I Review Frankie’s Books. Episode 1.

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Higgly Hen by Axel Scheffler

Imagine if everyone you knew, everyone you considered a friend, immediately became a prime suspect in the brutal kidnapping of your own unborn children? Where would you turn? Who would you trust?

This is the harrowing scene conjured by the dark mind of Scheffler in this pulse-pounding, spine-chilling, ‘whodunit’ psychological thriller, set on an unassuming rural farm that, as we later discover, may hold secrets yet to be unearthed by one of its inhabitants.

Scheffler sets the scene early, playing on the single most heart wrenching fear of any parent. Our protagonist, Higgly Hen, discovers that her precious eggs are missing. Snatched from right, quite literally, under her. The farm, the only world she’s ever known, her sanctuary, immediately becomes a hotbed of paranoia. Who can she trust? If anyone at all?

Was it the cows? Was it the pig? The horse? Scheffler bends and twists his readers, guiding their accusatory finger at each and every one without ever pointing it directly at any character in particular.

The suspense builds to an inevitable climax when Higgly reaches the barn. The barnyard cat offers to help Higgly search, but his motives are never quite clear, and immediately arouse suspicion.

This is where a writer like Scheffler weaves his magic. The reader is bound by the very same mental anguish and emotional torment that our protagonist, Higgly Hen, experiences. He is the M. Night Shyamalan of barnyard suspense. Twist after twist after twist is layered in such a way that one can never quite stop second guessing themselves.

This is his “what’s in the box?” moment.

The barnyard cat, who we immediately suspect to be of ill nature, reveals that Higgly’s eggs were not stolen at all…

… they had, unbeknownst to her, hatched. And the chicks had wandered into the barn.

Rather than eat them, like any barnyard cat would, he had kept them safe and sound.

In a bundle of hay.

Under his watch.

And all this time, we, through the eyes of Higgly, have accused and blamed everyone we loved for what is essentially our own horrific lapse in judgement.

Which leaves us all to ponder… who is the real monster?

Who, indeed.

Higher Ground

It’s happening.

The next stage of evolution has begun.

The quadruped is going bipedal.

A few weeks ago, Frankie began pulling herself up to stand at every given opportunity. Her jelly legs wobbling with the grace of those wacky inflatable flailing tube men that flounder above car yards run by guys with gold teeth and the moral compass of a FIFA Committee Member.

As each day goes by, her strength and confidence grow, leaving the wobbles in their wake. It’s like watching Hulk Hogan make one of those shaky returns from the dead, but over a four week period. And now, as long as there is somewhere to place her hands, she can cruise along the couch with the grace of an acrophobic atop the Eiffel Tower.

But now that she’s moved up a level, literally, nothing is sacred.

Remotes, cords, keys, wallets, phones, everything is in immediate peril.

Her modus operandi is to ‘take things out of things’. The floor is regularly littered with $7 worth of those organic bamboo nappy wipes that my wife insists on buying. You can really notice the difference, compared to the generic brands, in how they don’t irritate the sensitive carpet in the lounge room. Rather than constantly clean them up, I’ve given in to telling people that we’ve had the floors decorated in a de-constructed bamboo sheet to encourage positive Feng Shui.

My wallet is also a hot target, with debit and credit cards often violently dragged from their home, kicking and screaming, before being dumped at unmarked locations around the house for me to hurriedly find before I head off for work. Like a real life treasure hunt that decides whether I get to eat lunch or put petrol in the car that day.

Then there’s the bookshelf, which also houses DVD’s, known to Frankie as ‘The Goldmine’. Seeing titles such as Half Baked, Friday and How High strewn across the floor offers a humorous reminder of what we were doing with our lives the last time buying DVDs was actually a thing that people did. The house regularly looks like it’s been ransacked by an autistic group of bandits who place a high value on tissues, pens and Playstation Controllers. There are post-apocalyptic buildings in Fallout 4, that 200 years after a nuclear bomb has hit them, look more organised than our house.

While honing her hunter-gatherer skills, Frankie’s managed to develop a ‘snack sonar’. Mum’s handbag and the undercarriage of the pram are often raided for Cruskits and tiny tubs of cheese and carrot sticks leftover from a trip to the park. Her ability to seek out a dummy is similarly impressive. All of a sudden, I’ll turn around to discover she’s materialised one from thin air with some piece of alien technology she’s keeping hidden from the rest of us.

On a positive note, a lucrative opportunity may have opened up in the salvage industry, as she has an uncanny ability to find coins (and then attempt to eat them). She even managed to find a 500 Rupiah coin, most likely from a trip to Bali that we took about 4 years ago. Where in the hell she dredged that up from, I’ll have no idea. I’m thinking of taking her to the beach to use as a metal detector to find lost valuables. When she’s old enough to wear a snorkel, we’re going hunting for the sunken treasure of Nuestra de las Mercedes.

The baby gates are up, the wall sockets are plugged and the troops are dug in for the long haul. But somehow, I feel like we are inevitably fighting a losing battle. Just like the torn and chewed on page of once important notes I have just spotted on the floor next to me.

BONUS STORY : A couple of months ago, on Grand Final Day, I had my quintessential ‘Dad’ moment. If you’re not familiar with it, the AFL Grand Final is the Australian version of the Super Bowl. A huge ad that I wrote was premièring at half time. A big moment in any advertising creative’s life. I was at a friend’s house, perched on the couch in front of the TV with Frankie on my lap, waiting for it show, and then… all of a sudden…

Frankie projectile spewed all over me.

I raced over to the bathroom to clean up, only to hear everyone yell, “It’s on! It’s on!”

And I missed it.

Because I got spewed on.

You will never live that one down, Frankie.

It’s coming out at your 21st.

 

 

Going Commando

The graduation from rolling to crawling is not always clear cut.

Infant development has been studied down to such a fine science that baby websites now send an e-mail update to advise you what your baby is going to learn this week. It’s incredible on one hand, but incredibly boring on the other.

The transition to crawling is a real opportunity for babies to show some character. To do something unique. Something unpredictable.

It’s fascinating how they come up with their own way of getting around.

Firstly, there’s the ‘vanilla‘.

A certified classic. This is your run of the mill hands and knees, left, right, left, right routine. A tried and true method. This is for babies who don’t fuck around. They might not pack any creative flair, but they know how to get the job done. If your baby learns to crawl like this they will probably be an accountant or a data analyst. I’m sorry to break it to you, but that’s just how it is. Someone has to do the tax returns.

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Then there’s the ‘bum scootch‘.

This involves using your arms to drag your ass around the room. While being an inventive way to get from A to B, it does awkwardly resemble a dog desperately dealing with a serious case of tapeworm. This type of crawling is for babies who find the quickest and easiest way to do something with a blatant disregard for fundamentals or aesthetics. They’re the kids that get the math question right, but get penalised for not ‘working it out the right way’. So, they’ll seem like slackers at first, but will probably end up becoming entrepreneurs and invent the next Uber or something.

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Then, there’s ‘the worm’.

This crawling style pays homage to the infamous dance move responsible for setting discos ablaze across the globe. At its peak popularity, it was responsible for burning down, on average, three discos per night in the mid-80’s. If you’re in your late 20’s or early 30’s, your mother was very likely courted, successfully, with this manoeuvre. But let’s be honest, these babies are flagrant show-offs. They’re the flamboyant ones. Likely to end up as dancers or fashion designers, and will undoubtedly be the life of the party.

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Frankie, on the other hand, had adopted the most bad ass crawling technique of them all. THE COMMANDO. This is like Special Forces shit. I like to think that, much to my wife’s grievance, she’s subconsciously absorbed the ability while watching me play Metal Gear Solid. This is, without question, the raddest crawling technique of all. If your baby does this, they are already too cool for school. They are too legit. 2-legit 2-quit, in fact. Probably destined to become an advertising creative, or a funny blog writer, or if your lucky, BOTH.

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The Frankfurter has been officially on the move for a few weeks now, mastering the technique so precisely that she could easily make it through a barbed wire-strung and mud-laden Tough Mudder stage. The Australian SAS have already earmarked her for sniper training, but I have told them not until she is at least three years old.

And she is lightning quick. Like Matt Preston on the fourth and final pork and prawn dumpling at a table for three. If someone steps outside and leaves the door open, she is on it in a flash, making a break for it.

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Much to the cat’s dismay, she is now adept enough to seek him out and administer her uniquely styled form of patting, otherwise known as ‘forcefully grabbing some fur and pulling’. Safe to say, he’s not a big fan, and looks about as impressed as someone who’s just endured a deep tissue massage from Captain Hook.

In the mornings, when I have to leave for work, she’ll shuffle her way to the door in what has become a heartbreakingly beautiful routine. It’s hard to know whether it’s more ‘goodbye, have a good day’ or ‘why are you leaving?’, but it is nevertheless endearing.

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All in all, she’s a real mover. Before the commando, she would roll from one of the house to the other, and it won’t be long before she’s standing and walking.

Then the cat is in some serious trouble.

What A Time To Be Alive…

Modern technology never ceases to amaze me.

In 2015, we’ve formed a crew to colonise Mars, we’ve found a planet equally as habitable as Earth, and we’ve gotten clear photographs of Pluto, a planet (never forget) 7.5 billion kilometres from Earth.

And, perhaps most impressively, I can get live updates of Frankie taking a shit while I’m at work.

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Throwback Thursday : The Announcement

I’ve decided to bring some #TBT, or Throwback Thursdays, to the blog.

There are a hell of a lot more followers on Dad of Frankenstein now than when I started the blog, so I thought it worthwhile to resurrect some older posts for those who haven’t dug as deep.

For the first TBT however, I thought I’d post my ‘baby announcement’.

Announcing that you’re having a baby has become a bit of a ‘thing’ as of late, with people going to clever and humorous lengths, as well as the incredibly creepy and bizarre.

Mostly, it seems that people go for a visually driven announcement. This can be tactfully done, like some of the below examples.

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Combining a clever idea with an impeccably timed photo is a winning combination.

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Embracing your inner nerd, or whatever you’re into, can produce some funny ideas.

creative-pregnancy-announcement-card-21__605 Or, maybe you’re more artistic. (Or a hipster.)

However, there are instances where some people should have simply stuck with something straight, as their attempts at creativity unwittingly stray deep into the realms of weird.

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Any concept that involves Miley Cyrus is probably a bad idea.

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Yeah… no guns.

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Being a writer, I stuck to words. And there’s nothing like the simplicity of subtle deception.

I made an unassuming Facebook post that quickly went bananas as soon as people cottoned on.

For years I’ve been agonising over whether we should get a dog. We’ve never really had much yard space, and I tend to lean towards wanting something like a Staffy over a lap dog. Then there’s the whole ‘what happens if you want to go away’ issue. It’s a tricky one. I just want a rad dog that I can teach mad ass tricks to. Now that we have a bit of outdoor space, and live right across the road from the park, it seemed that an inevitable decision would be made.

I will not be getting a dog, because we are having a baby, so I’ll just teach that some tricks instead.

It’s Becoming… A PERSON

It’s been well over a month since my last blog post, due to a hectic workload, and the Frankster jetting off to Canada with her Mum again. She’s a regular Bronwyn Bishop. The flight attendants must all know her by name now. She was recently accepted into the Frequent Flyers club, so the next time we travel she’ll be able to sneak us into that room with the fancy chairs and complimentary croissants.

This time around, the trip was almost 5 weeks. Given how rapidly she’s growing, that’s a pretty long stint. A lengthy separation is always tough, but by the same token, my wife doesn’t get to see her side of the family often, and by extension neither does Frankie. Marrying someone from another country requires constant sacrifice, but, that’s also what strong relationships are about. And, if your child is going to be a hybrid, an Aussie/Canuck isn’t a half bad combo.

One of the beauties of the modern era is how readily available, and easily transmissible, photo and video are. Staying up to date on Frankie’s progress was made easy by the wonders of technology, but of course, nothing is the same as being there. But it is pretty cool, that despite being in the opposite hemisphere, I can watch Frankie roll around the floor, or eat her first waffle, from my desk at work. (I will note that she was being indoctrinated by the Northerners with Cheerios and waffles, so I made sure to feed her Vegemite as soon as she was home to restore balance to the Force.)

Frankie most certainly came back a completely different baby. Firstly, she’s bigger, stronger and heavier. It’s more of an effort to lug her around, and throwing and lifting her in the air is a genuine workout. The upside being that I will soon be sporting pythons that could outgun Rambo. Pushing off the floor is no longer an effort, so a large portion of her time is spent imitating the Sphinx, and mastering ‘cobra pose’ far better than I ever could. I’m about as flexible as Donald Trump’s stance on Mexican immigration.

And where her sense of balance used to resemble a one-legged rollerskater on an oil slick, she now sits up on her own like a happy little Buddha. Crawling hasn’t quite come yet, but she can pivot on a dime, so it’s only a matter of time. Baby-proofing should be interesting, as I have a penchant for leaving things on the floor, and the cabling behind the TV and stereo looks like a violently unresolved octopus fight.

One of the most notable advances is in how engaged she is with her surroundings. Her head moves on a swivel, as she attempts to see and hear (and taste, considering just about everything goes in her mouth) the world going on around her. There’s not a moment to be missed, and conversely, she often wants to be the moment that the rest of us shouldn’t be missing. She’s already the rock star of the family, and she can’t even talk yet.

Giggling, screeching, smiling, singing, each and every day gives us a new glimpse into her budding little character. We used to joke that she had a very highbrow sense of humour, as it was near impossible to pull a laugh out of her. She was about as likely to laugh as the audience of any Adam Sandler movie made in the last 12 years. Whereas now, a simple game of peekaboo is absolutely hilarious.

To summarise… the little lump with arms and legs I once knew is becoming A PERSON. And I can’t wait to see what kind of a person she will be. Until the teenage years, I imagine, where I’ll likely want to throw her out the window.

This post was a bit of a recap after a hiatus, I’ll try and keep them more topical (and funny) moving forward.

Look At Me, I’m The Captain Now

When it comes to food, my wife and I are polar opposites.

Me, I eat pretty much anything and everything. Often dousing food in spices and chilli. The kitchen is always armed with a variety of exotic condiments, and I even keep a bottle of emergency hot sauce at work. My wife, on the other hand, thought that a spring roll was a strange mystical rarity when I first met her, and suffers from the classic first world syndrome of being surrounded by a plethora of food while remaining paralysingly unable to decide what to eat.

This is an all too common conversation I’m made to endure:

“What do you want to eat?”

“I don’t mind. You choose.”

“Ok… what about pizza?”

“I don’t really feel like pizza.”

“Chinese?”

“Hmmm..nah.”

“Mexican?”

“Don’t want Mexican.”

“Well what do you feel like then?”

“I don’t care, whatever.”

And this goes on and on ad nauseum, until I reach the point of wanting to put my head through a double paned window.

So, given the disparity between our culinary intuitions, I was anxious to see whose tastebuds Frankie had inherited.

While innate palates and appetites are up for deliberation, one attribute that was never going to come into question was dogged stubbornness. Something we both have in spades, and given the universe’s wicked sense of humour, was always going to be passed on to our spawn.

You see, Frankie is not overly interested in being ‘fed’. She wants to do it herself. ‘Stop waving that piece of pumpkin in my face and just put it in my hand, you cretin. And that spoon, pass it here and watch me lay siege to the kitchen by hurling flaming boulders of avocado like a medieval catapult.’

And don’t even bother with the old tried and true ‘here comes the aeroplane’ trick, as it most certainly is not welcome inside her airspace. Frankie will commandeer that shit within seconds.

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Getting the aeroplane into the hangar, per se, is easy enough, as long as Frankie is in control. From there, things get a little bit tricky. She’s happy to furiously mung away with her one lonely tooth, like a Collingwood supporter at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but should a stray piece break off…then the panic sets in.

“WHAT THE HELL DO I DO NOW?”

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Thus begins the titanic struggle that only ends in gagging, spitting or spewing. Sometimes a bit of all three. She hasn’t quite got the whole chewing and swallowing thing down yet, but we’ll get there eventually. At least she seems game enough to have a taste of anything we’ve given her, meaning she’s already Marco Pierre White compared to her mother.

We haven’t tried anything outrageous or torturous yet, like the cliched but amusing ‘give a baby some lemon’ maneuver, but food is definitely going to be a fun adventure as she continues to get her little head around it. So far, chicken seems to be the runaway favourite, so we most certainly do not have a vegetarian on our hands. The only downside has been her affinity for bananas. My one weakness. My dietary kryptonite.

To leave on a light note, one of her favourite things to do, given that swallowing is still a foreign concept, is blissfully sit in her high chair with strings of food dangling from her mouth. It’s hilarious.

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There’s never a dull day.

We’ve Given Birth To A Total Ham

Having just hit the 6 month mark, Frankie is becoming ever more the character. Numerous people have commented that she’s ‘the happiest baby they’ve ever seen’, which I can’t exactly vouch for as my experience with babies is limited, but compared to some stories I’ve heard from other parents, it’s safe to say we’ve lucked out. Or maybe we’re just totally rad parents to the max.

Her face wears a permanent cheeky grin. Like a beaming lighthouse beckoning for attention from every angle. Onlookers drawn like moths to a flickering flame of inescapable cuteness. If the world ran on smiles, she’d be the next target for an American invasion.

Recently, my wife took the Frankfurter to Perth for a wedding. Yes, she went flying with a baby. Again. What a jetsetter that kid is. I haven’t even been to Perth, and I’m 31. My wife was a bridesmaid, so on the night of the wedding a babysitter was organised to accompany her. Frankie was so comfortable with the babysitter that the wedding photographer took a ‘family’ photo of the two of them together, unbeknownst to her.

Though, what is perhaps more interesting then her upbeat and infectious demeanour, is her vocalisation. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know all about the ear piercing shrieks and screeches so otherworldly that they shocked the scream-laden ears of the maternity ward nurses. A feat comparable to M. Night Shyamalan being caught unaware by a plot twist revealing that the protagonist was actually a hermit crab the whole time.

As she’s developed, Frankie’s voice box has delivered a new, and thankfully more appealing, batch of surprises. At my wife’s mothers’ group, Frankie is known as ‘El Ruidoso‘, or ‘the noisy one’. Actually, they don’t really call her El Ruidoso, I’ve just always thought that nicknames sounded way cooler in Spanish. The sounds that come out of this kid are unlike any other from another baby. High pitched shrieks, growls, grunts, machine gun effects, la-la-laing, many I struggle to even describe. It’s an impressive repertoire for someone who only recently discovered that they have feet.

And she’s not afraid to put them on display.

Last weekend, we went to Pho Hung Vong in Footscray. It’s one of the those ‘get in and get out’ places, where you sit down, shut up and eat and don’t ever fuck with the menu. And for good reason. It’s kind of like a Vietnamese incarnation of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Frankie decided that despite the drone of conversation, the hustle and bustle of waiting staff and enthusiastic yelling from the kitchen, she was to be the center of attention. Proceeding to then spend the entire time banging on the table, while growling, shrieking and singing at the top of her lungs. I was afraid it might annoy people at first, but everyone found it hilarious, including the restaurant staff. It was almost a 6 month old’s version of the below.

Frankie’s rare talents were recently confirmed by the doctor administering her latest round of vaccinations, commenting that she had a ‘very talented tongue’. Apparently, the shapes and movements she made with it were ‘well advanced’.  She asked if Frankie ‘made any strange noises?’, which was swiftly put to bed by Frankie herself only moments later.

What does any of this mean? Well, it could be that my lifelong dream of raising the greatest beatboxer the world has ever seen is within my grasp. Or, she could end up being an amateur yodeller. The fine line between dreams and nightmares is but paper thin.

As each layer unfolds, kind of like…an onion, I guess, the mystery that is our Frankenstein is revealed.

What about your baby or child? Do they have any out of the ordinary habits or skills?

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Nightmare On St. Kilda Street

Recently, Frankie had somewhat of a bad night. She would wake in absolute hysterics, thrashing about and crying uncontrollably. Except, ‘waking’ isn’t really the right word, as she didn’t seem ‘awake’ as such. Her eyes remained closed the whole time, almost as if she was crying in her sleep.

My wife mentioned this to one of her friends, who in return said she could have been dreaming, or given the nature of the behaviour, having a ‘nightmare’.

A nightmare.

A 6 month old baby. Having a nightmare.

Now, we all have nightmares. Even the best of us. I can imagine Tim Burton tossing and turning in despair at the paralysing thought of getting rubber stamped approval to remake Beetlejuice, only to be told Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are both unavailable. Kim Kardashian waking in a trembling, cold sweat dreading the inevitable day that little North decides to pop the question on ‘how Mommy got famous’. Lady Gaga losing sleep at the perilous thought of arriving on the red carpet at the Grammys, only to discover that someone else has also turned up in the exact same outfit made of chinese broccoli and licorice ropes, wearing a space helmet filled with cream cheese.

But what in god’s name would a 6 month old baby have a nightmare over?

What could be so horribly disturbing to instill night terrors into someone who’s only been on the planet for six months?

Especially when the scenarios are limited to:

“I had a boob in my mouth and then it fell out.”

“I’ve rolled on to my stomach and I can’t get back over.”

“They left me in the car seat. Forever.”

“I dropped my dummy. And now I want it back.”

“They keep changing my clothes. Again and again. It never stops.”

“Mummy hid her face behind a blanket and never came back.”

“One of my socks fell off and now I’m only wearing one sock.”

I can understand the rational thought of a baby crying in their sleep being attributed to a ‘nightmare’, but I can’t for the life of me figure out, given our understanding of nightmares, what it could possibly constitute?

Does anyone out there have any thoughts?

What would your baby have a nightmare about?

Wardrobe Malfunctions

The second word gets out that a baby girl is on the way, you’ll find yourself drowning in a sea of pink. Pyjamas, wondersuits, socks, dresses, pants, bibs…  ALL PINK. It’s as if Katie Price put her entire wardrobe on the wrong laundry setting and catastrophically shrunk it.

This pounding typhoon of pastel will be thrust upon you by the ‘baby boomer’ generation, your parents and aunties/uncles, as they were raised to sternly believe that girls wear pink and boys wear blue. Funnily enough, prior to the 1940’s, pink was considered a ‘strong’ colour and subsequently associated with boys, while blue was thought to be ‘dainty’, and thus bestowed upon girls. A change in tone from manufacturers and marketers lead to a paradigm shift that has lasted the best part of a century.

Then, of course, there’s the ‘frilly’ stuff. I guarantee you, someone will give you some bizarre looking frilly dress that looks like it belongs on the set of Downton Abbey, rather than be worn by an infant. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that keeping a baby comfortable is more important than having them look like an extra from Pride & Prejudice.

I’ve never had much success following rules, always tending to do my own thing, and I’ll encourage Frankie to do the same as she gets older. Besides, girls have been told what to like and how to dress for long enough. I’m excited that Frankie will get to grow up in a world that is at long last empowering women to do and think as they please.

Now, obviously the Frankster can’t make any decisions of her own at this point, so for the time being she’s stuck with whatever Mum and Dad choose. We haven’t followed any prescribed colours or content ‘for girls’, instead we’ve just gone with stuff that we think is cool as shit. Like dinosaurs and robots. Hell I would still wear pyjamas with dinosaurs on them now if they made them for adults.

For example, Frankie’s pram liner has sugar skulls all over it, kind of like this design below. You can’t get any more badass than having skulls on your pram. michael_miller_house_designer_dots_adorable_dots_in_multi (Quick plug, we got it from harmonyj.com.au, and I can vouch for the quality.)

I will admit that Mum is better at coordinating an outfit than I am, and is generally in charge of Frankie’s wardrobe, but sometimes, on the rare occasion, Dad is allowed to pick the outfit. And that is where we get to have lots of fun by picking the craziest outfit we can find. Maybe something a little like this. 11059319_10152742636245044_664085645742940083_n Frankie seems pretty stoked, and we have matching hoodies! And once she is old enough to start deciding things for herself, I’d like to think that I’ll be the Dad who is more than happy take on the supermarket with either Batgirl or a Ballerina in tow.