Our First Parents ONLY Weekend

Easter 2013, Amanda is about 30 weeks pregnant and we have a lovely couple of nights away staying in Bendigo, the town where we met and fell in love. Fast forward to last weekend and another night away this time down on the Mornington Peninsula. What’s the significance you ask…it’s been over five years since Amanda and I had a night away together alone since the kids came along.

Our parenting style has always been to not force our kids into anything, just to let them mature through the childhood milestones. Such things like sleeping in their own room, potty training, stopping breastfeeding, etc we left until the kids only needed a slight nudge rather than a push to adapt. In addition, we decided to wait before we went for a night away without the kids. Controversial maybe, I know a lot of parents will be screaming at their screen reading this saying “Your kids shouldn’t rule your life,” “You shouldn’t sacrifice who you are and what you want because of your kids.” With all due respect to those people I disagree, to an extent. We had wanted to be parents for a long time, so when we were a Mum and Dad we were happy to make a lot of sacrifices for the sake of our little ones.

img_1978

Ice cream treat thanks to chief babysitters Nonna and Grandpa

Our kids have brought us so much pleasure that the sacrifices became easier and easier and in the end the sacrifices were not nearly as significant as we first thought. Always in the back of our minds though we knew that as the kids got older and more independent we would be able to start doing a lot more for ourselves.

Which brings me back to a kids free night away. We were confident that the kids were ready for us to leave them for a night and we as parents knew that this was the right time for them and us. Only weeks ago we knew that the kids would be too upset if we left them for a night and in turn we would not have fully enjoyed ourselves knowing this would be the case. We had to bide our time through the early years and we were happy to.

Peninsula Hot Springs – Sooooo Good!

We had booked the Peninsula Hot Springs for the Saturday afternoon, so we hit up some lunch first at Red Gum BBQ in Red Hill, such delicious meats! The hot springs were huge with two sections, one that looked like a community pool area and another for us kid-less VIPs! As we had booked the bathe and massage package we had access to the Spa Dreaming Centre where we could choose from a selection of baths with varying temperatures and saunas. Much better than splashing in the pools with the common rabble. We enjoyed a massage after soaking for over an hour and returned after to soak some more, because why not.

img_1942

The moment we left realising how quiet a long drive can be!

We booked the night’s accommodation only the day before, so limited choice, but we settled on a place that was close to Rosebud with a good selection of restaurants. We are lucky that my parents have such a great relationship with our kids because they would surely need to be comforted in our absence…which from all accounts was not at all the case and we were not missed in the least. Testament to us waiting for the right time.

Also one important point, we breakfasted in Rosebud at a place called The Pier Cafe, I had the baked eggs; go there; eat them; you’re welcome!

I have to admit that I was a little nervous and sad about leaving the kids. I have been away from them before, but always with Amanda keeping the home base secure. Amanda on the other hand was so excited she barely slept the night before having never been away for a night. We had an absolute ball together, knowing the kids were fine at home with their grandparents. We were so refreshed, thanks to the hot springs, massage and sleep, but the best part was that we laughed a hell of a lot.

After more than 15 years, two kids and many bumps in the road, Amanda, the renowned super mum, will always be that hot chick I met at university that could make me laugh like no other.

Why do WE Adventure

My wife Amanda and I have always been the adventuring type, through our twenties exploring various parts of the world, trying to cram as much as we could into every year before we decided to start having kids. Not that we thought kids would put a stop to this, but prioritising places we thought we wouldn’t like to take young kids. In our minds’ the perfect trip is to go to new places and see and experience as much as we can, often pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone.

I’ve always categorised getaways into either holidays or travels. A holiday being a relaxing trip that is usually to a single destination where you can recharge the batteries by doing almost nothing (this includes even just staying at home). Then there is travelling where your trip takes you from place to place with the aim to take in as much new sights/sounds/tastes/etc in the time you have away. It is obvious to us that we are definitely the traveling type more than the holidaying type.

Growing up my family went on the quintessential yearly road trips more often than not to the same destination. In addition, my friends from school would often end up at these destinations too, which at the time was great, but in hindsight probably lead me into the travelling mind frame I have now. Don’t get me wrong though I loved those family holidays, we always did awesome stuff and I have great memories associated with those trips, but I have this obsession now with seeing as much of our world as possible rather than visiting the places more than once.

Most important now for us as parents is to expose our two kids to the world, starting with our own backyard taking them to all the cool places around Victoria and Australia. We recently bought a secondhand Jayco Flamingo Camper Trailer that will allow us to escape more regularly and to show the kids a more basic way of living, which is an awesome experience in itself not only for them but for us too!

In short adventuring is about making the most of your time off work, it is about learning new things from the place you go and the people you meet. It’s about educating ourselves and our kids about the real world, not just the one we create in our little bubble and getting back to nature and the basics to get perspective in our day to day life. It’s about bringing us closer as a family as together we experience all the amazing things this world has to offer. It’s about real life problem solving and working together to find a resolution to a unique issue that is completely outside of anything we would have to deal with in normal life. In all though it’s mostly about how happy and free we all feel when we are adventuring together, which is one of the greatest feelings in life!

Beware the Dinosaurs

Inspired by our family adventures, my sister told me of a list she’d created of places to visit around Victoria whilst she was off work for the school holidays. So when she visited us one weekend we decided to tick off something from her list in the Yarra Ranges. We went with the Redwood Forest of East Warburton, which we have been wanting to see for some time now too.

Unfortunately Amanda and Immy missed out, but on Sunday Fletch, Elli and I decided to get out and visit these sentinel sequoias. The trip from Lilydale was about 40 minutes, but the views along the drive are pretty damn good as you get into the mountain ranges from Yarra Junction onwards past Warburton. As we pulled up in the car park there were a lot of cars and I anticipated a packed forest rather than the peaceful bush walk we were hoping for. This turned out not to be the case, although there were people around, we only crossed paths with a few groups over the 3 hours we stayed enabling us to soak up the forest’s tranquility.

However, kids don’t really care for tranquility, so thankfully some legendary person many years ago decided it would be cool to stack the fallen branches into circular piles scattered around the forest floor. Others have since added to these over the years with many stacks now piled high. To Fletch these were amazing, immediately recognising them as “Dinosaur Nests”. So whilst we took in the trees he went from nest to nest checking for dinosaurs and/or their eggs.

Redwood Trip

 Just a couple of dinosaur trackers sitting in a nest, probably a T-Rex one!

 Alas no eggs remained in the nests, which I can vouch for as we had to check them all, it did not dampen his spirits though as he went off in search of these elusive dinos. Our lead tracker Fletch was on point finding many dinosaur footprints and big poos left through the surrounding scrub [note: imaginary footprints and poos]. Now knowing there was definitely dinosaurs here he felt he should pick up every green leafed branch he could find to leave in the nearest nest for the dinosaurs to eat for dinner when they got back.

From the tall redwoods to the surrounding gums and ferns

The dinosaur tracks lead us away from the redwood plantation area into the more common Yarra Ranges bush land of gum trees and tree ferns, where we could either make our way via the beaten path or rough it through the ferns and undergrowth. As we worked our way through the bush we could hear the unmistakable sound of a flowing river getting closer. The dinosaurs must be having a drink in the river, so we got back on the main track and headed towards the water. After a previous outing to the slightly underwhelming Sherbrooke Falls it was refreshing to come across a waterway that looked and sounded like something out of a Tolkien novel. It helped that the path that lead along the river allowed you to get down to the water line and even at places to get into the ankle deep water and show Fletch the smooth rocks and ice cool water. This seemed like a good idea at first until every little ford in the river was a chance for Fletch to splash around and throw the rocks. However, still no dinosaurs only their tracks.

The dinosaur waterhole.

To cap off the Redwood Forest there is a significant open area just in front of the car park, which at the time was home to many picnic blankets. Not having brought a picnic blanket, we made our way to a fallen tree branch that would make for a perfect seat, but before we got there we crossed under a large tree that had dropped all its leaves. I couldn’t help myself and grabbed an arm full throwing them over Fletch. A battle ensued, which I was losing under a shower of leaves, but it ended abruptly as good ol’Dad went a bit too hard with a throw that was also a bit wetter and heavier than the rest that smashed Fletch in the face. Queue some tears and play time over. Luckily food and a little bird friend that kept visiting for Fletch to feed helped distract him back to his happy self.

I know some think of kids as restrictive to take along on outings, but honestly I find they are the opposite. Kids can see what you can’t, always picking up the little things you would otherwise overlook. They are also able to add to the world you are in, opening up a whole new adventure you hadn’t planned on. We could seriously have spent the whole afternoon there, but we needed to get back home to our ladies. At least now we know of a great place to take the kids for a picnic lunch and a back to nature adventure.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Bring the kids, there’s more than just plants!

At the midway point through my weekly one day off with the kids and with the first stroke of spring on display my wife Amanda suggested we should go to this garden centre in Warrandyte that the kids love. Hmmm, there are two places I don’t particularly love taking kids, book shops and garden centres. I’m obsessed with reading and gardening alike and I prefer to meander around and look at all the options before buying a number of books/plants. Kids tend to impact on the meandering part. But, it was a really nice day, there is a café there and I didn’t really need to buy any more plants, as much as I always want to. Plus for some reason we have never really thought to explore much of Warrandyte until recently, so it was off to a garden centre with kids.

I had driven past the Warren Glen Garden Centre dozens of times and passed it off as your average nursery, but as it turns out it isn’t. Entering the car park Fletch sparks up with excitement, “This is the one Daddy, there is crocodiles here!” So the first thing to do on Fletchy’s tour was for him to show me the amazing crocodiles, which for the record were fake plastic water feature things, bitterly disappointing for me but they captivated him to no end.

Whilst he was occupied with the “massive crocs” I took in the place, which seemed to keep expanding at every angle I looked. The creek running through the middle separated the nursery from the gardens and café and it took me a couple of scans to realise it is all part of the centre. We eventually made our way through all the pots and birdbaths looking/splashing for fish in every single one, but none were found, they were sure there were fish here last time. I needed to find something to stop them from splashing in the freezing water, thankfully I found a cool looking insect to distract them.

As it is with kids bugs are a fascination and this was no exception. They were fixated on this Angle-Winged Katydid [yep, impressed? Don’t be I Googled it for far too long to find that out!]. Fletch, as is his nature, was timid at the beginning really wanting to hold it, but changing his mind at the last minute. Immy on the other hand I couldn’t hold back. I finally got her to hold out her hand and placed it there. She was really gentle and wide eyed with amazement as it moved around her hand. Seeing her so calm and happy was the catalyst Fletch needed, if Immy could do it so could he! I was impressed he kept his cool as it climbed its way up his sleeve. We put the Katydid into one of the bushes and spoke about camouflage for a while before heading over a bridge and across the creek.

Tale of two kids – Immy surprisingly gentle; Fletch surprisingly brave.

Over the other side of the creek is the landscaped gardens, where the kids ran ahead only for me to find them both start creeping together so they didn’t scare the bears and wake them up. Of course as old dad here joins in on the fun Fletch stops me to clarify that they are actually just pretend bears and we don’t have to be scared of them. We walked through the gardens a couple of times looping around the multiple bridges and paths, chasing ducks and looking for more bugs before heading to the café for morning tea.
duck watch.jpg

Duck Watch!

Just before we walked into the café we FOUND THE FISH! Not quite as exciting as the kids made them out to be, I guess there is something more to a fish pond when you’re a kid. The café’s brekky menu looked great judging by all the meals I ogled on the tables as we walked through, but we settled for our signature hot choccies and scones. Fletch was running the show at this point and our little tour guide took us to sit in the outdoor area with the mock Thomas train play area. The outdoor area looked prime made for parents with plenty of tables so you can kick back and enjoy your hot drink and scones whilst the kids play safely in the train and around the gardens…or do as I did and run around chasing your fearless daughter whilst she copies her brother balancing around the high garden edge beams and over the train.

Play time over and we wandered around the gardens a little longer, I mulled over buying more plants, but alas no impulsive purchases, so we finished up and headed back home for lunch and to tidy up the house. Just when I thought the best of the kids was done for the day, as they usually turn a bit feral late in the afternoons, they surprised me later in the evening giving me one of those moments you know you’ll cherish forever.

With the kids ready for bed, I left the bedroom as they played in Immy’s room, which was to Immy’s exhausted horror. She starts crying (screaming) wanting me to come back, so I start rushing what I was doing saying across rooms “Daddy’s coming back, it’s alright…” Then the sweetest thing happened, I hear Fletch speak up and say “It’s ok Immy, c’mon let’s read a book.” Immy immediately stops crying and I sneak peek around the corner to watch Fletch read book after book to Immy who is sitting next to him completely engrossed in her brothers story telling. From day one Fletch was extremely gentle and paternal towards Immy and this was just next level stuff from him taking it upon himself to care for his little sister. The love I saw between them both, with Fletch cheering her up and Immy being completely comforted by him was heart exploding stuff.

The night completely outshone what happened in the day, but I will say if you are looking for a place to get the kids out for a couple of hours then Warren Glen Garden Centre is a perfect escape. Enjoy the coming Spring weather and get outside!

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

“Daddy why aren’t you at work today?”

I had a peek into the window of the life of my wife today having had the first of many days to come off work to look after the kids whilst she went back into the classroom to teach. It’s an exciting time for her as the kids are now that little bit older, at 18 months and almost 4, so she can have a day for herself and her career and not feel guilty about being more than just Mum.

I chose the word guilty carefully to highlight not only the mother’s guilt they bestow upon themselves for wanting to do something for themselves, but mostly as it is society’s expectation placed on mothers to be the primary carer of the kids until they are old enough to be independent themselves. Whilst her school was stoked to have her back and very accommodating, most workplaces seem befuddled by fathers wanting to share the parenting load and reduce our work hours to spend their own time with the kids.

When a woman announces she is having a baby the workplace, without a second thought, goes about organising the maternity leave and will be accommodating when they intend to return to work with whatever hours they can spare. To be fair, workplaces are legally obliged to coordinate with mothers returning to work, which is great.  However, as the father in this scenario, maternity leave aside, when we ask to cut back out hours for our family we may as well be asking for a million dollar salary in most cases.

At the time of birth, with respect to all the companies I have worked with, the father is entitled to one week of unpaid paternity leave. I had thought this the norm until I started hearing of companies who still pay as per normal for that week, or others that allow 2, 3 or 4 weeks. My Brother in Law was able to take a belated 3 months off when his wife was ready to go back to work. But sadly these are the exception not the rule.

Interestingly, from what I have experienced the stereotypical point of view that the mother sacrifices everything and the fathers work, is not isolated to a male managers. I know of female managers who struggle to grasp this concept just as much. I can’t help but feel that the workplace is falling behind society with fathers wanting to be more hands on in the raising of their kids.

From discussions I have had and also from what I have read there seems to be a common thread of misunderstanding when it comes to fathers asking to change their work hours. It has nothing to do with our work mindset, for me I am very happy and constantly challenged in my job. It doesn’t even really have anything to do with our wives wanting to go back to work, although this is a happy consequence. What we really want is to spend as much time with our kids whilst we can.

At this age they’re completely innocent and naïve, they are constantly learning and they don’t even know it. They are immersively impressionable and miss nothing.  They’re learning that Dad goes to work and is gone all day, whilst Mum stays with us and does everything for us. I can still remember the stage with both my kids that instead of crying when I had to leave that they just said “Bye Bye Daddy” and waved me out the door. Heartbreaking. Sadly, they are learning that this trend of parental inequality with work is just a part of life as it has been for the past century or more. Even though they have no idea about work, it is the routine that they adapt to and accept.

But today was the first of 6 days over the next six weeks (annual leave days) that I had with the kids, doing kinder drop offs, grocery shopping and all the home chores and kids stuff that needs to be done. It was one of the best days of my life. I got to see so much of the things I only hear about. It could be a small thing like Fletch going up to the lady at Bunnings and asking for a stamp, which for him is a big deal. Or seeing how close he and Immy are as they insist on holding each other’s hand as we walk along the foot path to the café for our afternoon hot chocolate.

I can’t help but feel that my time is fixed and that society won’t change quick enough for me to really experience fatherhood beyond evenings and weekends. I can only hope that by doing days like today as often as I can spare annual leave days, or carer’s leave days when they get sick, that by the time Fletch and Immy have kids that it was dads like me that helped to create parental equality in the workplace. After all they are equally ours too!

[Sorry no photo today, sometimes the moments are just to good too capture]

The Adventures of Duth

My wife and I have lived in Lilydale for around 8 or 9 years now and although we live on the doorstep of the Yarra Valley and the Dandenongs we rarely ventured out to explore either region until recent years. Pre-kids we were catching up with friends mostly and central meeting point was always around the CBD. Now that we have kids our eyes have been opened to the adventure filled backyard we’ve been living in all along.

When our first came along, little Fletch who is now  almost four years old, we decided to keep our outings close to home rather than risk the long harrowing trip to the city with a baby. Somehow the CBD went from being an accessible 45 minutes to an excruciating hours long trip. As new time parents it hardly seemed worth it when we got there, especially as most of our friends at the time had no kids of their own. So it was time to see what the Yarra Valley and the Dandenongs had to offer.

I have always been an obsessed Instagrammer, my social media outlet of choice, so I decided to create the tag #adventuresofduth so we could follow where we had visited and look back at the kid (now kids) over this time. It is now coming up to four years since the first post, our boy Fletch was only a couple of weeks old and we had to leave our safety net of home to travel to Sorrento for a wedding. Since then our adventures have taken us around various areas of Victoria, but mostly around the Yarra Valley where there is still so much to explore.

At this point I’m not sure what this blog is going to be, it’s likely to be a mix of babble about our little adventures and my experiences of fatherhood, but I hope it can be a place where people can check in to find spots for themselves to visit within Victoria and especially the Yarra Valley and maybe have a giggle along the way about my family life.

At the bones of it the driving factor is more than just sharing the places we visit, the plan is to go into more detail on the Instagram pics I have already taken mixed with those we visit in the future. I have a pretty bad memory so I’m hoping to capture these moments in more than just a pic before I forget even where or when they were taken.

I look forward to looking back over the past number of years  and sharing our ongoing Adventures of Duth.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie