Dan’s greatest hits…

Mr BumpKids get bumps and bruises all the time, but I’ve never seen a child so prone to danger as our youngest. Dan can injure himself in the blink of an eye, in situations that no-one else would expect. If it’s true that only an idiot refuses to learn from his mistakes, our baby is in big trouble indeed.

In his life so far, he’s notched up quite a few bumps and bruises, but the top three so far have been:

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Daniel and the wrist-slashing incident

Right, let’s talk about the night of 1st July 2009 and the bloody, wrist-slashing adventure that ensued.

We’d only buried my father at the weekend, and with that rather large event behind us, there was suddenly a metric ton of paperwork to take care of. Notifying all the various companies he had accounts with, getting utility bills transferred into The Mother’s name and dealing with a few legal matters. Not to mention the insurance claim for their disastrous trip to Lourdes.

Since it was the school holiday, we took the entire brood down to the parental home - hers now, not theirs – with the intention that the kids could play with their cousins while we sifted through his paperwork and got everything in order.

We arrived in the evening, too late to get started, and the kids went nuts. Stick six kids in a small house and watch as they race around dangerously. Repeated nagging – as always – failed to have any impact, but we kept nagging anyway. I was in the back garden talking to the brother-in-law when we heard a tinkle from inside. Unusually, this wasn’t followed by the sound of screaming or ‘angry parent discovering broken ornament’ noises.

Despite the lack of activity, I wandered inside to see Daniel sitting on the floor in the hallway. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t place it. Noticing a change in the light was the first clue that one of the glass panes in the door was smashed. Lisa came running past me, realising that he’d punched through the glass. She discovered a grotesque, deep gash in his wrist and he was starting to bleed heavily.

She screamed at me to get a towel as she cradled him on the floor, and I admit, it took a minute for me to react. Once she had the towel, I had the phone in my hand talking to the 999 service. I can’t even remember dialling – if it was me or someone else.

That was the point pragmatism kicked in, and I explained calmly to the operator what had happened, where we were and that we needed assistance. They ordered a paramedic and stayed on the line until the guy arrived. Lisa continued to apply pressure to the wound – possibly a side-effect of watching too many medical dramas, but it worked out well in the end. Anyway, the paramedic came in and dressed the wound and took him and Lisa out to the nearest Accident & Emergency in a town 30 minutes away. I followed in our car.

I remember just before jumping in the car, my mother and sister both looking at me dubiously. “You can’t handle the sight of blood, are you sure you’re alright to drive?” they asked, noting that I’d already gone deathly pale. I don’t know what propelled me, but I followed the medic and was arriving at the hospital at the same time Lisa and Daniel were. Some speed limits might have been broken in the process.

Whatever adrenaline we’d mustered during his initial wrist-slashing drained away quickly after a few hours waiting in the A&E department. We all felt knackered. And to cap it all, it was the same A&E that my father had been brought to when he collapsed at home and before he was admitted to cancer ward. I even recognized the same staff from that night, and so soon after the funeral, found it hard to cope with. These people wandering around doing their jobs probably didn’t remember the man brought in with breathing difficulties and his worried family. And seeing that place again brought it home how quickly everything changed.

Anyway, that plus the tiredness plus the jagged wound plus the not having eaten anything were slowly taking their toll. Eventually, one of the doctors came in and started trying to remove the dressing from Dan’s wrist. Blood had dried to it and he screamed in a mixture of pain and fear. We tried to distract him while she tried to get to the wound, but eventually she gave up in frustration and called some colleagues in to help.

I took a back seat at that point, but suddenly started feeling dizzy. Yep, that was the colour draining out of my face. This had happened before, and I knew what was about to happen. I muttered to Lisa that I was feeling faint, and she pushed me into that old head-between-the-legs position. Oh, but it was too late for that. I propped my head on my arm on the side of a desk and slowly, gracelessly, slid to the ground as the world literally disappeared and everything went black. The last thing I remember is Dan watching me as my face slid past his on the way to the floor.

The drama queen in me must’ve surfaced, because I remember hearing myself muttering that I couldn’t take this anymore and blah blah blah. shamefacedly, I decided to go and wait in the car while Daniel’s wrist was X-Rayed.

The Update

As you might imagine, this post was written months ago. I wanted to record the event, but forgot to post it.

Daniel’s wrist eventually healed. We were worried that he would have problems using his hand as a result of severed tendons, but by doing the exercises that we’d been given at the hospital, he has recovered.

He still has a horrendous, ugly scar running across his wrist, and he’ll probably always have to explain what happened when people notice his wrist and ask. On the other hand, he’s become much more cautious about touching windows and doors – which is not a bad thing considering.

The Busiest Weekend Ever?

Despite spending the whole weekend at home, it might have been one of the busiest on record for us. We had Mother’s Day, dance classes and birthday parties and Lisa’s teenage brother staying.

Saturday

Saturday started things off properly. I knew it was going to be a struggle to keep everybody busy, so a bit of forward planning was necessary. I got up a little bit earlier with the kids and got them fed and cleaned, then made a spot of breakfast for Lisa when she got up.

Once I’d done that, I took Heid (my nickname for Lisa’s brother) up the street on the bikes to pick up some goodies from the bakery. We stopped off en route for a coffee and chatted for a while. It was all very leisurely, I must say. We did the bakery visit and then cycled around the outskirts of town back to the house.

After a short mid morning snack, we went outside and did a bit more work to the Trail-gator we were installing on the bike for Daniel. This finally proved successful, and Daniel stopped falling off the bike, making it a more pleasant experience for everyone concerned. At the same time, Heid was badgering me to do some elaborate cooking for dinner, so we decided on omelettes for Saturday and a home-made pizza for Sunday. This was a good excuse to race out to Sainsbury’s and pick up the ingredients and get a few Mother’s Day bits for Lisa. So, we picked up a bunch of flowers, a couple of cards and some treats for a mini-party that night for us and the kids. (All of this was aided by an excellent 2 for £2 offer, thanks Sainsburys).

So, back at the ranch, I busily threw together my first ever omelette, which was well received by me and the boys. Lisa and Rachel have a deep aversion to egg-based eating, so they had something else. Heid, being a sheltered child and not used to pushing his culinary experience, rejected his omelette after a mouthful, and the rest was rabidly scoffed by my team of starving boys.

After dinner, team boy cycled up to the school where there’s a big football pitch and we had a kick around for a little while. And as the sun set behind the goalposts, we had our first bits of friction – Jake’s pal wasn’t a fan of sharing the ball, and Daniel threw a strop virtually every time the ball moved in a direction that wasn’t toward him. Still, we persevered, had a good time and cycled home for Coke and treats.

When the kids went to bed, I finally got the first chance of the day to sit on my ass. Watched a couple of TV shows and went to bed.

Sunday

Not so pressured today. Did a cooked breakfast for Mother’s Day, then went out for a newspaper and a cycle around the same route as yesterday. The cycling’s getting easier with perseverance, I can actually feel my legs getting stronger each time I go out on the bike.

Took about an hour to make a pizza this afternoon (getting better at those, although the base is still too doughy), but had a break in the middle where we went out into the country on the bikes. I was hoping to get totally lost in those little country roads, but my couch potato companion was clearly getting jittery about the distance, so we turned back. But it was a great ride – the air whizzing past my face, and the sun breaking through the clouds and casting a silver light off Lough Neagh were amazing.

So, there ya go. Perhaps the busiest weekend of pure fun and frivolity I’ve had in a long time. Got no real work done, but I’m thoroughly chilled out now, looking forward to the week ahead.

Taking the boys to the North Coast

After I walked out of my parents’ house on Saturday, I proceeded to do exactly what I’d promised the boys. I took them out and we had an excellent day together.

I had taken Daniel to a little harbour round the coast called Portbradden earlier in the week. While the weather wasn’t wonderful, we managed quite a lengthy walk that revealed some interesting little places along the coast. It was then that I resolved to come back at the weekend for further adventures.

The next stop along the coast was a secluded spot known as Dunseverick Harbour (close to Dunseverick Castle). We had unspoiled blue skies and the day was warm with a cool Atlantic breeze coming in from the sea.

We parked and the boys quickly bundled out of the car. Remember, they’re both almost 5 (Jake) and almost 3 (Daniel), but they’re surprisingly sure-footed given the terrain along the North Antrim coast, which is particularly rocky.

As we explored the harbour area, we watched a man in welly boots drag a little row boat down to the water and two women got inside and sailed off. That’s something new on my list of things I’ve love to do – row around that stunning coastline.

Being consigned to land, the boys and I set off along the coastal path in the direction of Portbradden. Of course, we had to stop and spend a good half-hour throwing stones in the water, but I used that as an opportunity to mess with my camera and experiment with the macro settings to take pictures of some of the flora in the immediate area.

Anyway, as we headed round the coast, we explored some of the high stacks along the way. These are huge mounds of grass-covered rock, and they have interesting ‘stepped’ sides that make it easy to scale them.

The boys walked without complaint most of the way, and both chatted and played all along the way. We talked about the people who lived on the coast long ago, and the castles they built on perilous cliffs. I really hope they pick up an enthusiasm for this kind of walk, because it’s a great way to bond, away from the distractions of everyday life. There were points where even the sound of the sea seemed to fade away and the whole world was peaceful for a while, the area is so tranquil and relaxing.

We proceeded as far as the great archway in the cliff which leads to Portbradden. Unfortunately, at this point, Daniel’s legs gave up the fight and he decided he wouldn’t walk any further. So I took Jake up to see the archway while Dan sat at the bottom of the path in clear view.

Back at the bottom, a passer-by pointed out a fledgling that had somehow escaped its nest and was hopping around the bottom of the cliff. The poor thing wasn’t able to fly, and we wondered what we could do for it – grounded in that way, a fox or dog could have easily caught it and killed it. However, there was nowhere to move it to that was safe, so we had to leave it to fate…

After the walk, we headed back to Ballycastle and had a quick and easy meal in the local chippy, then headed down to the seaside for an ice-cream to finish the treat. We strolled over to the little park and the boys monkeyed around on the climbing frames for a little while, then we got in the car and headed for home.

We’d left our house around 1:00pm that day and were heading home again at about 8:00pm, and we’d packed quite a bit into the day. So, in the car on the way home, I asked the boys what their favourite part of the day was. The unanimous response? “Ice-cream and playing in the park, Daddy!”

But we know they really loved the coastal walk too…don’t we?

A walk and a short update

This blog, as usual is poorly updated at the best of times. Whenever something nice or cute happens at home, you make a mental note to blog it later. Then by bedtime, it’s gone.

Aha, but not today! Today’s escapade involves a fat dad (me) and two short-arses trying to amuse themselves while the women folk (Lisa and Rachel) went off to dance class for an hour.

Determined not to be stuck bored at home with Jake and Dan growing increasingly restless, I decided to take the pair of them for a walk. I had some concerns about Daniel, because being 2-and-a-bit, it was likely he’d get tired and I’d end up carrying him most of the way. I also had a bit of trouble persuading Jake to come along with me. He wasn’t keen on the idea of a country walk.

Anyway, taking them both by the hand, we dandered out of the street. It wasn’t long before I spied a snail hiding in the long roadside grass. I pointed it out to the boys, and that started a little nature trail of them trying to find bugs in the grass.

Down the road a bit, I gave them a couple of sticks and let them chop the heads of dandelions. One of my own personal favourite passtimes, although it’s more fun with nettles (I decided it was safer not to share that particular point). So, with all this stopping to bash up dandelions, you can imagine the walk took much longer than I intended.

Both of the boys walked valiantly and without much complaint and I tried to keep the walk interesting by pointing things out to them and chatting to them along the way. Jake’s decided that he’d like to go cycling along the road with me someday, and I might do this when I know the road’s relatively deserted.

Anyway, we got home with both of them babbling about how much fun they’d had, so not a bad result, and I didn’t have to carry Daniel far at all.

Naptime With Daniel

Our attic room is temporarily a ‘play room’. Which means it’s a place for the kids to throw their toys around without us having to look at the resulting mess.

Every now and again, I take Daniel up to the attic and we watch a DVD together. We throw ourselves down on the beanbags and, if the conditions are right we’ll both fall asleep. We did this yesterday afternoon – I stuck on the Shrek The Third DVD and we both settled down for the movie.

I love afternoon naps. That feeling of sinking into a deep, warm sleep, cushioned in a big comfy beanbag. I must’ve fallen asleep first because I don’t remember much beyond Charming’s rousing speech in the fairytale tavern. My eyes flicked open at one point and Dan had rolled off his beanbag and was curled up on the floor beside the cupboard.

There was another brief interruption when Jake tracked us down and looked like he was about to start making noise with the toys. I remember gruffly dispatching him and feeling slightly guilty before the sleep overtook me again.

I enjoy these little naps, they’re very refreshing and there’s something nice about having a little sleep with Dan side by side in the beanbags. Must find a way to make this a regular thing…

Crazy Times

Hell, it’s been a mad few months in our house.

Our websites are getting more and more popular. My day job is getting busier and more stressful. I don’t update this blog as often as I’d like to, because I want to record some of our lives for the kids.

As a family, good things are happening, and not-so-good things too. Rachel and Jake are going through a great time. Both are being real sweethearts, conversational, witty and creative.

Jake’s demonstrating amazing concentration and imagination with craft toys like KidK’nex and Magnetix. He comes up with patterns and shapes all by himself and invents little uses for them. Rachel is in complete awe of this in him and sometimes asks him to make things for her.

It’s hard to explain just how cute Jake is. When he speaks to you, he’s sincere and polite, always. And he loves to explain things to you. Not the way Rachel used to when she was younger – she used to make the rules up to suit her desired result. Jake works through his ideas of how the world works and listens to us when we explain where he’s got things slightly wrong.

He’s such a beautiful little man and he shows great patience when you’re smothering him in hugs and kisses.

Rachel. There’s a bright girl. But we forget she’s vulnerable and needs reassurance now and again. Lisa mentioned this to me the other day – we tend to nurture Jake because he’s shy, but assume Rachel’s alright because she’s a bit older.

She loves reading together. We do her homework every night, and she reads one book to me, then I read the more advanced book to her. She’s coming on in leaps and bounds and won a present in school today for being so good at her sums.

She’s not half the diva she used to be, either. There was a time when Rachel was such a fusspot and would argue with you over anything. At the moment, she loves alone time with us and just to sit for a while and chat. We spent half an hour in the attic tonight with her messing on the computer and me sketching.

Daniel’s frustrated and frustrating at the moment. He’s another bloody sharp operator, knows what he wants and is very stubborn about making sure he gets it. His speech is coming on well. And as Lisa mentioned, his toilet training is coming along well, despite some lapses.

The frustrating part is his tantrums. He sees himself on a par with the other two and doesn’t like being made to play to different rules. I think the best adjective for his rages is apoplectic. Remember I said about Rachel being the diva? Well, Daniel has picked up the torch.

If experience has taught us anything, it’s that these phases pass and we just need to try to keep cool heads until that hallowed day arrives…

Finally Toilet Trained!

We’ve done it! We’ve toilet trained a child or the third and final time, and that feels good!

Just before Christmas, Daniel decided that he didn’t want to wear a nappy anymore. We had known from late summer that he was ready, but in our laziness kept putting the inevitable off. We just didn’t want to spend a week mopping up puddles from every corner of the house.

When the time came though, wee Dan displayed amazing control. He took off his nappy one day, sat on the toilet and pee’d. He got such a great response from us that he more or less refused to put the nappy back on. We persevered, got out the new Thomas The Tank Engine underwear and the whole thing was actually quite easy.

Here we are, one month later and Daniel has had only a handful of accidents. Like his father (definitely not his mother!) he displays superior bladder control, and usually adequate bowel control, though when he misses the toilet, he does it in a big way.

It’s strange to think that for the first time in more than six years, we have no nappy wearers in our house. No having to change that stinker every morning, which is great, but also no more babies, which is weird.  Once again it has hit home that our babies are growing up!

Daniel At Two

There are points in the parenting cycle I love and those I don’t. Most men I speak to seem to agree that the baby stage is hard to deal with – the crying, the tantrums and the dirty nappies. And that’s just their wives.

Seriously though, the first couple of years are the hardest as far as I’m concerned. Daniel had his second birthday last week. A milestone by any standard, but it seems to be marked by how quickly he’s progressing lately.

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Yay, Dat!

Daniel’s latest phrase is “Yay, dat!” It used to be just “Yay!” whenever you offered him something he wanted (usually food), but this last couple of days he’s been adding “Dat”. Meaning “that” in case you were wondering.

One of the funniest things about him is the zeal he puts into this. You’d honestly think he’d won something.

In general, Dan’s speech is coming along pretty well. A few months ago he used the almost universal “Ushhh” to refer to anything and everything. These days it’s more refined. You’ll hear “Nink” when he wants a drink, “RoRo” when he’s talking about his sister and a very clear “Jakey” for his brother.

I had a brief bit of flashcard play with him tonight and was impressed with how well he repeated some of the words. It’ll be interesting to see if he starts remembering the words and using them every day.