Friday, 4 December 2009

Don't call me a house-husband!

I'm really not sure why, but one thing that really winds me up, or "grinds my gears" is when people call me a house-husband. Maybe it shouldn't bother me, on paper that's what I am: I'm married, I don't go to work, I take care of the house, etc...
Perhaps it's because "house-husband" is a title we don't hear very often and as such there's no kudos or air of reponsibility associated with the position. Ask anyone what a housewife is/does and the answer will inevitably be "stays at home and looks after the kids". Ask the same person what a house-husband is and I doubt you'd get the same answer.

Recently, I had to call my car insurance company to update a few details, the desk jockey on the other end of the phone went through my personal information and when it got to "occupation" I got the usual "So, you're a house-husband then?" in a "half taking the piss" kind of voice, to which I felt the usual need to explain that I was a stay-at-home dad thanks very much. The "half taking the piss" voice disappeared with a "ooh, I don't think I could do that, mate" and Mr desk jockey started taking me seriously again.

Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm just being sensitive, maybe it doesn't matter. All I know is I'm doing a job that is all about taking care of my daughter so I'd like a job title that reflects this, be it stay-at-home dad, house-father, daddy-day-care, non-working child rearing executive, toddler entertainment supervisor, etc etc...

Call me what you will, just don't call me a house-husband :)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Fun with nap time.

So, where have I been I hear you ask? (or maybe not, curse my over-inflated sense of self-importance). Well, for the last couple of weeks I have mostly been running up and down the stairs, tucking Baby D back into her new grown-up bed.

Although I might be being a little harsh here. In fairness to Baby D, evening bed time has been going pretty well, she isn't making a habit of getting back out of bed and has only fallen out once:
03:00am one morning, all is quiet, all of a sudden from the room nextdoor comes "Thud... Waaaaaaahh!!!". She was fine though, I think it was just the shock of falling out of bed that got her. I can identify with that as the same thing happened to me once, although I can probably blame it on Guinness rather than being in a strange new unfamiliar bed...

Afternoon naps are another story. As I've mentioned previously, Baby D does not cope well without an afternoon nap, it'll get to around 5:00pm and she'll magically turn into a hyper little ball of non-cooperative moodiness. So, with that in mind, getting rid of the afternoon nap was not going to be an option.

The normal routine is: Lunch, milk, quiet sit down with daddy (usually including an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), nappy change, story, then nap time...

The obvious problem we've had is that because Baby D is in a big bed rather than a cot, she's now free to get out of bed and play in her room. The other problem we've found is that she isn't quite tall enough yet to climb back into bed when she eventually decides she does want to sleep. There's been a couple of times when I've gone up to check on her and found her asleep on the floor!

So yes, there has been a lot of running up and down the stairs and tucking in. I think my worst day was something like 10 times. I refuse to give up though, and in any case, there hasn't been a day where she hasn't ended up falling asleep so that reassures me she needs the nap.
It's been an interesting battle though, I'm sure she's arrived at the point where she's thought "If I get out of bed again, daddy will come in to see me" so if I'm having a bad day I'll go with the "Supernanny" approach i.e. going into the room, not making a fuss, not talking, putting her back into bed and walking straight out again.

This might seem a little harsh but it appears to have got the message across, today being a great example, she didn't get back out of bed once and slept for nearly 2 hours, hence I've finally got a little free time to update my blog :)

Long may the afternoon naps continue - please!!!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Poopy Man - A nappy changer's song.

During a text conversation with Brother D (metalharmony) this morning I commented that I had just changed a particularly hideous nappy, he commented jokingly that I was a lucky man. An idea was born and I decided to re-work the lyrics to The Verve's classic "Lucky Man" accordingly. Maybe one day I'll re-string the acoustic guitar, dust off my Fostex 4-track and record it. Maybe The Verve will sue me too:

Nappy mess
Hold your breath
I’m at the changing mat
Scared at what I’m looking at
Oh, my, my
Nappy mess
Lumpy and flowing
I watch you smile at me
And the smell is growing
I know, it’s looking bad

How many times won’t you just lie still?
How many nappies make me feel so ill?
Every time I don’t know what I’ll find

Yes I’m a lucky man
With poopy on my hand

Nappy mess
Something of an outrage
You lie there grinning
I’m wiping the whole stinky place
I need a mask

Nappy mess
Lumpy and flowing
I watch you smile at me
And the smell keeps growing
Oh no, it’s really bad

How many wipes will it take to clean?
How many times will I just turn green?
Every time I don’t know what I’ll find

I’ve got it on my hand!
I’ve got it on my hand!

Gotta stink that'll never die

Nappy mess
Hold your breath
I’m at the changing mat
Scared at what I’m looking at
Nappy mess
Chunky and flowing
I see you smile at me
Stinky funk is growing
I know
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my

Gotta stink that'll never die
Gotta stink that'll never die
Oh, no
I'm a poopy man

I’m at the changing mat
Scared at what I’m looking at
I’m at the changing mat
How did you come up with that?
I’m at the changing mat
Fumigate the bloody flat
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my
I’m at the changing mat
Scarred by what I’m looking at
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my

Copyright DadsNursery 2009 in association with the MetalHarmony Corporation.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Time for bed - literally!

Well, another milestone has been reached, a few mornings ago Baby D managed to climb out of her cot! Don’t ask me how she managed it; I was in the bathroom getting ready and heard a “thud”. “Oh, she’s just thrown one of her toys out of the cot” I assumed and carried on brushing my teeth…

A few moments later I thought “That little voice sounds closer than normal” so I went to have a quick peek and sure enough, Baby D is standing at the stair gate in her bedroom doorway smiling at me!

I’ve still got no idea how she managed it, but thankfully it was done in such a way that no injuries were sustained – part of me was thinking “Clever girl”, another part was thinking “blimey, that could have been painful” and another part was thinking “okay, I get the hint, you want us to get you a proper bed”.

The time is most definitely right, she’s 21 months now and loves “making a bed”, we’ll get her up for her first milk of the day and she’ll climb into bed with us and if we’re sitting in the lounge and she’s tired she’ll grab her Igglepiggle blanket, climb onto the sofa, lie down and tuck herself in!

So, whilst I was otherwise occupied with the ongoing house renovations, Mrs D took her out for the day and went bed shopping. We’d had a chat about it, Mrs D did an ace job with the mattress research (my eyes glaze over when I start looking at all the choices out there) and we figured that since we’re hoping to fill the house with Baby Ds, bunk beds would be the sensible forward thinking option (put one up, keep one “flat pack” and put them together once Baby D number 2 is ready for it!).

The bunk beds are coming this week, her 4.5 tog duvet, pillows, waterproof mattress cover and "In The Night Garden" bed linen are ready and waiting, and I’m looking forward to setting it all up. I guess the only thing I’m a bit wary about is the afternoon naps; Baby D isn’t always sleepy but I make a point of putting her up for some quiet time every afternoon, it might take half an hour but she drops off to sleep eventually. Obviously a bed is less restrictive than a cot so I’m wondering how this will affect her quiet time as she’s got a bedroom full of stuff to play with. We’ll just have to play it by ear I guess, she’s a grumpy little person if she misses her afternoon nap so doing away with it is definitely not an option.

Interesting times ahead I think, I’ll keep posting “bed updates” to let you know how things are going!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

So, she's a budding interior designer?

Picture the scene, I'm sitting in our living room finishing a luke warm cup of coffee (I can't remember the last time I actually got to finish a hot cup of coffee) and Baby D is toddling about the house, exploring again. All of a sudden I hear a "rrriiiiipp" sound, "Ah" I though, "she's found the local newspaper", no big deal. Anyway, I popped my head outside the door and was confronted with a huge piece of wallpaper hanging off the wall in our hallway - Baby D was sitting on the floor smiling one of her "I've found a new game" kind of smiles.

As it stands, the wallpaper in our hallway is bloody awful, I think I had the same paper in my bedroom back in 1987. It's starting to peel in a lot of places and needs to be replaced -However, I'm still halfway through renovating our house and as such, the hallway will be the last place we'll decorate. I wish I could explain this to a 19 month old, i.e. "Yes, I know the paper is terrible and needs to come off but please, NOT YET!". I had to make do with the usual "No, we don't do that" mini lecture.

After surveying the damage, and to try and stop further "games" I thought the best solution would be to just take the whole strip of wallpaper off. Thankfully, this was surprisingly easy (another testament to the less than perfect decorating skills of our previous occupant) but we've had several re-runs of the "rrriiiiipp" incident since then, and as a consequence our hallway has a delightful "stripy" theme going on with bare wall and wallpaper.

I guess I should be pleased that by the time we finally come to decorate, most of the paper will have already been removed, but I'm also hoping that by then, I've managed to teach Baby D how to use a wallpaper scraper and she can help daddy finish the job properly!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Here I am now, entertain me!

Last Monday it was like a switch had been flipped inside Baby D and she's been in "hyper" mode ever since! Read this book to me again and again, I don't want to sit still, I fancy spinning around in circles and dancing till I fall over, I've discovered how to open the lounge door and so I want to escape and run around the house, ENTERTAIN ME DADDY!!! You get the picture. I'm showing my age here but it reminds me a bit of Johnny 5 in Short Circuit - "Input, input!".

So yes, I think it's safe to say that now we're dealing with a fully-fledged toddler, gone are the days of having a quiet breakfast or updating my blog while she amuses herself. For me, it's been like every time I've got used to her routine and requirements she moves on to the next stage, leaving me playing catch up again!

I take my hat off to people that manage to run a business from home whilst looking after small children, I don't know how they do it. When I left work to look after Baby D just over a year ago I'd always intended to sell a few bits and pieces on Ebay on a regular basis to generate a bit of extra cash but I just haven't found enough hours in the day to do it. Consequently my cellar is still full of the junk (sorry, no, that should read "quality used items") that I was intending to sell.

Getting out of the house has helped, her playgroup is closed for the summer but we go over to see my family at least once a week and try to meet up with the mums & kids from Mrs D's antenatal group as often as we can. A change of surroundings definitely helps quash the boredom factor for her.

It's been fun thinking up games and ideas for keeping her occupied, a lot of her toys get overlooked if I don't play them with her. For example, she loves her Fisher Price Little People farm but only if I'm sitting next to her making the animal noises and getting involved too. We love drawing pictures, she realised pretty early on that crayons don't taste nice so we've passed that particular hurdle and can concentrate on the drawing. I've even managed to bring chores into it - helping daddy load the washing machine, get the mail, tidy your room, etc.. and she's been pretty receptive (so far!).

TV doesn't play a big part of things and nor should it as far as I'm concerned. She's got a couple of favourite shows which we'll watch together but generally I'll leave it turned off or just put on a music channel, she loves dancing!

I spent the whole of yesterday clearing up our garden but this has already had its reward, we spent half an hour running about outside, I gave Baby D some lunch, put her up for a nap and she was out like a light. Excellent!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The 18 month milestone.

Baby D turned 18 months old on Tuesday, perhaps I should really be calling her Toddler D at this point! She is definitely starting to know her own mind now, I can even have conversations with her. Don't get me wrong, half the time neither of us really know what the other person is saying but there's definitely points when we connect and that's really cool. After spending a year with a little person that at first, I could not really communicate with, it's great to see her develop. She'll bring a book over to me if she wants a story, say "juice" if she's thirsty, call for "Dumbo" if she's tired and wants to cuddle her favourite soft toy, and she'll help me tidy up her toys before we put her to bed.

One side of Baby D getting to know her own mind is the inevitable battle of wills that develops - I don't want to eat that, I don't want to sit still, I don't want to have a nap, etc... I try to approach each refusal calmly and bite my lip/count to ten when necessary! The afternoon nap is a good example, at the moment she's finding it difficult to settle and will sit in her cot playing with her toys for a while before things finally quieten down. I'm standing my ground though, even if she doesn't sleep she needs some "quiet time". If we're out and about and the afternoon nap gets missed then by the end of the day she's over-tired, grumpy and generally non-cooperative - not a nice mood for her to be in when Mummy D gets home.

We've all heard of the "terrible twos" and I can see signs of this legendary phenomenon in her, but at the same time Baby D is getting the idea of boundaries and learning what she can and can't do (we don't hit, we don't pull hair, we don't throw food on the floor, etc..) so to me, as long as we carry on this education then I think we'll be fine. I Hope. Fingers crossed. Touch wood.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Brushing teeth.

Baby D cut her first tooth when she was 6 months old so we bought a kids toothbrush, kids toothpaste and got straight into the routine of brushing twice a day - after breakfast and dinner. At first, things were pretty hit and miss (I guess you could say “spit and miss”? he-he, sorry…) as she didn’t always get along with the toothbrush and getting her to stay still and open her mouth was sometimes a bit of a mission.

I looked around to see if there was anything on the market which might help us out and we came across the “Oral Care Rabbit” by Mam, a pretty clever little item, it’s a glove with a smiley rabbit face on it and two ears. You put the glove on with a finger in each of the “ears”, spread a bit of toothpaste on the end of one of the ears and then brush baby’s teeth and gums by hand. This worked pretty well for a while but it did have a limited lifespan, once Baby D had top and bottom teeth she’d tend to bite the glove (with daddy’s finger inside – ouch!!) so we had to go back to the trusty old toothbrush…

She’s getting on pretty well with it these days, most of the time I can give her the toothbrush and with a bit of guidance she’ll do it on her own. She does spend a lot of time chewing the brush but with a bit of help from daddy we get the job done. If she’s in a non-cooperative mood I’ll hold her while she’s brushing and we’ll stand in front of the mirror and make a bit of a game out of it - “Where’s your teeth?” or “Say aaaaaaaahhhh”, etc… One of these approaches usually does the trick and I can then take the brush and finish things off while she’s smiling and showing me her teeth!

Eating toothpaste was a bit of a concern (although I’m pretty sure they’ve designed the kids toothpaste so that it isn’t harmful in any way) so we rinse by running the toothbrush under the tap so that it holds a little water and then brush again. Since she hasn’t got the concept of spitting the water out this helps to dilute any toothpaste that she might have eaten!

So that’s how we do it, but I’m always grateful for feedback or suggestions on how to make the job easier!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Quality time with mummy.

Back when I was still working and Mrs D was on maternity leave I didn’t get to see much of Baby D during the week as my job involved a long commute, long hours and overseas trips. Not an ideal situation for any of us, especially when I wanted to be there to support and help!
So, once the roles were reversed and Mrs D returned to work, we both wanted to make sure that she got some quality time with our daughter during the week. Despite similar work hours we’re fortunate that Mrs D works fairly close to home and this means that she can see her in the morning and even in the worst case scenario, is home in time to put her up to bed.

On an average day we’ll “swap over” when Mrs D gets home, I’ll finish a few chores, make a start on dinner, etc and Mrs D gets a chance to play with her, give her dinner and take care of bath time.
Obviously, weekends are great as we’re all together. Sometimes I’ll take a step back as we’re halfway through renovating our house and this gives me a chance to get on with a few of the more time consuming/serious jobs – there are enough of them!
Also, perhaps on a more selfish level, it means I can have a break and recharge my batteries a little, even if it’s just walking around the local DIY store for half an hour!

When I think about it, if I were to total up the number of hours that we each spend with Baby D, I don’t think that there would be such a massive difference and as we’re both keen to have a meaningful amount of input bringing her up, it feels like we’re achieving this. I never want there to be a situation where Baby D favours one of us over the other, e.g. if she falls over, scuffs her knee and runs to me instead of mummy. Thankfully, there’s been no sign of this so far so hopefully we’re some way towards getting the balance right…

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Our first proper holiday.

On paper this was a simple affair, a week at a caravan park on the Sussex coast with Family D, my mother-in-law and our 3 year old niece. In reality it was a slightly more terrifying prospect – would the girls get along? Would we all get along? Would the caravan be okay? Would it rain all week? Would the park be full of screaming kids terrorising the place and peeing in the “spacious outdoor pool”?, would we have to sit through hours of “enforced fun” and cheesy cabaret performances? Would everything fit in the car? You get the picture…
So yes, whilst I was really looking forward to a week away it was with a certain amount of trepidation.

It didn’t start well, the generously proportioned boot of our Swedish estate car was full in no time, Baby D’s buggy had to be stowed in the back footwell and we had to leave behind a couple of the less essential items. The drive to Winchelsea was pretty good. Despite being a Sunday we didn’t encounter too many “Sunday drivers” and made good progress, arriving just in time to check into our “Silver level” 3-bedroom caravan. I didn’t know what to expect (the last time I did a caravan holiday I was our niece’s age!) but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, the bedrooms were small but comfortable, the lounge area was huge, the kitchen and bathroom were well equipped, it even had a real toilet with proper plumbing – luxury! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think we’d be peeing in a bucket but like I said, I really didn’t know what to expect!

With the sleeping arrangements we decided to put Baby D and our niece in separate rooms. From past experience when they’re in together they tend to keep each other awake chatting as toddlers do. Coupled with the fact that they both have different afternoon nap requirements this seemed to be the best solution.

We unpacked a few things and had a look around the park which was also well equipped, a club house and bar, large outdoor pool, launderette, plenty of recycling & rubbish bins, etc... In all, some good first impressions. Baby D was delighted to discover that the park is full of ducks (or “quackies” as she calls them) and spent a lot of time chasing them around! We then took the short walk to Winchelsea’s pebble beach which was ideal for the little ones, almost deserted, perfect for paddling, and we finally finished the day with fish and chips and a beer at the club house.

Day 2 turned out to be a bit of a milestone – Baby D’s first time swimming. We’ve always been meaning to take her but for some reason it just never quite happened. After kitting her out in a shiny new pair of water wings it was time to take the plunge. The pool itself had two sections, one of them about a foot deep for the smaller kids so this was the ideal place for Baby D to start and she loved it! Any worries we had quickly went out the window as she started splashing around and smiling. She dunked her head under the water a few times which didn’t bother her and after a while she even started kicking her legs – great!
I thought I’d take a few pictures of this momentous occasion and then got told off by the lifeguard. Apparently it’s “company policy” that photos/videos aren’t taken in the pool area. It’s a pretty sad world we live in these days – when did it become socially unacceptable for a man to take pictures of his own wife and daughter in the swimming pool? I got the feeling that he was just towing the company line as he gave me the chance to take a few pics before coming over, I can just about see their point of view but it still feels pretty harsh…

Day 3 started with a morning trip to the pool again and then a drive to Camber Sands, a huge sandy beach spoilt only by the amount of litter piled up against overflowing refuse bins, lovely… Anyway, trash aside it was a lot of fun, bought new buckets and spades for niece and Baby D, made sandcastles, destroyed sandcastles, paddled, Baby D started eating the sand (uuurrrgh!!! Why?!?!?), had dinner at a nearby cafĂ© and drove back to the caravan park with half a ton of sand in my shoes…

Day 4 was Drusillas Park Zoo, a bit further afield but well worth the trip. They had a great balance of animals and educational bits and pieces. On entry, all the kids are given a book where they can tick off each animal they’ve seen and there’s plenty of information, interactive bits and games dotted around the enclosures. There’s a Thomas the Tank Engine ride, adventure playgrounds for the older ones and even a toddler play area. I think the size of the place is ideal, we spent most of the day there and that’s just enough time to have a good leisurely walk around and not feel like you’ve missed anything, even with a decent break for lunch. We’ll certainly go back again.

By this point in the holiday the weather was getting stupidly hot – 32 degrees! So the rest of the week mainly consisted of trips to the pool in the morning, lunchtime naps for the kids, Wimbledon on TV for the grown ups, late afternoon walks to the beach once the temperature had died down a little, and the occasional barbecue from yours truly. The evening entertainment in the club house was good fun, the park mascot “Loopy Rabbit” would come out and entertain the kids and afterwards the cabaret & karaoke would start for the grown ups. The quality of the cabaret? Well, what they lacked in vocal ability they more than made up for in enthusiasm! All good fun after a couple of cold beers.

So, wrap this post up and get to the point I hear you cry. Well, after some initial concerns the whole thing worked very well. Baby D and our niece got on brilliantly together, both needed to be reminded to SHARE every now and again but there was certainly no tantrums or tears. Would we do it again? Yes, it wasn’t particularly relaxing for us adults (I guess the days of relaxing holidays are long gone!) but the kids had a great time, the caravan was ideal, the park facilities were great, the location was perfect and it’s a very affordable choice of holiday. I’m not about to rush out and put a deposit on a Bunkmaster 3000 (or whatever the latest model of hi-tech caravan is) but I’ve certainly dropped a lot of the preconceptions I had about caravan park holidays.

Now, I’m off to find Baby D some swimming lessons…

Oh, and if Nanny C is reading this – A very big thank you from all of us!!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

What’s it like being a “modern dad”?

Well, I woke up this morning (sounds like a cue for a song) and one of the topics of conversation on the BBC Kent morning show was “modern dads”. I listened with interest as a few dads called in with their views and experiences, they also canvassed some opinion from “the man on the street”.

General consensus seems to be that a lot of dads feel left out when it comes to things like midwife appointments and calls from the heath visitor, in as much as all the attention is directed towards the mother. I can empathise with this to an extent, Whenever Mrs D had such an appointment or visit I always made a point of having a few questions ready just to show that I was taking an interest – sounds daft but it was surprising how the attitude would change and all of a sudden I would be included in the conversation!

A few people made the point that during the pregnancy, again, they felt that most of the focus is towards the mum-to-be. On the one hand this totally understandable but on the other, it would be nice to feel like there were as many books, leaflets, advice forums, etc.. aimed at the dad-to-be as we need just as much advice and reassurance. We also need access to baby change facilities when we’re out and about, a common gripe that many dads brought up!!

Feeling self conscious when taking baby out alone was another issue, one guy even went to the extreme of putting “L” plates on his son’s buggy! I wasn’t quite that worried but I certainly felt a bit awkward at first, the feeling passed pretty quickly when I’d gained a bit more confidence from taking Baby D out a few times and tried to adopt an “oh, just get on with it!” attitude. There was no point in depriving her of the outside world just because I felt a little out of my depth.

I thought I’d call the show to give them my story (a lot of which I've already blogged about so I won’t repeat myself here!) I agreed with most of the points made but to me, it’s more a case of the establishment getting used to the idea of full-time dads. Every time I’ve taken Baby D for an immunisation jab I’d get the “So, you’re looking after her today?” comment to which I’d reply “Yes, I look after her full-time” and this was always met with a raised eyebrow – why?!?
The flip side of this has been that pretty much everyone else I’ve met, and especially the mums from Mrs D’s antenatal group have been really supportive and encouraging.

In all, a really interesting show (it’s on the BBC “listen again” if you fancy it - The John Warnett and Julia George breakfast show) and it was a bit of a pat on the back for all the hard working dads out there. Nice for the media to show us a bit of support every once in a while!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Baby D's current Top 10 toys!

At 16 months, here's her favourites:

1. Duplo bricks
2. Early Learning Centre "Jungle Beat" musical instrument set
3. Leapfrog magnetic Fridge Farm set
4. Fisher Price activity table
5. Bruin "Animal and Friends" piano
6. Talking Igglepiggle
7. Fisher Price "Rock-a-stack" ring set
8. Dumbo soft toy
9. Fisher Price "Little People" zoo set
10. "In the Night Garden" figures pack

What's your little one's top 10?

Toys and games - What do you buy?

Ah yes, the minefield of baby and toddler toys. We have a 3 year old niece so were fortunate to get a bit of an insight into what was available well before Baby D arrived. What struck me was the huge amount of electronic toys you can get these days. There were a few times where I’d be sitting in a room with our niece and several of her toys would be going off at the same time – total sensory overload, a bit like walking down the Las Vegas strip with all the flashing lights and noises!

I can appreciate that, from early on, these electronic toys can be educational and help teach the concept of reward, i.e. baby presses a button and a light flashes or a song plays. My only concern was that if she was constantly surrounded by these things that she’d eventually start pressing inanimate objects expecting some sort of reaction (our niece did this a few times). I thought that some of the toys were just over-complicated too, for example, the VTech "First steps" baby walker. The walker itself is excellent and very well balanced, however, the activity centre part is pretty annoying, it had too many buttons and flashing lights for Baby D to really get any enjoyment out of playing with it and seemed to have a mind of its own anyway, regardless of what buttons were pressed. AND it doesn’t shut off automatically so carries on beeping and flashing until somebody gets up, walks over to it and turns it off by hand…

Sometimes I wonder if these companies really think about the little person that will playing with their toy when they’re sitting around having a sales meeting and designing their new product line which will no doubt be “even more educational” and “packed with more exciting features” than before… I’m sure Baby D gets just as much fun and enjoyment out of playing with her Early Learning Centre music set and her Fisher Price stacking rings than she would from “My First Laptop” or whatever the latest range of uber-educational electronic toys is. Surely at this early age the fun aspect is paramount?

Another thing I wanted to be careful of was buying too many things. It’s all too easy to see baby enjoying different toys at playgroup or at friends houses and thinking “I must get one of those” and before you know it you’ve got a house full of toys, most of which just end up gathering dust! Inevitably though, we’ve ended up with quite a number so I try to keep out a select few of her favourites and rotate them every now and again so that she doesn’t get the opportunity to get bored.

We’ve tried to keep a balance between new toys and old favourites, the wooden blocks, stacking rings, jigsaws, etc.. One of my better purchases was an old 1970’s Fisher Price Activity Centre for £1.00 in a charity shop! I took it home, gave it a very thorough clean and Baby D loved it, even our 3 year old niece thought it was great – sometimes the old toys are the best eh?
Baby D’s now discovered her Duplo bricks, something we all enjoy, building towers and knocking them down, simple stuff but a lot of fun. I like the fact that she can use her imagination with the blocks too, she can build whatever she likes and it can be whatever she wants it to be – a car, a boat, a house, endless possibilities!

Ending on the theme of “the old toys are the best”, when she’s a little older I’m really looking forward to dusting off my old Atari 2600 console, another toy we can all play with!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Teething and nappy rash – The saga continues…

It started last week with Baby D’s usual teething symptoms – loss of appetite, not sleeping well, sudden bursts of tears, nappy rash, etc… and when applying the Bonjela I could feel 4 molars coming through – that’s gotta hurt! Things went downhill at the weekend, the loss of appetite turned into vomiting and the nappy rash got worse with broken skin. We couldn’t get her to eat anything and water had to be given in very small doses to avoid it coming straight back up again.

We went to the Chemist on Sunday to get some advice on the nappy rash as the Sudocrem had got rid of the redness but wasn’t any good for the broken skin – we’d tried Savlon which had helped a little but weren’t convinced. The pharmacist recommended bicarbonate of soda, dissolve 1 teaspoon in water and apply to the broken skin with cotton wool, this should help to kill any bacteria. We also picked up some Metanium, a different nappy rash cream which is thicker than Sudocrem. So, armed with the new knowledge and new products we were looking forward to the next nappy change (okay, maybe not).

I have to say that her skin has now cleared up very well, definitely some good advice from the pharmacist.

I took Baby D to see our doctor yesterday as we were more than a little concerned that she hadn’t eaten anything all weekend and had drank very little. He did the usual checks and put it all down to teething, she didn’t have a temperature or any diarrhoea. We got some “standby” antibiotics just in case her symptoms got worse but so far (touch wood, fingers crossed) she seems to be recovering. She drank plenty of water yesterday (again, in small doses) and managed to eat some dry cereal without vomiting.

We gave her some Dioralyte this morning to help rehydration, she’s still pretty lethargic (even Mickey Mouse Club House didn’t cheer her up) but she took 7 ounces of milk without any complaints so everything points to Baby D being on the mend.

I’m sure she’ll be glad when all these teeth are finally through – so will we!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The only dad at Playgroup.

We always thought that playgroup would be a nice idea for Baby D. Mrs D went as a toddler, as does our 3 year old niece. Once Baby D could crawl we took her along to a try out the local Tumble Tots class, she loved it and I've been taking her ever since.
The entry level class is about an hour long and pretty relaxed, with lots of soft toys and basic equipment to climb on, crawl through, chew, dribble on, etc... We also sit in a circle and sing songs, something which makes me a little self conscious being the only dad there, and as such, the only deep voice singing "The wheels on the bus" and other popular tunes - I've played bass and sung backing vocals in a band for the last 9 years but it still didn't prepare me for this!
I think the main problem is that none of the songs are in my vocal range and I don't know how to pitch them - I either sound like Prince on "Kiss" or Andrew Eldritch from the Sisters of Mercy on "Temple of Love". It makes Baby D smile though, so I guess I'll struggle on...

It's been really nice to see how Baby D interacts with the other kids, crawling, and now running about, playing together, and learning how to share toys. I've no doubt that that the experience will help build her social skills and make her more confident person. For me, it's been nice to get out of the house and meet the other parents, it's always nice to compare notes and have the normal "is your's doing this yet?" kind of conversations.

With Tumble Tots, once the kids in the group are walking comfortably they move up to the next class, Baby D had her first visit to the new class yesterday and had a great time. Things are a bit more structured this time, no soft toys and more climbing/crawling equipment around the hall with plenty of space to run around and burn off some energy. I think she found it a little overwhelming at first, running around like a nutter, but after a bit of gentle persuasion she finally started to investigate some of the play equipment.

Classes are a little longer this time, oh, and there's more singing. Great...

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Crawling and walking (finally!).

Baby D started to crawl at around 7 months and began to pull herself up on things pretty much straight after. Naturally, it was time to re-design the entire house accordingly, packing away lots of things including my bookcases full of cds and my lovely floating glass hi-fi unit – both of these things were considered a climbing frame by Baby D and therefore had to go…
I don’t know why, but Baby D has always found the dangerous items to be the most interesting, mains cables, plug sockets, window latches, etc. I guess it’s like every parent says, you need eyes in the back of your head! Still, having said that we haven’t kiddie-proofed everything as she still needs to understand the meaning of the word “No” and also needs to know how to behave when we visit family and friends houses.

Walking started at 14 months, later than some of her friends but I think that because she got so good (and fast) at crawling, the extra effort of hauling herself up to walk didn’t interest her at first. However, we did decide to pack away her baby walker as she got into the habit of leaning on it and pushing herself around i.e. not really making any effort to walk! Pretty soon after we did that we had a funny two week transition period of Baby D shuffling around on her knees before she finally found her feet! She now has her first proper pair of shoes from Nanny C and there’s no stopping her, she’s already trying to run everywhere, climbing up stairs (when very closely supervised!), enjoying the garden, and I now have another ever-expanding list of kiddie-proofing jobs to do!

Weaning and solid foods.

With Baby D now happily on formula milk and Mrs D back at work it was also time to start with some solid foods. So, as Mrs D liked to remind me at the time, I became a weaner (ha-ha, very funny…). We both enjoy cooking so were keen to make her some decent home cooked grub, starting with fruit purees and moving on to veggie stuff like sweet potato, carrot, courgette, butternut squash, etc… We found the Annabel Karmel book “Feeding your baby and Toddler” very useful for recipe ideas in the early stages, I’d also recommend investing in a mouli, a great kitchen gadget where you can puree the food easily and it holds on to the fibrous bits that baby can’t digest. Don’t bother with the cheap plastic variety though, it’s well worth paying a bit more to get a full size stainless steel one, this will mean you can make up food in larger batches and freeze them in portions for later use – anything like this that can help to save time is essential in my book!

We’ve been quite lucky with the food side of things, Baby D is pretty adventurous and will eat most of our home cooked favourites like spaghetti bolognese and macaroni cheese, she’s also progressed to “grown up” cereals like Cheerios and Rice Krispies (or “bibbies” as she calls them!), she’s keen on lots of fruits too with grapes being her current favourite. We try not to give her too much processed food but just stick to the “everything in moderation” rule which, for now, is working just fine.

Fun with formula milk and teething.

My new job (for an incredibly demanding little boss I might add) started when Baby D was 6 months old. We’d managed to get her off the boob and on to formula milk and after Baby D had tried every conceivable variety she decided that she liked Aptamil the best. One bit of advice I’d offer at this point is to try and alternate between boob and bottle from the start as this should avoid the week of tantrums and tears (from both mum and baby) as we tried to persuade our little one that formula milk is not as bad as she thinks it is, or to use a poor analogy, you can’t have steak all the time, sometimes you have to settle for a burger! Teething had also started so that didn’t help Baby D’s mood, coupled with the associated dribbling, snotty nose and nappy rash it wasn’t the happiest experience for her.

We stocked up on teething gel, Sudocrem and bought some plastic water filled teethers that you cool in the fridge and bring out when required, she took to those very well. We also found the Tommy Tippee Nuby bottles really good, the teats have nobbles on them which are designed to be comforting when baby is teething, we still use them as they’re still very effective. The side graduations can be difficult to read if the bottles have just come out of the steriliser (and especially if you’re half asleep at 03:00am) but the plus points definitely outweigh this annoyance.

Monday, 1 June 2009

How it all came about.

Well, it’s now officially a year since I left work to look after our daughter (Baby D) and I thought I’d put a blog together to share the experience of being a full time stay at home dad. Mrs D and I had talked about it at length, she’s the educated one with the qualifications and the salary to match whilst I worked an enjoyable but less well-rewarded service industry job. Neither of us were keen on childcare with somebody else bringing up our daughter and us being at work missing all those special moments like first words, first steps, etc. After looking into childcare costs and seeing just how expensive it was, it seemed the ideal solution was for me to leave work and become daddy-day-care.

At this point I have to give total credit (mad props, much respect, a big shout, etc..) to Mrs D for having the strength to go back to work and for having the confidence in me to step into her shoes without treading on her toes – if that makes any sense?!? This past year has been a total change of lifestyle, responsibilities, priorities, a very steep learning curve (which continues on a daily basis), frustrating, rewarding, immense fun and probably the most important thing I’ll ever do!