Amélie’s First Birthday

How time flies, the second update in just over a week celebrates the fact that our second child is now one year old.  It doesn’t seem five minutes since we were in the car heading to St. Peter’s, managed to lay claim to the last bed in the labour ward and after a relatively short labour, we held her in our arms for the first time.

In some ways the second child is easier: you know what you are doing (OK that is never true – you are just a little less paranoid about what you may be doing wrong); the skills that you had trouble mastering are now old hat (nappy changing, maintaining a semblance of normality on 3 hours sleep and making up bottles at 03:00!) and you have all the paraphernalia (or at least the ones that you have found to be useful).

Then in other ways it is more difficult: Adults may understand and forgive you your grumpiness or lack of attention due to weeks of disturbed sleep, a 2 year old doesn’t; adults may understand that a new born needs love and affection and a feed every few hours, a 2 year old doesn’t and adults more easily accommodate the fact that there is another member of the family, a 2 year old doesn’t.

In fairness to Éowyn, she has actually accommodated to the new arrival that is her little sister extremely well.  Although it probably helps that Amélie has yet to invade her last bastion of refuge: her bedroom.  Amélie still sleeps in our bedroom, mainly because she still wakes at 0530 every day for her first bottle of the day.  Hopefully this will not last much longer and then we will be able to move the girls in together, for as it currently stands it would not be fair on Éowyn not only to move her sister into her room, but also to move a sister that is also an alarm clock that cannot be set for a later time!

So, in addition to the above, what have we learned this year?  I think the major lesson we can take from 2011 is the fact that no two children are the same.  Amélie is far more laid back than Éowyn.  Without wishing to compare, Éowyn was a lot more advanced than Amélie at the same age.  This is partly due to Amélie’s milk protein intolerance, which must have made her life hell for the first few months, which meant that there was not as much time for play in those early weeks and partly because we have has so much work done to the house that there has not been the space for her to practise and exercise those muscles.  I also think this laid back nature also comes from the fact that because she always has a big sister vying for attention so she is not as precious about being the centre of attention, for unlike Éowyn, she never has been (not in a nasty way, simply because Éowyn was the only child and therefore had the undivided attention of two parents through her formative years).

We also have learned the benefit and strength that can be taken from a supportive and understanding health visitor.  Amélie’s milk protein intolerance would not have been diagnosed so quickly without her support and I think that Lucinda and I would have gone insane with the powerlessness that we were experiencing with her over those first few months.  To have some fighting the system from the inside and not just insisting that it was colic or wind or ‘just get on with it that is what babies do’ was a huge boon.  So thank you Kate!

And what have we lost this year?   The ability to have a lie in.  As mentioned above Amélie is like clockwork waking up for her first feed at 0530 (if you are lucky) and sometimes she will not settle afterwards.  Lucinda has done the vast majority of those for she has been on maternity leave and I have been working (usually getting up not long after), however now Lucinda has returned to work then this will be shared more evenly especially when some of Lucinda’s shifts start at 0500!  If she would only sleep for another hour she would be the perfect baby, but I suppose those don’t exist – or grow into terrible toddlers!

The only other thing that we have lost this year is weight.  Both myself and Lucinda have been dieting since May and I now weigh (a lady never reveals her weight so Lucinda’s goals can remain secret) 4 stone (for Americans: 56lbs for everybody else: 25.4kgs) less than when Amélie was born and 3 stone (42lbs, 19kgs) less than in May!  As, I am sure you can appreciate, I am very pleased with this and now the real challenge begins of maintaining that weight loss.  Scarily I am 5 stone (60lbs/31.75kgs) lighter than my peak weight in April 2009.  I will no longer be the fat dad at the school gate!

The weekend before Amélie’s birthday, Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary came down to visit.  It was going to be a good chance for me to meet up with them too, since the last time they came down I was working.  Unfortunately due to the issues we have been having at work I had to work that day also, so once again I missed them.  However, it was nice for the girls to see the Bagnall side of the family and they will all be coming down in a couple of weeks to see Éowyn on her birthday!  So I will catch up then.

So what did we do to celebrate Amélie’s first birthday?  As the weather was unseasonably warm on her birthday (28°C – in fact the 1st October was the warmest day ever recorded in the UK (29.9°C) even though that was followed by the first snowfall on the mountains of Scotland less than a week later!) we decided to head to Peppa Pig World.  Fortunately we decided to book our tickets on line.  What a stroke of luck that was for we discovered that Peppa Pig World is now closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays (Amélie’s birthday was on Wednesday).  No fear we thought we’ll go to Legoland and use our Merlin passes again.  While we were on line we thought that it was probably a good idea to check out the opening ties in case they have changed now the kids are back at school.  Foiled again.  Legoland is also closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays!  Where were we going to go?  We asked Éowyn where she would like to go.  ‘The Jungle to see some animals‘.  Was the reply.  So a zoo it was.  Lucinda suggested Whipsnade and the decision was made.

We were quite impressed with Whipsnade.  It is huge (the UK’s biggest zoo) over 600 acres and the animals have plenty of room to run about.  It was so big and the day was so nice that we didn’t managed to see all of it.  We did manage to see a quite impressive bird display, the sea lion display and the penguin feeding.  Éowyn wanted to see the lions (which were asleep about six feet from the viewing window which was fantastic) and tigers and bears (oh, my!) which we managed to do with the obligatory hike in between before she suddenly started to cry.  I asked her why she was crying, ‘I want to stroke something,‘  she said.  Lions and tigers and bears (Oh, my!) are not the kind of animals you can really stroke (however much I would like to) so we trotted off to the petting zoo where she happily chased after sheep, goats and llamas!  Amélie was rather nonplussed by it all, even though it was her birthday treat!  We returned from Whipsnade ahead of the rush hour to one of Nanny’s roast dinners which was the perfect ending to her birthday.

And so our littlest one has completed her first year and we prepare for Éowyn’s third birthday.  Yes, third birthday! Which seems a scary concept for again it doesn’t seem five minutes since we welcomed her into our world and this website began!

Also in the news: Lucinda has returned to work, so Amélie has begun to go to Jo’s (our childminder) and the real juggling of work, child minder, pre-school and the rest of life begins.  I have taken some days off work to help with this transition but we have no illusions that this is not going to be easy but hey, who said that life is easy?  Fortunately our uxorilocal residence means that we can take advantage of Nanny and Granddad and with Lucinda’s brother just round the corner, we have a very handy matrilocal support team.

Before I leave I’d just like to say congratulations to Ollie and his wife Callula on the birth of their daughter Lexi Annabel, welcome to the world Lexi.

Love and Peace


A week off

All too quickly the final days of last year’s leave has ended, reality kicks in and I have to return to work.  It has been good to spend a week with the family, even though we didn’t get half the things done that we had planned to do.  Time just seems to fly past far too quickly, especially where there is a baby and a toddler involved.  Nevertheless we have managed to squeeze in a few things.

Amélie is still a concern to us.  She is putting on weight but seems to be encroaching on the 25th centile line (and not in a positive way) and, more concerning, her reflux is still severe.  You can change her a dozen times in a day (and yourself as least twice!) and she will seemingly be continously soaked through.  Doctors tend to dismiss reflux as a laundry problem but it is more than that.  Lucinda was wearing a new T-shirt on Sunday when she was caught.  The vomit bleached her top, that is not just bringing up a little milk, that is stomach acid.  If that is what it does to a T-shirt imagine what it must be doing to her throat and airways.  The drugs that we have been prescribed should be reducing the stomach acid, would dread to think what it would have done if it had been full strength acid!

Fortunately we have been able to both attend the appointments with the doctor and although he doesn’t seem to think that there is any cause for concern he has finally given us a paediatric referral.  Now that is another strange and convoluted procedure.  First you get the referral from your GP.  They give you a print out with phone number and reference number (among other things); Then you phone the number and quote your reference number and the triage goes through your child’s symptoms;  They then arrange a paediatrician to call you on a given day to go through your child’s symptoms in detail and then if they think the case is deemed worthy they will arrange an appointment to see you (and your child) in person.  Simples!  We will keep you posted!

We also saw the dietician this week, who suggested that we try weaning early but is reluctant to do anything drastic until we have been seen (or spoken to) the paediatrician in case they suggest something for the reflux.  Now Amélie has not shown interest in food in the way that Éowyn did. (Remember the infamous Coconut Macaroon incident?) Nevertheless we took heed and Lucinda gave Amélie her first taste of solid food on Tuesday 25th January: baby rice and water.  She seemed to enjoy it, opening her mouth on cue.  However, she soon had her fill and pushed the spoon away.  I call that a success, especially since she kept it down.

Amélie has achieved a couple of firsts since the last update.  The first first (so to speak) was to roll over.  She has done it twice, once with Lucinda and once with me.  However both times we both have missed it.  Lucinda left her on the bed was out of the room for a moment came back and she was on her front.  I was changing her on the floor, again left the room for a moment and came back and she was on her belly.  Either she rolled or the house fairies are having a laugh with us.

Amélie’s other first since the last update was to go swimming.  We asked Éowyn what she would like to do since we were all together as a family and she asked to go swimming.  It was a little surprising as she has been nervous of late since she had a bad experience at a pool.  Nothing major but it had put her off.  So when she suggested it we jumped at the opportunity.  Both of the girls loved it.  Amélie was just serene as Lucinda held her in the water while I was trying to teach Éowyn to swim, while at the same time being mindful that a false move could put us back.  I think a few more lessons are required but she did spend most of the time on her front kicking her legs (supported by Dad) so progress.

It has been interesting and a little upsetting to see how Éowyn is dealing with the experience of attending Playbox Playgroup.  Obviously, it is a new place with new people and so it will take her some time to get used to it, as indeed it did when we first took her to Jo’s.  However, now she is a little older and can talk to you it is harder to convince yourself that you are doing the right thing when she says things like: “Daddy, I don’t like school.” “I don’t want to go to school.” It breaks your heart, especially when you drop her off and she is crying and clinging to your leg.  This Monday though (her fifth day) we walked into the classroom and she wandered off.  I asked her for a kiss and to wave me goodbye and she did.  Again progress, although she did get upset in the last 15 minutes or so of the session, probably because she was tired after the weekend.

Lucinda and I just have to be strong and encouraging as well as learn to cope with the other things that happen to your children while they are at school.  Éowyn has seemingly begun to re-inact things that have happened at school with her toys.  She was playing with her toy monkey (Ok, strictly Amélie’s toy monkey but I think that Amélie has lost any ownership of that toy!) and although we only caught the end of the conversation (“…and that’s it and we can go home.”) but it sounded very much like something that the staff would have said to Éowyn when she is upset.  Then Monday she came home with a scratch on her face, only minor and the staff did draw our attention to it and I had to sign the accident book to acknowledge that fact.  They were not sure how she did it but think she caught herself with the end of a book, and it certainly looks feasible.  However later that day she was talking to her monkey “…It is not nice to hit people monkey.  It will make them sad…” We tried to get out of her whether she hit someone or whether they hit her, but we could not draw any conclusions.  Although I don’t like the idea of either Éowyn hitting someone or someone hitting her, a lot worse will probably happen just have to try and get her to talk about it.

In addition to swimming, trips to the doctors and hospital and dropping Éowyn off at Playbox we managed to squeeze in a photoshoot for the girls and a trip to Nanny Fran’s for a Bagnall family photoshoot.  The photoshoot for the girls was a freebie session (to entice you in) for Amélie at 3 months.  It includes a free 10″x8″ print, so we thought we would go for it.  Obviously when you see the other photos you are tempted to buy extras.  Yes, we were suckered into that but thought that the price that we were quoted was reasonable and so the credit card made an appearance.

Nanny Fran’s photoshoot, on the other hand, seemed to be jinxed.  We (her children) bought her the photoshoot as a present for Christmas 2009.  When we turned up at the photographers it was closed and he couldn’t be raised on the telephone.  He called back a couple of days later to apologise but wasn’t prepared to offer compensation and so we decided against using him.  So we found another reasonable studio and booked for the beginning of December.  A week before my sister Mary slipped on the ice at work and broke her elbow, so we decided to push it into January.  So Nanny Fran re-booked for last Sunday.

The southern side of the family, Mary and us four headed up the M40 on Friday for the weekend.  On the Saturday morning we jokingly suggested that she ‘phone them to ensure that they had our booking.  Never a truer word spoken in jest.  Sunday morning we all get dressed up and manage to keep Amélie puke-free so we would all look nice for the photos.  No booking.  Apparently the previous booking wasn’t cancelled properly so the re-schedule shoot was not in the diary.  We have agreed to give it one more go before deciding that it is well and truly jinxed and give it up as a bad job.

Despite that we had a good weekend at Nanny Fran’s.  Éowyn has finally grown too big for her travel cot and so Nanny Fran bought her a ready bed and pink tent to sleep in.  Obviously it takes a little getting used to but she seemed to love it although the excitement meant that she didn’t get to sleep until after 10pm on the Friday night.  Poor Nanny Fran offered to look after Amélie on the Friday night so that Lucinda and I could get some uninterrupted sleep.  On Saturday night Éowyn went to sleep early (as she was tired from the night before) and we took Amélie in with us, however Éowyn who sleeps in the room next to Nanny Fran woke at 0400 and kept her awake.  I bet Nanny Fran was glad we were going so that she could get some sleep.

So now I am back at work and the 1500 e-mails all need reading, some of them as long as this write up!  Thus I will leave you to enjoy the photos.

Peace and Love


Off to school

So the decorations are down, Christmas is well and truly over and the New Year feels like the Old Year already.  January always feels like a long month.  Probably due to the fact that the weather is still awful, the nights are still long (although getting shorter) and there is nothing to look forward to; for February is just as bleak.  Also due to the hangover from the overspend at Christmas and the fact that we get paid early due to the Bank Holidays over the Festive period, pay day seems a long way away and you really have to make those pennies stretch.

The other side of the January period is that it is the last chance for me to use up the surplus holiday from the previous year’s entitlement.  Hence I have had a long weekend (5 days!) and will be off for another week before the end of the month.  I feel like a part-timer!

With the New Year comes a new adventure and a new step in Éowyn’s development.  She has begun playbox pre-school playgroup at the local primary school, Shortwood.  With everything that Éowyn does she took this new stage completely in her stride; more so than her Mum.  She is only booked for 2 mornings a week at the moment to ease her (and us) into the idea of going to school and she is still going to Jo, her childminder, three times a month.  This will give Lucinda more time with Amélie and allow her to give Amélie the attention that Éowyn received when she was that age.  With the added benefit of preparing Éowyn for the big wide world of school in a slow steady build up.

Shortwood (and Playbox Playgroup) has a high teacher to pupil ratio but it is under threat of closure and/or merger for that very reason.  There has been a campaign to save the school because it is deemed not to be economically viable in the area (although it is more economically viable than compared to other schools in other areas of the country).  The high staff to pupil ratio is one of the factors that attracted us to Shortwood.

We dropped Éowyn off, on her first day as a family (Lucinda, me and Amélie!).  There were a number of other parents there in the same boat with children whose first day was the same as Éowyn’s.  I think it was harder for Lucinda (and me) to leave Éowyn than it was for Éowyn and I think she picked up on our vibes and became very clingy.  Although in fairness it was also probably due to the fact that it had been a while since we visited Playbox and there was a lot of hubbub with parents saying goodbye to their children, and it was all a bit overwhelming (although she did have the presence of mind to give Amélie her monkey that she had brought along).  However, according to the staff when we picked her up she had been a bit teary for about 10 minutes but then forgot all about it and got involved with the activities.  When we came to pick her up, she didn’t seem bothered to see us and had sat down to lunch (which she is not entitled to, only being there for a morning session), she is a Bagnall after all!

Amélie, feeding is another matter.  She is still taking her concoction but we are still to be convinced about it’s effectiveness.  She still brings up a lot of milk, and will still, at times, struggle with her feeding.  Although she is clockwork with her hunger pangs, every 3 hours on the dot.  Which equates to not a lot of sleep!  After discussing with Kate (the Health Visitor) we will be getting her weighed tomorrow (Wednesday) and see how her weight is doing.  From that information we will see whether the medicines are helping keep enough food down to put on weight or whether we should now be taking the next step and see the paediatrician.  She is also hoping to bring the appointment we have with the dietician (mid-February) forward so that perhaps we can start weaning early.  As they say: ‘Watch this space’.

And it is there I will leave you with this week’s photos.  Although before I go just a quick story.  As I was putting Éowyn to bed last week she suddenly said:  ‘Knock, Knock.’  I replied ‘Who’s there?’ ‘Happy’ she said. ‘Happy Who?’ ‘Happy Birthday!’  Not sure who has been teaching her Knock, Knock jokes but the fact that she remembered it and thought it was funny took me aback.  Interestingly I have been trying to teach her other Knock, Knock jokes and she just looks at me as if I am stupid. ‘No, Daddy, it’s Happy!’

Peace and Love