I asked BB what I should write about and she said…

Spot the train

Can I relate to a stay-at-home mother yet? I was kind of hoping for something easier to write about. Like, top 10 tantrum triggers, or biggest dadding fails. Instead she asks me something thoughtful. Though I’ll have to come back to those other two, now that I’ve thought of them.

So can I relate? Yes and no. Let’s start with the yes part.

I remember BB being quite sad about heading back to work when Hurricane turned 1 and again with Chaos. She referred to them as her little sidekicks and as a massive sufferer of FOMO she didn’t want to miss any of the little developments they were going to make. The funniest thing about being the at-home parent is seeing your little progeny mimic you. And because I’ve got them at a very formative period in their lives they are picking up heaps of my language and behaviours. Hurricane got me a corker the other day when he told me I “needed to chill out” after Chaos emptied the contents of their clothes drawers all over the floor for the second time that day. Really that was my fault for tidying them up the first time. Rookie.

During my time on duty Chaos has started to speak properly and hold conversations, gained way more confidence in her physical capabilities than she has the right to, and developed a gorgeously cheeky sense of humour. Hurricane meanwhile has turned into a sprinter, learned how to tackle me around the legs and now has amazing recall. If I’ve forgotten something, I can often ask him as he generally remembers everything.

And I get to do pretty fun stuff with them here (like go to the mini train show). All these things are priceless, so even though I am not a particularly emotional fella, I understand why mums can be so torn up about going back to work.

But on the other side of the coin, I also remember coming home from work on many an occasion and walking into the kitchen to find BB preparing dinner, with a whining child attached to her leg, looking utterly harassed and most definitely in need of some relief. It is one thing to see it, it’s another thing to live it.

Children are annoying little creatures. Any parent who says otherwise is lying to you. Actually anyone is annoying if you spend too much time with them. BB and I travelled for a year together back in 2012 and we knew we had to build in away days to escape each other. It doesn’t matter how much you love someone, if you spend every waking minute with them the little things become intolerable and you end up abandoning them while they are trying to get lunch at a bakery in Split (Croatia), leaving them without a map or any form of communication in 40 degree heat. BB can be ruthless…

The at-home parent doesn’t get many away days from the kids. It’s more like away hours. But to be honest, even an hour off will often make the difference between a good day and bad day, because it helps with the tolerance and energy levels. And the truth is that you typically set the tone, so if you’re in a good mood and keen to do stuff, then often the kids will be too. But even on the good days they can still physically wipe you out, and you’ll be left wanting to do nothing but sit on the couch with a bucket of ice cream and pretend that if you close your eyes for just a minute the bombsite of a house will be magically cleaned ready for another day of carnage. Rinse and repeat.

The bad days, well the worst part of those is the mental exhaustion. By the time you get to dinner you don’t care about what they’re eating, so long as something is stuffed in their mouths to drown out the whining. I won’t bother mentioning the lack of sleep.

So I can relate to all of that and everything that goes with it. It’s hard. Way harder than paid work, if only because of the social interaction you miss out on by not being in a workplace.

I’m not sure if a lot of what is hard for me is because I’m doing this away from home base. How much difference would it make if I was able to take Saturdays out to play sport with my mates, or head up to see my sister on a Sunday afternoon? I suspect quite a bit. I think more time off would make for more energy, which makes for the more likelihood of good weeks.

But there is also plenty I can’t relate to. Being a dad is very different to being a mum, because men and women are simply different. Some will argue that’s because of ingrained social structures that led to defined gender roles, and there is an element of that, but there is also truth in that those gender roles are based on natural differences in our dispositions that go back to Adam and Eve. I like those differences because they complement each other so well. For example, BB is far better at reading our kids’ emotions, so when she’s here they typically look first to her for emotional support. They look to me for physical support. I can’t imagine that’s unusual.

It’s true that people generally have different expectations about how mums and dads look after children. Because mums delivered their child into the world, and (most) are naturally gifted nurturers, they are deemed to have the most responsibility for their child’s welfare. As a result, mums are judged more, typically by other women. I can’t relate to those social pressures because they aren’t really applied to me. Random busy-bodies aside, I have no idea if people I know are judging how I parent, or how I look. I don’t care either. Whereas I know a lot of mums feel like they’re always being judged and it makes them question themselves all the time. There’s an entire section in book stores built on society’s judgement of mums. If there were only dads in the world, there would be one book: “How to keep your baby alive”, and most of us still wouldn’t read it.

So yes, I can very much relate to the day-to-day side of being an at-home mum, but the emotional side is a different beast. Always will be.



Signs of intelligence

Apparently once a child starts to lie to you it is a sign of intelligence. They now comprehend that there are consequences to their actions, and if they want to avoid those consequences then it’s best not to admit to what they have just done.

Hurricane has now reached this junction. And he’s very bad at it.

It is one thing to be smart enough to lie, but it’s another thing to be smart enough to know when you can get away with it. In that regard, Hurricane is at least smart enough to be President of the United States. Not a high bar unfortunately.

The first time he lied to me I was making dinner. He was sitting with Chaos in the living room in my direct line of sight. She had her bunny, he tried to take it off her. When she refused to let go he leaned back and kicked her in the head. The force left her face down on the ground as the tears started.

Up to this point, whenever I asked Hurricane why Chaos was crying he would explain very honestly what he had done and why. But this time his response was: “She fell on her face”.

Partially true of course. She did fall over after been clocked in the head with his heel. So I followed up with a leading question. Did she trip?

Yes she tripped.

Did she trip before or after you kicked her in the head?


I saw you kick her in the head Hurricane.


I could see the wheels spinning in his head. He knew he was in trouble, so he stood up and walked himself to time out to mitigate the fall out. Well played little man.

I thought that catching him dead cold first up might have made him rethink the wisdom of trying to lie to me. I was wrong. He’s adopted a strategy akin to a computer virus and has started testing my defences searching for weaknesses.

He now only lies to me when he knows I couldn’t have seen what happened, or he guesses I was otherwise distracted enough to not notice. There are several problems with his strategy of course.

  1. I’m smarter than he is
  2. Chaos still tells me the truth
  3. He doesn’t know how to sell a lie (his tone and body language give him up)

None of this stops him from trying. His best efforts to date have been when he has convinced Chaos to do something with him – for example dump our takeaway containers in the toilet. He will promptly blame her, and she will happily admit to it. But of course she will also just as happily sell him out when I ask her if he was the ringleader.

This raises a counter question. While lying at an early age might be a sign of intelligence, is continually getting caught in a lie a sign of persistence, or stupidity?


Toilet training Chaos (aka find the poo)

The title of this post is somewhat misleading. I’m not really toilet training Chaos at all. She’s training herself. I don’t have a choice about it.

Chaos is a very different little human to her big brother. She has a lot more confidence in her physical capabilities than he did at the same age. A lot of that is no doubt a second child thing, as she has grown up watching him run around and now wants to emulate everything he does. Everything. Jumping, climbing, running, eating. If he can do it, so can she. Even when she can’t.

Hurricane is an expert toileter. Hopefully soon he’ll start wiping his own bum and put an end to his commentary of my efforts, which typically involves him telling me to keep trying because I’ve missed some. But anyway, Chaos obviously believes her time has come too. Unfortunately she decided this without telling me.

I was putting clothes away in our bedroom when it happened. This is a very rare event in of itself, and I’m not actually sure I’ve done it again since. As I stood there shoving my thinning underwear into my drawer I hear Chaos’ little voice say ‘Daddy, poo poos!’, followed by the pitter patter of her little feet heading in my direction.

She runs into the bedroom starkers. Well not quite starkers. She’s got Hurricane’s red Bobux shoes on. A former flatmate of mine liked to pull that trick too. We’d all be ready to head out and he’d say ‘hang on I just need my shoes’, at which point he would duck into his room and then emerge wearing only his finest leather plods. Very few visitors escaped unscarred.

I was slightly confused as to how Chaos had picked up this trick, but of greater concern to me was whether she needed to do poos or had already done them. That question was answered when she spun around and took off again, with the ominous smear up her crack giving the game away.

I found the nappy in the hallway. It was empty, but with a whiff of recent action.

So this is what my life had become. One day you’re running a press conference on the outcome of a major business merger and then next thing you’re playing find the poo.

I asked Chaos where the poo poos were. She gave it some considered thought and then pointed at the toilet. There were obviously no poos in the toilet. For starters the foot stool wasn’t there so unless she picked them up and threw them in it was never a goer.

I asked Hurricane if he saw where Chaos had been playing. He was still angry at me for not letting him watch Octonauts so just ignored the question.

I knew what I had to do. I had to sniff it out.

Logic said it was either in the lounge or their bedroom. I cleared the lounge first. All good. Next, a careful examination of their beds. No poo.

I got down to floor level. Hands and knees. I picked up a scent. But then I realised Chaos was standing next to me so the environment was already compromised. I shut her in the cupboard.

At that moment I knew where I would find it. Chaos is a creature of habit. She has two favourite spots in our apartment. Both of them are windowsills.

And there it was. A tidy little mound sitting on her bedroom windowsill. To this day I don’t know whether she took the nappy off first and put on a public show, or just emptied the nappy on the sill and then ran off to find me. BB likes to think it was the latter, but I remain unconvinced.

A week later the same little voice and pitter patter of feet. Looking up at me with her big brown eyes she lifts up her hand and says in her sweetest tone: ‘ere you go Daddy’.

No need to go find it.





There’s a very good reason men don’t stay at home with children

It’s because we’re biologically exposed.

Over the past two months I have copped more cherry shots than in all of the previous 33 years of my life on this planet. I get that mums sacrifice their nipples when their newborn is learning to feed. But damn, it’s just getting nibbled on a little bit, occasionally. Then they toughen up and all is good. You could beat them with a tenderiser and the nipple would just shrug as if to say ‘I’m not in the mood to be tickled’.

Balls do not toughen up. Yes if you’re a die hard cyclist your scrotum can turn into a leather pouch that offers some added protection, but that requires years of commitment and most of us aren’t masochistic.

Since arriving in NY, my fellas have been headbutted, kneed, kicked and punched with such frightening regularity I’ve started searching the kids room to see if they’re hiding a roster. It seems likely they’ve decided another sibling is not on their agenda and the best way to ensure that is to take out the baby makers. My swimmers are now so concussed they would have a greater chance of humming Beethoven’s 5th than finding the uterus.

And the little people are clever about how they inflict each strike on me too. Chaos has mastered the element of surprise. She will sneak up on me from behind, crawling. Then as I spot her and start to crouch she suddenly jumps up and ‘misjudges’ the amount of clearance she’s got. As I let out a whimper and double over, she pats me on the cheek and gently says ‘sowy daddy’. My bruised nut you’re sowy. I know you know what you’re doing.

Hurricane is a fan of the lazy limb. It appears to be entirely unintentional, and yet his strike zone is so precise. He’ll be in our bed in the morning and flop over from BB’s side to mine, his trailing foot or knee connecting flush. Or he’ll be in the kitchen and happen to windmill his arms as I turn around. No apology is forthcoming from him. He just feigns surprise and asks for some grapes.

BB’s sympathetic response?

Close your legs.

Pretty soon there won’t be much left to protect anyway.










Awkward conversations

The library parking lot

Hurricane is at the age where he simply says what he observes.  As someone who doesn’t really have much of a filter, I tend to find his public commentary very funny. Though when the subject overhears it can get a bit awkward. BB is much more easily embarrassed than I am. Her empathy levels mean she tends to feel enough for the both of us, so I don’t tell her about all the conversations I get to have with Hurricane. She already worries too much about what comes out of my mouth.

As you would imagine, living in the Bronx is not really comparable to the majority white urban liberal mecca of Wellington city. Riverdale itself has a strong Jewish presence and there are some very affluent leafy streets a stones throw from us, but we also spend a lot of time in Kingsbridge where we catch the subway from and do our shopping. This is a Hispanic/black neighbourhood, and I would hazard a guess where most of the wealthy crowd find their nannies.

The first time I took the little ones to the library, the children’s area was packed. The library, I’ve learned, is where a number of nannies congregate for a couple of hours a day. Hurricane does not really know what a nanny is. He doesn’t have any friends that have one. So for him, all he saw was a bunch of white kids with dark-skinned mums. And so unfolded my first and hopefully last public discussion involving skin and hair colour.

Daddy, why does his mum have a black face?

What an opener. I took a little too long to respond, which meant he got to fire off the next observation.

He has nice hair. She has fuzzy hair.

Oh man. The first comment was easily survivable. A curious mind trying to understand how a mum with dark skin gave birth to a boy who appears to have never seen the sun. But that second one, that’s making a judgement on what nice hair looks like. Chris Rock made an entire documentary on this very subject after his daughter asked him why she didn’t have ‘good hair’ (the title of his film).

Obviously Hurricane didn’t mean anything by it. He’s just noticing differences, as kids his age do. In his old world nearly everyone had straight or wavy hair. ‘Fuzzy’ is different.

Now I would like to say I handled this situation with aplomb and sat him down and explained that families don’t have to be all one colour and there is no such thing as good or bad hair (just bad haircuts).

But all I could come up with was: “I like fuzzy hair.”

Now I’m exposed, and Hurricane takes the opportunity to get in a rib tickler.


Why do I like fuzzy hair? Don’t ask me that. I don’t know. I don’t care about hair at all. I go to the barber and just tell him to cut half of it off. Or if BB asks me if her hair looks ok I say yes. That’s about the extent of the verbal exchanges I have about hair.  How am I supposed to answer that?

I don’t. Because right at that moment Chaos walks past and fills the air with her stench. I’ve never been so happy to have to exit a conversation in order to change a monster dump.

At this point the ‘mum’ in question fires off something in Spanish to her fellow nannies and they all laugh.

Two weeks later that nanny and I are sitting next to each other on the reading couch. She finishes her book, turns to me and says: “So why DO you like fuzzy hair?”






Adventure days

Roughly once a week we pack some supplies and explore a new part of New York. We call these Adventure Days. They are exhausting, but great fun.

For parents curious about the logistics, we simply pack snacks, grab the stroller and frontpack and jump on the subway/bus/ferry. Our feet do the rest. Both Hurricane and Chaos get pretty tired and tend to fall asleep at some point. They can get a bit grouchy late in the day but to be honest they’re little troopers overall. They love getting out and about.

So here is a quick take on our adventures to date in 30 words or less (and some pics in random mosaic style).

Central Park

Delivers on expectations. It’s a beautiful space. We go there a lot. Overpriced food and drink though, so pays to bring your own picnic.

Museum of Natural History

Epic museum. Kids were enthralled. Impossible to see in one hit, but thankfully you can pay whatever you like to enter so we will be going back many times.


Times Square/Midtown

Tourist central. Senses get overloaded with noise, lights, smells, people. Buzzy place, but not the easiest with kids. Seems most people just go there to take selfies.

Governor’s Island 

Loved it, as did the kids. Stinking hot when we went so we sweated a storm cycling the island. Worth it though. Best hotdog to date as well.


Wall St is quite aesthetically pleasing. Ground Zero is really sobering. Happens to be next to the flashest underground shopping mall ever that kind of looks like, well, you decide.

High line walk/Chelsea markets

Very cool concept. Packed on a weekend though, so better to go off peak. Same with the markets. We plan on heading back to eat our way through it properly.

Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Bridge

I could go every Saturday. Epic food market. Best I’ve seen anywhere. Just don’t waste your life on the donut pasta. Terrible. The bridge walk was packed out, but still really cool.

Little Italy – Festival of San Gennaro

Heard about it late so ended up going on the last weekend. It was packed to the max so a hot sweaty nightmare with a stroller. Good gelato and spicy calamari though.

Making a home

Hurricane earned his nickname simply because we always know where he’s been. He’s not sneaky. He doesn’t cover his tracks. Pretty standard male behaviour.

Back in NZ he liked to make ‘nests’. Essentially, it involved gathering all the cushions he could find into a pile and then climbing inside. It could preoccupy him for ages. It was great.

Since arriving in NY, into an apartment that is half the size of our family pad, the nest has escalated into what he calls ‘making a home’. Unfortunately for me, his home doesn’t have any real structure to it.

Somehow Hurricane has got the idea in his head that a home is where everything is thrown on the floor. I have no idea how he got that impression. None. There is no way it is a behavior he observed in his parents’ bedroom.

The problem I face is the speed with which he operates. I will be getting Chaos dressed and then walk out into the living area and find that everything in his reach is now on the floor. Shoes, toiletries, food, toys, the dirty washing, the clean washing. He does not discriminate.

I can be changing a nappy, hear a crash, and find Hurricane on a chair emptying his duplo onto the wooden floors. By the time I’ve retrieved a naked Chaos from her favourite spot on the windowsill, her brother has already collected her nappy. Where is it? I ask. In my home, he says. Yes, but where? In my home, he responds, clearly annoyed at being asked the same question twice when he’s given a perfectly adequate answer already. He’s right, of course. It is resting serenely on my pillow, which is now his mother’s pillow.

There is a new rule in place today, he can only make a home in his room and he has to help me tidy it up afterward. All this means in practice is that he takes everything from the lounge into his room and then sleeps under the pile he’s put on his bed.

I’m not sure who is winning this one. It doesn’t feel like it’s me.


Smallville’s theme song is really for parents


Bite, bath, bed. Swallow, shower, sleep. Whatever you might call it, it’s a horrendous time of the day when you’re outnumbered. The sunny hours could have been magical. Your kids just delightful. And then it hits 5pm.

I dread that number on the clock. I know I’m not alone. I had witnessed this before, of course, but when there’s two of you then there’s at least one set of hands available to put the prevention strategy into operation. When you’re alone, it’s just you, and your survival skills.

My survival skills are still being honed. In those early days, I once threw packets of raisins at them to break up a fight. I didn’t really think it through of course, because while there were two packets of raisins only one of them has mastered the art of extraction. And he wasn’t going to share.

I can scratch that tactic off my list.

For those rookies who are entirely unfamiliar with raising children, 5pm is generally the time they start getting tired and hungry. So when there are two of them and one of you, they must be left to their own devices while you prepare a nutritious meal they probably won’t eat, which means you’ll be back making marmite toast very shortly anyway.

In our household, this is the time when Hurricane likes to torment Chaos, who in turn seeks protection between the legs of whomever is doing the cooking. That whomever is now me.

There are preventative measures I can take. Actually there is only one measure. Put Hurricane in front of a screen. Phone or computer. Any video works. But that only takes care of him (and comes with an unpleasant side effect involving lost rags when time comes to turn it off for dinner). Chaos does not have his attention span. If she can’t get any attention from me she will want it from him. He is yet to welcome her offer of alternative entertainment.

There has been one spectacular meltdown to date. It started with Chaos hitting a button on the computer that ended a very engrossing video about ants. Hurricane’s response was to tackle her off the chair. All I saw was two pairs of feet take flight.

Dinner, I was told, was gisgusging. The shower was a write-off. They got wet at least, but then someone had the sponge and someone else wanted it.

At roughly 8.30pm I was sitting on the kitchen floor eating half a tube of cookie dough and humming the theme song to Smallville, listening to Chaos play with duplo while Hurricane yelled at her to get back into bed.

BB probably noticed the dough went missing, thankfully she had the good grace never to ask about it.







Feet of New York

I’m not entirely sure how it started, but at some point to keep a grizzly Hurricane occupied we gave him our camera to play with. He is now obsessed. Every now and then we hand it over to him and he takes 300-odd photos, mostly of his own feet, but occasionally he gets other peoples’ feet too, or even some landscape shots in. This will be the first in a series displaying his unique talent.

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Buying stuff in the US is niggly. So niggly there have been occasions when I’ve decided against buying something to avoid the hassle of a cash transaction.

The photo above is $2.91 in change. Enough for a bus ride here in NY – in fact you’d be 16c to the good. As we discovered, you can’t actually get on a bus without a metro card or the exact change in coins. Notes are no good. So if you don’t have a funded card, your best case scenario is you happen to have 11 quarters on you. The reality is the above is how many coins you’re actually slotting for a one-way trip. It’s not worth thinking about going cash on a return journey. You’ll have to buy a carry bag for these little metal mosquitoes.

It took only a week for me to get sick of the coins. If I was rich I would just throw them away. But I’m running a budget, so I’m starting a coin jar. Once it’s full I’ll take it to the overpriced supermarket down the block to buy some beers. Out of desperation I paid $4 for four rolls of single ply toilet paper from those scoundrels. A rookie move for newbies. Revenge will be sweet.

The coins are bad. But that’s only the start of it. Then there are sales taxes and tipping. Say you’re hungry and walk into a cafe with $10. You see a nice little soft taco combo for $9.75. You can go chicken, beef or pork. Or mix and match. Rice and sour cream on the side. A nice little salad even. Guess what? You can’t buy it. That menu price, it’s the Lochness Monster. It’s just a catfish to suck you in. The mighty US of A might have Tesla, Google, Amazon, Apple and Cinnabon, but its retailers still can’t include taxes in the price of anything.

The tacos are off the table. How about a nice salad for $8.95? Seriously, I couldn’t tell you if you could buy it. I’d be spraying in the wind and it would probably blow back on me. I know you couldn’t buy it if you’re eating in. Because then you have to tip the waiter that brings it to you. And in NY the going tip for eating establishments is 20%. 20%!

Even if the service is terrible we’ve been instructed not to tip less than 15% otherwise we’ll be chased down the street. One of the Germans BB met experienced this within a week of arrival. In my younger years I’d back myself to outpace a waiter. But these days there’s a good chance both the achilles and hammy would go, which appeals to me as being more humiliating than parting with cash for someone who has ruined a very rare and precious culinary experience due to blowing at their job.

So the lesson here, is only eat in when you’re flush. The risks start to escalate otherwise. I say that having never eaten in at a cafe. I’m not stupid enough to pay an extra 20% to try and wrangle two kids at a table when I can just take the food to a park and let the little terrors loose on the squirrels.

It’s not just waiters you have to tip. Bartender pops the top off a beer for you. That’s $3 for the beer (well not in Manhattan it isn’t, but you get the gist), no idea what for the sales tax, and then $1 tip for him. He/she gets $1 for mastering how to use a bottle opener. The solution to this one is obvious. Only drink beersies at bars that serve jugs. At least pouring from a tap is multi-skilled. You’re meant to tip $2 for a cocktail. Probably a little light in the scheme of things. Speaking from experience you can crack 20 beers a lot faster than the time it takes to make a whisky sour.

Baristas love the tip too. Imagine that in Wellington. They’d be millionaires. The lot of them. Hairdressers, doormen (fortunately only at Christmas) and taxi drivers aren’t missing out on that gravy train either. Uber I can understand. Otherwise they’d be homeless.

It makes complete sense that those enjoying the tipping bounty don’t want it to end given it bares little relationship to the quality of service. What amazes me is the Government is so happy to watch this pile of income tax sail on by. There is simply zero chance tips are accurately declared. Who knew a Government anywhere happy with less money to buy votes with?