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Monday, 29 August 2016

Lawnmower racing, mud pies, and the mouse who cheated death

 Picture of lawnmowers racing at the Mendip Mower Racing Family Festival 2016 - grand prix race

WHAT AN ABSOLUTELY MENTAL DAY THAT WAS.
  1. I woke up to what sounded like tanks and gunfire in my ear. It was just a toddler watching Monster Trucks on an iPhone. How do they find these shows on YouTube exactly? He's 3 years old.
  2. Was snitched on for putting my hand in the bin, "because it dirty an a mouse was in dere de other day."
  3. Was then told off and snitched on for having the last of the maple syrup.
  4. Had a moment where my son was screaming for no apparent reason for 10 minutes, which started off a chain reaction of arguments.
  5. Quietly rage-drank coffee for a while, hoping all the bad things might stop.
  6. Got the toddler dressed and out of the house but closed the door on his fingers by accident.
  7. He screamed and was quickly ushered indoors to avoid concerned looks from the neighbours.
  8. Got first degree stinging nettle burns on my leg when getting into my car (karma).
  9. Took him to watch lawnmower racing at the Mendip Mower Racing Family Festival. We were both mesmerised. (You can see a video of it on my Instagram.)
  10. Bought an inflatable mallet with acid house smiley faces on it.
  11. Had an ice cream (or what little he would let me have of it).
  12. Managed to get him off for a nap without having to push the stroller (must be a fluke).
  13. Went to the park and watched him shout Old MacDonald while looking like he was humping and riding a tractor.
  14. Found it so funny I made a thug life video of it. It's probably not that funny but I keep chuckling when I watch it. (Head over to Facebook to watch it.)
  15. Nearly lost my temper when he wouldn't get his balance bike out of the middle of the road and several cars had to wait for what felt like years.
  16. Finally got him home. Had no food, wife stuck in traffic for an hour with food. We ate rice crackers with peanut butter like desperate men.
  17. Told him about the traffic delay. Melted when he said "We could go and save her and rescue her from da traffic."
  18. Left him in the garden for 5 minutes, and when I returned he said "I been busy workin. Look I maded a mud pie."
    Picture of my son with his mud pie he made in his water play table
    "You no like my mud pie daddy?"
  19. Swore.
  20. Wife returned home, everyone was happy.
  21. Ate a picnic in the garden and watched him strip off and almost dip his meat and two veg in the beetroot and goats cheese salad.
  22. Died laughing. Got told off by wife.
  23. Everyone was tired in the kitchen. Suddenly there were sounds of a scene outside. Loud squeaking, and my wife screaming, "Tink's got a mouse."
  24. Quickly locked the catflap to keep the threat outside.
  25. Witnessed the mouse sprinting towards me through a tiny gap under the door.
  26. Jumped out of my skin. Everyone screams. Mouse ominously disappears behind IKEA circus tent.
  27. Wife shouted, "Get that bloody cat in. This is her problem, she can help us find it."
  28. Bring cat in but can't help telling her off. Cat runs away in shame.
  29. Chased the mouse for 5 minutes around the house while wife stood on a chair screaming and and the toddler shouted, "I don't like it I don't like it I don't like it."
  30. It was the fastest mouse I've ever seen in my life, it was like trying to catch Cristiano Ronaldo and at one point it surprised me by sprinting over my bare foot from underneath the sofa. The shock of it made me scream.
  31. Just as he was running at me again I managed to throw a Charlie Bigham's pie container over it. Aiming ahead of it like I was shooting a clay pigeon.
  32. Everyone cheered, and I feel like a hero. I let the mouse out the front door to freedom.
  33. Got hit with the inflatable mallet when I was lying down. We laughed like crazy but then all the laughing made us get over excited. I accidentally let out an obscene, humongous fart like a slipstream from a jet fighter. It made my son love me, and my wife retch simultaneously.
  34. Kissed the boy goodnight. He comments, "You shouldn't get grumpy at Tink cos she catches da mouses so you can put 'em in da bin."
  35. Tidied up the house as a team. Feeling absolutely shattered but like I wouldn't change a thing.

Dadlife. What a day.

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Sunday, 28 August 2016

6 survival tips for new mums, living with new dads

Dads can feel kind of useless in those early days when you’ve just had a baby. As a mum, you’re getting used to an undersized goblin sucking on your breast 24/7 and you’ll probably be shouting one of the following phrases at him:

•    “What the f*ck is happening? I feel like a cow.” While milk pisses from one of your tits (or possibly both) like a urinating Belgian cupid statue.
•    “I’m so f*cking tired.” Followed by hysterical crying. Only it’s not funny, and your partner stares at you dumbfounded and entirely devoid of anything useful to say.


Father and son wearing dinosaur costumes
Get used to this confused look - dads will do it a lot.

Well, all this is if you’re a normal mother. A zen mama will be sat there listening to classical music after her perfectly non-traumatic hypnobirth. Meanwhile, a doula (who happens to be a Michelin star organic chef) mops her brow, and her perfectly behaved baby sleeps through the night and makes adorable cooing noises. 

I was invited to give some dadderly advice on this life changing event by Pearl at Miraculous Mums. The reality is, you’re probably both in for a rollercoaster ride completely unlike that last scenario, so you need to work as a team to make this experience easier. 

Here are 6 top tips for surviving a newborn with a clueless father in your household.

#1 – Understand that he’s going to say (and do) a lot of stupid shit.
You’re probably already used to your partner being an annoying dickhead sometimes. Now amplify it by 100. It’s likely he’ll come home from work muttering something about how tiring that was, while you fantasise about stabbing him in the heart for the shit you’ve been through that day.


This is the tip of the iceberg. We’re learning how to support you in ways we’ve never helped you out before, and it can take time for us to adapt to our new responsibilities. But we will do a lot of stuff that makes no sense to you. We'll always do our best but can get it colossally wrong too. Trust me from someone who knows, it's never done intentionally!

#2 - Try to make dad feel useful.
We like doing practical stuff. Sterilising bottles, or pumping breasts to express milk to soothe the pain you’re in. It’s a lot of fun, I became a professional milk pumper, and enjoyed storing milk in the freezer while dreaming of making my fortune selling it to perverts on eBay. Read about it here.

#3 - Let go of the baby.
It can be all too easy to be joined to the hip with the baby because of the bond you have, but let dad have his time too. We LOVE taking our babies out for a walk, grabbing a coffee or picking up supplies from the shop, and it makes us feel good because we’re giving you some time to sleep.

#4 – Give us baby related shopping errands.
What man doesn’t love a deep session of research on the Net for some device or something for the home that we think may be the key to solving a baby related problem. Tell us things to look for and we will happily research the best one to get when we have a spare moment 5 hours.

#5 – If you’re able to, let him do night feeds.
Every situation is different, but I remember when I had my new role as the night feeder, I felt like I had a new purpose in life. I always had that time to look forward to when I was at work, and I’d give my son his 11pm feed. It was our time in the dark for him to be cuddled by me and put his tiny hand around my finger. Magical. This evolved into the dream feed where I’d pick him up out of the cot while he slept to give him his bottle.

As soon as we introduced this strategy it took a huge weight off the pressure of having a newborn, and I felt like I could properly bond with my son.

#6 – Give a little trust. It goes a long way.
Gone are the days when men were unable to change nappies. Nowadays we love it. Who doesn't love commenting on their child's faecal matter like Heston Blumenthal in a food lab. The only way to do this is to get close and personal with it. "Ooh, raisins today. This one's swelled up like a grape."

The point I'm making is we want to be involved and while you'll probably hate us for not being able to wake up as easily as you in the night when the baby cries, we are now living in an age where stay-at-home-dads and other great fathers are everywhere.

Dads are amazing parents when we are given the trust to run with it and make mistakes, and I think I became a better man through raising my son and having days or weekends with him if my wife was away and learning from the things I messed up on. It's an incredible experience, and while it's hard, we can do it, and thrive!

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Friday, 26 August 2016

An Interview with Lisa Williams of TantrumXYZ (and some gossip on Ross Kemp)

I recently wrote about my budding breastmilk empire and favourite cartoon dads for TantrumXYZ, an online magazine and shop based in London. Through all of those experiences I always enjoyed working with Lisa Williams, one of the founders, and the creative engine behind the website.


Picture of the homepage of TantrumXYZ
TantrumXYZ homepage. The company is based in London.

She'd just had a baby and yet was smashing it, writing great content at a rate of knots, and working as a fashion editor, selecting the best kids' clothes and trawling through unusual fashion brands, picking out the best to sell on their website.

OK, so Lisa, tell us about TantrumXYZ, in one sentence?

TantrumXYZ is a shop and magazine for tech-savvy, design-conscious parents!

OK! Now tell us a bit more, what makes you different to other parenting websites? 

We help parents get what they want, all in one place, on their mobile phone. Parents are busy, so we can save them time by offering them funny and useful content in the magazine, and an edit of interesting kids’ brands to buy quickly and easily.

Designer kids clothes for sale on the TantrumXYZ website - featuring Stella McCartney, Bobo Choses and Babe & Tess
Kids' clothes by Stella McCartney, Bobo Choses and Babe & Tess on TantrumXYZ

We’re always thinking of new things to service parents of young children, so have recently added a ‘Breeders’ Digest’ newsletter to help everyone catch up on the news and the best of the web each week, and a family events calendar to browse what’s happening near you (or to upload your own event). We also run our own networking events for parents in start-ups and there's more in the pipeline too…

Tell us about your career and what inspired you to set this up.

I am a journalist by trade, starting out as a local news reporter covering crime, politics, health and good old-fashioned local news stories. I never had to report on a cat-stuck-up-a-tree rescue, but I did have a series of front pages about mysterious dog poisoning incidents, and broke a news story about an Iraqi politician’s wife driving down the road with a traffic warden on her boot, which was quite a far-fetched way of escaping a parking fine.

I went on to work for the UK’s national news agency Press Association. I spent a lot of time waiting for celebrities on the red carpet, and discovered that Kate Hudson and Jon Hamm are the nicest celebs around. I don’t have such kind words for Ross Kemp or Nicole Kidman.

For three years before setting up TantrumXYZ, I worked at Conde Nast, editing Tatler’s website – a heady mix of country pursuits and fashion.

Oh really? Dish some dirt on these celebs then! 

Ross used to complain about being described as ‘hard man Ross Kemp’, but there wasn’t much we could do about it, as that’s just how showbiz reporting goes. We were a bit cheeky with it, and I think we once wrote a story with the headline ‘’Stop calling me a ‘hard man’,’ says hard man Ross Kemp’.

Haha! Tell us about your son, what's he like? 

Picture of Lisa Williams, founder of TantrumXYZ with her son Stanley

Stanley is 13 months now. He looks as cute as a button but is #thuglife through and through. Favourite pastimes include eating mud, bashing objects together to make the maximum possible noise, and smiling at grumpy people.

What was the birth like? 

Stanley was breech so we had a planned c-section. It was very calm, unlike the first six weeks of life with a newborn, which felt as close as I’ll get to being a prisoner of war.

What's been your most memorable moment as a parent? 

Picture of Lisa Williams, founder of TantrumXYZ with her son Stanley
So many! I love all the cuddles and the cheekiness. Highlight so far was probably Stanley’s first giggle, which was when I was pretending to sneeze while holding him in front of a mirror. Making your baby laugh is such a great feeling, and I love having a little partner in crime.

What's been your most difficult moment? 

The first six weeks. We had feeding issues so he was hungry and crying, I was despairing, in constant pain, and severely sleep-deprived. We turned a corner at six weeks, and it’s got increasingly fun ever since. What nugget of advice would you give other new mums, knowing what you know now?

Picture of Lisa Williams, founder of TantrumXYZ with her son Stanley
Don't worry about the state of your house, the thank-you cards or entertaining people when they visit. When you're not feeding and either your baby is sleeping or there’s someone who can hold him or her, stick on an eye-mask and get some sleep.

Thanks Lisa! All the best with TantrumXYZ and I wish you every success.  

P.S. I've just been looking through the kids' clothes on the website and I'm tempted to spend a small fortune! There are brands like Stella McCartney and Burberry, plus cool ones I've never heard of like Bobo Choses, Oeuf NYC, Bellerose and Finger in the Nose. Have a look! 

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

My toddler's favourite quotes, and what they reveal about his personality

They say a kid starts to reveal their true colours when they reach 3 years old, and I found an interesting WebMD article about this. They interviewed Kirby Deater-Deckard, a Psychology Professor. Apparently, children from age 3 to 5 are becoming much more comfortable expressing themselves with words. 

She says, "During these years, preschoolers also gain more self-control. They begin to rely less on you and others and more on themselves. They're learning how to calm themselves when they get excited, frightened, or upset, and they're becoming more attentive and less emotionally reactive." 

This is my boy; a complex creature as it turns out...

I realised that my son really does have a mixed personality, if his top quotes are to be believed. Here are his different traits:

The exhibitionist
At home, it’s normal to hear these phrases. I've become oblivious to it now. A toddler boy pulling on his thing and leaning in threatening to jab you in the eyeball is just part and parcel of being a parent.
“Look at my winkie.”
“I gotta really big winkie.”

But he often shouts his most outrageous line when we’re in public.
“Look at my big dick.” (Referring to the stick he’s holding.)

The deviant
This is his freakiest line of them all, and it's usually when I can't see him and he's behind me in the bath.
"Can I pee on you?"

That one's guaranteed to get me to jump.

A photo posted by Dad's Diary (@dadsdiary) on
 
The evil genius
I never thought he’d have mastered emotional blackmail at this age, but picture the scene; I’m on the toilet, and he comes over with that crazy look in his eyes.

 “Can I sit on your lap?”
“No.”
“Oh? But Mummy lets me sit on her lap.”

The politician
He will begin his sentences with, “The thing is…”
I feel like I should start saying, “In reference to your last statement…”

The raver
He loves to listen to dance/electronic music, and gives a running commentary when he hears them.
“That’s a banger.”
“It coming, it coming”
…and then when the tune ‘drops’ I actually once heard him say, “That was the perfect drop.”

Not bad for a three year old. Check out my Instagram to see some cool videos.

The connoisseur
“I like it tasty”.

This is his standard response to many questions, e.g. “What do you think of your new jumper / cake / disgustingly bourgeois fair trade organic herbal tea?”

Side note: if you'd like to know about his first dirty burger experience, click here! 

A photo posted by Dad's Diary (@dadsdiary) on

The fortune teller
“When I’m a older boy, I gonna go away an play tennis with my friends, and when I come back I buy you a car.”

I hope he’s right!

The tattle tale
"Nana has a spider that lives in her car!"

And then I ask her about it, and she looks slightly taken aback.

The obsessive compulsive
“I want the blue bowl.”
“Why don’t you have the green bowl instead?”
*SCREAMS* “I NEED to have the blue bowl.”

That said, he saves his best personality type for when we're cuddling in front of TV watching a film, or when I'm tucking him in at night...

“I love you hoe much.”
That one's the heart melter.

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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Gary the shaman and the curse of the mysterious stinking bedroom

If I am still alive within 24 hours of posting this story, then that will be a miracle. I am actually risking death by writing it - my mum is probably going to lynch me.

Picture of a Hamatsa ritualist shaman during a ritual, taken in 1914

A couple of years ago, there was always this weird smell coming from one of the bedrooms in my childhood home in Cornwall, whenever we visited my mum.

It was like a rat had died and melted under the floorboards, and none of us could understand what this stench was, or where it had come from.

But I was concerned.

Here's the thing. Once upon a time, this was my bedroom, and I used to hide my uneaten sandwiches from my packed lunches in the cupboard.

This disgusting habit had already been found out by my mum when I was 12 years old. Putrid foil wrapped sandwiches with white fur growing out of the creases had been hauled out one by one like mutilated river corpses in a popular Scandinavian DVD box set.

I watched this disturbing forensic examination of my pre-pubescent mind while sitting on my bed. I can remember wanting to die from embarrassment; I had no feasible explanation to her about why I'd done it. 

Fast forward to 20 years later...

With this new smell in the same bedroom I did initially wonder if this was an ancient ham and cheese sandwich, risen from the grave.

Several steps were taken to exorcise the demon. First of all, she had a handyman lift up the floorboards in search of dead rats. Nothing. Not even a talking sausage roll.

None of us could work out what it was. Google took a beating, intensive research was conducted; and she was convinced that this sometimes happened to old light fixtures, that they "went bad". Anyway, nothing could be done and the door was kept closed, like the room was cursed and contained the ghost of a mildly psychotic toddler.

Let's not disturb Terence, shall we? Close the door dear.

Enter Gary...

A couple of months later she told me that Gary* the shaman had fixed it.
*Not his real name.

Ok. Now she have my attention. As a Catholic, and someone who never talks about the occult, what was she doing cavorting with shamans? Or how did she even meet one?

"A shaman?" I asked.

"Yes, I mentioned the smell to Gary the painter and he told me he was a shaman as well as a decorator. Quite an important one in the community too. He's high ranking."

Rule number 1: if my mum says anything with this much conviction then don't question it, it's not worth it. I let her continue the story.

"He went into the room for about half an hour, closed the door and when he came out he said I shouldn't be having problems with it any more."

Who knows what Gazza did in there. Probably drank his cup of tea, found one of my old Asterix books, lay down on my bed and had himself a lolfest. The more risqué publications I once owned had been discreetly burned a long time ago so it can't have been that. But the weird thing is, a month later the smell had gone.

Anyway, I've always been confused by this mystery so I Googled it today. According to this forum, it's completely possible she was right and the Bakelite in her light fixture corroded away, causing the stink!

Gary the shaman, wherever you are. I hope you're having a nice day, and mum, please don't kill me for telling this story. 

And if you want to know about the time she revealed how she secretly baptised a baby, then here's what happened.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The authority of dad?

I didn’t consider myself to be able to inspire obedience in my son but this weekend it became apparent that he does actually listen to me.

I’ve been working on the spare room at a ‘dadderly’ pace, shall we say. This has involved me ripping up a carpet and sanding some floorboards using a sander completely ill suited to the job. It was suggested to me on more than one occasion that perhaps I should rent a proper floor sander but I continued with ruthless bloody mindedness because I’d already bought the sander and there was no way I wasn't going to finish the job with it!

Besides, I had ancient Chinese proverbs and other annoying motivational quotes I'd seen on LinkedIn, tormenting me and spurring me on.

"Impossible is nothing," I muttered through gritted teeth.

I’ll admit, I may have also been distracted by my prowess as an amateur film-maker...

A video posted by Dad's Diary (@dadsdiary) on


(...If that didn't work, try clicking on this)

Now as anyone who has lived with a wife will know, wives want jobs done NOW, not mañana. You’ll try and calmly get your scientific point across, like:
  • “I could paint the boards now but they’re not smooth enough.”
  • “It just needs another couple of coats otherwise furniture will scratch it.”
  • “I had to prioritise painting the bathroom because of how psychotic you went about that.”
 ...But none of these are feasible explanations for why you can’t work at the pace of a team of a fifty thousand Egyptian slaves hauling stone up a pyramid.

The toddler, on the other hand, looks at the sander with awe. It might as well be the mummified remains of Tutankhamun! If I told him I needed to sand the boards every day for the next year he'd nod his head sagely in total agreement with me.

If only my wife had the same understanding of the dirty processes than poor dads like me have to go through to achieve perfection for a kid's bedroom!

Anyway, the point of this story is that over the last few weeks months days I’ve had to tell him on a number of occasions not to go in the room because of paint drying and a load of other catastrophes waiting to happen with a curious toddler.

This weekend, I ran upstairs, no doubt responding to some blood curdling scream or other, and my wife said, “He just freaked out!”

“Why?”

“He was playing in the spare room, and when he heard you coming upstairs he got this naughty worried look on his face and ran out.”

I was a bit taken aback by it, I realised for the first time that he might actually care what I think. It was nice, I reflected on it afterwards and came to the following conclusions:
  • He respects my opinion on things.
  • He feels like I'm a leader and he likes to follow my ideas.
  • I'm old. This really made me feel like a cantankerous old man who tuts and tells kids not to steal his apples. That doesn't feel like me, but apparently it is now. I'm officially old.

Whenever we do DIY together he wears his builder outfit.

Finally, here’s a quick pro tip: Include your children in DIY wherever possible!

He’s helped me paint the boards, and even helped me assemble his big boy bed. He took a lot of pleasure in dripping glue into holes and hammering pegs in, and this gave him a real sense of ownership about the bed so the cot transition was painless.

And now, when he moves into his new bedroom, he'll hopefully always remember how he painted some of the floorboards.

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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

An interview with Jade Nordahl, the Norwegian mother who scooped a book deal with her hilarious cartoons.

I was delighted to receive a book in the post recently, all the way from Norway. It all started when I stumbled upon a gallery of cartoons on Instagram belonging to Jade Nordahl.

I found them absolutely hilarious, so I messaged her and asked if I could interview her. Well, of course she said yes, you don't say no to a guy wearing a dinosaur costume as his profile picture. Who in their right mind would do that?!

I then wrote this post on Buzzfeed: 
This Norwegian Cartoonist Encapsulates Perfectly What it's Like to be a New Mother.

Signed book! "To Harry / Dad's Diary thanks for the support, keep on blogging."

Seriously, go have a look at that Buzzfeed post, it's like a total car crash course in parenting, the cartoons are brutally honest and everything is so recognisable. 

Here's the full interview... There's very little information out there on Jade, unless you speak Norwegian, so consider this a *world exclusive!*

Jade, tell me about your family.
We live in Oslo! My husband is Andreas, Abel our son was two years old in June and Abbey the dog is three in August. The name @ab.bel on Instagram is short for Abbey and Abel.

Abbey, Jade and Abel.

What inspired you to start doing the cartoons?
I've always enjoyed drawing, painting, and whenever there is a pen in my hand I end up drawing something. That's how the whole Ab & Bel project started.

In Norway, we get to stay home with the baby for close to a year. In the evenings, when Andreas was home from work and Abel slept, I realised how therapeutic it was for me to draw humorous versions of those frustrating situations.  I was so exhausted those first few months of maternity leave.

I thought maybe I can help some other tired mommies and daddies out there! It's easier to handle everything when you're sharing the frustrations and laughing together. So I started posting my drawings on Instagram, the audience grew, and I got a book deal, yay!

What were you doing before Abel was born?
I work for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, NRK (it's the state broadcaster, our equivalent to the BBC). I'm in corporate communications, so my drawings have nothing to do with the day job!

Jade at work, looking slightly less bedraggled.

What are your favourite drawings?
I have to mention two! One of the very first I published, called 'Livet' (life, or life 2.0), with me totally exhausted, baby Abel on the floor, with Abbey the dog licking his face. That's how I felt during those first months.

A photo posted by ✨Ab & Bel✨ (@ab.bel) on

The second one is called 'Bedtime Stories', where I sit with my toddler on my lap, trying to get him to sleep by telling him stories of stars and tractors, and love and life, and he replies, "Banana."

A photo posted by ✨Ab & Bel✨ (@ab.bel) on

I think the two illustrations kind of sum up this project, from tired and stressed newbie to experienced mom, from fussy baby to curious toddler. The things that matter the most in life right now are tractors, dogs and bananas.

Hilarious! I can relate, my son is obsessed with tractors and there's a programme he watches here called Tractor Ted. It's just footage of life on a farm and loads of tractors and it pains me to say it, but I love it. It's relaxing.
Yes. We have an awful show called Gråtass (Little Grey Fergie the Tractor), and I'm forced to watch it every night...



I'd better not show my son that! Are you going to do any drawings about it?
I don't want to give that tractor any more publicity.

Ha! What's next for Ab & Bel?
I don't know, time will tell!

Finally, what would your advice be to new mums who are finding parenting difficult?
Well, I may be 'experienced' in taking care of my own boy, but not parenting in general. The most important lesson I've learned is that being a mom is way more exhausting than I could ever have imagined, but I can handle way more than I think I can.

A tip to pass on would be to try to see the humour in things. Laugh together and talk to others in the same situation. I found that very helpful!

Thanks Jade, and for your impeccable English too. Best of luck with everything!

I love feelgood stories where someone discovers they have a hidden talent and it skyrockets from there. The book,‘Et år i ammetåka’, published by Spartacus, is only available in Norway so far, but I'm sure you'll start seeing it around the rest of the world soon.
 
You can follow Jade on Instagram here, or you can type in her username, ab.bel, if you have the app installed on your phone.

*And finally, a shameless plug: if you live in Norway and would like to offer me an expensive cardigan or free holiday (yes please, I can dream!) or would like me to write something for you then don't be shy, send an email to dadsdiaryblog at gmail.com! 

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