Boys Will Be Boys

How do you know that pigeons are for chasing?

Or that important documents are there for defacing?

Why not just tell me when you want to wee?

It’s easier than grabbing it and hoping I’ll see.

Please take your finger out of your nose!

I watch you all day and know where else it goes.

Would it really hurt to occasionally sit still?

Look at the girls they know the drill.

If you do that again you can’t watch a Thomas!

I know I said it before but this time I promise.

Why must you always speak your mind?

Commenting on bottoms is particularly unkind!

What is the appeal of the other boy’s toys?

You have one in each hand and yours make a noise!

Why is it that stones always end up in your gob?

But meals go untroubled in the pan on the hob?

When did sticks suddenly become such a score?

They’ve been there forever and were easy to ignore.

Why must I always negotiate a cuddle?

You’re always so willing after jumping in a puddle.

When can we stop watching garbage trucks?

I’m 34 and I think it sucks!

You’re a belligerent boss and offer no wage.

And if I’m not mistaken you’ve caused me to age!

Please tell me I didn’t just see you yawning?

I was up at 3, 4 and 5 o’clock this morning!

Just before bedtime can I have “one more book?”

They’ve been there all day with barely a look!

All the things above won’t make me sway

I am your Dad and I quite like it that way.

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Linking up with the essential Essentially Jess

September 16, 2014   | 31 Comments

Interview With a Sperm Donor

Sponsored by Melbourne IVF

It’s funny where life takes you, I never envisaged being asked to write on the topic of sperm donation. I must admit that on hearing the word “sperm” there’s a danger that I may revert back to my adolescent self which means giggles and blushing. I had no shortage of double entendre, rhyming slang and juvenile jokes stored up for just such an occasion but in the event none of that actually happened. Instead in the build up to writing my first post it became a topic that took over and I now consider myself somewhat of a sperm expert.

I began to appreciate the weight of the subject and how much it means to others. It was discussed over dinner, pondered with mates at the pub, debated with Mums at the park (it’s an excellent icebreaker) and mulled over in my own mind. It seems like a topic that everyone has an opinion on, no matter how informed or otherwise, everyone offered a view often based on gut instinct.

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Most of the people I spoke to were surprised that 40% of fertility problems are experienced by us men, there seems to be an assumption that the vast majority of fertility problems are down to the fairer sex. Nobody I spoke with was aware that there is a national shortage of sperm donors with only 1 donor for every 10 people on the waiting list.

Whilst we aren’t exactly famed for our ability to open up and discuss potential misgivings we might experience “downstairs” the men I spoke to, albeit with a healthy measure of male bravado and beer, sang like canaries. Some said they’d be open to becoming a donor but questioned whether their partners would be quite as enthusiastic; convenient perhaps? The majority of women I spoke to weren’t comfortable with the concept of their partners ‘fathering’ another child and how it might impact on their future together.

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In a bid to bring some clarity on proceedings I interviewed a man who, amongst other things, is a sperm donor. He’s a happily married father of two and was extremely open and honest about story and I quite enjoyed playing Parky for the day.

Why did you donate your sperm?My sister is a single mum that received donor sperm from an unknown donor – she wanted a child and saw little chance of having one with someone else, so took the initiative herself. I see how happy she now is with her 3 year old son; it has given her life a richness and focus for the future. I’ve seen close friends try to have a child for the past 5 years. Through the IVF cycles I have watched their dreams rise and fall. Luckily, both have been successful, and I see the effort that it requires and sometimes I know that it can be fruitless. If I am able to give someone the chance to conceive and have children then I feel helping them achieve a dream is terrific.

How long have you been a donor? Just over a year.

How did you feel after making your first donation? A little strange, mildly embarrassed although there isn’t a direct connection to the final recipient. I wonder a little about what will happen, but ultimately I am just happy helping others with their own family.

Do you ever think about whether your sperm has been used in successful pregnancies? Are you actually notified? You do get notified of a successful birth, although this hasn’t happened yet. It will be good to know I have helped another couple achieve a family. I will be interested to meet donor offspring of mine, although I am very comfortable that they will have their own parents and family. I would be an accepting but small part of their lives.

Do you have any say in whether children conceived using your sperm can contact you down the track? Yes, there is a register for donor conceived children, they can contact the donor through the register when they turn 18 years of age and then if the donor wishes they can contact them in return.

What do friends and family think about your decision to donate? Only my wife knows about the donations, I may have to inform my children later in life I guess, so one doesn’t end up going out with her half brother!!

What would you say to another man considering donating their sperm? I think it’s a relatively easy process for a man in a stable relationship with their own family. The process includes counselling which provides an opportunity to consider the issues and implications associated with involvement in a donor program. It’s a personal decision to donate sperm and has more to it than you might imagine.

Why do you think there is such a shortage of sperm donors in Australia? It’s probably not considered the manliest thing a bloke could do, remember the school ground? From my experience, those that are connected to someone else having conception problems will be the most likely to donate. Mainly, I think people don’t talk about IVF, Donations, Adoption, etc to even their families let alone a friend or others, so no one is compelled to donate.

To those of you who are trying I wish you all the best.

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The thing that really came across is just how selfless it is to be a donor. It’s about giving the ultimate gift to someone in need, the definitive random act of kindness. The aim of this post isn’t to have you or your partner queuing up tomorrow morning to do your/their bit, it’s about starting a dialogue and in doing so raising awareness of a problem that affects many Australian couples.

You can find out more about Sperm Donation on Melbourne IVF’s website

What would you have asked the donor if you could? Why do you believe there is a shortage of sperm donors in Australia? Would you/your partner ever look into becoming a sperm donor?

September 2, 2014   | 2 Comments

The Male Underwear Model Who Came To Stay

I have a vague notion of what Anna does for a job, I know she works in advertising and I know she sounds very professional and a little bit scary when she puts on her ‘work voice’ but I couldn’t really give you specifics.

I’ve heard talk of retouching images, essentially photo-shopping models to make them look even more perfect. It’s a bit like when you rent a car from a hire company and they walk around with a clipboard marking scratches and dents, she finds the scratches and dents on the models and fixes them up, a comparison which Anna isn’t entirely happy with.

Recently works been quite hectic for Anna and she’s been bringing bits and pieces home with her. That’s when he first turned up, this other man. Not just any man but a man who looks like he’s been painstakingly chiselled from granite, parades around in nothing but a pair of briefs, a smug grin and has been blessed with a disproportionately large endowment. He’s always around, always demanding her attention and getting in the way. Hate’s a strong word but I hate him passionately.

He’s an underwear model, that’s right my wife spends hours and hours staring at male underwear models and “retouching” them. I don’t like the expression “retouching” it sounds too much like touching, virtual or otherwise. I’ve also noticed she has a certain twinkle in her eye when she’s with him, I’ve seen that twinkle before, it’s the same one she had when she watched Patrick from Offspring.  I even did some sit ups and bought the same undies in a bid to divert her attention, but it was no use, she just asked why I was breathing in?

Last night she came home looking like she needed a stiff drink. “What’s wrong hun?” She explained that the company had lost a client, one of the clients that she had been working on, the underwear client. “Oh no that’s terrible news. I know how much you were enjoying the work”. Those are the words that came out of my disingenuous mouth, what I was really thinking was does that mean I won’t be forced to count his abdominal muscles and wonder whether he has stuffed his sparkling undies with socks each night?

I like it better when it’s just us two.

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July 23, 2014   | 8 Comments

When Scams Go Wrong

After enjoying the bounty of treats that goes hand in hand with holidaying with his grandparents, Max is finding it hard to adjust to ‘normal life’. The Walt Disney movies aren’t quite as regular, the late nights have been cut short and new toys are no longer on tap. His real weakness turned out to be ice-cream; he must have sucked, slurped and licked his way through the entire range from Twisters to Cornettos to Feasts and everything in-between. He was generally sporting an ice-cream moustache and a jittery disposition for the entire six weeks.

I was fully aware that I would be picking up the pieces of ‘The Grandparent Routine’ and gently ween him off his plethora of naughty vices. I’m happy to say that Max has now been clean for two weeks…………so I took him out for ice-cream to celebrate. Or at least that’s what he thought he was getting, it was actually one of those self serve frozen yoghurt places that seem to be breeding like friendly bacteria throughout Melbourne. In my head I convinced myself that some sort of victory was taking place due to the fact that he’s being fooled into eating yoghurt but in reality by the time he piles up mounds of chocolate sprinkles and cookie crumbs I suspect he will have the last (slightly frenzied as a result of all the sugar) laugh.

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This was to be our second visit to said establishment. The first time we went I got all caught up in the excitement of self serve yoghurt and by the time the tub hit the scales it had been adorned with all manner of ‘extras’ and there wasn’t much change to be had from a $10 note.  As a proud tight arsed father this really hurt, I kept having nightmares about paying $10 for yoghurt and had regular flashbacks of the smug cashier taking my $10 and replacing it with a couple of silver coins.

Not this time. This time I had a plan. I came prepared; I took my own sprinkles from home. I tried wedging them into my jeans pocket but it left me with an unfortunate bulge that would be hard to explain to the innocent teenage girls that work there. “Right Max here’s what we’re going to do. You need to hide these sprinkles in your hood and not take them out until I say so, okay?” He looked delighted to be allowed in on the scam, not to mention shocked at being trusted with an entire tub of sprinkles. He made a strange sprinkling noise as he walked, like a human maraca, into the shop but not enough to provoke any suspicious looks.

I chose a table at the back of the room, away from any onlooking do-gooders or have-a-go-heroes. “You stay here Max while Daddy goes to fill one of those tubs with ice-cream goodness. Don’t talk to strangers and don’t touch the sprinkles”. I politely refuse the ridiculous offer to try the “new green tea flavoured yoghurt” and head straight for the chocolate. I gave the lever a good hard yank and without thinking about it start executing a perfect spiral shape. I turn around to make sure Max is keeping to his side of the bargain and have a horrible sinking feeling as I see Max in full dialogue with one of the smiley customer service team, he’s holding up the jar of sprinkles and gesturing towards me.

“Your adorable little boy was just showing me the sprinkles that you asked him to smuggle in”. I never used the word smuggle, that’s slander! “Ah yes, erm, he’s quite fussy about his sprinkles” She then explains to Max that they have lots of different types and perhaps he should come and point to his favourites. Bitch. Needless to say the bowl was promptly filled to the brim and by the time it made the scales it was another (possibly our last) eye wateringly expensive yoghurt outing.  I walked home with my wallet and pride slightly dented, trying to ignore the annoying sprinkling noise coming from my jean pocket.

July 21, 2014   | 22 Comments

Sowing the Seed

I’ve been sneaking in and out of our veggie patch of late. I am the first one there when it’s green and bountiful, proudly hosing my tomato plants or picking basil.  Recently I’ve let it go a little bit, alright a lot and the long, hot summer has left it looking bedraggled and neglected. It had become another thing to do, a chore, something to stick on the list.

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I went down there this morning fully intending to wave the white flag and give the plot back so another family could enjoy it.  Max and I started tidying it up, pulling out some of the weeds that had moved in uninvited. Max found a single red tomato, he plucked it and shoved it straight in his gob.

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One of the things I love about the garden is that Max, who scrutinises most vegetables with a suspicious eye, will greedily gobble anything from sprouts to broad beans if he can pick it himself, no questions asked.

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For nostalgic purposes I filled up a watering can one last time to give the parched little patch of earth that had served us so well for the past 6 years a final toast. Max snatched it from me as he does and started showering the plants with some H2o love. He then proceeded to squelch, stomp, dig and flick the muddy ground until his 3 year old heart was content.

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We took some of the decaying veg over to the chicken coop, Max giggled and squealed as the greedy chooks pecked away a whisker from his fingers. “Daddy I love our garden”.  Abort, Abort, Abort! Some things in life you just have to make time for, this little pile of earth that sits in a 8ft x 3ft border has provided our family with food, exercise, friendships and plenty of happy memories.

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I came away feeling relieved that not for the first time Max made me see sense. Here’s hoping it will sow a little seed in him that will grow and grow into something beautiful.

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If you ever find yourself with time on your hands in Melbourne, come along to Veg Out in St Kilda, it’s a fantastically vibrant place to have a wonder and little people love it.  Do you have green fingers? What’s in your plot right now?

May 27, 2014   | 17 Comments

Why Gyms Bring Out The Worst In Us Men

I got sold a gym membership a couple of weeks back by a particularly persistent sales team that could have sold ice to Eskimos, although sadly given the melting of the ice cap that might not be such a hard sell these days, anyway I digress. I got an exercise programme from a man who looked like he had been painstakingly chiselled from granite, his name might have been Adonis; I told him lies about 5 times a week and 90 mins, I nodded my head and pretended that I was listening when he talked me through the intricacies of a Renegade Row super set with Reverse Lunges.

I like going to the gym, actually I prefer just saying it, “just off to the gym darling” makes you sound really fit without any of the actual effort.  Gyms though do seem to bring out the worst in men, not all men, but lots of them. There are behaviours and etiquettes that I find a bit cringe. This evening it took me quite a long time and a lot of squinting to realise that the man engaged in some impressively deep squats in front of me, was in fact wearing skin coloured leggings as opposed to indecently exposing himself in public as I had initially thought.

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You have the ones that spend more time pouting in the mirror than actually training. Mirrors should be banned from gyms, yes they help with your ‘squat form’, but most men use them to gauge whether those 10 bench presses have them looking like Ryan Gosling’s long lost twin brother.

Men who would usually avoid getting too close to other men for fear of ‘catching gay’, will gladly dangle their testicles over another man’s head while he lifts the equivalent of a family saloon, I think it’s called ‘spotting’, testicle spotting presumably.

The ones that ogle every passing girl because in their mind hot and sweaty is ‘hot’ and they are at their sweatiest. I will admit to being caught at a recent yoga class looking in the general direction of a girl’s backside but I was genuinely checking out what were quite an impressive pair of asymmetric leggings, that’s all.

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Then there are the ones that continuously stroke their ‘guns’ (and their egos) as if concerned that they might fly away if left unattended. Stop touching yourself! Also if you call your arms ‘guns’, your body a ‘rig’ and your penis a ‘weapon’ and you are doing so with a straight face then you are literally talking shite.

The ones that make loud grunting noises and usually catch my eye mid grunt with a facial expression that suggests they could do with some more fibre in their diet. Use those mirrors you so love and if you are pulling a face that in anyway suggests you need to visit a lavatory, stop what you’re doing, pick up some smaller weights and try again.

Finally you have my very least favourite gym men. There is always one man whose favourite way to dry himself is to put one foot up on the bench, place the towel between his legs and then drag the towel back and forwards vigorously as if trying to light a fire with his buttocks and a towel. They often decide that this is also the best time to strike up a conversation about their sales figures – it’s not, clothed is always best for me.

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The moment I catch myself indulging in any of these behaviours I will have a good look in the mirror, not the pouty, stroke-y  kind and go back to lifting toddlers. Are you a gym lover or do they send a cold shiver down your spine?

May 25, 2014   | 20 Comments

An Englishman In Oz – The National Sport

There are many important rites of passage in a young man’s life; from the first time you con a nightclub bouncer into believing you’re 18 to the first time you con a girl into going out with you but the first time you con your parents into getting you a TV for your bedroom was right up there as a breakthrough moment for me. My 13 y/o self would invariably sit up each night flicking through the channels in desperate search of something sporty or raunchy or on rare occasions a raunchy sport. On one such early morning hunt I found something, it seemed to be a sport in that there was a ball, a field and two opposing teams but it was different from other sports.

The men wore impossibly short shorts, they sported impossibly bad mullets, they invariably had moustaches and for all intents and purposes it looked like a series of ongoing assaults were taking place, occasionally someone remembered about the ball. The commentators were not like the reserved slightly dour Englishmen I was used to, they were animated, colourful characters that used words like bugger, which shocked and delighted my 13 year old self in equal measures.

Eighteen years later I find myself in a city that worships the sport, Melbourne would not be Melbourne without Footy, the fabric and feel of the place changes when the season starts. Commutes to work are livened up with some friendly debate about the previous night’s game, scarves are proudly worn the morning after a big win, column inches are gobbled up by the latest controversy and young children mimic their heroes at the local oval.

When I first arrived in Australia, 6 years ago, introductions always followed the same formula. I was asked my name, where I’m from and who I barrack for – sometimes they didn’t even bother asking my name or where I’m from. After establishing what the word ‘barrack’ actually meant and with all the deliberation of choosing which socks to wear in the morning I plumped for my home suburb of St Kilda. Based on this answer I was either treated like one of the family or given a friendly spray.

After 6 years spent desperately trying to understand what it’s all about I haven’t made much progress. I have been to games, I have eaten pies with sauce and washed them down with too much beer, I own a scarf, I have tried to shout things at the referee and I even watched the Footy Show once. It still resembles a colour coordinated crime scene to me and after what feels like three hours of mud wrestling the players form a circle to sing an impossibly quaint little ditty.

After a lifelong love affair with what I am now forced to call Soccer there is a lot I like about Footy. I like that it’s a real family affair that it isn’t dominated by father and son. I like that rival fans freely to mix in the stands without feeling the need to hospitalise one another. I like the lack of police presence, in England you are often frog marched from the train station to the stadium by mounted police for your own safety and then held back after the game until it was safe to come out. Mostly though I like that the players run through a big sign made out of bin liners at the beginning of the game. People have slowly accepted that I am an AFL lost cause but Max on the other hand……………..

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Do you know what’s going on? Who do you barrack for?

May 10, 2014   | 22 Comments

Black Pepper Tofu with Jasmine Rice

Sponsored by Woolworths

My parents were vegetarian and didn’t pander to the demands of a stroppy child, I ate what they ate. I think I felt fairly ripped off at the time when I heard peers discussing the merits of sausages, steaks, bacon, etc. I kept my dirty little secret to myself, back then even as a bashful 6 year old I knew vegetarianism was a bit ‘different’ and being ‘normal’ was important.

Mum’s a good cook and could work wonders with whatever was kicking about. Dad was good too but he became infamous for his signature dish which my siblings and I cruelly dubbed “prison soup”. There wasn’t much of a range in vegetarian food back in the 80’s. You could get packets of Veggie Burger mix which you added water to and fried, they had a spongy texture and didn’t taste of much and I can remember thinking that if this is what burgers are meant to taste like you can keep them.

These days the range of vegetarian products is fairly comprehensive and I’ve converted many a sceptical carnivore to the joys of a good veggie burger or pie, even if they don’t care to admit it. One product that still divides many vegetarians let alone carnivores is tofu. Tofu hasn’t received much of a PR job and has a reputation for having a lack of flavour and disagreeable texture.

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But it’s got many virtues; it’s cheap, healthy and will quite happily linger in your fridge for a few months whilst all around it goes mouldy. In the right hands it’s delicious, those hands are usually the chef at our local Chinese takeaway and after nagging and pleading and several prawn crackers he took me into the kitchen and showed me how to make his favourite Tofu dish – Black Pepper Tofu with Rice and Broccoli in Oyster Sauce. I’ve since made it at home and it’s a total tofu game changer.

Black Pepper Tofu with Jasmine Rice

Serves four.

500g macro hard tofu

Cornflour for coating

Vegetable oil for frying

2 brown onions thinly sliced

2 red chillies thinly sliced (optional)

4 garlic cloves crushed

1 thumb sized piece of chopped ginger

5 tbsp crushed black peppercorns

8 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sugar

1 bunch of spring onions cut into slithers

Coriander to garnish

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Cut the tofu into 2cm cubes and toss them in cornflour, salt and pepper. Half fill a large pan or wok with oil (or use a deep fat fryer) and heat it to 180C, or until a small piece of bread browns in 15 seconds. Fry the tofu in batches in the oil, once they are golden remove and dry on some kitchen towel.

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In a clean frying pan heat some oil and add the brown onion, chillies, garlic and ginger and cook over a low-medium heat until soft and sweet. Crush the peppercorns and add to the pan along with the soy sauce and sugar. Warm the tofu in the sauce, add the spring onion and stir through. Serve with steamed Jasmine rice and garnish with coriander.

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It’s been great to see the increased range in vegetarian foods that are available to Australians, even in the six years I’ve been ‘Down Under’ it’s grown massively. The next time you find yourself pushing your trolley down the vegetarian aisle have a closer look at some of the products on offer and see whether you can convert any of the sceptics in your house or perhaps yourself.

The vegetarian macro range, available in Woolworths includes over 30 products and having worked my way through most of them I’m a total convert.

May 7, 2014   | 13 Comments