My wife and I had a boy on 31 March. I’ve been living with a newborn baby for two weeks now and thought it’s time I should post a quick review in the style of some of those tech websites.

So, here’s my honest review posted for your information. I can confirm the baby has been grown and delivered by us; no one is paying me to provide this review.

Top line verdict.

While the second baby doesn’t represent a significant upgrade on the first, there are noticeable differences. Its feature of omnidirectional urination is a key departure from the first model and seems to come with unique challenges. At present the software remains limited, with only modes for sleeping, feeding, and defecation, none of which can be programmed. The manufacturer has promised further patches will be released in the coming months.

Unboxing.

The birth was as smooth a process as can be expected. Labour lasted for longer than the previous baby and consequently both mother and father were very tired throughout. All of the credit must go to the mother for pushing out the baby, which required some encouragement from me with soothing words and music. At certain points we did break out the hard house music which must have been an experience for the other patients on the ward.

All credit must go to the hospital and especially the midwives for getting the baby out safely and as calmly as possible. They do a tremendous job and I can’t even imagine the kind of things they see on a daily basis. Midwives witness women and men at their most most primal and vulnerable, and they still manage to handle everything with professionalism and humanity.

 

Specifications.

This baby arrived slightly larger than the first model, at 7 lbs 11 oz. All of its fingers and toes were there and, on initial inspection, everything appeared very healthy. After a short time we observed that the baby had a tongue tie, which impeded feeding. This required a slight modification/snip after visiting a breastfeeding counsellor trained in tongue tie division. Two weeks on and there have been no further issues.

I’m very grateful that the baby arrived safely and had no health problems. Many people are in worse situations. It’s important to be grateful for our health.

I’ll elaborate on the tongue tie issue in future posts. It’s an essential part of ensuring proper breastfeeding between mother and baby and yet it seems to be something that is widely unrecognised and misdiagnosed. A number of hospitals and health trusts are beginning to acknowledge this, but more must be done.

 

Power consumption.

The baby has its own sleep patterns and needs, and consequently we’ve had to adjust our own idea of rest. Charging/feeding is required every 2 to 3 hours, in between which the baby usually sleeps for any period between half an hour and up to 4 hours. There’s no predicting when it will wake up. There’s no effective method to induce sleep mode at this stage. It can safely be assumed that if the baby is crying it needs something. Consequently our lives have come to revolve around it.

Thankfully the baby has established an effective breastfeeding relationship with mother. This is good news as it’s a very healthy and natural option, it is also very inexpensive, and it allows more rest time for me, the father, who cannot feed without a bottle.

 

Day-to-day usage.

At present there is very limited functionality. The baby cannot move and can barely twist its head. Within the first two weeks it is now beginning to open his eyes and look at the world, but I am certain from research online that a baby can only see blurred shapes in black and white at this stage. It cannot recognise its hands or feet and frequently startles itself when it moves its arms.

Interaction is minimal although I am assured that any comfort and connection we try to make at this stage will have a subconscious effect on its development. Therefore I do find myself cooing regardless of its effectiveness.

While relatives have been interested to meet the new baby, we’ve limited visitors to ensure the baby is not overwhelmed and we can settle into a pattern. Its lack of functionality and interest is often forgotten by other members of the family, and consequently they feel a little useless (dare I say bored as well) after meeting it for the first time.

 

Compatibility with other models.

The baby does not understand the difference between its mother, father, or sister. At this stage it means very little to it is to have a sister. On the other hand, our daughter is extremely excited to be involved and is trying to act like a responsible big sister. With a four and a half year age gap she is able to help with small tasks, such as fetching a nappy. Anything further makes me nervous. She’s enthusiastic to help and is obviously trying to act mature about caring for the baby but it’s not wise to leave them both together at present.

Having a boy means we may have to rethink clothing arrangements for the next few years. Of course, there’s no reason why a boy can’t wear a dress these days but we are naturally gravitating to the boys section of the clothes shops. There are numerous accessories stored in bedroom cupboards and our and attic that won’t be compatible with this model.

Additionally, this one has arrived in the springtime whereas the first one arrived in the autumn, meaning the types of clothes required at different stages of growth are different. On the plus side this means we may be able to get rid of a lot of “junk” and clear some space.

 

Conclusion.

Having had some experience with a baby in the past, I was under the misinformation that I might find it easier with a second baby. It is clear that, while the overall design is similar, no two specifications are the same. Even at this early stage I’ve recognised differences in personalities between the two children. I also recognise differences between our first-time parent selves from nearly 5 years ago to our settled and more self assured second time parents. The initial two week period is still a novelty and be it would be interesting to revisit this review in several months.

Overall, I very much enjoying this new product/baby and am looking forward to getting to know it over the coming months and years.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

It’s two weeks to go until the birth, maybe sooner. Natalie decided we should take a brief break by ourselves in the calm before the storm of a new baby. I take absolutely no credit for organising our weekend, but I wanted to share with you a lovely experience in the Cotswolds.

When you are a parent it’s very difficult to find time together as partners.

I would never want to take my family for granted, but sometimes it’s important to be a couple to focus on being the best family you can be. And so every now and then, you should take time to relax and recharge. We didn’t do this in a huge way (think weekend in Rome) this past weekend, but we decided to take some time out to visit Cotswolds. It’s only around 45 minutes away from home but felt like a world apart.

We checked in for one night at the Redesdale Arms in Moreton in Marsh. It’s a charming and lively pub with a number of guest rooms and suites. We stayed in a suite and enjoy the complimentary sherry on arrival. My Lent pledge to give up alcohol and bread took a night off.

Our suite was comfortable and quite spacious. It was very quiet even though there were obviously other people around. We had everything we needed in a well-designed and spacious room. In particular, the extra-large bed was much appreciated, as it gets very difficult for a heavily pregnant woman to get comfortable at night time.

The food was the highlight of the stay.

I am easily pleased and will eat anything, but even I could tell the quality of the food was far above most pub fare. Natalie had a duck dish and I had steak and ale pie. Both were cooked perfectly and we were looked after by the waiting staff very well. As I hadn’t drunk for a while, and Natalie isn’t drinking at the moment due to obvious reasons, I felt the alcohol a little more than I usually would. Pulled pints of specially-commissioned Cheltenham Racing bitter went down very easily, as did the complimentary (two!) glasses of prosecco.

If there was one meal I could have every day it would be breakfast. I’m a huge fan of a full English breakfast. The sight of a breakfast buffet often gives me mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can eat as much as I like but on the other I would rather have a better quality breakfast to order. There were both options available at the Redesdale Arms; the buffet was full of staple foods such as grilled sausages and the increasingly elusive black pudding. Added to this was the option for bespoke grilled skippers or freshly-made porridge and cream, for example. I desperately tried to keep up my Lent abstinence from bread.

After breakfast we took a walk around Moreton in Marsh. Truth be told we didn’t stop too long because there’s not too much to do on a Sunday when most shops are closed. And so we hopped in the car I went to Bourton-on-the-Water.

If you want to visit a quintessentially English Cotswold town, Bourton-on-the-Water is the place. Unfortunately, everyone else knows about this and it was full of people even on a pre-season March spring day.

It’s a pleasant town and we stayed for a while walking around the beautiful Cotswold stone bridges and taking in the picture perfect sites. It seems to be very popular amongst the East Asian tourist community, and several of the signs in shops and cafes were in dual languages. We also drove through a couple of smaller villages called Upper and Lower Slaughter. These seem to be less busy just as perfect looking and perhaps would have been a better bet for a leisurely walk.

On our way back home we stopped off at Hidcote Gardens, as no trip is complete without a visit to the National Trust! This was completely the wrong time of year to go, with absolutely no flowers on show. Although I could see plenty of preparation and hard work had gone into the gardens. I think coming back in May would be the best time. Of course, we stopped off in the café for a scone.

I’ve never been much of an advocate of weekend breaks. But this was a fantastic break and I’m grateful to Natalie for booking. I couldn’t help thinking at many points on the trip that our daughter would enjoy looking at these things, or climbing over something. I suppose we can’t help thinking and seeing things through our children’s eyes when we are so well practised at being with them.

It’s really important and enjoyable to spend time just as a couple. If you’re thinking about doing the same, I would definitely recommend a trip to the Cotswolds. Take a car because you need to get around. And don’t eat for a while because as plenty of great food on offer.

So my compliments go to the staff at the Redesdale Arms. And of course to Natalie who, amidst the final weeks of pregnancy, still takes the time to book and think about organising fantastic weekends away.

 

My first memory of getting a hair cut was going to “Tony’s Barbers” around the corner from where we lived. I remember the red leather (plastic?) seats with booster cushion. The walls were full of black and white headshots, featuring men with crew cuts and even a mullet. I think today would be a bit of a parody but back then it was all real. I never did have the courage to ask for a flat top. When I’m near home I still go to the same place even though it’s changed hands in recent years. It is much more clean and clinical and has lost it rough around the edges feel.

Boys have their hair cut much earlier than girls.

Our daughter grew her hair for a while before we took off her first haircut. We tried trimming around the edges to keep out of her eyes but ultimately we wanted somewhere give her a good haircut. We also wanted a smooth introduction to the process.

And so we found this great middle salon called Mopp Heads.

It’s run by a guy called Mike, let’s call him “Mopp Head Mike”! He does an incredible job at putting children at ease and distracting them while they have their hair cut. He has a toy car they can sit in, Peppa Pig in the background, lots of books and toys to play with. It’s really just like going to nursery. She loved it.

Sure we could have got away with cutting her hair ourselves. But we didn’t want to. We wanted it to look decent, not that she cares, but we take time to buy a nice clothes so why not a haircut too?

Some relatives, perhaps frugal ones, don’t think this is necessary.

They don’t see the point in cutting a child’s hair at the salon. In fact, they think it can be done at home. Some people tell me I can’t tell if a child has had their haircut at home or by a professional but I think I might guess right eight times out of 10.

Professionals are trained in techniques that aren’t available to the lay person. I don’t know about cutting away a fringe, or feathering, or adding layers; perhaps women know more about this, but all I ask for 90% of the time is “a No. 4 back and sides and to cut it down on top”.
I don’t know how to cut hair but I do know when it doesn’t look great.

Cue granny who came along and try to cut the hair herself.

There’s nothing inherently wrong in this, and it would save us a bit of money, but we had to correct it. She turned it into a bowl cut without even trying. And worse than that, she thought it looked okay! I don’t mind writing about this publicly because she knows our thoughts. After a while we all saw the funny side of it.

This haircutting incident prompted an urgent trip to see Mopp Head Mike to salvage something out of a disaster. This required more than the usual trim. At four years old we finally went for a Bob. And she looked really grown-up.

I don’t think you can replace a professional with a home job.

We wouldn’t do dental work by ourselves and we shouldn’t get do haircuts by ourselves. Sometimes we can get away with a quick trim to save on time and money, but it’s never the same as seeing Mike. Just as important is the experience our daughter has of going to the salons, learning to sit and be patient. It’s great training for the years ahead.

There are loads of great children’s haircutters out there and I have only limited experience. Mike runs a salon called Mopp Heads based in Leamington Spa. He specialises in children’s haircuts. Find out more on his website. If you live in the area I would really recommend checking him out.


Have you ever heard (or felt) the crunch of your car as it scrapes along a brick wall, metal post, or [insert any other object that causes damage]. It’s almost painful to bear. It’s worse if it’s your own fault. 

My car recently had an argument with some iron gates and came off worse.

I’d driven through these gates countless times. But it was dark and rainy and I was in a rush. I didn’t think, judged it wrong and then heard the horrible sound of metal on metal. 

I went through all the stages of mourning: first, it was denial. I got out the car and went inside my work building, as I couldn’t bear to look. And then came anger; it started off with the gate, but it’s not very satisfying being angry at an inanimate object (unless you’re Basil Fawlty). Then bargaining; as I tried to rationalise with myself whether it was worth fixing and, if so, how much it would cost. Finally, there was depression and acceptance as I understood there was no going back, and the dent couldn’t be covered up without some major work. 
See the results of my labours for yourself:


In all my years of driving I’ve never had a bump. It could be down to careful driving or just plain old luck. Since becoming a dad and being the sole driver in the house I’ve probably been guilty of rushing around too much on more than one occasion, trying to be in two places at once. 

My car’s not new but it’s reliable. It’s not expensive but I want it to look as good as possible. Driving around with a big dent in the wheel arch just didn’t make me feel good. 

When I finally resolved to get my car fixed I needed it to be done as smoothly as possible. I didn’t have time to send it in to a body shop for a couple of days. I didn’t even want to take it in for a quote. 

Time is at a premium for the modern dad. 

I was delighted when I discovered AutoRestore, a mobile (yes, that’s right) body repair company. Quotes are obtained online by completing a form and sending in pics of the damage. You then choose a convenient date and location. Now this is the best bit: the location can be anywhere you like, either at home or work, or a car park. Normal body repairs have to be done in a professional garage. These guys turn up in specialist vans, erect a tent around your car to seal it off from the external environment, and have all the tools and paints to complete the job there and then. 

The guy who worked on my car was a complete professional throughout. He explained the process and got on with the job. It took about four hours from start to finish and the result left the damaged part looking as good as new. So good, perhaps, that I now have to get all my other minor scratches fixed!

Take a look at some pics:


For anyone who is short on time and wants great results I would recommend Autorestore. They didn’t give me anything for writing this piece; I just wanted to share their great work. 

I’m a fan of anything that’s frees up more family time!


Being a parent means all your energy and time is invested in your family. There’s often not much time for anything else. Thankfully, these days it’s far easier to be connected wider family; your own parents, siblings, cousins, etc. Facebook takes care of family news and Skype is good for real-time conversations around the world. 

The internet generation is so well-developed that there’s now a website to help with every possible task. There’s so much out there that it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. So when I find something that works particularly well I want to let people know about it. 

Sign-o-matic is a website dedicated to making signs of all shapes and sizes. Think about all the possibilities – door signs, house sign, name badges, anything. 

When my mum asked me to print off and laminate a piece of paper I knew I could better. I searched for “laminated plastic sign” on Google and got a few results. I checked out a couple of sites but the one that got my attention straight away was Sign-o-matic. I don’t know much about sign making. And I didn’t really know what I was looking for. But I would know if I saw it. 

It was good to see numerous examples on the site. Designing the sign was a simple step-by-step process. I wasn’t overloaded with options and I could see at each stage how the finished sign would look. I don’t know much about costs for making signs but the prices seemed reasonable. I was able to get the finished sign delivered direct to my mum, meaning I don’t have to drive all the way over to her. 

There are loads of tools and websites that exist to make our lives easier. This is never more important than when a parent, as our time gets sapped by so many other things. Ultimately, it’s all about spending quality time with those we care about. Anything that helps me to do that gets my vote of approval.