daddy blogging


It’s been busy busy busy here at Newlands Manor, what with the little man getting tonsillitis, keeping up with work, and generally doing stuff non-stop. I think what I’ve discovered about parenting is that the mark of a decent parent seems to be the ability to never, ever stop working. No matter how much you’d like to just take a tiny bit of time off, you just have to keep plugging away day in and day out to keep the household ticking over.

And it’s exhausting. But rewarding.

On the good news front there continues to be progress in the garden. A friend gave us anothe feijoa, so hopefully one or both trees will fruit this or next year. I’ve put in a blackcurrant bush, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows. I finally demolished and removed the weird toilet sitting near the back door. We’ve put in some more bordering trees, and the vege garden is coming along well (thus far we have bok choy, broccoli, spinach and garlic. soon there will be potatoes and beetroot). Meanwhile, I almost took down the neighbours phone line trimming huge branches off trees.

garden doing well, though it's hard to see the plants past the mulches!

On the downside, we attended the J’Ville playcentre gala today and it was a disaster. Chef Du Plunge was determined to get onto the bouncy castle they had set up, and after a bit of fuss getting gumboots off and the like in he went.

What we didn’t know was how completely hopelessly organised the place was. More and more kids kept piling into the castle, some of them as old as five or six, and it was like a toddler riot in there. I was watching carefully, and the wee man was mostly ok. But. The idiots running the show hadn’t secured the castle. This meant it was slipping backwards towards it’s compressor, and the feeder piping was kinking, meaning the castle was slowly deflating. The next result was obvious, kids began to pile up in the middle Simpsonesque style, and our lad was under the whole pile. The older kids are still going hard out though, and jumping up and down on the toddlers, none of whom could move. Trouble was, none of the adults could see into the castle. Second Chef could see through a side window, but couldn’t get to him because of some safety meshing. Irony much?

The result was that I had to launch myself onto the castle, and commando-crawl over to a heap of screaming, petrified toddlers, reach in, and haul Chef out by his jumper. And all the while fending off leaping and jumping sugar-hyped primary children.

Not fun. Let’s just say I waited to the event had died down a little, went back, and provided some “robust advice” to the munters running the show. Needless to say, they were mortified to find out. Apparently the person responsible had kept it all pretty quiet.

Anywho… a couple of weeks ago we were at Bunnings buying a tree saw (the one I used today to almost electrocute myself), and they had a sale on. The result was this:

Awesome. And it was a song. Once assembled it looks like this:

I cheered the Chef by BBQing some lamb from the Riverside Market in the Hutt. Extremely, extremely delicious. I also BBQ’d chicken for dinner. Am looking for decent recipes to make breakfast on it.

Well, we made it to one year.

It’s been a good one too, involving such highlights as:

  • Travel to Karitane, Auckland, Papamoa, Furneaux Lodge, Sunny Raumati Beach.
  • A bullet-proof baby getting his innoculations, and hardly noticing them
  • Starting daycare with Barnadoes (highly recommended), and Second Chef returning to a workplace more happy than she left
  • Me starting new work just prior to the arrival of Chef Du Plunge
  • A restructure at work which threatened to leave a new Dad out of work…
  • The decision to up sticks and move to the suburbs*, with the consequent purchase of a property (we signed the deal last Monday, and we’re moving Wellington Anniversary weekend)
  • Both adults finally feeling that the city was just too noisy. But, three years here, it will be quite a change
  • The movement into the parenting circles, and whole new social sphere
  • Learning great songs like “The Grand Old Duke of York”, and “Purea Nei”
  • A great little guy coming along in huge, baby-sized strides.

In short he’s doing really well. He didn’t get his first cold until he started daycare, and since then Dad has had a cold almost non-stop. But, so be it.

He really is a great kid. He’s perceptive, clever, inquisitive, and vocal (yes, all parents think these things). Vocal especially. An example is his being woken up by the fireworks on Guy Fawkes, and being brought out into the kitchen at his aunt’s place to watch, and providing a running commentary with finger pointing. Cute as heck.

And in balance parenting isn’t such a drag. It’s lead to a lot of changes in our lifestyles, but nothing you can’t adjust too. Sure, we go out less, and not to extravaganza when we do, but… so what? The party goes on in the city without us, and things like boozing are only money sinks. We still have great hard-case times, with and without the wee man there. It’s been a change from outward-focussed attention, to an inward focus on our nuclear family, but we get to share it with others whenever we can.

All in all, not so bad.

With Chef Du Plunge verging on 10 months old I decided that it’s probably time for another update.

“Things going well”.

Not much more to state than that really! I did, just this very hour, watch him pulling himself up from sitting to standing because he wanted to see what was in the bath. And that is very exciting. His Tauranga grandma predicted that he’ll likely “just get up and walk”, and the testament is a lack of crawling combined with the willingness to stand (and if at all possible jump up and down) at every occasion.

Mind you, I’ve likely jinxed the whole thing…

The main change since the last posting is that the wee man has gone to day-care and has been coming home with the expected constant round of colds. I swear little kids are basically Petri dishes… No colds or flu for the first two years we’ve been in this apartment, but pretty-much non-stop sneezing since we sent him to care! No drama but. It’s just wipe up the muckus, ensure he’s sleeping alright (not too much of a drama, he’s never really slept through the night and we’re kind of used to it), and get on with it.

He’s a great kid though. Rarely unhappy, laughs when he gets himself into a difficult spot (say by falling over sideways), loves his mum and dad, has learned to play “when you’re happy and you know it” and “catch”, and likes to join in when everyone laughs. What more can you want than that?

In other news, his daycare is in Newlands, and we’re thinking pretty seriously about making the move up there. We’ve considered our options, and we simply can’t afford an apartment that has enough space AND the safety this little guy needs – actually, let me rephrase that – we’d need a mortgage so large that we would leave ourselves no ‘wiggle-room’, so we’re heading to the burbs. Second Chef’s parent’s are looking like they’ll sell us their place, while they move to a different clime, and there’s something special about bringing him up in his grandparent’s house.

Too many Kiwis only see houses as assets, when they should see homes, you know?

So big changes afoot here in the City. I’m doing my best to stay true to the green values, so there is lots of debate about the best method of travel, shortest travel times, minimising use of our second-hand car and the like. All good really.

Image lifted from this crazy site.

Actually… I’m not sure why I called this a “running start”, when Chef Du Plunge can’t even crawl yet.

Little Blonde Kid: My arm is sore from holding it up and attention seeking! Curly-haired Kid: Frickin show pony...

Little Blonde Kid: My arm is sore from holding it up and attention seeking! Curly-haired Kid: Frickin' show pony...

Today was the wee man’s first day of childcare. Naturally Second Chef was in two minds about the whole thing and there was a few moments of wanting to go rescue him! My opinion is that most mothers reading this would have experienced exactly the same anxiety, and doubtless have great advice.

While I personally had some small twinges (almost entirely centred on nervousness about letting strangers care for my boy), I figure that we’ve in effect committed him to his first days of education (so only 18 years until the really heavy lifting starts then?)

I say education because kids really do seem to benefit from day care. My lack of experience of childcare made me sceptical about the whole thing until “a friend” had one of their daughters in care during a difficult family time, and the stability of that child is a testament to the carers. Chef Du Plunge is hardly in a difficult family situation, and the good news is that he’s unlikely to be so, but the value he could gain from the exposure to other totts is likely to be high enough that this day care business could just about pay for itself in the “well balanced child” stakes.

And apparently he spent the better part of the day having his toys taken away by a child who can crawl, and being crawled on by said tyke. Personally? I this is a good thing. CDP is a big boy at 11.5 kg and 8 months, so his learning tolerance of other kids will in all probability save Second Chef and I many many trips to speak with teachers!

In other news, he’s doing really well. Second Chef has given “elimination communication” a go, and he seems to pretty regularly be using the toilet, which is, IMHO, amazing. He might not be learning to crawl as fast as other kids, but if he’s out of nappies earlier then we’ll hardly begrudge him sitting and smiling like a wee cherub for a bit longer.

He’s also an outright smiley and happy kid who is a joy to be around. There’s those moments all babies have, toys flying and the like, but, he is a baby after all.

And we love him to bits.

  1. Let me start by stating that I’m not about to dispense a bunch of helpful advice to people. This is because the very first thing I learned is that earnest, advice-giving parents are basically a pain in the arse… Every kid is different, so any advice is likely to be either useless or inappropriate, and you just need to muddle along doing the best you can.
  2. The next thing is that you soon get used to the smell of poo. The first few solid-food goes had the stomach turning, but now I know to just not breathe too deep, and get the offending article the hell out the way ASAP. We’re lucky enough to be using reusable nappies, so you just scoop the night-soil up in the handy liner thingy and flush that bad boy away before it makes the apartment unliveable.
  3. Feeding kids is probably the most fun ever. The little guy sure does love eating. The other day we were sitting in the bit of Manners Mall they’re not demolishing (and to hell with the rest of it, a haven for stupid emos – and little else), and some crazy people were busy yelling at each other about who-knows-what. But there’s me and Chef Du Plunge, a little island of calm, me feeding him tiny bits of the crust off a bacon and egg pie. He loved it. He kind of opens his mouth as wide as humanly possible and breathes in any and all nibbles that hove into view. We’re about 8 weeks away from Yum Char again… I cannot freaking wait.
  4. Nothing any of the books tell you, books being the best and most reliable assistance round here – even better than grandma – will prepare you for a 12kg 7 -month old who already has half a dozen teeth. Yup, half a dozen, 4 up top, 2 down low. We’re expecting his voice to change at around age 9.
  5. Kids just plain love their dads to bits. There a special place for mum, but having occasion to take Chef Du Plunge out to Te Papa at the weekend and observe a lot of other families? Dads rock! There’s something about the way kids look at them that is heart-warming in the extreme.
  6. Even taking care of one tacker is exhausting. I cannot imagine how tiring a whole bassle of kids must be. I can pretend to be working and have a little sleep at my desk. Housewives though? No such luck. Second Chef was talking to an old friend today, who is the father of NINE children. W.T.F! There’s some big love for you.
  7. Believe it or not, playing boo can be tiresome after awhile. For all concerned.
  8. Book your foetus into childcare as soon as you’re aware of them. We booked Chef Du Plunge in when he was 1 week in utero, and we only got something a week or two ago.
  9. Being a parent makes me understand my own family much, much more. Once upon a time they taught me all the things I’m now teaching, and loved me just as much.
  10. Life is fleeting, dangerous, and a gift. You have to love your kids from the very get-go, because they can be taken by fate at any minute. If you have time, use it to spend with them. In future you won’t remember what it was you could have otherwise being doing, but if the time is lost, you’ll always regret it.

Well, with Chef Du Plunge hitting 6 months old in a couple of days I thought I’d provide a quick check-in.

He’s doing good.

Not much more to say than that really. He’s doing swimmingly in the sleeping arena, having dropped to one wake-up a night, and very very recently, none at all. Second Chef is feeling much happier with this, even though she still wakes periodically during the night out of habit.

The biggest advance recently is in the sitting up and using the high-chair. He’s a big lad (10.5kg), so being able to sit up allows him to undertake his favourite activity, banging things loudly on anything that makes a sound, and being able to say, “aaaa-gooo”.

We’re doing OK as well.

Thanks for asking.

Note: Someone elses tacker.

Note: Someone else's tacker.

Around the time we discovered we had Chef Du Plunge on the way people starting asking if we were going to give up our inner city apartment and move to the burbs. We resisted the idea in conversation, arguing that kids all over the world grow up in apartments, and how bad could it be.

Well, five calendar months in and the boy is doing well, he’s a whopping 10.3kg, extremely healthy, and teething – which has involved a lot of sleepness nights lately. Actually, here’s something interesting. He used to grin in this huge, whole face grin like the one pictured. But since his two bottom teeth have come thru his grin has changed into something like a grimace. I’m thinking that he’s trying to copy the way that adults around him smile? Thing is, we’re thinking that this is normal. Because who actually smiles like the wee tacker pictured? Crazy people, that’s who.

Anyhow. The apartment is just starting to get a little too small. It’s ok, because we’re not damp and are very warm. And in Wellington winters that’s all you need. But Second Chef and I are starting to notice that the space needed for three people is just a tiny bit more than for two, and we both think that CDP is likely to be your typically noisy boy.

So, we’re thinking seriously about making the move out to someplace cheaper. I say someplace cheaper because we could move into a three-bedroom apartment in the city, but for some reason the stock of 3-roomers is really low, pushing prices through the room (both to rent and to buy). Plus, Cuba Street isn’t exactly toddler-friendly. If we were closer to the Aro Valley we might be ok sending CDP outside to play, and not have to worry about him being collected by a bus and deposited in Island Bay.

There’s also the fact that any place we move to has to accomodate the cost of transport to and from work. Why pay the same rent only to then pay more for transport? That would effectively increase our costs and drive Frugal Me round the twist.

The trouble is that these considerations limit where we can live. Mt Victoria is too expensive. A three bedroom place there would set up back a fortune, just as it would in Thorndon, or even parts of Mt Cook.

So this leaves the horrifying option of the Hutt, in response to which I would rather stab needles into my ears and bleed to death slowly, or one of the east/west suburbs around Wellington. Kilbirnie is too noisy on account of the airport, and anything east of there is too far from CDP’s grandparents. West of the city is Karori, which is a very real option, along with the cheaper bits of Kelburn and Northland.

Otherwise, we’re looking at someplace in the north like Johnsonville.

The main consideration is distance. What I don’t want to have to do is waste money owning a car, AND paying to go everywhere I used to walk. Plus CDP seems to love being in the out of doors, so the neighbourhood needs to be walkable.

It irks me to have to think seriously about all this. But after talking it over with Second Chef this evening over dinner three words popped into my head and near-completely sold me on the idea.

Fun. Renovation. Projects.

The current idea is that we rent in a suburb for awhile, and maybe buy something cheap and fixable. After all, which Peter Pan doesn’t like to build forts?

Well, the not so wee man is coming along nicely. We had the 5 month Plunket visit yesterday and the nurse was very taken with him, but who wouldn’t be, right?

And he is definitely the bumper crop. Weighting in at a healthy 10.2kg, and 74cm tall (that’s 22.4 pounds and 29.3 inches for those still using the old money), he’s definitely a strapping lad.

After what we thought we initial problems with food, he’s onto the solids, and has taken to it heartily. Thus far:

  • baby rice: likes? check
  • banana: likes? check
  • avocado: likes? maybe
  • kumara: likes? find out tomorrow.

In other news, he has two bottom teeth cutting through today! This is well good news, until he bites someone… Probably Second Chef. And they’re sharp little blighters, bound to hear a yell any day now.

And the fathering experience on average?

I bumped into an old flatmate this evening, and could only say that the experience has been positive. There’s those day when he just yells all the freaking time, but then there’s the time you come home and from work and he just wants to look at you and smile, for minutes on end.

Then he’ll throw up on my shirt or trousers.

All in all, if you and your partner are talking about it, or just thinking it over, just go for it. Even if you think you can’t afford to. It’s worth it.

Well, we’re about 26 hours back from @glynnfoster and @jaynew‘s wedding at Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough sounds, and I think I’ve almost recovered. What a smashing event.

Originally we thought we’d leave Chef Du Plunge at home with his grandma, but he was off the bottle about a month ago and there’s been no convincing him that it’s not a bad thing. I was even starting to show him the bottle first thing in the morning (when he hadn’t eaten for several hours), and he’d just look at the thing with this expression like “what you taking ’bout Willis?” And that would be the end of the conversation.

The first hurdle was getting CDP through two ferry trips, one of three+ hours to Picton, then another 1 1/2 to the Lodge. The next was discovering that the bunkrooms we organised were, essentially, camping. Outdoor toilet block and pay-showers included. The good news is that I like camping, so it wasn’t a problem, just… a bit of a shock, and we had no preparation for it.

We made it through the first night without incident, except for the lights outside the bunkroom not switching off and CDP thinking that it was dawn. And pretty much all night. He’d wake up and kind of go, “gaaaaaaaaaaaaa, goo! gaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAAAaaaaa, goo!” for about 30 minutes at a time. Cute? Yes. Annoying? Not really. At least he wasn’t hollering. We figured it was his way of saying, “wake up!! play time!!” The next night we had a quick word to the owner of the place and he happily had the lights switched off. Sweet as.

Man, what scenery. I think growing up in New Zealand I’m pretty much spoiled for natural beauty. Consequently things like Sounds with all that greenery don’t really flick my switch, but there was a time when I was walking back to the reception tent, near dusk, after checking that CDP was still sleeping in the room, and rain clouds were perched in the tops of the surrounding ridges, with fog-like tendrils floating down the gullies and through the trees.

Gorgeous.

Those same rain clouds had threatened the ceremony earlier in the day, but fortunately the wedding celebrant was well onto it, and had the whole shebang finished within seconds of the rain starting. The bride and groom has just walked away, now officially married, from the altar and into the Lodge when the rain started to spatter the guests. The accompanying Southerly merely assured that all the guests huddled for the better part of the evening.

The reception itself was terrific, with a more than adequate MC, and only one embarrassing relative incident (which was hilarious in retrospect, agonising at the time). And the food? Man… the food. Some of the chef’s ways made me think he was likely an arsehat (i.e. only serving food at 9am the next morning, buffet only, not options, with a bunch of guests sailing at or around 930? wtf?), but his food was awesome. The scallops in vanilla butter? nomnomnomnom.

And CDP? Sailed through it like a trooper. Charmed the ladies. Puked on no-one important (besides mum and dad). Slept on command (almost). And even handled the extremely rough seas heading back into Wellington. Man. Took us 8 hours to get from the Sounds back to home, and he did a great job of keeping it together while children were falling to pieces around us.

So all in all a great holiday. I’m far from refreshed for work, but the wedding itself is something I’ll write about in detail on another day. Let’s just say that some people deserve to he happy, and @jaynew is one of them. I’ve not know her long, and still not well, but everything I hear says that she’s one out of the box. Jayne, if you read this, I can’t imagine anyone else who more deserves what I think you now have.

Well, what with babies waking up so early and all it’s probably a good thing I’ve given up drinking but for the very occasional beer. Man… I haven’t slept past 6.30am for longer than I can remember. Strangely, part of that is spending much of last year starting work at 8am! So I was well prepared for the transition. Likewise the oft-whinged-about heart trouble meant that before my operation I rarely slept a full night for about 18months, so exhaustion was pretty much par for the course.

All that said, am a little bit tired.

As I may have mentioned, Sunday is Father-Son Day, when Chef Du Plunge and I head out into the city to get things done. There are often trips to Mitre10, occasional trips to Moore Wilsons, but usually a trip to somewhere for “Dad to find coffee”.

The upside is that I’m very fond of coffee. The other upside is that CDP absolutely despises his pram. I think he sees it lurking in the living room and he seems to bear a deep and abiding suspicion of it. Yes… the evil pram… tool of his arch-enemy… the midday nap.

The truth of the matter is that I want him awake while we’re out and about, and sleeping when he’s supposed to be, which gives me time to get stuff done. Consequently we’ve been using a front-pack to cart the wee man about. It’s a good one that can support a child up to 12kg, and we’ll need every gram of space in it. The other reason he seems to hate the pram is that it’s constricting. CDP is a bit of a free spirit, and doesn’t like being locked into things; car-seats included. Alternately it could be because he’s twice the size of an infant his age – as big as your average 7-month old…

So. No pram. Must use front-pack. But this allows me to wander into a shop as small as Simply Paris on Cuba St, chat to the barista, “Yes yes, extremely cute beby. One short black coffee and the ham/cheese croissant please. Merci”, then stand outside at the “leaner” tables and sip my coffee, whilst also nibbling a pastry.

CDP coos at passersby, and occasionally waves his arms, all in the safety and warmth of “The Elite“, and never complaining about my leaving pastry crumbs on his noggin.

At around 9.40 I wander home, have him changed out of his nappy, and into bed by 10am. Where he cries until he falls asleep.

Pretty cruisy right?

Well, right. It is cruisy. Which is why I wonder about two things. Why in hell you’d live in the suburbs with a small child like CDP. Wandering around the block to amuse a bored baby just makes for a more bored Dad. The other thing is why some people see this as a constraint on their freedom?

It’s a great cliche that guys see fatherhood as “the loss of their freedom”.

But the freedom to do what? Sink booze? Play Wii? Not get action and complain about being single?

Sure a change of lifestyle is necessary when you swap to parenting, but it’s hardly all hard graft. Most blokes I know have had to give up something, but… so what? When you have that little blighter smiling and you in the morning because they’re so damn happy to see you, it’s worth every video game I should have grown out of 10 years ago.

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