The (true) Story of Millie Harriet Carter
Part 9, everything changes

Read Part 1 - in hospital

Read Part 2 - at home

Read Part 3 - things get back to "normal"

Read Part 4 - a year in the life

Read Part 5 - summer in the city

Read Part 6 - a second Christmas

Read Part 7 - a third year

Read Part 8 - Baby Amber cometh

Wednesday 25th June 2008
Oh, dear - meant to write a much longer piece here today, but I was been clobbered by a migraine and had to come home from work this afternoon.

Basically, I took Millie into nursery this morning, as usual, and she managed to impress me on three counts with grown-up she's becoming.

1. She jumped off the bus without holding my hand - a full-on, two-footed leap down to the pavement.
2. She could reach the buttons at traffic lights without me lifting her up.
3. And finally, she could just about push open the main door at nursery, a big spring-loaded one.

Baby A is also on her last ever night-time feed tonight - from now on the Lovely Melanie and I can go to bed at 7pm if we want to!  Whoo-hoo!
Obviously, neither of us are really going to miss this, but I do feel slightly sad that that's it for us now with the babying.  We're never ever planning on doing it a third time, it's a part of my life that's now finished though, something that we'll never do again (unless we get grand-children).

I'm not back at work for a week now: tomorrow we're hiring a car and heading off to Chislehurst Caves; Friday we're going to the seaside (not sure which side of the sea yet); Saturday to Swindon; Sunday to Cotswold Wildlife Park, and Monday - Millie's third birthday - back to London.
And on the Tuesday we will no doubt rest.

Monday 30th June 2008

A rockstar-style weekend, in the sense that we had a seam-stretchingly tight schedule of public appearances, meet 'n' greets and outings to make.  Not that we didn't enjoy it all, and not that both the girls didn't put on exceptional performances whenever called upon to do so, but we were all a bit tired and emotional by today.

Thursday's trip to Margate was an auspicious start - weather was nice, journey was quick, and we didn't get lost once.  Margate's a nice town with a beautiful beach and a lovely seafront (only spoilt by an inexplicable concrete towerblock monstrosity built slap-bang in the middle of it).  
Millie loved the beach and the sea; crabs and jellyfish, eh, not so much.  The whole experience was only improved (for her, at any rate) by a massive inflatable bouncy Tigger who also happened to 'live' on the beach.

Friday's planned trip to Chislehurst Caves started off well, stumbled a bit when we were hit by some very heavy showers, and almost staggered to a halt when the caves turned out to be unsuitable for children.  Not forbidden, by any means, but the staff cheerfully advised against taking them down there.
Fortunately, the Lovely Melanie remembered a nearby children's play centre, and we went there instead.  Millie loved it; I thought it rather resembled a stupendously loud, but well padded and exceptionally safe part of Hell, which you may say is only because I'm a grumpy old adult, if you could ask Baby A, however, and if she could talk, she'd tell you that she was a bit overwhelmed by the experience, too.

Saturday saw us drive over to Swindon first thing in the morning, there to meet...well, about half the population, I think.  Ah, I jest, of course!  We had a lovely day meeting uncles, aunties, cousins, godparents, friends, nannies, great-nannies, etc. etc.  Both Millie and Baby A were brilliant - despite being completely shattered by late afternoon the Millie Show and All-Star Amber both retained their strictly professional edge: smiling, laughing and playing with everyone.  
Well done, girls - your mother and I were very very proud of you both that day.

Sunday morning we opened Millie's presents and cards, even though it was a day early.  This year Millie could open them all herself and was even suitably excited by some - others were frenziedly torn open...and dropped on the floor in favour of the next wrapped package.  No malice intended, but no apology forthcoming for the lack of grace, either.  It was actually quite funny to watch: 'what's this...?  Oh.  What's that?  Mm-hm.  What now?  Wow!'
Next on Sunday was the long-awaited trip to Cotswold Wildlife Park, courtesy of a generous gift of some tickets from Rich and Carla.
Amber...well, you could take Amber out for a day to a public toilet and she'd probably enjoy it if you paid her enough attention; Millie is marginally more demanding these days.  She was particularly impressed by the bats, by the miniature train (she even thanked the driver when we got off, completely spontaneous and unprompted by us!) and by the petting zoo.
It was a lovely family day out, as all my immediate family made it, and so did my uncle Maurice, auntie Jackie, cousin Mark and his lovely wife, Maxine.  We all had a really nice day out.

I should probably mention the big slide, too.  There was a children's playground in the park, and one of the attractions there was a damn big slide - one of those steep, twisty-turny tubey ones built in a tree and with a daunting metal staircase leading ever upwards to the commanding heights.
I honestly thought Millie would blanch at that particular beast.  I thought she'd look at it, pause, and then run back to the swings or the more reasonably sized slides.
Did she heck!
She paused only to draw breath before running up those stairs!  I was so proud!  
One minute later there was an almighty clang and a startled Millie appeared.  Unprepared for the descent, she'd banged her head on the way down and needed a cuddle...

..for 15 seconds, then she was back up those stairs!

But after a few minutes of children popping out of the slide at five-second intervals (sometimes less) a grown woman appeared and said that a little girl up there 'was a bit nervous'.  So I climbed up the stairs myself to find, yes, a nervous Millie hanging around the top of the slide.  With just a few reassurances however before she was soon on her way down again, and since forewarned is forearmed she enjoyed it a lot more this time.
And the time after that.
And the time after that.
In fact, I think she was on there for about an hour, round and round and round, overtaking children two or three times her age.

There are pictures from the weekend on Flickr.

One other great thing was to have my dad there with us: not just sort of creeping along behind, but there with us; keeping pace with Millie, lifting her up, throwing her around and playing all day long with her.  I'm not sure who was having the most fun, him or her.
Anyway, it's great to have him back. :-)

Thursday 3rd July 2008
Ohh, I hate having to do that - shifting all the older entries into the archive section of this website (still known as 'Millie's Story', even though it's far from being just Millie's story any more) so that this title page doesn't become kilometres long and take ten minutes to load.
It takes ages, there are always horrendous problems, and it's boring.
All of these things are my own fault - caused by some bad design and titling decisions in the very early days of this site; decisions which to undo now would require a whole weekend's worth of fixing, testing, swearing and misery.
And the result of all that work would be nothing that you, my dear audience, would even notice.

It's interesting (I think) to look back over the history this website a bit now though.  You may not realise it but I only started The Truth because my ISP gives me quite a large amount of webspace for free.  It seemed a shame to ignore their generosity so I thought I'd set up a website.
What to put on that website though?  What did I have to say that was worth publishing on the web?

Well, way back in 1999 I'd started writing book reviews for a couple of publications, and some of these reviews were only published in print ('how barbaric!' I hear you cry), so that they were forever lost once the magazine had been and gone.  Indeed, a couple of reviews really have been lost (fortunately, in at least one case - I wrote a lacklustre review of Distraction by Bruce Sterling, a book which then won a hatful of awards).

So, yes, I decided to set up this webspace as an archive for my book reviews - a body of work which was still in single figures back then.  But what to have on the front page?  How to get people to visit the site on a regular basis?  How to get the content updated other than on the sporadic occasions when I produced a review?

This was all before personal blogs became popular, you understand, but, in a (ahem) brave and forward thinking move, I decided to use the front page - this page you're reading now - as a editorial page for me to sound off about whatever the hell I damn well felt like.  Basically, to blog.
There was a fair bit of swearing, some ill-judged criticism of various people and institutions, and some truly horrific graphic design decisions.

Probably very few people read it and even fewer remember it, which is a shame since all the writing that went on there for the first four or five years was never archived and is almost entirely lost.
It was a deliberate decision not to save it, however: I decided that such a gesture would prove I didn't take things too seriously, as well as showing that I had enough confidence in my writing ability that it didn't matter if content was lost because I could easily write more good stuff.

Ah, what can I tell you?  I was young, it was a crazy time. ;-)

All that changed when the Lovely Melanie went into hospital just before we had Millie.  Both of us lived quite a way away from our families, things really were crazy around then, and I certainly didn't want to spend what little time I had away from the hospital or work talking on the phone, so the website became a news service, a diary, a way to keep family and, to a lesser extent, friends up to date on what was happening.

And that was it - The Truth then was just a ready-made notice board for news about mother and daughter.  It was never intended to carry on like this and be carefully backed up and archived.

Those few months after Millie's birth, though, were such an important point in our lives that my earlier decision to let what I'd written simply vanish didn't seem right anymore.
Initially, I had planned only to keep the entries when Millie was born so we could show her in future how things had gone (and remember, of course, that at the time we were far from sure that there would be a Millie to show them to...).
But as time went on, and I looked back over what I'd written from a distance of a month or two, it already seemed as though I was losing some of my memories of those crazy days in the hospital, so I carried on updating the website and decided, when the page eventually started getting a bit unwieldy, to keep it.
And I have done ever since.
So nowadays (not to be confused with) The Truth is at least as much a diary as it is a book review archive or soapbox: something I never would have expected back in 2000.

Another completely unexpected side-effect has been that it allows me to say important things about friends and family that I probably wouldn't be able to say to their face - how much I love them or appreciate things they've done for me.
What can I tell ya?  I'm English, I'm male, I'm from a pretty undemonstrative family - this is my emotional outlet.

How long will it keep going?  I have no idea.  There are no plans to stop at the moment.  I think I'll keep it going until the girls are both grown up, so that I can remember things that would otherwise have been lost.  Hell, I already read back over it and am surprised at what I've forgotten, so who knows what little might remain in 15 years time?

I wonder what will be here at in 15 years?

Monday 7th July 2008
Something of a rushed update here, since things were quite busy over the weekend with Millie's birthday party, but we all came down with flu on Sunday and are only just feeling better now. :-(
Even Baby A has a touch of it, but is soldiering on through, bless her.

But, yes, an excellent birthday party on Saturday, busy, but not too busy, with most uncles; only one auntie, sadly, a full complement of grandparents; Millie's friend Ben and his mum, Sharon, who the Lovely Melanie and I first met at the ICU at Lewisham Hospital when Millie was there - they were in neighbouring cots in the ward.

The sun shone, food was eaten and some photos were taken (as usual, see Flickr for those), we went down to the woods (as usual, Millie came back in just her pants following a dip in the river) and a lovely afternoon was had by all.
Oh, and Millie got a new ballerina dress from Grandma (the Lovely Melanie's mum) much to the chagrin of Nanny (my mum).  Grandma had two girls, herself, whereas Nanny had three boys, and so has been dying to buy some girlie outfits for about 30 years.

Baby A excelled herself, too - she is such a smiley baby, I've never seen anything like it: a shy little grin which quickly lights up into a massive full-beam smile of delight whenever anyone catches her eye.
She's got a knack for charming people has that one.

Wednesday 9th July 2008
Poor Baby A still has a nasty cold, and the coughing makes her vomit even more than usual.  Still, she's smiling through it, like a baby Ray Charles.  The rest of us are simply gritting our teeth.

Millie was on fine form this morning: not only helping us by fetching wipes from the kitchen when we're sat in the midst of a great milky puke sea, but also with her comments.  Stood at the bus stop this morning a young woman walked past wearing a lot of perfume (not quite as much as older ladies tend to wear, but still an excessive amount) causing Millie to blurt out, 'That lady smells funny!' and me to nearly fall over from laughing.
Ah, maybe you had to be there.

Thursday 9th July 2008
This just in from the Lovely Melanie:

'Millie and I were just listening to Starman by Bowie on the radio; she asked me what it was about and I said it was about men who lived in the stars. Apparently, David Bowie isn't allowed to fly up to see the men in the stars because his Mummy will be very cross and he will have to go on the naughty step.'

She's quite the disciplinarian these days, is Millie: harsh, and not even especially fair.

Baby A has just been weighed at 12lbs 3oz, so she's only gained 9lbs, which is about half what was expected.  No one's worried however, as she's such a happy little soul, has recently started sleeping through the night (so gets her milk in more concentrated bursts) and hasn't been eating too well for a few days anyway because of the flu.

I am off to St James's Park this afternoon with work.  They're sending the entire London office there for some free food, free booze and general larking about.
Now that's what I call a proper company!

Sunday 13th July 2008
Sometimes it's a bit of a drag updating this site - it's not like I don't have better things I could or should be doing, but this weekend we've had such a nice time that I felt there really ought to be some record of it.

Friday, went out for a drink after work in the always entertaining Montague Arms in New Cross.  I was incredibly cagy about drinking too much since Saturday we had to visit the dentist and I was looking after Millie on my own until Sunday.
If there's one thing I've learnt about fatherhood it's that you cannot look after a small child for a whole day if you have a hangover.  Even a teeny-tiny hangover that a few cups of tea and an afternoon nap would normally see off is a killer, because you can't get that afternoon nap and those oh-so precious cups of tea.
But no hangover for me Saturday!  Was very pleased with myself.

We were at the dentist's in our old stamping ground of Forest Hill for 10.30am; Millie and I went in first while the Lovely Melanie sat with Baby A (who has, as yet, no teeth).  I went first to show Millie that there was nothing to worry about.

Of course, sod's law meant that I needed a little bit of work done.

Did you know there's now a sort of sliding scale of fillings?  No longer is it binary - filling or no filling - now you can have a sort of 'covering' - a bit like a filling, but not as traumatic.  
I had to have one of those to forestall a bit of decay around a previous (proper) filling.
The dentist was keen to get started, but I pointed out that we didn't want to scare Millie, and that maybe he should check her teeth first, so she could go back out...before the screaming started.

But wouldn't you know it, Millie needed the exact same thing, for a 'groove' on one of her back teeth.
She looked a bit unsure, but luckily it really was a very simple procedure and not at all traumatic.  Still, she was a very very brave girl and I was, as always, very proud.

My procedure was no less untraumatic.  Fortunately, the standard clean and polish afterwards was unpleasant enough to make up for it.  God knows why, but the dentist hacked into my gums with his damn cleaning screaming buzzer thing, and I could taste blood for a good 30 minutes after.
And in case you think I'm being a damn pussy, so could the Lovely Melanie!

We had lunch in the vegetarian cafe, then Millie and I said 'bye' to the Lovely Melanie and Baby A.  They were off to Hatfield for a baby shower, whereas we were simply off to Nik and Liz's house for an afternoon of rabbit-bothering.
A jolly nice afternoon it was, too.  'Auntie' Liz was at work so it was myself, Nik and Millie for most of the afternoon, and if our childcare wasn't strictly by the book then Millie certainly didn't notice.  When we left nearly four hours later she fell asleep in my arms at Brockley station, dozed through the journey to London Bridge, snored over my shoulder as we changed trains there, and didn't wake up until the train left the station.
It was great carrying my sleeping girl like that - I felt like a proper dad.  Kids are great when they're asleep: you forget all the arguing and tantrums and repetition, and they just become a little focal point of your extraordinary love.

I was glad she did wake up, though, because she was fully refreshed and we laughed and played all the way back to Albany Park station.
Literally, all the way.
We bought some sausage and chips for dinner (the Lovely Melanie had told me to cook that exact meal anyway, but I was tired and the chippie was frying...).  Millie asked for a cheap toy out of a vending machine, so we put 20p in and got a ring in return...
Aye caramba!  Millie loves that ring!  It's a 20p piece of plastic, but to her it suddenly became one of her most precious possessions!

So, anyway, we ate sausage and chips, did bathtime, watched some bedtime TV and went to bed.
Having the house effectively to myself I had planned to read a bit, but was so tired I ended up just watching a load of documentaries on the BBC iPlayer.

Today (Sunday) I overslept by more than an hour.  Fortunately Millie didn't notice (I don't think), and after breakfast and a chat with Nanny and Grampy on Oovoo (we don't use Skype any more, Oovoo is waaaay better) went to the shopping centre at Bexleyheath to get various bits and pieces.
Millie was in fine humour again, the sun was shining, and all was right with the world.  An old lady complimented Millie on her intelligence upon hearing us discussing what to get the Lovely Melanie for her birthday; Millie was fascinated by tailor's dummies and jewellery; we bought some pretty new shoes (with flashing lights), and Millie picked out a truly brilliant birthday card.

The first thing Millie did when the Lovely Melanie phoned us on the bus coming home (having just gotten back from Hatfield and found a suspiciously tidy, but deserted house) was tell her about the new shoes.
I could hear the fear in her voice:  'What are they like?  Have they really got flashing lights in them?'  Meaning, 'Oh, Christ, please tell me you haven't bought her a pair of clown shoes!  With lasers!'
As it turned out, I'm not a complete idiot, and the shoes were approved.

Following an unfortunate post-lunch poo incident (don't ask) which required Millie to take an inpromptu and thorough shower, we then spent the afternoon in the garden: me doing some gardening, Millie learning The Joy Of Mud.
She started off fully clothed, with new shoes on.  By dinner time she was in wellies, pants and t-shirt, and needing yet another session in the bathroom.  Baby A was scheduled for a dip, too, but she's much better at bathtime than Millie ever was at that age, and Millie is really so very very good with her in the water.  I did all the Baby A washing for the first time tonight, and was gratified to get a few more smiles out of the experience.
It's hard to capture Baby A's smiles on camera: they're so wide, naive and completely honest - or does everyone's baby seem that way to them? - that inevitably anything seen on camera somehow misses out a really essential element of it.

Phew!  And that was the weekend!
Just time to say congratulations to Catherine and Luke, friends of the Lovely Melanie, who have just announced that they're having twins.  Er, good luck with that, guys!

Wednesday 16th July 2008 ++UPDATE++
And Baby A is now in a proper high chair, rather than her bouncy chair that we put on top of the table.
She hates sitting in that bouncy chair - in fact, hates being laid down generally - and I mean HATES it; so now she can sit at the table with the rest of the family.

Wednesday 16th July 2008

I get home last night and Millie's abuzz with tales of 'The Birdie That Tried To Eat Daddy's Plants'.
We go into the garden to water the tomatoes and this is what I hear:

'And a birdie came on your plants and he was trying to eat them and I said "No, birdie," and I shooed them away, and the birdie was trying to eat them and I shooed him away so he not eat them, and I had to say "No, birdie, those are not yours," and he was on your plants and I went up to him and shooed him away, and then I said, "You must not eat those, birdie," and he came down and tried to eat them and mummy was indoors and I had to shoo him away and he was trying to eat them all up, and I had to tell him not to eat them, and I shooed him away...'

'Did Millie have a problem with a bird on my plants?' I asked the Lovely Melanie later.
She gave me a funny look and said, 'No, but I did - I told her about it afterwards.  Millie was in bed asleep at the time.'

Millie and I have bought the Lovely Melanie a new umbrella for her birthday tomorrow, and there have been many, many appeals for secrecy by me, which miraculously she had so far managed to keep.
This morning, since Millie was taking her umbrella with her to nursery, she asked where mine was.
ME: In my bag, where's yours?
MILLIE: In my hand.
ME: And where is Mummy's?
MILLIE: Mummy, where is your umbrella?
THE LOVELY MELANIE: Mummy's lost her umbrella, monkey.
MILLIE: Don't worry, mummy, we have bought you a new one!

How we laughed!  Well, the Lovely Melanie did.  She thought it was hilarious.  I just kind of sighed.

Thursday 17th July 2008
Why I don't particularly like Apple (the computer company).
I don't hate them, and I'm not paranoid; rather people (or software) who try and force me to do things their way really annoy me.

Tuesday 22nd July 2008
Remember when my dad had his heart transplant?  Yes? Remember that it was filmed by a Channel 5 film crew?  Well, the documentary is being shown on Wednesday 30th July at 9pm.  
And, even better than that, I have a speaking part in it. :-)
My parents have already seen the finished programme and they say it's very good (they actually said, 'too good for Channel 5, really,' but we'll leave that to one side).

And while we're at it, let's have another link to the organ donor site.  It only takes a minute or so to sign up.  You could save the lives of half a dozen people after you die, so why not do it, eh?  Trust me, you have no idea of the incredible amount of good donating your organs can do.

I think we've decided to give up travelling long distances by train, after the weekend's visit to Swindon.  Not that it was so awful, just that, with two girls and only two seats between the fours of us on a crowded train it wasn't as pleasant as it used to be with just three of us in two chairs.  That, and we had to carry a car seat with us anyway, so we could get around while in Swindon, it just seems a bit silly.
When the girls are a bit older then we'll go back to the train, but for the next couple of years our carbon emissions are going to peak as we drive anywhere outside of London.

Not in London, of course.  Public transport here is still more than adequate for our needs, I'm proud to say!

Thursday 24th July 2008
In one of those beautiful coincidences that seem to turn up far more often than you'd expect in life, I was walking to the station today - a dazzling summer morning - listening to some music I downloaded last night.
It's some very odd Finnish stuff by a band called Paavoharju (no, I can't pronounce it either - you should see some of the song titles!).  Basically, I was listening to it for the first time and thinking, 'How on earth do you sit down to write a piece of music like this?'  Because it's peculiarly heartbreakingly beautiful, and yet doesn't have verses or choruses or anything like that.
'How would you write this down for someone else to play?' I was thinking, when I happened to glance up.  
Various aeroplanes had left lines of contrails across the sky - all roughly parallel - and between these lines were tiny feathers of cloud, little dashes of vapour, looking for all the world like some kind of heavenly musical notation.
And I thought, 'Yes.  Of course!'

Wednesday 30th July 2008
Just some housekeeping notes to keep things ticking over, really.
First, don't forget to watch me my dad on Channel 5 tonight at 9pm.

Second, yes, I know there's something wrong with the photos being displayed in the photo viewer below.  For some reason it's only displaying really old photos, rather than the newer ones.  
It's not something I did, but I'm going to try and fix it.  It's on my list of things to do.  Honest.
UPDATE: OK, I can't fix it at the moment - it's something to do with Flickr rather than me.
Till I can sort something out just have a look at my photos occasionally.

Third - not really 'housekeeping', but Baby A has started on some solid foods.  She's much better at it than Millie was, grasping the idea of swallowing very quickly, and expressing absolute delight with this new thing, just as she does with almost everything else.
Millie, for her part, is being so good with her baby sister: picking up her toys, soothing her when she's upset and just generally being the perfect sister.  Well done girls!
She's not being so good with sleeping at the moment - continually getting out of bed, emptying all of her drawers on the floor and playing some kind of complicated game in the ensuing mess.
Thursday 31st July 2008
Did you see it?  Did you??  If you didn't then you can catch it again here for a week or so.
I thought the bit with me in would be some stuff I said about organ donation, not the bit they did use; and I think we were surprised by how much stuff was going on in the background to get that heart into my dad - none of that registered when we were at Papworth at the time.  I mean, hell, they chartered a whole plane!

Excellent stuff, though, I thought.  It was kind of Channel 5 in tone - fast paced and made very much as a drama rather than a science programme.  Personally, I would have liked to hear more from the doctors, seen more of the operation and heard a little more background detail about the whole process of organ transplantation, but I'm a bit of a geek, and that stuff wouldn't have helped the ratings.

Millie has been asking to see it this morning and I'm wondering what the Lovely Melanie is going to show her of the programme...

Thanks to everyone who's emailed or sent me a message on Facebook about the programme, by the way - particularly the comments about my blue cardigan.  I like that cardigan!

UPDATE: Yay!  I just went out to get a sandwich, and the guy in the sandwich shop asked me if I was on TV last night!
I really am famous!

My Uncle Graham has a good piece about the programme on his blog here, complete with exclusive backstage photographs.

Friday 1st August 2008
Here's an excellent comment piece from the Guardian expressing exactly how I feel when I hear people say, 'Ooh, everything's getting worse.  Things used to be so much better in the old days.'

Because that simply isn't true, except in rose-tinted memory.

Monday 4th August 2008
Over FIVE hours to drive to Bristol, can you believe it?!
We left at 10am Saturday morning and arrived at my brother, Trev's, house at 3.30pm!  So we didn't get to see any of the big dance festival in the centre, and the Lovely Melanie had to rush to get ready for her hen night (which was one of the reasons we went) and all of us were, frankly, shattered by the time we got there.
Well, except Millie.  She was pretty much indefatigable for most of the weekend.  Baby A put up a good fight, but she's younger than Millie and a trip to the swings Saturday evening was the straw which broke the baby's back, turning even 'The Smiler' into just another ordinary wailing baby.

Worse was to come, when Millie absolutely refused to go to sleep.  She was up till almost nine o'clock anyway, pinching Uncle Trev's chips, sipping some bizarre bright green 'woodruff' beer from Germany (courtesy of Auntie Conny) - which she really didn't like.  
She did finally nod off about 10.30 - then, of course, the fireworks from the big dance festival started.
As you may know, Millie doesn't much like fireworks (she still remembers the ill-advised display Trev and Conny had in their garden last year and wanted a signed guarantee that there wouldn't be any more this year) so I went upstairs to check she wasn't frightened.  It was all quiet in her room so I left the light off.  

Then, while checking her covers were over her I put my fingers in on the bed.
Something something sticky and soft .
Those of you who have children will know: the first thing you think in this kind of situation is poo; a red warning light goes on in your head and your nose becomes super-sensitive searching for evidence of the suspected substance.
Oh, hell.  Had Millie done a poo on her sheets?  Had I just plunged my hand in it?
Nervously, I sniffed my fingers...
Mint??????  What the hell?
There was nothing for it: I had to turn the lights on.

Millie's little inflatable bed was covered in a pool of toothpaste, but there were also toothbrushes, the Lovely Melanie's tampons (all unwrapped, as though they were Christmas presents), and basically the contents of our toilet bag.
Sometimes you just look at a mess and think, 'Where do I start here?'  It was one of those moments.
Fortunately, myself and Conny (who I called in to assess the state of the tampons) managed to clear it up without even waking Millie.
Millie woke up later though.  Oh, yes.  
She was in the spare room with us, and when the Lovely Melanie got back from her hen night at about 2.30 she ended up having to sleep downstairs: a perpetually twitching, wandering, fidgeting, chattering Millie eventually forced her out of the bedroom and downstairs onto the sofa.
I sleep far better than the Lovely Melanie, but even I - after another hour of this - ended up swearing at Millie to 'get the *&%$ back to bed and go to sleep.'  Not my proudest moment, I agree, but it was 4am in the morning.

Kids.  I love them and everything, but...

There are a few pictures on Flickr, as usual.

Oh, and Baby A has put on a whole pound of weight since her last (underperforming) check-up at the doctor's, so well done Baby A!
Finally, if everything goes a bit quiet here for a few days now it's because I'm having a vasectomy done on Thursday.  More on that (if you can bear it) as it happens...
Thursday 7th August 2008
Thanks to all those who got in touch today for their concern or (more commonly) curiosity as to the state of my genitalia.
In case you missed the final sentence on the last update - I had a vasectomy performed today.  
It took about 20 minutes from entering the doctor's office to walking out again, and the only part that hurt was at the very end when he sprayed some antiseptic onto the wound.

That really hurt!

The rest of it was weird, but OK.  A quick chat in the office beforehand to double-check I knew what I was here for and what it entailed; then, 'Take your shoes, trousers and pants off, Mr Carter, and come next door when you're ready.'
That was somewhat nightmarishly odd - stepping into a (cold, bare) room containing two grown men whilst wearing no trousers or pants (if they'd been wearing masks, or been my old PE teacher I'd have sworn it was a nightmare!)
Then you lie-down on a couch, there's a quick injection, a bit of nervous banter and that's about it, really.  At one point I was actually thinking, 'I wish I'd brought  my mobile in with me - then I could chat with someone and casually drop into the conversation the fact that I was having the operation even as we spoke'

The next thing I thought was that I could faintly smell burning and realised it was probably my bollocks, since the operation was done by laser, rather than scalpel.

Anyway, feeling OK now.  Earlier, I felt as though I'd suffered a  sharp blow to my, ahem, undercarriage, but that soon passed, and now I'm just on a bit of ibuprofen and TLC from the Lovely Melanie.

Thanks to my father-in-law, Dave, who came down today to drive me there and help take care of the girls.  To both the girls, for being so well-behaved today, and, of course, to the Lovely Melanie, for being so helpful and loving today. :-)

It's surprising Millie was so good as she must have been knackered after we had the biggest thunderstorm I've ever seen outside of Florida last night.  It woke her up about 9pm and rather upset her.  We brought her into our room and said she could stay there until it passed, but it didn't bloomin' well pass until almost 11 - by which time she wasn't frightened at all.  
However, we were somewhat confused this morning when she started looking outside and asking where the spoons had gone.  Turns out she was confusing her cutlery and had gotten confused between 'forks of lightning' and 'spoons of lightning.'
Ah, the things they say, eh?
Tuesday 12th August 2008
I'm back at work now, and although I still wouldn't want to go horseriding I'm feeling just about better.

Yesterday I worked from home, which was interesting - I've never done that before, since at my last job we were told categorically that working from home was physically impossible.  Except for management.

Millie was at nursery yesterday so I could work fairly undisturbed at home, but she's at home today so the Lovely Melanie decided that, sore bollocks or not, I may as well go to the office.  Working from home was a novelty, but I wouldn't want to do it all the time.  Or even much of the time; I just felt a bit isolated, and so easily distracted.  That's my excuse why I've never written a novel - too easily distract...oh, look - a badger!  Out there, look!
Sorry, what was I saying?

At the weekend, we took Millie to the South Bank.  Not the first place you'd think of for children on a Sunday, afternoon, but there's a surprising amount to see and do there, especially if you're a three year-old frequently amazed by even the most mundane things.  A footbridge over the Thames?  WOW!  Street theatre?  WOW!  Builders digging a big hole?  WOW!  Fountains in Trafalgar Square?  WOW!  The London Eye (seen from below - we didn't go on it)  WOW!
And then, zzzz.  An exhausted Millie and Amber were taken home and the day was judged a triumph by all concerned.

The only petty downside to the day was the cafe we went to for dinner, where we paid 22 for three sandwiches, two drinks and a measly spoonful of ice cream.  In fact, we paid more than that because they slipped us a dodgy fiver in our change.

And, over in geek's corner where nobody goes, I've managed to successfully flash the firmware on my new phone, improving its capabilities no end.
For those of you who have no idea what I just said, suffice to say, it was a pretty damn technical operation that, if done badly, could easily have broken my beautiful shiny new phone forever.  Fortunately I am a clever and resourceful flasher of firmware, so everything went well and my phone is even more shiny and more beautiful than before!

Monday 18th August 2008
No real news to report this week.  Nursery have told us that when we get back off our holidays Millie's going to be moved permanently up to the Pre-School section.  We're going to the Peak District on Saturday for a week in a cottage with lots of the Lovely Melanie's friends (after that we're going direct to Swindon for my Dad's big 60th birthday party), so after today Millie only has one more day at 'little' nursery, although she's already been spending a fair bit of her time at Pre-School in order to get used to it.
It did prompt me to look at the other children in her class today, though, and they are now undeniably smaller than our little girl, which felt a bit odd as it's still hard for us to think of Millie as being bigger than other children.

She's actually been a bit of a pain recently, lot more arguing and tantrums than usual (and when Millie has a tantrum she HAS A TANTRUM!!!!!)  But the Lovely Melanie, in her infinite wisdom and foresight, has changed the way we try to forestall these: rather than arguing with Millie we now give her a choice of things.  For example, she doesn't have to eat her dinner if she doesn't want to - that's fine - but if she doesn't then there will be no bedtime stories.  It's giving Millie some choice whilst at the same time making her responsible for her actions, and seems to be working rather well for the moment.

And what of Baby A?  Well, The Smiler has had a bit of a cold the last few days, but a bit of mucus and vomit  haven't stopped her smiling through it all.  I wonder if she's going to stay cheerful for the rest of her life?
She's now fascinated by absolutely everything that's going on, and has quite a respectable attention span, particularly where her big sister is concerned - Baby A will watch Millie for, well, for as long as Millie's around.
The only thing she doesn't like is a Millie tantrum - The Smiler doesn't dig tantrums, no, sir.

And as for me - I'm despairing that the mountains of tomatoes growing in our garden will ever ripen.  All 12 tomato plants are  five feet high and groaning under the weight of their fruit, but we haven't had enough sun to ripen a single one of them yet.  Obviously what's going to happen is as  soon as we leave for the Peak District there's going to be an entire week  of sunshine, and we'll return to find mountains of rotting tomatoes hanging off the dessicated remains of the plants.
Recognising this possibility, I yesterday moved all the plants round to the front of the house, which gets a modicum more so-called 'sun' a day (and if they don't ripen before Saturday then I can at least ask a neighbour to give them some water and to help themselves to any of the ripe fruits).
Unfortunately, there was a fair bit of bad language involved as I was hungover and half the plants are so overloaded they can barely stand up on their own - at one point  there was nearly the equivalent of a domino rally when one began to fall over against another which itself then leaned menacingly against another.
It's a shame almost all the other veg we were growing has already finished, too, because we may end up eating nothing but tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato sauce, tomato chutney and other such variations on simple tomatoes for quite some time.

Finally, in vasectomy news...there is no news.  I'm just about fully recovered, thanks. :-)

Sunday 31st August 2008
And...we're back.
Having been away for a hectic week in the Peak District, then down to my parents place for my Dad's HUGE 60th birthday party, it's really really nice to get back home again.  Much as I enjoy going on holiday I'm someone who's never sad to get back home again, particularly when the week away has been so manic.
As ever, there are loads of new pictures of the past week on Flickr.

In the Peak District there were 15 of us sharing a cottage - eight adults, and seven children, which is, I can assure you, not the ideal recipe for 'a holiday,' in the sense of 'some time spent relaxing away from work'.
If, however, you define a holiday as 'some time spent away from work during which you almost wish you were back at work so as to be able to relax a bit,' then it was your perfect holiday.  Personally, I'm having a very very early night tonight in order that I don't end up bursting into tears at work tomorrow from fatigue.

Ah, listen to me moaning.  Most of our time in the Peaks was very nice; we got to see and do some things we wouldn't normally have, including visiting a tram museum, going down a cave, climbing some small-ish hills, going on a miniature railway, sharing the road with a herd of cows and eating Bakewell Tart in the town of Bakewell.
Millie certainly had a whale of a time, not least because there were so many other slightly insane small people around her at all times.  Although somewhat underwhelmed by my favourite attraction - the cave - she did enjoy the hill walks, probably because I usually ended up carrying her on the way back; the miniature railway in Buxton caused so much excitement that all the kids nearly! had! a! collective! stroke!

Amber seemed to enjoy herself, too.  Certainly she spent most of the week craning her neck to look at everything going on around her: whether it be electric lights, large mammals or endless grey skies.
Ah, those endless grey skies...  
Considering we went on holiday in August there wasn't a lot of sunshine in evidence.  I mean, I know we were 'up north' and everything, but it just felt like the locals really weren't making much of an effort with their weather - if they want to attract summer tourists they'll need to buck up their ideas pretty sharpish!

On Friday we left the Peaks, and instead of coming back to dear old Bexley took a detour to Swindon for the aforementioned 60th birthday party.  Obviously there was a special poignancy to my dad's birthday this year, not only because of his age, but because we all thought he might not live to see it.
Since he has, however, he decided to celebrate it in fine style with a party for 150 people (I didn't know my dad knew 150 people!) and to raise money for Papworth Hospital, the people who did (and continue to do) such a marvellous job with his heart transplant.

But first things first.
An exhausted troupe of Bexley Carters limped into Swindon on Friday and all had an early night.  Some were up earlier than others on Saturday; all of were ready for the photographers in the afternoon though.  One from Papworth itself, taking pictures of all the family for the annual brochure, another from the local paper, whch has done an admirable job of following my dad's story and promoting the cause of organ donation in the process.
It wasn't the best time for such a, ahem, media frenzy, since there was no end of work to be done for the party that evening.  Congratulations are in order, as ever, to my mum for managing to get everything sorted, with help from a great many other people, and giving us such a successful and memorable evening.
A raffle on the night raised 700 for Papworth, and there's still the pure donations to be counted, too.  I imagine more than than 1,000 will have been raised in the end, which I find really quite impressive.  Not quite as impressive as my Uncle Brian's slideshow and presentation about my dad's early years though, nor nearly as touching as my dad's brief speech of thanks - nor even quite as heartwarming as watching 150 people all sing 'Happy Birthday To You' to him.
Still, quite impressive though.

There were deliberately no children invited (except for ours!) so Amber spent the night being handed round, cooed over, kissed, squeezed and generally manhandled, while the Lovely Melanie and I nodded, smiled and agreed that, yes, she was most certainly the cutest baby that had ever lived in all time ever since babies were invented.
Call me vain, but I like to take all such remarks as personal compliments. ;-)

Millie might have received more of the same treatment - if, that is, anyone had been able to catch her.  
She was on the dancefloor before the music even started and stayed there pretty much until it stopped, weaving between people's legs, grabbing cake and sausage rolls, jumping off the stage and getting up to who knows what other mischief.  In short, she had the time of her life, and looked so pretty in her party dress

There was always going to some fallout from that, however, as there would be with any three-year-old who stayed up until 1.30am, and today she's either been asleep or we've been wishing she would go to sleep.

And now I rather think I'm going to go to sleep.

Monday 1st September 2008
Just been told, my dad's party managed to raise 1,730 for Papworth.
That's really quite impressive!

Tuesday 2nd September 2008
More of the same - Dad in the local Swindon paper.  Presumably that's it for a while now, though.
Millie is chewing a sweet in that photo (the only way we could convince her to sit still for a minute) which is why she's not beaming,  
The Smiler is, of course, beaming.  She's always beaming.  Well, usually.  She stopped briefly yesterday when she managed to wriggle her way off the bed and onto the floor, but was soon beaming again, none the worse for wear.  
The Lovely Melanie was on the verge of committing hari-kiri for allowing such a terrible thing to happen, but I managed to persuade her not to.  
In her defence, neither of us thought Baby A could wriggle her way off the bed, since she's actually a bit backward in her forward motion: she still can't quite sit up on her own, and her hand-eye co-ordination needs a bit more work.
Fortunately she's very cute, so she gets away with it...for now, but we're keeping a bit of a closer eye on both her development and her actual movement.

Wednesday 3rd September 2008
Poor, brave Millie.  Yesterday she had the second part of her measles immunisation injections.  
These would normally be quite a bit later, but due to all the idiot scare stories about the MMR vaccine, which dramatically reduced the number of children being vaccinated, there's a minor epidemic of measles going on, so they're getting as many children vaccinated as quickly as they safely can.

Millie was terrifically brave at the doctor's yesterday (reports the Lovely Melanie).  We've been doing our best to build up to it for the past couple of weeks - talking about how she's going to the doctor's to have some 'medis', and how nasty measles is if you catch it.  We've also been making a show of me taking my insulin in front of her, to show that injections don't hurt and to get her used to them.
The Lovely Melanie is fantastic at thinking of these things like this in advance and of coming up with ways to make it easier.  I may be the 'fun one' at home, but she's the vital other side of the equation: the one who makes sure they have clean clothes, don't starve, and grow up with the best start we can give them.

Anyway, it all worked.  Millie was very brave when she had her injection: she cried for a few seconds when the needle went in, then went straight back to reading her book.  It was all so much of an anticlimax that by the time I got home she was far more excited about how the shopping had been delivered and we had TWO boxes of Rice Krispies!  Not ONE box - TWO boxes!

And then, as if to remind that she is, after all, only three years old, this morning nearly broke my heart dropping her off at nursery.

She's up in pre-school now, as I mentioned before, which is upstairs in a different room of her nursery building, so it's all a bit strange and new, but Monday, her first full day there, was fine.  She was a bit unsure, but happily went off with one of the 'Aunties'.
Today, however, I could tell she was a bit scared as soon as we got up there - she wanted to hold both my hands, and that pretty bottom lip was quivering ever-so slightly.  She didn't cry - which made me so very very proud of my girl - but was obviously deeply unhappy, and it took a good five minutes before I felt OK to leave her.

As I say, we often forget how small Millie really is: she's such a brave, independent and confident little girl.
Still, proud as we are of her, it is nice to feel needed sometimes.
Monday 8th September 2008
Ever been woken up at 7.30 in the morning by your wife wailing that she's got a train to catch from Swindon in two hours, but we're still in bed in London?
I have.
The Lovely Melanie, normally the most organised person in the world, was due to attend a wedding on Saturday, somewhere in the deepest, murkiest, most inaccessible depths of Wales.  The girls and I weren't going, both because it was too deep, murky and inaccessible, and because my dad's actual birthday was this weekend, so went there instead.  Fortunately, Swindon is on the way to the deepest, murkiest, most inaccessible depths of Wales and the plan was to go there, the Lovely Melanie would spend the night, then next day continue on the tortuous path that wends its winding way to the deepest, murkiest, most inaccessible depths of Wales.
She was due there on Friday though, for a pre-wedding meal, and rather failed to allow for the fact that in order to spend a night gathering her travelling karma in Swindon we would need to arrive there the day before.
Cue panic and tears and much wailing and beating of breasts at 7.30 Friday morning, since our train to Swindon was booked for 2pm.

Anyway, everything turned out OK, despite some terrible weather.  There were some other trains she could catch from Swindon once we arrived there, and so she did that, and the deepest, murkiest, most inaccessible depths of Wales benefited inordinately from the presence of the Lovely Melanie sans children.

Swindon, on the other hand, held its collective breath, as Millie and Amber's continued survival rested solely upon two flimsy sheets of A4 paper bearing the instructions for their care!
Needless to say, they are still with us - barely!
Things got off to a bad start when, very early on Saturday morning, my dad had to rush to the hospital with a swollen tongue - an unexpected side-effect of one of his anti-rejection drugs.  He turned out to be fine, but my first time looking after both girls for breakfast was somewhat more fraught than expected.
Still, we got through it with just a modicum of vomit (from Baby A, naturally) and a lot of very grown-up help from Millie.  Well done, Millie
The rest of the weekend was pretty quiet by comparison; the only really noteworthy event being mine and Millie's return to London on the train (First Class, too!) without Baby A, who has stayed in Swindon with her grandparents so that the Lovely Melanie can bring her back today.  
Being in the deepest, murkiest, most inaccessible depths of Wales meant that the Lovely Melanie couldn't even reach Swindon until 7pm Sunday night.  However -
both girls need to be in bed by then if they're not to be chronically tired next day.
But Monday I have to go to work.
But the Lovely Melanie couldn't bring both girls back on her own.

So the plan I eventually came up with was for Millie and I to come back yesterday afternoon (First Class, too!); Baby A stays in Swindon with Nanny and Grampy; the Lovely Melanie returns from the deepest, murkiest, most inaccessible depths of Wales and stays Sunday night in Swindon; the Lovely Melanie and Baby A return to our nation's fair capital this morning.
This does mean Millie hasn't seen her mother - and I haven't seen my lovely wife - since Friday (a record, I think), but it was the only possible way we could do things.  And it all worked out pretty well, anyway.

Especially since once Millie was safely tucked up in bed I could play my newest and shiniest computer game, Spore, for about four hours straight last night. ;-)