, having been patiently through the NHS system and had an MRI scan and given up on it, Lisa persuaded me (by booking me an appointment without me knowing) to go and see an osteopath. She'd been to see them about her bad back and got a quick fix.

I went along for the first session, very sceptical but came away with some degree of pain relief. She has diagnosed me with patellar mal-tracking, which means the knee is not moving properly and this is possibly due to a muscular imbalance.

I have since been back for a second session (which involves a deep tissue massage, which is slightly painful but in a good way, if that's possible). After the second session, I was given wall squat exercises to do (see picture) regularly. Incidentally, I don't put my hands up when I'm doing it like the woman in the picture does. That would be daft, unless of course someone had broken into your home and was making you exercise at gun-point perhaps.

So far, so good. I am currently able to walk up and down stairs with minimal pain. This is a massive improvement. I am trying to be patient with my rehabilitation which isn't really my style, and its a bit frustrating but I feel I'm actually starting to get somewhere.

I have also been given the green light for cycling exercise - just not getting much of an opportunity to do it at the mo.

I am going back to see the osteopath on Saturday for a third appointment. Watch this space.

Words Maisie is struggling with

Here are some words that Maisie still can't say, although she's nearly there with most of them and recognises that she is having difficulty (characterised by her laughter after hearing herself getting them slightly wrong).

It seems to be those troublesome 'mid word letter L's' still
  • Banana (Dinama)
  • Flamingo (not sure how to type how she says this one)
  • Elephant (Effelant)
  • Melon (Mewon)
  • Maisie Miller (Maisie Miya)
  • Lois (sadly she is often still 'Louse')
  • Yoghurt (Low-gurt)
  • Gruffalo (Gruff-a-woah)
  • Smelly (Sme-wee)
  • Pellets (Pe-witts)
That said, when she concentrates and says them slowly she can do it, which normally earns her a round of applause.


On a side note, although Maisie's potty training is still a bit fruitless, she has managed the odd wee in her new frog potty. Lois on the other hand is excelling with daily potty poos facilitated by her growing appreciation for solid foods.

Legendary and awesome home cinema plan...

Here it is. A glimpse of the future. Oh yes.

The AV receiver is next on the hitlist of sexy kit, closely followed by the logitech controller of supreme supremacy.

Happy days :)

Blue sky thinking

Well, a volcano erupted about 5 days ago in Iceland and plumes of smoke and ash have been drifting through the airspace of northern europe meaning that flights to and from all UK airports (and other northern european countries) have been put on hold, causing "Air Chaos".

It has been strange looking up and not seeing a single vapour trail in the sky, however this has only affected planes which fly up at 30,000 ft and as a consequence there seems to have been more low flying aircraft zooming around making a load of noise.

I went to see an Osteopath on Saturday morning in Bolton. I sat there in the waiting room feeling sceptical, reading literature on things like naturalopathy thinking what am I doing here. However, as it transpired this osteopath woman might be onto something. She thinks she might be able to fix me even! That would surely be the best thing ever. She did some painful deep tissue massaging of my knee for about 30 minutes and suggested I come back next weekend for a bit more torture. Lisa and I had deliberated for some time prior to me going about which pair of pants to wear since she'd need me to de-trouser. I opted not to wear my cool new bright orange pants and instead went for some plain black hipsters. As it happens, the deliberation was all pointless - she just asked me to roll up my trouser leg. She caused me pain in ways my previous physiotherapist could only dream of. However, it was (like Lisa's childbirths) a positive pain which I was more than happy to experience.

Gran was down for the weekend helping us clear out the garage although the whole plan was promptly ruined when both Gran and Lisa (after having opened the garage door) saw a massive spider in the corner hiding in its web. Consequently both stood there with arms folded and hands firmly tucked away under armpits, hovering near the door and looking around for more predators instead of helping tidy. Maisie changed the subject briefly by doing an unusual wee which spilled out of her nappy, ran down her tights, and accumulated in a pool on the front steps. Gran swiftly took her in for a nappy change. Lisa also felt the need to retreat inside and feed Lois. Maisie came back out with a fresh nappy on and promptly did a smelly poo so had to be taken back in again for another change. Suffice is to say, we didn't get much done.

I went out for a bike ride to test my knee out a bit since it was feeling a bit weird but possibly a bit better. 10 minutes later I returned back having circled the estate and all was good.

All the snails in the garden say "yeah"

The recent mild weather has allowed Maisie some quality garden time each day this week. She has set about finding and collecting the entire garden's snail population. They are arranged, rearranged and frequently transported (either individually or as a group) to and from various locations using Maisie's trike thing which conveniently has a little seat compartment which lifts up to reveal, a handy ''snail travel lounge''.

When I got home last night, she had also been arranging a little outdoor restaurant with pieces of melon and bread laid out and snails placed on top of them.

The 'great unwashed' finally has a wash

After several weeks of 'bath fear' Maisie finally seemed to cave in last night and allow herself to be washed. We were preparing to force the issue after her not having been actively submerged for about a week when she suddenly seemed to comply again. And can you imagine our relief when I asked her if she wanted to get out and she replied that she didn't want to. Quite different to the early days when trying to get her OUT of a bath kicked started the tantrums.

A Cousin Cometh

That's right. Maisie and Lois have been joined by a little cousin who goes by the name of "Abe". He is the only Miller boy of this new generation so far. He was born on 6th May at 6:15 weighing 6lbs and 6ozs. Lots of sixes in there!

We went down to see him yesterday on a flying visit. Once there, Maisie was a bit side-tracked by chasing the 3 cats that live with Abe. That was a whole world of entertainment. Not sure the cats saw it so positively, mind.

An amendment to roles and responsibilities in the current bedtime policy

Maisie has recently expressed a preference for Mr Men books to be read (multiple times) at bed time.

Mr Bounce is her favourite, although Mr Greedy runs a close second and Mr Bump completes the top three.

Sadly, Mr Tickle has had to settle for fourth place in the Mr Men books pecking order.

Anyway, this has been all very well and good recently until the weekend when she decided that maybe she should be the one doing the reading.

I accidentally read:

'"Ouch" said Mr Bump'

...which was wrong because I was actually reading the book about Mr Bounce. She corrected me and took over book-reading duties. Now, I am not allowed to read. Instead I have to lie there and listen to her read the stories. I was obviously no longer capable of offering a reliable book-reading service.

She gives it her best shot but I suspect she is just remembering words and phrases she has associated with different pictures. Hence, the stories tend to be a bit bitty, and slow, and sometimes actually read either in reverse or by a method of random page selection. Quentin Tarantino would be proud :)

The Princess and the Pea (up the nose!)

Panic struck! Well, sort of. It was probably quite laid back panic, as panic goes. But there we were having dinner around the table up at Lisa's parents house in Scotland when Maisie announces that she's got a pea stuck up her nose. We all humoured her and told her she was wrong (when are we going to learn, that SHE is never wrong?).

So after a quick inspection from Gran it was confirmed that Maisie did indeed have a pea lodged up her right nostril. No-one saw her put it there. Lisa remembered that she'd read something on one of her forums about someone having experienced this with their child and had posted the perfect solution.

After a quick nosey on the internet we began the removal process which involved pinning Maisie down on her back and Lisa closing Maisie's left nostril with a finger and blowing as if giving the kiss of life into Maisie's mouth. I thought it would  be dangerous but after a couple of failed half-hearted attempts, BINGO it was third time lucky and the pea flew out (with not a small amount of snot too for she currently has a bit of a cold)

At that point, and not a second before that point, everyone (including Maisie herself) laughed with relief

Blackpool Zoo

We went to Blackpool Zoo and it was a glorious sunny day. We took the double buggy (which takes up the entire car boot but gives invaluable options for tired or fussy children). Maisie particularly loved the dinosaur models which are huge and strategically positioned outdoors amongst the scenery with hidden (not always very well, mind) speakers making generic dinosaur land noises inter-dispersed with the odd intimidating 'rooooaaar'.

At lunch we sat down on some picnic tables to eat and witnessed the humiliation which was a greedy seagull swooping down and stealing an entire sandwich from a father who was struggling to contain his small child let alone their lunch options. Anyway it landed grabbed a while sarnie in its beak and took off whilst the shocked man flapped and generally looked a bit incompetent in front of everyone else

Later, as we were exiting the reptile house through a door straight into what Lisa had described to me as a 'greenhouse' a helpful zoo staff member pointed out as I was pushing Lois in the buggy that I might want to hide the dummy she was sucking on. I said 'why?'. He said 'they might steal it'. I was confused but assumed he meant the other punters. I said "Who are 'they'?". The conversation was tedious. He sighed and said "the monkeys that are freely roaming about in here". I naively said "Oh, it's ok - it's attached to her bib". He looked at me as if to say "Who is this prune of a man? Does he think the monkeys won't just yank if off if they want it?".

Anyway, it was I who had the last laugh because although there were monkeys swinging around freely none came close nor tried to take Lois' dummy. So, ha!

Dad takes charge

For two hours today I was in charge of both of them and left on my own (whilst Lisa went to get her back manipulated). Suffice is to say, I survived.

On a side note, how are you supposed to cope with a toddler that will not have a bath, will not have a shower and will not brush their teeth?

Bath fear

Maisie seems to have developed some kind of aversion to baths. Showers are also not being accepted. What does a poor parent do? I think this new fear may be something do with one (or a combination) of the following:

  • A fear of being sucked down the plug hole
  • A dislike of any hairs or foreign bodies (no matter how small) floating in the water
It's tough and not sure how it's going to be resolved. We tried letting the plug out whilst Lisa was sat in the bath and that caused a lot of stress with Maisie telling Mum to get out in a distressed fashion.

Lois hits the solids

Lisa has started Lois on some solids today. Lois has chomped down toast, banana, rice cake, cucumber, strawberries and carrot with much gusto! Strawberries made her stick her tongue out and close one eye to begin with which was very entertaining. Seeing Lois eating also seemed to give Maisie extra impetus to eat. Everyone's a winner!
We bought Maisie a cd-player today and guess what? It's pink. The idea is to play her relaxing bedtime story cd's. Time will tell if this was money well spent.

We don't like it, do we? one of Maisie's favourite sayings. It tends to apply to noisy things which she is a bit scared of (like the Dyson, low flying aeroplanes or the tiger from the Jungle Book) but can also apply to other things like foods.

She is currently big into jigsaws and seems happy to make them over and over and over again. One of Peppa Pig arrived today but (as warned by Lisa) is not an 'Orchard' jigsaw and is therefore of inferior quality.

Lois has discovered her toes and like grabbing them with her hands. She is also still a very dribbly baby. She saturates bib after bib with moisture in a way that Maisie never did

Nursery Rhymes Maisie likes singing...

See saw marjory daw...
Baa baa black sheep
Happy birthday (sang recently for Lisa's birthday) 

A word about (not) sleeping...

Lois currently wakes at 5am in the morning (getting up with Lisa) and goes to bed about 8pm (with Lisa). Maisie on the other hand wakes up after I've gone to work (8am ish) and as a result isn't normally interested in going to bed until between 9 and 10pm (which means Dad is up that late). Subsequently Lisa and I are like ships that pass in the night (except we pass in the evening instead). During the night Lois wakes for feeds from time to time and Maisie wakes and requests Milk (again, warmed to specifically the correct temperature in the microwave). 

When will the crazy sleep deprivation end? When will glorious family lie-ins commence? When will we be able to stay up and watch a film?  

People who have been through the 'very young kids phase' say it feels like it's never ending at the time although it doesn't last that long in the grand scale of things. Hmmmm...

Preferred menu choices

Maisie is currently keen on the following foods
  • Beetroot
  • "Bread and dip" (bread, or breadsticks dipped in humous)
  • Apple (peeled)
  • Mewon (aka "melon")
  • Muffins crumbled into a bowl (Blueberry are acceptable, but Chocolate is best)
  • "Monkey Ice Cream" (also, know as 'ice-cream')
  • Milk (still a bedtime favourite - warmed up in microwave of course to the specifically perfect temperature)
  • Pizza (in particular mexican ones so she can steal all of the pineapple pieces)
  • Custard (cold and straight out of the pot)
  • Olives
  • Porritz (at weekends)
  • "Egg in a cup"
Lois is currently keen on:
  • Milk

Monkeys in the Forest

Yesterday, we went to 'Monkey Forest' which is near Stoke-on-Trent. It was very cool (and also very freezing!).

Still, the temperatures didn't bother the primates who, we were told by one of the many yellow-clad workers (who roam about making sure monkeys don't gouge punters' eyes out) have come from similar or cooler climates.

There were 140 macaques in total (we didn't count them) and they wander freely around a large area of woodland. They had just been fed before we arrived so most of them were busy tucking into various fruits and things whilst we spectated.

Maisie wanted to give them a cuddle but we advised her against it. Squirrels, pigeons and crows (and strangely, a partridge) seem to co-exist there quite happily.

There was a nice cafe (serving Staffordshire's famous oatcakes amongst other things) and an adventure playground. All pretty good really and only about £6 to get in.

Maisie loved it although on the way to the car when asked about it she admitted that she didn't like it but would happily go there again.

Later that night Maisie did one of her trademark thumping down onto the floor as she rolled too far in her sleep and exited the bed.


Maisie has started interacting more with Lois and they now share occasional moments where they just laugh joyfully at each other and is lovely to witness. I think it's also slightly relieving to now feel we share the entertainment responsibilities. Not sure what they are laughing at but it certainly tickles them. Sadly, Maisie also has been referring to her little sister by her name but her pronunciation is slightly off - she calls her "Louse" :)

Some new Maisie-isms

Well, here are some of Maisie's latest verbal offerings which we've found quite amusing...

  1. "Dinama" (Banana)
  2. "Efenants" (Elephants, last seen at Chester Zoo)
  3. "Codmonster" (Lobster - we are mystified as to where this came from but believe it's origins could lie in "Crab Monster" maybe?)
  4. "Porrits" (Porridge)
  5. And finally, "Mum's best at singing" (I feel this rather bold statement should really be backed up with some hard evidence) and "Dad's best at lego" (not negotiable)