Sandwich Bag Art

A couple of school terms ago I was looking on the tinterweb, and came across a number of American Dads who drew little pieces of art and favourite cartoon characters on their kids paper lunch bags.

I loved the idea. Each with its own little phrase or slogan. I thought I’d give it ago. I bought a large pack of coloured sharpies and some plastic lunch bags.

These are a few I did from last term.

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Now I really enjoy making these and my kids loved them so when I have a spare minute I do one or two and save it in a box in the house ready for the next school dinner.

The first stop on the Journey to Positivity is Insanity

Today is the first day of the summer holidays, and I have rode my bike to work.

This is part 2 of an initiative I like to call, “get my fitness back”.

You see in my youth I was very fit. I was a Muay Thai boxer, a WWE style wrestler, and Roller/Ice hockey coach, manager, player. At one point I was training every night for hockey, and play at least 2 matches each weekend.

Then in university I started to smoke and drink, and when I came back from university I started a family, and I have found I didn’t have the time to put into keeping active.

The other thing I used to do was eat my kids food. Sounds harsh but, what I mean is I hate when food goes to waste, and as a new Dad I had no sense of portion control for my new child. But instead of throwing the extra in the bin, I would scoff it down. I got fat. I had stopped going to Ice Hockey. I was smoking more because my family was getting bigger and smoke break is a break. It was 2-3 minutes when I could have a breather (chuckle, ex smoker joke there).

I’m not body conscious, I like to think I have a Gok Wan outlook to my body, and I love my own skin. But I was referred to as fat daddy, and my kids loved the fact that I was Daddy Pig from Peppa Pig. I loved that, no problem.

All that said I realised I felt old. I was lethargic. I was depressed. I was breathing heavy going up the stairs. I didn’t want to play with the kids on the park. The people who supported my smoking and drinking drifted away. I had moved to the country from Manchester and my mates from Manchester who I smoked and drinked with were too lethargic drinking and smoking to visit. And I was too lethargic from all the drinking and smoking I was doing. So I got depressed that I couldn’t see them and the negative spiral escalated.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with drinking per say and I was not doing it to excess. Nor was it effecting anyone else but me. And I was happy, life was great but just sometimes I got depressed, easily. I was always lethargic.

Also some of my smoking supporters where getting sick too. The serious type of sick no smoker dares dwell on.

I have a friend who is very athletic, competitive and sporty. My teenage self wanted to beat him so bad. However, there was no way my adult self would even try. We played golf together. One tee, I said “I doubt I’ll make this shot with my luck”. I was being funny. “Such negativity,” he said “you need a bit of PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)”.

I was being funny, I thought. But looking back how many times had I brushed it away as that. How many times had I reinforced my own negativity to myself. Where had my confidence gone. And my question was simply this. Is this what I want for my kids. Is this the example I want to set for my kids, for others, for Myself.

No.

I had to quit smoking.

I had quit smoking before for a spell, however I had been stressed at work and had just one. IT ONLY TAKES ONE. All you smokers out there if you quit remember this.

This February 2014 it was different. I was determined. And I quit smoking and I genuinely feel it is for good this time, I can feel it. No gum, no patch just will power.

But it wasn’t enough. I felt brilliant but I couldn’t run. And I wanted to run, with the kids, on the park, play football, play hockey, cycle.

My friend also had a copy of the Insanity workout. I had watched a video of him doing it. The negative me had looked wide eyed, wondering how the heck he did it. Making excuses in my head like I don’t have certain shorts or the right kind of trainers. Worrying that Shaun T was an ex marine. I would never be able to to “the hardest workout ever put on DVD”.

Now after quitting smoking, I was ready to try. I watched the intro, Shaun T telling me to Dig Deeper. Next the fitness test. Which floored me. Even my wife, who has always been very positive and confident, didn’t think it would be that hard and wondered how I was going to get through the next DVD let alone the week, let alone the 60 day course.

I persevered. I took Shaun Ts advice and I Dug Deeper.

It only took a week for my fitness to improve drastically. I only have 3 weeks left on the Insanity workout left, but I’m hooked. I love exercise again and I can keep up. I highly recommend the Insanity workout to anyone.

Since I quit smoking and started exercise the improvements to my health and mind set have been tremendous. I haven’t lost all the weight I’d like, but that didn’t bother me anyway (besides I know it won’t be long). I play with the kids, my skill in any sport has improved, my positivity is endless. I even started this blog because of my healthier mindset.

Hopefully I will be able to bring this positivity and share it with the people who read my blog.

So now its time to start part 2 of the initiative, it’s bring your bike to work day. Everyday. I got 8 weeks before I need to use my car for the kids so this holiday I will see where it takes me.positive-thinking

 

My wife has Coeliac – My Frustrating Journey

My wife has coeliac disease. Her mother has it, her Grandad died because he didn’t stick to the diet. It is very likely that one or more of our children will get it during their lifetime.

She was officially diagnosed with coeliac in 2010, which seems like forever ago now, but she was aware of the condition since a young age.

So what is coeliac disease?

“Coeliac is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten” Coeliac UK

An Autoimmune Disease… That’s not a choice, or a preference, or a fad diet. It is a disease. It is where the immune system mistakenly attacks it’s own cells causing the lining of the small intestine to get damaged.

If my wife has even a crumb of gluten it can cause bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, headaches, much ulcers, sudden or unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia.

For me I was aware of it but by no means fully. Like most people I suspected it was some sort or allergy or intolerance. The shock for me was how little a coeliac could eat. Gluten is in everything. Naively I thought a boycott of cakes, pies and anything bready or pastry like would do the trick. I even felt jealous (I know, any coeliacs reading this, I know) that my wife would enjoy a more healthy diet (sorry). But it’s in absolutely everything. Vinegar, cereal, processed meats, crisps, ice cream, sauces, frozen foods, ready meals, if it doesn’t say gluten free on the label it contains gluten, for the curious try picking up a few of your regular products and seeing how many contain gluten. Now pick up every item you are going to buy and really read the label, check the ingredients to see if they contain barley, or maize, or vinegar. Because that’s what a coeliac has to do every single shop, every single item.

This is where my frustration built up. Because like the naive me of 2010, most people, have no clue what coeliac or gluten actually is. And unfortunately in 2010 there were no labels to say gluten free, or listing allergies. In 2010. When you can speak to someone on the other side of the world in a video call, you don’t know if your can of soup contains gluten or not. What are we eating?

And restaurants were none the wiser. No labels, staff were ignorant. Fast food restaurants had nothing at all to eat. But vegetarian options are on there, a requirement. (I have nothing bad to say about vegetarians. My argument is with the absurdity that a restaurant that caters for a vegetarian but not a coeliac. After all if a vegetarian did eat a crumb of meat it wouldn’t damage the lining of their small intestine, causing, bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, headaches, mouth ulcers, sudden or unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia).

Ok so that was 2010, 4 years on things should be better right. I must admit yes things are better. But not, sadly by much. Labelling is a lot better. It was a law to include gluten related products in the allergy section now, and the range is better, but again not by much. In that whole supermarket, only one tiny section is for the coeliacs, and they have to share it with the lactose intolerant and the food allergies. Bread is less stiff and crumbly these days. My main grip these days though is that gluten free products are sooooo expensive. Shame on you mass food producers.

Is it related to the new celebrity of Gluten Free diets? Don’t get me wrong I’m sure the coeliacs would like the exposure but I feel it’s making coeliac disease seem like a fad diet. Whether this is the cause or not it is not for me to say, but still gluten free food is expensive. Now add to that the fact we have to provide for 4 children as well, and what if they get Coeliac later in life too. £2.90 for a loaf. And that is just the bread, and that is just the supermarket, when we go out to the restaurant there are still problems. My wife can only have fries in most of the usual fast food restaurants. There is one chicken related fast food place we never go too any more.

But that is why I am so frustrated. People seem to fall into 3 categories, the ignorant, who don’t know, the exploitative’s, who do know but take advantage and make it really expensive, or the frustrated, the coeliacs or coeliac supporters who do know and are trying to make a difference.

But the positive is that things are getting better, some restaurants do cater for gluten free, and are informed. Some fast food places have rose up to the challenge. My favourites are Pizza Hut, who now do a stunning gluten free pizza with all the toppings of a regular pizza. With healthy gluten free sides. My wife has to box it up there’s so much Gluten free food. Also, Nandos. Most things/everything on the Nandos menu is Gluten Free. Date night has never looked so good. Thank you Nandos. Both these restaurants charge the same price for the gluten free options as the normal items.

I wanted to make a change for my wife, as a supportive husband and family man, when my Nana, who will never understand Coeliac disease, continually offers my wife biscuits. I realised that I can’t change everyone, even raising awareness I can’t make people make affordable gluten free options. But I can change myself and my family.

We look for fresh food, vegetables and meat. We make our own sauces. All to ensure we know no gluten free products are used. I make a point of making meals that are gluten free for everybody, so that the kids and I aren’t having a slap up meal while my wife chews on gluten free toast and cheese. Everyone eats the same, except when me and Mrs Berg eat separate from the kids for romantic purposes. By doing this we are not buying for 2 different sets of people and makes it infinitely more affordable. This also ensures that the kids who could develop coeliac in the future, have a wealth of recipes under their belt. We make bread together and I have started to make gluten free bread as well.

We stay away from processed foods and I find that it does make us feel like we are being healthier.

I will share with you some of the meals that we prepare in this blog and any gluten free specific recipes we find. I hope that you will find them useful and realise you are not just restricted to a “diet” and can incorporate it into your lifestyle, cheaply and easily.

As a final note, I would like to say that this blog is only my opinions. If you feel you have coeliac disease please consult your doctor and read specific coeliac websites like https://www.coeliac.org.uk

Also if anyone has any suggestions for coeliac recipes and advice contact me through twitter. Any advice is welcomed

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Rock Ornaments

Last weekends adventure was a crafty one. We decided to liven our garden up with some rock ornaments. Of course as easy as it is to buy them where would be the fun in that.

As it was a nice day we decided that the best thing to do would be to actually collect the rocks and paint them ourselves. Ha ha we do after all have a free labour force in our 4 children (tempted to go into global production already). So off we all went to Edisford Bridge a local river where people take picnics and paddle and fish in the river.

After a short walk we arrived near the waters edge and began looking for medium size smooth round rocks. Normally all of the kids have to collect rocks and sticks and leaves and anything else they can stuff in there pockets. Especially the boys. Soon we had a good stack piled up in the bottom of our pushchair. This left them to throw stones eagerly into the river. There were also times when they tried to paddle in the still waters, socks and all.

The only thing to remember, especially if you got the pram down to the waters edge, is that you do have to get the pram back up, including the large stones you filled it with. Just saying. In case, like me, you didn’t consider this. Ha ha. My back will recover.

The kids had there dose of fun and adventure by the river, they got to lazily wander home through the field and park. Soon it would be time to put part two of the plan into action.

Once home we emptied the rocks out onto the kitchen table, picked and shared out the best ones and got to work. We had given the kids a selection of acrylic paints to use at will. We had a few ideas that we wanted to try, like we wanted a badger as our 6 year olds nickname is badger. Mrs Berg had an idea of a frog on a Lilly pad. In general, and as it was our first attempt we kept it simple. Bees, butterfly’s and just general colouring.

It was a fun activity that we could allow the kids a fairly free reign to paint and create as they wanted, we then allowed them to dry and tidied up all the mess. A mix of outdoor fun with a creative playtime kept them occupied all day. And we got our free garden ornaments.

Just to finish them off we covered and recovered in glue once dry, to protect them from the elements.

Now we have memories that we can place in the garden to liven it up for the summer and the kids feel like they have contributed.

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What’s new Pussy Cat?

Me and Mrs Berg were sat outside with a glass of wine (hot chocolate for the woman with child), with the promise of cheesy home-made nachos on the cards, when all of a sudden one of the little ones comes running down the stairs. This is not unusual and can normally be chalked up to Sod’s law. This time, however our 9 year old couldn’t be bribed back to bed with a drink. “It’s the cat,” she said.

We have (deep breath) 4 cats, 5 fish, a bearded dragon and a pet addiction. It’s easy enough for me to blame my wife for her endless need to own new animals, but I confess now I am just as bad.

One of the two younger cats we recently adopted had got pregnant early on, and it was to this one that my eldest was referring. Sox had been scratching around about the house for days so we knew that it was nearly time.

We did object to her making a nest on the our youngest daughters bed though so we moved her along into our room and I started to Google “how to help a cat give birth”, all the while thinking maybe this was something I should have done earlier. As we were ushering the cat into the bedroom there were definite signs of a head popping out.

The buzz and excitement was tangible as my daughters buzzed around me, eager to see the
kittens being born. Tactically, after a quick peek I instructed the older to take the younger into her bed. I was at least 4 steps behind on the how to and was eager to get ahead quick.

My wife was totally into it, not needing the reassurance of a Google search she dove straight
in and just treated the cat as she would a human. It was nice her being on my side of the
labour for a change.

The first kitten was born at 10.08pm.

Our neighbours across the road have vinyl gloves in there medical cabinet so I nipped over and borrowed some. Well of course as soon as she heard she wanted to see so we swapped houses for a while. This gave me time to get ahead of the how to. By the time we swapped back I had a to do list.

I pride on my family being very capable at just getting on with it, and this was one of those
times. The cat didn’t know what to do with the kitten and had licked her clean, but she had now put some distance between them while she waited for the next one.

So, I rounded up a few items; box, blankets, hot water bottle, brew for the midwife, when the
second of the litter arrived. By this time we were experts. I could also ask relevant questions to prove I was paying attention. Had she broke the amniotic sack, did the umbilical cord break, did she. Eat. The. Placenta. Ugh. Well I’m not squeamish but I’m glad my position was on the landing providing back up. That said I knew it would be my job to handle anything sticky or overly disgusting.

The cat didn’t know what to do with the kitten and had licked her clean, but she had now put
some distance between them while she waited for the next one.

Suddenly I was up. It was my time. The cat had moved to the birthing point we had set up. Leaving the kitten ready for me to scoop up and place delicately in the box. I donned the glove and picked up the kitten. My wife started to get the camera ready for my proud moment. Then the kitten started to mew in distress, the cats eyes perked up and caught me red handed. Meowing frantically for me to kindly in hand her child. Before the camera could click I had to put tuck the kitten up in the box and all was well.

Once the kitten was nice and warm Sox began to push again.

The second kitten came into the world at 10.50pm.

It was a truly remarkable experience, like another notch on my belt, gave birth to kittens. I snuck in and let the oldest, who was lay awkwardly with the her sibling on top of her, that another one had been born. She shrieked and I had to quickly assure her she could she them in the morning.

At this point something surreal happened. Something that doesn’t normally happen to me
during any labour previously. I was given a break.

My wife had been been taking pictures frantically throughout and after the neighbor had been alerted to the second cute ball of fluff she was keen to see. So again, we swapped.

About 10 minutes later, I was sat in front of her TV and The Matrix Reloaded came on. Neo had a dream, Mopheus was lobbying for another ship to stay in the Matrix, Agent Smith resurfaced, and I was hooked. I realized that Link from the Matrix was played by Harold Perrineau. He also played Micheal from Lost, and Augustus in Oz, AND Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. I never knew. Totally engaged.

I never realized how much time had gone by until I got a call saying the third kitten had been
born.

The last kitten had been born at 11.35pm.

The neighbor thought the light ginger kitten should be called Simba. I came back and Mrs Berg was tired. She was convinced there would be a 4th. There wasn’t. But we waited an hour before we were sure. By this time the kittens still needed suckling so we moved the kittens to her in her basket and they all cuddled up lay down and began to feed.

It was now 1.44am.

What a night. As I lay exhausted on the landing (so that all the kids didn’t just barge in in the morning) I realised what a night I truly had. 3 lives came into the world. I realized just how long Harold Perrineau had featured in my life, and I realized I never did get my
nachos with cheese.

Here comes trouble

When my eldest daughter was younger she was obsessed with lists, particularly role calls. She would endlessly line her teddies up and play teacher to them. So to introduce my four greatest achievements I could find no better way.

I have been a lot of things in my life, Ice Hockey coach, amateur wrestler, University Student, but my proudest time of my life is fatherhood. Speak you 99% of fathers and I’m sure this will be the same. However this blog, Bergs Place, would be nothing without the input and daily shenanigans of these cheeky band of totally awesome individuals.

Since this is new I worry about the safety of online blogging, especially since it is my children I’m talking about. So to protect those I love no names and no photos. I’m sure one of the things what will grow in the coming months is my confidence to showcase the players of this story.

First up is my eldest. She is 9 going on 30. Intelligent and creative. Currently she is in the choir and school play so is rehearsing every chance she can get. She has been driving us mad showing us the little tweaks to her performance. She is allergic to nuts.

Then there is my eldest boy at 6 years old. He’s good a building and fixing. Fortunately he is into superheroes like his dad, he is also the go out and collect bugs type. The other day we were playing football and as me and his Grandad came in to score we found only an empty net as the goalie had wandered off to chase a butterfly.

Next there is the middle child,a ball of pure energy, 3 years old and she is the kindest one among us. Recognized widely for her unique mop of curly hair. Typical girl, she looks after her dolls with regular tea party’s and, this summer, picnics. If the house is quiet we know there she is up to no good somewhere.

Current youngest is nearly 2 years old and cute as a button. He can walk, developed quicker than the others, there is something to be said for having older siblings. He can also talk quicker than the others, everyday I find one of them saying, “Say mummy,” “say daddy”. Although if I’m honest the words they get him to say are most are “poo poo head” “snot” and all manner of silly words and phrases. Still he’s learning.

The fifth child – TBA. Due late September. The latest welcome addition has yet to arrive, but we are looking forward to her joining the existing four. Mrs Berg won’t let me call her Mambo (as in the song Mambo #5).

Finally my wife of 5 years, although we have been together longer, and mother to all 5 children. She is student nurse with an uncanny knack for diagnosing our illnesses. She has a kind and loving heart and will be brilliant in the nursing profession. She can bake anything and has made most of the kids unique birthday cakes from scratch. Crafty and capable of making endless creative task to perform with the kids. As I write this she is decorating the bigger of the bedrooms.

My wife also has coeliac disease, like her Mum and Grandad before her. Because of that she has to stick to the gluten free diet. This works out very well for us because that means we stick to food that we can all enjoy together, leaving us free of the processed food that can get consumed too readily these days. For anyone on the gluten free diet this blog will definitely include gluten free recipes and a general look into how we incorporate it into our lifestyle.

So that’s the role call. 

Follow us on Twitter for up to date info.

Welcome to Bergs Place

Welcome. My nickname from University was Berg. And this is my Place. I wanted to create my own little space on the internet to share with people my everyday life, as interesting or uninteresting as that may be. In a world of Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr it seems like everyone is doing just that from their mobiles. It has almost become instinct for most, and to be honest I want a piece of the action. I did fancy a blog better though because I have always enjoyed writing.

So here it is. Since this is an introduction I’ll start off by saying, I have 5 Children, (4 and 2/3rds actually). Although I’m sure some people have more children than I do I am at that point when my friends and family look at me in disbelief, and strangers comment that I must have my hands full. In truth, they are correct; however it is also a heck of a lot of fun. I hope you will see through this blog what a unique and rewarding experience pushing past three children is.

I also have my own small business. This is a family business and focusing on Lettings Management. This is a personal blog but I can predict now that I will plug my lettings business, this is my place after all. This blog will document the hectic and comical struggles of one man juggling the two worlds.

I try to keep a Positive Mental Attitude, and keep fit using the Insanity workout and Cycling around my Lancashire home. I also like; Ice Hockey, WWE, Reading, Writing, Watching TV and Movies, Comics, and Adventuring in the great outdoors.

So that’s the intro, stay tuned, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and I hope we grow together as I share this journey with you. And maybe we all learn a little something along the way.