Monday 8 November 2010

Here we go again!

It's funny how life just rolls along. When you're younger you don't really consider it, stuff just happens and you move subconsciously from one stage of your life to the next. As you grow up, get married, hock yourself up in a mortgage and then have children, you start to notice the patterns that emerge. I think it's the rounds of babies your friends have which causes this reflection. Most circles of friends will have at least a couple of concurrent pregnancies and in our case (even aside of having joined NCT), it was much more. So then those babies are born and within 18 months or so you start getting those round robin emails and Facebook status updates that announce round 2. Indeed two of our NCT friends have just had their second baby and our great friends, Sarah and Hamish have just given Sadie a little baby brother in Finlay.

So it seems only fair to get involved and I'm delighted to say that, after a couple of unsuccessful attempts, in the very words of Margaret Thatcher, 'we are pregnant'!

We're obviously thrilled but utterly paranoid, not just because of the adventures which lead to this blog's inception but also that Clare has had a couple of miscarriages. The early signs are positive and we've been through a 7 and 12 week scan. So it's a case of so far, so good although I know won't be able to enjoy the pregnancy anything like as much as I would have had Jake's journey to planet earth been more run of the mill.

However, all being well, next April, our son will have a baby brother or sister and we can't wait to put in the last piece of the Fernie family jigsaw.

Have yourselves a lovely Monday and enjoy the rain!

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Piet Haers sign off, speech and what's next

I can't believe where the last year went. It only seems like yesterday I was writing here that Prof Haers had given the cleft palate repair the O.K and told us not to come back for a year. Since then, we've had just one trip back to the hospital for the initial speech assessment six months ago.

Clare took Jake to see Piet Haers last week for the yearly check up and then afterwards back to the speech team to see what progress has been made in the intervening six months.

Piet is pleased with how things have gone. It seems ages ago that I wrote about the 18 month period between the cleft lip repair operation and when the scar has finished settling. Anyway this is now the end of the 18 month period and to be honest I'd completely forgotten about it. So, basically his lip is now in the shape it'll always be, it'll just get bigger as the rest of him does. To my surprise Piet said that Jake will need another operation. Well he didn't say need, he said that Jake would probably want to have had another operation if he didn't. I'm fine about where his lip's ended up, but there is something Elvis-like about it. Not completely perfect but it's him now, his little thing. However it's one thing for me to think it's cute and quite another from Jake's point of view when he goes to school. There's the bigger picture to consider here, like the one where other kids will pick on even the slightest difference to gain playground kudos. Whether it's glasses, a big nose, a birthmark, having two dads etc, they'll use it to their advantage. So I guess a quick revision will be worth it. I'm also quite pleased that the main man thinks he can improve it. The day after his first operation, stitches aside, the lip was perfect. Over the last year and half the scar has retracted a bit, hence the slight curl. Obviously another trip to St. Thomas' doesn't fill us with excitement but it ought to be an in and out job, coming home the same day. Besides, he won't have it until he's four so it's all healed in time for his first day at school.

Over the last 6 months, we've obviously heard a marked improvement in Jake's speech and he has understanding of hundreds of words and will attempt to say them all too. Naturally some words come far more easily than others but I'm not sure how much of that is to do with the cleft and how much is to do with his only being 24 months old.

Either way, as predicted, he said virtually nothing at the speech session. He did make enough noise however for the therapist to seem pleased. The noises she could detect were being made with the front of the mouth and this is a good sign. 'P's, 'B's, and 'T's are the ones which cleft palate affected kids can struggle with so to hear they're pleased with how he's doing on those is great news.

After a long 7 month wait, our house renovations are almost complete. I obviously bored you with stories of the kitchen but have kept my silence as regards the rest since I swapped the mundane stuff over to the other James Fernie blog. Anyway the loft ought to be ready for habitation in another two weeks. I've said that exact line probably four times over the last two months but these things always take longer than anticipated. We were going to use the new room as our bedroom but really it's not big enough to accommodate our massive bed. It's a shame as we've suffered all the disruption, dust and endless streams of tradesman in the house for most of the year. So we've decided that it will firstly be the spare room; perfect for guests as our spare bed (currently in Jake's room) is a more modest 4 foot 6 and there's the new bathroom up there as well for their privacy. When in the future, hopefully, a little brother or sister arrives for Jake, we'll move him up there (again perfect for him to have his own bathroom) and stick the baby and spare bed back in what is currently Jake's bedroom.

There, I bet you're glad that's sorted!

Till next time....

Tuesday 31 August 2010

Blog Award. I got one!!

I just got awarded this. My natural cynicism made me think it was just a link-building bit of spam but it looks real enough. Anyway, it's my first award so whatever it is, I'm keeping it!

Medical Billing
Medical Billing

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Jake at 2

Well, not quite but in a couple of weeks or so Jake will celebrate his second anniversary of life. Of course, he's been a part of lives for even longer, since January 2008 in fact. Truly I can't really remember the time before Clare was pregnant or since Jake's been here. Obviously I remember stuff we did and places we went, but not on a day to day level. So much changes with your daily routine, but because it happens automatically, over time you just accept it. Friends without kids, still say 'come over one night next week' with no thought of what that entails. Firstly, it's impossible without a baby sitter and with a week's notice, that's always going to be tricky. Alternatively then, taking child to them involves a travel cot, getting there early enough to settle and in all probability involves child not actually going to bed due to excitement and unfamiliar surroundings and ultimately leads to stressful evening.

I've said before that I prefer my life now. Sure, there's much less (if any) drop-of-the-hat action, but there's also less boredom. Before you could decide what to do on a whim, but if that whim never came, when then? Often, nothing. Hence boredom. Now it's all (to an extent) planned. Clare seldom has a non-work day without anything planned for Jake. And similarly at the weekend, there will always be something in the diary. It's still nice to do nothing, but that nothing is planned and therefore welcomed.

Since I switched blogs, this one has been somewhat neglected. Jake's development settled more and there was less to report on a weekly basis, however the last couple of months have seen big changes in him. It's less obvious when you see it everyday - another good reason for keeping this going - but he's turning, week by week, into less of a toddler and more of a little boy. For the first time, I'm not hoping he'll get a bit older. Since he was born I looked forward to the next stage. When he could roll over, then sit up, then climb onto the sofa, then feed himself, then walk, then talk etc. Right now though, I think he's at a stage which has the perfect blend of cuteness and cognisance. So he can't form complete sentences but he and we know what he's saying and at the same time still has some babyish features. I'm still really looking forward to a proper conversation and all the football games I'll watch him play but for now, this is the perfect age and one I'd like to crystalise.

I cannot believe he's almost 2!

Thursday 13 May 2010

Cleft lip and palate

You may have just arrived here having seen my Google Ad. If so, perhaps you've just found out your baby will be born with a cleft. Or perhaps your baby was just born with a cleft lip and / or palate. Here's what to do:

1. Don't panic - you will be absolutely fine. I promise.
2. Go to the very first post of the blog - May 2008
3. Read and relax!

If you want any advice from someone who's been there and got the t-shirt, leave a comment or email me at jamesfernie at gmail dot com

Once again, you will come through this o.k, there's so many worse things that could have happened and your baby will be / is beautiful anyway. I don't mean to be flippant and perhaps you won't agree with me until you've been through it all but pretty soon you'll look back on how you're feeling right now and be able to see it all in context. If I can help, I will.

Good luck.

A new blog

It's been two years since I started writing this blog and I've loved doing it. For many reasons it's been a useful exercise. I won't cover them all but by far, the comments I've received from others in the same situation have been what's made it worthwhile. I'll keep it going on this address for all things Jake and cleft related but for everything else the new place in town is I've decided to install WordPress on one of our servers as it's much better (IMHO) than Blogger in terms of choice of design and its interface.

This blog is obviously supposed to be quite specific, a niche subject and all, and of late I've felt that telling you about my kitchen and the like is moving away from the subject. Perhaps it kept things more light hearted and helped bring some context to the whole cleft episode but I'd rather keep things separate.

So nothing's really changed, I'm just diversifying my ramblings.

No one really reads the crap I write anyway!

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Kitchen. Done.

Thank **** for that! Five weeks doesn't seem long until you live without a kitchen for that time. Also when your house is full of dust and mess and general building miscellany, you develop a sort of tic which doesn't go away until it's all sorted. The kitchen is perfect, or rather as perfect as a long and narrow kitchen can be. The bit at the end which opens up was the best part of the idea, it creates a destination so that the kitchen is a room to be in as opposed to purely a functional space. (God listen me, I've gone all Sarah Beeny!).

Fortunately the original work top had been cut too short so I did a deal to buy the useless bit and we've made a breakfast bar at the end which goes above a radiator. Another piece of genius created out of a mistake. The bar stools arrive today.

We're now in a predicament as to what to do with the loft. We have a 6-8 week window before the builders need to be off working on a major four house new build project and unless we start almost immediately they'll have to bugger off half way through. The problem is that in my naivety I applied to do the loft under planning permission. When you do this, in almost every instance, the planners make you scale down your plans. Because we'd already paid the architect I decided to capitulate and just get the planning through, based on a) at least we'd have some planning permission which we could sell on with house and b) we probably couldn't afford to do it anyway. It turns out however, that to do the simple loft which creates a small bedroom for Jake and a family bathroom using just the existing roof space (and therefore not needing PP) looks now to be impossible. We just haven't got the space up there to get the stairs in to allow a separate entrance for the bedroom AND the bathroom. There's no point in making it an ensuite as a) it's a single room - doesn't make sense - and b) we'd still have a bedroom downstairs without direct access to a bathroom - not sensible developing - so, I can either start work, apply to do the larger box dormer loft conversion and hope on hope that the permitted development consent comes through at the exact time we need it to OR wait until the boys finish the new build project.

Given that the overall plans for the loft centre around the potential to put a new baby somewhere and the knowledge that building projects ALWAYS take longer than anticipated, this could seriously affect things.

We could just create one bedroom in the loft within the existing pitched roof which would be a decent sixed double but then we'd need to cut our existing bedroom in half to make a corridor and turn our existing ensuite into a communal bathroom. I quite like this idea other than the fact that it involves building work on the first floor and therefore all the mess and disruption that goes with it.

I think that we will probably ask the architect to submit new drawings and get the builders started....this way most of the work will be done and we can then take a view on whether to build the box on the back or build the corridor downstairs, or budget allowing, both. It'll just be the difference between having two bathrooms or one and in a 3 bedroom house, 2 is a luxury but 1 is the norm.

Decisions, decisions.

Here's the kitchen. Good innit?!

Thursday 22 April 2010

Jake, the little genius

Perhaps I'm biased, but I always new Jake would be miles ahead of others his age. When he's taken up a year or two early at school I won't be surprised in the slightest. He's almost certain to excel in everything he does. It's all down to exceptional genes of course.

I think I might be getting a little ahead of myself here. Let me explain. On Tuesday, we went for the next check up with Ann Young (the original cleft nurse who we first met less than a day after the 20 week scan - the scan which precipitated this tome) and the speech therapist. This was a general check up and also the first real chance for the therapist to see how Jake's speech is coming on and to see if any actual therapy will be needed.

We're much more relaxed about everything now and don't really think anything of the cleft's implications much at all. Of course there's still some way to go, at least one more operation for a start and the possibility of bullying etc, but in the main, Jake is just a toddler like any other. So, whilst somewhat blase, we're happy in our ignor-ance of the subject.

Jake's 20 or so words, some perfect, others not really words at all, apparently put him in advance of others of 19 and a bit months. Naturally. His height is similarly advanced and his weight matches his stature perfectly. So, it went well and we left feeling pretty good. The next meeting is 6 months from now and the therapist will hopefully hear him say some of those words...she told us to relax and not try to get him to say stuff - something I am definitely guilty of - but just to read with him, use the flash cards, pronounce the words but not to pounce on any new word he might say and beg him to repeat it. It'll come when he's ready.

A friend of mine had a boy who said nothing at all and when he got to two years old, he started to worry. My friend was pushed from pillar to post and had to fight reasonably hard to find anyone to help...the system seems to deliberately take a similar amount of time to kick in as it does for a child who previously didn't say anything to suddenly decide to talk. The point being that the vast majority of us start talking at some stage and if we don't there will be a pretty serious underlying problem which speech is perhaps the least worrying factor. Jake won't slip through that net though so it's good to know he'll be monitored.

One thing, speech aside, which is worrying me slightly is how others will see Jake when his face grows up a bit more. Aside from a slight Elvis curl in his lip, I think the repair is faultless. You can see something on his top lip but in the main it wouldn't cause you to look twice. One side of his nose has a very small variation on the other but most people aren't symmetrical so it's really no big deal. However any imperfections will surely become more noticeable as he grows and it'll be interesting to see how they affect him and if they give him more of the 'clefty' look that many people associate with all of this. I've said on here before that some repairs look better than others and that some people tend to have that squashed down nose look which might well cause a second look. If he gets that will we even notice? As far as we're concerned Jake is the best looking kid in town and always will be but I don't want our blindness through love and constant contact to veil our perception of how others might see him and the implications thereof. I'm sure he'll be fine and others do see him as we do but I remember being teased about having big ears and my parents always told me there was nothing wrong with my ears, as if to easily detract from my paranoia - I don't want Jake to feel like I did, that my parents didn't understand - it's a big deal when you're 8 years old and your peers are taking the piss. You don't have mortgages and job security issues to worry about but your problems still seem like the most important thing in the world.

This is rambling too much so I will stop but for now it seems like Jake is getting on swimmingly and is still likely to become the genius I always knew he would!

Friday 16 April 2010

What a difference a year (and a bit) makes!

Nothing more needs to be said except thank you, thank you and thank you to Mr. Piet Haers, Jake will never be able to say thank you enough for your amazing handywork.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Jake's new playroom

We're nearly there. After almost two and a half years of wanting a new kitchen, it's almost finished. These things always take longer than you think but, genuinely I now think we're at most, a week away from properly living back in the house and enjoying the new room. Most of the kitchen is fitted and will be completed on Friday when the new boiler is fitted so we can move back in on Saturday and get cleaning and putting away. I think the most important part of the project is at the back of the kitchen (which used to be the bathroom), where it widens out to around 9 feet by 6 feet. This is not a large space but it means that the kitchen can be a place for people to be in without being in the way of whoever is cooking or washing. It's also a place for all Jake's toys and in theory, somewhere he can play with them as well. This basically gives us back a large corner of our lounge so that we can do that room up nicely knowing that it won't be a dumping ground for brightly coloured plastic and wooden toys as well as the rainforest's worth of books.

The builders are part of a firm my father is a partner in and as such, it's all being done at cost price. This means that whilst it's undoubtedly the cheapest way of doing the work, I don't have a fixed price or even an estimate come to think of it. I told them my budget and heads were sort of nodded a few weeks back. I've kept everything on a spreadsheet but my original budget is bound to be broken (as they always are). We can't get cracking on the loft conversion until we know exactly what we've spent and how much we have left. At the moment I have a buffer on the kitchen budget but that buffer is also part of the loft budget. There will be no buffer on the loft budget so that will need to be costed in minute detail.

The next dilemma is that since we started doing the kitchen I got confirmation of the full planning permission to do the loft with a dorma. On a previous post I'd mentioned that the roof was a sensible option to put a single room in for Jake and a new bathroom. The dorma option is now tantalising us into perhaps making the loft into our room. The benefits of this are that we would get the benefit of the new space and would be much more likely to use the new bathroom given that it would be on the same level. It would also give the house a third double bedroom instead of being a house with two doubles and a small single. Lastly, it would mean that the spare bed goes from being in Jake's room into our current bedroom which would give Jake an enormous room for a boy of less than two years old and he could have the train set out, instead of it still being in its original packaging under his cot. Also, it means we don't need to redecorate his current bedroom. The issues with this are however, that I don't know if the dorma would make enough of a difference in size that the new bedroom would be bigger than (or even the same size as) our current bedroom and also, fundamentally, what this would do to the budget. Given that I don't even have a costing for the sensible version which doesn't breach the roof space and the lack of buffer, it could be a step too far.

Anyway, next week phase 1 will be complete and a major headache will be over just in time for the next one to begin!

More photos below

Tuesday 13 April 2010


Is there anything worse? I don't think so, I hope not. It seems most days Jake will put too much bread or something a bit too crunchy in his mouth and starts a little pre-choke. The pre-choke usually clears the offending morsel, however on occasion (roughly twice a week), the choke builds to the point parental intervention is necessary. When this happens I get the same feeling every time. Blind panic. It's probably the same feeling a bomb disposal expert gets when he's just cut the wrong wire and sees the clock ticking down. It literally feels like you're the only person who can help and you must solve the problem within seconds.

During the first week of Jake's life I turned him upside down after he'd choked on a cat hair and that was probably a bit over the top, but when there's food stuck in there, you'll do everything to get to it. The trick is to try to remain calm whilst panicking madly so as not to distress the child. If they see you flap, so will they and that'll use up oxygen quicker.

It truly is the most horrible feeling as it happens in an instant. We had to turn him upside down and whack him on the back again at the weekend and it doesn't get any easier. It leaves you out of breath as the adrenaline kicks in. This probably sounds far too dramatic but it isn't.

If I could, I'd feed him on soup until his 18th birthday.

Thursday 8 April 2010


Since November 2007, when we moved into our house we've wanted a bigger kitchen. I love our house and it's definitely the best one we looked at but I'm still amazed the size of the kitchen didn't put me off. We stretched our budget to afford location, Victorian charm and the basement I craved but it wouldn't stretch to a decent sized or specced kitchen.

Honestly, it was all of about 9 feet in length and 5 feet wide with an arch way at one end and a door at the other, further restricting its usefulness. Originally we put in plans for a large extension which would have given us a lounge area and the essential island, but doing that would have been overdeveloping the plot which is on page one of the 'how to lose money doing up your house' manual. So we decided the sensible, if less exciting, option was to make the most of the footprint of our downstairs and do the extension / renovation that the last people got so horribly wrong. I should point out that beyond the doorway at the back of the kitchen was about 25 square feet of dead space which was made up of a walk way and an airing cupboard. O.K, 25 square feet is not much but when you think how little room we had you'll appreciate that every little helps to re-coin a phrase.

So, we've ripped out the old, smashed through the wall at the end, dismantled the airing cupboard 'room', installed stud wall and turned what was the old bathroom into a downstairs cloakroom and a play area for Jake. I say this in the past tense yet technically it's not happened yet. I should say it's what we are doing, not what we have done. Anyway, work is progressing nicely and the room should be ready for the kitchen fitters to start on Monday and we 'should' be back in by the end of next week.

Then they will start the loft conversion. All in all, four weeks of disruption is not much to bear given the end result but a month of living between parents and out of a car (especially when you only have one car between you) seems to last a lot longer than say, a month spent on a beach in the Seychelles. We're lucky that our parents have the space and the inclination to put us up and grateful, but home is home all the same and we can wait to get back to clean up the mess.

Until now I always rubbished claims that babies and toddlers were expensive. We get £80odd a month from the government and that more than covers Jake's food and nappies but it's only now when I'm building a bigger kitchen so we can house his toys and then building him a room in our roof, that I realise how bloody expensive he is!

Here's some of what we're up to.

Thursday 18 March 2010


So, after just 18 months, my boy looked up at me and said,


That was last Sunday morning as we were in bed and Clare was opening her Mother's day cards. The irony of it all!

I've been waiting patiently. Clare's mum has been repeating dadadadadadadadada for the last year or so. He's been saying mamamammamamama for ages so to finally hear him say it was awesome, if long overdue.

He went for his hearing test last week and aced it. They were also happy with his speech development and told us to keep a list on the fridge of the sounds he's making and what we think they might correspond to. Sure enough those words are starting to make sense. Narna is banana, rack-or is tractor and dadda is daddy. So he can talk and his speech is developing nicely. Ever since he sailed through the second operation, this bit is really the only thing we need to worry about regarding the cleft between now and when he goes to school and we monitor possible bullying and then when he's 8 or 9 for the last operation. So it's good he's on the right road.

Separately, I had some nice comments from a lady in Australia who'd found the blog after having had her unborn son's cleft lip diagnosed at her twenty week scan. Whether you're in Oz, Guildford or outer Mongolia you'll immediately go to the web when something like this happens to suck up as much information as possible. It also proves Google works! The longevity of this tome combined with how blogs and search engines work mean that typing in anything from '20 week scan', 'cleft lip and palate blog' or 'probable cleft palate' will usually display What Now?! somewhere near the top. I'm really glad that someone who was searching found something they could take from all of this. It sounds a bit wanky that, and if we hadn't been through all of this, then I'd take the p*ss out of anyone who said such a thing but I do remember the afternoon of our scan vividly. All we wanted was information, before and after photos, and it was all consuming; but for all the medical sites and reports available there wasn't (or at least not when we first had a look around) a personal account of the experience from start to finish. I think we'd have got something from that and I'm pleased to have been able to help in some way.

I've mentioned a couple of times the friend of a friend who emailed me photos of his boy at 18 months after both successful operations. Those were a great help and whilst I didn't know the chap, his empathy was worth so much more than the sympathy we got in spades from all the people we did know.

It's funny how whoever you are, whatever you do, life just circles on. I'm sure the guys who just read this will be passing their experiences on to others in the same situation they're in right now in 18 months' time.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

All better

Good news to report that the boy is much better and back to bouncing around the place like he was before. Just a week long blip which seemed like a lot longer. Problem is now that his sleeping isn't great. And when his sleep isn't great, ours isn't either. We had a week of 4 hours' kip a night. Shushing sessions, gallons of Calpol, crossed fingers and 4am arguments. I believe, in the heat of it all, I said I was moving out the night before last.

I find myself constantly worried about going through all that again. We're at the stage where thoughts of number 2 arise. We're not 'trying' (I really hate that expression) but at some point, we will have to consider the timing of it all. I've written on here before that I think you'd always feel guilty about stopping at one child, yet you'd never feel the necessity to add a third to a brood of two; I said to a friend of mine recently that you could always have an 'accident' pregnancy 5 or 6 years after the second and he said that would be just as bad as having an only child. I've never thought of it like that, but there's 11 years between him and his brother and as far as he's concerned he felt like an only child. Maybe he isn't lumbered by some of the behavioural traits that some only children develop, mainly because he's not an only child, but he felt he missed out somehow. There was always this elder brother, but he couldn't relate to him, couldn't bond like he did with his parents. There was always too much of a gap to bridge and at every new stage of each of their lives, the other was at a different one. So, while they're not strangers, they're certainly not mates and it's no one's fault, just bad timing.

And that's the point isn't it; it's about how it affects the child, not our selfish 2.4 children, 4x4, black Labrador, suburban ideal. So, the gap needs to be enough but not too much. I also think that there's a sense of the sooner it starts, the sooner it'll be over. I.E the hell of sleep deprivation. I'm sure it's not just me but I really do think that's head and shoulders the single worst thing about parenthood. I certainly feel that I've got it in me to do it once more but then, unless I have the money for a live in night nanny, I'm done. So, I totally get why people stop at two but also wouldn't judge anyone who stopped at one. I do think you'd regret it in the long term when the memory of sleep deprivation fades.

Hopefully as his appetite gets fully back on track he'll add the extra hour and half to his sleep pattern which is currently missing and that makes all the difference to mum and dad's sanity!

Thursday 4 March 2010


Jake is not well at the moment. He's had plenty of coughs and colds and a snotty nose for most of his life so far, but this is his biggest illness to date. He's been unable to keep anything down for the last two days and even a sip of water ends up coming back out. I can probably count on less than one hand the number of times he gave us back his milk as a baby so it's especially out of character. Loads of people we know have seen their toddlers go through exactly the same thing recently so we're not overly worried but it's horrible to see nonetheless.

I'm fairly sure it's the norovirus or winter vomiting bug and it's just something he has to get through. For the last 48 hours he's been sleeping and crying. I haven't seen him smile since Tuesday and he's not eaten a thing. Understandable then, that he's not in the best of spirits. Take away my food for that long and I'd tell you all about it too.

He's listless and a bit floppy, exhausted from feeling rubbish and an empty stomach. He just wants to cling onto us and can barely summon the energy to build a proper cry if we have to leave the room. I'm normally quite blasé to the verge of being flippant when it comes to his gripes and sniffles, brushing them aside as something which will help him build his immune system. I think that's just because he normally just cracks on regardless; a runny nose won't stop him running around and wreaking havoc, but this has knocked him off his feet and he's not the same, not even a little bit.

Anyway, I don't wish to be dramatic but it's the first time I've really worried about him in that way. Not worried because I don't think he'll get over it quickly, but worried about how sad it makes him feel and look to us. I can't take it away or make it better. Perhaps the fact that he was up more often last night than when he was new born has also made things seem worse but I can't wait till he's over it and can go back to tearing about the place and being himself again.

Get well soon Jake. x

Thursday 25 February 2010

Our new normal

I was thinking the other day how things have changed in a relatively short space of time. You don't notice at the time but slowly it dawns on you how life slips into a new routine. I remember before Clare and I were married that we'd sometimes complain about being bored, not having a hobby or annoyed that we hadn't made plans. When I look back to that time, where we had a relatively small mortgage, loads of friends on the doorstep and the ultimate freedom that comes with not having a child, I find it hard to believe how we could have been bored. Why didn't we go to the cinema, pub, shopping and any number of things that could have been done at the drop of a hat? Of course we did do those things but perhaps our expectations of entertainment were higher then.

Of course, we were also skint in those days so our ambitions had to be tempered by more modest bank accounts. Not that we're loaded now by any stretch but those more frivolous activities are much more in reach financially if not practically.

So, we can afford to do as we like yet we're not afforded the time to do it in. Again, this is an excuse, we can still do whatever we want, it just needs more planning. And because it needs more planning, we tend not to get around to it until it's too late. However, we're seldom bored. Maybe that's because now, our expectations of entertainment are more realistically lower!

People have asked me how having a child changed me and the reply is always that it hasn't really; I think moving slightly further away from friends and family a year before Jake arrived helped set our expectations. It gradually allowed us to settle into a routine of entertaining ourselves and being happier with our immediate surroundings than constantly looking for new sources of enjoyment. I forget who said it or where I heard it first but one of my favourite sayings is;

"it's not about getting what you want, but about wanting what you've got"

I still have constant gadget craving and we're always looking forward to the next holiday, but Jake has given us a load of perspective on what we can and cannot practically do on an impulse. We can still be impulsive but it needs to be planned! How's that for an oxymoron?!

The point is when I'm asked if I can play golf or bugger off to the pub at a few hours' notice, generally I can't (I'm playing golf tomorrow but it's been in the dairy for a month) but I don't resent that and I especially don't resent Jake for it, it's just the way it is. It's important to make sure it doesn't give you a reason to become lazy but I actually like our new normal, it sets the tone and pace for our lives and keeps us all in check.

It might sound boring and perhaps sometimes it is, but in the main it doesn't feel boring and that's really all that matters.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Personality and performance

Over the last few months, Jake's personality has really developed. He's always been a smiley boy and laughs a lot when we get him at the right moment, but he's much more affectionate of late. Clare always makes a fuss when I come through the door and he gets so excited. I can't tell you how awesome it is to see his face light up when he sees me. He legs it across the dining room with his arms up, often laughing. As soon as I pick him up he buries his head into my shoulder as if he'd never expected my return. That unconditional love is so rewarding and not something I'd anticipated so soon. I like to think I'm a nice enough person but no one else I know greets me with such enthusiasm!

He's starting to work things out now as well and watching him investigate and learn stuff is brilliant. He can walk in my slippers, knows how to use a digital camera (well, he can hold it up and look at the screen), knows which button turns off the telly (really, really annoying) and can choose his favourite biscuit from his box of treats.

I always cringe a bit when people forecast a child's future talents from their early achievements (ooo he opened the toilet seat, he's going to be a plumber etc), but it does look like he quite a creative child. This isn't a proud dad proclamation (although I did get a twinge of proud dad syndrome), his nursery reports make repeated reference to his finger / foot / potato painting - he made an almost perfect snowflake (there's an oxymoron) print last week. His teachers mention his coordination with the materials is really good and he picks things up quite quickly. On the downside they mention that it takes him a while to settle down to activities because he constantly wants to play with something else. Naturally, we've taken this as early signs of ADHD but at least he'll be producing some good stuff when he can concentrate!

The creative / materials stuff is what appealed to me about the Montessori approach. I've mentioned before that I used to think it was a bit hippyish but I didn't really understand it. I think I confused it with that Steiner nonsense where kids don't compete and no one wins etc. To be fair I might even be wrong about that but haven't the inclination to prove myself otherwise. Anyway, I digress; the Montessori method uses lots of natural materials to help children learn by playing and interacting with them. So instead of showing them the number '2' for example, they will make the shape of a 2 out of sandpaper, stick it to a block of wood and get them to trace their finger over it. It could all still be a load of bollocks but it makes sense to me and if it means he gets an appreciation for wood over plastic then I'm all for it.

So, basically the boy is a genius and he really loves me. Can't ask for much more than that.

Friday 15 January 2010

Winter photo update

Here are a few pics of the boy and what we've been up to over the last couple of months.

Mr and Mrs Ansell looking lovely

Mr and Mrs Fernie looking stupid

Fully working Victorian fireplace. In a tent. Health and safetey anyone?!

The Stags

Best men

Wednesday 13 January 2010

2010, snow and babbling

To say the new year started with a bang is the understatment of the new decade. We spent New Year's Eve at the incredible wedding of our friends Ben and Izzy (Bizzy). If you shut your eyes and imagine what a winter wonderland wedding would be like, especially in a marquee attached to a beautiful old house (where the bride grew up), which was dressed by a professional art director (the groom), you'll get close to how it was. It was freezing outside but the marquee was toasty and everything was amazing. From the lovely service to the real trees and working fireplace / mantelpiece in the marquee to the snow at midnight, fake waiters who turned into opera singers half way through, the beef and yorkshire canapes and sausage and mash main, it was just perfect and best of all everyone was there. It's been so long since I spent new year with my closest mates and although we'll always see one or two groups of friends for new year this was a rarity. It was a great day we'll remember for long to come.

As luck would have it, Bizzy invited most of the wedding party on their honeymoon as well! The official honeymoon isn't until March so we all went to St. Anton for a ski and snowboard trip. Everyone else went for the week but ours was a flying visit. Just three days although if you saw my bank balance you'd think we'd been for a month. We had a great time and by chance the place I'd booked us into was less than a minute's walk from the chalet everyone else was in. A good job too when you consider a 2 minute taxi was €12!

Clare found it quite difficult towards the end with missing Jake, especially when we got a text from Easyjet saying our flight had been cancelled. She looked at me and said in a tone which meant she'd really, really meant it 'Get me home!'

So we booked on a BA flight which left only a couple of hours later than the original one and another €420 later we were home. I was hoping Jake would be excited to see us and he was, a huge smile across his face and he came over to us arms up and all was o.k in the world again.

It did us the world of good to go away and spend 4 nights on our own (albeit with 14 drinking buddies) but away from washing up bottles, changing nappies, shushing at 4am and so on and just feel young and carefree for a while. Being able to leave a building 5 seconds after deciding to leave it is a massively underrated experience.

Jake's started talking a lot now. To the point where we couldn't shut him up even if we wanted to. The nursery teachers mentioned that he does it as soon as he opens a book. I think he thinks he should be talking when turning pages as that's what we do with him, although we're obviously reading the words and he's babbling nonsense. I'd love to know if what he's saying makes sense to him and if it's frustrating that we don't know what the hell he's on about. It might be just practising using his voice or a bit of both. What's good though is that he's trying to make word noises; the books say that if your child isn't doing any of this or pointing at things and making frustrated 'uh' noises, it can indicate a potential speech issue. I still think he'll need some speech therapy but this is a good start. He's definitely starting to get the hang of 'dada' now, some 6 months later than normal, and he ran over to me the other day and shouted 'eh-lo' so it's good he's learning a) who I am and b) some social protocol. It proves if you say something a million times, eventually it'll sink in.

So, 2010 has kicked off and work has started again in earnest. I'm hoping for some good karma in that department and so far we're getting some decent enquiries so I just need to turn them into customers, should be simple! At the end of the month we'll find out if our planning permission has been granted or not. If it has we'll be doubling the size of the kitchen (which isn't saying much) and will be adding a small sitting area towards the back of the house. This area will be for Jake to play in, a new TV area for me to watch football in and somewhere to put all of Jake's miscellaneous crap. It'll be like a breath of fresh air as I've recently realised that this year will be my tenth as a homeowner and I've only had a dishwasher for one of those years. It's good to have lofty aspirations.