Kids are clever little things, aren’t they? My three are always discovering little life hacks that always leave me impressed and proud. Well, to a point, anyway. There’s one area that makes me cringe a little. That of my older two and video games.
If there’s a way of repurposing a popular title inappropriately, they’ll find it. Here are some of the alternative uses for video games that they’ve come up with.
Just Dance & Bottom
Oldest got Just Dance 2018 for his birthday last week. While he has a good sense of rhythm, he’s a bit lazy at times so we thought it was a good idea. And it is, to be fair. Although we’ve already learned that we shouldn’t leave him and his brother unattended with it.
I left them to it for one song and the sibling rivalry kicked in. One song! As the game involves motion capture, a post-dance highlight video is shown. And there was the evidence. My two sons dancing at first, competing for space, then fighting. It was like the end sequence of Bottom in high speed. Bloody hell, Eddie!
Bottom - Credits - YouTube
FIFA & Mean Machine
I’m proud of how the England team performed in the World Cup. Particularly in the face of immense provocation in the Colombia game. I wish I could say the same of my boys on the one and only time I allowed them to play FIFA.
After initially fouling other players accidentally while trying to cross the ball, both boys intentionally went all Vinnie Jones et al on their unfortunate virtual opponents. The yellow cards were like confetti and I had to abandon the game before the ref did. Sigh…
LEGO City Undercover & GTA
The similarities between these two sandbox games are there for all to see, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised. Then again, the former is a kid-friendly offering based on thwarting crime while the latter glorifies it.
It goes without saying that my boys have no idea what happens in GTA as I hide it. Yet they delighted in nicking cars, hitting random strangers and generally doing anything other than completing the missions.
Minecraft & Lord of the Flies
I was so excited when we got Minecraft. I had heard great things about it and it looked brilliantly educational as well as creative. It is, of course, both of these things and more. But, within minutes of unleashing the boys on it, I saw another side.
The now six-year-old was making his character chase after a pig with the sole intention of killing it. His older brother, normally a stickler for playing games properly, was laughing maniacally and encouraging him. Luckily, we have yet to discover a conch.
Plants vs Zombies & self-employment
Okay, this one is mine and mine alone. I don’t actually deviate from the purpose of the game at all. That said, I no longer recognise the titular characters or rays of sunshine at face value, so I think that still counts.
The zombies are our household bills, the plants are the money in our bank account and the rays of sunshine represent payments for work I’ve done. Sometimes, loads arrive at once but for the most part, it’s a nerve-wracking balancing act. Give me real zombies any day!
Have your kids found alternative uses for video games?
As I’ve said a number of times recently, I’ve changed a lot since becoming a dad. For the most part, this is in terms of my outlook on life, but there have been some physical changes too.
I’ve definitely put on a little weight in my eight years of parenting and it started pretty early on. I don’t know whether this is down to finishing off food my kids leave – I hate waste! – or simply because I’m now on the slippery slope to 40.
My weight has fluctuated but not by a significant amount and I’ve actually got physically stronger from carrying children around. I have developed a bit of a dad bod though!
To be honest, I’m not particularly concerned about this. I play five-a-side every week and we don’t have a car so all school runs are on foot.
We have a healthy diet too so I’m not in bad shape. That said, there’s always room for improvement! Losing a few extra pounds and toning up would serve me well.
I’m not alone in this. According to a recent survey by LighterLife Fast, half of new dads put on weight within their first year of becoming parents. Furthermore, one in ten gains more than two stone.
With less time on their hands, 28% get less exercise, 8% have quit sports teams and 20% don’t have enough time to prepare healthy meals. Meanwhile, 57% admit that their top free-time priority is sleep.
I can sympathise with a lot of this. I used to play five-a-side twice a week but dropped to one game once oldest was born. This was because I wanted to be around more, so I abandoned midweek games as they were at a more inconvenient time.
We indulged in takeaways more often in the first year of being parents too. It’s understandable as we were permanently tired, although I did feel guilty for suggesting them so often. Eight years and two more children later, sleep is still very much an obsession – as it is for a great many parents.
Another headline statistic is that of the famed dad bod. Just under a third feel less body confident since having children. This figure rises to 51% for those under the age of 29.
The physiques most respondents wanted to have themselves include those similar to David Beckham, Dwayne Johnson and Tom Hardy.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not too worried about the way I look. While I’ve never been one to go shirtless, I feel okay about my appearance. Sure, I’m not as skinny as I once was, but I feel just about right for my age and height.
Personally, I don’t think we should aspire to look like celebrities and should instead try to be the best versions of ourselves. And help is at hand here.
LighterLife Fast has worked with The Dad Network to develop a workout. Called Dad Bod to Rad Bod, it’s completely free.
Not only that, you can do the workout from the comfort of your own home and involve a little one.
As you can see from the pictures in this post, I’ve tried it out with help from youngest. It was great fun, good exercise and meant quality time with her too. Now that can’t be bad at all!
If you’re looking to fit in more exercise, it’s a good solution if time is an issue for you so it’s well worth a go.
Fellow dads: what is your experience with weight and body confidence since becoming a parent? Do you get as much exercise as you’d like?
LighterLife Fast® is an intermittent fasting brand with a range of meals for people who either wish to lose a little weight or who want to manage their current weight more effectively. The plan works by fasting two or three days per week and eating two 300kcal meals along with a meal of choice on the other four or five “smart” days.
Despite being a dad of three and with eight years’ parenting under my belt, I feel my capacity for being surprised should be dwindling. And yet it’s not. I often catch myself incredulous about some of the most basic of occurrences. Here are five things I really shouldn’t be surprised by anymore.
The passing of time
Before kids were on the scene, the years actually felt like years. Some of them even felt like the end of the final Lord of the Rings film. But since oldest arrived eight years ago, the time has flown by.
Yes, it’s a cliché but I can’t believe eight years have elapsed since that surreal night in July 2010. Sure, loads has happened since then and I’ve changed a lot, but it really doesn’t seem very long ago at all.
I have a pretty good memory so I really shouldn’t be taken aback by this. But all three of my kids remember things that I thought – and sometimes hoped – they would forget.
My sons can’t tell you what they did at school on any given day but retain details of my parenting fails from when they were toddlers. I said “Oh bollocks!” in front of them once. Once, dammit!
I think I’m allowed to use the word ‘genius’ here as lots of people accused me of being such last week. To cut a long story short, I had promised oldest birthday candles that spelt his name, the shop didn’t have his in stock and I improvised.
I used to be quite a creative problem solver before becoming a parent but am so tired and, therefore, slow-witted these days. It’s a pleasant surprise that I’ve still got it. Even if it’s only now and then!
Bread and milk
This isn’t to say I’m surprised by the existence of these kitchen essentials, you understand. It’s the frequency with which we have to buy them. I remember loaves lasting up to a week and milk actually starting to turn because we weren’t using it quickly enough.
Ah, food waste nostalgia. There are no such problems now, of course. We literally drink gallons of milk every week. Meanwhile, we need to stop being afraid of our as-yet untouched breadmaker.
The accumulation of stuff
It’s a good thing that we discovered Swedish death cleaning this year. As, otherwise, certain rooms in our house would be uninhabitable by now. It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate with kids around.
However quickly we get rid of clutter, it still gathers at an alarming rate. I have genuinely no idea how it does either.
It can’t be just me who is bewildered by the minutiae of family life can it? Are you ever surprised by small things that you shouldn’t be?
Tomorrow, England go head to head with Sweden in the World Cup quarter-final. The high hopes of the nation rest on 11 young men including the captain, Harry Kane.
My kids have had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards football for the last few years, but seem to have a real enthusiasm for it now. Perhaps inevitably, their favourite player is Kane. And I couldn’t be happier that this is the case.
This isn’t because I’m a lifelong Spurs fan and he’s one of our own. It’s not because he scores so many goals either. It’s down to the personal qualities he possesses.
This article on BBC Sport is a really good read. It features interviews with people who knew him from childhood right through to the present day. In short though, he seems to be an unassuming chap who never gives up.
Rejected by Arsenal as a kid, he refused to let it get the better of him. Through immense hard work and a willingness to learn his trade via loans in the lower leagues – a route that many a talented young pro has thought below them – he has ended up as England’s talisman.
Even when the press and rival fans branded him a one-season wonder after a slow start to his second full season at White Hart Lane, he let his football do the talking and proved the doubters wrong.
We’ve all seen kids imitating their footballing heroes. But witnessing Ronaldo’s sense of entitlement and Neymar’s gamesmanship in smaller scale is uncomfortable. Yes, they’re easily among the world’s most talented players but football is a team game. There should be no place for ego or feigning injury.
This is why Harry Kane is such a good role model for youngsters.
Yes, he’s driven to score as many goals as he can but this mustn’t be mistaken for greed. He’s someone who’s always looking to better himself and help better his team in the process.
Look how many times he drifted out wide to bring teammates into play against Colombia. Clearly not the behaviour of a glory-hungry prima donna.
Think about how often he tracked back to help in midfield and even defence.
And remember the composure he showed in the face of blatant cheating on Tuesday night. Colombia’s players did everything they could to delay his penalty. Similarly, he gets straight back up when fouled by opponents.
There’s no mock incredulity or writhing around in apparent agony when things don’t go his way. He just gets on with it.
We should all want our children to emulate the personal qualities behind these actions.
Harry Kane represents everything that’s good about football and, indeed, positive personality traits.
Whatever happens in the quarter-final and beyond, I think he has already cemented his place as a national hero. And I’m delighted that my children look up to him.
Who are your kids’ heroes and what do you think of them?
I was interested to read an article in Huffpost Parents this week. It reports on a claim that a family of four would need £40k a year to live comfortably.
I have to admit that I’m somewhat surprised by this figure. Why? Well, we’re doing fine on a significantly smaller amount and there are five of us!
The cost of living is an emotive topic so I wasn’t sure whether I should write about it. Times are hard for many and our government is out of touch with normal people.
But, given my experience since having kids, I think it’s worth sharing my take.
Our household income is below the UK average and we live in one of the most expensive parts of the country.
This probably puts us in the category that our PM lovingly referred to as ‘Jams’. That said, we don’t go without anything we truly need and are all happy.
I’ve been the family’s sole earner for eight years and, in that time, have had a couple of spells of unemployment. Things were touch and go, but we never missed any bills and I didn’t claim JSA because of the dehumanising effect of the benefits system.
Three years ago, I was earning a little under £40k with the opportunity to hit it if I stayed in my job. There were four of us then, with youngest on the way. While I had to pay an obscene amount to stand up on trains, we were more than comfortable. We were actually saving money every month.
But the role made me miserable and no amount of money is worth your health, so I turned down the offer of an improved contract, left and went freelance. It was a big risk but one I simply had to take.
Happily, we’ve been fine ever since despite me earning much less than I used to. And there’s a simple reason for this. We’ve always lived within our means – even before children were on the scene. We knew we were going to have kids, so worked hard and saved as much as we could.
When I was earning a lot, we only spent what we needed to and put away as much as possible. Now we’re living a hand to mouth existence with fluctuating earnings, we have the cushion that we built up for ourselves.
Admittedly, we don’t have a car to run but, again, this comes down to careful planning. Although we live in a semi-rural area, we chose where to live based on the proximity of schools and public transport.
We haven’t been on any kind of holiday for four years, but they’re not essential. Spending quality time as a family isn’t dependent on your location.
A similar approach applies to birthdays and Christmas – we spend what we can afford to and never use the credit card.
So can a family of four live comfortably on £40k? I suppose it comes down to interpretation. One person’s ‘struggling’ will always be someone else’s ‘well off’.
Personally, I think we could live very comfortably on that amount as a family of five. It would be unusual to have that much coming in!
What do you think? Could your family live comfortably on £40k?
It’s oldest’s birthday today. Somehow or other, he’s eight years old already. This, of course, means that I’ve been a parent for the same amount of time. As I mentioned in yesterday’s rather silly post, I’ve changed a lot since then.
Here, then, are eight important life lessons I’ve learned in eight years of parenting.
You weren’t truly tired before having kids
I used to think I was tired before children were on the scene. I knew nothing! The exhaustion is something else. We have three kids and the middle one didn’t sleep through the night until he was four. So we’ve been sleep deprived for eight years and counting. I actually feel out of sorts on the odd days when everyone sleeps through now. But conversely…
You can achieve much with little or no sleep
While sleep deprivation is horrible, you quickly get used to it. In fact, you learn to do everything, including all the new parenting skills, with little to no rest. And, even when you feel like a zombie, people don’t always notice.
It’s okay to wing it
There’s a reason that the lists expectant parents bring to the delivery room are more commonly known as ‘birth preferences’ than ‘birth plans’. Very little goes to plan from day one! With that in mind, I think it’s okay to take things as they come and learn on your feet. As long as you have a rough idea of what to expect with each stage of parenthood, improvising is fine.
Mistakes are good for you
I felt awful after my first big parenting fail. For the record, I accidentally hit oldest’s head on a door frame when lifting him up to perform a sniff test on his nappy. I’ve made plenty more mistakes since then and have learned to embrace them. After all, if you don’t mess up now and then, you’re never going to learn anything.
And for your kids
It can be hard to allow your kids to make mistakes that you know will upset them, but you must. Even if it goes against your instincts. Protecting them from feeling sad about getting something wrong won’t help them in the long run.
Kids are actually quite easy to please
They’re quite happy to have the same thing for breakfast or lunch every day and will merrily watch the same episodes of favourite TV shows again and again. They don’t need expensive days out every week – quality time with you is what matters.
Keep calm and carry on
I used to be like the proverbial headless chicken when things went awry. ‘Panic’ wasn’t the word. I was hopeless. Having kids has transformed me on this front. We’ve had scares with all three of them and been to A&E more than once. As a result, I’m the picture of calm in alarming situations now.
Good enough is fine
Trying to keep up with the Joneses is an act of futility. Why? Because they don’t exist! Social media has exacerbated the human error that is trying to live the perfect lives we perceive others as having. But, whoever these Jones folk are, remember you’re only seeing what they want you to see. They’ve been covered in puke, poo and pee too. Being a good enough parent will do.
My oldest child will be eight tomorrow. It doesn’t feel that long ago since he arrived, but a lot has happened since then. We’ve welcomed two more children and I’ve had a career path worthy of a roller coaster. As a result, I’ve changed a lot as a person.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all contemplative and reflect on things. That’s not my bag. Daft whimsy is about to ensue. You see, lately, I’ve surprised myself with things I’ve instinctively done.
It would be easy and, indeed, foolish to dismiss them as being things that I’ve learned from experience. I think I may actually have developed superhuman skills and, therefore, the right to wear my pants on the outside without the risk of public ridicule.
Knowing the weather without checking
This happens so often these days. The kids always open the curtains as, apparently, doing so is prestigious. We’re too busy in the kitchen making breakfast to look outside, so have no idea what kind of day awaits.
If the kids are irritable, I know it’s going to be windy and will be ready to deal with their King Lear routine on the school run. If they won’t stop bickering even when told, it’s inevitable that there’s a full moon imminent. I’m basically a barometer now.
Packing the shopping in Aldi
I know that most supermarket checkout staff these days are fast, but those at Aldi are something else. Yet, only last week, there was no shopping left on the small area at the end of the checkout when it was time to pay. And the eggs were on top.
This was despite being sleep deprived and with only one coffee in my system. The only possible explanation is that I have lightning-fast reactions that only come into play in supermarkets that sell products with funny names.
Stepping on LEGO without feeling pain
The boys are dreadful at tidying their room and are forever dropping bits of LEGO on the floor. I always check on all three kids just before going to bed and almost always end up standing on the pesky things. The LEGO, that is, not my kids.
It would appear that I’ve finally become impervious to these basically-indestructible objects. Sign me up for that LEGO firewalk. I’ll ace it.
Reading without reading
I can now ‘read’ almost any bedtime story without the book. This includes using emphasis on words that are italicised and, of course, all the different regional accents I like to use.
I’ve always had a good memory but, since becoming a parent, it hasn’t been as sharp as it once was. Sure, I can still recall every word to 1980s TV commercials, but I struggle to remember newer things. That doesn’t seem to apply to stories, however. I’m a modern-day Teddy Ruxpin.
Yes, these are all very specific superhuman skills. They’re not going to save the world or achieve anything of note. But they’ve saved me from injury and social embarrassment so that’ll do me.
Summer is finally here and it looks like it’s here to stay. Hurrah! With the school holidays imminent, parents’ thoughts are turning to how to keep the kids occupied for six whole weeks.
It’s a daunting prospect, but is still very much achievable. Like many others, we’re on a pretty tight budget so we’ll be having plenty of free and cheap days out.
Luckily, we live in a semi-rural and coastal area, so the countryside and sea are never far away. We’ll go out for lots of country walks and trips to the beach with picnics playing a big part.
It’s simple days out like this that children seem to remember more fondly. This just goes to show that we can enjoy things with a key ingredient removed – expense, in this case. More on the ingredient changing angle later.
Of course, it’s important to have something refreshing to drink while you’re out and about. Speaking of which, we just tried some new-recipe Capri-Sun.
I hadn’t had it since I was a kid myself so I was interested to find out what had changed.
Well, first things first, Capri-Sun has never contained preservatives, artificial colours or flavours. But, as the saying goes, there’s always room for improvement.
The new Capri-Sun original range now has 50% less sugar with nothing artificial in it, but the famous flavour has remained intact thanks to the addition of Stevia, a sweetener from a natural source.
That’s already a win in my book – my kids don’t need much sugar to get silly, so anything with a reduced amount can only be a good thing!
One thing that hasn’t changed is the famous pouch. It’s still lightweight and compact and doesn’t need chilling. Again, this is great for us. Particularly the lightweight element. We don’t have a car so have to carry everything around.
We packed some pouches of Capri-Sun and headed for one of our favourite walks – a former railway line that is now a lovely country route free from traffic. It was such a nice day that we walked all the way to my parents’ house! As soon as we got there, it was high time for a drink in a shady spot.
With the ingredients and portability boxes well and truly ticked, the most important test remained. Yes, that of taste.
I’m happy to report that there were no complaints from my children. They really liked both the orange and blackcurrant flavours and merrily gulped them down. It would have been rude for me not to try both flavours too and they tasted great.
Fortunately, we received a fair few samples, so we’ve got plenty in reserve for the next few weeks!
So there you go. We had a nice family day out with minimal expenditure and with the kids consuming less sugar. Thumbs up all round!
I always like to see the best in people. Particularly my kids. When they do something naughty, I try to look at things from their point of view. I’ve struggled with one member of the family recently though. The toddler. For, try as I might to give her the benefit of the doubt, I’m starting to believe she’s a con artist.
While she’s stopped short of trying to flog me a dodgy watch, there have been plenty of shenanigans lately. She certainly puts the scam in scamp. Here are a few of them.
This simple but effective hustle is one I’m sure many parents have fallen victim to. She walked up to me as I was checking the contents of my wallet, gave me a warm smile, held out a hand and said “five pounds?”
“Only if you help landscape the garden,” I replied, playing along with her apparently innocent game. “Okay, Daddy.” The money changed hands but did she help in the garden? No. She ran off and hid my fiver. Unbelievable.
No win, no fee
I recently caught her staging a tricycle accident in the kitchen. She actually turned the trike on its side before carefully sitting down, shuffling forward a little and lying on the floor. She stopped short of spinning an upturned wheel for dramatic effect, but this was a clear attempt to try and sue somebody.
It ultimately failed, of course. Thanks to the reflective surface of the fridge, I saw everything.
Not all of her scams are motivated by money. Some involve sweets. At the moment, we’re trying to potty train her. She gets a chocolate button or two every time she uses either the potty or the loo.
She has since realised that, as there’s already water in the latter, it’s her word against ours as to whether she has, erm, delivered her side of the bargain. She’s not daft.
The other day, I left the room for a matter of seconds and caught her typing something on my computer. She was unable to explain herself, so I’m making an assumption here.
She was obviously trying to send me an email under a pseudonym with the intention of tricking me into publishing a link. It’s lucky I’m already wise to such sneaky SEO tricks!
This final con is one of the worst. Particularly for English people. She loves hosting tea parties for her toys and any nearby family members.
Only yesterday, she offered me a cup of tea. “Lovely, yes please!” I responded. She handed me an empty cup. My own flesh and blood gave me pretend tea. Disgraceful.
I think this evidence is pretty compelling. Could your toddler be a con artist too?
If there’s one household chore I need to get better at, it’s cleaning our appliances. Actually, that’s something of an understatement. Just cleaning them at all would be a good start. Well, thanks to the people at Dr Beckmann, I have finally made some progress.
They sent me three of their appliance cleaners to test. Namely Service-it Deep Clean Washing Machine Cleaner, Oven Cleaner and Service-it Washing Machine Cleaner. Here’s how they fared.
Service-it Deep Clean Washing Machine Cleaner
With five of us in the family, our washing machine gets a lot of hammer. Of the two products I received for this particular appliance, I thought a deep clean would be in order first. I poured the contents of the box into the drum and started a 60° cycle.
An hour or so later, it was ready to inspect. The drum looked and smelled nice and clean and it must have done a good job on the drain hose too. The blurb on the box claims that it eliminates 99.9% of bacteria and micro-organisms, so that’s good to know as well.
We’ve lived in our house for eight years and the oven was here when we moved in. In all that time, we can’t recall cleaning it. Oops! A stern test awaited the oven cleaning spray. I sprayed on a decent amount and left it to work its magic. For the most part, the gel stuck to vertical surfaces without running down.
After an hour, I cleaned it off with hot, soapy water. While not perfect, the insides of the oven and grill are now unrecognisably clean. The door needed a second application as it was filthy, but it worked. I’m really impressed!
Service-it Washing Machine Cleaner
Finally, I tried out the Washing Machine Cleaner. I used a small amount on a cloth to clean the rubber seal around the door, before soaking the tray in 50ml and four litres of water. After half an hour, I rinsed the drawer – which was much cleaner – and put it back. In went the remainder of the product and on went another 60° cycle.
Once the cycle was complete, I had a look. Again, everything was a lot cleaner. There was some staining left on the seal, but that was my fault for leaving it so long. The residue had all gone so the Service-it had done its job.
All in all, I’m pleased with the results. I like to give products tough tests and, in all honesty, I thought I was being unreasonable by using them on our neglected appliances. Particularly the oven! While they weren’t left completely spotless, the difference the Dr Beckmann appliance cleaners have made is obvious.
Our washing machine and oven should now perform better having had a much-needed clean. I promise not to leave it eight years next time!