Happy 5th Birthday Heidi!

I’m writing this as Heidi has just gone to sleep on a baking hot June evening after enjoying her 5th birthday. We have just been to Wagamamas with Heidi’s mum, mainly on the back on Heidi going there for a review. You can read here (who says kids don’t remember!). Then we had a good hour tonight spending time opening presents and having fun before going to sleep.

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Heidi at Wagamamas

Birthdays are a time for reflection sometimes and one of the reasons why I started blogging was so that I could write down in words what I was feeling. This was to help me through the darker times which comes from being separated with a child. Today has been a bit rough because it was the first birthday where Heidi was at school and I didn’t see her until the evening. Waking up this morning without seeing her was not good!

However, looking back at the last 12 months, a lot has happened, both good and bad, and it’s safe to say that Heidi’s age 4 year has been remarkable!!

The Good

Heidi has settled in really well as school and seems to be doing really well. Her reading is wonderful and it is such a pleasure to hear her read without having to help her much at all. I’m sure that she will develop in other areas going forward, but after doing the school Race for Life, I’m not sure she will be a long distance runner!!

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Chilling out before school

If I asked Heidi what her highlight would be, I am sure that it would be going to Jamaica. It was such a big thing to take her all by myself and at times, I did have self doubt.  It was hard work, but hearing how she talks so passionately about the experience makes it all worth it. Having a week together was amazing and help us bond even closer. She now has a new love of reggae and Bob Marley music!! You can read my open letter to Heidi about the holiday here.

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Swimming with Dolphins in Jamaica

Heidi seems to have coped extremely well with me getting a new girlfriend. I am not sure how much Heidi knows and actually how much she cares about boyfriends/girlfriends, but she has taken to my new girlfriend extremely well, and vice versa. It was always going to be tricky and Heidi will always come first in anything, but I think Heidi is glad that she has got a new friend. You can read about me starting dating here.

The Bad

Going to court to try and sort out arrangements and get permission to travel overseas was not easy, but it still feels like it was something that had to be done. Through it, I lost time with Heidi, but gained certainty, security as well as overseas travel. Whilst I hate being away from Heidi, a little “me” time is much appreciated. If you have to go to Family Court, this little guide might help, which can be found here.

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Heidi and Jack the dog

Heidi’s pet dog, Jack, died as well. I had a love/hate relationship with him, but Heidi adored him and having a pet probably helped her develop somewhat. I remember breaking the bad news to Heidi on a snowy January day. At first she thought that I was kidding, but when she realised, the hysterical cries went through me. However, after 45 minutes, she was fine, especially as she had a new toy “Alexa” to play with! This guide to breaking bad news is useful!

To Heidi, an open letter

Heidi,

People say that their children grow up too fast. Whilst you’re a chatterbox on the outside, sometimes, you still need to suck your thumb when going to sleep and have a daddy cuddle when you’re scared of the dark.

You’re getting less interested in talking on the phone and more interested in watching the phone. Whilst it hurts a little, it also means that you’re developing your own independence and you are comfortable that I will always be around.

It’s hard having 3 or 4 days without you. That just makes me more determined to make the most of the time we have together – have fun, see new places, do new things, bond even closer.

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I know you’ll grow up even more in the next 12 months. You’ll be wanting to spend time with your school friends on an evening and weekend and you will further develop your independence. However, I will always be there for you, even when times are tough and emotions run high.

Heidi, you’re my best friend now and forever and no-one will break that bond we have between us. You’re an amazing girl and whilst you’re proud of showing me off to strangers, I am even prouder to call you my daughter.

I love you Heidi

Lots of love
Daddy

PS Onwards forever, backwards never!!


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Picniic App

Ok, I’ll admit it straight away, I am not the most organised of people!! Working full time, whilst having Heidi half of the time means that I struggle to know if I am coming or going. This is one of the problems separated parents have to deal with as communication is not as easy as when you live together.

I was given the opportunity to review the “Picniic” app, which is a free app, but does have premium features*.  Carry on reading to see if it was a way of helping my problem.

What is Picniic?

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Picniic is a simple app where you can share photos, have a mutual calendar and have a combined “to do” list. The premium version also allows you to add birthdays and anniversaries into the calendar on a recurring basis, have a meal planner with suggested recipes and a funky family locator section.

However, this video will probably tell you more about the app.

So why is it good?

Quite simply, the app is really easy to use. Yes, you can have a shared calendar on Google, and you can send photos on Whatsapp, and you can send hundreds of text messages reminding the other person to do something.

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However, this is all in one place.  You can control the information flow into one app. This will make things a lot more organised and civil going forward.

Also, the app is so simple to use.  I found it hard to break the app to be honest because it is just neat and tidy. It sounds so simple, but it really is!!

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One thing that would be especially good for those with younger children is the meal planner, so both parents don’t give their child the same meal on 2 consecutive nights.  It sounds so simple, but they are things that can happen now and again!

Why is it not so good?

Firstly, there are some features which is behind a paywall. However, there are no adverts within the app and so it is only fair that the good people at Picniic make a little bit of money!

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Secondly, there doesn’t appear to be a way of sharing videos within the app, which might cause a problem. You can happily share photos however.

Conclusion

This app seems to do everything that you need it to do, to be able to get yourself organised. Life is hard enough – this app might make it a little bit easier to be separated parents who want to do the best for their child.  That is the only thing that really matters.

* Thanks to the good people at Picniic, if you use the code BLUKLD you can have a 30 day free trial of the product.


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No More Worries Kit

As a single parent, I do worry about how certain things affect Heidi now she has started school. This is especially true now her mum and dad live separately. When I was offered the chance to review the No More Worries Kit, I jumped at the chance to see if it would help Heidi talk about any things that was on her mind.

A gentle way to get your child to talk about their feelings

The pack contains the following:

  • A no more worries kit plaque
  • Journal
  • Conversation cards

The plaque is a cool piece of kit where your child puts their thumb on it and it turns red to show that the fairies are listening (I did not verify whether the fairies did listen!). Once it turns green, the fairies have taken the worries away!! It is a really good way of trying to get your child to put aside their worries and stresses of life and keeps alive the magic of fairies! Best of all, it comes with a battery already!!

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Fairy Plaque

The journal is designed to allow your child to write down their thoughts and perhaps get an emotional release in that manner. As Heidi is only 4, this didn’t really work for us, but it did work well as an opportunity to draw the fairies which took her worries away!!  In truth, the journal is just a nice notepad, but a useful tool nonetheless.

Feelings Journal found within the pack
Feelings Journal

The final part is what I thought was the best part – the conversation cards. Without wanting to give too much away, these are questions that, we should be asking our child very regularly. This include “What makes you happy?” and “If you could describe how you feel in one word, what would it be?”

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The questions are quite simple to ask and answer (Heidi was fine with them) but they promote open answers and hopefully an honest conversation will follow from that. There are about 15 cards in the pack and generally you would only want to go through a couple at a time. This is so that it doesn’t feel as though you’re bombarding your child with questions. Using the plaque afterwards would be a good way to bring closure to the questioning.

Conversation Cards
Conversation Cards

After going through the pack, what did I find out about Heidi and her worries? Well, she seems absolutely fine with mum and dad being separate, and seems really happy with my new girlfriend.

So what did worry Heidi…..?!

Not being able to meet a real, live unicorn, and I am not sure that any type of product is able to make that happen for her!!!

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I need to find a real one of these!

You can buy the “No More Worries Kit” from the Irish Fairy Door Company – https://gb.theirishfairydoorcompany.com

Full Disclaimer: The product was offered FOC for the purposes of this post but no influence has been made to alter the content of the post.

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Tractor Fest 2018 – Newby Hall

Going to a “Tractor Fest” doesn’t immediately jump out as a good way to spend the day with a child. However, Tractor Fest at Newby Hall is more than just about tractors!

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Yes, there are tractors – hundreds and hundreds of tractors in fact.  They come from far and wide from all over the country to the event. However, there are all over types of agricultural machinery from motors to plough, diggers to trailers so don’t think that tractors are all that is on offer!!

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In fact, it has more of a feel of a Country Show than a pure “Tractor Fest”. This is because there were shops, food stalls, and children’s activities. The children’s activities included the Police Tractor, land train and ride on mini tractors/cars (£3 for 15 minutes). There is also a helter-skelter, dodgems and a mini train roundabout.

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There is also the lovely Newby Hall gardens a short walk away from the main festival which is free for Tractor Fest. Here there is a mini train to ride (£2.20 each for a 10 minute ride – brilliant value!) a really good playground and a water/splash area. Because of this, a spare change of clothes is advisable!!

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Just a few things to bear in mind:
– It is an outdoor attraction so you need dry weather!
– It is held in a farmers field and so a sturdy pair of shoes (and pushchair!) are advisable/
– The main Tractor Fest doesn’t seem to have baby change facilities. The best place is in Newby Hall Gardens. Likewise, the best toilets are down there.

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The parking is free and plentiful and due to the volume of cars, make sure you make a note of where you parked your car. The car park entry and exit was very efficient and organised. Even though the car park was busy, the event did not feel busy.

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You will see a good number of “farmer” types who come to Tractor Fest for the tractors. It was pleasantly surprising to see how many young children were there, especially in the Gardens. It shows that there is much more to Tractor Fest than tractors, and the free admission for under 4’s really helps with this!

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We were at Tractor Fest for 4 hours and we had a really good time throughout. The 2 year old (it wasn’t my weekend to have Heidi) fell asleep towards the end through the combination of fresh air, exercise and mental stimulation.  That’s not a bad thing at all!!

Hopefully next year, Heidi will have chance to experience the fun (in the sun hopefully!).

Continue reading Tractor Fest 2018 – Newby Hall

Hidden Difficulties of Being a Dad

Difficulties of being Dad

So on the run up to Fathers’ Day (I will happily accept random presents!), I thought that I would do a post as to the specific ” Difficulties of being Dad “, which are problems that mums don’t have to cope with!

Being the only dad in playgroups

A main reason why I started to blog was a time when I was the only male adult within a playgroup containing 40 children. It was a horrible experience and certainly made me question how inclusive society was. It wasn’t a regular playgroup for us, but it was very uncomfortable for me, and I felt as though I was on show somewhat. I wrote about it here. As such, if you come across a situation, smile, say hi, and it will make a huge difference.

On the plus side, the queue for the toilets was non-existent!!!!

Fortunately, as time as moved on, we have both developed our confidence. Nowadays, at least 1 of us can put some moves on the dancefloor at raves!!

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I bet you look good on the dance floor!!

Are you babysitting?!

Arghhhhh! No, I’m not and I’m not Daddy Day Care either! I’m trying to play an active part in my child’s development, just like virtually every single mum does in the world! I felt so strongly about this, I got a t-shirt with the message on it… Funnily enough, I got the most compliments from when I was in Florida wearing it.

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Dad’s don’t babysit, it’s called parenting!

Toilet trips

As you can probably guess, male toilets are grim at the best of times. They are much, much worse when you have a toilet training girl who likes to talk!!

In truth, nappy changing facilities were never too much of an issue as they were looked after quite well. However. when you have to take a curious little girl into a cubicle, you just hope that she doesn’t ask any questions or make any comments!

I tend to find that finding a disabled toilet is the best solution to this problem. Although in certain places, they are secured by a radar key and as such, they are not possible to use!

Workplace Attitudes

Somehow, dads tend to feel guilty for having time off because our little one is ill and needs looking after. Sometimes a child needs both parents, or just wants their daddy.  Whilst workplaces are generally accepting of the fact mum needs to head off home in an emergency, this hasn’t passed over to the need for dad to do the same.

There was a time when I had “the phone call” to say Heidi was on her way to A&E with a suspected broken arm at 4pm. As such. I raced to hospital (after telling my managers). The next day, no-one asked how things had gone or how either of us were, they only asked why work hadn’t been completed in the evening!!

Hopefully this is something that can change to help both mums and dads.

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Happy times!

Finally…

Whilst the point of this blog post isn’t a “woe is me” moan about being a dad, after all, it is the best job in the world, it is just to point out some of the hidden problems dads face. Having said that, we certainly don’t have to deal with leaky boobs, stretch marks and all the things Mum has to deal with!!

I think that the main point is that regardless of if you’re mum or dad (or some other variation), being a parent is really hard work!! The difficulties of being a dad are not harder or easier to those of mum.  As such, if you think someone you know needs a hand – offer and show that you care. I think that we all need that little bit of help and understanding along the way. We cannot do it alone.

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Best buds!!

However, no matter if you’re mum or dad, no matter how many challenges are in your way, so long as you love your child as much as is humanly possible, you’ll be the best parent in the world in the eyes of your child and that is the most important thing.


To read more of my blog, please feel free to:

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