Most days of the year I struggle to sleep. I know there are numerous reasons to diagnose this burden, but I often love the peace & quiet a very late night or early morning brings to me.

I mentioned previously that I hoped to use this blog for a record of my creative development and practices. I diverged into parenting for a while but I’m hoping to focus more on the design stuff here, again. It hasn’t taken me the last few absent months to come up with this plan (I’m not that slow!), I’ve tried to prioritise the other things in life.

However, the other morning I awoke at 4:15am, not too unusual for me, and for some reason I had words that seemed like poetry in my head. The need to sleep created a struggle with these thoughts, so I did some reading to try send me back to sleep. However, when the bird singing started a few hours later I knew I had lost a small battle.

So I focused my thoughts and wrote the following words. They seemed to describe the time of writing, coincidentally. I’ve never read much poetry, or written it beyond the romantic verses of February 14th, so this is a bit of a surprise. So, here it is.

Dawn

Glorious morning greets the night
with gentle touch, with new light

Hardness softens with a touch,
light caresses, a nudge, life’s such

Moisture lifts, tenuous strands
Bring forth the joys
this common land.

And so, we watch; life renew
This day fell late, I owe to you

Soft, morning, glory, dew
Bring forth this day
for me, for you

photo credit

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I know most people with children are all a flutter at the moment due to the back to school flurry. Thankfully, that’s not too much of an issue in our household, but I’m hoping to roll with the masses and create for myself a routine, now that the summer is coming to an end. The weather was amazing this year, so I had plenty of fun with the kids, and used the time to explore places near and far. 

I’ll try mention some of the details in future posts, but I first wanted to tell you that I’m kinda moving the blog to another realm. I originally set up a blog for ‘rothklee’ to help me keep track of my creative development – writing about my creative projects and the work of others that inspired me along the way. However, most of the time I have harped on about my role as a parent. Some of the posts mentioned a creative aspect, but overall, it’s main focus was on parenting.

Therefore, I’ve decided to take my parenting observations across to one of the projects I’ve worked on for a while – BirthingMamas. My wife does a lot of work around pregnancy, birth, and some parenting. So, she has invited me to write my ‘parent’ blogposts within her blog at BirthingMamas. This will compliment her work with parents, ease some of the pressure for her to constantly write something, and help me keep my focus over at rothklee. 

So, if you’ve enjoyed the parenting blogposts, please follow me over to the BirthingMamas blog. I’m tagging my posts there as ‘Birth+Papas’, to help identify my posts from the BirthingMamas stuff, and hopefully encourage male readers to identify what is a father’s observations on this rollercoaster ride called ‘parenting’. I’ll probably struggle with separating and maintaining the two blogs over the next few months, but I will hopefully get into a routine by the new year.

So, keep watching this space for my comments on creativity, and follow me over to BirthingMamas for the other stuff. Thanks🙂

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of Netflix, mainly due to their view-on-demand format, their collection of programming I’ve never seen before and the award-winning drama from their own productions – I really liked House of Cards.

I tried another Netflix series called Lilyhammer – not very good. I liked the Swedish setting, but the Italian mafia clichés were a bit too much. Then a friend recommended another Netflix production – Orange is the New Black. I read the blurb and wasn’t that interested. I thought it sounded like the aftermath an older programme called Weeds, which I enjoyed it, but never got past series two.

However, one sleepless night I decided to give ‘Orange…’ a try. I was in bed and could watch it on my smart phone – comparable to other local television station apps, this was easy. The dialogue between the characters is great. I decided to get out of bed and watched a few more on the tv. Brilliant scripts – funny, political, emotional characters. There are flashbacks to the characters previous life, giving the viewer a better understanding of the key players in the series. I couldn’t stop watching.

So, in order to feed my new ‘addiction’, I had to create a distraction for the kids when I wanted to escape to watch another episode. Thankfully, our Netflix subscription allows me to watch ‘Orange…’ and the kids can still access their favourite Netflix programmes as well. I watch on a mobile device in the kitchen (while tidying up after dinner & washing the dishes) and they get to watch cartoons on the television. Their favourite programmes at the moment are Word Girl, The Magic Roundabout, Wild Kratts, Pokemon, and Total Drama. Education and entertainment for all of us!

Before anyone thinks we are constantly watching tv, let me share that we also spend a lot of time outdoors. This summer has brought plenty of sunshine so we had many days on the beach, meeting friends in parks and playgrounds – we even sheltered from the sun in shaded forests because the sun was so warm. We went camping in the back garden, joined a group of friends in a new outdoor ecological space outside the city and explored west Cork. Then our family holiday was up the west coast to Galway and Mayo.

Driving from Cork, the trip can be a few hours so road trip entertainment for the kids is essential. We have a few games we play on these trips, but we also listen and sing along to music. My wife is great for making up compilations that entertain the kids, which, admittedly, I struggle through some of the time. The latest cd (remember them?!) in the car involves a lot of pop music – Katie Perry, 1 Direction, Beyoncé, and thankfully Rodrigo y Gabriela (this is not pop music!).

The Katie Perry stuff is a bit more manageable to listen to, because I heard she is very involved in the song and music writing – saw this on her documentary [available on Netflix]. Whereas, the 1 Direction stuff is annoying when an intro to one of their songs is very similar to a song by The Who – definitely a bit of ‘creativity’ by the 1D manufacturing team, rather than the band!! However, my daughter loves the 1D music and it’s great to see her sing and dance to it all. She even sang a song at a recent event – in front of approximately 100 people; so that’s impressive. Netflix have a few musical movies and programmes at the moment, so I think we have a few resources to watch over the coming months. And it will help distract me while I wait for the next season of ‘Orange is the New Black’!🙂

ORANGE

When I was growing up I was amazed at the interest my cousin had in animals. He spent most of his spare time reading about them, and he’s still the same. I didn’t have much of an interest. We didn’t have pets growing up – with the exception of a pup for three weeks! (He nipped a neighbour and was sent to a great big park somewhere!?) So, animals and pets are a new concept to me.

Now I see my children showing an interest in animals that helps me learn more about them as well. We have hens, a goldfish and a cat. Their numbers fluctuate over the years – the hens are fairly constant, the goldfish started with one, then two, then back to one. The cat likes travelling so he is like a teenager in the family – you see him when you see him. Oh, and we used to have a hamster or some small furry animal thing. It was more of a nocturnal creature so we rarely saw it during the day. I suppose it was also like a teenager.

Anyway, thankfully the interest we have in animals is easily fed when you look online. We have a few animal books in the house, but everyone has to agree the attraction of moving pictures is often more appealing to children (and some adults). Our main source of tv programming is through Netflix, so over the years my daughter has moved through the various age appropriate animated shows. There is a wide collection of shows that use animals or anthropomorphic characters telling a tale or sharing information. It’s a great source of learning.

Television shows are very informative nowadays, and many do a great job in making it entertaining and appealing to children and adults. While growing up, I learnt a lot from watching tv, and complimented this with reading; so I’m not the kind of parent that thinks tv is bad. Therefore, watching a selection of shows is a tool for learning used in this house.

I’m not a fan of Peppa Pig (earlier shows are very sexist), but the kids love it. However, the selection of other shows on Netflix is a great distraction. I’ve enjoyed, and continue to watch with my youngest, the talented works of Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear, Clifford the Dog, and more recently Wild Kratts. The latter is great and the information on animals is fascinating. Other shows that are watched here are Bubble Guppies (which has a great ‘rap’ for going outside) Animal Mechanicals (pre-engineering course), Busytown Mysteries (problem solving), and then for entertainment (very important part of all ages of growing up) we have watched Babar, Snow Dogs, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Open Season.

It’s great to have days outdoors, with (possible) sunshine, nature and fresh air. But if you happen to have a day indoors, I’d definitely recommend watching some of these shows with your child. You can switch off from adulthood and learn or be entertained with your child. Enjoy!

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Note: this post is part of the Netflix Stream Team promotion. As usual, all words and thoughts are my own.

Thankfully, the warmer weather and brighter evenings have given us the opportunity to be outside more. After the winter storms, I have a bit of cleaning up to do in the garden, but I’m not naive enough to think the kids will want to help me with that.

So, I had to think of something that will encourage them outdoors. We have the trampoline, and they were excited about being able to use it again (after they remembered we had one!). But that wasn’t enough. I’m a fan of Pinterest, so I collected (pinned) a few ideas of ‘gardens for children’ over the winter months. This is the time to put some of them into practice. You can see below what we’ve done, and in an effort to prevent you from staying indoors reading this, I’m keeping this post short, and hope you enjoy the possibilities of good weather.

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The picture above shows our tic-tac-toe game. I gathered a few stones from a local beach and painted them to look like bumble bees and ladybirds. I also painted a pallet table we have in the garden to create the board, and now we have a outdoor board game.

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For less than €30 I got some concrete flag stones to put across our gravel path. Then with the magic of chalk, we also have a hopscotch game. The added advantage of these stepping stones is that the kids can cross the gravel towards the grass in their bare feet – resolving one of their issues from last summer.🙂

So, that’s just two simple changes to the garden this spring that brought the kids outdoors. We’ve also planted some seeds, so check back with us in a few months to see the results. Bye!

Before I go out and celebrate St Patrick’s Day with the kids I just wanted to mention a few things that have been on my mind.

Firstly, an amazing event we attended a few weeks ago was Babytalk – a parent and baby type show. However, that description isn’t fair, as this was more than a show, it was an experience. They catered for everything. I went for a few hours and stayed for the weekend! There was a dining section with natural light, looking out onto a pond and manicured lawns, a kiddies play area, face painting, a reading corner and every hour there was an activity to inform or entertain the attendees. Grandparents and kids were free, so plenty of the maturer child-carer was visible on the day, while the younger parent strolled around the stalls. This must have been a bonus for stall holders. So I’d definitely recommend it, and their logo and branding design are very eye catching.

While there I came across a new app for expectant dads by IQ Content. Very simple design and simple to navigate through the material. It’s for a general international audience so there aren’t any local details. However, in terms of getting to read something about pregnancy and birth, while fiddling with your smartphone means that you are making an effort. DaddyO will definitely inform you and prepare you for the role of parenthood. Once the baby arrives, you will need more than an smartphone app!

That brings me onto a great piece I read on the new Parent.ie website by stay at home dad, Tom Evans. He captures the emotions of the roller coaster ride of parenting, and it’s good to hear it from a dad’s perspective. It’s a short enough piece for you to read quickly enough to be informed if you’re on the road to being a parent, and if you’ve already arrived here, well then you will empathise with the words. Read the article here.

And lastly, it’s one of my favourite times of the year – Offset! It’s an annual design conference in Dublin – 3 days of back to back international design talk. It reminds me of how much creativity is out there and how much I want to be a part of it. So, in less than a week I will be a non-practicing parent of sorts. After dealing with, and participating in, two weeks (or more) of non stop illnesses in this family household I’m really looking forward to it.🙂

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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Image from mi9.com

Of all the Oscar nominated movies this year, many parents will probably only recognise the award winning feature ‘Frozen‘. It’s a typical Disney style movie: amazing animation, love themed storyline (this time with a twist), and lots of singing! A bit too much of the latter for me, but my body-building brother impersonates it so well that I’ve fond memories of the musical theme now. Well done Disney!

Thankfully, I’m lucky to have a mother-in-law that is happy to babysit for us, so I often get to the cinema, and therefore I’ve seen a few of the movies from this year’s Oscar nomination list. The Best Picture winner ’12 Years a Slave’ was an amazing film and definitely deserves to be on the list. It’s an amazing depiction of an enslaved freeman on the northern States; I felt nauseous throughout most of it – watching a brutal slavery period of the United States is not ‘entertaining’ . Watching it play out in such a realistic manner was hard to stomach at times.

On a lighter note, the movie Gravity was equally amazing – it’s so quiet in its delivery – with a bit of action as well. Brilliant performances by the small cast, and I really appreciated the 91 minutes they used to tell the story. If it had been longer I would have felt they were dragging the story out to keep up with the expected 120 minutes of movies today.

The Great Gatsby was another Oscar movie I was lucky to see. I’m a big fan of Baz Luhrman films (not his Chanel advert!) so I’m probably a bit biased in my review. Brilliant portrayal of the book, really enjoyed watching the film – Leonardo Di Caprio is a great Gatsby (sorry!) but casting Toby Maguire was a bit distracting. He did well in the movie, but I would have preferred to watch a lesser known actor in the part so that Gatsby (DiCaprio) was more of a ‘celebrity’ next door.

I hope to see a few more movies from the winners and nominations of the Oscars. I might have to wait for my babysitter, or a quiet night for renting a DVD, or for it to play on Netflix.

We have lived without a tv for many years so when Netflix came to Ireland I was intrigued and loved the first month free option. I was hooked within a week. There is so much online that I had endless hours of entertainment. I will admit that the attraction was enhanced by the fact that I haven’t seen or heard of many of the programs listed, so it’s a novelty for me to see so much at once. The option to watch a whole series back to back is simply amazing. Breaking Bad and the popularity of the Netflix series ‘House of Cards‘ demonstrates how many people appreciate that option.

Thankfully, there are many movies also available with this subscription, so I’ve managed to catch up with some previous Oscar winning films as well. The Iron Lady, The Help, Capote, The Usual Suspects, Fargo, The Aviator, are all available on Netflix – and can be watched on a tv, smartphone or tablet. It’s great! They’re also showing The Square, a documentary based around the Egyptian Revolution and tells the story of the power of citizenship. I’ve watched some of these movies while sitting in the car waiting for the rest of the family at various events. I reckon I will get to watch a whole lot more in the weeks ahead. With the current weather conditions, view on demand, any kind of device, huge selection of programming and movies, you couldn’t be bored! Just remember to share the popcorn.🙂

Please Note: I did plan to write about the flexibility of programming Netflix offers to parents, so this post is still very much my own opinion. However, to be totally honest with my readers, I have to mention that I recently received an annual subscription to Netflix in return for mentioning some of their updates and offers. This is one of them – but without a doubt, Netflix have loads of movies for you to watch – some are Oscar winners.

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Pics courtesy of IMdb.com

I recently received an iTunes voucher as a gift and was a bit perplexed at the idea of using it. I like to think I have an idea of current gadgetry and how to use a few popular apps. However, using a voucher to download music was new to me. I uploaded most of my cd collection to iTunes when I first bought an iPod many years ago, and then downloaded them to various Apple products since. I have also bought directly from iTunes – it’s so easy, really; I bought the last Muse album (The 2nd Law) and when they only had an EP – Kodaline’s small collection of songs. I previously wrote about one their tracks here.

This task might seem a bit trivial for many, but I haven’t really grasped the online purchasing concept just yet. My wife seems to do enough for both of us!🙂 Anyway, I logged in to iTunes and spent the voucher, deciding to use it for some nostalgic sounds, something the kids like dancing to and some songs I like from listening to the radio. It’s not the most exciting playlist for a 21st century generation, but I think you’ll agree it is a diverse selection and I’m sure some of you will like some of the choices. They’re listed in no particular order.

Passengers. All the little lights
Little Green Cars. My love took me down to the river
Stereophonics. Indian Summer
The Rolling Stones. Angie
Justin Timberlake. Cry Me A River
Stiff Little Fingers. Alternative Ulster
David Bowie. Loving The Alien
David Bowie. Absolute Beginners
Annihilator. Alison Hell
Mike Oldfield. Moonlight Shadows
Plain White T’s. Hey There Delilah
Ludovico Einaudi. Nuvole bianche
Natalie Imbruglia. Torn

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Photo credit

I’m a big supporter of breastfeeding, I understand the benefits it can bring to children and subsequently to the child’s parents. We have been lucky enough to provide this choice to our children. It’s not always an easy option but with support and determination parents can keep breastfeeding their children for many years.

Some of the main breastfeeding support services in Ireland are Le Leche League and Cuidiú – both of whom we have used. My wife was obviously the main participant in their services and she gained friendships as much as advice during her initiation into motherhood. She was so impressed by what they offered she has trained to be a qualified breastfeeding counsellor with the Cuidiú organisation.

As a breastfeeding dad my role is mainly to support my wife’s role in being the feeder of our children. That usually involves taking the slack in household duties and parenting, and also tagging along to various breastfeeding events so that my wife can listen to the various speakers and network with the other attendees. It can seem that dads are only the support parent of the household, but nevertheless an important role in the early years.

Next month, La Leche League is holding its annual conference in Ireland and the keynote speaker is Dr Jack Newman, a well known breastfeeding advocate and author. It’s great to see that a man can be included in the role of breastfeeding advisors. It’s not the first time the keynote is a man, I previously attended a conference where David Coleman was the keynote speaker. So, thankfully sexism or gender discrimination isn’t alive in the ranks of La Leche League.

However, something that sours my opinion of this organisation is their attitude to working mothers. The service is available to all mothers who need breastfeeding support. The problem arises when the ‘working’ mother wants to return the favour, and train up to be a support counsellor to other breastfeeding mothers. My wife, who works part-time, made an application to train with La Leche League but received a ‘dissuading’ letter which focused on her role as a mother who is working rather than a dedicated breastfeeder who wants to support other women. This reaction was very judgemental and hurt my wife. Thankfully Cuidiú had no such issue and welcomed the passion my wife has on the subject. I would assume that a working mother would be beneficial to Le Leche League as it provides the empathy and understanding a working mother might need during her work / life balance struggles.

The reason I wanted to write this today is that I find it slightly irritating that La Leche League have no problem asking a man who works for a living to speak about breastfeeding – to offer advice and support to mothers at their national conference. This contradicts their actions to not allow working women to do the same for the League. If training breastfeeding support advisors is only available to women who are full time stay-at-home-mothers, then it creates a diluted structure within the organisation, as mothers who want to return to work or mothers that cannot afford to stay at home cannot get involved. Why is a working mother not admired and accepted within La Leche League? Maybe there is an element of sexism after all!?

Anyway, that’s my soapbox moment, and obviously I hope it’s a policy the League will review. No matter what happens, remember that the support is there from Cuidiú and La Leche League for anyone who wants to breastfeed their children; and the conference is a great social event whereby you can gain support over the few days and in the months and years following afterwards.

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In an effort to try keep this Christmas a less stressful holiday, my wife and I decided to keep things simple this year. We planned and bought gifts early, and wanted to prioritise a family day out the weekend before Christmas. We wanted a day where nothing but having fun with our kids would be the task of the day – no last minute shopping! It sounds simple, but I’m usually unorganised at Christmas time, and therefore stress and tension creep in easily. Thankfully, our plan went well and we had a wonderful, family day. We also got to spend time with other members of our families – the in-laws, cousins and their family. It was wonderful.

The magic of Christmas was felt today. We had pizza at a very child friendly restaurant (Milano) that was decorated in festive splendour. We walked through streets lit with magical light displays. We got to visit a fairy-themed park and watch the kids ride a carousel, and eat chocolate filled crepes afterwards. It is definitely one of the days I hope to remember for ever. I’m also hoping our children will remember it as fondly. And it got me thinking about the happy memories I have of Christmas time with my parents when I was a child. There are many enjoyable moments, thankfully. One of the most memorable involved a lot of thought and action from my parents in order for me and my siblings to be surprised. I’m not sure how old I was at the time, probably about ten years of age.

The story involved the whole family at the time – my parents with their four children – heading to a Christmas Fair about two miles from our home. We arrived late in the afternoon so the visiting Santa was already gone. Four disappointed children were told that Santa left a message that he’d catch up with them soon. For the rest of that day we strolled around the various knickknack stalls and bought tickets to the raffle. We left with a few simple prizes and strolled home in the dark winter evening.

The next morning, we went to school as usual and then walked home that afternoon. A typical Monday for the average school going child. However, when we arrived at the back door of our house it was locked. Nothing strange, it usually meant my mother was probably gone to the shop, or a neighbour, so we just had to stroll around the block to the front of the house. In those ‘good auld’ days, a key was always in the front door. The four of us walked along the road to the front of the house. When we pushed open the front gate of the house we saw four wrapped presents on the doorstep. We ran and grabbed the gift that was left for us. A single letter was also on the doorstep, addressed to us all – a letter from Santa apologising for missing us at the Fair the previous day. He explained he had the presents wrapped and knew we were expecting something, so he dropped them off that afternoon. We stood amazed, we just looked at each other in awe – the idea of Santa calling to our house while we were in school, to drop off presents to us. It was truly an early Christmas present. It was magical!

Coincidentally, our parents arrived home ‘from the city’ within seconds of us finding the gifts. They were as thrilled as their four children at the sight of the presents and the letter from Santa. They celebrated this most extraordinary event with us. It is a lovely memory, and I still feel some of the excitement today when I think of it. The magic of Christmas is said to be in the time we spend with our family. Today was one of those days for me. I hope this Christmas brings such joy to others.

Merry Christmas.

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Picture Credit