Leeds Dad Starts Dating … An Update

In January 2018, I started dating, and you can read about how that came about in this post here, and it felt like an opportune time to give a little update.

Well, after going on the first date back in January, we had a second, a third, a fourth etc. It has generally snowballed into us having a really happy, stable relationship. Whilst 6 months seems a long time to be dating, in some respects it feels like early days still. This is because we aren’t seeing each other every day and spending every waking hour with each other.

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Kim’s first appearance on the blog!

The Children

The priority for both of us is our respective children, and nothing will change that. Kim has a now 2 year old boy and given that Heidi is also a single child, we are mindful of how well they interact with each other, with each of us together and each of us separately.

With Oscar being a bit younger, we felt that it was easier to get him involved into the changing dynamic to start with. As Heidi was 4 at the time, we took things much, much slower with her. (and still are). We are basically saying that Kim was just a few friend and it was good to hang out together at certain points. We have NOT mentioned that we are dating!

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Oscar-only date day…

We try to make sure we don’t overdo the interactions as well, knowing that there is no rush to any of this. The last thing we want is to have children not wanting to see each other or see each of us.

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Heidi only date night

All of this has meant that the children get on really well together and are seemingly best of friends. Oscar looks up to Heidi so much and gets really excited when her name is mentioned. Heidi looks after Oscar so much, whilst also enjoying playing with all his toys as well!!

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Walking together at Cannon Hall

The Dates

As both of us are clearly very involved with our children, most “dates” tend to involve either one or both of the children on a weekend. If you’re a regular reader of the blog on on Instagram/Twitter, chances are you’ve read about where we have been on a date with the children.

As the children enjoy each other’s company, it makes going out on trips a lot easier.  However, they can get too giddy and get carried away a little!!! The fact that we don’t get child-free weekends too often doesn’t affect us (apart from early morning wake ups!) as we both knew the childcare arrangements before we even met.

However, if we do have a child free weekend, or even just a day, we try our best to make the most of it. We had our first (and only!) weekend away in April, to London, which was lovely. However, it was also extremely strange to spend child free time with someone else! We did have a brilliant time and we tried our best to see as much as possible, just as if we had the children.

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Aysgarth Falls

There are times when dates have had to be cancelled at the last minute because of childcare arrangements. Even this week, Heidi wanted to stay at mine even though she was supposed to be with her mum, which meant a quick dash home from date night. It happens, but the pair of us knew all of this before we started. We both know that the children come first – that is the main thing to both of us.

The Future

Who knows what the future might hold going forward. The dating game is still in its early days, but it feels as though it is stable and has excellent foundations. We always said that the children come first and that is more true than ever. If truth be told, they are the ones who will decide how far the relationship goes. If either one is unhappy with it, then the relationship doesn’t go any further, and we are ok with that.

Fingers crossed it that is a bridge we never have to cross…

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Quite true – take from the Disney Store on Oxford Road, London

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Project Mc2 Ultimate Spy Bag

How do you make Science interesting to kids? One way is to make it not seem like science at all. That is what the “Project Mc2 Ultimate Spy Bag” tries to do.

All in all, there are 20+ pieces to the science/spy kit, including a magnifying glass, test tubes and beaker, alongside a booklet full of experiments to perform.

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Scientific Beaker

All of this is held within a carry case that can also be used as a stylist handbag within the house!!

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Showing off the carry case

TOP TIP!! Make sure you take a photo of how all the items fit in the carry case. It makes it so much easier when it comes to packing it all away!

The most unusual part of the Spy Bag is the fingerprinting kit, including dust powder. This can also be used as shimmer makeup (not until Heidi has left home!!!) and cards to collect the fingerprints. I say that it is unusual because you don’t really see many products on the market with this specific product. So if your child is into fingerprints and/or the whole CSI thing, then this is going to be a good product for you.

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Part of the fingerprint pack

The most fun part of the kit is the lipstick that doubles up as a secret message launcher. It was very fun and also the most frustrating item because we couldn’t get it to work!! This is through no fault of the product, more the fault of an overexcited child. She thought that she knew EXACTLY what to do (without reading the instructions!)

Your child will require parental involvement with this product. Your child will gain so much more out of it if they are taught as the items are used, rather than just being left to get on with it, so it isn’t a bad thing. There are no dangerous substances within the kit and so safety equipment isn’t needed. Adult assistance is probably needed because some of the pieces are quite small within the product.

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Instruction Guide

The Adrienne Attoms Project MC2 brand is the driver behind this product. Whilst that might be a plus point for some, you certainly don’t need to know or understand the brand to enjoy the kit. However, it might lure you into a YouTube path that might make you lose an hour or so!!

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Contents of the Spy Bag – all neat and tidy!

All in all, it is an excellent product on a number of different levels. If your child has an interest in science, or problem solving, this is likely to be a hit with them.  As at July 2018, it is retailing for £39.99, although there may be offers on if you research a little. The recommended age for the product is 6+ and that feels about right. However, I feel as though a 5 year old could have a good go at most of the things, especially with a high level of adult assistance. Best of all, it includes the batteries needed for one of the items – woohoo!!

Full Disclaimer: The Project Mc2 Utimate Spy Bag was offered free of charge for the purposes of this post. My opinion was not influenced by this.


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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.

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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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Finding a Work/Life/Me balance

I’m writing this blog post in bed on my phone on a Sunday evening just after putting Heidi to bed. In truth, I should be going to sleep because I’m tired. However, after attending a Q&A held by Honest Mum (who can be found here) and The Rainbow Factory (who can be found here), I felt inspired to write…

I’m tired

I am physically and mentally tired… it is very difficult to be a single parent.

  • It is very difficult to have a high pressured job.
  • and very difficult to keep up communications with your ex for the sake of your child.
  • and very difficult to start a new relationship.

I am trying to do all of these!!

And this isn’t a “Look how bad my life is” post (I have money, I am healthy and have a roof over my head – life could be worse). This is a self reflection on how I can make things better for myself and Heidi and hopefully give some ideas how you can do the same.

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What we should all be aiming for,,,

Priorities

Being an accountant and previously the main bread winner in a nuclear family, I’ve felt the responsibility to make sure money comes in. Sadly, money is important and I have made sacrifices to get better jobs. Should I keep on doing this? I don’t feel as though I have any option, so I might be spending more time in the car travelling to/from work than at home in the near future.

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This is how I feel most days!

Being Myself

Four years ago, my life fell apart after separation and my life was work and Heidi. That was it. This blog was the first step of me becoming me again. The next step was dating. However, it is so difficult. It is so tiring.

At times I want to curl into a ball and rest. However, I want to be my own person. I need to be my own person. It is a slow process and I sometimes feel guilty for going out without Heidi. However, a happy daddy will be a better parent for Heidi.

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I felt guilty for going to London without Heidi…

Going Forward

So how am I going to make things better? Here are a few things I’ve come up with…

– Be Organised. I’m pretty organised as it is, but there are still times when I don’t know where I’m meant to be in the morning or what time I’m finishing work. That’s not good!

– Say no! This might mean saying no to date night, no to people at work, no to blogging opportunities. I need to learn to say no and be confident to say no.

– Look after myself. Doing my first ever boot camp session this weekend has hopefully given me inspiration to better look after my body a bit better! I could do to lose a couple of pounds!

I’d love to hear your comments on how you manage all the pressures of real life and hopefully other readers will be able to use some of them in the future!!


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Travelling with a 4 year old as a single parent

The thought of travelling as a single parent is a scary prospect.  That is not a bad thing – it shows that you care. However, having been to Jamaica (with a connection in Atlanta) with just myself and my 4 year old, I thought that I would give some hints and tips which might make it easier, especially (but not specifically) if you’re a single parent.

Plan your bags

Chances are that you’ll be in a cramped seating area with your beloved child and they will want everything out of the bag at once – tablet, sweets, drink etc!! The best way to avoid a meltdown is to organise your bags so you know where everything is. That way, you can quickly pick items out of the bag without disrupting where everything else is!

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Food always helps!

Travel and Legal Documents

Most importantly, make sure you have your tickets, travel vouchers for the hotel/transfers and your passport. Make sure your passport is in date and generally has 6 months left when you enter the country. Also, make sure you don’t need any additional Visas or injections. (My guide to applying for a passport can be found here)

Also, if you’re a single parent, make sure you have a copy of your child’s birth certificate and correspondence from the other parent that you have their permission to go out of the country. I never got asked for these, but I have heard of people who have been asked.

Also, take copies of the documents and put a set in a different bag, a set with someone at home and an electronic copy as well.

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Security

Airport security is perhaps one of the worst things in the world to do as a single parent travelling.  One tip is to look really stressed and hope that an airport employee takes pity on you and helps you through the process a little!!

However, when you know when you’re going to be going through it, take all your electronics and fluids out. Either carry them, or put them in a carrier bag so when you get to the x-ray machine, you can easily put them on the conveyor belt and disregard the carrier bag if needed.  Different countries have different rules about children taking their shoes off. As such, either ask before you get to the x-ray machines or just get your child into the habit of taking them off.

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Hopefully the destination will be worth it!

Take pictures

Part of this is to look back at the brilliant time you have had. However, it is useful to take pictures of your bag so you can remember what it looks like when you land. Also, take pictures of your child so that if the worst happens and you lose them, you know what clothes they have on.

If you want ultimate parent points, just go for matching clothes – it really does work!!!

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This combo got amazing comments!!

Have fun!!

Life is about having fun and chances are you’re going on holiday and will have a great time. Relax and it’ll all be fine!

I have blog posts on Flying with a toddler and Flying with a 3 year old if they are of interest too!!

If you have any other hints or tips on travelling, please leave them in the comments below!


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Our First Holiday – an open letter to Heidi

As you may or may not know, I just had our first holiday with my 4 year old. It was the one thing that kept me going during the dark times of stress and separation – it was the one thing I fought so hard for. And it was worth it, totally worth it.

I wrote this on the way home, whilst Heidi was asleep on me. I have to admit that I shed a tear whilst writing it, but it was a tear of happiness (and maybe a bit of fatigue!!). Anyway, enjoy….

———

Dear Heidi

I am writing this somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean, on our way back from our first holiday with just the 2 of us.

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It could have been the most horrendous holiday ever full of stresses and strains and not at all enjoyable for either of us. There were times running up to it where I thought that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was under so much pressure to cancel it.

However, my trust and faith in you was so strong, I didn’t give in and I didn’t give up. I have dreamt of this holiday for a couple of years and I have to admit almost every day of our holiday, there were tears of unbridled joy that we were free and enjoying new adventures.

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Heidi – you have been an absolute star. I always say that I can take you anywhere and you have proved it so much this holiday. We have had fun, made friends, done new things and been living in each other’s pockets for just over a week and we have never got bored or fed up of each other.

So many people have said how well behaved you are or how they think you’re 6 years of age or older because of the way you hold a conversation. You make strangers smile in your company and most importantly, you make me smile so, so much. There were times when you were tired when travelling, but so many people said that you were such a good traveller and they were right.

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I am proud to be your daddy. I am proud to be your travel buddy after our first holiday. We are best friends and I am proud of that.

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Matching T-Shirts!

As you lay asleep next to me, I know these adventures won’t last forever, nor these moments of childish joy. However, let’s enjoy them whilst we can and live life to the fullest.

Time to look for the next adventure….

I love you Heidi
Daddy
XxX


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Leeds Dad starts dating again!!

In what is possibly the best timed blog post ever, given that it is being published on Valentine’s Day, I thought that I would write about my first date since my separation almost 4 years ago.

** Full disclosure – this has been shared with the (un)lucky lady before publishing **

It all happened by accident really. I wasn’t looking for romance, I was quite happy with Heidi and work and plodding on through life. Then, I received a random, yet nice message on the blog and we started messaging and after a while, we decided to meet – oh my word, I was going to meet a single woman for a date!!!

What started out as innocent, playful conversation suddenly turned real!! What would I wear, where about we meet, what day would we meet?? Worst of all, what on earth would I say?!?! How long can you string out “Hi, I’m a single dad, an accountant and I am a geeky blogger”?!

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However, I knew that I had to meet her. For far too long, I have been in my shell, played it extremely safe, and not been my own person.  I went for it.

The day of us meeting, I was a nervous wreck. People at work were amazing and while they playfully took the mick out of me, they also helped me so much. However, I didn’t eat after lunch (we were due to meet at 6.30pm) because I was so nervous and I went straight from work so I didn’t have to think about what clothes to wear!!

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I thought that I would feel guilty – as if I was cheating on Heidi. However, nothing would ever take my attention and devotion away from her. Going on a date wouldn’t change that. It would just allow me to be me again, even if it was just for one evening.

However, the one evening has turned into a few weeks now – so the first date must have gone well!! We talked for 4 hours – I was STARVING at the end once the butterflies died down. There were small bouts of awkwardness (how do you say goodbye on a first date?!) but the conversation flowed. This was without any assistance of alcohol and half an hour after we said goodbye, we both said that we wanted to meet up again!!

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Who knows where this will end up, but if you’re a single parent reading this thinking about getting on the dating game again – go for it!! Your children will always come first – a few dates will never change that. But it might help bring a smile to your face when times are tough and it will help you feel like you are an adult, rather than just a parent.

It is scary, but if a socially awkward geeky accountant can, anyone can!!


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