A day in the life

Like much of the country, I had a day off today, thanks to the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Sadly for her, Gemma didn’t have the day off, which meant I was home alone with the girls. It’s only after they’ve gone to bed that it occurred to me that this is probably the first time this has happened since Megan was born – while Gem’s been working anyway.

So I thought it would be worth documenting my day of house-husbandry, if nothing else as a reminder to prepare me for the next time…

7:20am Gem wakes me up whilst applying her make up. Multi-tasking! Megan is chatting away in her cot, Heather is still sound asleep

7:42am I manage to drag myself out of bed and head for the shower. Heather is yet to make an appearance. “Shall I check on her?” asks Gem. “I’ll check after I come out the shower” I reply

7:43am I turn the shower on, and as if by magic, Heather appears, wild-haired and bleary eyed. This is a common occurrence, albeit usually earlier in the morning – it’s like she’s wired in or something

8:10am We come downstairs, and Gem deals with Megan’s nappy (it’s a stinker) while I make breakfast for the girls clean the mould out of the coffee maker and get a pot of coffee on the go

8:20am Gem leaves for work. I’m now on my own. Which is fine, I’ve done this before, what can possibly go wrong?

8:25am Sit down for Cheerios with the girls (fruity Shredded Wheat for Megan). So far so good

8:35am Trying to empty the dishwasher while the girls are eating doesn’t exactly go to plan, because they’re done, and aren’t happy sitting at the table without food. Move the cutlery holder and all the sharp knives out of the way, and turn the TV on as a distraction. Megan still tries her best to “help”

8:50am Dishwasher done, and Megan apparently isn’t happy about it. And she’s LOUD! Remember Gem said to give her some Calpol on account of her sniffles. Discover the brand new bottle has smashed all over the inside of the changing bag. Panic when I can’t find any more.

8:57am Phone Gem’s mobile – no answer

8:58am Phone Gem’s work, to see if we have more Calpol. A recording tells me the switchboard isn’t yet manned, and to call back back after 9

8:59am Email Gem at work. The message says simply “Phone me, please”.

9:04am Phone Gem’s work again. Discover email went to her Junk Folder. Receive vital information about possible locations of Calpol. Find some, administer and relax

9:15am Megan, in a Calpol haze, falls off a little chair and bursts her lip. Volume instantly cranked up to 11. Again.

11:00am Day getting better – playing “fishing” with the girls. This consists of casting a piece of ribbon, baited with a Snow White figure, across the living room, then reeling in whichever girl picked it up. Fun. Heather takes a turn as the fisherman and adds a new twist – the fish (ie me) has to pretend to be asleep before Snow White is cast. Whatever. Knowing it will make her smile at work, I send Gem a pic of Megan playing in Heather’s car booster seat. Couldn’t get Heather to sit still long enough to get one of her too.

Megan in Heather's car seat

11:30am Megan looking tired. Realise it’s too late for a nap before lunch. Curse my lack of planning

12:00pm Lunch – sandwiches a success, fruit slightly less so (with Heather at least – Megan ate hers)

12:30pm Deposit Megan in her cot, she falls asleep instantly. Play some more fishing and possibly doze off briefly while pretending to sleep. Oh the irony. Put some washing in the tumble dryer

2:30pm No sooner have I thought “it’s about time to wake Megan up” and I hear her on the monitor. Put clean, folded laundry away and get Megan up and dressed

3:00pm Set off with the girls to visit Uncle Ian and Nana. On the way, Heather falls off her scooter and scrapes her knee. Another parenting fail

3:10pm Relax with the last few clues from yesterday’s crossword while Uncle Ian and Nana entertain the girls. Bliss

4:35pm Head for home, to get the girls’ dinner on. Realise I have no idea what to give them. Email Gem

4:39pm Receive an email suggesting eggy dip (French toast) and pointing out they had fish fingers yesterday – good job I asked, because I was going to go with fish fingers. Play in the garden for 15 minutes, and leave the girls out there while I make their dinner

5:10pm Serve dinner

5:15pm Realise the girls didn’t wash their hands before dinner. Another failure

5:30pm Finished, Heather asks for more eggy dip. Unsure what to do, I’m more than a little  relieved when the door opens and Gem walks in, instantly taking this decision out of my hands (she said no more, which is what I thought. Honest)

And that, plus bathtime (Megan threw water in my crotch) and making dinner (a surprisingly tasty diet carbonara) was my day. Which, I guess, is a fairly typical (“non-working”) day for Gem, and any other stay at home parent for that matter.

While it is fun, and it truly is great getting to spend so much time with the girls, it’s also been a very tiring day. And that’s when they’ve been well behaved – how much harder would it have been if one or both had been in a naughty mood? Nothing but respect for anyone who does this on a regular basis.

“Real” work tomorrow will be a breeze in comparison.

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!

Drinking water to stay thin

Or, in my case, to get thin. Well, not exactly thin, just… less un-thin. Yes, I’m on a diet.

I’ve been resisting writing about The Diet until I had hit some kind of major milestone. To be honest I have no idea why that was the case, but it was. Maybe I was scared that by talking about it I might somehow jinx things. But now I am writing about it, so I must have hit that milestone, right? Right!

Since The Diet began, just over six weeks ago, I have lost…… insert drumroll here….. just over a stone! That’s 14lb if you’re American, or 6.35kg if you’re from just about anywhere else. Whichever way you measure it, it’s a significant weight loss, and I’m pretty pleased with myself for achieving it.

But there’s still a fair old way to go. Believe it or not, the weight I’ve lost thus far only just nudges me from obese into overweight, according to the Body Mass Index (BMI). Now, I know BMI isn’t the be-all and end-all, and that various medical folk disagree with various aspects of it, but it’s probably as good an indication as anything of where I should be aiming for.

My ultimate goal isn’t to be in the “normal range” (BMI between 20 and 24.9) – I reckon I’d be a bit too skinny for my liking, and anyway, Wikipedia tells me that health-wise, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Instead, I’m aiming for somewhere in the bottom half of “overweight”. Of course, once I get there I might change my mind, but that’s my long-term goal at the moment.

So what’s my secret? What have I changed? Well, actually not very much. In fact, I think the changes could be boiled down to three things:

  • More Exercise We’ve cracked out the Wii Fit again, and mostly been good at sticking to a reasonable exercise programme. I know it doesn’t burn a huge amount of calories, but something is better than nothing, and it’s cheaper and easier (with 2 small people to think about) than going to the gym!
  • Less beer No more cheeky wee beer(s) with midweek dinner is helping a lot, and at the weekends I’m being much more selective in what I drink – if I’m going to limit myself, I might as well drink something better than whatever is on offer in the supermarket, right?
  • Diet meals Gemma has joined Slimming World, and as a result has learned a lot of ways to make the food we already eat friendly enough to eat on The Diet. And the best part is everything still tastes great, and there’s plenty of it. What more could you ask for?

My next target is a nice round number which modesty prevents me from sharing, but I’m hoping to get there some time in mid to late April. If I keep losing weight at the rate I am currently, I could get there even sooner. Who knows, I might even need a new summer wardrobe!

I should also mention that Gemma, who’s doing even better than me, is documenting our diet journey in much greater detail, over at Greetings from Dietville. Why not head over there, and leave her some encouraging words?

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!

When I wake up early in the morning…

Heather's Big Girl Bed!

Heather is growing up so quickly it’s ridiculous. Her first steps and words, those important markers in every child’s development, seem like a million years ago. I thought the rate of change would have slowed down by now, but if anything the last three months feel like even more of a whirlwind than the preceding two years.

Back in March, when Megan was born, Heather was still in nappies 24/7 and still slept in a cot. She’s been nappyless during the day for about a month now (even managing a wee in the toilet on our cake date at 3 Steps to Heaven!). As of Sunday night she’s been nappyless at night too, and doing about as well as can be expected.

Something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now, though, is her transition from cot to bed – or Big Girl Bed as Heather likes to call it. We’d planned to move her before Megan needed the cot, and had bought the bed well in advance – it was on offer and flat packed beds don’t clutter the place up too much. Things happened sooner than we expected, though, thanks to the cot’s drop-side coming off one of its runners one night at bed-time – THE INCIDENT as I like to call it.

After a couple of minutes it became apparent that fixing the side would involve partially dismantling the cot – not ideal when your toddler is sobbing her eyes out because her cot is broken. And so began the job of convincing her that it wasn’t broken, and that we’d taken the side off as a practice for the big girl bed she was so looking forward to sleeping in.

Getting her to stay in bed those first few nights was a challenge, although not as bad as it could have been. For the most part Heather is a good sleeper, so once she actually dropped off we didn’t have too much trouble – getting her to stay in bed long enough to drop off was the harder part. And especially once she was in her new Big Girl Room, with its Big Girl Bed, bedtime was good again. There was just one more problem – light mornings!

Being woken at 5am by a toddler who’s convinced it’s getting up time, because it’s light outside, isn’t fun. Trying to convince said toddler that she needs to go back to bed because it’s too early is even less fun -and it’s hard to argue with the light coming through the cracks in the curtains!

It was Gem who came up with the solution though – we got her a Gro-clock, and for me it is absolutely the best parenting gadget we’ve bought. I genuinely can’t speak highly enough about it, and would recommend it to anyone in an instant.

Like all the best ideas, it’s pretty simple – when your child should be asleep it shows a blue star, and when it’s time to get up it turns into a yellow sun. What could be simpler? Getting up time is set just like an alarm clock, and two different times can be pre-programmed, which means we can easily sneak a few extra minutes in bed at weekends. The buttons also have a lock function, to stop your little one bringing the sun up early – invaluable with a child like Heather who will press any buttons she sees, and is very adept at figuring out what they do.

Stay in bed...

...until the sun!

The clock comes with a rhyming story book, about the animals on Sleepy Farm who club together to buy lazy Percy Pig a Gro-clock so he’ll know when to stay in bed – see what they’ve done there? After two months of reading it every night at bed-time, Heather pretty much knows the story off by heart – and Mummy and Daddy aren’t far behind!

Again, we might have been lucky, but it only took a night or two for Heather to get the hang of it, and now it’s rare to see her up before the sun. In fact, there have been a few times we’ve heard her get a book out and read in bed while she waits for the sun, rather than coming to wake us.

Amazon are currently selling the Gro-clock for £22.75, and it’s definitely worth every penny!

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!

The internet is really really great…

I honestly have no idea how long it is since me and Gem had a night out, just the two of us, neither driving, and without kids in tow. At least a year, I’d say, taking into account our almost 4 month old and the preceding nine months of pregnancy. Fair to say, then, that Saturday night’s outing can be described as a rare treat!

First step was dropping the girls off, something Gem had been dreading because it’s the first time Megan’s been left anywhere without us. Meanwhile, Heather was desparate to get to Grandma’s house (Grandpa isn’t allowed naming right, apparently!) for the sleepover she’d been looking forward to for days. Amazingly there were no tears (from anyone) on our departure. I mean, Megan wasn’t exactly happy, but that was due to sore gums rather than anything else.

Torres was the venue for our pre-theatre meal, somewhere we’ve not been to before. We love tapas, and although we know nothing will ever compare to the best tapas bar ever, we keep looking. We were booked on a 5pm.co.uk deal offering 3 tapas and a glass of house wine for £10.95, which caused much confusion when we asked for a couple of Estrellas before ordering. That aside, service was good, as was the food which arrived almost as soon as we’d ordered – I suspect that was down to the early evening quiet!

We did, however, have cause to complain, when our desserts arrived frozen – fine if you’ve ordered ice cream, not so much when it’s cheesecake or tiramisu. Sorted out without fuss though, which is always nice to see, and certainly wouldn’t put us off going back. We tend to think Merchant City before Sauchiehall St when it comes to Glasgow, but Torres is definitely handy for the King’s which means a return isn’t out of the question.

Following our meal, we had time to hit for one more pre-theatre drink, and headed into the Hippo Lounge for a quick drink. Although familiar with its Gordon St sibling, it was the first time either of us had been here, and it didn’t disappoint – particularly as their well-stocked bier list included two of our favourites from last year’s NYC trip!

The evening’s main event was Avenue Q which is most easily described as Sesame Street for grown-ups. Most of the main characters are muppet-style puppets, who only exist from the waist up and are carried around by one – or in a few cases, two – puppeteers, who also provide their voices. It’s amazing how easy it is to focus on the puppets though, and before long you barely notice the people behind them, which I guess is testament to their skill.

Revolving around various people (and monsters!) living on the same New York street, Avenue Q is a very funny show about adjusting to life in the real world, and learning to be yourself. Song highlights include It Sucks To Be Me, Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, and The Internet Is For Porn. Possibly not for the easily offended then, but definitely a show I’d watch again.

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!

I’ve got all the riches, baby, one man can claim

Sisters!

With Sunday coming being Father’s Day – at least here in the UK – I thought it would be nice to write about my two beautiful daughters, and what it’s like being their dad. I will warn you, this could get nauseating, so if you’ve got a weak stomach, it might be worth looking away now!

Megan is the youngest of our little’uns, recently reaching the ripe old age of three months, and has already developed the most beautiful smile, which we get to see an awful lot of, which is an absolute joy. Significantly less joyful though, is when she’s not happy – my goodness can that girl scream. I’m no expert, but I have been in the company of a few babies in recent years, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard one as loud and piercing as our Megan. Honestly, it has to be heard to be believed, but that girl has an amazing pair of lungs in there.

Fortunately she’s generally a very contented baby, which means we get a lot more smiles than crying (I was going to write “tears” there, but those are only just starting to come in so that wouldn’t have been right). She’s a lot calmer than her older sister was, and has been since she was born, which is a bit of relief – our worst nightmare was that Heather turned out to be the quiet one!

Speaking of Heather, she’s now two and a half, and is definitely a little girl rather than a baby or even a toddler. The changes we’ve seen in her since Megan was born are quite incredible. Three months ago she was a great communicator with an expansive vocabulary, but still only used fragments of two or three words at a time. Now she uses full sentences, and by full I mean full. Last week she told me “I can’t get dressed yet, Mummy told me Megan is sleeping in my room”. That’s pretty impressive.

As is her grasp of technology – I really need to write about that at some point, because it constantly amazes us what she’s capable of doing. And her memory… in the last few weeks it’s been like something new got switched on, because her powers of recall have increased beyond belief, remembering not just things that happened recently, but stuff that happened months or even years ago – when that happens me and Gem just look at each other, jaws slack, and think “how?”.

Yes, she can be challenging – ignoring us when we ask her to do something is a particular frustration, and she’s ALWAYS a flight risk – but the life that springs out of her, (I swear that the word “boisterous” was invented just to describe her) and the smiles it puts on the faces of everyone who meets her more than compensates.

So that’s our two girls, but what’s it like being their dad? A lot of fun is the short answer, but I think that needs some qualification. We’re quite a traditional family in a lot of ways – I work five days a week, while Gem stays home with the girls three days out of five (all five just now, thanks to maternity leave!). So I miss out on a lot of the tantrums, spilled food/water and stress of having to juggle looking after two kids and a house. And I haven’t yet had to remove stinky poo from anything except a nappy! Instead, I get to be fun Daddy, who (almost) always has time to play and is more than willing to join in, whether it’s doing silly voices (Daddy Robot is a real favourite), jumping like a frog, or singing “Winkle roses” (Ring a Ring o’ Roses) while going round in circles in the kitchen.

The downside to that, of course, is that I rarely get to see any of the firsts – leaving the house within an hour of us all getting up, and getting home an hour before bedtime means the odds are always in favour of those happening when I’m out. But it just makes the firsts I do get, like Megan’s first giggle, even more precious. And if, like tonight, I do something straight after work, it means I don’t see my girls for a whole day, which can be tough (Heather said as I was leaving this morning “see you when you get home”… :( )

On balance, though, I think the good outweighs the bad, and I definitely think I have a much easier ride than Gem does (although whether I should admit that to the world is a different story – more chores coming my way I think!).

Being a dad is awesome, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Now, bring on the lie-in and the presents…

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!