Primrose Hill, Magic, and a Sand Box

This is my first post that has been published on GetConnectDad, it looks better there but I thought I’d share it here as well:

We are not a family that tends to stay home much when mum and I are off work. We do try to take a couple of days to kick back and relax, but mainly, our vacations now consist of us doing things with the children. The last time we had a week off together as a family, we had a themed week. We had a histories week where we tried to take them to some historical sites around London, explored the bridges, went to Pudding Lane, saw the monument in memory of the great fire and took them to the Tower of London. In a week, I don’t think that’s too bad, especially if you consider we have a scatty, four-year-old and a toddler in tow.
So, the summer holidays have come along and we have some time off with the girls. We haven’t taken much time off because we have had visitors and birthdays (we celebrate three birthdays in the three weeks)
During these first few days of holiday, one thing happened that stands out to me. My sister came over for a visit a while back. We decided to go to Camden to have a look around. It had been a while since we’d been there, so we decided to go to Primrose Hill and let the girls run around for a bit whilst we soaked in some of the nice weather.
imageAs we walked in my DD2 (daughter #2) asked if there was a play area to which we shrugged, “We weren’t sure.” Much to our surprise, a lady sitting on the nearby bench overhead her question and pointed us to the other side of the park. Out of curiosity and to expire some of their energy, we took them over and wow! It was huge. There were swings, three levels of slides (one spiraled down like a Helter Skelter), a xylophone that had to be played with your feet, a climbing frame made from rope, monkey bars and a sandbox that seemed to never end. I tend to stay with my two year old whilst the others run wild. We went over to the slides where she took some turns and then moved over to the sandbox where she remained for the rest of our time there.
Her sisters would come over every so often to play and then run off. Much to my surprise DD1 old me to go and take some time off whilst she took care and played with DD5. DD1 is nine years old and in a play area I expect her to do what any other child would do, same ash er sisters. Taken aback, I asked her if she had had enough. ‘No Daddy, I just want you to have a good time too. I’ll play with the baby whilst you sit down for a while.’ Slowly, apprehensive, I got up and left them at the sandbox. I didn’t completely leave them on their own, for that would be irresponsible of me; however, I put myself in a vantage point where I could see them and pounce into action if anything untoward occurred.
It gave me a chance to aid and participate with the others in their games, which was a nice change of pace for me. DD1 and DD5 played together for over an hour, pouring sand over each other (groan, it wasn’t easy to wash out), making sand angels, digging and trying to make castles with dry sand. It is beautiful to watch how my eldest is turning into a caring and loving person who constantly thinks about others, who’s idea of having fun, especially it that moment, was to share it with someone else. The care and love in her eyes for her younger sibling.
This experience was made more wonderful for DD5, not because it was her first time playing with sand, but because it was shared with her loving and caring sibling.
Now I wish for more days like these so I can enjoy the family that I have been blessed with and not worry about them looking out for the other. It was a magical few hours that I’m sure I will never forget.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

An ode to all mothers, but mainly, the mother of my children!

I don’t believe that enough credit is given to mothers. They have nourished the unborn child for nine months, given birth to them, raise them and they are the main influence when it comes to teaching them good from bad.In essence, the number of stay at home dads is increasing, but not enough to make a significant dent.

The first role model we have in our young lives is our mother, be it good or bad. Second are the fathers.

From us dads, they learn how a woman should be treated, the importance and discipline about going work and a lot of dads are considered the soft touch. Albeit that we are not home enough, that to make our lives a bit easy, we give in to many whims that we may consider as minor.

We might do the occasional school run and take them to a party on the weekend.

An average week day in my household consists of; mum waking at 0630, the latest, so she can have her morning coffee, and to get herself ready. Then getting the four eldest up and ready for school. The baby would wake up in the mean time, get taken down and given her milk. She would brush and braid about six feet of hair (trust me it’s no easy feat especially when knotty). Give the baby her breakfast, dress her and put her in the buggy to be out of the door by 0830 to walk to school, since she doesn’t drive.

It’s pointless getting on the bus, because it’s either full of running late.

After dropping the three eldest to school, she has to walk back, get our fourth to nursery, then she has to go shopping for lunch and dinner.

We can’t do much of a weekly shop because the kids will eat all the food in one day.

By 1315 she has to pick up from nursery and be ready for the school run by 1500.

It’s a military operation, if she misses a cue she’s late and the whole day goes down the drain, then panic could ensue. Get home, get them in their pyjamas as they await their dinner and staggered bed times.

At six, number four goes to bed, half an hour later three and five. By quarter past seven, latest number two and the eldest by eight.

Then, she finishes tidying and she can relax.

She tends to be so tired, quite a lot of the time she falls asleep on the couch whilst watching a programme.

That’s Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday my second child goes to beavers, so she gets a sandwich on the way home and to the scout hut by quarter to five until six. Thursday, unless she has help, tends to be really hard because my eldest goes to Cubs between quarter to seven to quarter past eight.

Friday they are at school until half four. 

Now for the weekend.

Saturday, my eldest goes to theatre train from ten to one, then my third from half one to three. That’s an easy Saturday.

If there are parties in the interim, she doesn’t stop. Sunday is her, so called, day of rest where she gets herself organised for the week ahead. Unless there are birthday parties of course, or something organised by one of their activity clubs.

Let’s not forget that she has to maintain the house and she deals with the finances. Leave that to me and we’d be broke by day two. Her days are full. She’s also their comfort blanket, referee and guidance counsellor when they are having a bad time, she helps me edit as well and deals with any qualm I may have. She also works part time,the only time she can’t have children around. I call it her holiday.

Talking about holidays. She was invited to go on holiday with a friend and her younger sister for ten days a few years ago. I encouraged her to go and have fun, so did her mum. Three days later, she was home, she couldn’t stay away, she missed the children too much.

The only thing I have to do is get up to go to work and if I’m home early enough, make us dinner. I do the usual things like put out the trash and change a light bulb. I also try helping as much as I can when I’m home. But she has got things so organised that most of the time I end up being in the way, it doesn’t stop me though.

Like everyone, she does have her bad days, but it still doesn’t stop her. Even when she’s ill, or one or more of the children have a fever or cold.

All this is done come rain, shine or snow.

So, to all them men who think that they are being harassed or nagged, think about all the things a woman has to go through from the moment that child is born until they leave the house, what we have to do might seem trivial, but it’s a lot when it comes to helping out.

I think of my grandmothers. One had twelve children and the other thirteen. They are both from Mediterranean countries where the men’s only responsibility is to go to work. They would come home, sit, relax, go out with friends and get fed.

Imagine, in southern Italy, where my mother’s from, they come home for their lunch breaks to a three course meal and once they finish eating, they take a nap.

The women did it all alone.

To me, it’s like leaving mummy’s house for a surrogate.

I’m not of that ilk, I like to help out and the try to do my fair share, but I do joke that when I’m home she’s looking after six kids. And it’s true, us men never grow past the age of thirteen, maybe fifteen if we are lucky.

What I’m trying to say is that I appreciate everything my partner does and I do believe she’s amazing.

I also believe that all mothers are amazing, they do a terrific job and should be appreciated more.

3 Little Buttons
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

The Daddy Tag Challenge

Are you a Stay at Home Daddy or a Working Daddy?

I’m a full time working dad.

Would you have it any other way?

I love being a provider even though I would love more time at home with the family. But I can’t have it both ways.

Do you co-change dirty nappies? Even the very smelly ones?

With every one of them. The first time I changed a nappy I put it on the wrong way round.

A little fairy gives you the possibility of breastfeeding? Are you going for it or do you run away?

The sweet thing to say would be to say I would do it, but…in all honesty I don’t envy the chaffed and raw nipples. The pain when there is too much milk.

It would be a great bonding exercise though.

What is the one must-have item for a daddy?

Apart from patience and a childish nature all dads needrheir own nappy bags (I say this now but I still haven’t got one).

How many kids do you plan on having?

I wanted two, maximum three but I somehow managed to have five children (puzzled look in my face), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lads’ nights? How often do you have them?

I’m a man who likes spending as much time with my family as possible. I had my first lads night (with my brother in law) during the England v. Russia game, since having kids.

Your children’s favourite achievement?

Any time they come home with a smile on their face from school or club they participate in.

What is your best memory with your kid(s)?

There are so many. The bracelets the kids have made me, the birthday cards they’ve designed, the I love you and I miss you notes.

Name one thing you miss since being a daddy?

Sleep and being able to do what I want when I want. Now everything is pre-planned and ran like a military operation.

Weight gain, before pregnancy, during, after and now? And we mean YOU DADDY, not the mummy!

All throughout, but I had to shift it all when I was turning up to nursery and school as the fat dad. It was time to change things when I got asked why I am so fat?!

Dream holiday with your kids?

To take them to the countries that Icome from, mainly Libya because it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.

Italy… Well, who wouldn’t want to go to Italy?

Dream holiday without your kids or even without the other half? (You’re allowed to dream)

Australia and Canada, but my other half hates flying.

I want to see a, mainly untouched, country like Canada and Australia because…I want to.

How has your life changed since having kids?

For the better, I’m less of a s**t head. I live and breath for them and any time I have off work is for them. They are my world.

Finish the sentence “It makes my heart melt when…”

They sit and cuddle me, they tell me that they love me or have drawn me a picture or left me a note when I have to work late.

Favourite beers brands and football team?

Coors light. Chelsea/Inter-Milan.

Huggies or Pampers?

Reusables, in the long run they are so much cheaper. Also the patterns that are made are so much fun.
Have you always wanted kids?

Oh yes!

Best part of being a dad?

Just being a dad. Seeing their faces full of life and seeing their unconditional love for me.

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A gift for me and the abstract

A couple of years ago Loom Bands were all the rage and my eldest was begging for a massive three layered box full of different coloured bands.

She used it once and forgot all about them.

She spilt them a few times and found the job of rearranging them in their respective colours too much of a chore. So, she chucked them in, his them and were never to be seen again.

Or so we thought.

Then, my second and third found them and asked their sister if they could use them.

She obliged.

I was surprised at my five year old’s skills and patience.

She spent over and hour making me a necklace.

She would come over, every so often, to check how much more she had to do.

The first time she came over it was only two inches long.

I thought; when she realised the mass of her chore she would give up.

She didn’t.

Every ten minutes she would come over for a measure then disappear once more.

This peaked my eldest’s interest and decided she was going to make me something.

This is what they made:

Then along came my fourth, picked the box and tipped everything over.

It’s funny now because the mess has been cleared up, but their room had become a carpet of bands.

It was great to see them spend an hour making the their respective project and double the time clearing up their sister’s mess.

There’s a point to all this apart from the girls playing nice and the little laugh about having to clean up their sister’s mess.

My third child’s memory and abitlity to do things that can seem beyond her age.

During her last year at nursery she brought a drawing home that not only astounded us but also her teachers.

She made several others, similar and just as astounding.

She started to show off that big brain of hers when her first puzzle arrived.

She would do them over and over again and the number of pieces got bigger and bigger.

She has got puzzles of 200 pieces.

At one point she got bored of the puzzles she had and as a joke I told her to do them on top of each other.

I don’t know how she did it because when she started doing the second and their one, the amalgamation of colours and patterns was dizzying, but in no time at all she had finished them.

Her brain amazes me and the way she sees patterns is dumbfounding.

We try to challenge her, but what happens when we run out of ideas. I’m sure she will be the one to challenge us to come up with new and more abstract ideas to keep that mind of hers busy.

reflections from me

The month of birthdays and an early present

Between the end of July and mid August we celebrate three wonderful birthdays. My partner having her birthday, exactly one week later the baby of the family will turn two and seven days later, my eldest will turn nine.
We decided to surprise my youngest with something she really wanted.

How did we know what a two year old wants?

Well, we went to her cousin’s birthday party where there was a massive play area with some plastic houses which she kept going in and out of.

So, we looked online for one and lo and behold we found a second hand one for a massive bargain.

I went to get it from this family and this is how it arrived at the house:

This was going to take ages.

The elder three saw it and were excited, even though they couldn’t figure out what it was yet.

Five minutes later:


This didn’t seem so bad after all.

My second had to have a go and join her younger sister.


Fifteen minutes later, which included a pause for them to look around and enticing them to come out so I can finish it, it looked like this:


Not bad, only the roof missing. This shouldn’t take too long.

My-my was I wrong.

The assembly of the roof was straight forward enough, but lifting it and getting just right was tricky.

The girls went back into the house and guided it along and hey presto! We have a house.

Now the real hard part began. I had to get my tools and do a lot of screwing, by the end my arms ached but it was worth it.

Then came the cleaning which I left to the girls:


And here is the final product:


The girls had a lot of fun helping me build this house, cleaning it and having a cheeky play in it before their sister saw it in the morning.

When the children came down in the morning it was like Christmas had come early. My fourth couldn’t believe her eyes and the youngest wouldn’t stay out of the house.

It is a joy to watch them play so nicely after all the help they had provided me with the previous evening.

Summer and schools

Let me tell you a little story about one of my children:She couldn’t have been more than eight months old, she had been put upstairs, in her crib for her morning nap. When it was time to get her for her lunch, her auntie went up to my room, looked in the crib and couldn’t see her. She went back downstairs and asked her mum, why has she been sent up to an empty crib?

In a panic, the child’s nana ran upstairs, looked inside the room….

The baby wasn’t there anymore.

She looked around and there, underneath the crib was the baby, playing.

Here was a child who could barely sit up on her knees, who somehow managed to pull herself up and out of her bed.

We knew then that this child was special.

Meet my fourth child and if you have been reading my previous posts, you will have come across her here: What will she do next?

She is clever, her brain doesn’t stop and I have a feeling that she gets bored easily, she either lashes out in frustration or can be destructive, especially when she gets her hands on something that doesn’t belong to her. She has ripped my net curtains and almost pulled the curtain fixtures out of the walls.

There have been plenty of occasions that we have walked in to a room and found the new toy broken, she’s away, hiding somewhere and for some reason, its never her sisters toy that get broken.

After a while she emerges and when asked she blames the sisters that are out (ie school or at a party), with the biggest and cheekiest smile she can give you.

She is clumsy, my god, is she clumsy. Constantly bumping her head on things, falling and hitting herself off….anything.

It’s funny and sweet though that when she hurts herself, she will run to one of us and try to tell us what happened and the words ‘I hurt myself!’ Make us smile, then, whether she needs it or not, ‘ I need a plaster!’ Showing us where she hurt herself.

Her clumsiness is followed closely by her inability to stay still. She is constantly running up and down, left and right. Everything is done at a sprint. You see this shadow running through the corridor and if you’re not ready for it, you might miss her. She doesn’t stop, she is on the go from the moment she wakes up until she is put to bed.

Now, you might ask, why am I writing about her again? These things have been mentioned on a previous post.

Well, I am writing this because, come September, she starts reception.

Whilst my other three go into year 5, 3 and 1 respectively, she is in her first year of school.

It’s an occasion for mixed emotions. Especially for me.

On one hand, we want to kick off our shoes, sing and dance with glee around the house like lunatics, but just as quickly there is this feeling of sadness that another one of our babies is growing up.

She is going to take that active brain of hers and she’s going to start learning how to read and write. Which could be good for her, it will keep her preoccupied and a thirst for knowledge could soothe her.

What makes this harder is that as she starts school, my eldest is coming to the end of her primary education, which means that we have to go in search of a secondary school that we believe will be suited to her and her siblings. One that can nourish and push them in the right direction.

It might only be year 5, but we have been advised to start looking from now because of the amount of schools in the area (thank you for the tip and you know who you are).

And just like every parent, we don’t want our children to go to ‘that’ school.

That’s one thing that I’m dreading; my children growing up. I know it’s something that I can’t stop, but I wish it would slow down a bit, give me a bit more time to spend with them as children (slow the blasted ageing process).

It’s bad enough being called old by them, but I don’t want to start feeling it, my eldest is two weeks away from turning nine, for crying out loud! Where has the time gone!?

As it goes, I have a busy year ahead of me, but saying that, we’ll have only one child at home who will start school in two years time.

That will feel strange when we have a childless house for most of the day.

Saying that, I do look forward to the next scholastic year.

I can’t wait to see how my fourth in will develop. I’m looking forward to exploring the local secondary schools as well.

My partner has done her homework and looked at the Ofsted reports and has a few schools in mind.

But for now, we are going for try and enjoy the chaos that is the summer holiday and put the idea of schools and education at the back of our mind. For now anyway.

What she asked me and how I studied!

It’s a nice Sunday afternoon, I’m walking home with my second and third. We had been to the supermarket to get some shopping. The day was warm and the sun was poking out of the clouds to say hello, but not long enough to make the day uncomfortable. And if you live in London you will know how muggy it gets.Then, all of a sudden she looks at me, ‘Daddy? Is she the skinniest in the family?’ Pointing at her sister who was skipping alone a few feet ahead of us.

The question took my by surprise but I tried not to show it. ‘No, why?’

‘Because I’m fat.’

‘Sorry?’

‘Daddy, am I fat?’

‘Good god, no.’

‘But I have a fat belly.’

I looked her up and down, I wanted to laugh, not because it was funny, mostly due to the fact this conversation was taking a very serious direction and it made me nervous, ‘You have a normal child’s stomach. Look at your sisters when you get home.’

It’s not the first time I’ve had this conversation, my eldest was saying the same thing around the same age. However, she’s so tall and skinny that we made it into a joke.

My second is not tall, she of an average height and build. She was a very cute, chubby baby but that is long gone.

I asked her if someone at school had called her fat. Her answer was no.

Her sisters, any of her clubs?

Nothing.

I know, at school, they teach them the difference between good foods and bad, but from what I’ve gathered from my two eldest they don’t come back with a complex thinking that they are overweight.

They learn the difference between good and bad sugars, the importance of a balanced diet and of eating fruit and vegetables.

I don’t know what else they teach, so, instead of remaining ignorant on the subject, I looked up the curriculum. It wasn’t very detailed and from what I gather, it’s mostly left to the teachers.

Here’s an extract from the government website:

Cooking and nutrition

As part of their work with food, pupils should be taught how to cook and apply the principles of nutrition and healthy eating. Instilling a love of cooking in pupils will also open a door to one of the great expressions of human creativity. Learning how to cook is a crucial life skill that enables pupils to feed themselves and others affordably and well, now and in later life.

Pupils should be taught to:

Key stage 1

 use the basic principles of a healthy and varied diet to prepare dishes 

 understand where food comes from.

Key stage 2

 understand and apply the principles of a healthy and varied diet

 prepare and cook a variety of predominantly savoury dishes using a range of cooking

techniques

 understand seasonality, and know where and how a variety of ingredients are grown, reared, caught and processed.

There is nothing there about getting fat.

It didn’t come from us, we try not to talk about it because we don’t want them to grow up being self conscious, and if we do mention weight, it’s usually in a positive manner. We don’t worry about it either, if you’re someone who has met my children, you will know they will not let themselves go hungry, they love food too much. They will have their dinner, half an hour later they are snacking on fruit and a few minutes later they want more food. I don’t know where they store it all.

Could this have come from the media?

Maybe, but not enough, I believe.

So i took a different route, my thought process told me to go down the route of self awareness.

What if they have reached an age where they are making self comparisons with their friends?

I can’t remember at what age I developed that degree of self awareness, so I decided to go a bit further.

From what I gather, most of the issues when it comes to weight usually start when the child is about to start puberty. My children are nowhere near and at the age of seven?

Andrew Hill, professor of medical psychology at the University of Leeds’s institute of health sciences:

‘Girls of a particular age – coming up to puberty – do compare themselves with others in the class, he says. The most rapid change for a girl’s body is growth associated with puberty and there could be massive differences within a single class.

Girls, on average, double the amount of body fat as they go through puberty. Boys’ body composition changes, but in a different way: they tend to put on more muscle.’

Nothing of the sort is happening.

However, every article I’ve read all point to the media, but where and what program?

Could it be that seeing Daddy Pig as big and round, unable to exercise, run or cycle, where Peppa mentions his big round tummy at every given occasion, have made an impression on them?

We do tend to lead a fairly healthy lifestyle, we walk to school and back, we eat plenty of fruit and 99% of our meals are home cooked.

I found this on the NHS website, I know it states the obvious:

‘One of the best ways to instil good habits in your child is for you to be a good role model. Children learn by example. One of the most powerful ways to encourage your child to be active and eat well is to do so yourself.’

I can’t seem to find any answer that satisfies me, which is frustrating. I don’t want to shrug it off, I like having answers, it comes with my years in university having to do research and find the facts about the subject I’m writing about. Then I made the terrible mistake of doing a Google search including the terms ‘self-conscious’ and ‘diet’ together and as always it starts with the worse case scenario. Out of curiosity I read a couple of things but there’s is nothing for me to worry about, the cases were extreme as always. I guess I am somewhat prepared and have an idea for what I’m looking for….

Could it be a case of ‘girls mature and quicker than boys’? And being in London, do they grow up faster?

Maybe I’m worrying too much over nothing and taking this situation way too seriously. I could have lived a sheltered life as a child where no one spoke of these things, the world was peachy and life was a beach.

I’ve still got a lot to learn about life and parenthood.

The only conclusion that seems reasonable is to keep doing what we have done all along. To keep building their confidence and teach them that regardless of how they look, they are beautiful people. Their height or weight will never reflect who they are and that their health is more important than what the media or their friends say they should look like.

In the words of Spock: Live long and prosper.

If you want to read some of the articles I’ve read or sites I visited, here are the links:

10 ways to talk to your child about weight
Wikipedia: self-awareness
Design and technology program study ks1 and ks2
Cooking and nutrition in primary school
Children’s eating disorder cause alarm
Eating disorder statistics
What can I do if my child is overweight?