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

Thursday, 27 June 2013

You Can Tell They're Growing Up When ... You Worry About Different Stuff

When the Dubmeister was born he brought untold joy and excitement. We marvelled at his chubby little fingers, his gorgeous gurgling noises, his perfect skin and that indescribeable smell with which all babies are blessed.

It was one of the best days of our lives.

(c) Roger Hargreaves
But, when a baby enters your life he also introduces a whole new level of worry. You worry about everything - from the temperature of his bedroom to the number of times he feeds via the evil inferiority complex creating myths propagated by millionaires made rich by writing books about how to raise the perfect baby. 

We even worried that our cat would devote himself to finding an opportunity to go to sleep on baby Dubmeister's face. Of course he didn't as that would involve being in the same room as the tiny screaming banshee that we had introduced into the house which was obviously out of the question!

At the same time well meaning friends and family reassured us that the phase would soon pass and that as the Dubmeister grew so would the worries pass and life would become a worry free Disneyland where the sun always shone and Dubmeister developed at a textbook rate.

They were wrong!

When a baby grows up you cease to worry about the temperature of his bedroom and the number of times he feeds and you soon realise that the books written by childcare experts are designed to create a sense of panic in the minds of couples going through the most intensely stressful sleep deprived period of their lives. However, that does not mean the worry stops. It just means that the focus of worry changes.

What we worry about now

  • So now, rather than worrying about the temperature of his bedroom we worry about what he gets up to in there instead!
  • Instead of worrying about how often he feeds we worry about how often he sits down to do his homework. Is he doing enough? Could he do more? Shouldn't he be doing better?
  • Rather than fretting over an evil cat who is determined to kill him by fur suffocation we worry about the evils of alcohol and drugs and pick up leaflets from Doctor surgeries and school reception areas which raise the stress levels even further.
I remember as a kid noticing that, if you caught a glimpse of my mum and her friends when they didn't know anybody was looking at them, you could see a far-away, concerned expression on their faces.

Now I am a parent I know why they looked like that. They were parents, they were worried. The two states of mind go together. No matter what the age of your kids might be. Be they four months, fourteen or forty you worry about them.

Speak soon

Monday, 24 June 2013


The Weekend Picture No. 51

As you know I was honoured to be listed as a finalist in this year's Brilliance in Blogging Family Blogger Award. The ceremony was in London on Friday night at an impressive venue called The Brewery in EC1Y 4QH.

The ceremony came at the end of an afternoon's conference opened by the lovely Kirsty Allsopp and featuring hints and tips on all things bloggy. I had to go to work on Friday so I didn't get to see any of the bloggy hints and tips. Instead I missed the 5.00pm train into London in order to catch the 5.30 and thereby make my journey much more exciting.

I got into London Waterloo precisely 3 minutes before I was meant to be in EC1Y 4QH so sprinted across the concourse, swore at the lack of underground maps, found an underground map, picked a route and then leapt onto the slowest underground train in London which wound it's unhurried way to The Barbican, exactly 29 minutes after I was meant to be supping cocktails with the blogging glitterati.

Fortunately, I had my iPhone 3G with me with it's friendly red pin in the map feature. It led me out of the station and 200 yards down a wrong turning and a red faced sprint back to the correct turning and an interminable tunnel.

I finally found the red pin.

Unfortunately the red pin was nowhere near The Brewery. Instead, it had sunk itself into the middle of one of those non-descript council estates you find on the edge of swanky London districts. I wandered disconsolately through the estate craning my ears to catch the sounds of the clinking of glasses and the buzz of witty repartee but soon realised the error of my ways and sought solace in the presence of a friendly London cabbie.

I was evidently in the wrong bit of EC1Y 4QH and was perspiring gently by the time I crashed through the revolving doors of The Brewery, 50 minutes late, blinking into a world of bright lights, bright dresses and even brighter tans.

I expected everybody to turn, tutting towards me, tapping their tablets to tick me off. But Britmums Live was in full flow. The free booze was disappearing as quickly as booze at a blogging event and the volume had been raised to 11. A stray Daddy Blogger adrift in a sea of Mums was unremarkable and it was with a degree of relief that I sank into my chair to await my fate.

Speak soon

PS - No, I didnt win - hence the rather clever title! The Family Blogger 2013 is Mum In The South - you can read her brilliant story of a recent birthday party here. But I did meet some interesting people and would urge you to visit their blogs - try Mutterings of a Fool and Babberblog for blogs by Dads with toddlers, Best Dad I Can Be for some of the funniest writing out there and Life as a Widower - the winner of the Fresh Voice category for his incredibly moving recounting of life in the eight months since he lost his wife, the mother to his 2 year old son.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

We Did It!

The CMN 24 Peaks in 24 Hours Team
This blog has been rather quiet the last few days. In fact ever since I ran through the third of 3 gifts to get your old Dad last Thursday Dad Etc has been marked by it's silence.

I hope you haven't worried.
I hope you haven't called the police to report a missing blogger.

The truth is that I have just been plain shattered since this weekend. A quick analysis of the times when I post will reveal that most posts (like this one) are published well after bedtime and the sad truth is that since this weekend my stamina levels have dropped below zero. Blogging has just not been an option.

Why am I shattered?

Well, I blame the mountains of the Lake District - 24 of which I climbed along with My lovely wife and 21 other lovely people over 24 hours this weekend.

The climb was to raise money for Caring Matters Now - a fantastic little charity which supports children like my youngest daughter who have a rare skin condition called Congenital Melanocytic Naevi. If you're new to Dad Etc or short on memory cells you can find out more about CMN here.

Taking part in this challenge has been such an amazing experience that it has been difficult to know what to type. How do you sum up the weekend in less than 500 words?

Do you share the 4am starts?
The scrambling across scree?
The companionship of newly made friends brought together by a common purpose?

Or do you talk about the aches and pains you acquired over the weekend?
The friends who battled through sprained knees/ pulled muscles and latent fevers just to be able to fulfill a promise?
Mention the fact that it still hurts to go up and down stairs and that some of the peaks were much much steeper than you expected?

Or do you emphasise the triumph of reaching that 24th peak?
Celebrate the fact that the team has almost doubled the target it set?
And urge your readers to keep donating as every penny counts?

Really what I would like to say is THANKYOU.

Thankyou to the friends and family who supported us by donating to the cause and looking after the three monsters whilst we walked up things. Thankyou to our close friends who joined us on the trek and thankyou to my lovely wife for persuading me that it would be a good idea after all.

And above all thank you to E, the smiley girl with CMN, who inspired us.

Speak soon

PS - I will be sitting nervously in the crowd at the Brilliance in Blogging Awards ceremony on Friday evening waiting to find out whether I have won the Family Blogger award. Thankyou again to all those of you who voted for me - it worked! Fingers crossed - I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Last Minute Gifts For Father's Day #3

Say it with a donation

Sometimes it is nice to give a gift which will help an organisation to help others.

The charity I would like to plug today is called "Care for the Family." I have not been asked to plug them, nor am I being paid a penny to post this. I just think they are an amazing charity that do incredible, life changing work.

Their slogan says that they exist "because family life matters" and a quick survey of their website indicates that they live by their slogan.

They currently have initiatives to support Dads, Mums, Single Parents, Grandparents, Foster Parents, Adopted Children and couple contemplating marriage.

I love the way they get into every area of family life and seek to provide really practical help to people in need.

If you would like to find out more about Care for the Family and perhaps make a donation to honour Father's Day please click here.

Speak soon

PS Only 2 days until our 24 peaks in 24 hours challenge - I may not be able to post this weekend as I will mostly be climbing mountains - if that is the case I am sorry but I am sure you understand. The link to my Just Giving page is in the right hand corner of this blog. Thank you.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Last Minute Gifts For Fathers Day #2

Say It With Words

This is the kind of craft-y idea that your Dad will love. The Dubmeister and My Lovely Wife made me one for my birthday. It was the highlight of my day

To make a Word Portait you will need:
  • 1 computer
  • 1 sheet of printer paper
  • A colour printer
  • A picture frame

Shut your Dad out of the room and brainstorm everything that makes him the Dad he is.

You might want to think about his likes and dislikes, his hobbies, favourite foods, bands or places. The list is endless - it is entirely up to you.

Type the list up in an artistic manner, pop it in the frame and Bob's your uncle - one very happy Dad.

Speak soon

Coming tomorrow - Say it with a donation

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Last Minute Gifts For Fathers Day #1

Say it with Sauce

Still stuck for that perfect gift for the Fathers in your life? Still struggling for inspiration for that special man's special day? Just remembered that it's Fathers Day this Sunday and you haven't got a clue what to get Dad? Well look no further - this is the Dad Etc three part guide to the perfect last minute gift for Daddy's Day.

Everybody knows that Dads love bacon sandwiches. And everybody knows that bacon sandwiches are distinctly boring without a splash of Houses of Parliament sauce (HP Sauce to you and I). The clever people at Heinz have realised that there is a glaring gap in the market - the personalised HP bottle gap.

If you want to get your hands on one of these collector items you need to go quickly. Visit HP's Facebook page by clicking here and enter to win a bottle of the brown stuff emblazoned with their name and a special message.

It's completely free and it will make his day.

So go on spoil your Dad - get him one!

Good luck!

Speak soon

Tomorrow - Say it with words - The DIY Word Portrait

Sunday, 9 June 2013

One Week To Go!

The Weekend Picture No. 50

In exactly one week's time My Lovely Wife and I will be climbing 24 peaks in the Lake District in exactly 24 hours in order to raise money for Caring Matters Now. We signed up for this challenge over a year ago and have been training for it since last September.

And it's nearly here!

There are two possible reactions to this. You can either shrug your shoulders and just get on with it.

Or you can panic, ask your mum for a sick note and hide under the duvet.

I am tempted to opt for the latter. However, my Mum has chosen this weekend as the weekend when she MUST take a week away in Wales - so the sick note is out of the question.

I guess we need to just get on with it.

So, on Friday afternoon we will be piling into the car and heading north to Hawkshead in the Lake District where we will meet the rest of the team, be briefed and try to sleep before embarking on the challenge.

Over the following weekend we will ascend a total of 13,986 feet and walk for two 12 hour stretches. We have both put in a lot of training. However, to be frank, we have no idea what we are letting ourselves in for!

The money we raise will be going to support the work of this fantastic little charity that is so close to our hearts. You can find out more about their work here. The team we are going with have already raised enough to pay for a Research Assistant to look into possible treatments for the condition and it is great to know that every penny raised will be of value. Thankyou to all those of you who have already sponsored us. If you have not yet done so - and would like to - then you can click here to visit our Just Giving page.


Speak soon

Friday, 7 June 2013

You Can Tell They're Growing Up When ... You Can't Do Their Homework

Happy Days!

As a diligent parent I have always been more than happy to help my kids with their homework. Listening to my loved ones' reading has always been a joy, reading back their latest piece of fiction is never a chore and sitting alongside them as they puzzle through a page of sums is one of life's pleasures.

Until now!

The Dubmeister has now hit 13 3/4 and the Dubmeister is very good at Maths.

He is so good at Maths that he is in the top set for the subject and regularly outperforms his top set classmates in tests. The Maths that he does is far beyond number lines and times tables.

He is into Quadratic Equations, Sohcahtoa and Pi.

He has reached that stage when Mathematics becomes a language that only the very fortunate understand.

I did not realise this fact yesterday when I offered to test him for an upcoming test. I confidently expected to be able to ask him some tricky and yet fairly straightforward sums, perhaps a little bit of simple algebra, before sitting him down to a lesson on how to discover the answer to that perennial question: "What does x equal?"

It didn't work out as expected.

Working out the angles of polygons and parallel lines was simple enough. But then came Factorising, Multiplying Out Brackets and (horrifically) Using N to work out Quadratic Sequences.

Trying desperately to maintain my dignity I decided to ask him to teach me just how to use N to work out a Quadratic Sequence - nodding sagely every time he paused for breath. However, within 30 seconds I realised that I had lost focus and had no idea where N fitted into a Quadratic Sequence. Or even, what on earth a Quadratic Sequence is.

My horror enfolded further when I realised that he had stopped talking and was asking me just how I would use N to work out a Quadratic Sequence.

Being a proud man I tried to bluster out an incoherent answer that could possibly sound like I had been listening and understanding everything my son and heir had been patiently explaining.

But he wasn't fooled.

"So Dad," he said, sighing patiently at his dopey father, "if we take that all into account, what does 3 take away 2 equal?"


It is when you find your son explaining his homework to you a second time only this time more slowly and with pauses for questions to ensure that you are still listening - that you realise that life has changed for ever.

No longer can I claim the wisdom of the elders over him  in all things. I may well have 29 years on him, however, when it comes to Quadratic Sequences I cannot hold a candle to his youthful understanding. It has passed into the misty, forgotten corners of my teenage school experience - like many things mathematical.

Speak soon

PS There are more musings on "You can tell they're growing up when ..." here.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

A Review Of Lego City Undercover For The Wii U

We love the Wii in our house.

We love the Nintendo party compilation and pitting our Miis against each other in Nintendo tennis and we like to tell ourselves that we have completed a real work out after running a virtual 100m in London 2012 - Wii style. The Wii is a genuinely family centred console.

So you can imagine our excitement when we were offered the new Wii U and one of it's most exciting new offerings - LEGO CITY UNDERCOVER - to trial.

The box was excitingly large and the packaging suitably difficult to break into to indicate that the Wii U was a very good thing indeed.

The Wii U pimps itself as the family's all in one entertainment centre.

And in a way it is.

Aside from the obvious gaming potential you also have the ability to connect to the internet, pick up Love Film and/or Netflix with a free 30 day trial, make video calls and laugh at your Dad trying to immortalise himself in the pixelated art of the Nintendo Wii-U (why do I always look like a ginger Joe 90?)

And there are many things to love about the Wii-U and Lego City Undercover.

We love the fact that you have 2 viewing screens - the TV and the screen within the controller which acts as a sort of command centre for the Undercover game.
We love the fact that the controller is easy to use.
We really love the fact that our old Wii games can still be played on the Wii U. It is genuinely refreshing and very rare to see that Nintendo did not decide to throw the baby out with the bath water and make us go out and buy new games for our machine.

In Lego City Undercover you play the part of "legendary police office Chase McCain" on the trail of hardened criminal Rex Fury. Using an array of disguises, Chase McCain's free-running skills and over 100 vehicles you have to capture him and bring him to justice.

This offering has all the features you would expect of a Lego game. The controls are intuitive, the game play relatively easy to understand and the Lego men and women walk and run in the stiff legged way you would expect them to. They also break into pieces when hit by cars - which is always amusing.

The one drawback is the game was only designed as a one player game. The Dubmeister loved the PC version of Lego Star Wars. One of the reasons for that was the dual player potential of the game. It was great fun to go on missions en famille, armed only with a light saber and a mouse. Lego City Underground does not have that facility which is a surprising oversight.

But that criticism aside this is an imaginative game which will keep your kids (and yourself) amused - especially if you have any lego nuts in your house.

Speak soon

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

The Weekend Picture No. 49

E and the Dubmeister beside the seaside, beside the sea
It was hot yesterday so we did what all right thinking English men and women should have done.

We went to the seaside.

We piled down the A3 to Southsea where we joined the throngs and had a great day for the following reasons:

1. The seaside is much nicer than the town when it is hot.
2. Southsea has Clarence Pier which sells food that is cooked in layers of fat and grease and tastes all the better for it.
3. Clarence Pier has an 80's throwback fun fair with rides that make you scream and/ or puke (if you have indulged in a number 2 (see above)) and a sound system which features up and coming artists like Duran Duran, Belinda Carlisle and Sinitta.
4. If you get bored of number 3 you can always hang out next to the hovercraft terminal and try to avoid getting sprayed as it powers into it's landing station.
5. The D-Day museum is fascinating, moving and eye-opening.
6. It didn't rain once!

Speak soon

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