November 2013 archive
Imagine you had just won the lottery, or had a delightful little windfall… Imagine the world of Christmas shopping is your oyster and all of your children’s Christmas wish list dreams could come true… Where would you shop, and what would you buy?
I know at this time of year every parent is embroiled in the dilemma of what to buy their little treasures for Christmas. So far mine have asked for new beds with ladders and slides, cars, a new house, some earrings, a dog and…an iPad .
Out of all of the above, the one I am most likely to plump for – if I had the money – would be an iPad. Whilst I’d love to furnish a brand new house with slides and ladders, essentially turning my home into one giant softplay, an iPad seems by far the safest and easiest choice. Yes yes, I know they are expensive and if you’ve got more than one child the thought of buying them one each is rather terrifying, BUT – remember the opening sentence, we are looking at this from the point of view of someone who has the money!!
We have two iPads in my house, gifts from Christmas past before I went on extended maternity leave and had money 😉 I’m currently writing this on mine now and the other one is shared between my husband and our three children. All of their independent apps neatly filed away into their own personal sections. I think iPads are absolutely fantastic. They are both educational, and enjoyable! Technology is, as they say, the future. Children need to be tech savvy and many schools (I know the one I work in does) and nurseries now have iPads to be used as part of the teaching and learning process. From an internet safety point of view it is so easy to set up the parental controls; for every app, videos, songs and the internet. These settings can be done for a variety of different ages as well, so it’s not all or nothing.
There are of course many other tablets available, and they are also brilliant. The huge variety of apps you can buy or download for free also help to make them as amazing as they are. There is literally an app for everything. I mean…there’s even an app where you can turn your heating on when you’re not even in the house! Goodness only knows what they’ll think of next. If it was up to me, and apps could do anything, it would be these five… (use your imagination and go with me on these!)
1) Coffee-o-meter: I would love an app that somehow produced a cup of yummy coffee for me whenever I needed one. It would detect my energy levels and produce the perfect mug when I began to flag. Maybe it could switch to wine production after the children are all in bed…
2) Make me up: I love make-up – and let’s face it, it would be cruel of me to leave the house without any on – and would buy an app that applied the perfect make-up to my face every time I left the house. Not sure this would ever be possible though, maybe I’d need a robot for this job instead?!
3) Clean the place: Urgh I hate housework, which is ironic given that at the moment I am a housewife! If there was an app that could control my vacuum cleaner by remotely I would be a very happy woman! How I’d love a self cleaning toilet alongside this too!
4) Diet Buddy: This app would absorb all the excess calories I ate. Or maybe give me a gentle electric shock every time I reached for the biscuit tin or cheese shelf in the fridge. Hmm, no, not gonna work this one is it? I’d endure a lot before I put the chocolate down.
5) Find my stuff: The remote control, my phone, keys, my mind. This app would entrust that I never lost anything again as it would have details of where everything I owned ever was! I think this one might just be my favourite!
Maybe one day our tech savvy children will invent these delightful apps, now wouldn’t that be the perfect Christmas gift?! 😉
This post was written for John Lewis, for which I was compensated.
Recently many of us lovely bloggers have been lucky enough receive some Stork and fabulous spices from Steenbergs so we can carry on and bake in the aftermath of the Great Bloggers Bake Off!
I was thrilled when my Stork arrived to discover it was dairy-free which meant I could use it to cook for my children, one of whom is currently on a strict dairy-free diet. He loves chocolate and so I had a look in my Marks and Spencer Chocolate Box cook book for inspiration. And there, on page 60, was a recipe for spiced chocolate muffins. Something which would use both of my recently gifted ingredients whilst satisfying every member of my sweet toothed family!
Here’s the recipe, adapted to be fully dairy-free.
100g Stork (the foil wrapped variety, not the one in a tub!)
150g caster sugar
115g brown sugar
2 large eggs
150ml Alpro soya cream
5 tbsp soya milk
250g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp cocoa powder (I used The co-operative’s Truly Irresistible Fairtrade Drinking Chocolate)
1 tsp Steenbergs organic mixed spice
200g dark chocolate chips (I used Silver Spoon chips)
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin paper cases and preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
Place the Stork, caster sugar and brown sugar in a bowl and beat well. Beat in the eggs, soya cream and soya milk until thoroughly mixed. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa and space mix into a separate bowl and stir into the mixture. Add the chocolate chips and mix week. Divider he mixture evenly between the paper cases. Place in the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until needed!
This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 November challenge. If I’m chosen, I would like to visit Longleat Forest.
Center Parcs is a wonderful place for a fantastic family break and so I’ve decided to enter this poem into their family blogger competition! If you’d like to enter then Center Parcs Whinfell Forest’s resident nature expert and Conservation Ranger, Emma Tapp has some fab tips on their site if you need some inspiration! The inspiration for my poem was her first tip:
1. Be inspired by your surroundings – Observe as the leaves change colour from green to red and let the beautiful burnt oranges get the creative juices flowing, what does it look like and remind you of?
And this photo:
Leaf: A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology.
A fresh skin, new paint.
Reached the end of one journey,
Ready to start anew.
Budded, began with such hope.
Flourished, success, recognition.
Then start to wane.
So brief, time passes by.
Surrounded by many, fighting for light,
One by one they fade and fall.
Meant to be, out of control.
Powerless in nature and outcome,
Fate already decided.
Sunlight fades all heat is gone,
Yet more beautiful with time.
Vibrant colours fighting on.
Changing, trying to last.
Solitary and clinging on in hope.
Fragile, no choice but to finally let go.
Goalposts: The structure of a goal can vary widely from sport to sport. In sports where goals are the sole method of scoring, the goal is often a rectangular structure that is placed at each end of the playing surface. Each structure usually consists of two vertical posts, called the goal posts, supporting a horizontal crossbar.
Ah the joys of the pre teen. Last week I was sat, in my lounge, at home and alone with all three of my children whilst my husband was (still) at work.
Earlier in the evening my 12 year old daughter was upstairs in her room throwing everything she could find, firmly and loudly, after having left a trail of destruction and debris on her way there. The four year old was asking what was happening and the toddler was trying to fly by jumping off the sofa and laughing when I said ‘no!’ Oh, and I’d just discovered that I’d washed a nappy containing toddler poo with a load of clothes in my washing machine. The day was going well, I was kicking parenting’s ass.
Now I’ve mentioned my feisty daughter many times on my blog before, and have been very honest about the challenges parenting a pre-teen has brought me so far. About how at this age for me, it’s not easy letting go, letting her have more freedom and hoping that I’ve taught her to make ‘informed’ and ‘good’ decisions. My daughter has a lot of common sense, she is quick witted and has an inherent need for attention. She is stubborn, dramatic, emotional. She will argue that black is white, fiercely believing it to be if it means she can get something out of the debate; and she’s sadly growing up in a world where some people feel they are owed everything and that ‘I want’ should mean ‘I get.’ She thinks she’s invincible, she thinks she is wronged daily, misunderstood, and blamed for everything. She’s also beautiful, thoughtful, and caring. Talented, confident and determined. She is a blend of many magical and wonderful things, however sadly, at the moment, she is predominantly anger personified.
I’m not sure how many of my readers are aware that our family is a ‘blended’ one. My daughter has a different father to my sons, who I have had with my husband. She’s had a lot to deal with in her little life and has faced a lot of changes. First, and from the very beginning it was just the two of us, living in a beautiful flat in Bristol together for 6 years. We were surrounded by friends and tragically, when my daughter was 6 years old, a close friend of mine who we’d known for years and who used to look after my daughter one day a week after school, died from breast cancer. My daughter already knew about death as she understood that my father had passed away before she was born, but this was her first experience of it in person. And it wasn’t easy on any of us. Shortly after this we then moved just outside of Bristol with my now husband; another change. A different school, new friends and routines and a very different ethos to the inner city school she’d previously attended. Then my first son came along, my husband and I got married, her father had a baby, I had another baby, I got very ill with PND, her father got married. Change after change after change. Always honestly talked about with her, always addressed and never ignored or brushed over, but uncontrollable endless changes nevertheless.
I often wonder what impact all of this has had on her and whether it’s added to her anger and fuelled her indignation at so many things. Being twelve these days is by no means easy. As a girl, and a short ginger one at that, she’s subjected daily to teasing and p*** taking. Already she’s asked me what a ‘ginger fanny’ is and has been called a bitch in the dinner hall. The boys in her year reportedly describe her as ‘small but feisty.’ So it’s no wonder she’s always got her defences up. When you’re twelve you’re developing your identity, where you fit in the world, what your beliefs are and so much more, yet peer pressures and the latest trends and fads undoubtedly impact on this. Not to mention the delight of hormones which, at the ripe old age of 36, I still haven’t mastered myself yet. It’s a tough time and I wouldn’t want to be there again for love nor money. Yet what I do want is to be able to put myself in my daughter’s shoes and see things from her perspective. And I desperately want to help her manage her anger so a repeat of what happened the other day is not on the cards.
Wanting to put myself in her shoes led to both of us digging out my old diaries this weekend.
Diaries that I started writing when I was just 11 years old and stopped, for no particular reason other than lack of time, when I was about 30. Written every year; covering my first period, my first kiss and oh so much more. We started reading my diary from 1989 together and couldn’t help but laugh at what I’d written (that’s a whole other blog post!) and what struck both of us immediately is how much younger than twelve I seem in the diary. I’m still enjoying building sandcastles on the beach and playing in the park. I’m not bothered by make-up or clothes or boys. There were no mobile phones, no internet or Facebook, and the tv had a measly four channels, none of which showing provocative singers parading around in their underwear. Children were undoubtedly able to be children, with very different expectations made of them. My homework at twelve, for example, was simply colouring in. Oh how different the goalposts were then, in many ways.
We all know that parenting certainly has it’s challenges, and for me it hasn’t got any easier the older my daughter has got, the challenges have simply changed. Parenting a pre-teen in this day and age isn’t straightforward, and neither it would seem, is actually being a pre-teen in 2013…and I think it’s something we’re going to have to work out together.
To be continued…
Incentives: An incentive is something that motivates an individual to perform an action.
This morning I awoke to the news that in the UK they are trialling giving mothers vouchers in exchange for them agreeing to breastfeed their children. Incentivising them to do something that we all know is best for our babies, for we’re told often enough. Bribing mothers to perhaps make choices they’re not comfortable with or have no control over, thus adding to the pressure and guilt of parenting. I assume all babies born in the area where this is being trialled behave themselves and enable their mothers to gain financially…someone sent all unborn babies a memo about this right?
Yes I’m being deliberately obtuse because as a mother of three children who has both breast, formula and mixed fed I’m horrified at the suggestion. I’m appalled that the government is attempting to bribe mothers to do something they may not be able to, or want to do. And whilst I can’t fully understand why someone would choose not to breastfed, I believe everyone has a choice. Do I think more mums should be encouraged to choose to breastfeed…yes! But do I think this should be done through a finical incentive…no!
Breastfeeding is a divisive subject and one that all mothers have very strong opinions about. As I see it often those who found it easy claim it’s the most natural thing in the world and are dumbfounded as to why everyone doesn’t do it. Yes they say it hurt, yes they say it’s hard work, but they did it so why doesn’t everybody? Then there are the mums who choose not to and are vehement in their belief that they are good mothers in spite of this. Why should how we feed our children determine what kind of parent we are? And then there are those who desperately want to breastfeed, who struggle and try everything and yet, for many reasons, can’t. I’ve been all of the above mums at some point in my parenting journey.
When my daughter was born 12 years ago I exclusively breastfed. Ironically she is the only one of my children with asthma and eczema, but that’s another story. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed, I was a single parent and it was bloody hard work, but I did it exclusively until a lorry drove into the back of my car and the stress of the hideous accident caused my milk production to disappear instantaneously. Back then whenever I breastfed in public it was sat on the toilet, in a cubicle and out of sight. It wasn’t discussed it was just what we all did, and it was lonely, uncomfortable and boring, not to mention particularly unsanitary. Times have changed and with both of my boys I breastfed in public, but it wasn’t always welcomed and I think that before we judge as to why people don’t want to breastfeed and incentivise them to do it with money, we need to look at changing opinions of breastfeeding in public and in general. We need to make it fully acceptable. I was out for lunch with a new mum the other day who I didn’t know very well and she kept apologising every time she breastfed her baby, and this made me so incredibly sad. Why did she feel the need to apologise all of the time, who had made her feel that what she was doing needed an apology? And would paying her to breastfeed her child change the way she felt she was viewed? I doubt it.
Let’s look at why people don’t breastfeed exclusively for 6 months as is recommended. There are many reasons and for something supposedly so natural, Mother Nature certainly doesn’t make it easy at times. Cracked nipples, engorgement, mastitis and many more delights can make breastfeeding hard, painful and unpleasant. My middle child had very bad reflux, and once vomited blood after a feed, turns out it was my blood and not his. There are also difficulties faced by parents of children with tongue ties or cleft palate. At the end of the day, our role as a mum is only half of the breastfeeding story, the baby plays a part too; and for some, breastfeeding is sadly never going to work. Thank goodness there is an alternative! There seems to be a trend on social media this morning in response to the news report, saying that formula should only be available on prescription for those who can’t feed…taking away choice and adding to guilt. And just how malnourished would your baby need to get before it was deemed that breastfeeding was not a viable option. How desperate would the mother be at this point, how much of a failure would she feel and what lengths would she go to? It’s a disgusting idea and one that actually makes me angry at anyone who suggests it. Have the people suggesting this struggled or not been able to breastfeed? Have they been there, do they know how it feels? Or are people assuming things and judging others again instead of trying to empathise, support and see things from another persons perspective? Formula feeding mums are made to feel guilty enough as it is. Will formula feeding become illegal next?
I think if there is money spare to invest in breastfeeding mums then that money could be spent so much better than on vouchers, for sadly some children aren’t fed at all. And the more I write this post the more I realise that there is a much wider issue here and one that I cannot even attempt to cover in just blog post. Could the money be spent on support? On enabling mothers returning to work to continue to breastfeed somehow? On making breastfeeding in public accepted? Let’s be honest, mums don’t give up breastfeeding because of financial difficulties so why incentivise them with vouchers? Why should we be paid to feed our children?
This debate is still very much going on and who knows I may add to this blog post later.
What’s your opinion?
Feminism: Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
Right, I can’t help myself…I’m going to have to write this post about feminism and Blogfest yesterday. But I am not going to write about how outraged I was at the panel, because, well (shock horror) I wasn’t; and I’m not going to convey my belief in why I’m proud to be a mummy and a blogger because, well that’s obvious isn’t it? And I’m not going to write about what feminism means to me because quite frankly (shoot me if you like) at 36 I’ve not entirely worked that out yet. But what I do want to write about is the shocking impact that a few misunderstood and very poorly worded opinions had on the entire room, and on why people were so livid and tweeting, blogging, shouting about what happened. (Clever old Mumsnet eh?)
For those of you who don’t know what on earth I’m talking about, yesterday I was at a blogging conference; a blogging conference run by Mumsnet, who are not unknown for debate and controversy. (and penis beakers) The very title of the session ‘Can you be a mummy blogger and a feminist?’ was designed to provoke, and, rather dangerously, made several hundred women p***ed off before the session had even begun. Now, I don’t know what you’re like when you’re angry, but when I’m p***ed off I can be a bit irrational, misinterpret things, take them very personally and often not hear them how they were intended to be heard, just ask my husband! My judgement can undoubtedly be clouded when I’m angry and I often decided that I’m not going to like what I’m about to hear. And yes…here is where I have to mention jam and heels…the question was asked as to whether a feminist can make jam…and was answered with (what I took to be) a very tongue in cheek ‘no!’ I thought they were being sarcastic at this point and taking the mickey out of themselves, and yes I agree, it was a bit silly that this was even mentioned, like I said…designed to provoke, buts it’s brave to think that a group of feminists on stage aren’t going to challenge their stereotypes. However, the audience, already seething and ready for a heated debate, took this ‘joke’ VERY literally…and tensions rose once more, before it was deemed that feminists could also not wear high heels. Um, am I missing the point here, but can’t feminists/bloggers/women do whatever the hell they like! Now, I don’t wear heels because I broke my ankle in them at a wedding dancing with a nine year old boy, true story, but if I want to wear them…I bloody well will!
We all have baggage, we all feel guilty and have our own personal battles, and everyone has achievements they are fiercely proud of. What we all need to remember is that alongside these things we all have experiences that have shaped our opinions and beliefs…and unless we know another person 100% or walk in their shoes we will never fully understand the events and reasons behind these opinions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it’s different to yours and instead of condemning and verbally attacking someone whose opinion differs from our own, maybe we should listen and try and understand what brought them there, who knows we might just learn something.
Yes we need to be careful about how we voice these opinions, and I agree that yesterday some were very poorly worded and could and did easily offend. I speak in reference to the reference that ‘women without degrees cannot be good mums.’ Yet this technically isn’t what was said, it was the panellist’s own opinion about herself and her own parenting. She said that she thought that about herself and not all mums, yet frayed tempers and personal situations made this another verbal battle. Do we know why she has his opinion of herself and why her inner voice was telling her that she’d have failed as a mother if she didn’t return and complete her degree? Was it drummed into her by the media, by her mother, her child’s father? Dig a little deeper and maybe we’d find a mum not unlike ourselves who struggles with the guilt of working, not working and a whole host of other things. But yesterday no-one wanted to dig and no-one wanted to see…they were too consumed by perceived rage that she was somehow attacking them. Personal issues were brought to the forefront of everyone’s conscious and fuelled the debate. Private and personal battles were rearing their heads and argued ferociously in public.
As mums we’ve all felt shit about ourselves or our choices, I know I have; from media reports, medical research, and through the many perceived rights and wrongs of parenting. Instead of battling against one another because of all of those things we should be supporting each other, learning from each other, supporting each other, listening to each other, empathising
with each other. Standing together as equals…isn’t that feminism personified?!
There is always a reason for people’s opinions and why they fight passionately for what they believe in. We do not know their history or what they have been through to get to where they are. But there’s always a reason and maybe we need to look behind poorly chosen words and be more understanding and supportive.
Being a mum makes me happy, being a blogger makes me happy, but watching and listening to mummies and bloggers disagree so fervently without the knowledge and understanding behind the words makes me sad. Yes some phrases were poorly worded, yes some things could have been taken personally, but it didn’t need to descend into such mayhem. It was not a healthy debate. It was uncomfortable and raw. But then again…isn’t attack the best for of defence?!
I’d just like to say that after reading this poem back, it could possibly sound like I’m a bit dissatisfied with my life at the moment, which couldn’t be further from the truth!! I guess I’m just very aware at times that even though I do different things everyday, my days are still very much centred around the same stuff I do as a mum….and I really do sometimes feel like I am forever on my hands and knees clearing food from the floor…just from lots of different floors!
Each day I wake, know what’s ahead,
Rub my eyes get out of bed.
Packed lunch to make, teeth to clean,
A few smiles and tantrums in between.
School run; walk come rain or shine.
Smile and wave, pretend I’m fine.
Home to put breakfast things away.
Change a nappy, out for the day.
Different people, same things we say.
Talking comes easily, brightens the day.
Home to make lunch, pick remains off the floor.
Nap time, me time, always need more.
Pick up from school, pop here and there;
Dentists, shopping, cutting of hair.
Home for dinner, cooking some more.
Again clearing remains up from the floor.
Bath time, bedtime; one, two then three.
Time for just my husband and me.
Exhausted and sleepy, weary from work,
Eyes start to close, limbs start to jerk.
Head hits the pillow, another day done,
A new one tomorrow, opportunity for fun.
Another play date, another game,
Each day different, yet somehow the same.