A fear of food

Initially when starting Shared Parental leave I was terrified of the countdown to food time, there are 3 meals to prepare (7am, 12 and 5pm) and that is before you start thinking of yourself.  When you finish one, get her to nap and then play she is ready for the next.  I can cook basic stuff and things from recipes so I am not a complete student but it’s not something I have a 7 day meal plan for.   

What you need to know is really simple, by the time they get to 11 months they will pretty much eat anything, from paper, plastic, soil, sand, poo (I caught her once trying to put a recently deposited whole sweet corn back in to her system) and of course normal food. They are also human and so pretty much can eat what you eat with all traces of salt and non-natural sugar removed. Sofia is lucky she also doesn’t suffer any food allergies which complicates matters.

The key however is the starter, the food you keep them entertained with prior to the main event you are still frantically preparing after not getting home on time or letting her have just 5 more minutes in soft play. As she rapidly descends in to madness you need to have some food lined up to entertain. So here are the top 5 small snacks and it is oh so simple…

Pizza courgettes – take one courgette, slice, cover each slice in tomato, cover in cheese, stick in oven. You can put these in the fridge and reheat when needed.

Frittata – basically egg mixed with cheese, tuna, tomatoes or whatever you fancy and oven baked for 10-15 mins in a small cup cake tray. Again these can be eaten hot or cold. 

Raisins – yes you just buy these things and eat them. However buy a big bag and restock the small cardboard cartons you spend a fortune on. This saves you £

Grissini – a simple eighties snack given to humans in Italian restaurants while waiting for food but a awesome snack when covered in cream cheese (do Italian restaurants still have these?). 

Fruit – it’s a classic from the bible but fruit is a really simple snack to have handy, sliced grapes (no choking) and blueberries are perfect sugar hits. 

There are also tonnes of supermarket baby snacks you can buy, we also had rice crackers on the menu till we heard that we could be pushing arsenic in to her stomach. The rice cracker industry has probably collapsed on that story.

So snacks are done but food is another story.  You have the option of eating at home or out, luckily we don’t have too much money worries at the moment so eating out it  always a option. 

I used to frown upon the classic Italian eatery but a bargain offer (kids for a £1, or 3 courses for £6.95) goes a long way to restoring faith. Pasta is also a genius Italian invention for kids and Sofia has the Italian dad gene and can’t get enough.  You also get to steal their desert when chocolate (can’t let them get the taste before 1!).  So the Italian chains of Prezzo and Pizza Express feature up there is places now to go in Hitchin. Also the various local soft play and children’s play tend to have cafes and basic food to eat. This is a market waiting to be tapped as the food tends to be pretty poor with 2 overworked staff trying to keep the toys and play areas free from sick and poo, while still cooking and also getting people to pay for their visit. 

At home she pretty much can eat what we eat. So no curries yet but simple basic pasta meals, sausage and mash (throw in some leek), sweet potatoes (this should have been on the snack menu), fish fingers and peas, jacket potato, broccoli, cauliflower cheese, pizza and pasta and more pasta. She pretty much turns her nose up at any attempts of packet food which is great but also a curse when it comes to needing a quick fix. 

So after 6 weeks of this I am now surviving. Just need to start my soft play dining experience now. 

We have a walker

She has been threatening it for just over a month now. As soon as she could crawl, she was climbing, as soon as she could climb she was starting to walk around using objects to hold on to. Now she has taken her first steps and is rapidly heading to being able to fully walk. 

She has always been active, anyone that reads this blog has probably gathered that. She also likes exploring, from the moment she could crawl she was moving from room to room exploring. She probably takes this from me, I don’t like sitting still and through running like to explore the local environment. I’ve said all along I can’t wait till she can come out running, with her rapid development I want her to be one of the youngest to complete a parkrun.
So to get her crawling we encouraged her to grab for items just out of reach. I don’t think we had any conscious plan. We tried to help her on to all fours and then she went from there. This all started back in February, when she was 7 months and she has powered on since then. By the time we went to America in March she was crawling. 

This then led to exploration in March, in America we tempered this with a Jumperoo but that didn’t stop her crawling off at the beach or around the house. It was always fun not to stop her but to see where she was off to. At the beach this was chasing seagulls (she loves all things bird like).  Her final achievement on holiday was standing holding on to the bath edge.

At home away from America this introduced steps in to the challenge. We were pretty amazed as she immediately started to try and get upstairs. Initially practising on a single step this rapidly progressed to a full flight of stairs. For us this meant the introduction of one of the most annoying inventions ever, the stair gate. How can anyone navigate steps while carrying a baby, empty mugs and open a gate.

This is pretty much where things halted for a month or so. The last month has been one of experimentation, she has been standing and navigating between objects on her feet. Each step and experiment has helped her gain confidence. We bought her a Lion walker to help her walk while holding something. We then bought a new house with a hallway long enough to allow her a good walk. Everything has been her, she has resisted any attempts of help so far. 

What she has learnt though has been amazing, she learnt to slide backwards off the bed, allowing her to walk around the bed of a morning. She has been picking things up off the floor, heavy items and balancing them while standing or squatting on the spot and many other subtle movements. It has been like a circuit training session at the gym. 

Over the last few weeks this has accelarated to the point where she has been ready to take some solo steps. I’d like to say this is the influence of Em or me as part of Shared Parental Leave but she has done this all herself. Since she has taken a step she has rapidly started to do more steps. Clarks shoes say you need to walk 12 steps before considering her first shoes but she is there now which yesterday led to a John Lewis visit and shoe measurement (size 3.5 (4 in Clarks) with a G gauge). It was funny watching her trying to walk in the shop. Shoes apparently set them back a few days as they learn to walk with more chunky feet. 

We only moved house just under 2 months ago, it is scary writing this to see her going from crawl to walk during that time. There is no holding her back really. She is already trying to navigate steps/stairs on her feet. Next up is a parkrun 😉 

Dad the builder

While Sofia is learning new skills daily so is dad.  This time in DIY for children. It started with building the furniture for her room and has now moved on to a variety of plastic toys from China. It’s kind of good that I am off work at the moment as you are not coming home at night only to read the latest instalment of bad instructions on the latest toy. 

It’s Sofia’s birthday next month but already the grandparents presents are arriving at the door. The latest two have been put up over the last day while baking in a summer heatwave. At least it keeps us entertained through our second month of no internet, thanks BT.  

The first was a new car for Sofia, building this was like taking your first steps in to being a car mechanic. It even came with little tools to fix the axle to the wheel (I am hoping that’s correct, I know nothing about cars except I like fast ones). This was enjoyably built while consuming a bottle of wine after Sofia had gone to sleep. It actually started with Em building it but rapidly ended up me finishing the other 9/10ths. The car was hidden overnight in the toilet and then was a surprise the next morning. Seems to have gone down well but already tweeting Little Tikes about the need for a replacement wheel thanks to a few spins round the road outside. 

Today was spent building a sandpit. The garden echoing to the sound of the electric screwdriver. This was me getting my own back on the builders and their flat building the other side of the road. I am sure it distracted them during their watching of the latest Furchester Hotel. 

This building was punctuated with Sofia offering to help via trying to steal a screw or practice her standing against the partly constructed frame. It’s useful at this age as they are oblivious to what you are doing unless it is bright and colourful.  This also gives us time even when built to keep it in full sight while we buy sand and some spades and buckets. 

The key thing is it came with a cover to protect from the local cat wildlife. There is nothing more appealing in next doors garden than the sight of the worlds biggest kitty litter! I am pretty sure that we’d be in danger of the two day rule here (read the last two posts). 

So I must admit toy building is better than building shelving or beds so this is a step up on the building jobs. I am kind of intrigued to see what comes next. Sofia is already building up a plastic car collection with a Pink indoor walker car, a walking Lion and now a red car. There is likely more to come with scooters, bikes and a variety of other modes of transport. We are building a small Arab baby style car collection. 

It’s a role I am growing in to though, dad the builder. 

One week in…

So I am one week in to Shared Parental Leave and work is but a distant memory, Brexit, the elections has been replaced by Dougie hugs, Hartbeeps and housework. I feel more relaxed, enjoy just playing as it isn’t a 5 minute burst when stressed from working, stressed from it being such a short time and stressed about not having any of my own time.

The last week has been great, it has relaxed me, no end.  I feel more awake and any work worry or pressure is slipping away. It’s quite nice to drop whatever you are doing and spend some time with her.  Even my Fitbit is saying I am doing a good job with my standing heart rate down to 50 from 55 and steps and exercise up on what it was before.

A lot of it feels like very basic stuff, helping her to put blocks in the right holes, holding her hand while she tries to walk around the room, just general conversation and imitations. However you feel like she is noticeably building a relationship with you.  Well I think it’s that or she is trying to tell me something else. Shut up daddy as she puts her dummy in my mouth (she has started doing this which makes her laugh), I don’t like this food as she shoves the sandwich she has eaten in mine, smiling happily.  Hugs and wanting to be picked up are a thing. She has also learnt to pull the credit card out of my wallet. A sure sign of things to come.  I loved Hartbeeps which was pretty chilled and she loves it, as she does the tv (probably a bad element but we get her out lot’s to visit the park and local wildlife).

With all the Sofia time has also come more time for me. Running has always been part of what I do. However since Sofia times are noticeably slower, I feel far too tired to run anywhere or even enjoy it, something a number of people have commented on. Times have dropped off, a 20 minute 5km is now 22 minutes. However first week out running clocked my fastest times in nearly a year. Hoping the extra time will help me get back to past times or at least close.

I am still living day to day though. I said numerous times before I left work I’d learn to do a whole range of things from cooking, learning to play guitar, do some yoga and to programme software. None of that has started and haven’t really found the time or motivation yet. The most time I have is after she has gone to bed. I am rarely tired at this point now. So over the next week this needs to become a focus.  We don’t have internet yet and the tv is pretty rubbish so really shouldn’t just plonk down in front of Eastenders.

There are challenges, you have to be super well planned on the food front, getting 3 meals a day ready is actually the biggest one. Em has been making all of Sofia’s food from fresh so I am under pressure to compete. There are also all the other chores besides cooking, such as buying food, cleaning, bills, etc.. it’s all straight forwards but takes time and is all relatively new. I did elements of all of it before but being at home means you have time to do all these things but you need to have them part of your routine, which is new. It’s like starting a new job in many ways.

It’s been a different first week also, as have had my parents up for 4 days. So this week might be the first full week. It’s been great having my parents up as they usually only see Sofia on FaceTime. So them getting to spend time has also been great and also allowed for a sneaky trip to the local beer festival. So that was the week that was!

In training

So my final Sunday lesson was mainly about poop. Me and Sofia go to town with Em who is off to the pub with a friend and to get her nails done. A lady of leisure now before work on Monday. Her advice like much of her thinking was about poop. “Don’t use the changing tables now as she just rolls off”, “don’t let her eat dog poop more than 2 days old or you need to go to Hospital” what? This came from the potential need to change her on the park floor at somepoint. Also cafes that have children’s play areas have dirty toilets just based on the number of kids that go through there. She hasn’t told me this up until now as I do like a clean toilet. It’s all about the poop, we get some practice enroute just to rub it in.

Monday starts with dire weather forecasts. I don’t have much time and have a list of food to buy and chores to do while out. All goes well, packed for both sun and rain, didn’t underdress Sofia. A mum walks by looking slightly embarrassed by her child in shorts. It’s cold today, this is not how I thought the summer would start. I even had a delivery of a sun parasol for the back garden. After shopping  I intend to tire her out in the parks and as we near the swings I expect an excited chirp but no, worried I check her but she is fast asleep. 

Sleep and food timings are critical to the day.  These are the things I fear most along with injuring Sofia and ending up in A&E. shortly after a well timed lunch she decides to launch herself off a Nike box head first in to a box of toys, emerging she looks like she has cut herself above the eye! Oh god I’ve failed. Luckily I’d not cleaned her face properly after lunch of tomato and cheese courgette  pizza (made by Em).


As the day wears on she has a nap, our friend down the road calls round to pick up some parcels. I comment she is in bed, really? She replies, I thought by this time she’d be awake so came round. Argh! Better go wake her up. I give her another 15 mins.


The rest of the day is uneventful. It’s raining and we just play.  I’ve watched solid children’s tv, much more happy than the news and the terrible events in London. I’ve avoided work almost, one post on Google+ but I’ve deleted all the other apps otherwise the temptation would be too great. The day is pretty low on the interaction score with mostly conversations about electrical or banking set up. 

Em gets home and Sofia is excited to see her. It’s handover time, I finish making dinner and crack open a beer to celebrate day one. 64 days to go. No major issues but need to crack this food menu lark.