Blog On

Olympians Must Begin at Home

After Team GBs fantastic showing at the Olympics, and as we gear up for the Paralympics, there has been a lot of talk about getting more sport on the curriculum. Hooray! I say – but with a caveat. I think we can’t only rely on the schools: Olympians must begin at home.
As a PE teacher (and now as a supply teacher) I see countless notes excusing pupils from PE. Now while some of these are genuine, I’ve been in situations where nearly half of the pupils in the class have been excused from my lesson. My personal low was a pupil that handed me a note explaining he couldn’t do PE as he had lost his trainers. He was wearing them. But without the rest of his kit, and without the jurisdiction to override a note from home, nothing could be done.
We need to address this issue now, or it really won’t matter how many more lessons in the curriculum are devoted to PE. Hopefully, pupils – and parents – will have been inspired by the Olympics and PE teachers up and down the land can get on with the business of teaching their subject and helping every pupil reach their potential in sport – not juggling a depleted class and non-participants.
And of course, participation in sport is not just about creating Olympians. Sport can give you so many benefits in both the short, and long, term. Not only will it make troopers physically fit, but also give them a sense of belonging, teach them how to work well in a group and individually and hopefully also be a lot of fun. And the lessons that sport teaches you can help you in whatever career you troopers decide upon. Ray Winstone, a former boxer, said in a recent article in Men’s Fitness: “Boxing helped me mentally. I’ve bought that discipline and determination to acting.”
With so many potential benefits, should we as parents be writing notes to excuse our troopers from PE for anything other than medical reasons? I, for one, don’t think so.

Blog On

Why the Sidelines are No Place for Dads

In 1970, on a warm summers evening in July, my dad dropped my mum, who was in labour with me and my twin brother, off at the hospital and asked her to call him when she felt ready to cope with visitors. There didn’t seem anything unusual in that to either mum or dad, that was just how things were done. When their wives were in labour, men went off to work, or sat in the waiting room with flowers like in a Carry On film. Oh how times have changed.
I couldn’t wait for the birth of my children. I read the books, attended the ante-natal classes and got to know the midwife. I was convinced that if my wife went into labour unexpectedly I would be able to deliver my son (tying off the placenta with a clean shoelace – I looked it up). Luckily, my emergency delivery plans never saw the light of day as we made it to the hospital in plenty of time.
I was right by my wife’s side throughout, offering what comfort and support I could. And words cannot explain the feeling of finally holding my brand new baby trooper in my arms. It is an amazing experience, as any dad will tell you.
But then something really strange happened after the birth. Without any warning, I disappeared. I became completely invisible to doctors, nurses and the midwife. I think my wife could see me, but I was finding it hard to get to the side of her bed to double check.
So perhaps I didn’t physically disappear (although that would make a good story) but it certainly felt like it. And that’s when I first realised that it’s very, very easy to become sidelined as a new dad. And not only in the delivery room, but beyond it too. The vast majority of advice, support and care is geared towards mum. Don’t get me wrong, parents need all the advice, support and care that it is possible to give them, but dads are parents too. And we have a crucial role to play, right from the minute we welcome our trooper into the world.
We need to provide physical support, such as taking on night feeds, keeping the house squared away, buying supplies, getting meals on the table, washing clothes and generally keeping on top of everything. But most importantly, we need to make sure that our partner has everything she physically needs, from time to take a bath to healthy food.
We also need to provide emotional support, essential to keeping morale high. Sometimes, our partners can feel as if life has become all about the baby trooper. Reassure her and let her know you’re in this together. Having a new baby is tiring for everyone, but your wife and trooper have been through labour too. Tempers can get frayed in the beginning when you’re both adjusting to a completely new lifestyle on limited sleep. Keep calm.
And our trooper needs us too. Don’t believe that we aren’t biologically programmed to be good carers. We may not have the ‘maternal instinct’ but I can assure you that the minute my troopers were born, my wife and I both had a huge instinct to love, protect and care for them. We got the ‘parental instinct’. And in terms of physically caring for a baby, we can do everything but breastfeed. It might not seem like it at the time (well it certainly didn’t for me) but with practical experience, you will easily master the basics.
But of course it doesn’t end there. Even after ten years as a stay at home dad, I still consider myself a Commando Dad in training. It is worth the effort. To a trooper, their dad has many roles, often falling somewhere between Hero, Role Model and Protector. When you become a dad you step into those shoes and you owe it to yourself – and your troopers – to be the best dad you can be. So don’t let yourself get sidelined, dads. You are simply too important.
I wrote this blog for The Baba Blog, a great blog full of practical advice and tips for new mums…..and hopefully some new dads too.

Blog On Family Album

The Spooky Tale of How I Named My Daughter, Liberty

Naming your baby trooper is a tough business. There’s the whole issue around any name needing to be a good fit with your surname, as well as avoiding acronyms and all the names you have negative associations with (the kid at school with unsavoury habits, annoying colleagues with unsavoury habits, any boss you ever had, unsavoury habits or not etc). But the naming of my own troopers is an increasingly unusual story.
First, Samuel Robert Sinclair. Named after my wife’s granddad Samuel Lucas (or more accurately, Ernest Edwin Samuel Lucas, but that’s another story) and her dad, Robert ‘Bob’ Lucas. Both great men and two great names. Job done.
Then Jude Bonaparte Sinclair. Yes, you read right. Jude was originally destined to be called Peter Edward (using my own dad and
granddad’s names) but my wife took a bad fall when she was pregnant and we thought that she may miscarry. Then one day soon after the drama was over, she said, “I think we should change the name of this baby you know. He’s a fighter.” So we looked up the patron saint of second chances and his name was Jude.
We got Bonaparte from my other granddad, Napoleon Bonaparte Sinclair. Yes, you read that one right too. When my granddad was born there was much ado about which family names he should be given. In the end his dad declared he would be named after someone he admired to end the argument. I should add at this point that the whole family is from Thurso, Scotland.
Finally, Liberty Maeve Sinclair. Now this is the kind of story I need to preface with ‘I have witnesses’.
Naming a girl is difficult, because not only are there millions more names to choose from but every noun can plausibly be a girl’s name (Willow was in the running for a long time, for example). We knew her middle name was to be Maeve as my wife’s nanny had been of Irish descent (Florence O’ Rourke from Cork) and her auntie is a Maeve and she is a Tara. But we went through every first name under the sun and couldn’t agree on a single one.
Then one night I had a dream (stay with me) that my wife handed me a baby and said: “This is your daughter and her name is Liberty.” Now, I should tell you that we were living in Hoboken at the time and I thought, well maybe I have just picked up the idea from the Statue of Liberty and didn’t give it much thought.
Then later that morning I heard my wife talking on the phone to her sister. She too had a dream. In a very brightly lit room our son Samuel had said to her “You have to call the baby Liberty mom. Two beings made of light told me.”

Blog On

Daddy Daycare….another wasted opportunity

What do men need to prepare them for and support them in fatherhood? Maybe books written specifically for dads (I can think of a brilliant book for new dads)? NCT classes for new dads like Hit the Ground Crawling? The support of their own family? To spend time with other new dads? Or perhaps a week long crash course in childcare at a local nursery?
I’m sorry… hold it there. A week long crash course in childcare at a local nursery? Who would think that would help them to be better dads?
Channel 4, that’s who. Daddy Daycare is their new programme, and the first in a 3-part series was broadcast last night. It took three dads that aren’t used to being in a childcare environment, put them in a really busy nursery and watched them struggle, while a not entirely supportive staff of single mums look on.
Apparently, however, its purpose is not to portray men as incompetent and feckless dads. Perish the thought! No, this limited, made for TV experiment is to “Help our nation’s mums and kids to rediscover what it means to have men in their lives.”
Excuse me?
Yes, you read that right. Apparently, modern British life has spawned a generation of dysfunctional dads that are being pushed away from their families. The voiceover tells us that the idea behind the show is to take nine “Lazy, disinterested, workaholic and absent fathers for a crash course in childcare to make them better fathers.” I really am quoting here.
Putting new dads (or men thinking about fatherhood like Stefan) in to that environment will not make them better dads, any more than a learner driver would be entrusted with an Express train full of passengers to make them more able to drive a car. For a start, it takes training, it takes time and it takes experience to master new skills. So in this scenario, if these dads had the benefit of all those things, they would become great childcarers. But being a good dad isn’t just about taking care of physical needs. It’s about stepping up and being a parent. I recently read a comment from a dad who was asked if he was ‘babysitting’ his own daughters. “No,” he said “I’m parenting them.” There is a difference and it’s not made clear in the show (and if it really is aiming to help the nation, I think that distinction needs to be a matter of public record).
But the real problem I had with the show was that it was such a wasted opportunity. I know a lot of new dads that tuned in last night to watch, expecting something ultimately educational and positive. No, unfortunately it stuck to the old stereotypes: men are idiots when it comes to parenting. Which is an unfortunate message to be broadcasting at a time when there are so many more stay at home dads than there used to be, and the number is on the rise.
I don’t think the women fared much better in the stereotypes either. We are told that 98% of the childcare workforce is women, and that women are more patient and understanding. Yet, we were shown no evidence of patience and understanding for “The Men” who were so obviously out of their depth. And are we really to believe that all single mums are eye-rolling, arm crossing, judgemental individuals who think that men are completely inept as dads, “have no instinct whatsoever” and think that “it’s a women’s world?” Apparently we are, yes. Another wasted opportunity: these women are extremely hardworking, professional childcarers that are also managing a household alone. They deserve medals not tired stereotypes.
There was one exception, when Garry went home with Vivien, one of the nursery staff. Vivien has a punishing schedule: she gets up at 4.30am, has 3 hours of commuting, a full time job and is single parent to two young children. She told Garry that this schedule makes her feel like a robot, and that if she had an entire day to herself, she would sleep. They were both alike in that they both want a better future for their kids, but Vivien is not in the position of having the choice to cut down her workload to spend more time with her family. I found the two minute interaction between Vivien and Garry by far the most insightful part of the show. I think Garry did too.
If there are any inexperienced dads reading this, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for 10 years and I’m telling you that you don’t need to go to the local nursery for a crash course in childcare to be a better dad. You need to get to grips with the skills you need with your own children. Don’t believe that as men we’re not biologically programmed to parent. It doesn’t take biology to become a whizz at changing nappies, understanding cries and all the other baby admin, it takes practical experience. And when you have the admin sorted, you get time to really engage with your kids. It may not seem like it now, but you have a really short amount of time with them (just 2000 days between birth and age 5 when they start school). Start making that time count today.

Blog On

Heaven Can't Wait

Teddy WilliamsMy wonderful granddad Edward, ‘Teddy’ Williams died today, aged 94. He was a wonderful man, and everyone who knew him would tell you that. He lived in Guernsey all his life – apart from when went away to fight in World war II – and he loved that island so much he even wrote a poem about it (which was published).
My dad is a vicar, and he’ll be taking my granddad’s funeral service next week. We’re not expecting a dry eye in the house. My wife and I both agree that our troopers (10, 8 and 5) are too young to go to the funeral, but we are going to have to tell them that granddad has gone to heaven. And we’re expecting a pretty good reception.
The troopers have been building up quite a dossier about heaven over the last few years. It actually began when my sons learned that a young boy in their school had died, and a teacher had pointed out that they weren’t to worry as normally, little children don’t die but adults. So the troopers were upset – and curious – was I going to die? Was their mum? Why did people die? Where did they go?
I told them that yes, me and their mum would die before them but years and years and years from now. I also added that it had to happen that way because we needed to get to heaven first and prepare the party for when they arrived. This cheered everyone’s spirits to no end, and my wife and I heartily congratulated ourselves on our ingenuity. Then the party related interrogations began.
“Who can we invite to the party?” “Do they have to be dead too?” “Can we have party rings?” “Do we get presents?”
As for the last question, we didn’t want to be seen to be penny pinching on the celestial party of their lifetime so we said that yes, in heaven there’ll be presents galore. In heaven you can have whatever you want. Forever. That captured their imaginations like only endless possibility can.
Obviously we made the point that you need to be good to get into heaven. But the troopers reckon a life of goodness for an everlasting one is definitely worth it. My son Sam said “Dad, I’m even going to be good after I’ve got in!”
So in our house, going to heaven is almost the equivalent of winning the lottery.
And if that wasn’t good enough, we told them that when they have had enough of being in heaven, they can come back down to earth as someone else. “Dad, who’d get sick of having whatever they want?” was my son Jude’s sage response.
So granddad, if you’re reading this, you’ve got three great grandchildren here who want to know what you’ve ordered in for the party.
Until we meet again granddad.

Blog On

Healthy Packed Lunches for Kids

This blog was written in conjunction with Rachel Jessey, a qualified nutritionist, member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy, and a specialist in infant and childhood nutrition.
It is important that children are fed a healthy diet to promote growth, sustain energy, improve concentration and boost natural defences. At school it is especially important that a child’s lunch contains plenty of nutrients to stock up on those used throughout the morning and keep them sustained throughout the afternoon.
This I know. However, I still ended up in the packed lunch rut.

I didn’t do it intentionally. I thought I was providing great packed lunches: healthy (no chocolate or sweets), a little bit inventive (soup and a sandwich in the cold weather) and full of nutritious food. But last week I heard my son telling my mum about his packed lunches, “We have the same stuff every day. Sandwich, yoghurt, fruit, bar, crisps. Boring.”
I think part of the reason for the sameness of my packed lunches is that I need to be able to prepare the bulk of the packed lunch the night before – I simply don’t have the time in the morning to make anything more complicated than a sandwich. So I got into the habit of buying things that I knew I could easily assemble. Then I got into the habit of buying those same things without thinking.
I began to look at the contents of the packed lunches more critically. The ‘healthy’ bars actually contained more sugar than a packet of chocolate buttons. I am still getting over that revelation. The tortilla chips I gave them every day (a large bag broken down into individual, small, portions by me – not a whole bag as Sam implied) were too salty. It was ‘breakfast-cereal-gate’ all over again (more on that another time). So, New Year, New Packed Lunch Menu. Below is a list of a week’s packed lunch ideas, prepared by Rachel Jessey, a qualified nutritionist, to give me inspiration (and you, if you need it). It is based on all the things my kids like to eat. My youngest is five and so can cope with having a little pot of houmous to dip carrot sticks in etc.

  • Mini buffet – A selection of crackers, oat cakes and/or rice cakes, or slices of wholemeal bread with cheese cubes, chicken strips, carrot, cucumber and red pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes and dips such as houmous, cream cheese, guacamole or salsa
  • Apple
  • Yogurt
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie


  • Wholemeal pasta mixed with tuna, cucumber cubes, red pepper cubes and sweetcorn, mixed with a little olive oil (to prevent it becoming a congealed mess)
  • Banana
  • Chopped dried apricots and nuts (if allowed at school)
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie


  • Wholemeal cous cous with chickpeas, feta cheese and chicken strips and spring onions, cucumber and tomato cubes. Use 1/2 a stock cube in the water you make the cous cous with for extra flavour.
  • Box of raisins
  • Fruit in jelly
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie


  • Pitta pockets or wholemeal bread sandwich with egg and cress
  • Vegetable sticks with houmous
  • Yogurt
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie


  • Wholemeal wrap with chicken, salsa, avocado and lettuce
  • Small fruit salad
  • Fromage frais
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie

My kids were back at school Tuesday and so far have had the ‘mini buffet’, pasta and cous-cous. All the lunch boxes came back empty, and they all agreed that it was lovely. Obviously, I realise that it is a novelty to have something different and I appreciate that I will have to keep the variety going, but it’s a good start.
My top 5 golden rules for packed lunches:

  1. Make packed lunches the night before. No matter how tired you are. In the morning you will be tired and busy.
  2. Invest in a reusable water bottle (cheaper than bottled and better for the environment) and plastic containers to put the lunch in. They’re cheaper in the long run that plastic lunch bags and stop everything getting squashed. Squashed food just isn’t appetising.
  3. Be mindful of portion sizes.
  4. Experiment with different fillings for wraps and pitta pockets that you know your troopers will like, and mix and match the ideas. Variety is the spice of life.
  5. Always check with your school what foods you are allowed to pack for your child as some prevent you from including nuts, for example.
Blog On

Thank a soldier today – it's more important than you realise

When you are away on tour and you are miles away from home, getting a letter is a truly exhilarating experience. It makes you feel instantly closer to home and your loved ones. It is an ordinary thing to read a letter or a message, and when you are working in extraordinary and dangerous circumstances, ordinary can be a wonderful thing.
When I was in Iraq in the 1990s, there were no mobile phones or computers. We would wait, and wait, and wait to get mail. When it arrived it lifted everyone’s spirits. It really is hard for me to articulate what a huge boost to morale it was.
And you know, you don’t even need to know the soldier. I used to get letters from complete strangers talking about what was going on at home – seemingly mundane details like what was in the charts etc. – but it was such a comfort.
Now there is a website, called Thank You Soldier, where you can send a thank you message instantly to a UK soldier. No need to sign in, create an account or register. You can just send a thank you message, which can be read by soldiers serving at home or overseas instantly.
Never underestimate the power of a thank you. On the 60th anniversary of D Day my wife and I went to Normandy. At a battery we met a veteran who had attacked that very spot on D Day (as it housed guns that were firing on the British landing on the nearby beach). My wife shook his hand and said thank you, because her granddad had landed on that beach, and he had survived that terrible day, thanks in no small part to the efforts of him and his fellow soldiers. The veteran started to cry. My wife started to cry too and apologised for upsetting him. “You didn’t upset me,” he replied “it was an honour for me to serve my country and I am humbled that you thank me for it.”
Thank a soldier today.

Blog On

Kids Find the Presents? 5 Plausible Excuses to Keep the Magic Alive this Christmas

Childhood is a precious and short time, and I believe that our job as parents is to let our troopers have as much enjoyment out of it as possible. That’s why it is best to have an armoury of plausible excuses to help us out of sticky Christmas situations -such as your troopers finding the presents, or being told that Santa doesn’t exist – and keep the magic alive as long as possible.
Please let me know of any good excuses you have!
The golden rule to remember is that each of these excuses must be given with absolute and total conviction to be effective. You must believe it to make it believable.
1. If your trooper’s friend – or older sibling – tells them that Father Christmas doesn’t exist and its you that buys the presents
Excuse: Depending on our trooper’s age, you have a couple of options:
– For younger troopers, laugh heartily and seem really incredulous. “Really? No Father Christmas?” You can also rely on any other adult to join in. “You’ll never guess what so-and-so said. No Father Christmas!”
– For older troopers use the power of reasoning. Say that they must know that you’re not buying the presents as you’re really not keen on their noisy toys (trust me, this will resonate with any trooper) so if you were buying, you’d have chosen something different.
How to avoid the situation in future: unfortunately, this is unavoidable. A natural part of growing up is to realise that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

2. If your trooper sees their present in a shopping bag or hidden in a cupboard

Excuse: Tell your trooper that you bumped into Father Christmas when you were out shopping. He told you that so many children had been good this year he was finding it hard to get around to everyone. He asked you if you wouldn’t mind bringing back some of your presents. Be sure to say you are very sorry you didn’t hide it better but you’re not used to hiding presents.

How to avoid the situation in future:
easy to say but try and shop only when there are no troopers about, such as in the morning when you’ve just dropped them off at school. Wrap them as soon as possible as it is easy to pass off wrapped presents as being for cousins, friends etc. Always be sure to keep a list of what you have bought though.
Find one excellent place to hide presents – in a house the loft is a great choice (although do not leave it until the night before Christmas to try and retrieve them). Or at your parents’ house. They have a lot more experience than you.

3. If you weren’t able to get your trooper the thing they really wanted

Excuse: – If your trooper is very young, don’t worry. I have spent many a Christmas feeling terrible that I didn’t get that ‘must have’ toy to find out on Christmas Day that my troopers are very happy with what they have. I know it sounds like something out of Dickens, but you’d be surprised.
– If your trooper is older and you have the money, but the items were sold out. Get a friend to write a note from Santa (your trooper may recognise your handwriting) to say that there was a huge demand for this toy, so the Elves were unable to make one in time. So you have left the money with you to buy one in the sales. In the meantime, he hopes you have a lovely time with the rest of your presents.
– If you just don’t have the money. From birth, some relatives will give you money to buy presents for your troopers. I save this for moments such as these. In the absence of these savings, consider asking grandparents and other relatives to contribute. Even if this means they club together and the special present comes from the family and not Santa (which is not as bad as it sounds, as you’re not getting the credit for any of it). Look into getting a used one at a reduced price. If none of this is an option, take a deep breath and don’t let this affect your opinion of yourself as a great parent.
How to avoid the situation in future: in the case of the must have toys selling out, try and find out as soon as possible what they want. Our kids start their Christmas list after Halloween. If they ask for anything, I tell them to put it on their list and Santa will decide. I also ask other parents at the school gate what the ‘must have’ toys are – some parents have a radar for such things.
If at all possible, save the money you get given for your troopers into a present fund and perhaps contribute it to yourself throughout the year.
4. If your trooper asks you why the ‘real’ Santa they met at the school, play group, supermarket etc is not the same (or if they recognise the person underneath the Santa disguise)

Excuse: Santa really can’t be everywhere all at once, and right at this busiest time of year, he is most in demand. Because he doesn’t want to disappoint children he lets people pretend to be him, but they must pass a test. When they pass this test and Santa knows that they are a good Santa at heart, he sends them a white beard from the North Pole. This contains a little bit of Santa magic.
How to avoid the situation in future: again, this one is unavoidable. In December you literally cannot move for Santas. In fact, on more than one occasion I have actually had to play Santa to my own kids! For younger troopers this is a fantastic and exciting experience. For older troopers, keep this excuse up your sleeve.
5. If your trooper wakes to find you, or your partner, leaving their presents at the end of their bed
Excuse: If your trooper is fully awake (as opposed to just waking a little, in which case you can just pretend you were tucking them in) and can see the toys, the only thing to do is to say you heard a noise in their room and came in to find that Santa had been. This will of course mean that you will have a trooper awake at some ungodly hour. Unless you can successfully get them back to sleep, in which case, please let me know how.
How to avoid the situation in future:
The only way to prevent this situation for sure is not to leave presents at the end of the bed. In our house we leave them under the tree.
If you have any other excuses to get out of these sticky situations, please do let me know. A parent can never have too many excuses.

Blog On

Recipe for a Silent Night – food tips to help kids sleep on Christmas Eve

Watch Out Watch Out, There's a Humphrey AboutThis blog was written in conjunction with Rachel Jessey, a qualified nutritionist, member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy, and a specialist in infant and childhood nutrition.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…
Where is that house?
In my house, the troopers are so excited they can barely sleep. Just as it should be. But what I don’t want to do is add to that natural stimulation by giving them foods that could leave them feeling bad tempered and exhausted but unable to sleep: Tired But Wired. Take it from one who knows – this is not a smart Commando Dad move.
Instead, I make sure on Christmas Eve my troopers eat a diet rich in the wonderful amino acid, tryptophan. These foods are readily available and include beef, chicken, turkey, milk, yogurt, eggs, salmon, tuna and bananas.
Tryptophan rich foods keep trooper’s blood sugar levels balanced and moods stable throughout the day, and when eaten in the late afternoon and early evening it can help them sleep. It does this because their bodies use it to make serotonin. This basically slows down nerve traffic to their brains, making it easier for them to relax and go to sleep. Of course this doesn’t mean that they will drop off at 6pm on the dot – they are still going to be very excited – but you are doing all you can to make them as calm and relaxed as possible. Put it like this, if you let them have access to all those lovely Christmas treats that are inevitably going to be in the house – fizzy drinks and chocolate for example – you are doing the dietary equivalent of throwing petrol on the flames of their excitement. Expect a short flash to bang time*.
To make sure the maximum amount of typtophan makes it to your trooper’s brain, you’ll need to serve it with a carbohydrate rich food. Here are some great Christmas Eve choices:

  • Boiled eggs and wholegrain soldiers
  • Scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast
  • Porridge with chopped banana
  • Yoghurt and berries


  • Banana (perfect as it contains both tryptophan and carbohydrate)
  • Warm milk and a wholegrain biscuit
  • Cheese and crackers or oatcakes
  • Peanut butter on wholegrain toast


  • Chicken stew: perfect Commando Dad choice as it is easy to make and can be prepared beforehand. If you don’t eat meat, make this a thick vegetable stew with pulses, such as lentils or kidney beans.
  • Beef chilli served with brown rice. Again, a great choice to prepare beforehand – even the night before. Very easy to cook. I make it without using chilli as the other ingredients give it plenty of flavour. I then add heat to my own portion using tabasco.
  • Prawn stir fry with noodles: another good choice as it is so quick and easy to make. Dried noodles just need to be soaked in water for a few minutes and you can stir fry any veg you have. I regularly stir fry cabbage, carrot and little onion. If your troopers don’t like prawns (give them the opportunity to try them though as I am yet to meet a trooper that doesn’t) use chicken. Soybeans or soy products can be used for a vegetarian option.
  • Fish, steamed vegetables and brown rice. I cannot say enough good things about fish. It’s quick to cook, even straight from the freezer, bursting with nutrients and the kids love it. I don’t have a steamer, I just steam vegetables in a sieve over a little saucepan of boiling water.

But the benefits of tryptophan don’t end with relaxation and elevated mood. It can also regulate your trooper’s appetite. With all of these benefits, why wouldn’t you want to get more of these foods into your trooper’s – and your – diet?
I know first-hand that diet can have a massive effect on the morale of the whole unit. If you don’t already provide your troopers with a diet rich in fresh vegetables, lean protein and fruit, make diet adjustments now and observe the results for yourself.
The key thing to remember is that your troopers learn by example, and will mimic your behaviour. Lead from the front. Want them to eat the right amount of healthy nutritious foods? Then you need to do the same. Start now.
*Flash to Bang Time. In the army, the time it takes for the fuse to detonate the bomb. Here used to mean the time it takes from the stimulus (already excited troopers eating sugary and processed foods) to the response (BANG).

Blog On

Top Five Tips for Buying Presents for Babies

Are you buying presents for baby troopers this Christmas? Follow the golden rules I have used to navigate my way successfully through several Christmases with my three little troopers.
1. You don’t have to buy anything. Christmas isn’t about buying presents because you feel you ‘have’ to. There are a number of things that you really do have to do for your baby: feed, clothe, love, protect and teach them. Please note that buying presents is not on that list. If you find yourself motivated to buy presents because you feel motivated by guilt, or what other people might think, or feel under pressure to buy specific toys because they are in fashion, STOP.

The only exception to this rule is if you have older troopers that believe Santa brings gifts – if you don’t buy a little something for baby, then it may appear the have been ‘naughty’. It can be something small though – Santa knows that the most important thing to give a baby at Christmas is a lot of love and a couple of gentle kisses.
However, if you really do want to buy your baby gifts – and in this current climate it’s great to support the High Street – or if relatives are asking for suitable present ideas, bear in mind the following advice.
2. Buy, or ask for, what you need. If your baby trooper requires any kit, from clothes to cots then why not make this their Christmas gift? This will be genuinely useful to you and your baby trooper. In the absence of guidance from you about suitable gifts, you may end up with a host of cuddly toys and Christmas outfits with a severely limited shelf life.
3. Go for bold colours and interesting texture. Babies aren’t attracted to pastel colours – parents are. If buying anything for baby from toys to clothes, go for big, bright and bold colours. Baby troopers also love texture, but make sure not to give them anything with sharp corners if they have the dexterity to put their hand to their mouth. Baby troopers love to taste their world and will try and put everything in their mouth. In the early days of developing this skill the sometimes miss and hit themselves in the face. Make sure their toys are soft enough to cause no harm
4. Toys with (gentle) noise. Loud and sudden noises can startle young baby trooeprs. But all troopers love toys with noise, regardless of their age. Go for something easy on the ear, like a soft rattle or a tinkling bell. This has the added advantage of being easier for your ears too – too much noise can be overwhelming for the whole unit.
5. Hide, or donate, surplus gifts. Contrary to popular belief, troopers really can only play with so many toys at once. This is especially true for babies. If your baby trooper gets a hoard of toys at Christmas, hide some of the evergreen ones that you believe they will get fun out of in the coming months (depending on their stage of development): soft toys, rattles, more interactive toys etc. These can then be brought out of hiding throughout the year, which means your baby trooper will have a steady supply of new toys. Let your baby trooper play with the age-appropriate toys they have been given, and let them decide which ones they like. The ones that don’t get played with can be kept safe and donated to charities that provide presents for underprivileged children next Christmas. In my opinion there is simply nothing better that you can do with them.