The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. (Mencius, Chinese philosopher 372-289 BC)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Please Vote For My Dad

The Weekend Picture No. 44

Vote Dad Etc ... Please!
I got a very nice surprise on Monday.

On Monday I discovered that I had been shortlisted for an award.

I have never been shortlisted for an award before so did not know what it would feel like.

Now that I have been shortlisted I can tell you that it feels great!

The award I have been shortlisted for is the "Brilliance in Blogging" Family Blogger Award. I am one of 16 blogs vying for your vote to be named family blog of the year!

To be shortlisted I needed to be nominated first - so if you nominated me - THANK YOU.

I now have one more favour to ask - before you click off this page - would you mind casting your vote please? All you need to do is click on this link, scroll about half way down the page and tick Dad Etc in the list of Family blogs.

That's it, job done!

If this is the first time you have visited Dad Etc and you are not sure whether you want to vote for me then here are three of my favourite posts - have a read and then ... well, it's up to you.

This is the post when my 7 year old daughter, E, teaches me the importance of empathy for our fellow man.
In this post "The Signs of Spring" (my daughters) can't help competing with each other.
And in this post I share a secret I was once taught to a happy marriage.

Thanks so much again.

Speak soon

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Is The Glory Worth The Pain?

Dreaming of Olympic Glory (c) BBC

I put M through torture this week.

I blame the Olympics!

One of the aims of London 2012 was to Inspire a Generation. The vision of Lycra clad superhumans winning gold for Team GB was meant to inspire the slovenly youth of the United Kingdom to get off their settees and try something new instead.

Well it certainly had that effect in our house. Particularly with the sporty spice of the family - 10 year old M.

Since the Olympic flame was extinguished she has joined a cycling club (Laura Trott), thrown herself into Netball, thrashed us all in innumerable running races and expressed a desire to join the school's Hockey club.

It is all fantastically inspiring.

But, Hockey is a game that features sticks and balls.

And sticks and balls do not get along with pearly white, perfectly formed teeth.

So, the responsible parent gets themself online or down to the local sports shop to purchase a piece of brightly coloured rubber called a gum shield.

Said parent then carefully reads the instructions before fitting said shield without a hitch, a tear or a moan.

And said sporty daughter is then ready to plough her sporting furrow to Olympic Gold.


Well that's what it says on the box.

That's not what happens in the Dad Etc household when Dad is in charge.

This is what happens when Dad is in charge:

Dad reads the instructions carefully and heats the orange and blue plastic in boiling water until it reaches melting point at which point he rams it into his 10 year old daughter's mouth causing her to writhe and scream.

He then tells her not to worry because "this is what is supposed to happen" and squeezes her cheeks against the molten plastic with one hand whilst forcibly closing her mouth with the other and counting to 20 elephants as she squirms in agony.

Finally, she swills cold water around her mouth and tests the gum shield for fit.

Unfortunately said shield did not stay in place so Dad had to read the instructions again, dump the shield in freshly boiling water and do it all over again.

Sadly, as proved in my post, Why Mum Knows Best, Dads sometimes just get it plain wrong.

I tried twice more with this miracle of modern engineering, each time failing to make the shield stay in place, each time chastising my daughter for not biting hard enough or squirming too much.

Finally, unable to bear it any more, my wife rode in to save the day. She immediately spotted that our little M had a new tooth coming through (how did she know that?) - so was unable to close her mouth properly, scooped her onto her knee and made everything all better.

Dad meanwhile cursed his lack of feminine intuition and retreated to the shed to try to fix something inanimate.

Speak soon

PS I am very delighted to announce that Dad Etc has been shortlisted for the Brilliance in Blogging Family Blogger Award run by Britmums - hence the rather flashy looking button at the top of the Blog. I am up against some very tough competition (15 mummy bloggers and me - it takes a brave man!) so would be eternally in your debt if you felt that this blog was worth a vote. You can vote by clicking on the button above or by clicking here. Thank you so much - and fingers crossed.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

That Is a Mad Eye Deer

The Weekend Picture No. 43

Mad Eye Deer at Longleat
We were at Longleat Safari Park two weeks ago.

We saw lions, rhinoceroses and hippoes. Our car was sat on by monkeys and we had meerkats ducking between our feet. We laughed at the porcupines and the anteater.

But the highlight for the Dubmeister was Mad Eye Deer. Halfway round you get to pay to feed the deer. You pull onto the side of the road and, in a reverse of a MacDonalds' Drive Thru the Deer gather by your car window, mouths open, napkins around their necks and knives and forks at the ready.

The greediest of the deer was Mad Eye who worked her way through our bag of treats without pausing for breath.

She is called Mad Eye Deer because  ... Well, you see if you can work it out.

Speak soon

Friday, 19 April 2013

Being a Dad Has It's Perks

Party Ring Anyone?

Like many prestigious roles in life the role of Dad is not without it's perks. Here are my 5 mostly shallow perks of fatherhood.

Tastier than Keira?

1. Dads get to go to kids' films

Fed up with movies with plots out of a Dostoevsky novel. Squeamish about blood and gore? Rather laugh at a cute monster than lust over Keira Knightley? Get to be a Dad - because Dads get to watch kids movies and kids movies are clinically proven to be better than films with subtitles and/or a dark subplot.

2. Dads get to eat party food

There is no greater taste on earth than the flavours created by factory boffins to adorn kids party food. The brightly coloured delights that are Party Ring biscuits, Iced Gems and fruit jelly just beg to be eaten by the discerning gourmet and as a Dad at a birthday party you get to choose your own treats and eat as much as you want.
Just offer to clear up after the party guests have gone and hoover the sweet treats before anybody else gets their hands on them.

3. Dads get to watch their kids perform

Dads are men of rock. Their bottom lips are rare to wobble and their tear ducts are criminally underused. However, put a Dad on a touchline or in the audience when their kids are the stars and you see a different beast altogether.
Watch them swell with pride and choke back emotion as their progeny relives the dreams of their dim and distant past.

4. Dads get to read bedtime stories

If I ever get invited onto Desert Island Discs and am asked what luxury I would take to my desert island I know exactly what I would ask for:

There are few things as bonding as reading to your child just before bedtime. We started when the Dubmeister was 2 weeks old and we haven't looked back. I am lucky enough to be home before my kids go to bed most nights - and the nights when I don't get to read to at least one of them feel much emptier than those when I do.

5. Dads get to be heroes

Every man needs to be a hero and as a Dad you get to live the dream. The dads of pre-schoolers bask in the glow of toddler adulation as they wield a hammer with expertise and panache (in their children's eyes). For a precious period everything we do is wonderful. Every muscle we own is taut and every car we drive is faster than Lewis Hamilton's.
Man was made to bask in a dose of glory and the Dads of the very small get soaked in it.

Speak soon

PS More musings on being a Dad Alone here, on the changing relationship with our children here and a list of reasons why Dad Knows Best here.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

In Praise Of The Children's Party Industry

The Weekend Picture No. 42

Can you guess how old E is?
E had her 8th birthday party today. Since she could speak she has been desperate to have a birthday party at our fabulous local leisure centre. The response has always been: "Not until you're 8". Well, now E has turned 8 we had run out of excuses so Daddy got onto the phone with his flexible friend and booked a Secret Agent party for 14 excited little girls for today.

We have never had birthday parties so easy as we did today.

We wrote the invitations.
We posted the invitations.
We paid the money. And that was about it. Because once we turned up this afternoon we mostly just stood and watched.

And then we came home.

The kids had a great time. Our house didn't get trashed and somebody else cut the crusts off the sandwiches.

It started getting a little hairy at 4.40 when the party had 10 minutes left to run and the food had all gone - but a quick game of Chinese Whispers averted any meltdowns and eased us home to parental pick up time.

We have always loved hosting children's parties but there is a lot to be said for chucking cash at it instead.

Speak soon

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

How To Survive Your First Year In Blogging

Dad Etc is one today.

Dad Etc turns one today! Wow. In some ways I am amazed that it is still going. Blogging has been a lot more difficult than I expected it to be. There have been times when I have completely lost my blogging mojo or when other events have conspired to stop me from poring over a keyboard to produce a potentially interesting post.

However, I am still at it.

12 months have passed and I am still blogging. Why?

Well, I guess that must mean I enjoy what I am doing. I love the opportunity it gives for creativity, for interaction and for a completely free hand. It is still a thrill to read a comment by somebody on something I have written or to be featured on Mumsnet - so thank you! It is fantastic to think that there are some out there who are patient enough to follow Dad Etc - thank you again.

I thought I would mark my first blogiversary by offering 5 pieces of advice for anybody considering embarking upon a blog - I am no expert but like any good teacher I like to pretend I know what I am talking about.

1. Pace yourself

When I started blogging in April 2012. I was full of ideas and snappy one liners. I could have spent hour after hour blogging. I posted 8 times in three weeks - whilst I was on holiday - only to completely run out of steam as the holiday finished and work kicked in. I only posted once in the whole of May. I wish I had known about the Schedule button back then - it has become one of my best friends.

2. Tap into Blogging Expertise

There is so much expertise out there  - and an awful lot of friendly, helpful people. Get yourself onto Mumsnet, Tots 100, Love All Blogs and Britmums (other parent friendly blogging networks are available - but these seem to be the most helpful in my experience). Sign yourself up to Twitter and start following like minded bloggers and American uber bloggers like Bruce Sallan and Annabel Candy. Post on blogs you like and don't be shy about asking for advice.

3. Build a habit

Routines are really important in blogging. Lots of bloggers post a "Silent Sunday" post, I post a Weekend Picture as often as possible. Having that routine of a definite post each week really helps because I know that most weeks I will be able to post a Weekend Picture and posting once seems to encourage me to post a second time

4. Don't Obsess

It is very easy to obsess about your blog. I often find myself sneaking a peak at my pageview count, tweaking a potential blog banner or musing over what to post in my next twitter update. Blogging can become a time consumer. I have noticed the irony of writing a blog about family life only to find myself spending time on a solitary pursuit (writing) when I could be enjoying the subject of my blog instead - so be careful!

5. Enjoy

I have come closest to giving up when blogging has become a chore - as just something else to squeeze into an already overly busy life. So, if there is one piece of advice I would give - it is to enjoy it! And if you don't enjoy it - stop! Find a routine that works for you - don't compare yourself to other bloggers - and enjoy what you do.

Have fun.

Speak Soon

Monday, 8 April 2013

Training in the Spring Snow

The Weekend Picture No. 41

The Peak District in the Spring
In 2 months and 8 days time The Lovely Wife and I will be lacing up our walking boots for the 24 peaks in 24 hours charity challenge in the Lake District in order to raise money for Caring Matters Now.

Caring Matters Now is a charity which works with children with a rare skin syndrome called Congenital Melanocytic Naevi or CMN.CMNs are large birthmarks which can cover up to 80% of a child's body. In addition to the obvious cosmetic impacts CMNs can also cause developmental delays and present a slightly raised risk of skin cancer.

Caring Matters Now works to support those with CMN, raise funds for research and raise awareness of the condition. It is a small charity that makes good use of every penny. It has done a huge amount for E, our youngest, and because of that we have decided to pack blister plasters and a stash of Kendall Mint Cake for an assault on some of the Lake District's most awesome peaks (Scafell Pike anyone?)

In preparation we are taking every opportunity that presents itself to walk up things. Next week we are walking the Thames tow path (distance for stamina) and then the Surrey Hills (more hills!). This past week we have been in the snowy wasteland that is the Peak District in the Spring. We spent Thursday walking 13 miles on the Kinder Scout Plateau in the Peaks and sinking thigh deep in snow drifts whilst avoiding slipping off the ridge path to a grisly end. This weekend's picture was taken just before we joined the ridge path - hence the smile.

Friday was an easier walk of (only) 8 miles from Hathersage in Derbyshire to an amazing pub called "The Barrel at Bretton" It stands atop one of the peaks with it's own panoramic view of some of the best scenery the UK can offer. The picture below is a valley we crossed en route to the pub.

Abney, Derbyshire

We have now hit our fundraising target - for which we are hugely grateful - THANKYOU! - however, we are still taking sponsorship and would love to break the £2,000 barrier. So, if you would like to sponsor us please visit our JustGiving page which you can get to by the button on the top left of the page or by clicking here.

Speak soon

PS Only 4 days left to nominate for the BIBs blogging awards. I have put myself forward for 2 categories - please click on the badges to nominate or you can click here. Thankyou.

PPS - This blog is 1 year old on Wednesday (!!) Watch this space.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Why Dad Knows Best

Dad Knows Best ... Naturally!
Mums are great - as I hope I proved in my 2nd most popular post ever - but nothing can beat a good Dad. We have all (hopefully) known one and we would all (hopefully again) like to be one. So with that in kind these are my 5 reasons why Dads know best. As ever, this list is based on genuine non-research.


1. Dads Can Dance

There is not a dad on this earth that can't dance. Dads even have their own dance - called imaginatively "The Dad Dance" - not everybody can do it and it takes years of effort to master - but it is guaranteed to stop a dance floor.

2. Dads Fix Stuff

Favourite toy broken?
Remote control lost it's battery?

Bring it to dad. He'll know what to do. Still not working? Well that's because it's just not meant to anymore honey.

3. Dads Don't Need Instruction Manuals

Got a new piece of flatpack furniture with one of those thick manuals in Gujarati, Flemish and Swahili?
Bring it to dad. He won't even look at the manual because he knows best. Who needs an instruction manual when you have hands like those.

4. Dads Are Funny And They Know It

There is no doubt about it - dads can tell a joke and they would love you to hear it. A dad is so skilled in this area that he can tell a joke over and over again and find it just as funny the 1000th time as he did the 1st time he shared it.

5. Dads Come Cheap
If the average Dad had his way he would wear the same clothes combo day in and day out. He eschews the frivolity of fashion in favour of wallet watching and a sensible pair of slacks which were built to last.
Need a haircut? Go for the Dad cut - scientifically proven to save you 75% of the Mum snip.

Dads, do you agree or have I missed something vital? Mums, am I being fair?

Speak soon

PS If you enjoyed reading this post and you have a few moments to spare I would be hugely grateful if you could take some time to nominate me for the "Best in Blogging Awards 2013" I have put myself up for 2 awards which you can access via the link in the right hand column of this blog or by clicking here. Nominations close on the 12th April. Thank you!

PPS For more reasons to celebrate everything "Dad" visit my favourite blog ever - Dads are the Original Hipsters and enjoy everything that made our Dads the cool icons they really are.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

It's Movie Night!

Including a Review of Sainsbury's New Flavoured Popcorn Range

It's DVD and Duvet night

One of our favourite family traditions was stolen from Rob Parsons of the brilliant charity "Care for the Family". The kids love this tradition. We choose a DVD, drag down our mattresses and duvets, munch on popcorn and snuggle down together for the night.

Although the fact that I wrote this entry at 2.25am because I couldn't sleep scrunched up on the sofa, surrounded by my nearest and dearest, may indicate that this is not a wholly practical idea - but the kids love it and I am unlikely to forget this night in a hurry - and that's what it is all about huh?!?

This week we were treated by Sainsbury's Bank Money Matters to a copy of Madagascar 3, the one in which Alex and his unlikely pals (a giraffe and a hippo getting it on!? Are you sure?), try to get back to New York by joining a circus and avoiding the evil French policewoman who is on their trail. We love the Madagascar movies (mostly because of the penguins), and although No.3 is not as good as it's older siblings there was enough good stuff in there to keep us all amused until lights out.

Sainsbury's were also good enough to provide us with some of their Smoked Paprika and Salt and Vinegar popcorn from their new range of flavoured popcorns to review (also available in Cheese and Chive and Apple and Cinnamon flavours). We are great lovers of popcorn - even when it gets into our bedding - but these new flavours were not for everyone. The Signs of Spring (aged 7 and 10) turned their noses up - too spicy for their delicate palates. The Dubmeister and my lovely wife loved the Salt and Vinegar version whereas I went potty for the Smoked Paprika - which is far too moreish!

The Sainsbury's Flavoured Popcorn range is on sale at £1.50 for a 75g bag.

Speak soon

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