Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: dad blogger

5 words of wisdom for 5 years of blogging

Two amazing things have happened today; first I’ve remembered it’s my blog anniversary and second I’ve actually found enough time to write a post about it. 5 years ago today I published my first ever post on this blog which feels like an awfully long time ago, a time where I was yet to experience the whirlwind life that is being a parent. I’m not sure I can even remember what it was like to be that person, I wasn’t even a runner at that point which seems weird on its own. Just look how much our family photos have changed (spot the teeny tiny Bracken).

Family photo at Padstow

Family photo at Dyrham park

What I do know is that I started this blog to document life as a dad and to find a more creative outlet, something a career in Finance really didn’t offer. I’d never been a writer, I always thought English wasn’t the subject for me and my strengths lay with maths and science. Maybe they did but I’m glad that I took the plunge to start this blog because I absolutely love the process of writing and expressing myself now. If you could have told my 15 year old self that I would receive an award for writing and it that it would be presented by Katy Hill I’d have told you to piss off. But somehow I did, even if the competition were required to have the same anatomy as me.

The life cycle you go through as a blogger has many phases, none ‘better’ than the others but very different. I loved the early days where parent blogging was growing all of a sudden and there was such energy in the community. In those first months as a blogger you could probably write everyday and not get stuck for ideas, you join in every Linky and meme going and spend as much time reading blogs as writing them. There was also lots of commenting on blogs, oh how I miss commenting. Doesn’t seem to be the done thing now, or at least people comment by tweeting you instead which is more instant of course but doesn’t quite feel the same. In my day…..

After that first frantic phase I think you settle down a bit and focus on the things you’re really interested in, still active but more focused. The only Linky I kept doing regularly was the Gallery I think, not least because I love the challenge and process of either taking or finding a photo that fits a one word brief. But it was as much fun seeing how others had interpreted it as posting your own, plus the lovely Tara is one of the good un’s in this parent blogging world.

The third phase is the ‘I don’t know what I want or what I’m interested so I’m not going to write anything’ phase, the soul searching period where you contemplate stopping. I think I might have hit that around this time last year. You feel a bit lost, many of the bloggers you used to chat with and read their posts have stopped, you’re not keeping up with the latest ‘trends’ (or want to for that matter) and it all feels a bit pointless.

But you come out of it and the other side smells like fresh cut grass, there’s a BBQ cooking in the corner and cold beer being opened. You’ve realised that the meaning of blogging life is writing about what you’re passionate about, whatever that is and by doing that people will read it because passion makes things interesting. You write at whatever pace suits you, you’re in charge of your blog rather than it being in charge of you. I think this is about where I am now, I still love writing I just don’t have much time for it. So when I do write I want it to be about things I love and am passionate about not things I think I ‘should’ be writing about. Family, the outdoors, good food, the National Trust, adventure, in fact all things that were probably in my original about me page when I first started capturing my mutterings.

The National Trust, outdoors, adventure. Perfect day out.

The National Trust, outdoors, adventure. Perfect day out.

Which brings me to my words of wisdom, things I think are important if you’re a blogger. But, here’s some wisdom for free, they’re precisely that, my thoughts, read them or ignore them it’s your choice.

  1. Your readers are the best support network you’ll ever find; for me this applies to parenting but no matter what your topic your readers are the best support and therapy group going. The number of times I’ve blasted a post out when struggling with one of the daily parenting challenges and immediately had constructive and support suggestions. The same goes for the happy moments, readers are there to enjoy them with you, so much so that if you do meet them in real life it feels like you know everything about them already.
  2. Don’t forget to capture the milestones; I love being able to search back through old posts and find little insights into the lives of Matilda and Henry. Things I’d forgotten even happened or when they happened. So much better than a baby book stuck on a bookshelf and forgotten about.
  3. Writing is therapy; I’ve written many posts that have never been published, ones where just the process of writing has got out of my system whatever stress was occupying my brain. Despite my first word of wisdom above sometimes you don’t need to press publish to find the answer.
  4. Blogging can bring some amazing experiences; if you want it to blogging can get you ‘things’, physical things or experiences. Not everyone wants this and I certainly don’t chase after it but along the way we’ve done some pretty cool things as a result of me being a blogger. We’ve been to Bluestone in Wale for a weeks holiday and had fab family days out at London zoo and the Sealife Centre, I’ve been to the Weber BBQ school and enjoyed pizza and beer with some other dad bloggers while testing out gadgets.
  5. The best thing about blogging is bloggers; I have met (in the physical real world sense) some fabulous people as the result of blogging. People who inspire me, make me laugh, wow me, challenge me and most of all bring me happiness. I love that some times people can go from being little faces in your phone to real live faces sharing a drink with you. People like Gemma (who it turns out starting blogging just a few weeks before me), Chris, Corinne, Ella, Sarah and Tom.

If you’re a reader either old or new then thank you, you guys rock. If you’re not a blogger and are thinking it about it then do it, you really won’t regret it.

Jacamo and Voi Jeans goose down jacket review

I’m feeling a tiny bit smug about this review because I had the good sense to choose a very warm and cosy jacket for my review just before the cold weather hit in January. Since then I have been oh so toasty on my commute to work which is just close enough to home that the heater in my car has only just warmed up when I get there. It has also been extremely useful for a couple of trips to London, train platforms must be some of the coldest places in the country don’t you think?

Jacamo is a men’s clothing retailer which sells both its own brand clothing along with many well known brands. I shopped online but it also has a number of stores around the country. Jacamo were looking for some dad bloggers with a sense of style to do reviews and clearly my blog was the first one they thought of. I always keep up with the latest fashion and most definitely don’t still wear a jumper that I bought 14 years ago.

While I may not have a real sense of the latest fashion I am most definitely the ideal person to test an online store because quite honestly I hate shopping and will avoid it whenever possible. Unless it’s an outdoors store of course, then I could happily spend the whole day there, if you’re ever in the USA and spot an REI store do go take a look, such awesome places.

Now Jacamo may not have a large selection of cycling helmets or kayaks to peruse but what it does have is a very good online store for clothes shopping. The filters in the left hand tool bar are very effective at reducing down the selection to show just those things that are relevant and they do it quickly. What’s more delivery is next day as standard or you can choose a specific delivery day with no extra charge. Service as it should be.

The jacket itself is great, so very warm but not overly bulky. It definitely fits towards the large side, I ordered a medium which is reasonably long on me despite the fact I’m 6′ 1″. It has a couple of large pockets which are ideal for keeping your hands warm with 2 small pockets on top for putting your keys in that close with a popper. Ultimately I think I look awesome in it.

Voi Jeans goose down jacket

Baby wearing for dads

I’ve always found baby wearing a bit of an odd term, it makes your baby sound like an accessory rather than your child. You wear a t shirt or jumper, you carry a baby. But whatever name you want to give it I don’t think we would have survived the first 3 months of Rupert’s life without making good use of slings and baby carriers. Below is a sample from my Instagram feed to give you an idea, I think you’ll agree baby wearing for dads is an essential:

IMG_4407 IMG_4406 IMG_4404

IMG_4403 IMG_4402 IMG_4401

Rupert like many small babies didn’t like being put down (and why would he when he’s used to being in his mummies tummy) and if he did go down happily there was a high risk Matilda and Henry would say hello to him. Which would be fine if it didn’t involve poking, kissing and strangling cuddling. Nothing nasty of course just being enthusiastic 2 and 3 year olds.

So there’s a practical reason for embracing baby wearing but for me there’s also a very personal reason; it’s the best opportunity I get to bond and cuddle with my son. Clearly I can’t help feed him and with 2 other children my main role in the first weeks is to ensure the house is kept clean and that we all eat properly etc. In this crazy time it’s not always easy as a dad to get quality time with your baby which is where baby wearing comes in.

We’ve now been through a number of different carriers with the 3 children and I have a little idea of what works and what doesn’t work,  for me at least. Today I’d like to share a quick review of 2 of my favourites from a dad’s perspective. My one piece of advice though is to try a few different ones out for yourself. We’re all different shapes and sizes so what works for me may not work for you.

Babasling

I struggled with our Babasling a little when we had Matilda and that put me off using it with Henry, but the lady of the manor has always liked it so I decided to give it another go with Rupert. Now I absolutely love it, it’s perfect for wearing around the house and when you pop out to the shops and know you’ll be lifting him in and out a few times. Not sure I’d use it to go and do a long dog walk though as it goes over one shoulder only and personally I prefer to have the weight spread over two for those type of walks.

What I really like is how easy it is to just slip him into it as there are no straps to fiddle with or clasps that do up behind your back. Some carriers have felt more like a straight jacket than a baby carrier. As their are no straps we’ve been able to transfer him from sling to car seat and back again without waking him which is a god send when you have a small baby.

I use this sling all the time at home when I need to carry Rupert and get him to sleep but also need my hands free. He falls asleep really easily in it and I can then get on with getting Matilda and Henry fed and dressed with two hands free to help them. It may mean Rupert ends up with the occasional toast crumb on his head but I’m sure the butter is good for his skin.

Ergobaby Original

For longer walks I tend to use the Ergobaby for the reasons mentioned above, it’s great for spreading the weight across your shoulders making it more comfortable for extended use. There is a newborn insert for when the baby is really tiny and you can wear on your front, side and then back as your child grows. We still use this for Matilda and Henry when they’re being particularly lazy or you’d like to finish your walk not at toddler pace.Walking with an Ergobaby

It can be a little fiddly getting it done up, particularly when you have your child on the front, but gets easier with practise. I used this an awful lot when Matilda and Henry were 18 months – 2 years as they were walking but really not much distance. I’d put it on without any child in and then whenever they got tired they could just jump up on my back and have a rest. I can remember Matilda falling asleep on a number of occasions like this while out on dog walks. The carrier has a hood that clips up and supports their head if they fall asleep which is a great feature.

I also tested the travel version of this carrier a while ago if you’re interested, same design just more compact and can be folded into a small bag. Review is here.

What about you? Do you baby wear? What are you favourite carriers?

Me and Mine January 2015

What a difference a month makes! When I wrote my me and mine post for December the lady of the manor and I were a bit stressed out, we weren’t getting much of a break from the children to have time together or just have some peace. A month later Rupert has changed massively as happens with babies of this age, he is after all 50% older than he was at that time. Which is quite crazy when you think about it and is clear in how he’s behaving (more of that later).

We also had our first break away from home for the first time since June as we visited Bluestone in Wales. Amazing what having 5 days away from normal life does for you, no chores to think about or child care to manage, just lots of time to enjoy being a family. Which is where we took this months photo while on a lovely walk down through the forest that is part of the site. Taking the photo was a challenge though with the camera wedged on a slope and no remote so the lady of the manor was running back and forth to take the photos while we tried to stop the children falling in the river. The things we do!
standing in the Bluestone river

This month I have been doing a lot of thinking about the future and some changes I want to make to my work life, we may even have something resembling a 3 year plan written (in our heads at least). Potentially some exciting changes to come and hopefully a chance for me to focus on my passion for running and the outdoors. I’ve also just embarked on training for a triathlon in the summer which has the added bonus of allowing me to shop for all sorts of new gear. Awesome.

The lady of the manor has been working her magic with Rupert and slowly coaxing him into a routine. She’s also started the long road back to fitness after being pregnant and been on her first run. Yes that’s right she is also a bit running obsessed like I am! I think she may also be taking the opportunity to do some shopping soon as well, not only for running gear but for new clothes as well.

Matilda has spent most of January as the perfect example of a threenager; one who most definitely knows what she does and doesn’t want to wear, who will cry and the merest hint of being told no and is testing out her physical abilities, most on poor Henry. She has also been telling us that she’d like to go to school now and not just preschool, I’m glad she feels ready but it also feels like such a big milestone. Fingers crossed we get her into the school we’ve asked for as it’s such a lovely place.

Henry is now completely toilet trained and threatening to be dry and night before Matilda, we keep finding that he’s taken his nappy off at night because it was wet! He’s rediscovered his love for trains this month and thanks to some presents from his nan and pops we now have the makings of a fine Brio collection that the lady of the manor enjoys making into tracks just a little bit too much.

Rupert has finally decided that he will go to sleep in the evenings, as I write this we’ve now had a whole week where he’s been asleep by 7.30pm and normally sleeps until just after 11pm. It feels quite amazing suddenly having our evening back to do things rather than one of us carrying a baby around. He seems to have grown out of some of the wind issues he had and is such a happy, chatty little boy now.

Survival

It’s ok, call off the search party I’m alive and well I’ve just been a little busy. I’d have liked to have written a few more blog posts recently but it turns out having 3 children and a busy job doesn’t leave much time for anything else. To be quite honest when it comes to the evening I don’t have the brain power left to string words together into something intelligible and if I did most evenings have involved either carrying around a little baby or having one sleeping on me. Which is why it’s almost a month since my last post both here and on my running blog.

The past few weeks have been quite intense, Rupert has had a string of colds thanks to his brother and sister being very affectionate and wanting to share everything including their snot and sneezes. This has meant most evenings have involved a lot of pacing the house trying to settle him while he screams at us. Not much fun and very testing when you’re tired, not to mention the fact that it makes it impossible to get anything done in the evening. All you want to do is collapse on the sofa and drink a cup of tea in peace but instead you spend 2 hours tidying, sorting out the washing, putting the bins out, making lunches for the next day the list goes on.

Thankfully we seem to be making progress this week *touches everything wooden in the house*, partly I think just due to him getting older and with it being more relaxed and also wanting to have awake time, but we also went to see the Osteopath. We’d done the same with Henry and is something I’d recommend to all new parents, I’m a huge sceptic on some of these treatments but the magic that an Osteopath performs seems to have a real impact. I like it because it’s such a gentle treatment but it releases any pressure points or tight spots the baby may have. Birth is clearly a tough event for a baby so it’s not surprising they sometimes need a little help adjusting. With both Henry and Rupert the change was very noticeable, within a day or so Rupert was already calmer and happier. The screaming was mainly gone and we now get some lovely awake time full of smiles and gurgles.

Our next challenge is getting him to be willing to sleep somewhere other than on us during the day so that maybe we can eat a meal without him either being fed or rocked while he cries. I love having time to cuddle him (we had a lovely nap together in an armchair on Sunday afternoon doing just that) but it would also be nice to have the option of him sleeping in his moses basket so that the lady of the manor and I can get some time together again.

What’s interesting about doing this for the 3rd time is we know there will come a time when it changes, we know there is hope and that makes it less scary or hard to deal with. I can remember having similar feelings when Matilda was a baby and it was just so daunting not knowing how long it could continue. Not to mention the fact that we now have 20 different solutions to dealing with crying having been through it before, things you have no clue about the first time.

Although it’s still possible to send yourself mad as you come up with a new theory about why your baby isn’t sleeping, the lady of the manor is the master at this. She’ll come down in the morning and announce her new theory ‘I think he’s getting cold, let’s use a grobag’ or ‘I’m going to wedge a pillow under his head tonight because I think he likes sleeping on an angle’. You go through all those solutions until most likely you end up back where you started and then you go back through them all again. Maybe one day you will splat the rat and your baby sleeps 12 hours a night every night, then of course you can write a book about it and make millions selling it to other sleep deprived parents who are also looking for the reason why their baby isn’t sleeping.

Until then I shall just continue enjoying my cuddles while he’s still a baby and needs us so much.

Rupert

Entering the red zone – round 3

Alex 33 weeksThis is it, we’re entering the red zone, 4 weeks and counting until due date which means it’s entirely feasible baby boy could arrive at any time. Scary. We’ve done this twice already so there isn’t that fear of the unknown, of what birth will be like and how it will feel to hold him for the first time. But I’m still nervous. Nervous I think about the reality of having a newborn again and of having 3 children. The latter is perhaps the most scary, the first few days with a new baby are always chaotic but with 2 other children to think about also it’s likely to be even worse. I’m sure we’ll settle into a routine soon enough but I can imagine our patience will be tested, little steps each day though right?

I really hope Matilda and Henry get on with their new brother, I think they will, they talk about helping him do things. Matilda tells us that she’s going to hold his hand when we cross the road, which is far too cute. But you never know do you? You never know exactly how they’re going to react to a baby having our attention a lot of the time rather than them. When Henry was born we made sure to give Matilda attention and also not just ignore her whenever he cried, we had a plan for integrating but this time we’re going more on feel. Perhaps that’s what happens when you’ve been parents for a while? You sweat the small stuff less and learn to adapt as you go along rather than assuring yourself that your grand plan will work.

However I did come across this photo while writing this post, even at 14 months old Matilda loved having a brother, let’s hope it’s the same 2nd time around.

Matilda with a new born Henry

We’ve decided to have a home birth this time, in fact we decided that with Henry too but there was no midwife available in the end on the day he was born, so this time we’re hoping to have more luck. What I love is that the midwives we’ve had this time and with Henry have always been so positive and excited about a home birth, they’re all 40+ so maybe they like someone who doesn’t want a birth surrounded by hospital machines? I’ll be honest, a home birth does make me a little uneasy, I like the vision of a baby born at night and having Matilda and Henry come down in the morning to meet him. But I worry about the what if; our first 2 births have been pretty straightforward but you who knows what will happen this time. Plus of course there is the ‘stuff’, the bodily fluids and all that *shudders*, the lady of the manor is a nurse so has seen far worse, I on the other hand am a little squeamish. I also have visions of turning around and finding Bracken trying to eat it and running off with a piece of placenta in his mouth when we try to stop him.

Planning for the birth has so far involved working out the many permutations of what the children could be doing and who will help look after them if we need it. We’ve also packed an overnight bag for them and the lady of the manor. Finally I’ve bought enough plastic sheeting to cover the whole of the downstairs in preparation for all the ‘stuff’, the only thing left to order is the birthing pool. We did have some debate over the pool when I discovered it takes 3 whole tanks of water to fill, but apparently the fact we’re on a water meter shouldn’t dictate the birth plan.

Now we wait……..

A plea

Look to the right of the screen, up a little higher, yep that’s it up there *points like a crazy man at his laptop screen* you’ll see a picture that looks like this:

Dad Shortlist

Yes that’s right I’ve been nominated for a proper, real life, bona fide award where more than my mum have nominated me. I have been short listed in the best dad blogger category and now I need your help. The award ceremony will be during Britmums Live in June which I shall be attending. It would truly make my day if I could attend as one of the finalists.

There are of course some  many other great dad blogs out there but here’s my pitch; first is of course the writing. In the past year I have given the dads view on having a newborn and what it did to MY body, discussed starting Christmas traditions , made you jealous with drool worthy recipes and shown my dedication to you the reader by enduring a trip to New Zealand with a 5 month old.

Now I hope that based purely on my writing you’ll feel compelled to vote for me, but if that’s not enough then think of it as the perfect present for me as I become a dad for the second time in May. I mean what more could a father wish for?

Oh and for all you beautiful mummy bloggers reading this. Don’t you want some fit, young eye candy at the awards ceremony? If so you know what you need to do….

That’s it, that’s my plea, here ends the begging. To vote for me all you have to do is click on the badge on the top right (you know the one we looked at right at the start of this post?). You don’t need to be a blogger to do it so no excuses mum and dad, just click through and fill out the form, easy peasy.

P.S If that isn’t enough to persuade you I can and will beg, in fact my begging face would look much like this: