All the smiles, stresses, stories and product reviews.
I'm a daddy of a little Munchkin, while approaching 30 myself and him 16 months. I wanted to build a blog and Instagram to show a daddy side to parenting as we are a little under represented in social media and blogging.
When you first think about having a little one you’ll quickly realise that there are many classes avalible, from baby massage to baby sensory. However, taking cost and (more importantly) your precious time into account on top of the multitude of free classes you want to attend its hard to get to everything you want to do. Believe me, even on parental leave I struggled to balance the classes we carefully chose to attend.
So here is my number one class. It had to be baby swimming.
People without children always get surprised when I say we are taking Munchkin for his swimming lesson at the weekend. It seems unbelievable to them that you can take them at 19 months, even though you can actually start at 6 weeks with baby classes.
Our swimming class (Babybliss, Cambridgeshire) consists of splashing songs, fetch the toy games as well as core swimming skills. At 19 months we have already dipped our toes into independant swimming.
From six months old, the classes teach water confidence and aids their development and reflexes. But more importantly than that its also for safety. It teaches the little ones what to do if they swallow water, to spit rather than swallowing firstly, and how to hold on to the side and climb out. Useful skills if they ever accidentally enter water.
With swimming being part of the national curriculum and a pivotal part of any family holiday it was a no brainer to start swimming lessons so young, especially knowing he will be safe with his water skills in the future.
From the moment we started trying for a ‘Baby G’, now known as Munchkin, I had created a list of products I wanted for him or her when they were old enough. At the top of that list, a Mutable by Mukako (https://uk.mukako.com/en/). We have had it over a month, and it hasn’t disappointed.
What is a Mutable?
The Mutable is an Italian designed multi activity table for kids up to the age of 8 as it grows with them. The table is made of a beautiful wooden design, with a modern shape and a splash of colour. It has screw on legs, with additional pieces to enable it to grow in height as your child grows.
There is an insert in the top which houses the ‘multi activity’ components. These are wooden discs which change the table from a simple table, to a lego or duplo table, a chalk board or white board, a round puzzle board or a city or world landscape. There is also further options such as playhouses, multi level lego towers, wooden train sets or playdough moulds.
For older children, there are app enabled toys and games, such as numbers and letters and ‘DISKcover’ history and geography.
Daddy and Munchkin’s view.
As I said in my intro the Mutable does not disappoint. From the morning it was constructed, Munchkin was eager to play with his cars on the town landscape, scribble with giant chalk on the white board and take his wooden train or cuddly toys for a ride up high.
Daddy loves it as its self contained. Every activity is stored within the table. There’s an attached pen/chalk pot which will be useful when Munchkin is older, and a storage bag for tidying up, which is filled by simply removing the centre and pushing the toys through the hole.
Overall I cannot fault it, and can’t wait to buy extra toys and games and use it as a learning tool for numbers/letters and humanities in the future. The only drawback is the price, but when you consider the amount of time it can be used with its variety of uses, its was an easy equation for us.
When the letter to return to work arrived my heart sank, whilst many may have struggled with lockdown and restrictions, we have relished in the bonus time together with our little Munchkin. If you have had a hard time, I am sorry and don’t worry, for that I feel very guilty.
But with a 15 month old at the start of furlough, we got to spend so much precious extra time together. I was luckily furloughed on full pay and Natalie had a lot to do to support her children she teaches, but could do a lot at home with us as well.
However, this time came to an end when I returned to my normal place of work, even if not for my normal job. And thats where the lack of normality begins. My hours are different and the job is different. We have queued to arrive at work, and to leave at home time and my closest friends are still working from home. Though that said, its been good to form bonds and develop friendships with those I haven’t had chance to before.
For Munchkin, he has returned to nursery this week ending his dream 6 months with Daddy and then Mummy. We have done, and developed, so much over this time, but it will be great for him to be back with kids his age to play and build friendships with. This is now the start of the stark difference from the nice and relaxed, peaceful furlough time to the mad rush again from home to nursery to work and back.
The alleviation of lockdown has meant it has also been nice to visit family again, without staying garden bound and feeling like we shouldn’t even use the bathroom. Although, we are still far from the times of hugs and proper contact. Luckily for the Nanny’s, the return to nursery also means the return to Nanny childcare days. That’ll be good for them and Munchkin both. I know for sure its been very hard not seeing him properly for so long.
So while everything is different, let’s enjoy this time before the inevitable ‘second spike’ we have been warned of, which could be on the horizon. Though, let’s hope it doesn’t happen. As much as I enjoyed furlough, I dont think the country can afford to do it again…
To all those still suffering from anything Covid related, me and Munchkin are sending socially distance digital hugs.
We discovered Munchkin’s love of nature young on a trip to a Natural Trust garden when he was just months old. His faced glowed as he admired the trees towering above him, the plants floating on the lake, the birds flying above and the beauty of the flowerbeds. Now at 17 months, on stormy days he crawls to the window of his playroom, stands, and tries to reach the handle to get outside.
Writing this in lockdown, the situation has been slightly different with being limited to our garden and the local area. At home, we make sure we get into the garden whenever we can. We take some toys, but he soon gets distracted by the bugs that crawl across his mat. He has learnt how while he can stoke a cat, he shouldn’t stoke a delicate bug, and this makes for a proud Daddy. We planted some sunflower seeds and so are watching them grow day by day and learning what they need to grow. We will soon see them flowering too which is very exciting.
We are mid – garden development currently (although we may be mid-development for a while). Lucky for Munchkin, the future plans now include a mud kitchen, bug hotel and bird feeding station 😊. We have chillies and tomatoes growing this year but will set up a planter so he can grow and learn about all different kinds of vegetables this time next year.
It’s fascinating to let Munchkin roam free in the garden, see where he goes and what interests him. If its not a bit of mud to squelch, he always admiring a new plant, or weed intruder on our new grass. He also often can just sit there and watch the birds overhead, pointing them out to us or having little conversations with them.
When we walk, which we do daily, we often try to escape the paths and roads and find ourselves powering down farm tracks or into fields. We admire the trees and we ‘talk’ about the farm fields and the crops, the wind turbines providing natural energy and the beauty of natural spots away from the hustle and bustle of the town.
We recently found a huge field, just a short walk away which is the perfect spot for spontaneous picnics to explore the outdoors during lockdown. Its also been a perfect spot to count and wave at the numerous dogs, and more recently we also met a lovely little man of a similar age.
We recently took Munchkin back to the original National trust property which fuelled his love of the outdoors. We had opportunity to spot a rabbit and a frog, admired the plants and trees and enjoyed the fresh air.
When we are outdoors I’m always explaining what we can see, whether that be the plants and animals, or how wind turbines utilise natural energy. While we have these conversations with him, I know he’d rather hear about ‘Incy wincy spider’ or the ‘Five Little Ducks’, however I feel by talking to him about everything, including the natural world so young, he will learn to fully appreciate it.
When we thought about the future and cycling we decided a great first birthday present would be a trike (kindly bought by his Grandparents). This would allow us to push him then let him pedal when hes ready and steer after that.
We visited Smyths, being the only children’s store left around here (what is that about?!) and there were clearly only a few players. Q Play had the largest range with an entry model (comfort), mid range (Rito) and top end (Prime). We went for the Rito, as we didn’t see the need for rear facing in the Prime but wanted the foldability and safety functions like brakes the Rito has over the comfort.
The Q play Rito is light to lift, and easy to control. Munchkin is still in parent-led mode where we control everything and is safely secured by a 5-point harness. The whole unit folds (in a slightly complicated procedure, but once you’ve mastered it once its easy) and fits easily in the car boot. The original build process did have equally complicated procedure, with somewhat poor instructions, but we got there in the end with a bit of intellect.
In the future, the Rito switches to give Munchkin use of the non-slip pedals. Then when he’s ready for full control we can give over the steering. Finally all the parent control can be removed to form a complete trike.
A few people have been interested in my Wedding day recently, not that I needed a reason to write about it. It’s great to look back on a magical day spent with all our loved ones especially when we haven’t seen some of their faces for a while now.
So, if you didn’t know us you would probably think Natalie would have the ideas and the dreams and I would have to fight for the little things I wanted. Well it was quite the opposite. Natalie pretty much knew what she was signing up for when she said ‘yes’ in a private cabana in Turkey in 2013. I had big plans and she was happy this way. She is a pretty easy going Wifey for lifey 😊.
I knew from the off that I wanted a castle, being Disney fans, it was essential. I also didn’t mind where, with people coming from Scotland, the south coast and China, it was going to be out of the way for someone. So why not make it out of the way for everyone including ourselves? I found Rowton Castle online, and after the 254-mile round visit, we fell in love.
We travelled down separately on the Friday before the wedding on the Saturday. Natalie went, with her bridal party, to the a special castle annexe with a lounge, bedrooms and dressing room. Here she drank champagne knowing she just had to wake, get ready and walk a short walk to the main castle to get married. I went to a nearby hotel, chosen as it had a 6-course taster menu dinner, and had an early night ready for the big day.
Then came 1 am and a surge of wedding nerves. I was hot and clammy and couldn’t sleep, spending hours staring at the ceiling, but I just couldn’t clear my mind of the million things I had to think about.
On the morning of Saturday 18th February, me and my family arrived at the castle. Luckily this was to compliments of ‘I can see why you dragged us half-way across the country’ Phew. As I entered the castle, pandemonium seemed to begin. Everyone wanted to know something. ‘Wheres the button holes’, ‘Where can we go?’, ‘When can we get in the rooms’, and I had none of the answers. Lucky, moments later, the absolutely lovely and knowledgeable master of ceremonies was on hand to allay my worries and answer the multitude of unanswered questions.
As I waited at the front of the aisle the nerves returned. I hadn’t had chance to think about my speech or saying my vows up till now. I think I looked at my watch probably a hundred times over that very short wait.
The music began. Our flower girl and the bridesmaids who all looked absolutely beautiful, entered and sat, and then my heart melted. As Natalie entered, looking absolutely perfect that words cannot describe, I felt the first explosion of emotion. Don’t cry Stephen. Hold it in.
The ceremony was equally beautiful. We had heard some people had experience of miserable registrars, but ours was a lovely, funny ‘Grandad’ type. Oh, and neither of us fluffed our vows either. Win win.
The food was fantastic (though hard to eat as the speech nerves approached). The tables were simple but beautiful with a bit of geek with paper flowers (Paper Petals) and wooden placeholders from VM bespoke. The cake, made by Natalies Aunt (Nannybobbobs), was Lego themed. I also got my geek in with Lego superheroes on the button holes and a homemade geeky photo booth (a very last minute idea of mine which just about came out as I had imagined).
Natalie’s Dad gave a truly lovely speech which made me feel really part of the family. Then came my speech and I am not a public speaker. I think I did my best though with few shakes. The two best men (two seems like a good idea but its twice the lies/embarrassment) then finished the speeches.
After the speeches the real party started. I distinctly remember running to some of my evening guests yelling ‘Guess whos (f***** expletive) married!). What followed could only be described as the best party of my life. We did our first dance to Tangled’s ‘I see the light’. Had to get a little more Disney in there!
At no moment did I not have a fresh beer, shot or cocktail. The dancefloor was packed, the DJ was amazing (DJ Will Tudor). There was an additional quieter room for the older guests, so everyone was happy. I managed to get my dream of the the king of evening food, a hog roast, which went down a treat. This quickly followed by hours of dancing and drinking until the early hours and a tipsy stumble to bed.
I was married!
What a day!
I think the main piece of advice we had before was ‘Make the most of every minute’. We ensured we spent as much time just me and Natalie. Having quieter moments together around the busier moments. Although the day went fast. We were happy we made the most of it 😊
Oh and I think we can agree, it was the wedding of both our dreams.
If you follow me or know me its no surprise I’ve hit the big 3 – 0. While I had always said I didn’t want something big for it I deep down did want to get drunk with my family and my friends on a dancefloor to ‘All of the Lights’. So actually I’d consider that I did want something rather big.
However, its lockdown, so none of that was possible of course. I was, however, fortunate at least that the lockdown had entered a new stage and small groups could congregate outside if they stayed 2 metres apart. But that still didn’t allow my secret dream of a drunken dance party.
So, I was unsure what was going to happen, especially as it was all kept hush. Natalie merely told me that there would be surprises throughout the weekend.
The surprises started Friday (with my birthday being on the Sunday) when a cake arrived. In particular, this was a Millie’s cookie cake which I had recently has a secret lockdown pining for). How did she know?
The surprises and activities then continued with cards handed to me throughout the weekend. We did some cake baking with Munchkin, I had a lovely back massage, we had a film night with prosecco and snacks, I had a fry up and a BBQ, there were lots of Munchkin snuggles and more…
On my actual birthday we went to my Nans. It was pouring on and off so was an ideal location as she had an outdoor car port. We arrived with our mats and toys for Munchkin, and sat on the floor between my family members on either side.
My sister had put together a playlist of my life, they collected a takeaway afternoon tea, we had a good natter and laughed at Munchkin’s booty dance to ‘Who let the dogs out’. Meanwhile we had gin prosecco (this is deadly). The visit was short, but it was perfect. I got to see my closest family, have some laughs, enjoy good food and music and they got to see Munchkin’s latest developments 😊.
I wouldn’t change a thing in the whole weekend, given the circumstances we are under. At least I got to see my family and get spoilt rotten, have an amazing weekend of surprises, get a little tipsy (though admittedly at home with just Natalie), and have a 30th to remember.
So while lockdown is still in force, it is possible to make these hard times pleasant. I can honestly say I had a brilliant birthday. Huge thanks to everyone involved.
Although… I do still want that drunk dance with all my family and friends when its all over.
I recently decided it was time to change our washing up to plastic free.
We previously used scourers and blue cloths, which firstly contain plastic which breaks down to microparticles with every use, but are also lovely breeding grounds for bacteria.
I opted for a combination of a Silisponge and a Joseph Joesph Clean-tech Scrubber.
These work perfect in combination. The Silisponge is flexible so it’s perfect for things like the edges of glasses, and those tight corners of your toddlers animal shaped plates and bowls. The Joesph Joesph however is tough and perfect for tough baked on food. We then also clean the sink using Koh, a multiple use antibacterial single-use plastic free cleaning solution. (I will review Koh in a future post).
The Joesph Joesph sponge also has two edges with different rigidity for tougher or lighter cleans, and also a tough end for scrapping extra tough bits.
Both are silicone, so hardwearing, dishwasher safe to sterilise and most importantly, plastic free.
I started this blog thinking the hardest thing I would write about would be the hardest parts of parenting like the tantrums and sleepless nights but this is far harder than any of those.
This is exemplified by the fact I have put it off for weeks now. But I think now, the time is right. But the right time for no reason whatsoever.
My Grandad to me was always a trendsetter, a teacher, a father figure, a hero and the life of the party. He got me into new technology, inspired my passion for gaming (both board and computer types) and taught me skills, both practical and life lessons. He loved family, fuelling our gatherings with humour, taught us everything (from LEDs to croquet), inspiring weird and wonderful games such as ‘badminton over the fence’. It’s safe to he inspired me to become the man and Daddy to Munchkin I am today.
We knew his body was slowly shutting down, but by no means thought it was the end. He has dodged death many times before. On 20 March he went into hospital. Being amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, both me and my Sister decided we should not visit, the last thing we would want would be to bring Covid-19 to him (if we were to have it). Sadly, however, he peacefully lost his fight against heart failure the morning of 21 March.
There lies my first regret and the first issue with losing a loved one during a viral outbreak. I am wholeheartedly gutted and I’m am so sorry I couldn’t come to tell him I loved him or say goodbye even if it was the right decision to stay at home at the time.
We did have permission to visit the hospital and say goodbye in the morning. For this I was and still am so thankful that it was just before lockdown. I imagine this is the first hardship of losing someone since lockdown began. I’m so sorry to anyone who can’t.
On the afternoon of the 21st March the family met in the garden of my Nans at a social distance.
On the morning of the 23rd Me and Natalie decided it was time to self isolate. One loss in the family was enough for this outbreak and we needed to protect our Nan. I think this decision broke my Mums heart. Munchkin had helped everyone the day before and wasn’t ready to stop seeing him.
On the afternoon of March 23 the UK entered lockdown.
Lockdown meant the funeral was delayed and added complications and frustrations for my Mum, Auntie and Nan who were making arrangements. When the funeral would go ahead, I would expect to not have my wife or Munchkin as they topped the numbers permitted.
The day of the funeral arrived and only family were permitted at the crematorium as expected. However, when we left my Nans behind the hearse, neighbours and friends lined the streets instead to clap. There are no words to describe what that meant to us.
With only 10.5 of us (as Natalie and Munchkin were allowed to join us when the day came around) the funeral was different to a typical one with these small numbers, but I think the whole family would agree we gave him the best send off we could.
The Effect of the lockdown
Having never lost someone so close, I don’t know how this mourning malarkey should play out, however I’m certain its been delayed by lockdown. Having not done the normal things such as seeing our family, or going out for meals since, we have not been in the situations where we would be together but we wouldn’t have Grandad with us. Add to that the distraction of a full time Munchkin with me on furlough, I don’t think I’ve had the time to process it much at all.
The lockdown produces challenges and frustrations for every aspect of arrangement. From the funeral to sorting pensions and bills…
Thirdly, while she puts on a positive face, I cannot imagine what my Nan is going through. Now living alone but also staying at home and not seeing family. It is the worst.
Loss sucks, lockdown sucks and the collective crap of both of these is indescribable. For the many people that have lost someone during this madness, my heart goes out to you, as while this has been difficult for me, I’m hugely grateful I got to say goodbye in the hospital and we all got to attend the funeral. I imagine there have been much harder circumstances for thousands of families recently.
Regardless of those who have lost someone to Covid-19 or any other cause during lockdown. We mourn together.