Do you ever go through stages where ‘life’ just seems intent on giving you a damned good kicking? Where it feels for all the world like someone somewhere has a personal vendetta against you and is out to show you a bad time? Vendetta’s and conspiracy theories sound very dramatic but the reality is I’ve been on a bad run of form of late.
A steady flow of bad luck, not quite enough to have you waving the white flag in surrender but enough to take the wind out of your sails and have you licking your wounds. Some people cope admirably during these times, adopting a stiff upper lip and a never say die attitude, unfortunately I’m not one of them I tend to stick out my bottom lip and feel a bit sorry for myself, not one of my better traits.
This morning I gave Max a rare treat, a trip to the city on the tram to see what festive goings on we could find. What I did find was once I got off the tram I had been relieved of my wallet along with my money, my bank cards and various other pieces of documentation that you don’t really want to part with. My initial reaction was to cry but I think Max is probably too young to witness such an event.
We had come to the city to see portly bearded men with a penchant for red fur, Christmas trees as tall as houses and shop windows designed to part you with your money by more legitimate means and that is what we saw dammit. Yes there was a slight detour via the police station but that only added to the day’s adventure (in Max’s eyes).
On the walk home the heavens opened, this is standard practice in Melbourne of late but instead I decided someone somewhere was pissing on me from a great height. I trod in a particularly large dog pooh and Max jumped in a muddy puddle that drenched me and left him bone dry, all the while I maintained an outward smile for Max’s benefit but inside I was blubbing like a baby.
Then we passed a garden centre selling Christmas trees, buying a Christmas tree was on my list of to do’s but that was in a world in which I had my wallet and a means to pay for one. Call me a glutton for punishment but I wandered in just to see which one I would have bought if I had have been able to actually pay for it.
Of course Max not quite grasping the relationship between money and tree demands the big one at the back. A ‘scene’ is created and I’m about to trudge on out of there when two quaint old ladies walk in dragging a beautiful, elegant tree behind them. “We’re from the Church next door, we’ve finished with this tree, feel free to re-home it however you choose” they informed the cashier. My ears pricked up, I looked at the cashier with my best puppy dog eyes and they didn’t let me down.
It might be pushing it to say that it was a Christmas miracle but for someone who needed a little break today it felt like one. Yes I still had to walk 1km home in the rain with a newly crowned three year old and a 7 foot tree but I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to get both home safely. Scooping Max under one arm and the tree under the other, I must have looked like a bit of a nutter but at least the smile had some truth to it this time.
Fingers crossed the wallet turns up, complete with all of its precious bounty but right now a small act of goodwill is all it took to restore a bit of faith and perspective. This evening we will decorate the tree as a family, I will shelve all thoughts of conspiracy theories and vendettas and remember what a lucky man I am.
December 9, 2013 | 17 Comments
Fear not this isn’t a post about my ever declining mental state, my sordid sex life or my child’s bowel movements – those are all next week. Whilst bloggers are often accused of over sharing I am actually here to report an over-sharer. His name is Max Ross, he is very nearly 3, he is armed with a growing vocabulary, a chatty disposition and a complete lack of censorship. Itchy bums, big bums and hairy bums are all discussed as openly as you and I might discuss the weather.
Last week I picked Max up from ‘school’. I always sneak in quietly and steal a few moments to watch him being him, normally I’m in the thick of the action so it’s nice to be an innocent bystander for a change. My viewing was interrupted when one of the other Dads plonked himself next to me and started making ‘dad talk’.
“Swimming lessons…..blah blah………holiday………..blah blah……………Christmas Party……………blah blah…………………What’s all this about you tickling little boys?”
“Your little boy has told my little boy that you tickle little boys”
Behind the fake smile and forced laugh was a man who was clearly uneasy in the presence of a convicted child tickler. I denied the charge emphatically and told him I do not like ticking little boys, all the while I could see the headlines “Daddy Blogger Likes Tickling Little Boys” flashing before my eyes.
Max spots me, downs tools and comes tearing towards me “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” is the cry as he leaps at me. I usually love this moment but today I am distracted by ‘Ticklegate’ and would have settled for a firm handshake and slap on the back. I can feel the other Dad snatching occasional glimpses of our embrace.
In the car on the way home we are like a long suffering married couple who have run out of things to say to each other. He slams open the front door and makes a beeline for his train set, leaving me confused and anxious about who else he might have told about my apparently deviant behaviour.
Anna gets home from work and I confide in her looking for support and empathy, instead she bursts out laughing and doesn’t stop for several minutes. The night routine slips seamlessly into place; dinner, play, bath, pyjamas, story, milk and some sort of battle of wills to translate all that good work into a sleeping child. Max hides under our bed which would be an excellent hiding place but for the fact that his toes are poking out the bottom.
Then I assume the role of one of my Dad characters, all Dad’s have a character don’t they? Mine is a monster, with a scary monster voice and stomping monster feet. “I am the Tickle Monster and I tickle little boys”. Usually at that point I tickle Max into submission and he ends up in bed. Little bugger! It’s the Tickle Monster that has got me into this perverse pickle.
I haven’t yet seen that other Dad to explain the innocent nature of the Tickle Monster, although I have a feeling it might be every bit as awkward as our initial chat. I have now assumed the brace position, fully expecting The Tickle Monster to be the first of many Max over-share’s.
Have your children ever shared anything you wish they hadn’t?
December 4, 2013 | 9 Comments
Dad Down Under 365 is a 12 month project in which I’m hoping to learn what is important to me and what is not so important. A year that I believe will leave me with mind, body and soul firing on all cylinders. I have chosen challenges that in my eyes contribute towards a happy, healthy person – rest, exercise, diet, learning, love and moderation. I have good relationships with some of the themes and I know I am woefully underperforming in others. This challenge is about breaking some of the habits that have crept in, many of which have emerged since Max arrived on the scene and my focus has switched from me to him.
Having been called baby faced, and much worse, for as long as I can remember I probably wasn’t expecting much from my Mo. It was never going to be a Selleck put it that way. In fact the first person to actually acknowledge there was anything there was a two year old girl on Day 20 who asked “what’s that furry thing on your lip?”I would walk past fellow Mo Bro’s sporting thick, bristly efforts and feel slightly ashamed of the fluffy little thing that had sprouted from my face.
Anna being the eternal diplomat actually told me she liked The Mouse and would even miss it but I suspect she was telling porky pies. It became quite a distraction for me; I stroked it, stared at it, ‘styled it’ and even licked it (don’t ask me why, I’ve never licked a moustache before and I’m all about new experiences). I can remember finding some toast crumbs in at one point and feeling quite proud that it was thick enough to lose food in.
Max took to calling it “The Mouse” and would stroke it occasionally or if he deemed it to be a “naughty mouse” he’d give it a short, sharp tug. Here it is on Day 30 at its ‘bushiest’. Can you think of a more fitting name? Be gentle with me. Family and friends donated just over $500 on my personal page for men’s illnesses and in keeping with a year that is all about finding out what makes me happy it served as a reminder that doing things for others always works wonders.
December could be interesting, in a month that includes Max’s 3rd Birthday and Christmas I won’t be buying him any presents or any other unnecessary purchases. There is method to this cruel and heartless madness. I’m of the belief that less is more for Max, the more he has the more distracted he is, the more he wants and the less he actually appreciates what he does have. He doesn’t actually need anything and I expect he’ll still be spoilt rotten by friends and family so he won’t ‘miss out’.
I’ve made Max a lot of toys from hard rubbish and bits and bobs and I intend to do the same in December, I just like it better that way. Whilst Max is of an age where he is every bit as happy with a homemade billy car or fishing rod or puppet theatre as he is with something shop bought then why not? There are infinite ways for parents to spend money on their children, I’m choosing not to. Here are some other gift ideas that don’t cost a thing. Hopefully he’s also learning some subtle life lessons along the way about appreciating what he has, the limitless potential of imagination and that you don’t need ‘stuff’ to have fun.
5 months down, 7 to go, this is how the rest of my year is shaping up;
January 2014 – No Television (hopefully Grand Designs has finished by this time)
February 2014 – Sex (not the giggly kind, the relationship and life enhancing stuff and lots of it)
March 2014 – Raw Food (give the oven a rest)
April 2014 – Take a Course/Learn Something New (this could be online, from a friend or onsite)
May 2014 – Phone free (getting nostalgic and remembering how things were in the 90’s, hello home phone)
June 2014 – Internet free (with the exception of one 15 minute slot each day to check emails, post and keep you posted)
July 2014 – 6 months in 1 (keep six of the above plates spinning at the same time)
December 2, 2013 | 29 Comments
When a friend recently told me to help myself to lemons from his tree he probably didn’t think I would strip it bare. I walked back into his house armed with a bag bulging under the weight of 30 fragrant lemons and wearing a guilty expression. For a few days they sat in a giant fruit bowl in our living room, looking pretty, smelling divine but ultimately sad and redundant.
What do you do with 30 lemons became a question I found myself pondering over a gin and tonic, that left me with 29 ½ lemons, a thirst for gin and one or two ideas.
Lemon Drizzle Cake – A sweet, sticky, sour no brainer for a drizzly day. 3 down 26 ½ to go.
Bottle of Innocent Lemonade for Him - Honey, lemonade, grapefruit and mint all mingle together for this perfect picnic beverage. We upped the citrus ante and went with 6 lemons, 9 down 20 ½ to go
Bottle of Naughty Lemonade for Us – Approach this recipe with caution, the only thing that dilutes the potency of the gin is lemon juice. We took it to a friend’s birthday party and got everyone drunk. 17 down 12 ½ to go.
Jars of Preserved Lemons - You know how you go through stages of cooking certain foods? I’m on a big Middle Eastern kick at the moment, lots of Cous-Cous, Koftes and Tagines. Preserved lemons also work wonders. 25 down 5 ½ to go.
I’m not too sure what happened to those last 5 ½ lemons although I suspect there might be some correlation between them and the receding bottle of gin in our freezer. And that is what I did with 30 lemons. What’s your favourite lemon recipe?
November 28, 2013 | 10 Comments
This time next month I’m anticipating being a couple of kilos heavier, a few dollars lighter, feeling slightly hung over and if I’ve been a good boy the proud owner of the one of these gifts. Having opened some ’curious’ Christmas presents in my time I see it as my duty to ensure that the man in your life is smiling real smiles and not the forced ones that are evoked after unwrapping a novelty musical reindeer tie. You could call this a Christmas Gift Guide For Him but really it’s just my fantasy shopping list. I’ve tried to pick out something for every man; the handy man, the sporty man, the green fingered man, the manicured man, the corporate man, the gadget man, the book man, the dapper man and the man who likes to gorge on cheese and beer – I think that’s all of them isn’t it? Prices start at $15 and go up to $159.
1. Tools, Elemen’tary, $79 – Men do seem to like tinkering, not necessarily producing anything useful but just tinkering. These handmade screwdrivers look like they would stand up to a lifetimes worth of tinkering.
2. Leather iPad Wallet, MadeMeasure, $140 – When I was putting this list together I was writing little notes by each of the products, next to this leather wallet lined with suede I scribbled “effing beautiful”. That’s the pinnacle of all compliments in my vocabulary.
3. PJ Set, Elk, $125 – I’m big on having a comfy outfit, something you put on that feels so comfortable that the only logical thing to do is lie down on a sofa. Also if you were to treat your man to this PJ set they throw the model in for free.
4. Things Come Apart Book, Readings, $39.95 - You know how men sometimes take a television or radio apart intent on fixing it after yet more tinkering? This book does just that with iconic items such as type writers, bikes, pianos and computers but after breaking it down piece by piece rather than leave them there and tackling a new project, they are photographed beautifully to show them off in all their intricate glory. Each chapter includes an essay from those who work on assembling the items together.
5. Leather Cuff, Chocolate Brownie, $35 - Men can be a bit sceptical about wearing jewellery, a bit afraid that it detracts from their overall high level of manliness. Unless of course they wear these handmade leather cuffs which leave people in no doubt that the wearer of said cuff is all man.
6. Cheese Selection, Bruny Island Cheese Co. $98 – I love cheese, hard. If I could choose one food to live on for the rest of my life I would choose cheese, granted I would probably look and smell terrible but that’s how much I love cheese. I’ve tried the Bruny Island Cheese’s and they are sensational.
7. Beer Box, Slowbeer, $ your choice – If you know a man that loves his beer and lets face it we all do, then this gift is for them. This is a bit like a subscription, you select the styles of beer you want to receive, how often you want to receive it and how much you want to spend and the good people at Slowbeer put together a little selection tailored just for him. How good is that?
8. Shoe Horn, Wootten, $15 – A little stocking filler for the corporate man or perhaps the man who appreciates a nice shoe. An attractive chrome shoe horn with leather strap, you can even match the leather strap to the shoes with 23 different coloured straps.
9. Heirloom Seeds, The Diggers Club, $22.50 – One for the green fingered gentleman, a selection of heirloom seeds to turn your sorry little patch into a high yielding veggie patch. Carrots, beans, tomatoes, corn, water melon and Silverbeet are all on the menu. Heirlooms are varieties that have been around for yonks but aren’t grown on a mass scale, little bespoke fruit and veg if you like.
10. Triumph and Disaster Grooming Kit, The Woodsfolk, $159 – I could hear the collective gasps from here, $159 for a grooming kit! I know but as the proud owner of this set I can assure you it is no ordinary piece of kit. This is for men who take their grooming seriously, most men have to shave every day (I’m about once every 4 days) so why not make the experience a little more luxurious. Also you can steal the moisturiser and face scrub like Anna has.
Bonus Gift – Finska Game, Planet Finska, $59.50 - Once junior has got to the stage where he starts regularly beating Dad at games of beach cricket it’s time to move the goalposts in order to protect his fragile pride. Finska is a game of skill and strategy that involves throwing bits of wood at other bits of wood, a nice variation on hitting balls with sticks or kicking balls between posts.
What are you treating the man in your life to this Christmas? What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received? What is the worst Christmas present you’ve ever received?
November 26, 2013 | 13 Comments
I got chatting to a parent recently who had just enrolled his 3 year old at a private kinder program. He was quite open about the annual fees, which were substantial, and his intention to educate his child privately for the entirety of their schooling. The Kinder Program on offer at childcare centres in his opinion where not educationally adequate, too much fun not enough learning or structure.
Max attends childcare two days a week and starts Kinder next year; he’s very happy there, he gets a break from me, his mates are there, he’s comfortable with the staff and he even has a girlfriend to coo over. Max being happy, having fun and being a little boy is all I’m interested in. I’m not trying to create a child prodigy, at this stage I’m just after a happy little boy. The more time he spends on structured educational activities means the less time he has to dig in the sand, play with trucks, build blocks and generally be a two year old.
I try to give him the education that I think he needs, one fit for a little boy. It tends to involve reading the books that he’s just thrown at me, answering his “whys”, trying to hit the high notes in Twinkle Twinkle, dancing to Beyonce videos, digging for worms, baking and consuming cakes that crunch with egg shell and sticking bits of cardboard together in a desperate bid to be crafty. Childcare is somewhere I want him to go and hang out with his pals, the more time spent having fun and the less time spent engaged in structured learning the better.
This isn’t a post that is intended to question or pass judgement on private education or the rights of parents to go down that route. Things are done differently here and I’m just trying to understand it. This is a cultural observation and possibly an observation that is only relevant to the very small part of Melbourne that I inhabit. I never knew anyone in England who went to private school or sent their children to private school, I never even heard anybody mention it as being an option. Private schools were reserved for Prince Harry and his chums in my eyes.
“Where are you sending Max to school?” is one of the questions that keeps on popping up on the parent merry go round and one that surprises me out every time. He will unequivocally be going to whatever State Primary and Secondary School he is zoned for. My bank statements serve as a monthly reminder that this is what will definitely happen. Whilst other parents I encounter have mapped out their child’s education from 3-18 y/o, I haven’t given it a thought and probably won’t until it’s time to enrol Max at Primary School.
What are your experiences and views on State and/or Private Education? I need educating.
As an aside watch this video of a state school getting it right, I bet you tear up.
November 22, 2013 | 46 Comments
The last seven days were a bit of a revelation, proof for a sceptical father that children and holidays can and do work. Whilst the weather fluctuated between sunshine and storms, the mood in our camp got dangerously close to family harmony.
Anna was more than happy to be the go to parent whilst me and Max were more than happy to let her. Don’t get me wrong I built my fair share of sandcastles, answered my quota of ‘whys?’ and read a stack of bedtime stories, but it was lovely to step back and let Anna have what she so desperately craves.
I appreciate that this is the equivalent of boring your relatives with a post holiday slide show but as the title of this suggests, sometimes a pictures tell the story so much better. Anna is happier the other side of the camera which works well for a couple of posers like me and Max.
Fighting a losing battle against the sun
A steady hand to guide you
Taking the plunge
Upwards Arse, I mean Downwards Dog, that’s how they roll in Byron Bay
Even tropical thunder storms get a bit chilly. Note the faint hint of a Movember offering, it’s very faint.
Apparently even “big boys” need to be carried in stormy weather
Probably not what we had in mind when we booked but no less beautiful
A place I grew to love, my happy place
“I don’t want to go home Daddy”
“But you’ve got all of your toys and book sand friends to go home to Max”
“I like it here with Daddy and Mummy”
I think we all felt a bit the same.
November 20, 2013 | 25 Comments
Holidays have an excellent knack of coming along at just the right time. Its Day 4 of a trip to Byron Bay and I’ve given in to ‘holiday pace’ and shelved the routine of home. Slow is good. Hammocks are being clambered in and out of, skin is darkening, books are being consumed and the bottle of gin is being steadily emptied. It occurred to me that no matter where or when we holiday, some things stay the same.
You will find yourself peering into Real Estate Agent windows and contemplating moving to whatever holiday destination you might be visiting at the time.
There will always be at least one item of clothing that you rue not packing.
At the halfway point of your holiday you will begin a slow countdown that gets ever more depressing “3 days to go, 2 days to go……”
You will utter the words “this is the life” at least once, I uttered them on a departing aeroplane after a particularly good club sandwich.
You will eat and drink all manner of crap safe in the knowledge that “its okay, I’m on holiday”
You will be overly friendly with every unfortunate local to cross your path in a bid to blend in
The first couple of days is a time of transition as you push memories of work, home and life to the outer reaches of your sub conscious and begin to surrender to holiday mode.
You will look at the lonely pair of runners that remain untouched and unloved at the bottom of the suitcase, looking at you as if to say “is today the day?” and feel a deep sense of guilt
You will never quite warm to the firmness of your new mattress and the blankets will always be a bit too itchy
On arrival at your accommodation you will check the contents of the freezer, just incase the last guests happened to leave a bottle of Hendricks Gin in there
They are never long enough
What are your holiday behaviours?
November 15, 2013 | 19 Comments