This hand is your hand

Calendars made from handprints

For the first three years of her life, Heather went pretty much every week to a local Gymboree class. Not only did it give her a chance to interact with other kids on a regular basis, it was also great for her physical development, especially her climbing ability (although we’re still cursing that for the time we found her on top of the changing table – those drawers have never been the same since).

In her last few months before starting nursery, she moved on from the physical/music classes at Gymboree, and into an art/craft class. Every week she came home with a different creation, and one of my favourites was a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer calendar, made from hand and foot prints. In fact, I loved it so much I brought it into work and hung it on the wall next to my desk.

As 2012 was drawing to a close, it occurred to me that I should probably take the calendar down once it was no longer relevant, but I didn’t really want to – it’s nice to have a reminder of my wee family while I’m working away.

So I was thrilled to discover after her first day back at nursery that Heather had, in fact, made a 2013 calendar, again featuring her own handprints. It also has a lovely verse on it, which reads as follows:

Ten tiny fingers that always want to play,
That never stop exploring that wonder of today.
Ten tiny fingers that from the very start,
Will reach out for tomorrow yet always hold your heart.

It was interesting to compare the handprints, and see how much Heather’s hands have changed over the year. They’re bigger, obviously, but it’s much more noticeable in her fingers, which are much longer and thinner, than her palms which don’t seem to have grown that much.

Yesterday I made the changeover, and although I was a bit sad to see startled Rudolph come down, the new calendar looks every bit as good on the wall. It made me think of Homer Simpson in an episode of the Simpsons which has made Gemma cry on more than one occasion. It’s called “And Maggie Makes Three” and is the story of how Maggie joined the Simpson clan.

Homer has left the power plant to work in the bowling alley, but has to go back when Marge falls pregnant because the pay is better. At the end, Mr Burns puts up a plaque next to Homer’s desk, saying “Don’t forget, you’re her forever” but Homer covers it in pictures of Maggie until it reads “Do it for her”. I guess Heather’s calendar is my version of that plaque.

This time next year, of course, Heather will be at primary school. Hopefully they make calendars too! Or maybe Megan will be able to make me one? Either way, this is becoming a bit of a tradition, and I don’t want it to end.

I had a look on YouTube for the final scene of that Simpsons episode, but could only find it in Spanish. Even though I can’t understand a word, I think the meaning still comes across…

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

NFL fan night – Edinburgh, 7th January 2013

Jeff Reinebold, Neil Reynolds and Mark Brunell 7-Jan-2013

On Sunday I wrote about my excitement at my team, the Washington Redskins, returning to relevance with their first division title, and first home playoff game, since 1999. Sadly the  excitement was short-lived, as the season came to a shuddering halt, along with quarterback Robert Griffin III’s injured knee. Fingers crossed it’s not as career threatening as it looks, but it’s definitely a nasty one.

My post-season blues were very quickly shrugged off, though, as I had something else to look forward to – an NFL fan night to be held in Edinburgh the following evening. Although I hadn’t been lucky enough to secure tickets, my friend Ian had, and so it was that we headed through to Auld Reekie not really knowing what to expect.

We arrived at the venue, the rather magnificent Hub, about 10 minutes before the evening was due to begin, and found ourselves decent seats in the middle of the hall. I reckon about 200 fans were in attendance, mainly decked out in NFL jerseys or other merchandise, and with most of the league’s 32 teams represented – exactly the kind of thing I expect the organisers were expecting to see.

After a brief welcome from Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds, the evening began with a film, Barry Sanders: A Football Life. Now I love NFL Films, who’ve been setting the standard for sports documentaries for a long, long time. And this retrospective of one of the best running backs of all time (third best, according to his own father!) didn’t disappoint. The mix of archive footage and interviews, mixed with modern day interviews was perfectly presented, and I learned a lot about a player I remember fondly but didn’t have much opportunity to see play.

Jeff Reinebold and me

with Jeff Reinebold

After the film it was on to the main event, a chalk talk and Q&A with coach Jeff Reinebold and NFL legend Mark Brunell, who just happens to be the last Redskins QB to win a playoff game! This portion of the evening was let down slightly by technical issues – Reinebold appeared to be having problems with his telestrator. Instead we got a live action demonstration of zone read blocking, during which he managed to “offend” Edinburgh Wolves head coach Don Edmonston with a jibe about offensive linemen’s athleticism. Other topics covered included the upcoming NFL games at Wembley and a look at each of the teams still in the hunt for this year’s Super Bowl, as well as answering questions from the floor.

Things came to a close about 9:45,, and after getting pictures with Reinebold and Brunell it was time to head for home. I really enjoyed the evening, and felt like I learned a lot. Reinebold is a charismatic presenter, who makes even the complicated aspects of the game easy to understand (the game itself, he says, is actually pretty simple – something I’d agree with) and had the audience in the palm of his hand. As you’d expect of a 19 year NFL veteran, Brunell had some stories to tell, and it was great to hear first hand accounts of guys like Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Drew Brees. Reynolds, too, was excellent, keeping the evening moving and throwing in some stories of his own.

Mark Brunell and me

with Mark Brunell

Similar events are being held tonight and tomorrow in Birmingham and Leeds, and I’m sure all those in attendance will enjoy them as much as I did. It’s great that the NFL are putting on events such as those, and bringing the game closer to far-off fans. As I wrote the other day, it’s all a far cry from the week old highlights we watched back in the 80s, and long may it continue!

I’m already looking forward to the next event, whenever or wherever it might be. Glasgow would be nice!

Tickets for this year’s NFL International Series games at Wembley are now on sale. Visit for more information

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!