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Learning I was going to be a dad

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Learning I was going to be a dad

As our son swiftly approaches his first birthday, I’ve been thinking back over so many things to do with his birth and how he has become such a big part of our life over the last twelve months. In fact, I’ve also been thinking back to the day when I found out that I was going to become a father.

Back in August 2012, the Summer Olympics were taking place in London. I was in the UK for the first half of the games and watched some of the big events live on television with my wife, including a Saturday evening of athletics in which the UK won three gold medals. However, I was in Paris for the second week of the Olympics. In some ways, this seemed kind of ironic as Paris had been London’s main rival in the battle to host the games.

As I teach French at a university in Wales, France is a country that I visit fairly regularly. In August 2012, I was doing some research about multiculturalism and comedy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (the National Library of France). I was in daily contact with my wife via phone, text and Skype during this time, mainly in the evenings after I’d completed a day of reading and note-taking in the archives.

La Bibliothèque nationale de France, a place that took on a new significance for me in August 2012...

La Bibliothèque nationale de France, a place that took on a new significance for me in August 2012…

On the last day of my stay in Paris, my wife tried to ring me on my mobile in the middle of the afternoon. Being a responsible library user, I had my phone on silent. As we’d mainly been chatting in the evenings during my stay, I was a bit curious as to why my wife had decided to ring me at a different time when she knew that I’d be likely to be in the library. Due to my curiosity, I gathered my papers and laptop together and went out into a part of the library where using mobile phones was permitted.

When I phoned my wife, I got the feeling that she was excited and had some news that she wanted to share. Her way of doing so was to suggest that I didn’t bring home any unpasteurised French cheese from France. Thankfully I was aware of the fact that  UK guidelines to pregnant woman include a recommendation to avoid unpasteurised cheese, so this perhaps roundabout way of breaking the news certainly did not leave me feeling mystified. I’m sure that I’d promised to bring home some tasty French cheese during the trip, as I often do when I go to France, and we’d probably even discussed what sorts to get.

My wife had been planning to do the pregnancy test once I’d got back from France but she was getting increasingly emotional and excited about the possibility of being pregnant. It wasn’t just us potentially becoming parents that she’d been getting emotional about. Indeed, one of the things that had made her think that we were within nine months of welcoming a child into the world was that she had – unusually for her – been getting emotional watching some of the sports events that were part of the London Olympics.

On my most recent trip to France last month I didn't have to worry about whether or not the cheeses I was buying were pasteurised

On my most recent trip to France last month I didn’t have to worry about whether or not the cheeses I was buying were pasteurised

After talking to her about the great news on the phone, I too was incredibly excited and pleased. In fact, it wasn’t all that easy to focus on finishing of my research in the library that afternoon (…and not because I was trying to remember which of our favourite French cheeses were pasteurised and unpasteurised!). After managing to finish reading that material I wanted to get through on the last day of my research trip, I left the library and headed for central Paris.

I had thought that the highlight of the last full day of my trip to Paris was going to be seeing the French Olympic team being paraded down the Champs-Elysées. However, that event had now been significantly upstaged. As I waited among the crowds to see the French Olympians arrive aboard red, white and blue open-topped buses, I kept thinking about how my wife and I now had something to celebrate too.

France's 2012 Olympic team arrive back in Paris

France’s 2012 Olympic team arrive back in Paris

Before the athletes arrived, a sports manufacturer that has a shop on the Champs-Elysées was handing out French Olympic flags and I had ended up with two of them. As I was making my way to the correct platform of a métro station after watching the Olympians’ arrival, a man who looked like he was on the way home from work noticed that I had more than one of the flags that had been given out and asked if I’d mind giving him one that he could take home and give to his son. I instantly obliged as it seemed like the right thing to do even leaving aside the fatherhood solidarity side of things.

On my return from Paris, my parents were the first people with whom I shared the good news about a new family member being on the way. In fact, I did so in a similarly indirect manner to the way in which my wife had told me the news on the phone. When we had got married earlier in 2012, my mum had stitched together a quilt for us out of  patches that had been made by many of the guests at our wedding. So when we were chatting to my parents on Skype, I referred to the quilt and asked her if she could make us another but a much smaller version. Thankfully, she understood instantly and she had given us a beautiful handmade quilt some months before our son arrived.

 

If you are a parent, are there any places or events that you associate with the time you discovered that you were going to become a parent? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

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Father and baby food reviews

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Father and baby food reviews

Forget the Guide Michelin and all the other fancy restaurant guides, this week my soon-to-be year old son and myself are going to review each other’s food. Ever since he did  a guest post giving his perspective on his first ever Christmas, our son has been keen to have another go at doing a blog post. As his touch-typing skills are not quite at the same level as his food throwing schools, we’ve each written half of this post.

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Daddy’s thoughts on baby’s food (1): Apple Rings

Perhaps because my own dad comes from a part of Northern Ireland known as ‘orchard county’, I have a natural affinity with apples, apple juice and almost anything else with apples in it. Apple rings were one of our son’s early favourite foods and chewing away at one of them could keep him happy for quite some time. I also thought they made quite a nice snack, so would often pick up one pack for our son and one myself when I was doing the shopping. Our son doesn’t seem as keen on apple rings now, which I guess means that there’ll be more for me now! Yay!

Baby’s thoughts on daddy’s food (1): blueberries

Well if he’s going to eat my apple rings, then I’m going to tuck into his blueberries! Shortly after I was born, daddy started trying to eat things like Greek yoghurt with pumpkin seeds and blueberries for breakfast. Now I don’t know what pumpkin seeds are like, but I do know that blueberries are pretty great. In fact, they’re the sort of food that no self-respecting baby throws all over the place. Like I do with raisins, these little fruits are something I could happily eat one after another for quite a long time.

"Mummy, that tortilla wrap you're eating smells much nicer than those pumpkin and whatever things"

“Mummy, that tortilla wrap you’re eating smells much nicer than those pumpkin and banana wafers”

Daddy’s thoughts on baby’s food (2): Pumpkin and banana wafers

Apparently these things are supposed to be a tasty form of cracker for small kids to chew on. They tasted a bit more like cardboard dipped in artificial flavouring and colouring. I’d rather eat a beer mat.

Baby’s thoughts on daddy’s food (2): risotto

Daddy is not a big fan of things like risotto or mushroom stroganoff. He says that it’s one of those things that you can’t avoid eating at least one at a two day conference if you’re a vegetarian. Sometimes when he gets back from a work conference, all I hear is “moan, moan, mushroom stroganoff, moan, moan, moan…”. Mummy made me some risotto a few months ago and it was really nice and I really liked being able to eat it with my hands. Maybe daddy should try eating mushroom stroganoff with his hands next time he goes to a conference.

Daddy’s thoughts on baby’s food (3): apple flavoured mini rice cakes

Back when I was younger, there seemed to be just plain rice cakes and these were pretty tasty when spread with things such as jam, honey or marmite. They were also pretty good with melted cheese. Given what I thought of the pumpkin and banana flavoured beer mats (see above), I was a bit sceptical about flavoured rice cakes. I was, however, pleasantly surprised.

Baby's first taste of vegetarian haggis

Baby’s first taste of vegetarian haggis

Baby’s thoughts on daddy’s food (3): vegetarian haggis

As daddy is from Scotland and a vegetarian, he is pretty keen on vegetarian haggis. He talks about it on here quite a lot and even wrote a blog post entitled Will our son like haggis? in which he talked about how keen he was for me to try this supposed delicacy. I can’t say that I was all that taken with it when I first started rubbing my hands into the mashed potato topping and I didn’t even realise that it was proper food. The potato was quite tasty and I really liked the vegetarian haggis mixture too. He may go on about it a bit, but vegetarian haggis is pretty tasty. Yum yum!

"Next time we're in France, can I try one of these please?"

“Next time we’re in France, can I try one of these please?”

Leaving joking aside, I’ve really enjoyed seeing our son gradually become more curious about different sorts of food in the last six months. This seemed to start during a week’s holiday to Brittany (France) back in September of last year. We’ve been doing baby-led weaning and he’s started to become really keen on quite a few different fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, pears and apples (…in addition to blueberries). Trips out to a local tapas restaurant always seem to go down well with our son as he loves trying all the different sorts of fruit and vegetables that accompany the food. Let’s hope that he continues to enjoy all sorts of different foods as he gets older!

What sorts of baby foods do you like eating and what sorts of foods were are (or were) your baby’s favourites? Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel follow ‘Dad’s the way I like it’ via this method and re-pin your favourite posts.

Nominations are now open for the MAD blog awards for UK parent bloggers and I’ve been nominated in the categories Best Baby Blog, Best New Blog and MAD Blog of the year. In each category, only the four blogs with the most votes will make the final shortlist. If you’d like to vote for me, please go to http://www.the-mads.com/vote/ and type in the web address of my blog (https://dadsthewayilikeit.wordpress.com/) in the relevant categories. Thank you!

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Babies, books and blogging

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2013-12-11 19.17.13I’ve read many books about parenting since learning that my wife and I were going to welcome a new arrival. Indeed, parenting books that are specifically aimed at dads were the subject of my first post on this blog. I’ve also talked about books that have helped me learn how to talk about wind, throwing up and tickling in Welsh.

I also did a post where I responded to a newspaper’s list of 50 supposed baby essentials, and this led to some interesting discussion about the most and least useful things to get when you have kids. John S. Green, who blogs at Papa Green Bean, suggested that a library card should have been on the list of essentials, especially as it can make it possible to borrow both books and music.

I was thinking about these comments recently as our son now has his own library card at our local library, which also entitles him to use several other local libraries. Not only that, but also received a free bilingual book about animals in Welsh and English when he joined our local council-run library. Our son has actually been going to libraries since he was three weeks old, notably because one of our local libraries was the venue for a parent and child Welsh course that my wife went to with him and has written about on her blog Mindful Mam.

For me, the fact that libraries are about more than just shelves of books sums of their value as focal points for communities. It is for this reason that I feel that it’s a real shame that public sector spending cuts in the UK since the last election have resulted in many libraries closing. Our local libraries make available books, CDs, DVDs, the internet and books that can be read on e-readers.

My wife has often said that reading books on an e-reader is great when breastfeeding. It’s amazing how light a device that can store thousands of books can be. This is a good thing as it minimizes the negative consequences of accidentally dropping an e-book reader whilst holding a baby, not that I’d know of course… 🙂

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Our son’s arrival has at times influenced my own reading choices, and not just because I’ve read quite a lot of books about parenting. In the run up to his birth, and since then, I have read quite a few about Wales and Welsh culture. We live in North Wales, and I moved here in 2007 due to work. After getting the job for which  was applying I rang all the Welsh people I knew at the time. It only took about five minutes and two phone calls.

I’ve thankfully got to know a few more Welsh people since then and have also been busy learning Welsh, a language that I now use as part of my daily life both at work and when talking to my son. As I mentioned a while ago in a post that I wrote shortly after the death of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, my mixture of Scottish and Irish roots sometimes leaves me a bit confused about my own sense of identity and I’m not sure what our son will make of the fact that he’ll be eligible to represent Wales, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at football.

Since I talk to my son in Welsh, I’m going to have fun discovering new kids’ books in Welsh at the same time as him. Even if this means that I won’t be reading exactly the same books to him as did when I was growing up, I’m looking forward to the challenge. We’re lucky to have a really good local book shop that stocks a wide range of titles in both Welsh and English.

As a multilingual parent, one aspect of running this blog that I have really enjoyed is that it’s allowed me to connect with other bloggers in a wide variety of different places who are raising their children using more than one language, and also parents who are raising their children to appreciate a variety of different cultures. One group that has made this possible is Multicultural Kid Blogs, who bring together a fantastic range of bloggers and coordinate a great variety of different activities.

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Going back to the theme of books, Multicultural Kid Blogs have run an online book club where bloggers such as myself recently read Ana Flores and Roxana Soto’s book Bilingual is Better and discussed it on our blogs. Each week, a different blogger would write a post about a specific chapter in order to start the discussion. Here’s a link to the posts about each chapter. As you will see, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to host a question and answer session with Ana Flores on this blog.

In the new year, I’m looking forward to the second installment of the Multicultural Kid Blogs Book Club. This time round, we will be reading Family on the Loose: the Art of Travelling with Kids by Bill Richards and Ashley Steel. So far, my wife and I have been on just the one overseas trip with our son since he was born in April. We went to France in September, and I talked about this in a blog post entitled Our First Family Holiday.

I hope that September’s trip to Brittany will be the first of many that we undertake as a family, and I really look forward to reading more about the experiences of others who have been traveling with kids for a lot longer than we have. If you are interested in finding out more about the Multicultural Kid Blogs Book Club and how to get involved, just click on this link to see the schedule.

As our son grows up, I hope that he will develop a love of both travel and reading, and discover how both can broaden the mind and be a source of excitement and wonder.

What do you think of this post? What books were special to you as a child and what books are special to you and your children no? Feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it. Here’s the pin: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/428827195740258340/

Here are some parent blog link ups that this post is part of – check them out to see some great posts about all sorts of different aspects of parenting:

 

 

 

Our first family holiday

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Campsite

The campsite

We’re just back from our first family holiday. Somewhat appropriately given my focus on Scottish, Irish and Welsh culture in my last post, we went to a Celtic region of France, namely Brittany. Beforehand, I was somewhat apprehensive about the prospect of flying with a five month old baby. However, I was reassured by posts by fellow parent bloggers on this topic such as this one from the Dad Down Under site. In general, I’m often a bit nervous about flying myself but found my son’s purple elephant toy a comforting sort of stress ball while he was asleep.

We were staying at a campsite just outside the village of Le Bono in Morbihan, about five miles south of Auray. Travelling in September rather than July or August not just fitted well with our own summer plans, but also meant that renting a caravan at the site was considerably cheaper than in July and August. The fact that the campsite was fairly quiet also helped to create a nice relaxed feel.

Le Bono

Le Bono

Nice and relaxed was not, however, exactly the way I felt when I was faced with the challenge of putting up the travel cot that the campsite owner had kindly lent us. Unfortunately there weren’t any instructions with the cot and putting it up felt like a sadistically difficult mental agility task from The Krypton Factor (apologies to anyone who doesn’t recall this 1980s UK game show).

However, thanks to the WiFi that was available at the campsite reception I was able to watch a forty second video on YouTube of a man showing how to put up an almost identical cot. As myself and my wife must have spent about 20 minutes trying to do the same by that point, I did feel deeply jealous and think that he was a right show off for getting the job done in 40 seconds. After reading the comments under the video, I managed to work out what I’d been doing wrong (the cardinal sin of pulling down the base of the cot before securing all four sides for anyone faced with a similar challenge).

market

Market in Larmor-Baden

I was delighted to be back in Brittany as I remember getting to know the area as a teenager following a school trip in 1998 and after spending two months working at a campsite in La Trinité-sur-mer the following year. I’d always had a sort of fondness for Brittany due its Celtic identity. Coming from Scotland, I feel a natural affinity with any area that produces traditional biscuits that are similar to shortbread. In addition, some of the coastline and countryside reminded me of parts of Ireland that I’d visited on family holidays when I was growing up.

Things are a bit different now. For a start, I’m now in my 30s, got married last year and become a father in April of this year. In addition, I’ve spent the last six years living in Wales and now speak Welsh fluently. I began noticed similarities with Wales when it came to place names and various words in Breton as well as debates to do with the status and promotion of the Breton language.

Our son, who is currently five months, probably wasn’t thinking about this too much but certainly seemed to have a good time. During the holiday, he started to blow raspberries, make a lot more different noises and continued his fairly recent habit of sticking his tongue out at people as well as smiling at them. People generally smiled and laughed back, which he liked, especially on a few boat trips and on the plane.

Île d'Arz

Île d’Arz

Being on holiday for the first time since our son’s birth in April perhaps meant that we took things easier than we might have done a year ago and did things at a bit more of a leisurely pace. However, this certainly didn’t stop us getting out and about to visit a lot of sights in the area near where were staying. We did quite a bit of walking, going to markets and particularly enjoyed visiting a small island called Ile d’Arz. It was great to visit other towns and villages such as Larmor-Baden, Vannes and Auray as well as driving down the Quiberon peninsula.

The food was good too. As a vegetarian, options can sometimes feel a bit limited in France and I don’t often manage to sample different regional cuisines to anywhere near the same extent as meat eaters. However, Brittany is renowned for its crêpes and galettes (traditional pancakes) and many of those that feature of menus are vegetarian or can be easily modified to be made vegetarian. It was particularly good fun sampling new types of crêpes, such as ones that combined goats cheese and the local delicacy of salted caramel butter. On one occasion, I had a crêpe that combined pear, goats cheese, a scoop of gingerbread ice cream and a green salad sprinkled with pine nuts and chopped figs.

Luncht at a crêperie in Portivy, near Quiberon

Despite being too young to eat proper food, our son seemed to be getting more curious about food. Although only one of the cafes or restaurants we visited had nappy changing facilities, they all seemed to be otherwise very baby friendly. On one occasion, our son pushed a fork onto the floor within seconds of our arrival and the restaurant owner laughed and instantly fetched a replacement. On another, he started picking up a red paper place mat and waving it in the air much to the amusement of the waitress.

Looking back, it’s hard to pick out a favourite place, day or moment of our holiday. The best thing for me was just having eight relaxing and fun days that I spent with my son and my wife. I love my job but spending just over a week with my son and wife all day every day isn’t something that I’ve been able to do since my paternity leave just after our son’s birth in April.

France remains a special place to me and I’m sure it always will. I lived there for three years and visit fairly regularly both through work and on holiday. In addition to being the first place we went to on a family holiday, it’s also where my wife and I went on our first holiday together as a couple. I hope our son will grow to like the country as much as I do and enjoy travel and exploring other places as much as his mum and dad do.

What did you think of this article? What do you remember from your first holiday after becoming a parent? If you’d like to share your thoughts on this post,  please feel free to do so via the comments section below. If you want to keep up with this blog, there are ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen.

 

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