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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?”
“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!”


“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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Sunday, 31 July 2016

How to attract disapproving looks in health food shops: a tutorial.

Try organic food, or as your grandparents called it, "food". Funny ironic picture about health food stores and organic shops

Going to an organic health food shop is a dirty, guilty middle class pleasure of mine. It's a family outing, an event that doesn't happen very often. Truth be told, I really enjoy the people watching, and looking out for the walking talking cliches of society. Unfortunately, I ended up being one myself.

Here's how our recent trip to Wild Oats Natural Foods in Bristol didn't exactly go to plan.

It all started when the kid insisted on carrying the shopping basket. As usual, it was overloaded with expensive paraben free, fairly traded junk we thought we needed.

He was kicking off in the bulgur wheat aisle, trying to lift this thing like it was Excalibur stuck in the stone, all while grunting and toddlerswearing. It was like watching a dad trying to change a tyre for the first time; deeply painful to watch (I speak from experience).

I sympathise because I really recognise myself when he’s having a self-induced tantrum. It’s like someone's told him he can't look after the passports when going on holiday. An expert tutorial in what not to do if you want to keep me from losing my fricking mind.

So, whenever I gently tried to put an end to this painful scene, and offered to help and pick up one of the handles, he’d flail his arm around, screaming,“NO!”

Rule number one of health food shops: never, ever shout, unless you’re robbing the joint.*
*You will attract disapproving strangers, just like the ones in this blog.

Picture of a toddler having a full on tantrum and nerd rage while pushing a plastic shopping trolley
This. This is pretty much what it looked like.

Anyway, there was a pregnant lady wandering around the shop at an ethereal pace. Let’s call her Earth Mother. With her head shaved, she was rubbing her belly with that trancelike blissful zen mode that expectant mums get. But I kept feeling like I needed to shoot her apologetic looks because the toddler was having deep, unresolved problems with his chakras.

My wife hissed, “STOP offering to help him. Let   him   carry   the   basket…

This is a Dad's Diary nightmare. We’re causing a scene, and Earth Mother is looking at me with her calm half smile, like, “I forgive your child, because I’ve just been on the most wonderful retreat. You should try Buddhism one day, you really should.”

We had just become our own walking talking clichés, the arguing, hissing parents of a psychotic toddler. I began chucking obscure flavours of Pukka Herbs tea into the basket (the ones you can't get in mainstream supermarkets). I felt like a teetotal middle class white boy preparing for Glastonbury. Basically, an absolute tool.

I was now noticing all the disapproving looks, and one couple in particular stood out, because they were those young, hip, free spirits, and she had one feather hanging from an ear, no doubt a little memento she picked while she was finding herself in Peru, on a psychedelic ayahuasca trip. You know the type.

Just as this was happening, I heard my wife’s voice yelling from the next room, “Grab some nut butter, will you?”

NUT BUTTER? What sort of people have we become? And I go over there sheepishly, having a quick dilemma about which one to get. Does she mean cashew butter? Almond?

When we finally got to the till, I finally had some respite. The young couple from earlier were stood in front of us in the queue paying for their stuff. As they exited the shop, the man let out a loud sigh, an audible, painful sigh, and he whined, “I forgot to buy a croissant…”

Karma at last. I turned to my wife, put my thumb and forefinger together and made the universal hand gesture for ‘he needs some private time.’

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Saturday, 23 July 2016

The truth about vasectomies - a tale from a survivor

I got chatting to another dad on Twitter and we became friends. Then eventually we got talking about the state of his balls, as you do. Perfectly innocent, dear readers, I assure you. This was man time.

He's my bear, I'm his boo.

Anyway, it turns out that Brad had a vasectomy. I realised that whenever I hear that word, I think of this picture here. I know absolutely nothing about vasectomies other than that the idea makes me feel very, very afraid of scissors goin' baws deep in me. So I thought it would be fun to do an interview with him.

How old are you, Brad?
30 going on 31 years young this year.

Tell me about your kids?
I have two amazing sons. My eldest (Logan - yes, the same as Wolverine) is going on 5 in August and my youngest (Cole) is going on 2 in August. Comparatively they are very similar but very different at the same time. Logan is a very gentle soul whilst Cole is gentle but extremely boisterous as well.

And... A bit about you?

I'm originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. Moved with my wife to the UK in 2007 to pursue my music career. It started to take off but having kids kind of put a hold on it. It's all good though as I've found alternative paths of opportunity. Nowadays I work on a YouTube show called Dear Agony Dad, work a part time job and most importantly spend a lot of time looking after the kids.

Picture of Brad Nagle with his kids

OK let's get down to business. Why did you have a vasectomy? Are you a nutter?
We had long decided that we would only want 2 children so we had 2 options ahead of us. Either I got a vasectomy or my wife got her tubes tied. I decided I would go for the snip as it was a lot less invasive than tubal ligation as well as research has suggested that there can be greater medical complications / ramifications for a woman with that procedure.

Don't you worry, what if you change your mind? What then?
It was something I had considered beforehand, but decided that if we ever felt like extending the family down the line, we would look to adopt and give a child a better life than one that was potentially laid out before them.

Has it had an impact on your sex drive?

Nope. No impact at all. Only for the first few days after the operation.

What exactly happens when you reach the point of no return?
Having a vasectomy doesn't really change much surprisingly. You still ejaculate fluid, however because the tubes are cut, the fluid doesn't contain spermatozoa.

Does it mean you don't want to bash the Bishop much?
Not at all. Although a couple of hours after the operation I thought I would give it a whirl to see how the operation had impacted the old babymaker. Curiosity got the better of me. Needless to say, it was a short lived activity.

Has it changed your balls in any way?
I had never checked until someone asked me a few months after the operation. I noticed that they did hang lower in the testicle pouch as well as I could feel the small lumps on the tubes where they had cauterised them. I also have a barely noticeable scar along the middle of my scrotum.

Tell me about the procedure you had. What was involved? Is it painful?
You lie on a table in a small operating room for roughly 45 minutes whilst a surgeon and a nurse fondle your trombone and kettledrums. They do inject a local anaesthetic into your scrotum and then commence the surgery. The most uncomfortable part of the experience was when the surgeon squeezed the tubes to get a hold of them to cut them. I couldn't feel sharp pain but it was a numb pain. I felt like I was going to punch him in the face.

Wow it’s not what I imagined at all. How much input did you wife have in this decision? Did she approve?
She had a lot of input. I wouldn't make this kind of decision on my own as it would be selfish to take that away from her without consulting her on it first. We both agreed that two kids was a perfect number for our family unit.

Tell me about your YouTube channel, and Dear Agony Dad.
Dear Agony Dad is an online platform where dads can vent, have a laugh and learn about this rollercoaster of a ride called parenthood. I implore parents out there to get in touch to help build the community. I post a lot of videos too, so please subscribe to my Facebook or YouTube!

Website:     www.dearagonydad.com
YouTube:   Here are all our videos
Facebook:  Like to subscribe
Twitter:     @dearagonydad

Finally, what made you choose that name? Is it in any way related to your vasectomy?

No! It is a spin-off of "Dear Agony Aunt" advice columns.

Thanks a lot to Brad Nagle for his honesty here! Do check out his pages, they're really good.

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Friday, 22 July 2016

Embracing my dark passenger, my dad rage

Angry dad by a no swimming sign: rage, anger, fury

As I get older, I’m recognising I carry around my very own dark passenger, much like in Dexter, the TV series. I used to joke that every time he mentioned this dark passenger (i.e. every episode) that what he means is that he has a great big haemorrhoid on his arsehole causing him a huge amount of discomfort.

In reality, Dexter's burden is a constant murderous impulse in his head to kill people, and my own metaphorical haemorrhoid is my dad rage.

Dad rage is perpetuated by strangers. Normally it’s a disapproving look that sets it off. I can always see them coming too.

Picture the scene: We're on a beach. It’s raining a little, and it’s a cold, grey day. I’m carrying my son with one arm while he clings, naked to me, with his boy bits teabagging my chest. In my other hand I’m carrying a Kiddimoto balance bike and a soiled, shit soaked nappy.

Clearly, I don’t look like a guy you should trifle with, as I walk towards the nearest place of refuge: a warm café.

Like a scene from Reservoir Dogs, I notice a group of people walking towards us. Their faces show shock. Why is that peasant boy unclothed? How irresponsible of his parents…

Everything becomes slow motion at this point. I’m ready to push the dad rage button.

The group, transfixed, continue to stare, open mouthed, at this disgusting apparition of a parent as we approach one another. Like two tribes of apes, I focus my eyes into the eyes of their alpha male, an old man, whose face shows the most open disdain. He is wearing a purple sailing jacket; no doubt triple lined against the elements. He’s looking at the knobbly spine of my boy while he hugs my neck.
My eyes dare him. Come on, say it. Say it. Ask me why this young human is exposed to light drizzle. Do it.

His companions sense danger, they understand the threat of my imminent fury and look away, but Purple Coat continues to stare, assessing his options as we approach medieval sword swinging distance. He flickers a barely perceptible glance at my the metal object in my right hand to assess what he’s up against, and then back at my eyes.

We’re soon passing each other, so I slow my pace, I want him to say something, and I’m turning my head to the right to keep the eye contact unbroken. I’m desperate for things to kick off. I’ve already prepared my blood curdling onslaught for him. My passive aggressive opening bullet is already in the chamber; I’m ready to surprise him with, “Are you wondering why he’s not wearing clothes?”

Brutal. This is being a dad. It’s like a primal, protective instinct. I may not be perfect, but if a stranger ever dares criticise my parenting style I am ready to destroy them.

But no, it’s not to be. His confidence falters, and he looks away as we pass each other. Just like that, all the tension in the air dissipates. Having established my dominance and protected my son and heir from the rival apes, I am free to swallow more coffee and keep him warm while more clothes are fetched from the car.

The preceding buildup, AKA how to attract disapproving strangers from hundreds of metres away.

1.    Child rips off clothes upon arrival at a beach, only it’s cold and windy.
2.    Child enjoys the sea breeze against his skin and seems impervious to the cool breeze tickling his tiny nutsack. Meanwhile, the thing he refers to as his winkie flaps around with purpose.
3.    Child takes regular breaks to plant his legs wide apart and urinate into the sand, while laughing.
4.    Child gets a little over-excited (in more ways than one), and that makes me cringe and giggle at the same time.
5.    Child inevitably takes a gigantic facebomb into a pool of seawater because he’s not even looking where he’s running.
6.    If you’re lucky, you get to persuade child to put some clothes on. A couple of minutes later, history repeats itself, and you realise you have no spare clothes for him.  
I always thought I was quite a chilled out, placid guy. But parenting has obviously changed me. The 6am starts, and the frequent arguments with the charming, funny little human version of myself now has my nerves on a knife edge!

Do you recognise this in yourself?
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