April 22, 2013 by LC
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February 11, 2013 by LC
Like many gentlemen of my generation, as a youngster I spent most of the eighties locked in my bedroom waggling my joystick. And when I wasn’t doing that I spent the rest of the time playing computer games, which brings me onto Wreck It Ralph, an animated Disney tribute to the world of video games.
In short, it’s Toy Story, but instead of toys we have computer game characters living a behind-the-scenes secret life once the kids are safely out of sight. Wreck It Ralph is a character from a Donkey-Kong-esque retro arcade game, who gets tired of always having to play the bad-guy while his opposite number, Fix It Felix, wins all the credit for being the perpetual hero. Ralph heads out into the wider world of video games to prove that he too can be a hero and win medals but, of course, nothing goes to plan. He makes some friends, gets into some scrapes, has a few laughs, causes some trouble, redeems himself, saves the day. It’s all standard Disney stuff, no need for me to spoil the story for you.
Needless to say, my two year old son was perfectly happy with the bright colours and excitable characters, his cinematic tastes aren’t wildly sophisticated just yet. What kept it entertaining for me was the stream of video game references and little gags which will raise a titter from anybody who’s spent too much of their life playing video games instead of going outside and getting some fresh air.
So, pretty enjoyable for a kid’s film, and it made me impatient for my boys to be old enough to get interested in computer games themselves so we can have some multiplayer laughs.
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February 6, 2013 by LC
My toddler is dimly aware that every day I go into London while he stays at home with his mother or goes to nursery, but the only time he’s ever been into town is to see the Peppa Pig live-show or to visit the museums, so he’s developed some odd ideas about what I do all day. Sometimes he thinks I spend all day watching Peppa Pig, but mostly he imagines I work in the Natural History Museum.
Last night I got back to the house after cycling home from the office, popped into his room to read him a story while he was still awake and then told him he had to go to sleep because it was time for me to get a shower and have my dinner. “Daddy getting a shower,” he confirmed “you all stinky from the dinosaurs.”
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January 31, 2013 by LC
This week I got invited to go for drinks to meet the team at my new job, where I’ll be starting in a few weeks. The local drinking hole favoured by my new colleagues is an unusual little bar in Holborn, called Bounce, where you can enjoy food, drinks and a game of Ping Pong.
Bounce’s story is that the bar is located on the site of the old offices of J. Jaques & Son, a toy company which trademarked the game of Ping Pong in 1901 – and what better way to memorialise the site than with a Ping Pong themed bar?
The venue itself is a huge, lively basement bar, filled with 13 full size Ping Pong tables (that you can rent by the half-hour for £10) along with plenty of additional space and seating as well as a good sized dining area away from the games. This last point is important, because wherever you stand in the bar, you’re constantly being lightly bonked by miss-hit table tennis balls – it’s all part of the part of the fun but you might not want balls landing in your dinner.
I didn’t eat, but saw some pizzas being brought to a nearby table and they looked pretty good as far as I could tell. There’s also a table service for drinks, which is quite handy if there’s a group of you because the place is busy and getting to and from the bar without getting in the way of games-in-play can be tricky.
It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I applaud them for doing something a little different, and it’s good for fun night out. More info here: bouncelondon.com
Image Credit: Taylor Herring
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January 30, 2013 by LC
These news reports about the changing rules for childcare are interesting to me because, for two days a week, we put our boys into nursery while my wife goes to work. The cost of the nursery fees pretty much wipes out everything she earns, but it’s still worthwhile because we want the boys to spend some time in nursery and it means she can keep up to date in her career.
All the same, it would be nice if we could go back to being a dual income family, so anything that might help bring down the cost of childcare sounds like good news. Except, I doubt the proposed measures will do a single thing to make childcare more affordable.
Nurseries are businesses, and allowing them to legally care for a few more children without needing to hire additional staff will only result in them increasing their profit margins. I can’t really see them being in any hurry to pass on the savings to customers. They already know what parents are willing and able to pay for childcare, and they’re not short of customers, so what possible motivation would they have for lowering their prices?
Increasing the minimum required qualifications for staff also provides nurseries with a perfectly legitimate reason to maintain or even increase their current prices. So, really, these headline grabbing reforms are nothing more than tweaks to the system which are unlikely to have any significant impact on the quality or affordability of childcare.
I don’t really know how these reforms will play out in practice, but I’m fairly confident in predicting that our nursery fees are not going to get any cheaper.
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January 29, 2013 by LC
There’s a simple fact of parenting that most people are only dimly aware of: you have no idea what you’re getting into. When expecting parents realise this, they often have a combination of reactions: panicking, seeking advice, reading every baby book on the planet, and ultimately, accepting some level of naivety. Ultimately, acceptance can be a refreshing course of action – you don’t know what you’re doing, and no one can adequately explain it to you, so just wait to figure it out on your own. But some preparation is still necessary. On that note, here are 5 expectations for new fathers to keep in mind.
1. Coming In Second
It may seem counterintuitive to adjust to second place while at the same time striving to become your child’s hero. But, it’s necessary, and here’s why. There are two ways in which new dads are relegated to second place. The first is that you are second to your wife in every imaginable way – she has greater needs, she’ll receive more attention from friends and relatives, and she’ll have more time with the child at first. The second is that you are second to the child – his or her needs eclipse every aspect of your life. These are both as they should be, but they can require some getting used to.
2. Baby Duty
Surely, you already expect some baby duty, you might want to adjust this expectation to maximum intensity. Not only do babies require constant attention (lulling them to sleep, changing diapers, feeding, etc.), but you’ll be husband of the year if you can take some of the effort off of your wife’s shoulders. Mom needs some time to recover from the pregnancy, and you should be the baby duty all-star while she does.
3. Being An Errand Boy
One duty that is sometimes unexpected is the role of errand boy. Whether it’s trips to the nearest Marks and Spencer, a stop at a baby shop, or browsing online stores, shopping errands are required. Babies require a ton of equipment – new clothes, strollers, car seats, cribs, toys, etc. – and you’ll need to make yourself available to go pick it all up.
4. Her Mood Swings
You’ve probably read about postpartum depression, but even if things don’t get that far, you need to be prepared for mummy’s mood swings. Hormones and normal emotions are running high after the birth of a child, and on top of that there’s not much sleep or relaxation going around. Expect and accommodate mummy’s mood swings at all costs.
5. Your Mood Swings
Finally, you should also be ready for your own mood swings. At some point, something’s going to trigger frustration – be it one more sleepless night, one more nappy to change, or one more bit of personal time you miss out on – but it will happen, and being able to step back and breathe is crucial. Expecting your own mood swings and frustration can help you to deal with it.
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January 24, 2013 by LC
When our second bundle of love and snot was born we got a Phil & Ted’s Vibe, which seemed to be the twin-buggy to go for because everybody told us it was great. And it was – being able to attach the baby’s car-seat directly to it was useful when he was very little, it was narrow and easy to weave around shops and cafes, the big wheels made it easy to push off-road (important for when my wife was doing her Buggy Fit classes in the park).
So we have no real complaints about the Vibe, but son number two got big fast, and eventually it became a real struggle to squeeze him into the buggy’s back seat. We bought a cheap Mclaren-style side by side twin-buggy, which was easier, but the wheels were too small to take it off road.
After some asking around, we ended up buying an OutnAbout Nipper Double, and it’s been brilliant. Big wheels with inflatable tyres make it really easy to push across grassy parks, and even when we took it out in the recent snow it was a doddle to push. For general day to day use it feels so much easier to maneuver than any of the other twin buggies we’ve used, although as a side-by-side it’s obviously a little wider, but it still fits through most shop doorways with ease.
It folds and unfolds relatively easily, and my feeble wife doesn’t have any problems loading it into the car. Personally, I miss having the brake on the handle-bar, as with the Phil & Teds, but this isn’t a massive issue and the footbrake works perfectly well. The boys much prefer sitting side by side too, because it makes it easier for them to mash semi-chewed biscuits into each other’s faces.
OutnAbout sell the latest model for £400 on their website, but you can find them advertised for around £300 if you look around the interwebs.
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January 14, 2013 by LC
Sunday morning and my wife is out at her pilates class, leaving me at home with the boys for a couple of hours. If my life were a shitty sitcom this would be the setup for a series of hilarious blunders, but real life parenting is fairly straightforward business (even for a poor, hapless man) and everything was going just fine.
Half an hour in and I detect the familiar whiff of a Code Brown from the nine-month old as he’s happily chewing on one of his brother’s shoes. No biggie – these days I can do a nappy change with all the speed and precision of a Formula 1 pit-crew whipping a new set of tyres onto Lewis Hamilton’s car.
Only, things don’t go exactly to plan. For a start, it’s the kind of epic nappy-filler you get after they’ve been holding it in for a couple of days – there’s a lot of it and it’s all over the place. The clean-up operation is somewhat hampered by the fact that my kid isn’t really in the mood for lying still while daddy changes his nappy. No, he wants to kick and wriggle and roll around like an oiled-up Turkish wrestlers while I’m doing my best to remove half a kilo of caked-on shit from his barse.
This, obviously, fills me with joy and wonder at the magical experience of parenting. So much so that, while I’m grappling with the little sod, I don’t immediately notice that he’s started to throw up a little bit, although he soon manages to attract my full attention when the dribble of puke turns into a fountain of vomit.
Not wanting him to choke, I try to turn him over whilst at the same time attempting to minimise the distribution of vomit and shit as he continues to writhe and flail about. This does not go well but, eventually, I manage to get the rest of his clothes off and swab him down with a handful of wet-wipes. The changing mat is now covered in various fluids and excretions, and there’s a pile of filth covered clothes plus a steaming nappy to deal with.
I dump the baby on the floor momentarily, as I attempt to clear away this carnage so that I can put a clean nappy on him. Naturally he takes this opportunity to complete his hat-trick and piss all over the floor, then sits merrily splashing about in his puddle.
At this point, toddler decides it all looks like wonderful fun and comes along to offer assistance. I yell at him to get out of the way before he starts treading it all over the rest of the room. I am a little tense and probably a bit too shouty, toddler starts wailing and demanding that mummy comes home to give him a cuddle.
Not only am I knee deep in excrement, I am also a horrible, horrible father. Eventually I manage to get the mess cleaned up and a new nappy on the baby. Toddler is bribed with a pack of mini-Chocolate Hobnobs, baby returns to his ongoing mission to coat the entire house in saliva, peace is restored to my kingdom. My left eye is only twitching a tiny bit, nobody would notice.
Of course, I can’t mention a word of my epic struggle to my wife, since the merest hint of adversity in her absence will be seized upon as proof that I’m just another poor, hapless man who can’t really cope with looking after the kids by myself.
January 12, 2013 by LC
There’s a big argument in America at the moment and I’m going to help you to choose sides by telling you that one of the people in the argument is Piers Morgan. That makes things easy, right? Normally, yes, but in this particular case things aren’t quite so straightforward because the people he’s arguing with are the NRA, who basically believe that it’s OK to take machine guns into primary schools, so long as you take enough for everybody to play with.
This is a shitty situation, because if I have to make a moral choice between agreeing with Piers Morgan or siding with people who think shooting six-year olds in the face is some kind of inalienable human right then, against the howling anguish of every last neuron in my cerebral cortex I’m going to have to say I agree with Piers. All the same, I’m not sure why anybody thinks it’s a good idea for an oily English smugtard to be telling the Americans how to run their own country; why not give Glenn Beck a show on ITV and ask him to share his insightful and balanced opinions on our welfare state and secular government? I can’t deny that the prospect of Piers getting into a feud with America’s heavily armed lunatic fringe sounds wildly entertaining, but the hypocrisy of my compatriots cheering him on is a bit hard to swallow.
You could argue that concern for the lives of children transcends nationality, in which case I expect all the Brits who are currently expressing a keen interest in US firearms laws will soon move onto campaigning for improved pool safety laws to help the 1,500 American children who drown every year, or perhaps they’ll get start demanding improved road safety efforts for the 8,000 children who die on America’s roads each year. Why focus on America at all, millions of children die needlessly of poverty every year across the developing world – where’s the outrage?
Maybe America would be a safer and better place if there weren’t quite so many military grade assault weapons lying around but, the last I heard, the US had a democratic system of government and a population that tends to be strongly in favour of managing its own affairs. In fact, the reason they have a right to bear arms in the first place is because they weren’t too keen on being told what to do by the British. Probably for the best if we just leave them to figure this out on their own.
April 17, 2012 by LC
With two young children to juggle, wife asked if it might be possible for me to get home from work a bit earlier to help with bedtime. I quite enjoy my leisurely cycle home through Richmond Park, but since she agreed that the only realistic way for me to reduce my commute time was to get a motorbike, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity – not many men can say their wives practically ordered them to buy a new motorbike due to the imminent arrival of a second child.
She said I should get something sensible. I agreed…
Temperamental high-performance Italian superbikes – what could be more sensible? Fortunately I married a girly girl who hasn’t got a clue about this kind of thing, so as far as she’s concerned it’s just a plain old, boring, run of the mill, get-you-to-work-and-back kind of commuter bike.