About Me

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By trade I am a journalist with a background in current affairs, culture, health and fitness, travel and high profile interviews. I also own and run an outdoor fitness business aimed at people that hate gyms and bootcamps (www.spartanfitnesslondon.co.uk). Most importantly though, I am on Shared Parental Leave from May 31 to October 3. Everyday from 0730 to 1800 I will be in sole charge of a real and completely awesome baby girl.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Day 50 – CLASSICAL CULTURE




WITH Baby Sensory done and both M'Lady and I managing to evade capture by The Leader we found ourselves at a loose end on a Thursday. To stay at home having some sort of one-on-one coffee/milk morning would have been odd so luckily we received a message from our very in-the-know friend, Rosie.

Rosie is in possession of a 19-month-old (basically a grown-up), so is a seasoned professional on the baby circuit, which is a kind of stock exchange that lives online, in word-of-mouth and on noticeboards at places you probably don't know about (because you're not in-the-know). It's where sales and events spring up every second of the day and will be snapped/booked up in a flash... so you need to be on your game, if you want the good stuff.

So, thanks to our lady with a finger on the pulse, we had a hot ticket the biggest gig in town at 1030 on a Thursday – Bach to Baby: Swooning Bassooning at St Mary's Church in Putney (www.bachtobaby.com). The church was merely the setting... nothing religious here. 

At the beginning there was a dramatic hand-waving from the main man (I assume he had an official title such as lead tenor but I didn't catch it) in an attempt to hush the audience. It didn't work. Babies were still gurgling, burbling and crying and parents were still whispering. I hasten to add that I was complete silence per the instructions. At his point I was thinking "Ok mate, you've got an audience of predominately babies... this is as quiet as it's going to get so just crack on" and then he insisted on giving his silencing wave, with arms outstretched, another shot. I'll give it to him, it worked and if he learnt nothing else at classical music school, it was worth it. With silence achieved the acclaimed Bassoonist, Christopher Rawley and pianist Dominic John got to work. 

The opening piece was Gabriel Pierne's Solo de Concert and from the first blow of the double-reeded instrument all of the kids' eyes were transfixed on the musicians. I had expected the youngsters to be interested but this was amazing, like a hypnotism. Of course, the spell only lasted about one minute before the business of crawling, dribbling and dropping sippy cups resumed. 

The expert musicians rattled through a few more pieces, including Godfrey's Lucy Long, Mozart's Bassoon Concerto (2nd Movement, Andante ma adagio) and Debussy's Pour Les Arpeges Composes. This was a cut above the CD of Twinkle Twinkle and the attempt at a Broadway version of Incey Wincey Spider that I had become accustomed to on a Thursday...

One pointer I might suggest though, as someone with zero accomplishment with any musical instrument (unless you're counting my voice of a husky angel), would be to shorten the arrangements in order to harness the attention spans of the very young audience. It seemed that at the beginning of each composition the children came to life, excited and engaged, but after a minute or so they were drawn elsewhere. A four-minute piece from a bassoon was asking a bit much of an eight-month-old. However, this was only my first time and the Back to Baby series seems to be doing okay for itself with sold-out bookings everyday all over London including Buckingham Palace, so they can probably take or leave my advice. 

As well as the music there were some educational snippets about classical music and how the instruments work dished out for the adults (and the super bright babies). My favourite fact of the day was that Bach didn't actually write any music for the bassoon after he found himself in an unsavoury punch-up with a bassoonist. 

For the last couple of minutes of the performance the musicians took Nursery Rhyme requests from the floor. My shout out for Ba Ba Black Sheep was snapped up with gusto and belted out by the trio of bassoonist, pianist and singer. What happened next left me baffled... the parents on the other side of the auditorium to me were asked to choose the next nursery rhyme and the response from every single one was "we can't think of any". Now, that is simply unacceptable. I thought it was the law for every parent in the land to have a catalogue of songs to sing on loop for their babies. Maybe Putney is too posh for nursery rhymes... "No darling we don't do Twinkle Twinkle, we do Dvorak's Song to the Moon". Never fear, Rosie stepped in to save the day with a request for the classic Grand Old Duke o York, which was brought to life by our woodwind leader.  

Overall, this was an excellent activity for both parents and babies! 

The inspiration from the music stayed with me for the rest of the day, so much so that when I was in Sainsbury's on a quick trip to buy four very specific items for the Milk Lady, I found myself singing (too loudly) in a Gnarl's Barkley kind of style:

Double Creeeeeam, Lemons,
Fresh Tarr-a-gooooon.  
And dooooonchooooo  forget that washin' up Li-quiiiiid. 

Then later, in the lift, I was singing my old favourite to A-bomb: 

She's a Stinkbomb Lady, 
Doin' Stinky plopsies. 
She's a Stinkbomb Lady, 
Doin' Stinky plopsies.

The shame was that while singing my bluesy verse with my head in the buggy a rather sweaty woman in ill-fitting leggings had walked through the lift doors. I looked up and knew that the crease-faced shopper had heard me. It was a long 10 seconds descending to the ground floor. Nothing was said but we both knew that although my song was not aimed at her, the woman could've done with a spray of deodorant. 

That wasn't being mean, it was just a fact of life.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Day 49-51 - Sunshine, Lollipops and Dropping Food

NEARLY back on track!

FIRSTLY, no complaints with the hot, sunny weather. It's a very British thing to moan everyday about the rain, or the darkness, or the cold, or how it's not like Spain, America, or anywhere else, but then within half an hour of any heat above 25 degrees Celsius and the same people are complaining about a lack of air conditioning, requesting a national sunshine holiday and calling in sick with heat exhaustion.

As a "stay-at-home" parent I'm not sure who I am supposed to call to request a day off because I'm too hot. Possibly the government. Yes, it's their fault that the sun's out. I'll get one of their people to look after M'lady while I cool down.

Of course, sane people realise that we get approximately 12 hours of summer so just crack on with it, feeling hot but accepting it for what it is; not rain. With regards to A-bomb I followed the rule that if I want to wear fewer items of clothing, she probably does too. Unluckily for me, I could not get away with wearing just a nappy or a walk to the shops whereas babies dodge judgement on that. Out of order really... just because they are small, fat and require being wheeled from A to B that exempts them from clothing too. What a life they have. More on that later.

So, reduced clothing. That put a smile on the face of the munchbunch plonker. Also, when it came to sleep/nap times in her cot, with the Egg Thermometer about to explode (it turns bright red when very hot) at temperatures of 26-28 degrees C I needed to take serious steps to cool the zone down. All windows in the house were opened in an attempt to get a draft going (it resembled more of a pathetic lisp effect), I cranked up the electric fan that was strategically placed in front of A-bomb's rouged face, and I took the unprecedented step of opening her window and thus allowing light in from behind the holy black-out blinds. All of this reduced the temperature by about 0.1 degree.

An excellent tip that was then put to use was placing freezer blocks in front of the fan so that rather than recycling hot air, the cool(er) air from the blocks was blown around the room. I also placed numerous ice packs in tubs by the cot, which did assist with cooling the place down. The main bit of luck was that M'Lady cleverly positioned herself directly in front of the fan so that she was effectively in a wind tunnel. She had quite the Elvis quiff after a few hours. These procedures combined with A-bomb being on good behaviour meant there were no real problems with day or night sleeps... The Milk Lady is like a heated up furnace at the best of times, with volcanic lava running through her veins rather than blood, so required "more space" to cool down. Therefore, my own sweaty sleeping scenario was like a nightly audition for Cliffhanger, clinging onto the side of the bed with beads of perspiration falling from my nose and the elusive Zs escaping my weak grasp. As long as the ladies of the house were okay, that was my only concern (sure, we'll see what karma has to say about that).

Although the glorious sunshine and the blistering heat was the main thing going on, other things did happen in the three days under scrutiny here...

Monday: I noticed that M'Lady has developed a very useful new skill. She can eat her own feet. I am working out the best way to monetise this but as yet I haven't secured a financial backer or any sponsorship deals. She showed off the impressive capability while I was changing her nappy – as I whipped the fresh one under her sizeable backside she just grabbed her right foot and put it in her mouth. Obviously I then attempted to copy her and failed. I fear this may become a running theme.

For the Lady's evening meal we chose to dine al fresco with the highchair in the garden. Courgettes were on the menu and life was good. Then the little turd repaid my efforts by chomping of a decent lump of the soft vegetable, spitting it on to her chin, scooping it up with her fingers and flinging onto my arm. It had all of the characteristics of phlegm, which wasn't ideal, but to be fair it was a great shot.

Tuesday: This was a very exciting day because A-bomb and I hosted the main man Harry, one of M'Lady's good friends from the NCT gang. His mum, Janna, had an appointment in town and we were happy to welcome him for a few hours. A-Bizzle gave H a lovely welcome by putting a mammoth sleeping shift in, so for a while it was just the lads. Actually, two other mums came round with their girls to join the fun in the garden so we had a little tea party, complete with ice lollies for adults and water and carrots or the babies. The little guy was as good as gold, happy to sit up with his perfectly straight legs while the girls fussed around their business (toys). I had been well briefed but still the logistics of a nappy change for a boy took a moment to get used to... I was ready for the out-of-control hose, but there were no issues. Eventually A-Bomb arose from her slumber and all in all it was a lovely day with the gang; Harry just chillin' with his ladies. A very cool customer.

Wednesday: By the powers of social media (Facebook) it had come to my attention that my old boss, from the glory days of landscape gardening during holidays, was on a job nearby so we packed ourselves up and went on a mission to find the old team. After a short walk and a couple of stops on the Northern Line we were at the work house (not in the Victorian sense, that would be brutal and illegal... I mean the house where the guys were working). We were armed with ice-creams and cold bottles of Coke, which A-bomb took great pleasure in holding to keep herself chilled. It was great to see the grafters from Bracknell in town (Clapham South) toiling away in the heat! After a quick interview process M'Lady now has a couple of shifts on the wheelbarrow for Fordy in the coming weeks. She could certainly move some weight job with those arms.

While purchasing the cold treats I had splashed out on a delicious looking lemon chicken salad sandwich, from the special range. You know"deluxe" NOT standard. I was ever so pleased then when, on our return journey, that due to the packed nature of the City Mini Jogger GT's undercarriage the sandwich popped out, landed in front of the buggy and before I'd noticed I ran over it. Obviously the expensive item still got eaten but I feel that the experience would have been better without the tyre tracks.

As it turned out this was not my day for handling food. Much later in the evening, when M'Lady was long asleep and the Milk Lady had taken herself to commandeer her sleeping area, I had prepared my meal... a splendid looking arrangement of last night's chicken with some bread and cheese accompanied by a pint of milk. On my way into the living room I stopped to collect the baby monitor. I rested my plate of food on the high-chair tray. SMASH! Yep, the high-chair tray does not take the weight of adult portions. All of my food was on the floor, along with a pool of milk, which had poured out of my glass as I bent down to see what I could salvage. It was now trickly through the floorboards. The tragic part of this tale is that I already I knew the rule about the high-chair because I did exactly the same thing last week with a lovely chilli. Anyway, I swept up the mess and ate it. I was hungry.


 


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

DAY 42-48 – Bitesize Bits Of A Whistlestop Week


Daddyshortlegs Baby Monitor
SINISTER FACE ON THE MONITOR
IN a bid to get back up to date with what is happening in the present rather than chasing my tail, (sweaty work in this heat) out of the past, I am going to run through the highlights/lowlights of the past week with brief comments. Think of this post like that excellent publication The Week but with a focus purely on my eight-month-old rather than world politics, current affairs and culture.

Monday (Day 42):
Made the Lady an omelette with cream cheese, which went down very well. The lunchtime sleep was going nowhere, with A-bomb staring wide-eyed at me while sniggering, so I launched her out of her cot and straight into the pram. It was a snap decision so I hadn't given much thought to my attire or where I was headed. Ten seconds after turning left out of my house the dry air turned decidedly wet as the heavens opened up. The monsoon lasted a good ten minutes, which was more than enough time to make sure that every thread of my white T-shirt had stuck to my skin and that my shorts had become almost impossible to walk in. As I waddle-sprinted to the nearest shopping area two helpful women covered in tattoos and smoking roll-ups offered: "You've gone see-through darlin'". 

"Many thanks," I answered. 

Tuesday (Day 43): 
Breakfast of frozen fruit and oats for me and porridge fingers for M'lady. Porridge fingers dipped in fruit/oat smoothie was a real crowd-pleaser.
Created a gladiator-esque arena around A-bomb's play-mat using cushions. It was an attempt to prevent her mounting a rolling escape. Worked a treat. I could sense that the girl was already plotting a new route out of the room though so watch this space.
Developed a new move that involves clicking fingers while singing like a maniac. The inaugural showing of this was to "Burn Baby Burn", which was playing on the radio. Click-dancing could become a"thing".


Wednesday (Day 44
Swimming. M'Lady's favourite. Managed to dive of the giant float and give a big smile

Thursday (Day 45)
Last visit to Baby Sensory... it was not very good. Essentially singing at the kids for 45 minutes, with a few breaks to shake bells in their faces. Maybe The Leader's mind is on the next subjects.
Lunch at a lovely awesome restaurant (the Belgian Brasserie – www.belgianbrasserie.com) before rushing home to get the girl to sleep before our afternoon rendezvous with a photographer.
A friend of one of the NCT gang is getting into professional photography of families and children so we were just offering some models in exchange or some smart images. I'm yet to see the pictures but I imagine the will be great, even the one of all our babies falling backwards into a flower bed.



Friday (DAY 46)

Last visit to Baby Yoga run by the fabulous http://northcotebaby.com/  Lots of focus on the baby this time rather than asking us to hold a 10kg weigh above our head for minutes on end, which was not bad thing.
Sadly we won't be re-joining the yoga class next term just because it's time to find new activities... and she weighs too much to complete each class. For any parents of newborns up to eight-ish months
On returning home, M'Lady went to sleep super-quick and was well and truly out for the count.
Half an hour later I checked the monitor to see how she was getting on. At this point I think I lost my lunch and actually shouted in shock. On the screen, instead of a sleeping daughter I was faced with a man with a hat on. It was the scariest thing I've ever seen. It
turns out that I had moved the camera by accident using the remote control buttons and the camera was facing a box (Scatch Head), which has a man in a hat on the front.


Saturday (DAY 47
A new party trick: Wait for Daddy to fill plastic bowl with natural yoghurt, watch Daddy put bowl on high-chair tray, smash fist into tray so that whole bowl flips in the air and lands the right way up on video, while showering me with aforementioned yoghurt.

 Sunday (DAY 48) 
A-bomb attended (www.spartanfitnesslondon.co.uk) and played on the mats provided. 
It was a return to moving like an animal and the plethora of bodyweight moves for the NUNS netball team.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

DAY 39-41 - Fell Off Wagon And A Couple Of Mistakes...

I HAD hoped that would dodge the whirlwind, but the inevitable happened... I got swamped. Snowed under with the baby stuff and the actual baby needing looking after. So I missed quite a few days of blog posts. That's the bad news. But the good news is that me being out of time is the result of A-bomb, others and me being busy, which means there's lots to discuss. I'm talking serious stuff like an auntie (my sister) landing from Australia, a family holiday to Bognor, vile mothers calling their 4-year-old an F-ing Wan*$r, Pear-squelching... oh and me forgetting to take a post-yoga feed for my child.

So... going back a few Fridays we had the usual breakfast-yoga routine but I also needed pack as much as possible for the afternoon car departure to Butlins (Bognor), where were heading for a few days to see my family (Mum, Dad, two brothers, one brother's fiance and one sister). Nevertheless, not everything could be pre-packed because the awkward A-bomb required much of the stuff for a simple trip to baby yoga... pram, baby bag, bottle, toys etc. The likes of the travel cot, play-mat, clothes, food, formula had been squeezed into various bags but I knew there was still much to do. The plan was to finish my yoga business at 1130, feed The Lady with the bottle I had already made up, get home by 1215, finish packing then get on the road to coincide with my passenger's nap time (starts at 1300-1330).

All was well; breakfast (sausage sandwich and flat white coffee at www.tota-restaurant.co.uk) was delicious and yoga (http://northcotebaby.com/) was excellent – but tough now M'Lady weighs in at Hefty on the Lard Scale. I just needed get the feed done and get my skates on to get home. After the hour of exercise the babies are always very hungry and thirsty so an immediate feed is required. Cue: jaw hits floor and hand hits self in the face. I had forgotten the milk! In the rush to pack and leave promptly (to get to my own lovely breakfast) I had failed to pick up the expertly prepared bottle. Oops. I instantly felt that this was the worst thing I'd done during my stint as the parent-in-charge... simply forgetting the means to feed your baby is not a good thing. Being the legend she is though, A-bomb didn't even murmur she just gave me a nod as if to say "very well Father, just use those short legs of yours to run faster than you ever have to deliver me to my white juice". And so I did. Sure, she nearly sucked the teet from the bottle's seal but there were no tears.

Things were thrown in the car and we pulled away bang on 1330. Perfect.

The plan was for my passenger to sleep for most if not all of the 1 hour 45-minute journey to set her up nicely for the evening an to ensure she wasn't agitated in a hot car-seat. That wasn't overly ambitious because like many babies (and me), for her, motion promotes sleep. Imagine my anger and despair then when I heard "READY TO SING YOUR ABCs????!!!" blurt out from the back seat. In my hasty packing I had handed A-bomb the "soft and fluffy cow" and I'd left it with her in the car seat. This was an epic #DADFAIL because while driving  I couldn't reach back to snatch the cow and the blasted thing kept going off everytime M'Lady flinched... "THE BABY LIKES MILK!!! TIME TO COUNT!!! I'M A SOFT AN FLUFFY COW, HUG ME LOVE ME ALL DAY LONG!!!" Other drivers on the A3 would have though I was having a seizure, given my helpless convulsions at the noise and my inability to stop them. Eventually the torture stopped. It was a miracle that the girl didn't wake up. Once again she played a blinder.

She slept the whole way and we met the clan, including Marcia, freshly landed from Sydney Australia, where lives. It was so great to see her and although she's been inundated with pictures and videos it probably shocked her to see how much the munchbunch has grown since she last saw her in November, when M'lady was brand new.

Unfortunately the Milk Lady couldn't join us after work because she had been double booked at a wedding of a one of her good friends, also over from Australia. Sad times. 

Everyone had the obligatory cuddle, squeeze of the play-dough legs and aggressive bounces on knees then we had a bite to eat and a few drinks. Then it dawned on me that the apartment did not have a bath and that the baby girl definitely needed a bath. Yet another #Fail from me. TO THE SINK SHE MUST GO, EE AYE EE AYE EE AYE OOH, was the song of the evening. It was far from ideal for the lumpy 7.5-month-old but she loved it. All of her bath mates were even closer than usual and everyone was watching her. Somehow I got away with this error too. My luck was running strong.

Dinner was eaten and the lovely girl slept like a dream.

The next day I decided that if possible ACJC must show off our swim moves (I feel that I am part of the show so I should be credited) so we headed to the resort's water centre to see what it offered. All we needed was a small area of deep-ish flat water. We required no arm bands and no shallow baby pool... we weren't there to mess around. Exiting the changing rooms and entering the pool area was like walking into a watery Armageddon with sirens going off, loudspeakers wailing and high-pressured hoses blasting into people as they attempted to meander between areas. Anyway, after fighting through the hellish scenario we found a suitable spot and A-bomb made it clear that she would be ignoring the loud noises, which was good of her. With the eager audience watching we went through our repertoire of splashes, breathing exercises, dives, underwater spins, jelly-on-the plate, grand-old-duke-of-yorks and more. Needless to say it was a great success and The Lady is now expected to be at the next Olympics. Alongside the intense swimming show, which A-bomb absolutely loved, some calm fun was had with everyone having a hold of the superstar. While this was happening I noticed a little scenario playing out with another family (not with us) a metres away. Picture the scene: two women (sisters or friends) in their late 20s/early 30s standing in the water chatting. A 4-5-year-old, who was either a daughter or a much younger sister of the older pair, walked over to them and splashes one of the women, in a playful manner. I saw this and thought nothing of it (It was no more aggressive than what M'lady was doing to us). One of the women grabbed the youngster's arm and shouted in her face: "DON'T F-ING SPLASH ME YOU F-ING WAN&$R". Despite the verbal abuse the little girl didn't really flinch, which suggested to me that this was the standard of conversation she expected. It was eye-opening to say the least. Perhaps I should have suggested that the women use a different approach to speaking to infants, or anyone, but my focus was on making sure my own child didn't drown. It really did make me think though... there are many, many different ways to go about parenting and dealing with young people and they can all be effective. However at no point, ever, will a little splash from a 4-5-year-old warrant the perpetrator to be showered with language that would be deemed excessive at a Millwall versus Chelsea match. 

During the rest of the stay at Butlins there were some real highlights: On being drafted in as sous chef to toast a crumpet for A-bizzle my Dad trod on a half-eaten slice of pear which squelched in between in his toes and caused the exclamation (in jest) of "dirty cow, chucking her food on the floor!); the revelation that my younger brother (26) and sister (31) still operate on the same nap and feeding schedule as my baby daughter; the never-ending white noise humming from Bultin's arcade games (reminiscent of the Pleasure Island fairground when it all goes a bit dark in Pinnochio) serve as good sleep inducers for the Lady; and it turned out that as long as the full sleep routine was followed after bath time A-bomb was happy to sleep in the pram so that she could join us in restaurants.

There were some forgetful moments from me and a few undesirable specimens on site but all in all it was a fantastic time away, which could only have been improved by the Milk Lady being there.






Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Day 37-38 – Rave Sleeping and Reverting to the Dark Ages

Daddyshortlegs Blog
Very Messy (ahem, no relation to Lionel)

WOW. 

So much for me getting recharged. Monday was the jab just to sharpen me up for the week and Tuesday's tearaway tikes was the solid uppercut that I thought I had recovered from. Then with a relatively decent sleep, Wednesday (Day 37) hit me from behind like a speeding freight train only for me to peel myself off the canvas for Thursday to mow me down like an out-of-control combine harvester running late for its wheat order. Nothing major happened, I just never quite caught my breath from the moment I woke to the the second I turned in.
Never fear, the details are here... 

Of course Wednesday was swimming day and M'Lady woke up raring to go. At 0650 I found her limbering up with a few stretches and activating her core muscles with a side-plank exercise. In reality, as I walked into her room she was arching her back in an attempt to dislodge her cankle from the cot's bars before the momentum of being released caused her to roll over. As the lardy lady went to roll a second time both gravity and the Law of Moments gave up and left her beached on her side. She was there for quite some time. Then I stepped in to rid her of the night's wee-fest. 

This week's foray into the swimming pool was another great success with my champion performing beautifully on the commands of Hold On, Turn, Swim Swim and Dive Dive. We really rattled through the moves and the kids spent most of their time being dunked or thrown face down into the water. To the layperson the training could seem ruthless and to those weeds who wear woolly cardigans and scarves in the summer it would certainly appear as abuse, however all of the babies loved it and swimming is easily A-bomb's favourite part of the week.
At the end of the session, after diving off a giant float while we chanted jelly on the plate in their faces, the tiny people were given the chance to run along the float, into the pool. Yes, run. So the other TODDLERS (aged 15-18 months ish) were held by the instructor and their mums and guided off the foamy mat while they walked quickly. 

A-Bomb, aged seven months, was last up. 

In her wonderfully clipped tone the excellent South African teacher asked: "Can Alexa walk yet?" 

"No," I responded, almost apologising before catching myself. 

"Ah, of caws, yis. She is younga."

Not a problem, my specimen popped up on the float, rose on her feet and we dragged the little munchbunch in feet first. As she came to the surface she was all smiles with bloodshot eyes. Superstar. 

Back at home she was so tired that she slept for more than two hours. More impressive than all of her efforts in the pool though was the fact that she managed to stay zonked out despite the full-blown RAVE that my next door neighbour decided to have at 1.30pm on weekday. My baby's ability to keep her eyes closed through the high-pitched 80s synth notes was commendable. 

The fact that she didn't flinch means I can keep that particular complaint in my locker for when I received a knock regarding my own (much worse) bad habits in future.  


THURSDAY saw us – a duo now being dubbed AC-JC by the fans (just the Milk Lady) – attend BABY SENSORY armed with spare clothes, because we had been forewarned that it was to be "messy play". Finally a fully sanctioned time for us forgotten folk who can't help but destroy things and end up covered in spinach and bin juice! Sadly the messy bit had to wait until THE LEADER had finished her six-minute Broadway-ready version of Incy-Wincy Spider with pom-poms. But the wait was worth it... one delicious pile of cooked spaghetti and one wobbly and very sticky mountain of jelly to play in. Of course there was the mandatory safety statement from THE LEADER along the lines of "It's all safe to eat if your little one puts it in his or her mouth, but it is not suitable for vegetarians" which was followed by the inevitable "why is it not for vegetarians, is there meat in it?". One day, in some kind of promised land, a giant shovel will appear from the sky at moments like these and scoop away (possibly into a bin of raw meat) those who ask questions that don't deserve an answer.

Anyway as the babies faced down their prospective messes I opted to place A-bomb directly in the middle of the jelly so that she got the most out of the experience. Other babies soon followed suit by smashing the hands and feet into the gloriously soft and squishy stuff. M'Lady then made me super proud by falling backwards into the pile of yellow sludge to ensure was completely covered. With time called on the fun called far too soon I quickly threw some pasta on my darling's head, just to make sure she was as messy as possible. I did not want her to feel shortchanged. 

Just before we returned to the mat to wipe down our offspring I received the the most outdated, sexist and regressive comment yet from one of the mums. I was not meant to be offensive but that didn't mean it wasn't. 

On seeing A-bomb covered head-to-toe in jelly, with her hair matted and eyes caked, the sweet woman said: "Ooo wait until you get her home, her mum is going to go mad at how messy you've got her". 

I replied: "Her mum is at work, it's my concern. The aim was to get messy".  

I left it there because I had no intention of having a debate about how it's the seemingly innocent comments that reinforce negative gender stereotypes. 

On reflection though, outside of the jelly pasta arena the comment made me think about the ridiculous parameters some people squeeze their lives into: Man earn money, woman cook food, man look after child sometimes for treat, woman keep child clean, man go to pub, woman get angry at man if he does thing different with child than woman might. 

On the whole people seem to get it now: men and women can both be parents and rules do not have to exist that mean only mothers take time off work to raise their kids. 

If only the woman from the 1940s knew what I ended up doing after messy time, she would have had a heart attack. I washed my own baby and put her down for a nap, then fed her from a bottle all by myself, then put her on a mat to play in the garden while I HUNG WASHING UP that I had washed myself using a WASHING MACHINE. So much multi-tasking it should be and might well be illegal. 

Come on people, we are all humans. Men and women have a few different body parts that serve a few different purposes but other than that, move on from dark ages and get over the gender thing.

daddyshortlegs blog
MAN IN MULTI-TASKING SHOCKER






Wednesday, 6 July 2016

DAY 34 - 36 - Pelicans, Giraffes and Toddlers


Daddyshortlegs Pelican
Sneaky Percy Pelican
THE last few days have been a bit of blur. I'm not sure why but I feel like I have been in a pretty useless time-travelling capsule which doesn't let you see the past or the future but simply steals your time and gives you a snotty nose. In fact I think that is exactly what has happened.

Given that I was kidnapped, thrown in the budget time machine and that I currently have a Lemsip on the same timings as A-Bomb's feeds, I am throwing three days of action into one post, just to get myself back on track. Thinking about it, there is every chance that M'Lady drugged me with memory loss pills to pay me back for Mini-milk-gate. She is a sneaky lady.

Anyway, Sunday – delicious lunch at a friend's with one younger baby and two older toddlers in attendance, where I was shown up by a two-year-old on one of those giant bubble wand things... I was simply trying to give guidance on how to form a bubble, but it transpired that I was useless and the little cretin (actually super cute) was a much more accomplished bubbler. Note: must practise my bubble technique.

At home we opened up some bath toys that had somehow been overlooked for seven months. So, belatedly Colin the Crab, Trudi the Turtle and Percy Pelican entered the watery arena. They will be hard pressed to oust bathroom stalwarts Mr Crab, Oscar Octopus and Steve the Sponge but they can try. During the Welcoming Ceremony the Milk Lady was holding Colin, Trudi and Percy under the water before squeezing them to spray water from their respective holes. "Look at this," she exclaimed while seeming to aim the Pelican at the bath.

"Yes, very good" I replied, not really paying attention because I was washing our daughter and ensuring her safety.

As it turned out Old Milky had misjudged (had she?!) where the scumbag pelican's squirt hole actually was and thus I was blasted square in the face with a torrent of soapy water (non-sting). Ha. Ha. Perhaps childishly I then joined forces with the old crowd and activated Oscar's hose to create an uncomfortable wet patch on the Milker's pant region. A-bomb waited patiently to be lifted to a towel.


Monday... A day of practising rolling over, crawling and sitting up. It was tough, but I think I've mastered it. Boom Boom. Sorry. The revelation on this day came on our educational trip to the plant and wood museum also known as Homebase, with the buggy in an upright position (it was not a nap walk... flat riding is for sleeping). Sophie the Giraffe as always was riding in the carriage but I noticed a change from the usual arrangement where M'Lady holds the rubbery animal in one hand while chomping on it's neck and face. Now, the clever minx had fashioned things so that Sophie was wedged under the straps, meaning there was no need to bother with holding her with hands. It was hands-free gumming from now on. Already her limbs were being done out of work. What next, those hideous trainers with wheels in? Nope, not on my watch.


Tuesday... Helen, a seasoned professional in the realms of child-rearing visited us with her two cool dudes; two-year-old Freddie and nine-month-old Benny. Coffee was brewed, croissants and biscuits laid out and the morning was ours to catch up on things and discuss life in general. Ha... not a chance. A-bomb, although chilled to the max required feeding as did her baby counterpart, while Freddie was in among anything and everything. At one point the toddler ventured into the garden and helpfully returned with a trowel loaded with compost, in case we needed it. As it happened, we didn't but he wasn't to know. I then tasked the little chap to use the broom he'd found to brush my patio... he was a fast worker though and was finished in 30 seconds and asked for his next task.

Seeing the two brothers in action was a rapid lesson in how having two youngsters is a completely different ball game to just looking after one (which is no walk in the park!). While the Fredster was running, jumping and bouncing in all directions, Benny the Bruiser was brushing off any collisions with not so much as a raised eyebrow and motoring around the place using his rapid crawling technique. The action was frantic and relentless. Awesome to see, but nonetheless, breathless. Meanwhile, the A-bomb was cracking on with her own self-contained business, which involved collecting a plastic yellow ring and attempting to eat it.

Daddyshortlegs Team
The Gang
 Needless to say that during a lovely morning playing with the kids, learning about the cartoon character Bing and hearing about Fireman Sam's fire truck, only half a croissant, half a cookie and one cup of coffee was consumed, between us. 

At one point I was able to use the visiting gang as trialists for a new fitness class I might be launching, for parents, babies and toddlers... there is some ironing out to do but watching a toddler run through the Agility Ladder, with his baby brother mimicking his steps, aided my his mum was a wonderful thing to witness! True Spartans (www.spartanfitnesslondon.co.uk).


Daddyshortlegs spartanfitnesslondon.co.uk
Speed drills though the ladder
I think I have now emerged from the memory-loss-time-tunnel and have a few points to take forward: Don't trust pelicans, watch out for M'Lady being lazy with her limbs, do not underestimate the relative ease of caring for one child as opposed to two or more!








Tuesday, 5 July 2016

DAY 33 – ICE TRAINING (MINI MILK)


AFTER a very English medium-to-average morning of drizzly weather the sun decided to put its hat on and come out to play, which was lucky because we had arranged to have a barbeque, with a few friends coming over. It was to be M'Lady's first foray into outdoor cooking. Well, it is frowned upon to actually ask babies to take up the tongs, but you know what I mean. 

Homemade burgers, amazing sausages from Chadwicks Butchers (www.chadwicksbutchers.com) and the famous (in our house) Milk Lady potato salad all went down very well, especially with the munchbunch kid who very much enjoyed her al fresco highchair. Despite being a decent distance from the Weber grill A-bomb did seem to have ash in her hair but we'll skim over that detail because at no point was she on fire. Pat on the back for all the adults.

Spirits were high, meat had been inhaled, prosecco/beers had been supped and all was right with the world. "Shall we give her a mini milk!" exclaimed the jubilant Milk Lady, drunk on life. 

"Could do," I said, with some reservations. I was wary of plying the girl with too much delicious stuff in case of refusal to eat the garbage that we'd like her to eat (courgette balls) on other days. 

Out came the beautiful strawberry creation and immediately our darling started pawing for the dreamy dessert. At first I held the wooden stick and stroked the soft ice over her lips. The result was immediate elation. Much like the ice-cream of a few days ago, in her joyous delirium A-bomb was unsure what to do with herself and started kicking her legs uncontrollably while trying to swipe the Mini Milk from my grasp. Again I pushed it towards her mouth but this time she wasn't accepting my control – she wanted to feed herself, which is exactly how we've been teaching her to do things.

I pressed the nincompoop's fingers around the wooden stick. She was so excited to have more of this unbelievably tasty "food" in her mouh.  I have no idea if this is unique to our my child or whether it is a phenomenon with all babies but M'Lady insists on holding food at the point which she wants to eat it. This is fine with a rooom temperature or slightly warm item, but not so pleasant if dealing with a block of ice. 

She grabbed the ice and recoiled. She tried again and winced. She grabbed it one more time and then refused to let go, because she needed to eat it. It was the ultimate dilemma: It is so delicious that I must eat it but it is so cold that my fingers are numb and I am in real pain. 

In my job as a defence journalist I have written about many military tests and this feat of endurance that A-bomb was putting herself through was not dissimilar to the Ice Plunge that soldiers undertake in Norway as part of their Cold Weather Warfare package. I will hand it to her, she was determined. 

However, the whole thing was actually quite harrowing because we had created this situation and we now had a very upset baby girl, who desperately wanted to taste more Strawberry Mini Milk (who wouldn't?) but also wanted to maintain the feeling in her hands. For a seven-month old that is too much to think about and led to a momentary breakdown.

After a few minutes of real tears and trying to feed the dessert to her without success the executive decision to call off the torture had to be taken. It was bath time and the outdoor disaster had to stop. 

Luckily the stinkbomb seemed to forget about the sad time by the minute she was in the bubbles but we must remember that ice-cold goods are not to be handed over to A-bomb any time soon. 

On the plus side we know that she could probably withstand a military exercise in extreme cold weather. 






Monday, 4 July 2016

DAY 32 – BUGGY BUGBEARS


Daddyshortlegs Baby Joggger City Mini GT

WHEN it comes to chatting about buggies/prams/stroller/pushchairs there won't be many that are more happy with their product than I am with my Baby Jogger City Mini GT.

The user-friendly piece of kit is robust, has excellent manoeuvrability, is remarkably easy to assemble and fold up and it looks super stylish, especially for people like the Milk Lady who are obsessed with the colour red. Furthermore despite not being designed as a running buggy the Baby Jogger is versatile enough to cater for a decent run on roads and flat grass.

And when the product is in "pram" mode, when a new baby needs to be kept flat in the compact or deluxe pram, the storage basket is pretty large. 

As you may have predicted though, there is a "but". A giant "but". For all of the merits of this superb baby vessel, of which there are many, when it is in standard "stroller" mode, the amount of under-baby storage is simply inadequate.

I've had many a rant, to myself and to whoever happens to be close by when my self-destruct button has been activated and steam is billowing from my nostrils, about the lack of room for the infamous yet vital Baby Bag. As the kids might say, "O.M.G," there have been some fireworks.

A particular standout moment with regards Buggy Undercarriage Meltdowns came ahead of my latest walk to Baby Yoga, one of my favourite parts of the week. As always A-Bomb and I were due to meet the NCT mums at the end of our road to walk up for breakfast pre-yoga... lovely. Meet at 0850 for a leisurely 15-minute stroll. Sure.

There had been a textbook 0700 wake-up from M'Lady, a nappy change, a feed from the Milk Lady, some porridge fingers in the high chair and by 0825 we were dressed and ready to go... we just needed to pack the all-important Baby Bag under the three-wheeled buggy. Now, I will admit that by now I should have known to have loaded the bag *before* plugging in the baby, but I had not done that. A-Bomb was plugged in without any fuss but I knew that once on-board, movement needed to take place within at least 10 seconds before annoyance, then full crying would kick in. No problem... I just needed to sling the bag in and we'd be off.

I grabbed the bag (a blue and pink number that I recently subbed in for a fetching red Longchamp carrier that was far too big for the buggy) and attempted to wedge it into the tray underneath the Lady. No chance. It would not fit. A-Bomb was already making noises about not being on the move. I whacked the brake on to ensure the buggy didn't roll away while I pushed the bag harder.

I had already stripped out several emergency clothing items, baby goggles, and a sunhat to trim down the bag's size. I had even reduced the number of nappies from the mandatory eight to just three to save space. On reflection that was mental – I got away with it, but it was a stupid, irrational move that should never be repeated. If anything I deserved to end the day covered in a nutty substance for my naivety. Never leave home without EIGHT extra nappies.

After one minute of wrestling with the bag I had made zero progress and whoever was filming me was making multiples of £250 for You've Been Framed. A-bomb was now super frustrated because she could see no reason why the bloke who pushes her was not pushing her. A fair point. My front door was open because to allow for a quick exit but at this stage it was just giving passers-by a window into a mad man attacking a pushchair. I was basically taking run ups and shoulder-charging a small bag into my daughter while aggressively muttering things along the lines of "oh dear, I wish this bag would pop underneath the buggy, because I am now late. Fiddly Dee".

With me dripping in sweat, veins popping through my skin and my eyes popping out of my skull,  my pre-yoga inner zen had been knocked somewhat sideways. A bag containing nappies, some milk and some spare clothes had reduced me to a shell of a person all because the storage compartment on the Baby Jogger City Mini GT is not acceptable, in my (correct) opinion.

Anyway... eventually by sheer brute force the bag was pushed into place and we got on our way. We weren't even late, thanks to my excellent, relaxed preparation. It was never in doubt, I had it under control.

Breakfast at our favourite place, Tota (ww.tota-restaurant.co.uk) was excellent and Baby Yoga (www.northcotebaby.com) was great... a good way to chill out, even when required to hold a whale baby above my head for long stints.

Just, to reiterate, A-Bomb and I love our buggy and still would not trade it for a a different model... but we would politely suggest to Baby Jogger that efforts could and should be made to increase the storage capacity.









Saturday, 2 July 2016

DAY 31 – COMMANDO KID



AFTER a few weeks off we returned to Baby Sensory to hear the teachings of The Leader.

Firstly a giant thunderstorm was piped through speakers at an intense volume, which succeeded in scaring the life out of all babies and parents. All part of the "awakening the senses" experience. Then we continued with the brainwashing by chanting "say hello to the sun... etc" before hundreds of bubbles were blown in our darlings' faces at the same time as bells were shaken aggressively in front of their tiny eyes. The grand finale saw the pre-toddlers smothered with chiffon rags while being bounced up and down on a waterbed. A-bomb smiled and laughed throughout but I cannot confirm whether or not that was through happiness or fear.

Post-Sensory the usual gang of mums and I (plus babies) treated ourselves to lunch at Cafe Nero... I know, high-rollers. While we inhaled our sandwiches and wraps the baby army got stuck into their respective bottles of milk and pots of solids. The highlight was when M'Lady joined her friend, codename "Z",  in a high-pitched duet. She "sung" her noises (I cannot call them words) and then "Z" warbled back high notes that are unattainable by normal folk. It was certainly lovely to watch because the pair of seven-month-olds were clearly enjoying communicating with each other, however I must say it was an awful racket and I'm not holding out much hope for a lucrative singing career for my daughter.

Back at the ranch we got through the naps, milk feed and solids session in excellent fashion (sweet potato and a first foray into cheddar cheese), which left us with lots of play time on the mat, with Wimbledon tennis on in the background. Calm down baby vigilantes... A-bomb wasn't watching TV she was busy hitting herself in the face with her wooden squeaky toy. Anyway, I set the munchbunch a task of chasing down her toys using only her body, i.e without me handing her what she wants or me lifting her over to the coveted items. Another rule that was impossible to enforce was: no rolling. The Lady has become an expert making her way to any desired location by flipping herself front to back then back to front, as many times as required, which is plainly unacceptable on the streets and not a practical method of travel. So with only her best interests at heart I had set the scene. Clearly the girl has got a steely determination, especially when it come to her beloved toys and as soon as the rattly squeaker thing was put on the other side of the room she launched herself forwards. M'Lady succeeded and I am putting it down as a full-blown crawl but I must say that her technique was less textbook baby crawl and more Royal Marine evading capture in a sweaty jungle. Lumpy legs propelled her forward as her left arm simultaneously reached out front, wedging her shoulder almost under her chest. From there she somehow sprung herself onward, reaching forward with her right arm but keeping her left arm under her body. All the while she was making the sound of a warthog with tonsillitis. Weird but effective. Top commando crawling Private A-bomb.


Friday, 1 July 2016

DAY 30 - DROPPING and STRAINING

I HAVE heard it from more than one source, both experts and the old wife who dishes out all the tales, that children under the age of one (or something) are unable to intentionally drop things.

Science and studies claim that babies, although able to pick things up and grip them, are unable to then release their hold on purpose. It's just a development stage in their biomechanics that they have yet to reach.  

Well, without wishing to be contraire or to claim that I have created a unique being, I have to say that I fundamentally disagree with the claim. I have run a number of meal-time studies with my specimen and I am 100 per cent confident that A-bomb enjoys picking an item of food up, taking it to her mouth, feigning interest then nonchalantly dropping it off the side of her tray, with the sole aim of getting under my skin.

At breakfast time today, which offered both sweet and savoury French Toast with cinammon on the former and Worcester Sauce on the latter, the stinkbomb basically took the piss out of me. There I was, excited as she picked up a piece of the bread and swung it with a flourish towards her gummy cake-hole, only to be knocked off my proud perch as she tossed my culinary efforts on to the scrap heap that is my wooden floor.

M'Lady was in her element. She had my full attention and a pile of delicious food in front of her. Five times she collected a piece of the eggy bread with her lumpy hands before smiling at me, giving me a wink* and then chucking it on the floor, while saying "pick that up you idiot", in her mind.

*she can't wink, that was an exaggeration

After numerous failed attempts at my gourmet, painstakingly-prepared toast, I felt that the Lady hadn't eaten enough so I wheeled out Old Trusty, the banana. Obviously she gobbled that down while laughing heartily. She then returned to the original offering with some decent bites recorded.

Then, quite abruptly M'Lady stopped in her tracks. She placed her hands down in front of her and stopped the manic wriggling of her legs that had been going for a good 30 minutes. Her eyes became fixed on an unknown point directly in front of her and she took a deep breath. She then visibly braced her whole body. I was transfixed, interested in what was about to happen. Perhaps she was going to speak, to say "thank you for my lovely breakfast"...

Then all became clear as an almighty fart ripped out of her backside. I say "fart" because that's what I was hoping for. As it turned out it was more of a solid than a gas and I was occupied for quite some time with the old wet wipes.

After the sensational clay-like evacuation there were no more issues with feeding. All she needed was to make a bit of room.