Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Choo choo choo and off we go

We are now proud owners of a Family Railcard.
I'd totally forgotten about railcards, it's been so long that I qualified for one. But suddenly Cubling is 5 and she's a paying guest on trains, plus I've resolved to save the planet and avoid flying whenever I can.
This year's family holiday, after much exploration of possible locations, will send us to Devon and we decided to take the train. A friend mentioned that this trip alone would probably pay for a railcard, and yes, she was right!

And once you've got one, you want to use it, so we took advantage of this incredible summer weather and sneakily went off to Oban. We got what must have been the last family room available and stayed in a very lovely hotel room with great beds to jump on and for the first time, Snowflake slept reasonably in a strange bed, hurray.

We had lots of ice cream, threw a lot of stones into the sea and Cubling went on a seal trip with her dad which she was very excited about.

And everyone who would listen would be told that they were going/had been on a train trip to up there (Oban sounds like the German "oben" which translates to "up there").

Yes, long train journeys can be tricky with small children but a) they can move b) I don't get car sick c) Snowflake doesn't get car sick and d) the kids do actually enjoy the novelty of it as we don't take the train often.

This coming weekend, the National Rail Museum in York is hosting the Railfest 2012 from 2-10th June. It sounds like a lot of fun and if your either close or have a train line to York, make sure to pay it a visit and make a trip out of it!

Disclosure: I have been in touch with the National Railway Museum and received a couple of minor goodies from them without any obligation to blog. I'd really love to go to the Railfest with the kids but alas, time is short and we're a long way from York. More than anything, I love travelling by train and I love museums and that's that ;)

Monday, 21 May 2012

So Breastfeeding is Harmful Now

I've been following with mild interest the whole debate about the Time cover (for those who don't know, it features a very tall 3 year old standing on a stool and breastfeeding, both mum and toddler look straight into the camera and apparently this pose has tickled the nation because, let's face it, we don't do breastfeeding beyond 6 months, do we now, and above all we don't take pictures of it because it's just gross, isn't it?)

I was actually not particularly bothered or interested; just amused by the furore which in itself speaks volumes of course.

But what tickled my funny bone was a throwaway comment about the "attachment parenting crowd" in the Daily Mail. Not that I take the Daily Mail particularly seriously, but if a medical Dr a) claims that breastfeeding a child beyond 12 months is potentially harmful and b) uses a label to dismiss and patronise people, I can't let it go uncommented.

So, Attachment Parenting. I've always had an issue with the term, simply because it creates two types of parenting approaches - and the attachment parenting one seems to be the unusual one, the hippy, earth mama type of parenting, that is even from the onset weird and ever so slightly incompatible with our modern world.

The problem with this is that secure attachment is vital for every.single.child. Secure attachment develops in the first year. If it doesn't, the child will have serious difficulties in later life, this includes low self esteem, mental health issues, anger issues, will have a higher risk of addictions, a higher risk of neglectful parenting and a higher risk of being involved in antisocial behaviour and crime. Children lacking secure attachment in the first year cost our society, but they're also suffering from it big time. And setting the balance right later is costly and very difficult, sometimes even impossible, to achieve.

The bottom line is that we should all have a massive interest in ensuring we have securely attached children. It's in the interest of the child, and society as a whole.

Attachment parenting is therefore not an unusual leftwing approach to parenting but should really be mainstream to ensure secure attachment happens in the first year of life. And that's based on research and evidence, not on opinion.

Now, you don't need to breastfeed to have a securely attached child. It arguably makes it a tad easier but you can have a perfectly attached child and formula feed. But responsive care, not leaving to cry, and yes, not crying it out or controlled crying is part of it. It doesn't mean that controlled crying WILL harm a child, just that it may and does harm many children. So I wouldn't touch it as a matter of principle. Still, health visitors regularly recommend crying it out or controlled crying to encourage a baby to sleep through the night and every time I hear it I feel like shouting, and handing out some hard fact research how it can damage the newborn brain and how were really and truly don't want to do it because we can't turn back the clock once the damage is done.

Like not letting a child cry herself to sleep, breastfeeding beyond a year is seen as odd, when really it's the biological norm. I honestly don't understand why mums are so consistently pushed towards early weaning. My own GP told me to stop breastfeeding when Snowflake was just 10 months. She stood up and lectured me as if I was a stupid child needing a lesson. I let her and just left without a word. The look on the face of another mum when I explained that a sleep over wasn't in the cards for us at 20 months old still feeds rather a lot at night that spoke volumes of how that was a state of affairs that was totally beyond her ken. The constant questions at work why I don't want to go on training or meetings that involve overnight stays in some part of the UK, the feeling of being a broken record by saying that I don't think I should wean before age 2 for the convenience of my work if my job can be done without overnight stays.

The statement that breastfeeding beyond 12 months can be harmful really got me though. It's of course factually wrong. What is right is that not breastfeeding a 1 year old increases risks of various illnesses, just as not breastfeeding increases the risk of anything from cot death to obesity in later life. So the opposite is true. But we never talk about this do we?  I supplemented with formula from when Cubling was 12 weeks. I could not find any information on why that would be harmful, and I was sure that as long as I continued to breastfeed it was just as good. It's only now that I know it wasn't and I'm rather angry that this information was not available to me in spite of having read far and wide about breastfeeding. I'm also angry that the feeding issues I had with her never got addressed although I visited a clinic weekly.

I am all for choice. Women aren't stupid, and it's up to anyone to make their own choices. But misinformation doesn't lead to informed choices. And stigmatising breastfeeders and/or those who won't let their babies cry to sleep as "attachment parenting crowd" will once again out us as the "others", make us a laughing stock of parents, when actually we do what is the biological norm and what has the best developmental and health outcomes. How many mums will have stopped breastfeeding early because of the social and cultural pressure to do so? How often have I had to justify myself for feeding beyond a year, or hear dismissive comments or see "the eye roll"? How often have I been criticised for not teaching my child healthy sleeping habits (when in fact waking during the night is proven to be healthier than sleeping through)?

It's a mad world. Oh, and don't call me an attachment parent. I'm just a mum (who is still learning a lot about how to be a better parent than she is because I may not leave my child to cry but I'm not a perfect parent).

PS: I've left out any reference to co-sleeping. There is a pattern in that co-sleeping is vilified as a cot death risk when on closer inspection, it actually reduces the risk of cot death if practised safely. Another topic where parents are told they are harming their child when in fact they are not. I'd also recommend reading The Analytical Armadillo's take on the Daily Mail article which quotes some research evidence which I was too lazy to quote.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The sun, the summer, and lots of daisies

Today was the first day of summer. At long last we had a day that would dry the washing. I'm so domesticated if that's my definition of summer, but that's what it was, a sunny, dry and warm day. And there were daisies: for picking, for making double headed daisies, for making daisy chains, and for walking barefoot in. (More pictures over at the Nature Kids blog - being a wordpress blog they just look nicer there).

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Barefoot at the Merry Go Round

It's been a while since I last posted an update on my life as a Barefoot Books Ambassador. This may well have something to do with work taking over and not exactly leaving much space for other things. But yes, I'm still promoting the wonderful world of Barefoot Books, without any ambitions to make a decent income from it, but rather as a hobby. Truth is, I love these books. Every single one of them is special, beautiful, with wonderful stories, art work and food for thought.

A month or so ago, Merry-Go-Round opened, a shop that sells pre-loved baby items while creating volunteering opportunities and being a venue for all things baby. I love love love this shop - it's all about reuse, recycling but in style. The shop is beautiful and cosy, there's free tea and coffee and often homebaking too. Lots of community groups will be meeting there - the Glasgow Sling Meet already does and an initiative to let people try out cloth nappies through a nappy loan kits is also based there. It's in the Southside and I can just see it becoming a great hub for new parents, with lots of things happening there.

Then I had this idea. And as usual, without thinking much about it, I just approached Sam who runs the shop and asked would it be an idea to run a singalong/storytelling session with Barefoot Books, where people have an opportunity to browse the books and buy if they want to.

And she said yes.

So on Friday, I'll be at the Merry Go Round in Nithsdale Road reading and singing from some of my favourite Barefoot Books. It may become a regular event. It's all free and there's no obligation to buy anything. If you're in the area and you have a baby/toddler, simply come along and join the fun!

PS I'm a bit nervous about it all, so please be gentle on me if I get a note or two wrong!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

When in Millport...

It has been far too long. It may seem like yesterday, but Cubling was only 2 when we last visited our nearest island, and for years she would ask us to go back to that place where we have to take the ferry and where we cycled around the island and saw that scary rock face. 

It turns out we inadvertently waited until she had forgotten about the scary rock face, and it was all new to her, with some memories coming back. For Snowflake, it was the first ferry trip and as is her nature she took it all in all calm and observant. We had a fabulous first day and a cold, windy, rainy second day. I'm sure there's money to be made in a soft play on the island because there is pretty little you can do with kids if the weather is as atrocious as it was on day 2 and you've packed the spring/summer collection.

But day 1 - it was so worth it.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Baby's First Nursery Tips

Having just completed our own nursery (ahem, Cubling is five and Snowflake at 19 months has not yet moved into her room but hey, it's done and ready for her!), it seemed quite timely when I was asked if I'd feature a sponsored post for Vertbaudet. I do like Verbaudet, both for their lovely kids clothes range which has a classy yet practical touch and for their beautiful baby and kids room range. So here are some tips and ideas for putting together baby's room which might come in handy for those of you who are planning baby's room.

Baby’s First Nursery

There's nothing like planning the nursery – where you can revel in the anticipation of baby and shamelessly decorate it to your heart's content and all things cute and pretty because if you wait until they're 3, 4 or 5, you'll have much less say in decorating your kids' room! So go for it while you can! If you have never planned a baby nursery before, it may seem a daunting prospect so here are some helpful pointers to get you started. Remember that the safest place for your baby for at least the first 6 months is in a room with you both at night and during the day.

Babies spend an awful lot of time asleep and so you will most likely buy a cot for your little one. Choose one with a simple drop-down side that gives easy access to your baby and protects your back from excessive strain when picking them up. Cot bedding is available in a wide variety of colours and designs, a good selection can be found at Vertbaudet at their online shop or in their extensive catalogue. A blackout blind at the window to block out light may help babies sleep better. As babies spend a lot of time gazing up at the ceiling during nappy changes etc, it is nice for them to have something interesting to look at, which will help you keep them entertained especially if they don't like to get changed. You can create the perfect mood in the baby nursery with the clever use of unusual mobiles, night-lights, lampshades and lit canvasses. You'll be able to create the right balance between stimulating and tranquil with the plenty of interesting baby nursery items to inspire you at Vertbaudet.

Image courtesy of Vertbaudet

When decorating, make sure to only use non-toxic paints in the baby nursery, look for the words 'low VOC' on the tin, this refers to 'low volatile compounds.' Plan to finish any decorating or carpeting well before baby's arrival so that any fumes or dust will have dissipated – and this applies both for the nursery and your own bedroom where baby will sleep initially. Remember your baby will not be a baby for long, so unless you really love painting and decorating, choose a simple scheme that remains appropriate for some time. Easy peel off decorative stickers are an effective way of creating interest and detail without permanence, see the sticker collection at Vertbaudet for ideas. Avoid climbing a ladder during pregnancy; why not ask your partner or a friend to take care of any difficult decorating tasks. Make sure that rugs are fixed securely to avoid trip hazards. Fitting a dimmer switch in the nursery may help to keep the baby relaxed, and it is especially useful during night feeds.

Image courtesy of Vertbaudet

Changing Table
A changing table in the baby nursery, whilst not essential, will make life easier as it is specifically designed for one purpose. Handy for keeping all the baby's changing equipment together and wide and high enough to offer space and ease of use.

Image courtesy of Vertbaudet

You will need storage for all of the baby's new things. Choose practical storage solutions that are easy to use and integrate well into the nursery. Find plenty of fun storage options at Vertbaudet, including a wonderful soft laundry basket shaped like a washing machine because toddlers love washing machines!

Image courtesy of Vertbaudet

Saturday, 5 May 2012


Our special treat at bedtime is two chapters of the Petit Prince (in German), read by me, after a story from daddy. Tonight, after a day spent festivaling at Streetland and going on the scariest of rides at the carnival, she announced after the end of the second chapter "Ich bin gar nicht müde" (I'm not tired at all). "Kann ich mit dir kuscheln?" (can I cuddle with you). Of course you can. She turned around to me and within a blink of an eye I could hear her heavy sleepy breathing.

Slowly I picked myself out of her octopus embrace and covered her with her blanket. She wasn't even in her bed, she'd fallen asleep on the bottom bunk.

Cubling, my love, tiredness does not exist for you, just sleep. You will go on and on, with your endless energy, and I have yet to hear you admit that you are tired (ok, except for when I wake you in the morning). Maybe  you really aren't tired, maybe you would bound on trampolines all night if only we let you. But that cuddle of my untired girl was special and to have you fall asleep in my arms was too. Because, these days, it doesn't happen much anymore.

Friday, 4 May 2012


... I spent about 3 hours drawing, dot to dotting, colouring in and various other activities with Cubling, while trying to encourage Snowflake not to draw on her sister's pad AND not on carpets, furniture, books and blankets.

... I lost sight of Snowflake in the park (she was hiding behind some contraption) for a minute.

... I went shopping with a hungry toddler and the check out lady asked if those three packs of crumpets, potato scones and croissants were meant to be open.

... I was asked for "Milch" in the cutest pronunciation 5 times and only once referred to the stuff that the milkman delivers.

... Cubling cleaned the stained glass window all by herself (ok, I helped a little bit but still).

... I heard the word "mummy" approximately 3894 times.
And the frequency of the word "no" wasn't much behind.

... I didn't manage to go to the toilet at all, and didn't manage to drink even one cup of tea. Which helped with the not being able to get to the toilet bit.

... Cubling fell down the whole length of the stairs.

... Snowflake had 3 accidents that all were less serious than they looked.

... I learned that yoghurt drinks, 19 month olds and car seats don't mix. Or rather they do in a messy kind of way

... I could only relax while Cubling was in her gymnastics class and only because I relented and nursed Snowflake in the midst of total strangers (I still feel apprehensive about nursing an over one year old in public, I shouldn't but I know how judgemental many people are and I try my best not to do it when out and about, but Snowflake doesn't get that.at.all.)

... I had to share my lap between 2 kids a lot because both of them will be jealous if the relevant other one is on it.

... Snowflake was found sitting on the potty announcing "Pippi" (mercy, please let's not do potty training just yet,I was more thinking in a year's time maybe?)

... My kids whined far too much. And I shouted far too much. The two are most definitely related.

... I wished I worked full time because at least that would mean the kids were exposed to less shouting. Plus I'm sure they don't whine half as much at nursery so they must be happier there.

... I finally got them to work together happily with me by letting Cubling cut the broccoli, Snowflake transfer it into the pan while I peeled the tatties. The attraction of the sharp knife.

... I played a game of talking broccoli to get Snowflake to eat it (and succeeded with lots of hilarity on Snowflake's face)

... I read a couple of chapters of The Little Prince with Cubling and Snowflake on the top bunk, a book I've owned for decades without having read it.

... Felt like a lifetime.

... I need a glass of wine very badly.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Snap Clicking Away

If I think back, my longest standing hobby must surely be photography. From borrowing my dad's camera (who was passionate about photography himself, I think he once won a prize for an owl picture, and he kept with black and white long after colour was all in vogue) to getting a first camera, to being bequeathed the old SLR, all manual, and the calculating that goes with having to do aperture and speed for every single picture. Going on to saving and buying an automatic SLR. Resisting the digital revolution until I could afford a DSLR - if there's one thing I couldn't stand about digital cameras it was the shutter delay so while I owned a non DSLR I didn't use it much and continued to use my SLR when most people would stare at this monster in disbelief that such things existed.

In between I seriously considered an apprenticeship as photographer as my career path (and thought better of it when I realised that I'd most likely spend my days taking photos of weddings and kids in the same old positions). Even when I still wasn't quite sure what to do with my life I'd decided that photography was to be my hobby. It wasn't ever to be my profession because sometimes, you have to guard your interest and make it special by keeping it as a hobby.

And what a hobby. Even before the digital age, I pressed that shutter button a lot. A two week holiday has been known to produce 10 rolls of 36 exp film. I recently threw out years of taking photos at tennis tournaments - I was into sports photography in a seriously big way when I was 15-17. Looking back, it's quite  unbelievable just how many photo one person can take of Jonas Svensson's double handed back hand.

Now of course most of my photos are of my kids. I'm forever looking for a new perspective, a new angle, a new expression and I love creating things from the photos. Now that little Miss Snowflake is up on her feet good and proper my arms are occasionally free again to take along the camera. Of course I still often miss a perfect moment because I decided the camera was too heavy to carry amongst all the other kids' stuff.

When two of my favourite bloggers announced that they'd be doing ecourses on improving your skills to take photos of your kids I just had to register for the first course "Capturing the Moments". I know that I don't really have the time, but on the other hand this summer at least is in theory the one where I have more time than I will have in the foreseeable future, and really, sometimes you just have to go with it. Just seeing the trailer was so snap watering that I picked up the camera one evening and took a whole pile of photos.

And that's one of the great things about blogging - although I don't as such follow photography blogs, I've often been inspired by a shot by one blogger or another, and while I don't post many of my photos here, reading blogs has made sure that my longest standing hobby was alive and kicking. And I think the sharing of photos during the e-course will provide another boost of inspiration, new ideas and things to try out on its own, never mind the actual course that I hope will develop how I take photos and maybe even let me get on a better foot with the camera's manual setting.

The batteries are charged and the SD card has been emptied, it's all go for the start of the course at the end of this month!



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