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.