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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Live And Let Cry!


If your baby boy is a super spy in the making, with a smile that melts hearts and makes the mummies swoon, then you should be all over this little gem I discovered from La Redoute!

A smashing tuxedo, dinner jacket and romper suit that could be for bedtime or even worn at parties and special occasions and weddings! Great for the Christmas season or for James Bond fans.

Also seen in:
  • For your cries only.
  • The cry who loved me.
  • Live and let cry.
  • License to spill.
  • Cry another day.
  • .....Any others I've missed? 

It comes in a range of sizes from newborn up to two years old.

Get your hands on this babygrow now! I know I will.

You can buy it here.




Tuesday, 26 November 2013

An unexpected guest


So last night I could hear some rustling around in the garden. Soft thudding footsteps in the darkness.

The footsteps slowly came closer. Was it a burglar? Was I about to be whacked on the head with my own shovel by this unknown assailant?  

No, as suddenly by the door appeared a massive international badger of mystery. WHOA! I was not expecting that. It then continued to shuffle forward as if to walk through the door and I managed to half shut it before he was in the house.

We had a brief chat, and once it was clear that I wasn't interested in buying any double glazing or inviting him in for a cup of tea he sort of shrugged his shoulders and tottered off into the night on his badgerly business.

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Monday, 25 November 2013

The first thing you realise about being a dad

After the epic labour, H was wheeled away and I was left with C for the first time. With an oversized beanie on he looked like a gangster rapper or something, and the midwife said I should get him dressed.



I was terrified. I held the little white vest and he lay there bawling. I was worried I would break his arm or something, he was so little, and new, I didn't want to do it in case I got it wrong.

The first thing you realise about being a dad is fear: there is a baby who needs your protection (and this includes warmth) and I was scared because I didn't know how to dress him. Naturally the midwife put his vest on with effortless ease and then showed me how to put his babygrow on. It took me quite a while to do it but I felt pride when I managed to close the final popper.

I was fearful because there was a huge outpouring of love for this baby, realising he was mine to look after and nurture and even after I managed to dress him he was still crying. Lesson number two of new dad school was to try to settle this baby!

Instinct kicked in and I came up with a song about a monkey in a tree and I cradled him, swaying and listening to his weak cries and realising yet again that I would do anything within my power to protect him for the rest of my days.

I thought to myself:
I can do this...


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How to tell if your child is a zombie

I don't know who came up with this but it's absolutely brilliant!

The good news is, your toddler is sure to be safe in the zombie apocalypse if they display any of these behaviours and characteristics.

Every good parent knows this is coming, and you're all prepared, right? Right?




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Sunday, 24 November 2013

Bald babies VS babies with hair


The first time I ever went to my wife's grandparents' house for a Sunday roast, her grandmother winked at me, pointed at a photo on the wall, and said "what's wrong with that picture?"

The picture was of my wife as a baby, and I stupidly said the first thing that came into my head. "She doesn't have any hair, and looks like an evil genius?"

Apparently that was the wrong answer. It was because she wasn't wearing any shoes in it.

Anyway, our son is now seven months old and hardly has any hair at all. He looks like a little old man, especially when I dress him in his cardigan. He does have hair but it's very fine and you need to be up close to see it. It has a sort of charm about it when he's messing up our house, it's like 'oh look at the little old man. Bashing things with his spoon and throwing his food all over the floor'.

But here's where it gets interesting. Apparently one of my friends has quite a soft spot for C and had often said to his wife that he loves it that he doesn't have any hair. This information was leaked back to us via his wife. So when I next met up with him and asked him about it, he leaned in and explained that he doesn't trust babies with hair. Babies shouldn't have hair. End of.

I laughed my arse off. It was funny, the idea of a mohawked baby plotting to steal his wallet. I am pretty sure that whether or not your baby has hair to begin with, it's genetic. H didn't have hair for quite a while when she was young so I think C has inherited this. Either way, he's our lovely, wobbly, little old man, and we will often have a chuckle about his antics around the house.

I'd be interested to hear your follicle related anecdotes about your kids. Please comment and subcribe via Bloglovin or follow me on Twitter!

P.S. Interesting fact I discovered - some people shave the head of their babies to supposedly promote hair growth. Barbaric!




Silent Sunday 24.11.13

Saturday, 23 November 2013

How do you protect your child from the internet?


Last night I went to the theatre to watch an interesting adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It featured a very famous disabled actor, a lot of male and female nudity, and graphic scenes. Yes, it's safe to say the charming scene involving the courgette and the melon was pretty tame in comparison with the rest of it. Anyway, just as we were driving into town, my wife started talking about how it's sad that the world has become so centred around the internet, and imagine what it will be like in 2023, when our son will be 10 years old and getting cyber-bullied and god knows what else.  I gently reminded her that this was date night, and please could we not think about our innocent baby having traumatic experiences in later life. Then we forgot about the subject and arrived at the theatre and the play was fantastic.

But today I am troubled. It's true, we don't know what the world will be like, 10 years from now. We know that technology is advancing at an alarming rate, and 7 in 10 people in the UK now own a smartphone. Toddlers can now operate tablet PCs, and so it's a fact that our children will be accessing the internet from a young age. I think we as parents need to remain vigilant and try to hinder its intrusion into our family lives and keep the magic of childhood alive, with fantastic ideas like Dinovember and this one. It's easier said than done though, as I'm typing on a laptop now with the TV on in the background and no doubt when I finish writing this I'll go on Twitter and other websites to publish the blog. So if I'm saying one thing and doing another, then it will make the internet a forbidden fruit for him when he's older.

The point I'm making is that I intend as a parent to give my children limited access to the internet, but there will come a point I'm sure, when peer pressure will set in from their friends as they're all on Facebook, or the next big social network, and I would feel like a draconian dad not to move with the times and give in to technology. Likewise, schools are becoming more tech savvy, and more companies are making and selling educational apps and programs to be accessed on the internet, which sort of forces your hand that you have no choice. I'd like to hope that when he's 10 years old he will have a good circle of friends to stick with, a nice school, and that he won't log on at night to discover thousands of abusive messages from classmates. But that is a very real threat now faced by school kids, cyber-bullying is widespread and causes suicides.

Before becoming a dad I thought I had it nailed. I knew that if he ever started smoking weed I'd have his number straight away and have a very firm little chat with him. I used to pull the wool over my parents' eyes, but this is one clued up ex-stoner dad, alert to all the signs and signals. But as for the internet, that's hidden, you can't see its bloodshot eyes or what goes on behind the closed doors, there's no thick smoke or Bob Marley music wafting out, it can leave no trace. I just hope that everything will be okay, and that we make the right decisions in bringing him up to protect him from harm. But the time will come when we don't have any control over it any more.

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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

How to introduce a baby to your cat - without any problems


Just a small blog this time but if you're worried about how your cat will react to your new baby then hopefully this life-hack will blow your mind!

Our cat is a grumpy sod. Like most cats, she likes to sleep, she likes her meals on time and she is a total princess, but I wouldn't have her any other way. She hates other cats and looks annoyed with the world most of the time, so I was a bit concerned that bringing a new baby into her territory was going to cause problems. But how wrong I was.

I had read a tip somewhere, that there is one really simple trick. It works like a charm. I imagine you could use it on territorial dogs as well. But I've only road tested it on a cat so don't take my word for it.

Firstly, we made sure the nursery was pretty much an open house before C was born. She was welcome to inspect the decorations and each new item as it was installed. This was to remove the mystique and make her feel comfortable with the changes to her house. Any time she was sniffing around outside, I would let her in to approve of the things that were happening, and she would soon get bored and wander off.

But the really amazing solution that I keep referring to is one of the weirdest, and most bizarre things I've seen in a long time. The night of C's birth I had to go home, as I wasn't allowed to stay overnight. Before I left the hospital I grabbed the top that H had been wearing throughout her labour, the very same clothes he had rested on, and also the woolly hat that he had worn.

I got home and gave them to the cat. She went crazy, it was like dubstep music was flowing through her veins and she was being fed an intravenous drip of pure catnip. Rolling on the floor, and purring louder than I've ever heard her in her life, she played around with the clothes enjoying the scent of the new baby and really rubbing her face in it. It was like she understood. I left her to it for about half an hour, and left the clothes in the hallway overnight.

When I came back the next day I brought a new item of clothing with me, with the same results but only she was a bit more disinterested this time. The next day, we brought our baby home and she didn't kick up a fuss at all, it was like she already knew what was happening, and understood he was an important part of the family, and not at all threatening to her. Fast forward seven months and they are great friends. I'm sure I'll write about this another time, as he is obsessed with her and it can be very amusing.

So there you go, if you're ever wondering how to introduce a baby to your pets, just give this a whirl, and let me know how you get on!


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

It is hard being a dad, too.

I had a really lovely weekend with C-Dawg, and we spent Sunday walking around Bristol and having some man time. It was a proper daddy daycare day. He was amazingly well behaved and content, and had lots of naps (which is very unusual for him!) It made a change from some of the more difficult weekends we've had as parents, where he has to put it bluntly, ruled our lives. But he seems to be in a good routine at the moment of being much happier in himself, he is a very smiley baby who loves to laugh, and he is less inclined to grumble and cry for no reason like the early days.

On Sunday, it was down to me to plan our day, and look after him, so I wanted us to have the best time possible.

First of all, he had a hearty breakfast of a full bottle and a bowl of porridge, a leisurely morning that also featured a good old fashioned bounce in his Jumperoo. Guaranteed to put a smile on his face.

Then I got him dressed, a task I always enjoy. This was followed by the epic task of packing his bag for the day. It never fails to stress me out, as you always think you are going to forget something and it usually involves running up and down the stairs a couple of times. You have to pack the bag like you're going on holiday, squeezing stuff in so it will close, followed by opening it again as you have a last minute panic that you've forgotten something.

We then drove into town, and he had his classic nap at 11am, bang on schedule. I had timed it with dadly efficiency. All going well so far, I thought. No screw ups yet.

A relaxed stroll through the town centre, via Costa Coffee for a quick gingerbread latte while he slept. Mmm. Growing in confidence here, and energy levels up, thinking I can tackle anything he throws at me as I saunter through town for a nice 15 minute walk to our next destination.

Then he met up with his friend at M-Shed for some good times. No tears or grumbling, not even a whisper. I'm thinking to myself, where is this going to go wrong?



It gets to 1pm. He's happy, I'm ecstatic, he's loving the walk, we cruise through Queens Square. I'm so chilled I even take a photo..



And he's so chilled he has another nap...


And then we head up to Watershed to meet up with his mummy. I get there early so I take him to the bar to order some food. I ask the guy "what can he eat?" and the guy stares at me, terrified as if I am placing a baby's life in his hands. So I reassured him "don't worry, he'll eat anything" so he plays it safe with the vegetable casserole. "Does it come with bread?" I asked. "Yes". "Is it spicy? He doesn't do spice." "No it's not spicy". "How much is it?" I ask, cautiously eyeing the £8.50 price tag on the blackboard. "We'll make you a child's portion, so it will be £4.50" he says. "Good", I say, trying not to sound too relieved. The clever guy had obviously cottoned on, this was one dad who wouldn't appreciate being ripped off.

We start eating, then his mum turns up, and we have a lovely family lunch. It's perfect. He's in great spirits, sadly the casserole is a little too herby for him, and contains his number one nemesis, parsnips. It isn't a hit, but he enjoys the bread and carrots as usual.

Then we get him home and he's on cloud nine. Smiling, laughing, happy. Having a whale of a time here with his food. I must say, I'm a real fan of baby led weaning. The proof is in the pudding - look how happy he looks.



So now you must be thinking, why is it hard being a dad? What's the problem here?

The issue I have with it is it's now Tuesday, I barely see him during the week as he's in bed when I get home and sometimes he's still in bed when I leave for work. Seeing him in the morning lifts my spirits, so today was tough as he was still asleep.

I do see him in the evenings but to be fair, it's dark in the room and he's either half asleep or too busy guzzling the bottle. I hope he knows I am there. I hope he knows I'm looking out for him. Occasionally, his little hands will grip my finger, or he will claw at my jumper. I'll take that as a yes. 

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Why I started blogging - written from a dad's perspective


The day of my wife's labour was the most traumatic, stressful and emotional day I think I'll ever have. There were times when I never thought it would happen, but suddenly, here was this wonderful little boy, finding his lungs and winking at me underneath the glare of a lamp. I had never been able to picture what he would look like, but here he was. He was perfect, and I wept on the spot like a blubbering fool. Typical, the only one in the room crying was me, and I  hadn't even carried him for the last nine months, let alone gone through the torment of pushing him out.

I genuinely felt fearful that day for my wife's life, so it was the utter relief that she was alright, and the added bonus that here was the answer to our dreams staring right back at me while he clung to her chest, even if he was croaking like a little frog and had mucus stuck to him, and a manky belly button stump that would end up smelling like brie and creeping me out every time I went near it.

I guess this is why I started blogging - because here was the start of the happiest chapter of my life where suddenly I had the epic realisation of the surges of love, and protective instincts of a new father. It hit me like a thunderbolt, and when I drove home that night I was so emotionally shattered that I thought I was going to crash. Trust me, I couldn't even keep to one lane and was veering everywhere, I felt like I was drunk and worst of all there was a police car in front, so I ended up following it at a snail's pace to avoid being pulled over.

So every day I get these new experiences and revelations from being a father. The latest joy happens every morning, when he sits in his little high chair smiling and laughing at me with a messy porridge beard, or I cringe as his dapper new cardigan has baby rice all the way up the arm. I spend these precious moments with him before I go off to work, and I think about him all through the day.

So here you go, some gushing, self indulgent witterings of a besotted dad. This is blogging I suppose. You just write about how you feel, send it out into the ether and more often than not, someone comes back and says "that's nice, I feel like that too". What's great about it too, is I haven't been doing it long at all but already it feels like there's a thriving community of parents, and dads, who write. We can't help it! Maybe one day our kids will read this and it will be a way of them knowing us more, and laughing, or crying about the past. Who knows.

It's nice to know there are other mums, and dads out there who are interested in reading each others' thoughts and experiences. It's definitely a community, and it's easy to see you could make friends here. It's hard not to as everyone shares a common interest: their children. However, us dads are in a minority in the blogging world. There are a whole lot of mother bloggers out there on the internet. Yummy mummies, slummy mummies, muttering mummies, yes they all have great names, that's the other thing I've noticed. It seems like you need your own blogging brand in order to stand out.

My research tells me that dads are quietly opting for more masculine, butch blogger names. We are dadinators, dadtastic, we write with dadly efficiency and still manage to keep up with our dadmin. Ok, I'm running out of dad related euphemisms but a new breed of blogger is rising! This isn't the 1950s it's actually a time where men are rising up and aren't ashamed to say that YES! I love my kid, I cry five times a day and I am a proud stay at home dad.  Gender stereotypes are changing and perhaps the internet is one of the massive reasons why. It's all out in the open - real life examples, set by bloggers.

Anyway, back to the butch daddies. It reminds me of when I needed a man with a van to help me move house once. Gumtree was loaded with various adverts from aforementioned men who drove vehicles that were capable of carrying your stately possessions from A to B. After flicking through several options, from the reassuringly simple 'man with van' to a man with a large van, the choice was endless. Then I saw there was an original man with van and I thought that was great branding and differentiation.

But then my heart soared. A big burly man with a big box van was duly hired and that's another story entirely, the guy was an animal, with the strength of ten men. With a dirty string vest and a hairy back, he smelt putrid, so vile that you could clearly smell his musk in our house for a full 24 hours after he'd done his heavy lifting thing. But he worked like a trojan and I'd hire him again in an instant. I know I've gone off on a tangent here so I'll get back to the point. I needed a name, a memorable brand. So I chose one that does what it says on the tin. Dad's Diary. I hope it works for me.

I've only been doing this a week but have met some great other dads online and know that as my diary grows that it will be an interesting journey. I'm already going on websites, looking at toys for older kids and getting excited about when he will be big enough to play with them. We'll have some great times and I'll teach him the best way of protecting his soldiers from heavy marbles, how to place a sturdy wooden wall that can withstand a battering, using the powers of physics and other blocks. I can't wait. I'll have lots to write about, and document, and archive. Memories. Things to write about and look back on.

Finally, there's the other side of blogging. You just don't know where it might end up. Maybe I'll get to review some gadgets and toys one day, or be whisked away to a castle in Scotland for a family holiday. Maybe I'll be rich. Scalextric, if you're reading this, I've always been a big fan of your products! Likewise Lego, you need me in your life. A dad can hope, can't he?


*A large part of this was originally published on the Tots100 website. You can read it here

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Guest post: thoughts from my wife on motherhood


I am jumping on the blogging bandwagon...for one night only.

Mummy extraordinaire to C, and wife to H.

Mums to be, look away now, perhaps just take a little peek, I actually hope to strike a good balance of witticism, cynicism, schmaltz and sincerity.

C is seven months old and I am suitably out of the black smog that is the early weeks although I am reliably informed that just when you think things are getting easier it all goes up the swanny again. :-/

So I am not going to lie, motherhood is tough!

It's not quite the heart melting, fairytale scenario I had hoped for, it has pushed me to the very limit and at times sucked the very life from me, and that was just the birth! No amount of preparation can prepare you...and believe me I prepared.

I am now officially a member of mum club and one distinguishing feature of mum club is that you have a right to raise an eyebrow or two at some unsuspecting single woman who talks with a rosy naivety about how wonderful it must be to be a mum, and surely giving birth cant be that bad can it?! Yes it is wonderful and yes it is that bad! (in my experience) this is just my experience.

I honestly wonder whether I have been suffering from post traumatic stress (PTS) as I still have nightmares that I am pregnant again and being asked to give birth and in the dream I just say, "no I can't", over and over again.

What is interesting as well is that you think the birth stories that you hear are bad when you are pregnant but believe me they get worse after you have had the child...then the horror stories really come out of the woodwork!

But then after you have been hit by the almighty bus that is birth you then have to master breastfeeding.  Looking back now I see that I was lucky as I managed to master breastfeeding quite easily. Without sounding too lamenting, it is wonderful and a true gift to be able to feed your child in this way but it isn't easy.  To put it politely, I had an abundance of milk, or to put it another way, it literally felt like I had milk squirting from any available orifice ;-/

In the early weeks a day feels like a year, and it was a joke between my friends that the only word that seemed to describe how we felt was 'overwhelming'.  People would say make the most of it as the early weeks go by so quickly, they are only this small for such a short time. From 10-12 weeks it does get easier, but when you are in the situation of first time mother with a two week old waking every hour for a feed you honestly think, I am not sure I can make it to tomorrow let alone next week!

Call me dramatic, I probably am, I am certainly a sensitive soul but I think it is important that women can feel ok about finding it hard.  I don't always feel ok with finding it hard.  I read these parenting blogs about baby wearing (attachment parenting) and breastfeeding and attending to your baby's every need and I end up thinking 'oh god, I am causing my baby psychological damage by not wearing him strapped to my chest 24 hours a day!'

I have observed that some women take to motherhood better than others.  Some people have easier babies than others, some people like being at home, with their baby for company. I need more - there, I said it!  My baby isn't enough for me, I like work, adult company, intellectual stimulation, I like my own hobbies and time, I am still working on not feeling guilty for that.  But I do know I am a good mum and that I love my son and he loves his life, his dad, his childminder and the other people who care for him from time to time such as nana and grandpa. Who knows whether having mummy at home 24/7 is a better or worse set up but our set up works for us.

I know these earth mother blogs have the best of intentions but they can make you feel bad because you think, 'well that woman is coping why am I not on cloud 9?!'  Same with the birth, when C was finally pulled out, I reflected, am I the only woman who at that moment was in truth as worried about 'what the hell just happened to me' than staring into the eyes of my new born baby boy.

So why do we go through it, I have asked myself this question and have struggled for answers but today I am inspired.  Our children are our best teachers, and teach us about the many hidden facets of ourselves.  They teach us limitless love, patience, and frustration.  They test your relationship and shake it to its very core.

And my final reflection was this;

I had a child because I wanted to be a  mother, I wanted to nurture a life and to raise a beautiful child that will grow to be a beautiful adult who will love and give back to the world.  This is my mission now, to ensure he has the best start possible, this is my greater good and together with my partner in crime/life we will put aside our trivialities and difficulties in pursuit of this greater good.

The top 10 gross things about being a new parent

 

1. Poo is surprisingly hard to remove from the gaps between your fingernails. You can get rid of the brown stuff, but not the smell.

2. You pick up food that's been in someone else's mouth. All day.

3. You'll also have small hands wiping it on your face.

4. Contrary to what my wife thinks,  I don't think milk smells nice. It smells like sour goat's cheese.

5. The umbilical cord stump. Oh god. Day one, it goes a bit yellow. Day two, it's more of a dirty brown and it starts to smell like Brie. Day three.... day three...

6. Poop-filled nappies and baby bouncers don't make for a good combination. At all.

7. At first, when checking their nappies, there is an exotic intrigue, you feel almost like a scientist. You obviously haven't had a bad one yet.

8. That warm trickle on your wrist as you change your baby's nappy in the dark. The most upsetting thing about this is not the pee, but the fact you can't actually see it.

9. As you're wiping that puddle of pee up with the clothes you had only just put on your baby, you then feel something quite hot, and moist landing on the back of your hand.

10. But the grossest thing of all.. you actually love these things!

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Saturday, 16 November 2013

BT Digital Baby Monitor And Pacifier - A Detailed Product Review



I'll write this review in case it's useful to new and expecting parents out there. I did quite a lot of research before selecting what baby monitor to buy and I'm pleased I settled on the BT Digital Baby Monitor and Pacifier. I'll explain why.

The market is saturated with baby monitors. It's an important purchase and you need to get it right, and there are loads of devices out there to suit anyone's budget. You can spend just over a tenner, or a grand, it's your choice. I didn't trust a gadget that was cheap so I opted to go for a mid-priced option.

I knew that I wanted a monitor that would have plenty of features, and one that would last several years, where the features would prove useful over time. I also knew I didn't want a monitor with video playback because we were worried we might obsess over it otherwise, constantly checking on our little rascal while he tossed and turned or stuck his middle finger up at the camera. No, not for me thanks.

So when I read reviews of this one I was immediately drawn to it because it also claimed to be a pacifier. Now anything that will pacify an unsettled baby at the push of a button has my attention immediately! The monitor offers the choice of giving them a light show, or playing music to soothe them - either a mix of soothing tunes that are built into the monitor, or you can go one step further by plugging in an iPod and selecting your own playlist. The other thing I liked about it is it claimed to have high definition sound, so I knew this was the one for me, and generally it had good reviews by other users - an average of four stars on Amazon based on 192 reviews.

Our son is nearly seven months old now so I'll base this review on the time we've spent using it. But I imagine as he gets older that the device will take on different meanings and functions, as well as fulfilling its primary use of letting us hear him when he is distressed.  Without further ado, here are my thoughts.


Pros
  • HD sound. It's really crisp and clear, and I can hear every soiled nappy in horrific detail. I can also hear his breathing very clearly and choose different volumes depending on what I'm doing.
  • Great signal. With a very strong wireless connection, it has never lost sync with the monitor and has a terrific range, the manufacturer claims it is 50m indoors and 300m outdoors. Sadly I don't have a mansion in the Cotswolds so can't test this theory, but I do believe it.
  • Optional room temperature gauge / night light. Depending on what sort of parent you are, you can choose to use it as a really useful night light, similar to a Gro-egg. It will glow blue when it's cold, orange when it's an ok temperature, and red when it's too hot. This is a really useful feature actually. It's also useful for doing the dream feed, where I don't want to disturb him, but want just enough light to see that I'm not pouring the bottle in his eye.
  • Useful talk back feature. At the push of a button on the handset, you can talk to their child, or give your partner a fright, depending on your needs. So far, I don't use this very often as I worry it could have a stimulating effect for him to hear my voice. However, I imagine it will really come into its own with older children who can talk, and I know a friend of mine often has midnight negotiation sessions with his daughter through the monitor! For the slightly more eccentric parents out there, you could also pretend to be the monster that lives under their bed, and frighten them into being quiet. But I'm sure Supernanny wouldn't recommend that.
  • You can also check the room temperature on the handset. Wherever I am in the house, I have quick peace of mind as it tells me exactly how hot or cold it is. This is a well thought out feature, and remarkably useful as I don't think many other handsets give you a temperature reading despite it being one of the most obvious features a monitor should have.
  • Pacifying music. If your baby is kicking off, just press the button on the handset and play them some soothing music. You can either play your own mp3's through an iPod, or the in-built songs. I do like the lullabies that it comes with. Instrumental versions of row your boat, twinkle twinkle little star, three blind mice, they're all there, all of the classics. But the most important thing is that it really does work and can settle him usually, so this is one of the most important features. It's worth mentioning I also turn on the music when I'm settling him for the night. You can customise how long you want it to play for, I have it on the 15 minute setting so quite often when I tiptoe out of his room I am reassured by the fact the music will probably work its magic and make sure he gets down to sleep.
  • Torch on the handset. This is great for night time nappy changes as I put it on the end of the changing table facing away from my son and it provides enough light for me to see, without dazzling him. Likewise I use it every night when I'm doing the night feed, when creeping into his room. I'll then place it on the ground facing away from us when I'm bottle feeding him. The light isn't invasive but gives enough of a glow so I can see what's going on.
  • It looks good - stylishly decorated in white and purple colours. I like the fact that it's rounded and has shelf appeal so it's like a decorative item in its own right.

Cons

  • The light show is poorly thought out. It's bad for babies. Firstly, it has a stimulating effect, and he will coo and gurgle at the patterns on the ceiling when he sees them. But that's the last thing I want when I just want him to sleep, so I would advise BT that this is a good idea but needs refining. The other annoying thing about it is that the light show seems to be cheaply put together. The patterns are more like messy blotches, there aren't any shapes visible, it's a bit like a Jackson Pollock painting, but not a pretty one. We don't use this feature yet, but I imagine when he gets older he might like it on in the night, and if your child is scared of the dark then it could be useful, along with the night light.
  • The re-chargeable battery life on the receiver could be longer - it needs charging every day, and on a few occasions if we've not charged it for long enough in advance it makes an annoying beeping noise. However this is a small quibble as it has only happened a few times and you just learn not to do it again.

Overall review: 4 out of 5 stars.

A very solid, versatile product, the BT Digital Baby Monitor and Pacifier gives you peace of mind, reliability and excellent features that I couldn't live without. Excellent value for money. In future this could easily be a five star product, it just needs a little more refinement and tweaking from BT.

Price I paid: £65 on Amazon.

For official product technical specifications, click here for the official BT website


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Diary Ramble - Men Can't Multi-task!

What's up, doc?


It was lovely today to pick up C from his childminder for the first time. Usually it's H who does it as she works part time but I had the chance to experience his glorious, comical facial expression as he eyed me coming into the room. He looked at me like he knew me, but wasn't sure where from, but that I was clearly someone very intriguing. Sat up straight in his colourful inflatable play ring, and rocking back and forth like a spring that had been twanged, if that makes sense. Enjoying his new motor skills and working on his balance techniques no doubt.

But anyway, picture an extremely cute baby, eyes as wide as saucers, mouth ajar, lips curled into a slight smile and eyebrows raised, while leaning back and bending forward like a yo-yo. Not saying anything, just staring, in a very curious and shocked manner! Maybe he was expecting his mum, but he held that face for about 30 seconds. It was an incredible experience to witness it and I felt really proud, he looked like a little boy as opposed to a baby. I also felt sad that I don't get to do this more often.

He is lucky to have an excellent childminder. It's a small, cosy house and there are three other children ranging in age from about one to three years old. Obviously my arrival had caused some excitement as one of them had said "there's a tall daddy standing outside" and they all ran around the house like puppies when I walked in, jumping all over the sofas and so on. It seemed like a really happy little family and C was very content in it. The other kids clearly love him and apparently the two year old kid lies down and lets him grab his hair while he's sat in the play ring. Although there's one who is a year old and he apparently has had his nose put out of joint by not being the "baby" any more! So I sat down with C, talking to him while he smiled at me, not saying a word and meanwhile a girl talked continuously to the side of my face, all about how did I know her full name was A, B, C, D and her daddy has a very big beard. They are lovely kids for him to be surrounded by, so I think we've really lucked out here.

So H wasn't due back for a while so it was down to me to do his bedtime routine and cook our food. Normally I get home quite late so I don't often get a chance to do it. She is so good how she manages to do it and I'm ever grateful to her. It must be very difficult being a mum and also running the house, I help out with the chores when I'm home but often a lot of the hard graft and the cooking has already been done by the time I get back - including juggling C's needs, feeding him and putting him to bed. So as I was cooking I was just thinking that to myself about how much I appreciate her. I was also thinking I was doing a good job so far, C went down to sleep perfectly and I'd managed some cleaning and tidying and would probably have food ready by the time she was home.

At this point it's maybe worth mentioning that anyone reading this would probably think "what are you going on about, that isn't difficult at all" but this is coming from someone who tends to struggle with stuff like this and takes three hours to clean the house whereas my wife can do it in one hour! I'm no masterchef and have about five or six meals I can cook perfectly well, but she is a very adept cook. So I was feeling pleased with myself and thinking. "this isn't so bad, I could be a house husband!"

So just as I was starting to feel smug and on top of things, H came home.

"Er... why is the temperature in C's room 21 degrees?" She exclaimed.

It turned out I had left the radiator on full blast.

"And why have you set the washing machine to dry instead of wash?"

"I... er... what do you mean? It's on wash isn't it?"

"No it's on dry."

Time to get back in my box, I thought.

They say men can't multi-task, and here is case in point!


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Baby, tap a tune for me.

Out of all his toys, one of the surprise hits so far has been the Baby Tap-A-Tune Piano, by Little Tikes.


Official product description: this toy piano will delight and stimulate your baby! It is just the right size for little hands, and the keys are easy to press. Babies will learn cause and effect, and begin to develop a sense of rhythm and timing.
Age: 6 months - 3 years

It's basically a modern take on a xylophone, but without all the faffing around having to hit it with a stick. So it's very much suitable for infants as they can still get the hang of it very quickly and produce pleasing, stimulating sounds.

Both baby C and I can't get enough of it. We will quite happily sit there tinkering with it, playing tunes. C will bash it with his little fists while I attempt to restore order with wondrous jazz solos and improvisations. It's amazing what can be achieved with just four notes and you can come up with lovely chord combinations.

Sadly, my wife doesn't share the same views. She absolutely hates it when I play it, whereas she coos and claps for the baby every time he produces the slightest plink from it.

Life's so unfair.

I can see this being a long term hit with C and at 7 months old he is already starting to develop his motor skills by swinging a wooden spoon at it. He is just about starting to sit up unassisted but even when he's in his Bumbo seat he is often leaning over the side trying to reach at the piano all the time.

It's so cute to watch. 

He's at the age where he is learning cause and effect. Poor Sophie the Giraffe learned this to her detriment when she became an unlucky participant in C's recent orchestra. 

Looking very pleased with himself, he whacked her repeatedly against the robust keys of the piano until her squeak lost a bit of its sparkle. (I may post a video of this later).

Summary: 

A great toy! Just as good for parents as it is for kids, and highly interactive and educational.  Seems to be well built and sturdy, with a strong plastic casing. I'll be really interested to see what he can do with it as he gets older. 

5 stars - highly recommended.





This toy piano will delight and stimulate your baby! It is just the right size for little hands, and the keys are easy to press. Babies will learn cause and effect, and begin to develop a sense of rhythm and timing.
Age 6 months - 3 years
- See more at: http://www.littletikes.co.uk/infant-preschool/baby-tap-a-tune-piano.html#sthash.MTUWXj2P.dpuf
This toy piano will delight and stimulate your baby! It is just the right size for little hands, and the keys are easy to press. Babies will learn cause and effect, and begin to develop a sense of rhythm and timing.
Age 6 months - 3 years
- See more at: http://www.littletikes.co.uk/infant-preschool/baby-tap-a-tune-piano.html#sthash.MTUWXj2P.dpuf
Baby Tap-A-Tune™ Piano
Baby Tap-A-Tune™ Piano
Baby Tap-A-Tune™ Piano

Monday, 11 November 2013

Thou shalt not be baptised! Or shall thee?



I was raised a Catholic, so when I announced to my family that we weren't planning to baptise our son, it caused quite a bit of uproar. 

Well, to be fair, I didn't exactly announce it, this information was prised out of me.

My mother and various siblings had already had to cope with the fact that we got married in a registry office, along with comments about how surprised they were that the registry office was nice, and not at all what they were expecting. They were almost incredulous that this could even be possible! But little did they know the shock that was coming several years later.

My brother, despite being a lapsed Catholic himself, plans to play the game with the church in order that his daughter can go to a good Catholic school. Naturally I was the target of much alarm bells in the family as they all pictured our son in the fiery pits of Hades, deeply lacking in God's blessing while meanwhile his little cousin was baptised and living a charmed life!

Anyway, I called mum for a catch up this weekend and her latest topic of nagging was of course Operation X; where X stands for Christ. Trying a new, cunning tact with me, she lowered a voice a little, made it a little quieter, and actually pleaded: "please will you baptise C?"

I laughed! "Why is it so important to you? We aren't religious mum, I've gone over this several times".

"But without God's blessing, what future does C have?!"

It was the earnestness, the seriousness of this claim that stopped me in my tracks.

"Go on.."

"Please don't make me do I what I did with 'M', when I baptised him in the bath while [your aunt] wasn't looking."

The plot thickens, I'm thinking. My mum, the phantom baptiser. God's secret enforcer, protecting the heathen children from harm! At this point I began to laugh hysterically because I could exactly picture her doing it. It's not the sort of thing she would make up. She is well known for doing things like this. So I decided to have some fun with the idea.

"I would like you to baptise my baby."

"No no, I'm not going to baptise him, I'm not properly qualified, it would need to be a priest, mine was only a quick baptism while [your aunt] wasn't looking. I splashed some water on his head."

"No really, I only want you to do it. You obviously have skills in this area."

I pictured us lighting candles and incense sticks in the bathroom and praying reverently, perhaps chanting like monks while she entered the darkened room. We would step back, allowing her a path to walk slowly towards the bath where our baby awaited, anointed with lavender oil and ready for the holy one to give her blessing. 


Now hold still, we're just going to keep you safe from Satan...

But suddenly, in an obviously pre-meditated strike she hit me with a divine thunderbolt of her own.

"Of course, it would only be a small ceremony, you'd only need a few witnesses, and the priest. I'll arrange it for when you come down at Christmas. I'll organise everything".

Now I could really sense how important this was to my mum, and I'm a sucker for small ceremonies, so her arrow really struck home. It seemed like all I had to do was turn up.

"Ok, fine."

"Thank you! Ooooh I'm so excited!" (I think she may have made a little squealing noise too, but I can't be 100% certain).

She later commented, that it was the greatest thing that anyone could give her for Christmas, it meant more than any gift ever could.

It made me realise that whatever your feelings on a subject, they are irrelevant if you make someone else 100 times more happy, simply by not going with your own instincts of apathy. We always thought it would be hypocritical for C to get baptised as we don't go to church, but hearing how delighted she was really changed my views.

Aww. Mums are great.

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Getting to know your little person

It's nice when you realise that your baby isn't just a screaming little git that needs 24/7 attention, but actually he is a little person who likes things to be a certain way.

7 months old now, C has developed a routine. On the weekends it goes something like this:


06:00 - Awake, hungry, has done a poo (he seems to like coiling one out first thing to get off to a fine start to the day)

06:10 - Drinks a bottle of milk. Now at this point there is a small chance he will sleep again but it's unlikely. You can try and put him down again but he is cunning. He knows that when light is peeping through the cracks of the so-called black out blinds, it's playtime.

06:30 - Pop him in the Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo. Daddy makes himself a strong coffee while the catchy tunes and monkey noises breathe life into the house. Meanwhile the cat attempts to usher me into the kitchen at every opportunity. This gadget really is a godsend in our house and he adores jumping to his heart's content. Revelling in the loud squeaks of the springs as he bounces about, the flashing lights and the monkeys encouraging him to keep going.


Morning exercise in the Jumperoo

06:50 - Time for breakfast. Recently we would put him in the Bumbo and he would sit there waving his arms like a dictator for food, but now he takes great delight in sitting in his high chair. Now feed him a generous portion of Organix Banana Porridge while he repeatedly gets distracted by the cat.

07:00 - Clean, cuddle, and try to compete with the cat for baby's attention. Suddenly remember that if you feed the cat, it goes away. Then time for more cuddles and playtime.

09:00 - (Already feeling tired) - feel hungry, and we make breakfast for ourselves. C likes the look of the breakfast and ends up throwing pancake segments all over the floor

09:30 - Cleaning away the devastation, emptying the dishwasher, and filling it up again. Have mini argument about who is having a bath / getting dressed first. Look after C while the victor goes and gets ready for the day.

10:00 - Juggle C between parents while both parents try to bathe and get ready. It's an enjoyable task deciding what he will wear, and dressing him for the day.

10:30 - Time passes by in a blur. D Day is approaching. Frantic running around the house trying to get everything ready in time for....

11:00 - Grizzle mode fully activated. Baby needs a nap, and he ain't napping for you unless he's in his car seat being driven somewhere! Jump in car, sigh of relief, baby instantly asleep.

11:30 - Have coffee somewhere. Possibly buy a paper that you know will probably not get read.

12:15 - Lunch. Feed him a defrosted meal of sweet potato or similar, followed by defrosted apple, pear and cinnamon puree. I think someone is working their way up to a....

12:40 - Nappy

12:45 - Realise we haven't made a plan for the rest of the afternoon. Make plan. Quickly act on it.

13:00 - Go for a walk or into the shops. Hope baby has a nap or he will be grizzly later.


Happy having a walk, laughing at a private joke with daddy


15:00 - Bottle. Boshed.

16:00 - Get him home, time for some more baby led weaning. Shudder inwardly as baby throws food everywhere and pulps bananas against his new trousers. Yet secretly surge with pride watching him taste and chew on new things with his little bottom teeth.

16:30 - Clean up the devastation, and have more cuddles and playtime.

17:15 - The little person, suddenly realising that he has hardly slept all day, starts to actually feel a little tired! Hurrah. Run a bath and strip him down, while he lies on the towel gurgling and getting excited about his...

17:20 - Bathtime. C kicks happily in the water, splashing everything in sight.

17:30 - Baby massage while he gurgles and squeaks, very happy, I think this is his favourite part of the day. Get him changed into his night gear.

17:45 - Read a quick story and feed him half a bottle or so. He falls asleep in my arms in the darkness. 

18:00 - Creep out of his bedroom. Wow the shift is over. I have regained my identity and can actually do cool stuff like eat, and relax! 

00:00 - Tiptoe into his bedroom with the handheld torch on the controller of the  BT Digital Baby Monitor and Pacifier. Make sure the torch is facing away from baby. Fully expect C to be in a strange position in his cot, nowhere near where you first placed him. Smile to yourself when you discover this is true. Pick him up gently and sit down in the comfy chair and give him a dream feed.

00:15 - Put him down in his cot, fast asleep, and creep out of the room. There is normally a sharp cry when he realises he is alone. Daddy's spine tenses, and hopes that as normal it is just one little wail from C and then he will sleep. Feel surge of love because your little creature of habit is so predictable that he even did the little cry.

00:30 - Daddy goes to sleep..... baby hopefully is conked out until...

06:00 - Action stations!


Total sleep: approx. 13 hours

He adores his routine. I love him for being such a little creature of habit, with his own personality, and every time something happens in the routine or he gives me a cue at the right time I feel a little surge of pride for having this person in my life.
 

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Saturday, 9 November 2013

The story of how it all began. The birth story.

Hello world.

I guess if you're writing a blog about being a dad you might as well get started with the birth story. Seems like a good place to start.

People talk about childbirth as being torture, agony, all sorts of words like that that conjure up images of the fiery pits of hell. It's true. And I didn't even have to go through it myself! I was a helpless bystander.

Having done a hypnobirthing course and hoping for a 'natural' birth without pain relief, epidurals and so on, we had done a lot of preparation to hopefully make things easier on D Day. The big day approached and went, and it got to about four days overdue when suddenly I had a call from my wife. Too much protein in her urine; I needed to leave work and go to hospital where she was waiting.

And this is where it starts spiralling, folks. The hypnobirth was out of the window, the 5 star hotel-esque rooms of the newly built Cossham Hospital in Bristol would be a distant memory as we were told we would have to stay in Southmead Hospital instead, where they are able to cope with any form of complication as opposed to it being a midwife-led unit.

As baby was already overdue, we decided that it would be best if she was induced, now that word seems very inoffensive and peaceful but it's far from it. Inducing labour is actually a very painful process and can take days - she was offered a pessary, called a Propess, which caused H quite a bit of agony and stress over the next 24 hours.

Anyway, a whole day passes. Plenty of pain, fear, frustration, and high emotions. It was very sad that night as visitor hours were over and she cried and hugged me because I had to leave. Likewise, there was another couple in the same room going through exactly the same thing. So the two women were crying while the men consoled them. Looking back, it's kind of funny, but it was very emotional at the time. The lady next door was Swiss, and a long way from home.

So I went home, fed the cat, normal stuff like that, and went to bed. Phone rang at 4am - she's in labour - get here now! Got to the hospital, and it was dark, quiet, it's surreal, it's dark outside, you're shit scared, and there are hardly any lights on. It's sort of like a 4am booty call into someone's room at university and you knock on a window and a guard lets you in. I then rushed into her room where all hell was breaking loose. Loud animal noises, no nurse in sight, and to cop it all, there's that poor Swiss woman on the other side of the (very small) room while her roomie is in very loud labour. Mental.

H was on the bed, on all fours, with headphone wires all over the place, and loud moaning. I'll never forget it, I remember thinking how messy and out of context with the situation the headphones looked - but she was listening to calming music by Stephen Halpern that had been recommended by our legendary hypnobirthing tutor Katheryn. His album, Comfort Zone is a deeply chilled meander through time with gentle pianos and chimes, you sort of picture tranquil lagoons when you listen to it, so it definitely does the job! How useful that CD became over the next hours, I don't know what we would have done without it. It's funny though because any cynic out there would call this hippy new age music but we loved it and it really helped get her through the labour.

As her birth partner I needed to be on tip top form and be cool as a cucumber although it was crazy, on one half of the room the Swiss lady was wheeling her bed and possessions out of the door creating extremely loud and infuriating banging noises, meanwhile H was trying to concentrate on her breathing techniques to cope with the pain of the contractions and moaning like an elephant that has just been shot. I remember getting quite irate, and was about to go apesh*t about this woman's inability to move things without making really annoying noises, but thankfully it was over before I lost my rag.

On top of that, I was doing the typical man thing of trying to help, but failing on every level. Lots of cries of "don't touch me", followed by barked orders of "water", "flannel" and so on, but I could never seem to get the right thing at the right time, and at one point I helpfully turned the volume up of her music. Bad idea! Every time the nurse came in I was asking for us to get her to one of the delivery suites but there were various delays so my nerves were shot to pieces. When it finally happened we threw a blanket over H and wheeled her out on the bed through the hallways while she was still on all fours while she no doubt put the fear of god into every room we passed with her animalistic cries. I remember feeling really sorry for them and hoping it didn't wake them up as I helped push the bed.

Finally - into the delivery suite, H was coping very well with the contractions and I was slowly finding my feet at giving the right support or drink at the right time. Pretty difficult when you have homeopathic remedies to add into the mix - three different bottles of water with different healing effects (although again the cynics would have a field day with that!) I remember thinking how ridiculous it was with the three bottles, but they seemed to be doing the trick.

Then time flew by, a matter of hours, it seemed like we were one push away from meeting our baby C. It was unbelievable. She had been totally focused on her hypnobirthing breathing techniques and they were working! With no gas and air she was pushing our baby out magnificently, the midwives were smiling, you honestly thought this was going to be a happy ending. Sunlight was even starting to light the room up, it was like the universe was saying 'here is your perfect birth, in moments you will be holding your baby'. So I was even tweeting and texting people to update them, that I thought it was happening any time soon and H was doing fantastically well.

How wrong I was. There was obviously a bump in the road, little C couldn't quite turn the last corner, and that's when things screwballed. We had gone from a labour of only 4 hours into the most emotional day I'll ever recall. H was tiring, the pain was deepening, the adrenaline was wearing off and the midwives were looking concerned, they started to suggest gas and air, and it was accepted. 

The next few hours passed, lots of jiggling around, position changes, gas sucking and a many more "nearly there's" but it got to a point where we knew all our encouragement was a false hope and it wasn't going to happen. It was hysterical at times as this wonderful midwife (who I think was Polish) had the most lovely accent and way about her, but every time it was "just one more push, come on H" she did it in this fantastically amusing, enthusiastic foreign way that was bordering on comic. As time went on though, I started to picture caesarians and all sorts at this point and would have been glad for that to happen as I was worried about the pain H was in and just wanted it to be over for her. I think I probably cried at this point too out of frustration for her and seeing her go through the hardship.

The next bit is a blur, it involves a doctor very matter of factly waving a barbaric implement of torture that looked more like an implement you'd use to skewer a sausage on a barbecue. "We're just going to take some blood from the baby's head now". I lost the plot and went bat-sh-t crazy. "You are going to f'ing do what?" My protective instincts kicked in. New dad syndrome. I went furious, normally I'm quite a placid guy but a red mist was pounding me and I was going ballistic, and four pairs of eyes looked on at me with absolute horror while the doctor calmly tried to explain what they needed to do. Purple rage, interspersed with sobbing from me and holding H's hand, I must have looked like a right nutter to them but all I can remember thinking is "you are not going to f'ing stab that thing in my baby's head".

I also damn well needed a cigarette. This was picked up on by our fantastic midwife Sasha who could clearly see I was getting agitated and a nervous wreck and she politely suggested I go outside. Thank Christ for that, I needed it. I came back inside and felt a lot calmer. It was time for H to have an epidural, which was something we really hoped we could avoid, but ended up being a godsend.

Now the epidural was one of the most surreal experiences of my life as throughout it all you have to picture the new age piano music of Stephen Halpern plinking away in the background on the CD player. I think everyone was grateful for it, including the anaesthetist. Now that is a hell of a job, it takes nerves of steel. They come in mid-way through a battle scene and are legally obliged to let you know that there is a chance the epidural can go horribly wrong, but ours had such a confident way about her, she was a consummate professional and commented "but there's no way that's happening on my watch", or words to that effect! But again, the fears and doubts and what-ifs creep into your mind and you just hope everything will be ok.

So the calm music totters on and our delightful Polish midwife comments on how calming it is and everyone laughs nervously while the anaesthetist does the business, standing as still as a statue, inserting what looks like a small clear tube into the base of H's spine, a process that takes about 10 minutes, that could result in paralysis, and I shudder for anyone who has been affected by that horribly unlucky event as this is a genuine risk of the epidural. I just could not believe how the anaesthetist was able to hold the needle so still as she punctured H's back and fed the tube in. Literally I think we were all standing there while H was having contractions too, and she was wonderful to keep so still while all this was going on, I felt these beautiful surges of pride, and love for her, she was so brave. Anyway what felt like half an hour passed, and there had been a complication or something hadn't gone right with the epidural so the process had to be repeated again. Nightmare.

From there, everything slipped into an opiate dream like state, almost. The pain subsided, H was able to rest, and actually have a little sleep, I made a coffee for everyone (and of course had a crafty cig) and about half an hour later, the labour. I looked at the clock. It was f'ing 7pm. Twelve hours had passed since we thought our baby was coming any second, and these hours honestly felt like it was only a few. H rested a bit more and I responded to the deluge of concerned text messages I was receiving, i.e. "where's the kid, you texted us at 7am saying he's nearly here, we are worried..." So I dealt with my dad admin and then H woke up. 

Cue the encouraging Polish midwife again (god I loved her) - "Does your baby have a middle name?" "he doesn't deserve a middle name" said H. Everyone laughed hysterically. Except H. I waited a few moments and reassured them, yes he will have a middle name. It was this sort of bedside manner, care and professionalism that reminds me it's worth mentioning before I forget, that the staff at Southmead were all fantastic. Thank you for these nice moments in the middle of the storm.

Then from here I don't really want to talk about the graphic details, but yes there was blood, yes there were a few more barbaric implements, yes there was heroic bravery from H, and lots of tears and sobbing from me, and finally, our beautiful baby. 

Hello, son... if you are ever reading these words one day, this is the story of how you came to be. Here you are, approximately a minute old. Full of mischief and promise of things to come, and everything we ever wished for.



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