Cartoon time!


601998_10151584315184048_1278976154_nI find some parents can be a bit snobby when it comes to letting their kids watch TV but providing its in moderation then I think cartoons can be great at enriching their imaginations and to give them an opportunity to sit and relax.

Recently my wife discovered a great little site that has lots of free cartoons that you can stream straight to your iPhone or other smart phone which means that you always have something to distract them when out and about.

Big J’s favourite is Transformers Rescue Bots.




Bedtime Stories

As the kids are now in bed I thought I would take this opportunity to do a quick post about my favourite bedtime stories.  From an early age I’ve tried to introduce the kids to as many different books as possible, helped enormously by the wife’s huge collection of kids books.

I have to admit I’m quite picky about the books I read them as I hate books with really dark pages and black text as in the low light of the bedroom they are a real pain to read.  With that in mind here are some of our favourites that you might wish to try.


(1) The Tiger who Came to Tea

This is arguably one of my favourites, very clear text, simple story and beautiful child like illustrations.  My son who is 3 has loved reading this for the last 2 years.

He know’s this book so well he can tell me the story nearly word for word which always impresses me.


(2) Mr McGee Goes to Sea

Mr McGee is from the Australian writer Pamela Allen and its a beautiful little story with very clean pages and a nice rhythm to to the narrative.

The illustrations are quite simple and have a certain retro charm which adds to the character of the book.

(3) The Rascally Cake


This book I only read because Big J kept pestering me to and whilst I was initially put off by the clarity of the text the excellent prose more than makes up for it.

This is a great book for boys as it has all the gruesome stuff that they love as well as great illustrations and a good sense of humour.

Of course it does not matter what book you read to kids as its the act of reading that is most important and nothing settles them for bed better than listening to your voice soothe them to sleep.

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First trip into the loft (attic)

There is nothing more beautiful than the face of your son when you tell him that you are going to let him go up in the loft for the first time.

Up until now the loft (or sky parlour) had been a mysterious place where daddy disappeared into with boxes only to come back with dusty objects that he had forgotten he owned. It was also a magical place where at Christmas time you can hear Santa walking around making reindeer noises.

Holding tight to the ladder he climbed up and entered the wooden palace in the roof. His initial words were of awe and amazement which quickly turned to curiosity as to what was in all the boxes.

3 year olds are pretty easy to impress but this was a big day for him and one I’m sure he will remember fondly in the years to come.

Now I just wish I had a house with a basement so I could give him that experience as well.

Dad’s – You Need a Budget (Review)


Whilst I have always enjoyed earning money I’ve not always been great at managing it.  In fact up until my kids came along I had pretty much hit an all time low with spiralling credit card debt and zero savings.   When I realised I was going to be a Dad it hit me that I had to do something about it.

That’s when I found YNAB (You need a budget).  I did a lot of research and investigating into budget planning and software and I found one that I thought could help me learn how to budget appropriately and tackle my debt.  YNAB is not just a software solution its also a philosophy and a way of life.

You Need A Budget is pretty simple. It’s honestly more about the method than about the software (but the software is pretty nifty). In order to budget the You Need A Budget way, you need to follow 4 simple rules:


  • Rule 1:  Give Every Dollar (or pound) a Job
  • Rule 2:  Save for a Rainy Day
  • Rule 3:  Roll With the Punches
  • Rule 4:  Live on Last Month’s Income

There is no rule that is more important than the other; they all have to work together in order to achieve the right budget/life balance.

Rule 1:  Give Every Dollar a Job
This is as easy as it sounds.  When you set the budget each month, make sure there is no surplus.  You want to make sure that all of the money you have available is allocated and is there, ready to be used.  Any money you think you have left you can just put into Saving category or Emergency Fund.

Rule 2:  Save for a Rainy Day
You know something, sometime, somewhere is going to happen but you don’t know what, when or where.  You need to save some money and make yourself a cushion to handle these known unknowns.  Not only do you want to have a true “emergency fund” but you will also want to budget for “car repairs” etc… You know someday you will need repair your car, but you don’t know when or how much those costs are going to be, which leads to Rule 3…

Rule 3: Roll With the Punches
We are all human, you will make mistakes. This rule is here to tell you that it’s OK to make mistakes and to adapt and overcome.  So, those car repairs finally came along and you are £200 short in the “Car Repair” category.  That’s OK; you tried.  If this happens, you have a few outs: 1) allocate some budgeted money from another “rainy day” fund to help make up the difference for the car repairs; 2) borrow the funds from your “emergency fund” (though this should be last resort); or 3) you can borrow against next month’s income.  That’s because…

Rule 4: Live on Last Month’s Income
OK, I lied – this might be the most important rule (at least from a budgeting standpoint).  You will have a built-in buffer while budgeting because you will essentially be living off of last month’s income.  When you first start YNAB, you enter the amount of whichever bank accounts you will be budgeting from and you use it in the month you are currently in.  Then, as paychecks come in during that month, you allocate them as NEXT MONTH’S INCOME.  That way, when you go to budget at the start of next month you will have a clear idea of how much money you have available because you are essentially living off the money you earned last month.

The Results

I’ve been using YNAB for nearly 4 years now and I’ve gone from being in debt to being debt free with savings.  As a middle aged dad I can now hold my head high knowing that I can support my family through the good times and bad and give my kids a good standard of living.

Budgeting is never easy but with YNAB I found it quick to get started and more importantly easy to keep going month after month.   The software itself is really easy to use and the free iPhone app is a good bonus.

YNAB is so good, that I rarely look at and fret over the amount of money in my bank accounts any longer.  Now, I just keep track of my finances in YNAB and I know exactly how much money I have available and how it is being spent/saved.images

The last thing about YNAB: there is a free 34-day trial period to allow you to set it up and use it for a month to see if it works for you. The software also comes with a nine-day course (by email) to help guide you and go over the methods/rules.

Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.

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Hitting 35

Hitting 35 is often only acknowledged by the fact that you can no longer tick the 18-34 box that appears on most surveys. In contrast turning 16, 18, 21, 30, 40 and even 65 are actively celebrated as key milestones and accompanied by the almost compulsory birthday parties.

Of course this approach completely neglects the fact that 35 is the peak of our modern lives and should be celebrated as the half way point where we can stop and reflect on our achievements before continuing on life’s colourful journey towards death.

The popular media will of course try and convince you that middle age does not begin until 50, however this is a myth populated by those in their mid 40’s who are still trying to convince themselves that they have most of their life still ahead  despite the fact that they are already well past the half way point.

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10 things I love about my children

It would be wrong to write a blog about being a Dad without taking a little time to introduce my children to hopefully explain why I am so proud to be their 20130911-012551.jpgdad.

Big J is a cheeky little boy who apparently looks exactly like me and is growing into a very confident little man.  Little J is a perfect girl who’s smile can melt hearts.

They are great kids but here are the 10 things I love about them the most.

  1.  They love their beds. Most nights they are tucked up fast asleep by 7:30pm which means peace and quiet.
  2.  They love each other.  Whilst they do fight and push you can tell that they love being with each other.
  3.  They love retro cartoons.  From Postman Pat to Scooby Doo they love old school cartoons.
  4.  They laugh at my jokes. I think they are the only people who think I’m funny.
  5. They are resilient and adaptive. No matter who has them or where they are they get on with it with very few tears.
  6.  They have great smiles.  you can tell they are really happy kids.
  7.  They love their mum.  I know I am their second most favourite person in the world but I don’t hold it against them as their mum is pretty amazing.
  8.  They can fart on cue.  Well just big J at the moment but little J is not far behind.
  9. They are easy please – they don’t need expensive toys just some imagination and some attention.
  10. They love me back– which is the only reward I need for being their dad

Middle Aged Dad