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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’! 🙂

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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.

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’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

I had a few topics I wanted to discuss over the last few weeks but didn’t get around to it. Some of the delay is my procrastination to write and then there’s the critic in me that says I’d have to improve the topic / idea first. But seeing as this blog is mainly about me learning the creative crafts as I go through them – I’ll share this thought quickly and see how it goes / grows.

This thought is about some of the people of Cork, and their ‘issue’ about the identity the city holds in Ireland. As a Dublin man living in Cork for many years, I’m amazed by the amount of Corkonians that insist on mentioning to me that ‘I’m in the real capital now’ (boy)! Some locals even question why I decided to live in Cork, as if it were an unbelievable choice or forced infliction. You see, I think Cork is a great city and county. I love living here. Cork has so much to offer, that I would be hard pressed to leave it, ever. But, I also love Dublin – it’s also an amazing city that has a lot to offer its residents and it’s visitors. Comparable to other capital cities around the world, it can be enjoyed whether your purse had restrictions, or you’re one of the high fliers of this world. Ireland has a few great cities, and thankfully we’re such a small island that they are easily accessible.

Cork city is a great size – not too big, not too small – to stroll around and see all it has to offer. The food options are amazing and more affordable than Dublin. The local stouts of Beamish and Murphy’s are much nicer, in my opinion, than the Dublin version. I once contacted Heineken Ireland to send me a list of Dublin pubs that regularly buy kegs of Murphy’s so that I could enjoy a drink in my hometown. But the consistent emphasis from the people of Cork regarding ‘the real capital’ can be annoying. Not that I’m protective of my home town’s status, Dublin is a great city whether it holds a capital city title or not. I don’t see why Corkonians use ‘the capital city’ title at all – it makes no sense. I’ve never got an answer to why they believe Cork is the ‘real capital’ and/or why they want it to be?

A few weeks ago Cork hosted a Global Cork Economic Forum. It seemed to have been a great success. A comment I heard from one of the speakers was around this very subject I discuss here – why is Cork trying to be a capital city, it’s great the way it is!? I can’t recall who said it, but I totally agree with this speaker. Why not flaunt what you have, instead of trying to measure up to another city. No matter what you do, you can’t be some other place. You’re Cork, so promote that!!

His statement threw an image into my head of two daughters in a family, and the younger teenage sister is trying to be as good as, if not better, than her older sister. When a young man becomes attracted to the older sister, the younger one emphasises all her best qualities to try out-do the traits of her big sister. She wants to be the attractive one. It’s only when she grows up that she realises that she also has admirers, and she doesn’t have to compete with her sister at all. There’s ‘plenty of fish in the sea’ for them both to get what they want. They both have traits that people want. She realises that there are issues about being the eldest that will not always be attractive, so it’s great to be the second child!

So, in keeping with this analogy, I’m looking forward to the day the Corkonians realise that they have a great city and county to offer the world already, and they don’t have to keep criticising the rest of the family for being attractive as well. Alright boy!

A beautiful painting from another ‘blow-in’ to Cork – Victor Richardson.
Available through Lavit Gallery, Cork

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The last few weeks have been an effort for me. In the midst of trying to get stuff done there were a few factors that slowed me down or distracted me altogether. Some of these were not preventable – such as me or the kids being ill. However, some distractions were self inflicted.

In my college days I used to clean the house, or rearrange furniture to avoid sitting down to study for exams or write a thesis. I’m still taking this approach today – in the guise of creating a more functioning family and the attempt to put a better design into our home – I avoid some more essential tasks – clearing out the garage for maintenance works, rebuilding a website, moving email accounts… These tasks are not too appealing, so I seek distraction.

So, low and behold, a knight in shining armour appears a few weeks ago in the form of an Xtravision Summer Madness deal! For the small price of €20 I had the ability to take any two DVDs out each night for one month – that’s 60 DVDs!! That is one great distraction 🙂

So, for a man starved of cinema trips over the last few years, also without a television for many years – this was a bargain! I can catch up on so many worthwhile movies! So I sat and caught up with some ‘blockbusters’ I was hoping to see. I have to admit the majority were not as good as I hoped, so I was glad to have avoided the €8 cinema charge for many of them.

My list of movies, in no particular order, with a short review from me:

Identity Thief : simple comedy, a few laughs, Jason Bateman shows usual facial expressions

A Good Day to Die Hard : If I was twenty years younger…this may have been better!?

The Hardy Bucks : homegrown comedy I hoped would be good. Twenty years younger…

The Impossible : enjoyed it because it made me grateful for what I have!

Flight : thought this was a media turns in hero, rather than the usual alcoholic recovery effort

Silver Linings Playbook : brilliant! Great cast, great story, simple and entertaining

Five Year Engagement : felt like I was there with them for the whole five years!! 😦 terrible

I Give it a Year : who thought it could get worse? (see above) how do they get the money?

Arbitrage : simple thriller story but effective in entertainment. Worth watching

Life of Pi : loved the imagery; knowing the end took away some magic. I enjoyed the book more

Good Vibrations : great surprise. Knew nothing about it before. Great music, inspirational

Perks of Being a Wallflower : coming of age story (thankfully no vampires needed) Brilliant!!

End of Watch : not just a shoot out between LA cops and gangs, there’s also a love story

Killing Them Softly : cool hitman safes the day. American attempt at cool. French do it better

I’m not going to link each movie, but will recommend the imdb website for trailers or info on each of them. I’ve another week left on the deal and hope to improve the stats on the movies worth watching. I also have to admit that my distraction from my distraction is Netflix, and a brilliant program there is ‘The Killing‘ (US version), and for nostalgia I’ve watched a few ‘Quantum Leap‘ episodes – still brilliant.

Anyway, better get back to my distractions. If you have any good recommendations for movies, please let me know – or maybe drop me a line to tell me if I ‘misunderstood’ some of those listed above.

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