Friday 27 November 2009

Walking AND talking

So Jake said a word the other day. An actual, decipherable word. He said 'car' and we both heard it. Until now the only word has been 'mamamamama' and actually that's more of a half hum, half babble which is more likely to be him exploring his vocal chords than knowing he was talking to his mum.

Every morning, one of the rituals the missus and I have is to ask Jake where his aeroplanes are and sure enough he points to the hanging mobile above his cot and then we ask him where Babar is and he duly points to Babar the elephant hanging on the wall next to his cot. Babar is also flying a plane in that picture so we're doing our best to confuse the lad. We also have a picture near his changing mat of a car. He's known the words 'aeroplane' and 'Babar' for months but couldn't get 'car' until recently, and only then the ability to understand the word and point, but now he can say it. Well, he said it, technically he can't say it as he hasn't done it since, despite Clare and I asking him, in the customarily high pitched patronising tone 'can Jakey say car? Car, car, caa-aar' over and over again.

He'll get there, but I find myself really looking forward to having a conversation with him. Now he'll come over when I call him and he'll put his legs up when I want to get his trousers on but he can't talk back. One of our accounts' ladies bought her two-and-a-bit year old in on Tuesday and I had a full on conversation with him about, funnily enough, his cars. He was carrying a bag around full of toy cars from the film, erm, 'Cars' and we spent a good five minutes naming them and playing with them and he could answer my questions and everything. I really enjoyed it and it made me look forward to doing that with Jake. And that's really just a year away depending on the speech therapy thing.

Separately we got the Clapa newsletter through the day before last. I still don't know how I feel about it. On one hand it's good that they organise trips away for kids and parents affected by clefts and on the other hand why should they bother? Surgery is so good, you can barely notice a repaired cleft lip (as long as it was done in the last 10 or so years) so why make these kids out to be special? It worries me that a) perhaps Jake's lip is not as well repaired as I / we think it is as we see him every day or that b) he will be singled out for it at school even if it is just a small scar.

Either way I can't see why loads of kids need to get together to have fun knowing that they won't get bullied because they've all got the same thing. I just can't see that all kids with a repaired lip will suffer terribly because of it. Maybe that's incredibly naive and perhaps I have a different mentality but so be it. I got teased at school for having big ears and yes it was upsetting. I had a particularly short hair cut one day and the entire class laughed at me and made me cry (I was very young to be fair) and yes I remember that and it wasn't nice. Once I remember two boys putting their brief cases up either side of their head to represent my enormous Dumbo-esque lugs and that wasn't a great day either, but I got over it, I got good grades, have a happy family, plenty of friends, a good job and I reckon I'm an o.k bloke. It probably helped me in some way. I'm not advocating bullying and appreciate that in the extreme it can be very damaging but all kids will be picked on, teased a bit at some stage and bullies will eventually get found out in the real world. Most bullies were also the jocks and there was one in particular at my school and the teachers seemed to be scared of him as well. He would never get called up for the harassment he handed out, mainly because he was the biggest and strongest member of the first IX rugby team but he wouldn't bother me now. And afterall, he's probably breaking rocks or flipping hamburgers - he wasn't what you'd call, a reader.

Anyway, I think that Jake will be o.k and we'll teach him to stand up for himself or learn to tell jokes to win favour or rise above it and walk away. Some days he'll have a hard time which is nothing to do with having been born with a cleft and that will be just what he needs to learn how to get through life and he'll be absolutely fine.

Monday 16 November 2009

The last few weeks

On a previous post I alluded to a situation at work which has stopped me blogging as regularly as I would have liked. That situation is still ongoing but I hope closure is getting nearer. As soon as I can provide the details of that I will and hopefully posting frequency will return. Maybe I've used it as an excuse, as we're still in our happy lull and there's less to write about and therefore the pre-blog thinking process is more of a forced issue than an easy outpour. Dunno.

Anyway, Jake's great and is a very happy little boy most of the time. He still has a moment or two every day when he'll cry or get crotchety but in the main he's toddling about, playing, eating well, laughing and enjoying being one and a bit. We took him to get his first shoes at Clarks a few weeks back, which was a real nostalgia trip for us. Despite the geniuses in the store planning division deciding the best place for the baby section is the basement, meaning all buggies having to be left upstairs, it was great to hark back to childhood memories of the width machine and thumb test to see where the toe was. They don't do that once you're grown but for everyone's first few dozen pairs of shoes you get used to it. Something I'm not sure I'll get to is the £28 for a pair of shoes which literally fit in the palm of one hand. You always hear about parents moaning about the cost of kids shoes, clothes etc but up until now I've found child care fairly inexpensive. We get £80 odd every month and I reckon half of that goes on food and nappies. The other half goes towards his one day at nursery so we're not massively out of pocket, especially when you consider what we save on not going out like we used to.

We went back to Stoke Park last Thursday for Jake's second bonfire night. He was much more awake this time and despite his initial misgivings about the noise and the rain, he seemed to enjoy it. It's crazy when an event comes round for the second time. You remember how you felt the year before. We were literally feeling our way last November, now we take it all in our stride. You do get comfortable with looking after a small child and as your confidence grows you get more time to enjoy your time with them. Whether it's feeling relaxed about leaving him in front of 'in the night garden' whilst warming his milk or letting him reverse down the stairs, it's all part of the learning experience of being a parent and eventually you forget you're still learning. Of course this is all made possible by the fact that he sleeps all night now so we're doing it feeling human and not like zombies.

This weekend was really nice. Even though it rained, we spent the majority of it all together. Saturday afternoon opened our eyes to a world we never knew existed before Jake came along. Soft play at Merist Wood golf club and a childhood adventure land for Jake to run around in. Despite the ball pit smelling of a freshly soiled nappy it was brilliant to see his face as he was sliding down the ramp into it. He was also obsessed with the fire engine ride, interestingly the only thing which cost more once we were in, proving that parents will pay 50p to entertain their child if the attraction moves and makes noise.

Yesterday was spent at the supermarket. Another rite of passage for me to push Jake around in the bit kids sit in on the trolley and let him play with the products before putting them in. Then a family roast and milk and bedtime. Cliche of family life perhaps but for all the right reasons.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Corsets and Canapes

Another friend of mine has started a blog. Corsets and Canapes is a wedding blog with a difference. The author is writing it whilst planning her own wedding which we are all very much looking forward to. Izzy and Ben (a.k.a Toerag) are getting married on New Year's Eve this year and we've always wanted someone to do that. The perfect way to makes sure everyone's at the same party to see in the new year! In fact we almost did it ourselves but as I proposed in January we didn't want to wait a full year. Anyway this popular couple seem to be at someone else's wedding every other week so Izzy knows a thing or two on the subject.

I'm biased but it is a really good read and epitomises good bloggery insofar as it's a journal of experiences in real time. I remember from that hectic time of planning a wedding that it can take over your whole life, so writing about it ought to help, if not provide distraction from actually doing it.

In time the hope is that hobby will turn into day job (the holy grail for bloggers) and hers is a subject which could do just that. The wedding industry is certainly more lucrative than the cleft industry!

Anyway hop over to Corsets and Canapes and see what I'm on about.

Monday 2 November 2009

Remembering Mickey Bray - a true gent

Long before Jake was even a twinkle in my eye, we lost a great man. I knew Mickey Bray all my life, he was my dad's best mate and right hand man in his business. Of all of my parents' friends he was the one who I liked best and who always took time to talk and play with me. He never had kids of his own, preferring to keep cats, and perhaps that's one reason he and Jill, his wife, were so good to us. Christmas and birthday presents were always a bit special and they always made us feel a bit more grown up than we were.

We went to Disneyland as very young children and Mickey always recounted the same story about that trip. I think I'd just been on a gentle ride of some sort and was busy guzzling some red coloured drink when the American lady sat opposite us remarked,

'Gee, what a cute kid'

And that was my cue to puke all over her. Between them, my dad and Mickey must have told that story 50 times and it always made them smile. Of course I don't remember it but it definitely sounds like me.

When I was 11 or 12 we were living in a derelict dump on the corner of a plot that my dad was building our new house on. As a pre-teen it was an awesome place. We only lived in half of the house as the rest was damp and falling down in places. There were three or four rooms which were pretty scary places but fun to explore. There was no central heating and our back door handle was a toothbrush. My parents found it less fun for the two years that the new place took to go up and for the same reasons I wouldn't much fancy it now. There was the hole in their bedroom wall for one. Couple that with having to use the one room with a heater as lounge, dinning room, study and play area and you'll get the picture. There was one time (no, not at band camp) when the the electrics kept tripping out and we couldn't work out what was causing it. It continued on and off for a month or so until we realised it was the toaster. We'd been using the toaster on a daily basis ever since the electrics started to go. Eventually we found a dead mouse inside the toaster and I've not been able to eat raisin bread since.

There's no reason for telling you this other than to furnish my memory of that time. One Sunday afternoon Mickey and Jill came over to see my parents presumably for a cup of tea and a chat. Anyway I was outside playing and Mickey, a man who loved all things self built and mechanical decided to take it upon himself to build me a soap box car.

We spent the whole afternoon scouring the derelict garage for suitable items. We found a passable set of wheels from an ancient pram, a vegetable crate and along with other sundry pieces of wood, we (Mickey) put it all together and a fine feat of engineering it truly was.

The distance between old wreck and new build was around 50 metres and connected by a downhill stretch of flattened white chalk. Perfect for a soap box derby if we had a second soap box car which of course, we didn't. It didn't matter as my soap box car was more than enough fun for all of us. It actually worked and I spent the rest of the afternoon whizzing down the 'drive' and dragging it back up to have another go. Eventually, I crashed and it became a soap box write-off, sadly too far gone to justify a repair. But it didn't matter, that perfect afternoon is one of the clearest memories of my childhood and I'll never forget it.

In the mid-nineties Mickey, a man who never smoked and drank only on occasion, developed cancer. The cruelty of cancer is that it seems to affect those who deserve it least; those who have purposely put themselves at the other end of the asking-for-it spectrum sometimes still succumb to its indiscriminate clutches. Typically, Mickey fought it like a trooper, the bouts of sickness brought on by the chemo, endless therapy, biopsies, false hope, disappointment, every hurdle was met by a steely determination to beat this most horrible of plights.

A number of times when we all thought it might be beaten, the news came that it wasn't and eventually in July of 2006 it took him. He was very, very ill at the end and, sad to say it, I think the end was a relief for him. That he fought it so hard and for so long is true testament to a man who wasn't my uncle but who will always be my uncle Mickey.

His funeral was the day before we got married and the mixed emotions of that day and the one after are still palpable today. Although he wasn't there I like to think he was looking down and cheering Clare and me on.

Aside from my fond memories Mickey is remembered as something of a legend in the motor racing and hotrodding world. Always the tinkerer, Mickey raced Mini 7's and go karts and even built the original Pinball Wizard, a car he later sold to Keith Moon of The Who.

Below are a couple of links to the nice things people have had to say about this remarkable and universally loved man.