Archive | November, 2012

Ice, Ice, Baby

28 Nov

The mercury is rising and that familiar sweaty, squinty, sticky look that is reserved for the summer months is back with a vengeance. There are lots of ways to keep cool this summer, Europeans for example like to wear no clothes, but for the less adventurous it’s the perfect time to indulge you and your family in some ice cool goodness and I am not talking beer flavoured slurpees. Without further ado here are three fantastic recipes that I often turn to for instant relief on those hot days. They are all very easy to make, child friendly and cheap -win, win, win! Due to the amount of sucking, slurping and licking of fingers that these recipes will require I am going to ask that you read them in the style of that sultry temptress or pain in the arse, you decide, Nigella Lawson.

Banana Choc Thick Shake

Three ingredients is all you need for this one folks! 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, 1 frozen banana and 350 mls of milk. I discovered this recipe when I had a glut of bananas that were more brown than yellow. I peeled them, broke them into pieces and stored them in a bag in the freezer, I think I was just hiding them to be honest. I blitzed one up in a blender with some milk and I was transported to American diner thick shake heaven! There must be something scientific going on and I can’t actually be bothered to check what it might be BUT the freezing process makes the shake very thick and very creamy. As a self confessed Chocaholic I naturally add cocoa powder and it pays off in a big way. I sometimes tweak it with a little cinnamon or honey but its all about the freezing! Add a straw and suck like you know Nigella would. Max often has it for desert and its my go to breakfast on the go.

Mint and Lemon Iced Tea
After getting sucked into Melbourne’s coffee habit I have been dabbling in a bit of tea of late and very nice it is too. Tea and sweat don’t go we’ll together though so I came up with this recipe to cool the whole situation down and Max loves it! Brew some mint tea (enough for a jug), add fresh mint if you have any kicking around, add a chopped lemon and honey to taste  – I like to get a real hit of citrus in mine. Leave the whole concoction to get to know each other and then strain it into glasses, add enough ice to give you brain freeze and slurp like Nigella. If your little’un is having trouble sleeping whack some camomile tea in their too, put it in their pre-bed bottle and bam! Other worthy ingredients include, orange, apple juice and ginger.
Fruit Icy Pole
Nothing particularly novel about this one, but again it’s quick, cheap and healthy so it’s worthy of a shout. If I have time I like to go to the market and stock up on juicy fruit but alternatively you can just buy a good juice and that works just aswell. Flavour combos I keep coming back to are apple, mint and ginger or pear, apple and lime. But its all down to what works for you and yours and having a little bit of experimentation with the kids, before you know it your engaged in wholesome Nigella-like bonding with your children, I’m sure she’s not like that off camera! Pour the juice into the moulds (you can pick them up in £2 Shops or cooking stores if your rich) and place in the freezer. Don’t fall into the trap of watering them down, more science at play here, it seems to crystalize the lollies and they become brittle. Max loses his shit now when I go anywhere near the freezer. 
There you have it folks three easy peasy recipes guaranteed to put the chill in your children this summer.

Let’s Talk About Sex (Post) Baby

27 Nov

You can’t really claim to be a bona fide blogger, until you write a post embarrassing enough for the next conversation you have with your mum to be a little awkward. So here goes. For reasons unbeknownst to me I feel compelled to go into the deep and murky waters of SEX post-baby.  I suspect that mums are far more likely to discuss this topic than Dads, we mainly discuss sport, beer and the weather you see, so in the spirit of sharing I think it’s only fair you have a dad’s perspective.

Sex pre-Max was a little like good beer, it was on tap and it put a smile on my face. Whilst watching on with morbid curiosity as Mrs Under’s nipple was rhythmically thrust back and forth through a pump, I wondered if sex would ever occur again. Breast pumps have all the aphrodisiac potential of a hairy man in a thong…………..or so I am told anyhow.

There is no shortage of contraceptive symptoms for life post baby. There is the fact that you have recently witnessed a blue creature emerge from a place that is normally reserved for the two of you. Watching Mrs Under give birth combined an overwhelming sense of joy and beauty with an overwhelming desire to look away and/or faint.

Once mother and child are safely home the chances of any amorous behaviour is curtailed by the fact that everyone is asleep, exhausted or in tears. Throw in a ready supply of baby sick, the afore mentioned pump that reduced Mrs Under to a dairy cow, a wife coming to terms with some bodily adjustments, a mysterious little person I don’t really know sharing our bedroom and a husband trying to come to terms with all of the above and you do not have the makings of a passionate encounter.

On those tough parent days, you know the ones I mean,  we both look at one another and without saying anything acknowledge that it was sex that got us into this mess in the first place and should therefore be regarded a s the enemy. Even the simple pleasure of holding hands has its challenges, one of you is generally laden with nappies and other baby paraphernalia whilst the other is pushing a pram, two handed jobs if ever there were.

Time is a wonderful healer though and like a long lost pet you once loved (another really awful analogy) the sex has returned – hoorah! The act of foreplay is now checking and double checking that Max is asleep and it’s every bit as satisfying to find out that he is. No longer like a good beer sex now bares comparison to a fine wine, getting better with age and reserved for special occasions.

I am off to seek Mrs Under’s approval for this post, what you read will have had 50 Shades of Censorship for anything divorce worthy. I suspect that this is all a little tame for the subject matter and for that I apologise, but I am a man and I did try, so I deserve points for that surely? I look forward to that awkward conversation with my Mum.

Virtual Babies

22 Nov

Raising Max without the love and support of our family has not been easy. There are the practical challenges of not being able to call up the grandparents to grant us a much needed parental time out and we’ve had to learn things on the job so to speak rather than benefit from the wise words of those who have been there and done that. But far more gut wrenching than that is that we know they are missing out on Max growing up and Max misses out on their wrinkly smiles.

Max is a virtual baby growing up in front of their eyes on a computer screen. They see him smile, laugh and cry, but miss the small habits and behaviours that he shares only with us and make him Max. He recognises the Skype ringtone and comes bounding into the room to see who it is who wants to see him point, dance, wave and peek-a-boo for their amusement. It’s fair to say Max has gone viral, like the cat that plays the keyboard. I made the mistake of Skyping my parents recently without Max, thinking it would be nice to have a little catch up minus the main attraction, and was politely but promptly asked to beckon the boy. 

Max is now so familiar with the virtual wrinklies that he will say “nanna” and point at the computer screen, this habit is equal parts adorable and heart breaking. To their credit the grandparents are doing what grandparents should and spoiling him at every opportunity, he receives brown packages at regular intervals (and they don’t smell like his brown packages), I’m sure the postman suspects we are running an elaborate drugs cartel, chock full of toys, books and clothes.

We braved the 30 hour flights to Good Ol Blighty in the early days when Max was 6 months and was largely mute and immobile, he is neither now. What was meant to be a beautiful moment at the airport when my Dad (who has opted for the unconventional title of G-Paps) was handed Max for the first time was ruined by Max howling like a hostage. We had 4 weeks with our families and it was such a welcome novelty to hand him over to someone else, pour a stiff gin and tonic, sit back and enjoy watching on as everyone got acquainted.

One of the few positives to come out of the situation is knowing that we have shaped this amazing little boy, just the two of us all on our own, and that makes us immensely proud. From a personal point of view I have dodged any well intentioned tutorials on nappy changing or bath time, I’m a graduate of the school of stubborn and like to make my own mistakes, and as you’ve probably noticed I’ve made a few.

The Mother-in-Law is making the long journey next month and it will be fantastic to see the two of them enjoying one another’s company. I’m sure when it comes time to saying goodbye again we will be left asking “why does Australia have to be so far from everywhere else?” After all I have firsthand experience of how special the relationship with grandparents can be.  

Is an Occasional Massage Too Much to Ask For?

20 Nov

At around 5pm regular as clockwork Monday to Friday, both myself and The Boy start to count down to Mum’s grand return. Max will sink deep into a trance-like state repeating the mantra ”Mummy, Mummy, Mummy” over and over again, ungrateful little so and so. I begin checking my watch, initially with a casual glance but soon building up to something more desperate with frenzied looks every two minutes. Max looks forward to a hug, a kiss and a cuddle and I look forward to throwing Max at Mrs Under, slumping into the sofa and closing my eyes for five minutes or as long as I can get away with.

Mrs Under must feel very special indeed with both her boys barely able contain their excitement on seeing her. As a stay at home parent I seem to pace my day to Mrs Under’s return, giving all the energy and love I can muster up until I can take off my attentive father hat and put on my lazy husband hat. The worst phone call I can receive is Mrs Under calling at 5:30pm to say that she has to work late – “but Mrs Under” I begin to remonstrate “I have spent nearly all my energy and love in anticipation of you walking through the door any minute now, I couldn’t possibly love and care for another whole hour!” Turns out I normally can, but it’s begrudging, through gritted teeth, slightly forced, feeling ripped off love.

This is normally the perfect opportunity for Mrs Under to remind me of the phone calls she used to receive from me when she stayed at home. I was not pleading my case to work late; I was issuing my right to go for a well earned post work beer. “Mrs Under” I would say in a slightly patronising voice “I have had a very tough day in the office doing whatever it is that I do. You on the other hand have had a blissfully relaxing day with Max, no doubt cafes, shopping and parks all played a prominent part”. I even once had the audacity to suggest that I should be allowed five minutes when I got back from work just to gather my thoughts before I had to engage in any fatherly duties.

I think it took all of one day in full charge of the Max situation for me to reform my ways, give Mrs Under a big kiss, make my apologies and realise what most men don’t ever get to realise – being a stay at home parent is damned hard work!  Of course I helped out but perhaps I could have helped out more. Of course I was sympathetic but not sympathetic enough. Of course I tried to empathise but I could have empathised further.

Being able to share Max’s upbringing has not only led to a deeper bond with The Boy it has also fostered a profound understanding for what Mrs Under went through and has cemented us as a couple. We have a mutual understanding and respect for what each other does. I understand what it’s like to close the door on a child that desperately does not want me to leave only to have to go to a job I desperately don’t want to go to. Mrs Under understands that sometimes a day with Max can all be too much. We both understand that post work drinks are a rare treat issued at the discretion of the other, rather than a right.

So a message to all the men and women out there who have not been fortunate to ride the stay at home journey, a little more empathy, a little more sympathy and a little more help would go a long way. And for goodness sake is an occasional massage too much to ask for?

Taking the Me Out of Meat

18 Nov

Whilst I continue to wait patiently for something to happen in my veggie plot, zucchinis, capsicum, eggplant, cucumber, tomato, basil, rocket and chilli’s are all in a happy place, I thought I would try to explain or perhaps justify my reasons for saying yes to no meat. I am only about three months into my new life as a vegetarian but I know this man’s not for turning.

Even the word vegetarian comes with preconceptions. When you close your eyes and try to conjure up a vision of what a vegetarian looks like it’s hard to shake the image of a slightly out there, alternative hippy type pedalling notions of free love and peace on earth. I don’t tend to pedal that, although it would be quite nice, I have never owned a dreadlock, my fire throwing is appalling, tie dye is not part of my wardrobe and I don’t have a sidekick dog.

When I tell people I have kicked the carnivore I am faced with a look of utter shock bordering on dismay. Indeed when Mrs Under told her Mum, a traditionalist it’s fair to say, her reaction was, “oh Anna why have you done that” it was as if she had just confessed to torturing a puppy or some other heinous crime. The other reaction might be, “I just couldn’t live without bacon”. I myself have spent 33 years convincing myself that meat is the best thing since sliced bread, so to speak. But it hasn’t been difficult at all, you adjust your mindset, ignore your prejudices and it all just happens. Like smokers trying to kick their habit, the veggie curious will put preventative bacon flavoured barriers in place.

All the way up until my last days as a meat eater I tried to buy free range and organic but it was just too expensive. The money I now save on expensive meats goes towards buying extra good oils, cheeses, breads, cereals, etc, the gourmet shit.

It’s amazing how quickly my relationship with meat has changed. Even the word ‘meat’ sounds a little more barbaric than it used to, I have to hold my breath when we walk through the butchers section at the market and I don’t have to question what sort of life the zucchini I am chomping on led before it met my mouth – I grew it!  

It has reinvigorated my love for cooking, it was previously too easy to throw some meat at the situation with a little token veg to score some health points. Since my conversion I have to try much harder, I love food and would not settle for simply eating nut loaf night after night, who would, so I have needed to be more adventurous and more creative. I am certainly eating a higher quality of food than I was in the meat years.

I am eating healthier than ever before, one of the reasons I converted is because I kept hearing that the diet leaves you feeling more energised. My body no longer has to break down the porterhouse steaks that I used to inhale in seconds.  Cheeses, herbs, spices, dressings, vegetables, pastas, breads, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, beans, pulses, grains, oils are all stepping up and vying for attention on my plate. Rather than having a central meaty focus my meals tend to be a smorgasbord of bits and pieces. After realising my jeans were starting to feel a little loose around the waist it’s easy to justify a glass or two of wine, some fairly extravagant deserts and not to mention second helpings at mealtimes. Fattening up is a new experience and I’m quite enjoying it.

Looking for fresh inspiration to make the journey smoother and more enjoyable I wanted a veggie bible to show me the light. After a lot of research, I get quite anal when it comes to research I usually research to the point of mental breakdown, I purchased Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s “River Cottage Veg Everyday”. Yes that is the bloke who took great delight in cooking up and gobbling down placenta. It is however a fantastic book and I would recommend it to veggie and carnivore alike.  Rather than trying to conjure up dishes that desperately try to replace meat, the book asks that you ignore it all together and focus on how great vegetables are.

If any of this came across as preachy that was not my intention, these are my reasons and I couldn’t give a burger what you do. I still buy and prepare meaty meals for Max (remembering that I am no longer allowed to lick my sausagey fingers), he can make that choice himself one day. I feel it will become a choice that more and more people are going to make and okay Australia might be a fairly hard nut to crack. I look back and wonder why on earth it took me so long to switch allegiances.  Now if you’ll all excuse me I am off to activate Pete Evans almonds.

Blogger Children

17 Nov

Blogger children have evolved from regular children and are a relatively new breed. The first Blogger Children were sighted in the late 80’s, they are now globally rampant and threatening to displace regular children.

Blogger children are more independent than regular children, they have to be, they are forced to fend for themselves for large periods of the day whilst their parent fannies around with Instagram and Pinterest. They are largely starved of attention and are forced to delve into their vivid imaginations, often inventing games that last for hours on end armed with nothing more than an i-Pad. Mimicking behaviour sees blogger children show unhealthy levels of fascination in phones, laptops and computers, in fact anything with lights and buttons.

Their habitat is usually a little dishevelled and there is a good reason for this, whilst regular parents spend their days ensuring that their nests are kept clean and tidy, the Blogger Parent is too busy ‘networking’ to give a damn about the hoovering or emptying the dishwasher.

Whilst regular children enjoy a healthy and nutritious diet lovingly prepared by their regular parents, the Blogger Parent is known for their habit of making half arsed sandwiches or special toast sandwiches. Having frittered away three hours of Blogger Child sleep time in a flurry of Facebook Status Updates, the Blogger Parent is left in a state of panic and putting something between two slices of bread is usually the best they do.

Blogger Children grow up with a sense of self importance and often see themselves as Alpha children, they habitually mock Regular Children pointing out that they are not worthy of a website entirely in their honour.

Blogger Children are social creatures, this is a survival technique, unlike regular children who spend their days at parks and the beach, Blogger Children spend an exorbitant amount of their time at ‘events’. Blogger Children can show signs of anger at said events, doing their best to accommodate PR interns who have been promoted to Blogger Child minders for the day. Their mood lifts a little as they forage for items of interest in the ubiquitous goodie bag.

The vocabulary of a Blogger Child also separates them from their regular peers. Whilst mumma and dadda seems to be high up on the regular child’s speaking agenda, Blogger Children are more likely to say widget or gone viral.

It is uncertain whether Blogger Children will continue to thrive, but it seems the global thirst for cupcake recipes and tips on toilet training will see them reach endemic proportions. If you want to see one in the wild head to your nearest cafe that offers free wi-fi. Do not pet them, feed them or even have eye contact with them, they are wild animals.

Hunting in Packs

14 Nov

Today I was sat with Max in a cafe, we have taken to bringing crayons along and he now happily sits on a stool and draws pictures. He will scribble away and then point at the resulting chaos and say “car”, he will point at the most frenzied scrawl and say “wheel” and then scan for the most circular scribble and make a steering gesture. I do what any parent would do and pat him on the head in congratulations of his fine work. He will then start eating the crayons and art class is over.

When I’m not critiquing Max’s artwork I tend to listen to the conversations that are taking place around me. I listened to the cyclists, you can’t not hear the cyclists they seem to talk louder than is required, get overexcited about their respective bikes – it was like a conversation with Max I understood the odd word here and there but most of it was technical bike gibberish.  I listened to the couple who only seem to disagree on things, I listen to them most days and they are yet to find common ground on anything. I listen to the girl on her I-phone strategising her night out, from outfit to venue and back to outfit.

The real action was going on at the table next to us, three mums were deep in chatter about a fourth Mum. It started off fairly tamely, with one mum explaining why their usual quartet was reduced to a trio, number 4 was meeting up with other friends that day. Boring I thought to myself, but probably more potential than the cyclists indulging in bike porn, the couple that shouldn’t be and the girl with a fabulous new dress.

My ears pricked up when one of the mums began to question Absent Mum’s decision to return to work and call on childcare. I discretely drop Max’s crayon and shuffle my little stool across to be closer to the action, blame Mrs Under she has taught me all I know about earwigging. With first blood drawn, the 2 listening Mums, smelt blood and sensed it was time to move in for the kill. Poor Absent Mum was stripped bare and left for dead as the trio set about questioning, mocking and generally attacking a series of Absent Mum’s parenting choices – her choice to still breastfeed and her decision to let Absent Child cry it out. Things then took a more unpleasant and vicious tone as her wardrobe was ridiculed (not the piece of furniture but its contents), her age was brought into question and even poor Absent Husband found himself in the firing line, apparently he doesn’t earn what he should. It was along and drawn out affair that required me to order another soy latte.

I recently opened an unintentional can of worms on my Facebook site by asking Mums for their thoughts on mothers groups and some of the lively debates that are prevalent. I was shocked by the response and received more comments than I have received for any other update I have posted and the comments were bristling with emotion. There was a real mixture of positive feedback about Mother’s Groups and some negative stating all manner of potential flair ups. It seems to be ingrained in the human psyche to analyse and criticise things that are done differently to our own.

In the early days before I found me some parent buddies to call my own, I found staying at home with Max to be isolating and lonely, but I would take isolating and lonely over what I overheard this morning. I love that me and Max have largely got acquainted without unwanted outside interference or judgement. Perhaps I still crop up in some bitching circles for letting Mrs Under go to work whilst me and Max have a grand old time getting up to all manner of mischief, but on the whole I’ve been allowed to make my own parenting decisions without prejudice. Every parent has the right to decide what is best for their child, that’s sort of our job, and to have something so personal and important torn apart by others must be humiliating and belittling. I have lots of my own ways to humiliate and belittle myself and don’t need any outside help!

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the illiterate infant

An Aussie Daddy blogger that's figured out the kids haven't read the books either

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