A week at Nanny Fran’s

A second update in just over a week, I’m trying to make amends for the lack of activity in 2013 thus far.  So what warrants this activity?  In a word (or two) half-term.  The first half term of the year was the first half term since Nanny Fran’s retirement and the last break before Baguette number three makes his arrival.  Nanny Fran therefore kindly offered to look after both girls for the week.  Obviously we asked the girls if they wanted to go to Nanny Fran’s for a sleepover and the answer was an overwhelming, yes.  Indeed they were excited for the entire lead up to their Black Country adventure and spoke of it constantly for at least the week beforehand.  Thus, Sunday morning while Lucinda was completing her antepenultimate day of work before thirteen and a half months of holiday and maternity leave kick in, I drove the girls up the M40 and their home for the next 5 days, West Bromwich.

As is the norm these days ‘Muppets – Soundtrack’ CD was fired up and before Starship’s ‘We built this city’ had begun both girls were asleep and so I could continue with Daddy’s choice of music.  As we approached West Bromwich they awoke and as I pulled up outside my childhood home both girls got out of the car all excited to see Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz and quickly made themselves at home.  Since they were so settled I decided that I would head back home after lunch.

And so a week away from the girls (and a week off work) began.  It was a very strange feeling and the house seemed very empty (and quiet) without them, however it did allow us to get on with all the jobs that we felt needed to be done in order to prepare the house for Baguette number three’s arrival.

So what did we do?  Task one was to move the girls in together.  We had decided that we wanted to move the girls in together to free up the box room ready for the new arrival, and although the need for that bedroom is at least three months away (he will be in our room for the first few months), we wanted to move them in together prior to his arrival.  The reasoning behind this was to prevent his arrival being associated in the girls’ minds with a change in circumstances. Life is going to change enough with their little brother’s arrival without the loss of their individual freedoms.  So, what was, Éowyn’s room was emptied and bunk beds were built and then furniture returned.  This also gave us the opportunity to deep clean the entire room and organise their many toys.  The beauty of the bunk bed arrangement means that they have a lot of floor space on which to play.

Although this sounds like a relatively quick job, it did take best part of the day.  However we did finish early so that we could take advantage of an evening without child responsibilities and go out for a meal and actually relax in each other’s company without entertaining small ones at the same time.

The second day we spent out of the house primarily looking at cars.  As previously mentioned the imminent arrival of number three means that Lucinda’s Nissan Micra was a little too small.  We spent sometime researching cars back at the tail end of the summer and we poised to make the decision until Lucinda’s appendix interrupted the process.  Now we had the opportunity we decided to see what was on the market.  We knew the type of car we wanted: A second-hand Ford S-Max.  We knew the specification that we were having, the price range we were willing to pay and the extras we expected to get.  Not expecting to see the exact car we wanted we headed to a Ford dealership that we knew had a large selection of S-Maxes to put our names down and give them the specifications we were after.  We looked at a number of S-Maxes and then amazingly we found one that fitted our requirements.  A test drive and conversation later we put our deposit down and arranged a pick up for the following Tuesday.

Lunch beckoned and then time to make another purchase.  This one not as expensive but just as important: a new mattress.  After an hour or two of trying out mattresses across a number of bed showrooms before we found the one that we both felt was the most comfortable and again a conversation later we had made our purchase and we had a second successful day had been completed.

Excited about our purchase (the car) and thinking that it would be nice for the girls to talk to their parents we decided to ‘Facetime’ (other videtelephony software is available) the girls.  Unfortunately that was a bad idea and one we will not repeat should they stay with Nanny Fran in the future.  Both girls became very upset and insisted they wanted to come home.  This in turn upset us, even though we knew that they were fine, but their upset continued into the night which caused Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz to have less sleep than they are used to.

The remainder of the week was spent getting plastic boxes of new born clothes and toys out of the loft and cleaning the house from top to bottom.  Lucinda is in full nesting mode something that is very difficult to accomplish when there are small ones running around and preventing full nesting behaviour.

Friday was Lucinda’s penultimate day at work and the day that I picked our little ones up and they got to see their bunk beds for the first time.  But more of that in a later write up.  But what did the girls get up to in West Bromwich?  If you ask Éowyn then it was nothing.  Whenever Éowyn has been anywhere and you ask her about it and what she has done the answer is always nothing. ‘Éowyn, what did you do at school today?‘ ‘Nothing.‘  ‘Éowyn, what did you do with Mommy today?‘  ‘Nothing.‘  So we found out off Nanny Fran.

As I mentioned at the start of this write up Éowyn and Amélie ran into Nanny Fran’s house all excited on the Sunday morning.  They made themselves at home almost immediately getting their toys out and settling in for the week.  Then Amélie put her toys and they she went up to Auntie Liz and asked for her nails to be painted.  Auntie Liz obliged and so I was surplus to requirements.

The next day Auntie Liz had taken the day off work and so the four of them headed off on an adventure to Hatton Adventure Farm at Hatton Country World.  They spent the best part of the day there playing in the various playgrounds and visiting the farm animals.  There is even a petting zoo and the girls got the chance to hold a Guinea Pig.  Amélie was apparently the more bold of the two, volunteering to hold the rodent but Éowyn took some convincing, and would only stroke it so as not to allow her younger sister the upper hand.

Tuesday saw Auntie Liz at work and so Nanny Fran had them both to herself.  So Tuesday’s adventure was contained to the town of West Bromwich.  They paid money into their bank accounts and headed to Nanny Fran’s erstwhile workplace.  Again the girls were very well behaved but again Amélie was more bold than her elder sister greeting all of Nanny Fran’s ex-colleagues and even kissing them good bye as they left.

Auntie Liz took Wednesday off so Nanny Fran had support for the second day of the week and more adventures were had including a trip West Bromwich’s Dartmouth Park.  So Éowyn’s summary of ‘nothing‘ as you can see was somewhat misleading.  In addition to the adventures there were visitors to Nanny Fran’s house and visits to various friends in West Bromwich including a trip to see Great Grandma.

I am not sure who enjoyed the trip to West Bromwich the most the girls or Nanny Fran.  Neither am I sure who was the most tired after the week in West Bromwich the girls or Nanny Fran.  It was unfortunate that the weather particular wintry (it is winter) which meant that there weren’t too many attractions open and also it was a little too cold to spend too much outside (for Nanny Fran as much as the girls!). Therefore when it warms up a little and Nanny Fran has had a chance to recover the girls will have to go up for another extended visit.  This will appease the girls since they were very upset to leave Nanny Fran’s and didn’t particularly want to come back home (that’s a nice thing for us to hear – we are only their parents!).

So Lucinda is now on maternity leave and the countdown is nearing its conclusion therefore stand by for the big news in the next week or so.

Peace and Love





The snow, it’s bin and gone and ‘ay come again!

We are midway through February (frightening isn’t it?) and since the last update the fortnight seems to have been filled with many events but without a lot happening too.  I can see a lot of quizzical looks at that apparent oxymoronic statement.

I took the last of the last year’s holiday entitlement on the first Friday of February to give myself a long weekend.  Thus I decided to go and pick Éowyn up from playbox.  I am waiting outside with the other mothers when the door opened and I was beckoned inside.  Éowyn had been misbehaving all day, culminating it her hitting another child with a wooden piano across the head.  I felt like a child who had been summoned into the Headmaster’s office and sat there mortified at what she had done.  Éowyn can be wilful and determined but this was a step into uncharted territory and something that we obviously need to nip in the bud.

Children’s behaviour is very rarely an isolated change in their personality but more a response to an external situation however trivial that it seems to those around them (probably true of adults too!).  The trick is identifying it and neutralising it, but not allowing the crimes to go unpunished either.  (That is what we are attempting anyhow, we’ll let you know in 20 years if it works.)  So what are the stimuli that are causing Éowyn to behave the way she is.  It is her little sister.  Not directly but the attention that Amélie receives and encouragement she is getting for doing things that Éowyn can easily do is probably the first and foremost reason.  This is not to say that Éowyn does not get any attention but she has to share that attention.  So therefore when she wants the attention and she is not getting the attention she requires immediately then she is naughty: for then she gets the attention.   It might be Mommy or Daddy telling her off but it is attention and more importantly Amélie is not getting any while we are pre-occupied with her.  Knowing the psychology is easy, putting it into practise when you have two screaming kids running around; you need to get the dinner ready; you are not feeling well and the telephone is ringing is a different matter.  So stricter and fairer and more conscious of how we are treating them both is the regime going forward.

The weekend gave a good excuse to have some Daddy and Éowyn time: it snowed.  It was the first dump of snow that the South East of England had seen this winter and although it wasn’t a fall of snow that I recall from my childhood it was certainly enough snow to build a snowman.  Unfortunately Lucinda was at work and since it was cold (not as cold as it has been across Europe, where record lows were being recorded) and I wanted it to be a special time for Éowyn we had to wait until Amélie had a mid morning nap.  This meant that a number of the neighbours had already build their snowmen by the time that we got out and, also the day had warmed and then cooled so that the snow wasn’t as light and fluffy as it had been first thing.  Nevertheless, relatively happy with our snowmen (look at the photos below) and Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed making them (the heads we solely her creations).  It was amusing that the following day the temperature had warmed such that all the lying snow melted and all that was left was a scattering of snow zombies as the snowmen’s features slowly melted during the day then refroze at night.  It then turned bitterly cold for nearly a week and no further melting took place.  We then received a second (smaller) fall of snow that re-coated everything before the temperature has returned to more usual February temperatures and only the carcasses of the snow zombies remain (although I do not give them very more days of survival in these conditions).

Amélie is still resisting the complete transition to bipedal locomotion.  Her attempts are more frequent and she can totter around for quite a while before gravity wins the argument but she still prefers the racing crawl method or shuffles about on her knees.  She is such a lazy tyke.  She gets away with it because she has a big sister that will do things for her and she has such a cheeky grin when she wants to get her own way.  We will have to see what we can do to encourage the full move, but at least it is a step in the right direction (see what I did there?).

Thursday 10th February was Uncle Albert’s funeral.  I had been asked to say a few words (the first time I had been asked to speak at a funeral) and in a strange way I was looking forward to it.  However fate had other ideas.  Éowyn had been under the weather for a couple of days and didn’t really think too much of it as kids are always feeling grotty as their immune systems encounter attacks for the first time and busy themselves creating defences.  However on the Tuesday Lucinda began to feel ill and then on the Wednesday I was knocked for six.  So much so that I went home early from work on Wednesday (I never go home ill) and on the Thursday could only drag myself out of bed to lie on the sofa (and Lucinda the same).  Fortunately I had the wherewithal on the Wednesday night to call Mom to tell her that we wouldn’t be attending (the funeral was at 1000 and that would mean leaving at 0700 and with all the will in the world even if I fell 100 times better there was no way it was going to happen) the fact that we were worse the next day justified that decision.  It was sad that we never managed to say goodbye to Uncle Albert (although I am sure he understood) and hello to a lot of relatives that we don’t see very often.  Uncle Albert’s death has left my Nan as the sole living representative of her generation on either side of our family.

Éowyn has taken a big step forward in growing up.  She decided last Saturday night that she didn’t want to wear a nappy to bed any more.  She has been nappy free in the day for many months but has always wanted the confidence of a nappy on at night.  Not any more.  She said that she didn’t want it so we didn’t put it on her.  We put her potty near her bed so she didn’t have to go too far in the night and prepared ourselves for wet pyjamas and changing the bedclothes.  We need not have fretted she has made the transition effortlessly so far.  She was obviously ready and waited until she knew herself that she was ready and that was it.

To reward this, and to give me an excuse to go and see it too, I took Éowyn to the cinema for the first time.  It is half-term so there are a number of films out aimed at kids (and big kids) and there are special early showtimes too.  When I was a little older than Éowyn is now, one of my favourite shows was The Muppet Show.  I own a number of DVDs of The Muppets and Éowyn has seen some of them so when I heard that the new Muppet movie was out for half term the choice of which film to go and see was made easy.  I think Éowyn was over-awed by the whole cinema experience although overall she seemed to thoroughly enjoy it (probably not as much as her dad did!).  She didn’t think much of popcorn and was frustrated by all the adverts and trails for other films (aren’t we all).  The little Toy Story short before the film was a bonus and she sat as good as gold for the entire length of the film.  I would quite happily take her to see another film again, and knowing my love of the cinema and of ‘children’s movies’ it would be no great hardship.

Anyhow, I will leave you with that (go and see the movie if only for a barbershop quartet rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ – you have been warned).

Peace and Love


Not the Pox you are looking for…

With renewed determination another update appears.  The key, I have come to the conclusion, is not to wait for something interesting to happen and then write about it; rather write about what happened and try to make it interesting.  That may seem like just semantics to you but it is actually a complete change in direction.  Let us see how it works in practise. 

Following the great kitchen upgrade, we have decided that the dining room and lounge are in need of some TLC.  With a quote for flooring under our belt, we have decided that before the new flooring goes down the walls (and ceiling) need a lick of paint.  One job leads to another though and in order to paint the walls, the furniture needs to be moved; in order for the furniture to be moved, they need to be emptied of stuff.  The big question is where do you put the stuff.  That is where we are at.  Plastic boxes of stuff with furniture in the middle of the room, with newly painted walls.  All this while entertaining two small children and still doing all the things that one has to do (go to work, cook meals, go shopping, etc). 

Fortunately, we thought, Éowyn is at school and so with some fortune, Amélie will be asleep and we can crack on with it.  However, those plans were scuppered before they could be put into action.  Friday morning Lucinda took Éowyn to Playbox, as usual, however it wasn’t long before she received a phonecall.  They had noticed that Éowyn had a rash across her chest and abdomen and were concerned that it was Chicken Pox.  Lucinda was asked to collect her and keep her at home for the next couple of weeks.  Obviously concerned it was Chicken Pox we stocked up on Calamine lotion and waited for the spots to scab over and the itching to start, not to mention worrying about whether Amélie was about to come down with it too.

We kept an eye on the spots but when they did not develop as we expected our concern changed and with our doctor’s surgery closed for the weekend we phoned NHS direct.  After going through Éowyn’s symptoms it seems that she has still avoided Chicken Pox and was diagnosed with a non-specific viral rash.  Very common (and something Éowyn has had before – but not on the scale she had at the weekend) among toddlers (in fact a child of a friend of ours, also had one over the same weekend!) it was just that Playbox were duly concerned and the rash seemed to emulate the initial symptoms of Chicken Pox (i.e. similar looking spots, in the same areas that Chicken Pox begins).  The spots began to fade by Wednesday (as we were told they would) and so Éowyn is still waiting for her first childhood illness and we have an unopened bottle of Calamine lotion.

With Éowyn (and Amélie) in the clear Lucinda and I could take advantage of an offer I received with my car insurance.  In order to retain my custom, my car insurance firm offered me a night in a hotel to be taken by the end of July.  Unfortunately most of the hotels in the scheme did not include weekends, however we found a hotel in Didsbury in Manchester.  I spent three years in Manchester (at university) and so thought that this was a fortuitous coincidence to show Lucinda my old stomping ground.

Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz kindly agreed to look after Éowyn and Amélie so we could have a child free night!  Therefore we headed up to West Bromwich after I finished work so that we could spend one night with Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz before abandoning the kids!  Éowyn was extremely excited about seeing Nanny Fran and tried to stay awake for the car journey.  However, we told her that we would wake her when we arrived at Nanny Fran’s so she would drop off.  That placated her and she duly fell asleep.  There was no need to wake her when we arrived at West Bromwich for as soon as we came up the ramp at junction 1 of the M5 a little voice in the back piped up, ‘Are we at Nanny Fran’s?

We had one errand to do before leaving for Didsbury, which was to open a bank (well building society) account for Amélie.  This took longer than we expected but found ourselves on the road for about 1130.  Coincidentally one of Lucinda’s university friends, Ruth, was getting married.  She lives on the outskirts of Chester so we had toyed with the idea of dropping off her card and pressie and spending the afternoon in Chester before heading across country.  However, fate intervened and plans had to change.  A lorry jack-knifed on the M6, shedding its load and closing the motorway.  Our route north was blocked and the surrounding A roads were congested.  After sitting in traffic for 90 minutes we happened across a pub and decided to refuel (ourselves) and take a break.  An hour later we rejoined the congestion and finally arrived in Didsbury over 5 hours later, a journey that should have taken just over one hour.  Not a great start.

We checked into the hotel and headed to the room.  Imagine our disappointment when we opened the door to find the pokiest little room this side of Europe!  After the journey from hell it was the last thing that we wanted.  So we headed for reception and inquired about an upgrade.  Twenty pounds was the fee to change and aren’t we glad we did.  The room we were upgraded to didn’t even look like it belonged in the same hotel as the first: a spacious room with a four poster bed and a generous bathroom.  A score well spent!

We decided that we would spend our night of freedom having a meal and a night at the cinema, simple pleasures that are usually denied to us due to requiring a babysitter.  We wandered into Didsbury and found a promising looking Thai restaurant (The Laughing Buddha – would highly recommend if you are in the area, we thought that the service was excellent and the food divine) and not too far from the cinema where we booked tickets to see Transformers 3 (in 3D) – not the most intellectual of films but good fun nonetheless.

Saturday morning we took the number 43 bus into Manchester City centre.  The route took us down Wilmslow road into Oxford Road, through Withington, Fallowfield, Rusholme (the curry mile) and the University itself, my aforementioned stomping ground.  Obviously this is out of student term time so the hustle and bustle of those areas was missing but it brought back memories even though there are a number of new buildings that have sprung up in the intervening decade(s)!  Lucinda was impressed with Manchester City Centre and even begun talking about going back for another visit.  It has changed since my days but there was enough that remained (of the layout and my memory) for us to explore without getting too lost!  We ended up in the closing down sale of Habitat (one of those retailers that have gone to the wall in 2011!) and there were four oak dining chairs.  With the dining room upgrade very much on our brains and such good quality chairs going for a bargain we ended up parting with our hard earned cash. 

So a quick bus journey back to Didsbury to pick the car up and then we drove into Manchester City Centre to pick them up.  Thankfully we didn’t have the kids in the car, else they would not have fitted.  So, I can see the question that is forming, how did we gt them back home?  The answer is not yet.  After an uneventful journey back to West Bromwich (it really only takes just over an hour) via the Trafford Centre (just for a look!) we parted company with the chairs (thanks again Nanny Fran!) and swapped them for the children! 

While we were in Manchester Éowyn and Amélie had a whale of a time with Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz.  They went to visit their Great-Grandma, this really cheered my Nan up and thoroughly enjoyed holding Amélie however Éowyn was not so compliant and acted all shy around her ancestor, refusing to go and sit with her.  She can be shy and she so rarely sees her Great-Grandma so perhaps it is understandable.  Something we will have to try and rectify.  Nanny Fran then took Éowyn for a haircut, well trim at her local hairdressers and a treat with a trip to Sandwell Valley Farm.

Although Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz enjoyed looking after the youngest members of the Bagnall family, they were undoubtedly glad to hand them back so that they could get some rest.

Although the trip wasn’t as relaxing as it should have been (over 5 hours in a car to complete a journey that was going to take just over one hour); we didn’t get to surprise Ruth and on the journey back to the Moor noticed I had a slow puncture, so have had to fork out on new tyres we want to thank Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz for giving us the night off and a lie in!  We had a really nice meal and got to go out together (without children) for the first time since Amélie was born.  So thank you.  (and thank you for storing our chairs until we get our dining room sorted!)

Enjoy the photos and hopefully update you soon

Peace and Love