A Guide for the new Stay At Home Dad

Right then,

It seems there are a load of new dad bloggers out there relieving their boredom (as I do) by writing a blog. For those bringing up their tiny ones, those days spent with pooey fingers on nappy tables, maybe bottle feeding at 2 am, maybe midnight runs to hospitals with some injury or other, drives down autobahns with kids arms in an L shape at 160km, days spent feeling in deep despair at the life you lead – well they do get easier. In fact, the phase where the small ones need you wanes. What fills that void? In my case, it was finding some kind of outdoor work such as gardening for old ladies, and lately getting a dog (another topic). As a veteran of this lifestyle, I’d love to pass on some tips for those sailing in my boat today. What would I advise? Here I assume you start from Square One as I did. I had a pretty cool life before children (we refer to life before kids as BC!!).

The first thing I would advise is to get your nutrition under control. This means learning to cook. Get hold of a book like Jamie Oliver’s “Ministry of Food” and in there he teaches enough to get started. With that book, I was able to present decent enough fare on the table. Once you can d the basics, you may begin to see patterns in the stuff you make, like the 5:3 ratio of flour to water when you make a pizza. Go then to Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio” which pretty much teaches the principles underneath all food prep. You may have heard of the “clean” eating thing. Reducing carbs is a good thing, not necessarily eliminating them, but watching your intake, is to be recommended.

Secondly, once you figure out what you are eating and can reduce the packet stuff, is to get a small veg garden together. Start in spring with a few tomato plants from Aldi, then maybe a herb bed, or some spuds in a pot. I’ve been growing my own a decade now, and love the quality of stuff we eat.

Make no mistake, this gig we do is unusual, and I may be wrong but I think we’ll always be a niche in the family way of things. The pressures we Dads are under are invisible, and when you sit here as I do kind of watching the news and Youtube stuff, days do indeed drift. The constant “do this do that” does wear at you, and yes you will gain if you didn’t before, a respect for the mums who always look utterly haggard on the shop runs. This is where some kind of meditation helps. Yoga, Progressive Muscular Relaxation, Tai Chi or my choice Qi Gong, can ease the way and switch off from the crap at times.

Many of us get so worn out we neglect ourselves, especially with the isolation. The lack of structure and order can take their toll on fitness Some would say go to a gym, but in my case, I found the cliquishness off-putting. Besides, I now prefer to exercise on my own using callisthenics. What’s that? Old fashioned push-ups, pull-ups, squats. Aren’t they hard? No, if you progress along from easy to hard in a structured way. Get a copy of Convict Conditioning (Google this) to see what I mean. Much of this long lost art is coming back, having been preserved in the most unusual of places – prisons!

Many of you are lucky enough to have kept your old employment, at least in a part time capacity. When I began this, I lost my job owing to outsourcing to India, so I lost absolutely everything to do with my old career. I began from scratch about five years ago. I started to do lawn care and landscaping for an old lady. Then I helped a lady in her greengrocer’s shop. An accident at the market made me realise with huge respect to those market stall peeps that this wasn’t for me – I am an office rat. So I began to learn to program in Java. I’ve spent the last two years learning this at the “Cave of Programming” site owned by a kind Britt John. I’ve coded one site but am looking for more and even Android apps to write.

So here are some of the things I really wish I’d known before I embarked on this journey over a decade ago.






100 Days of Silk

Returning myself to fitness after a long bout of flu

This has been one of the most lousy eras I can remember, not just for me but for my family and community. On my side, I’ve suffered a very long bout of flu, according to the German media the worst in ages. Now that I am taking eucalyptus tablets, I feel it is easing.

The other event was the closing of the 300-male migrant centre near us. I bear absolutely no ill to these men, but we cannot be blamed for being cautious, no scared, since the Cologne attacks in 2015. It was unsafe to walk the streets, as they were walking up and down all the time.

I’m back into my favourite stretching sequence in Qi Gong so massage my internal organs, which is pretty much what the Eight Pieces of Brocade actually do.

This summer we will be indulging into the nature of Christianity. Not Kumbaya but a kind of new way of seeing the faith, which I believe hasn’t been actually looked at this way before. It helps that I shall be reading my Dan Brown / Holy Blood Holy Grail books again!


A White Powder Which Kills

I had Robert Lustig’s now famous Youtube lecture on “Watch Later” for three months thinking “Ah yeah, another diet…” then took time out to watch the hour and a half clip. Something had clicked in me. I am known in my family for saying “I’m not one for a sweet tooth but…” and eyes roll. I’ll then dig out the Twix, biscuits or whatever is in the top shelf of our sweet cupboard.

About a week earlier I had a “Discussion” with my wife in front of my inlaws telling them the truth that our family can be “emotional” at times and screaming matches can ensue out of the blue. I’m a believer in full moon being a predictor of crazy behaviour, but I also started to wonder if other factors were at work. I’d never ever in my dreams considered the concept that food influenced moods, but there it seems, that after so long of my son and his tantrums, it may be insulin and sugar derived after all.
We ought to be in spite of this, poster children for the new generation of “green parents”: we have a big veg garden which was my influence (or rather gardening was in herited from my parents back in the 1970s) and my German wife’s very positive influence on us in for form of sport such as cross country skiing in winter and cycling in summer. I dug a veg patch and got Jamie Oliver At Home very early on to learn to cook. I’ve spent the last years planting, reading about what to do with the growing stuff, pruning apple treees and juicing them  – all kind of Richard Briers “Good Life” sort of thing. I’ve even been a member of a gym. However I never managed to lose weight. My doc says we are a very healthy family, but still, we’re not 100 of what we might be. I’ve started to wonder if our seemingly bakery habit might be less innocent than I thought. 
Worse still the mentality seems to have been that weight loss is easy and just discipline, andone who failed must be lazy. How wrong this may seem to be.
From the famous Lustig lecture, if he is right (I believe so) then there are two hormones which control our biochemically derived behaviour (we are thus not as free as we thought). Ghrelin says to me “Eat!” and I duly obey its demind. When I am full another hormone kicks in named Leptin. This is the “full” hormone which has been somehow switched off. Nature ought to tell us to stop, but it doesn’t. What is there in our bodies which may be affecting this hormone?

So if that’s it then we have been misled all along. On the strength of this lecture, oh additionally on another book “Potatoes not Prozac” last week I began to cook breakfast, i.e., eggs noting how full they made often at midday when eating with thie kids. This breakfast is now a meal in the early morning I really get excited about, like I’m turning on the central heating for day. So I’m currently doing the “breakfast” thing and also giving up sugar. The first few days last week were awful. Groggy and tired the whole day for 3 days, I felt rotten.
A friend invited me to a 50th birthday party weekend and I admit the whole thing went to pot and I drank loads of beer. However the last three dayys I’ve been back on track. I’m noticing changes. Some tingles in extremities, like blood is flowing there. This morning I noticed my nose becoming unbelievably clean. I can breathe again. I could smell stuff in my kitchen for the first time in ages. I have a clearer head-. I’ve also given up wheat stuff – the bakery is on hold for the moment. If I get healthier, my son may not be so boisterous in the evening, my wife may be a little healthier every month (she suffers a lot).
Is this abstinence from sugar,and reduction of wider carbohydrates the solution to our admittedly small problem? 

Banished yet again from the Land of Nod!

Well I had naively believed with my eight hours of sleep yesterday that somehow all was hunky dory and I was not a true member of this little clique. This is yet not the case as I set to sleep last night at 9:30 and woke up at 1am. I am starting to wonder if the preceeding day has some influence over the amount of sleep received.

Wednesday I was lucky enough to be roped in to a very athletic weights and music class at my local gym, a complete spontaneous event to which I was invited and thoroughly enjoyed in the morning. this was followed by a strenuous afternoon gardening at my father in law’s house.

However the events of Thursday night messed up this active week. My daughter hurt her head and thus could not make school next day. I thus could not attend my gym to wear myself out. I did fit in a short bike ride with them in the trailer, towing a 7 year old and a four year old are quite tiring, yet it wasn’t enough.

Two other factors in the lack of sleep may be telling: I drank a pot of tea at 11am after attending the child doctor with my daughter to check she was okay, and I drank 2 glasses of German “Federweisen” wine with my wife. Perhaps these had some impact.

Here is my theory about how to influence DSPS. I did study a small amount of statistics years ago, including multiple regression. My thinking here is thus:

The amount of sleep is dependednt on several interrelated factors, which may be possible to measure. So here goes, for my situation:

Amount of sleep (S) is a function of caffeine (C) consumed, alcohol (A) consumed, amount of (E) exercise, and presence/absence (Co) of psychological conflict (child tantrum etc). Or to put it mathematically:

S = f(C,A,E,Co)

Thus, is it possible using this idea, to influence and predict the amount of sleep we get? Is this where a sleep diary might help?

New chart analysis

Last week was half term for kindergarden which meant no movement. A glance at the chart will show how the trend line flattens when no exercise is undertaken. The “rubber bag” ate about the same stuff over the whole time, to the input was constant. The output being exercise, it definitely shows how vital exercise is to maintaining a weight loss programme.

Two weeks and no movement!

Was lucky to be nordic skiing on the Loipe today after a very sedentray, enervating and depressing two weeks of sick children who are back to health. I’ve been weighing myself throughout that time and following the trend to see if “sedentarism” – a term I’ll coin to denote static lifestyles – impacts upon one’s weight. And sure enough, it does. Check the end of this month. Last two weeks stuck indoors with no exercise. That’s what it does to you. Spectacular falls following Christmas, then an abrupt halt. An object lesson that we must keep moving.

Back on the Treadmill

The week stuttered and started into life. Little Boy started kindergarten and apart from a few tears the pretty young assistant teacher said he has been relatively easy in his first week, apart from me leaving him crying in the lady’s arms which yesterday gave me a huge guilty conscience and sent me down for the whole day.

Life alone takes getting used to. Either you have loads of energy or you dopn’t, especially if one of them kicks you awake in the night. Yesterday was such a day of low energy.

Today I attempted to get back to fitness with a return to the cross trainer and 25 good minutes on what I think is called interval training where the hill is climbed in short bursts. My heart rate went above 80 which was within my “training zone”. Funnily enough I have discovered when you dream on the cross trainer you are in say a gym and there’s a bronzed gorgeous tight boobed one next to you, your heart rate drops. Now why the hell is that so?

Why do I bother with this health thing?

A few weeks ago on Remembrance Sunday there appeared on British TV a programme “The Fallen”, an ages long documentary about every single death suffered by British forces out in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’m afraid I could only watch small segments as I found it too upsetting and moving but I pondered upon the sacrifices made by these brave men and women for us. I recall one of Tony Blair’s speeches when he looked convincingly at the people and blurbed on about Britain being “the best”. Quite what best at bugger knows. Best at heart disease, cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, drug abuse, crime?

I have seen so many near and far to me suffer from our lifestyle of being “the best” It encompasses rich and famous as well as people close to me who have diabetes, cancer, heart problems and high high blood pressure. Our lifestyle with its dubious “pleasures” such as smoking which cause cancer, alcohol which lead to alcoholism if not checked, and eating red meat full of fat call me to question what being “the best” means. Don’t we owe it to The Fallen to endeavour to make The West some kind of beacon of hope for a better future, and part of that future one filled with healthier people?

Maybe it is just me but I believe that many of these are lifestyle related. I’m a sinner trying to be an saint. Last year I can remember cycling from the bakery with my wholemeal vollkornsemmel rolls with the salty taste of a hangover from drinking too much beer and wine the night before and thinking how pointless growing my own veg is if I don’t change my own lifestyle. I might as well be dead. So I endeavoured to reduce my own vice which is alcohol consumption. I buy now “Radler” which is basically shandy, as my evening beer drink. It was I just learned invented by a worker on the Munich-Holzkirchen railway so he could drink but not get plastered, and ater sold to people who drive cars to beergardens and cyclists so they don’t swerve their way home. Cycling pisht on a bike? Nah not me ossifer. I still have “wobbles” but my consumption is radically lower than it used to be. I’m always looking to improve. A friend who is an expert cyclist told me Radler has too much sugar and recommended Tgernseer Light Beer which is healthier.

Thanks to Jamie Oliver who not only in my opinion should be knighted but sainted, many of us have taken our first baby steps into food preparation and cookery. It has given us, at least me, a feeling of control over what we eat, more personalisation over what my family puts in their mouths, and moreover a sense of pride that my efforts have simply given them al good health. This achievment outlines just one half of my project.

The first half, the growing and cooking of my family’s foods is established as a regular annual thing now as we look farward to the new growing season the the possibilities it may bring, and the pleasure in cooking that food in our new country Bavarian style kitchen which is so nice to be in compared to the old one.

So begins this year the second half of our mission. Fitness. I’m not that fit, but nor am I a fattie. But I want greater self esteem and to reduce my stress levels. I believe weight loss monitoring to be a central way to manage both sides of the same coin of health, nutrition and fitness. The path there is long and rocky but at least we have through the mists, discerned that a path exists.

Hey that sounds deep like some kind of Guardian article dunnit? 🙂

The rollercoaster went up…then down

This goes to show how difficult it is to do this health thing.

Rollercoaster up…

As recommended by John Walker I sat there with my gram measuring scales this morning calculating how much gloop I slop on my semmel or breakfast roll. I weighed the half of semmel at 30g then after careful measuring weighed the butter at 10g and the honey (fantastic local organic from our town) at 10g. All well and good….

Rollercoaster down…

A visit from a friend this afternoon brought cake before this gullible one’s eyes, which was duly finished off.

Rollercoaster up again…

Utterly sick of the typical Christmas thing I began to surf the Vegetarian Society website says about what our body really needs. It seems armed with this knowledge we can make informed choices about what we eat. I think we as a family are headed towards a veggie lifestyle in future as I just came to the conclusion that I am uncomfortable around meat and scared of its preparation. I always thought that learning to roast a chicken was some kind of advanced goal in cookery but this I am questioning now.

Before Christmas I purchased Brussels sprouts hoping to eat them with the goose, however I realised only red cabbage and dumplings or Knödel fit to this meal. They lay in the fridge awaiting development until this evening when I found this way to cook them. However the verdict was that they were a bit hard. I think steaming them next time would help. Will retain an open mind on this recipe and return later.

Our neighbour who in fact has I believe Macedonian roots recommended I try Bulghur Wheat. A while back I bought some. A quick Google gave us the Arabic recipe of Mujadarra which always takes my eyes wistfully eastwards to hot days floating on the Arabian Gulf with sunlight blocked by an Arabian dhow gliding by. Will have try that.

The family didn’t like my sprout recipe so I dug into the fridge again and found a load of carrots. Before Christmas I bought a juicer. It’s not the best designed of kitchen gadgets – the stuff leaks out sometimes – but it’s a good introduction to juicing and I duly plopped some carrots into it, which we sank well.

Rollercoaster back down again…

We end this post on a sad note.

Was surfing about the web early evening only to be dragged over by Wife to watch Take That with her on the tally. Good entertainment now from a group I used to absolutely hate in the 80s as manufactured pop. The evening’s music was enjoyed with a couple of glasses of red wine, a couple of eggnogs, 3-4 biscuits, a few jelly bears and a beer lemonade Radler. Shit.

How to get fit?

Well I have read the blurb in The Hackers Diet and made some decisions:

1. I shall save all my weight info online an The Hackers Diet webpage.
2. I will monitor my weight daily amd record it in our bathroom on paper then enter it in the computer. I’ve been having “issues” with my Windows box so I am after hearing via the web about the latest Ubuntu, going to run off that soon. I downloaded the latest copy but because my CD writer was in another PC havent installed it yet to burn it.
3. I will monitor my workouts too. Having spent time and money on our cellar and installed the cross trainer I dunno if there exists the need to do the Hacker Diet exercises as the cross trainer measures heart rate and kJ/calories burned. So I shall write down the figures down there like distance and cals on a piece of paper.
4. The missing link is the stuff going into the rubber bag. I need databases showing how many cals are in the guff I put in my mouth.

Yesterday at the bakery whilst buying my I asked the pretty girl which had low fat content. She didnt know so I’ve found a website in German fettrechner.de which should help in that regard. Normaly I buy “gemischte Semmel” and don’t pay much attention to what I buy. I shall change that. For example I just found out that soya semmel have half the cals of rye/roggen semmel. I don’t agree with John Walker’s idea of eating frozen packet foods – typical American! So this ection of losing weight is going to take a bit longer to figure out. I think an Excel or Oo Calc spreadsheet will help, not that I am any good at Excel or Calc.

Edit: just did another 25 minutes on the trainer