scooter path at park Blog

Covet Thy Neighbour’s Scooter

It’s no secret that we love the park. I’ve written about it many times before. We regularly go to our local toddler playground, but we also enjoy exploring Sydney and finding great new places to play. Many of the playgrounds that we find have bike tracks. These are always well-used, and why wouldn’t they be? They offer the perfect, safe environment for kids to learn how to ride a bike or scooter.

 

You see me rolling

 

Recently, Hannah has begun to take notice. She likes to watch the older kids zoom past confidently on their scooters. She happily sits or stands, for long periods of time and she studies them.

Of course, the inevitable result of that activity is that Hannah desperately wants to have a go as well. The scooter, after all, fits her modus operandi perfectly – full speed and just a hint of danger.

It has now reached the point where Hannah sees any poorly-guarded scooter as fair game. She can spot one from across the other side of the playground. And once she has seen one, she’s off. Nothing gets in her way. Her previous favourite piece of playground equipment – the swings – don’t even get a look-in once Hannah has spotted a scooter. She walks with Terminator-like determination. Other kids have to slam on the brakes, or violently swerve, in order to avoid crashing in to the tiny little tot as she bee-lines straight across the bike track.

 

The eternal dilemma

 

However, once she reaches the discarded personal transport, she is faced with the eternal dilemma – Do I listen to dad, who is telling me not to touch it, or do I follow my burning impulse and give it a crack?

To give Hannah full credit, she is a better listener than many children. More often than not she follows the simple instructions that I give her. Pack-up time, for example is fairly consistently an easy affair in our house. But even for the most eager-to-please toddler, the lure of a shiny, unattended scooter can be too much.

Inevitably, Hannah will tentatively reach out, the freedom-machine tantalisingly close to her fingertips. She will pause, briefly, just centimetres away when she once again hears my voice gently remind her that the scooter is not hers. She will consider the information for a moment, but as soon as her eye is once-again drawn to the prize, she is left with little choice. Her impulse is now in charge. It tells her that if she can just wrap her tiny little fingers around the smooth, chrome handlebar, then it will indeed be hers!

 

Foiled

 

Unfortunately for Hannah, it is at that exact same moment that I swoop in and scoop her up. Over the wail of her own voice, she doesn’t her me mumble an apology to the disapproving 6 year old who has just raced over to rescue his pride-and-joy from a devastating touching by a toddler GIRL! And she probably doesn’t care much for my apology anyway. The only thing that she’s sorry about at that point in time is that her long, golden locks are not fluttering in the breeze as she elegantly sails down the bike track on her shiny silver steed.

 

One day soon, my darling, I will get you a shiny scooter of your very own. But for now, you have to wait. Have patience, my dear. Know that I’m looking forward to the day that I teach you how to ride one, almost as much as you are.

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She can open the door, terrifying milestone Blog

…Unless They Figure Out How To Open Doors

I’ve written about milestones before. Some make me cringe at the competitiveness with which parents approach them, some (non-official) milestones make me laugh, some milestones genuinely fill me with joy and excitement. But just this week, we have discovered a new type of milestone – the absolutely terrifying milestone.

 

It has been a week of explosive development. Hannah has come leaps and bounds with her comprehension and communication. She looks older, she walks more confidently, and she has suddenly decided to grow up. All of that is wonderful! Except that three specific incidents in the past week make it absolutely terrifying.

 

1 – Hannah can open doors

 

You know the scene in Jurassic Park, the one where the velociraptor figures out how to open doors? Well that was re-enacted in my house. And it was far more terrifying that in Jurassic Park, because instead of an oversized, animatronic raptor, it was an overly-curious, real-life toddler. She’s 17 months old! Surely she shouldn’t be able to reach the handle yet.

To be honest, she was as surprised by it as we were. At least she was the first time. By mid-afternoon she had her technique down, and all of a sudden she had unfettered access to the laundry and basement steps (aka the steps of doom). Up until that point, the laundry had been the ‘safe place’ to dump cleaning chemicals and anything else that needed to be out of reach. Now that needs to change, because the look in Hannah’s eyes told me that it is her new mission to explore every last cranny of this mysterious new room. What’s going to stop her? Certainly not a puny door.

 

toddler open door, terrifying milestone
We’re doomed!

 

2 – Hannah wants to walk down the stairs

 

Hannah has always been interested in the stairs. From an early age we taught her how to safely ascend and descend, as it was obvious that she was going to figure it out, with or without our help.

This past week, however, Hannah has decided that being able to navigate the stairs safely is no longer good enough. She is a big girl and she’ll be damned if she doesn’t use the stairs like a big girl. Upright. Without holding on. Face first.

Hannah has taken to standing at the top of the stairs, right on the edge. She understands the basic mechanics of walking down the stairs like a big person, she just can’t yet get all of her bits to do what they are supposed to do. At one point she dangled one foot precariously over the edge, before fear took over and she retreated to the corner of the landing.

I don’t think she will actually try to do this by herself, but one can never be too sure. I really don’t want to be that parent, who didn’t pay attention that one time…

Then again, my parents tell me that my brother used to routinely tumble down the stairs, and he has turned out reasonably normal.

 

3 – Hannah knows how to work the child gate

 

We have a child safety gate which separates our kitchen from Hannah’s play area. Up until this point it has been quite effective. Hannah has been able to play with her toys while we prepare dinner, and when she gets the overwhelming urge to cling to our legs while we stir boiling hot liquids on the stove top, she is prohibited from doing so.

Except that she isn’t. It started a few days ago. I was working in the kitchen when I noticed that Hannah was intently studying the latch mechanism on the gate. That’s not unusual, she is a keen observer of her environment. I then watched as she stretched out her tiny little finger and somehow applied enough pressure to slide the latch. It made a satisfying ‘click’. The type of satisfying click that acts as an incentive to do it again. And again. And again.

Hannah quickly had the latch mastered. Thankfully, the gate still had a second line of defence. It has to be lifted up in order to open. I was still safe in my culinary sanctuary.

Except that I wasn’t. The next day I was checking on some salmon that was roasting in the oven. It was just at the crucial point, so I was having a close inspection to see if it needed another minute or two. All of a sudden, a little head popped up beside me. It peered intently at the fish.

“What do you think, Hannah?” I asked. “Is it done?”

A large, toothy grin smiled back.

A moment later the danger of the situation dawned on me. An inquisitive toddler was now mere centimetres away from a hot oven door, her favourite protein tantalisingly waiting on the other side.

“AAAAAHHH!” I exclaimed as my composure abandoned me. In one movement I pushed the salmon back in, shut the door and scooped up Hannah. She was mildly annoyed by our hasty retreat, but at least she was safe.

 

More to come?

 

I have the unnerving feeling that this is just the beginning of the absolutely terrifying milestone phase. After all, we still have knives, traffic, open water and wild animals still to learn about, just to name a few.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m glad that Hannah wants to push boundaries. I’m excited that she wants to explore and understand the world in which she lives. With these experiences, Hannah is making all kinds of neurological connections. She is learning about safety, confidence, risks and consequence.

I might gain a few more grey hairs as I make sure that the consequences are never too severe, but it’s worth it!

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BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light Blog

BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light – First Impressions

It’s official – this dad and his little family are heading to Japan later this year! As if that wasn’t exciting enough, the good people over at BabyBjorn very kindly sent us a BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light, to help make our journey as smooth and easy as possible.

Stay tuned for the full review. That will be coming once we have thoroughly put the BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light through its paces during our Japan adventures. But as the cot was just delivered on Friday, I thought I would give you my first impressions while they are still fresh in my mind.

 

Wow, it’s light!

That was the first thing that I thought as the courier handed me the box. I know what a standard portable cot feels like, I’ve lugged one through the streets of Sydney and Brisbane. Trust me when I say that those things can feel very heavy, very quickly. At just 6kg, the BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light is not going to weigh you down as you transport it from one place to another.

 

BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light in bag
The BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light in its carry case

Easy to set up and pack away

The BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light is immediately intuitive to use. It comes in three main parts – the outer carry case, the main cot and the mattress.

The outer carry case is sturdy. It feels as if it can cope with the inevitable beating that it will take from baggage handlers, taxi drivers and from me as I take in on public transport. The other two components fit neatly inside. They are easy to pull out and put back in, but there is also no excess room. It’s a clever design that minimises the overall size of the bag.

The main part of the cot is beautifully designed. As I said before, it’s intuitive to use. Just lift it out of the bag, unfold it, turn it over and the legs drop down. Snap them into place and that’s it!

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that design, after some of the wrestling matches I’ve had with other portable cots! Some of them have extremely complicated connections, that then seem to lock in place before they are supposed to, or that I’ve had trouble getting to lock at all. With the BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light, the frame is set up in a matter of seconds. Every time.

The third part of the kit that makes setup and pack-away a breeze is the mattress. This is a really clever piece, which I’ll go into more detail about shortly.

All three of these parts combine to ensure that the process of setting up and packing away is as easy and stress-free as possible, as demonstrated in the promotional video below. I’ll be sure to let you know how much my sleep-deprived-self appreciates that fact when we arrive in Tokyo after an overnight flight.

 

The mattress/base is a really clever design

If you really don’t care about clever engineering disguised as a simple mattress, skip this part. I really don’t want to bore you, but I have to share this because it impressed me so much! It seems like such a simple thing, but I took a good few minutes out of my day to marvel at the ingenuity of this mattress. It does some really key things, and it does them exceptionally well.

Firstly, it stabilises the cot. The rigid board at the bottom fits perfectly into the space provided. The red anchors slide out through small slits in the base fabric and connect the mattress to the frame – this ensures it stays safely in place.

Secondly, and most importantly, It provides an exceptionally comfortable sleeping surface. I’ll admit it, I’m slightly jealous of Hannah right now. Who knows what the quality of the mattress will be that I’m sleeping on in Japan? At least with Hannah, I know that she’s going to be sleeping in absolute luxury. The mattress actually has three components – the outer case, a rigid base board and a soft foam layer. They work together perfectly to provide exceptional comfort.

Finally, the base folds into three parts to perfectly fit and support the bag. Like I said, It’s simple, but really clever engineering. It means that the bag doesn’t need to be reinforced because it is the firmness of the mattress base which provides the shape. The frame of the cot slides neatly inside the pocket that the mattress and the bag create. It all fits together so well. Once again, no wrestling is required to put it back in!

 

The three parts to the mattress.

This is a quality product

It is no surprise to me to find that BabyBjorn has made a product of such high quality. One of the first baby items we ever purchased was a BabyBjorn Baby Carrier We (this will also join us to Japan). I was impressed with the quality and thoughtful design of that too.

After I set up the BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light, Hannah toddled over for a close inspection. She immediately tried to climb inside, which was a good sign from a kid who is naturally suspicious of new things. The other thing that she did almost immediately was wrap her mouth around the padded fabric on the top of the frame. At that point I was thankful of two things – that BabyBjorn designed all of the fabric to be removable and machine washable, and that they use safe materials that are free of harmful chemicals.

BabyBjorn seem to me to be a company that seeks to make high-quality, user-friendly gear. The BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light appears to be absolutely consistent with this. It is a product that does an exceptional job at the single purpose for which it is designed – to provide a baby/toddler with a safe and comfortable place to sleep when away from home. I’m excited to throw everything that I can at it as we travel through Japan.

 

BabyBjorn Travel Cot Light Removable Padding
All of the fabric is removable and machine-washable

Stay Tuned…

That’s it for now. As I said at the top, these are my first thoughts about the product. They are based on my initial interactions with it. The real test will come as we travel through Japan. From what I’ve seen of the BabyBjorn Travel Cot so far, I’m very excited to be bringing it with us. I don’t think I could have asked for a more suitable cot for this adventure!

 

For more information about the BabyBjorn Travel Cot, or other BabyBjorn products, visit the BabyBjorn website.

 

Disclosure – BabyBjorn provided Blog Of Dad with this travel cot free of charge, for the purpose of review during our Japan adventure. The views expressed in this post are entirely my own views, based on my experiences with the BabyBjorn Travel Cot. For further information, please visit my disclosure page.

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Bolognese, wooden spoon Blog

World’s Worst Food Blogger – Bolognese

The World’s Worst Food Blogger series of posts is where I share my love of all things edible in a proudly non-Pinterest-worthy way. This particular post is all about the humble bolognese.

 

Firstly, If you are someone whose authentic Italian Nonna passed down a recipe for the perfect bolognese, then this post is not for you. I can’t compete with what you know and frankly, I’m a little bit jealous! This post isn’t about authentic, traditional food, it’s about quintessential Australian cooking – that is taking the best things from around the world and modifying them to suit your needs.

 

For me, the needs are simple. Something delicious, cheap, healthy, easy to make and able to be made in bulk. Something that can easily be frozen and taste just as good when it is defrosted. If those needs sound familiar to you, read on…

 

Ingredients – Bolognese

7 cloves of garlic

Olive oil

1.5kg lean beef mince

500g quality pork mince

Mixed herbs (to taste)

1 butternut pumpkin – finely grated

4 large zucchinis – finely grated

6 carrots – finely grated

2 jars passata

Salt (to taste)

The ingredients for this bolognese are fairly simple, and as I said before, cheap. After much experimenting, they are the ones that I have found to work best together to create a meaty-tasting bolognese that is actually 2/3rds vegetable. Feel free to experiment and tweak for yourself.

 

Equipment

1 large stock pot. And I mean large. It needs to hold approximately 7kg of ingredients. Alternatively, you can reduce the amount that you are cooking.

Sharp knives

Chopping board

Large wooden spoon

Food processor (optional)

Make sure that stock pot is large. It needs to hold approximately 7kg of ingredients. Alternatively, you can reduce the amount that you are cooking (but you will then have left for freezing into convenient and tasty instant meals). The food processor is optional. I discussed the merits of buying one in a previous post. In my opinion, for this kind of cooking, a food processor is a valuable tool to have. It dealt with close to 2kg or pumpkin in a matter of seconds. Overall it probably saved me about 20 minutes of preparation time.

Sharp knives are a must for any budding home cook. I would highly recommend acquiring one or two quality general-purpose knives (I was lucky enough to pick up a set of WÜSTHOF knives cheaply from a place that went out of business), but it’s also worth having a couple of ultra-cheap knives that you don’t mind abusing. I purchased a cleaver for $2 from a junk store over ten years ago. It’s by no means the best made knife around (Its plastic handle is warped from a dishwasher incident), but I keep it sharp and it’s perfect for peeling and chopping pumpkin.

 

Method

Bung the ingredients into the pot, in order, at the start of the day. Put a lid on it, turn the gas down low and let it do its thing. Stir and taste regularly and adjust seasoning to suit your tastes. Normally I wouldn’t add any salt, but a particularly sweet pumpkin meant that a tiny bit was needed to balance the flavours.

Additional benefits of starting early in the day include making the house smell amazing, and being able to sneak regular mouthfuls to ‘check the flavours’.

If you leave it for long enough, the kids won’t be able to tell just how veg-packed this bolognese is. All of that finely grated vegetable breaks down into a deliciously rich and tasty sauce.

Serve with pasta and a mountain of grated cheese.

After feeding the family until they are ready to explode, portion out the remaining food into freeze-able containers. This particular batch made 17 containers-worth (each container holding enough for 2 adults and one toddler). When you need a quick meal, simply boil some pasta, grate some cheese and microwave one of these bad-boys. Add a salad or some steamed veg for extra variety. The magic of this bolognese is that it somehow tastes even better when reheated.

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toy, doctor's surgery , waiting room Blog

The Things We Swore They Would Never Do –…

A wise man once told me that opinions are like anuses – everyone has one. This is especially true of parenting. After all, it’s a task that most of us undertake at some point in our lives.

 

Sifting through the sea of contradicting opinions is one of the ultimate challenges for any new parent. People are only too willing to drop their two-cents, whether solicited or not. This undoubtedly adds to the complexity of parenting, but these are not the opinions of which you should be most wary. The opinions that I believe can cause you the most problems are your own, pre-child ones.

They are the throw-away lines that you used so freely before you actually had any understanding of the complexity of the job. They are the opinions that escape your mouth as “I’d never let my child…”, often uttered as you witness a single snapshot of another family’s life.

I have done it, many times. Too many to count. I think it’s natural to have an idealistic view of how you expect family life to be before you begin, but it is important to understand that the reality rarely meets your expectations.

The Toys in the Doctor’s Surgery Waiting Room

I had always looked on toys in the doctor’s surgery with disgust. I would never let my child play with them I used to say quietly to myself as I watched children play with the same toys that have sat in the same corner of the surgery waiting room for the past ten years. Just imagine how filthy they are! Imagine how many sick and grubby little fingers have been touching them already. To be honest, the thought of going anywhere near them made me feel a little ill.

 

Yesterday, we took Hannah to the doctor. She was suffering from what turned out to be conjunctivitis – highly contagious conjunctivitis.

We entered the room and sat down. I sat on the chair and Hannah sat patiently in my lap. She looked around the room and took in the various elements. Her eyes stopped for a while on the television, something that is still very much a novelty for Hannah as we have avoided giving her any screen time at home (yes, I did say I would never let my baby watch the television. So far I have stuck to that one).

After a while, Hannah became bored of the American chat show on the screen and she began scanning the room again. She looked at posters and pamphlets, until eventually her eyes came to rest on the lime-green plastic object in the corner of the room – the toy bucket.

 

The battle begins…

I still have no idea how Hannah knew what it was, but she definitely knew. Almost immediately she grew restless. Her little legs kicked out and she twisted her body in the usual “let me down” manner. She had a goal in mind – a target that she suddenly had to reach.

Elderly eyes swivelled in the waiting room. A show was about to begin and they would be damned if they were going to miss the fun in their otherwise dull excursion. It was obvious that a battle of willpower was under way – my determination to keep Hannah from the box of disease, and Hannah’s determination to play.

 

Resigned to defeat

Hannah, of course, had the upper hand. An enthusiastic wail from her and I had to let go. No-one likes to be the parent in the middle of a waiting room commotion, and I’m no exception. To my advantage, Hannah didn’t know that she had this power. She’s never been in the situation where she has had to unleash it, as episodes of public crankiness are few and far between. But I could feel the wail building inside her. I knew I had lost. In that moment I had made the choice – I had become the parent who disgusted me so much in my pre-children days. I had become the parent who let his child play with the toys in the doctor’s surgery waiting room.

I placed her on the floor. I’m sure I gave a head-to-toe shudder as her tiny feet began to carry her towards the dreaded bucket of doom (or fun, depending on by whose viewpoint you look at it).

 

Saved by an angel

Just then, a voice like an angel from heaven called out “Hannah?”

It was the doctor. It was our turn to see her.

Before Hannah could reach the bucket, I scooped her up into my arms. “Time to see the doctor,” I told her.

It took a moment for it to sink in, but not too long. Hannah’s focus was already onto the next issue – the strange lady in the white coat who seemed entirely too interested in poking and prodding her. But that adventure is a story for another day.

 

Until next time…

One thing is for sure, Hannah has an excellent memory. I have no doubt that the next time we set foot in that doctor’s surgery waiting room, Hannah’s entire being will become devoted to reaching the bucket. At that moment, I will have little choice but to give in and let her play with the toys. Hopefully, when that time comes, Hannah will not be carrying anything highly contagious. More importantly, hopefully neither will have the last kid to touch them…

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