Sunday, 9 September 2012

Hello and goodbye

Over a year has passed since I disappeared without warning.  I've been making use of the time though.  I'm now the proud mother of a baby boy as well as my big girl!  He's three months old now, and I'm starting to feel settled again, and thought it was time to get back to blogging.  I have another reason to write, which is that Alice turned three a couple of weeks ago and seems to be growing up so quickly.  She's gaining interest in reading, writing and numbers and I'm trying to provide her ways to explore them.  I'm hoping that writing about what we do will provide a record, and inspire me to find new activities. 

In light of the new stage of life we're at, I've decided to move over to a blog with a new name.  The 'Good Enough ' tag has different meanings, and I'm not comfortable with all of them, so thought it better to have a change.  After some thought, the new blog will be 'Help Me to Do It Myself.'  I admire much of Montessori's approaches, and I can think of no better way to sum up how I see my role in my children's education than as a facilitator, equipping them both to achieve what they want to.

I hope you'll join me on the new blog.  Please leave a comment if you do stop by!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Stencilled T-Shirts

A friend has recently introduced me to the wonderful world of freezer paper stencils. To my knowledge, freezer paper is sold widely in America, to wrap things that are going in the freezer I imagine. In the UK, it seems the only place to get the stuff is in craft shops. The paper is waxy on one side and matt on the other, so perfect for drawing out your stencil, then ironing it to material causing the wax to stick and form a seal preventing fabric paint from bleeding. A quick search for 'Freezer paper stencils' brings up some amazingly intricate pieces of work, with a very professional finish. I had to give it a try for some shirts for Alice.

I made a few sketches, and she chose two she liked the best. Robot and snails it was.

I'm not going to write a 'how to' guide, as there are so many fantastic ones easily available on-line. The video tutorial here was very helpful to me, as was this blog post. It was easy to do, although you could scale up the difficulty level by choosing a more detailed design. It would be a fantastic way to add detail to
custom made dressing up clothes too, which I think will be my next project!

This is what I came up with. No action shots, unfortunately, as Alice has gone camera shy!

Ask me in a month, and I'm sure there won't be many surfaces in my house left unstencilled...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Highly Sensitive

This week, I've been reading The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron and it has been a real eye opener. I have always considered myself over sensitive. I struggle with things that others seem to find so easy such as navigating train stations, or even buying things from a shop. I've felt my sensitivity has held me back, and it was with sadness if not surprise when I quickly realised that Alice had similar tendencies.

From the first time I saw her it soon became obvious that she was a child of extremes. If anything was slightly amiss, she would scream. There was never any middle ground. The upside of this is that she also gets extremely happy, joyful and excited over the smallest things. It's lovely, but can be exhausting. On two occasions, loud noises have made her faint with shock, she can't stand doors being left ajar, and takes against clothes with certain textures or colours. Upsets can quickly escalate into quite terrifying meltdowns where she tries to hurt both herself and me. Being so sensitive clearly makes her very unhappy at times.

I easily rattle off the 'problem areas' that her sensitivity has caused. Many of them I recognise in myself! What has amazed me through reading this book however is how many of her strengths come as a result of being so sensitive. She's starting to show empathy, and gain a sense of social fairness. She's deeply passionate and persistent with tasks. She notices and delighted by the tiniest details. It has taken this book to show me that high sensitivity has its benefits as well as disadvantages. As I embrace and value my daughter's sensitivity, I am also coming to respect my own.

For any other highly sensitive people, or parents of highly sensitive children, I whole heartedly recommend this book!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Dyed pasta and threading

After a long break in posts, I thought I'd come back and share this little activity. It was very quick and easy, and I'm really pleased with the results.

To dye your pasta (white rice also works well), you'll need to use:

Dry pasta (didn't see that coming did you?)
Ziplock bags, one for every colour you intend to use
Vinegar/rubbing alcohol
Food colouring - natural ones don't seem to come up as brightly as synthetic, but it's worth experimenting.

Put a tablespoon on vinegar/alcohol into your plastic bag. add a few drops of food colouring. Pour in enough pasta to soak up the liquid and shake around until the pasta is fully coated. Leave until the pasta is the shade you want (I left mine over night, but it might only take yours half an hour or so.)

Empty the pasta onto some greaseproof paper, and spread out so the pieces don't touch. Leave to dry.

VoilĂ ! Coloured pasta or rice. So what are you going to use it for?

Rice is especially good for sensory play. Put handfuls in a tray and let your child mix the colours together. It looks great in clear plastic bottles as a shaker too. Both rice and pasta can be used in collages.

The pasta can be used for sorting colours or shapes, adding and subtracting games and for counting. I'm sure there are many other activities you could think of!

I decided to use ours for threading. It's an activity which Alice is really keen on lately, and the holes in the pasta are just the right size to be challenging, but not too frustrating. I made my 'needle and thread' by taking a length of thin string, and taping a tooth pick to the end. Make sure the needle is quite long if you have a little child. It's much easier for them to use. I tied a piece of pasta to the end to stop the others falling off. Once the pasta is threaded, it can be used as necklaces or belts, for pretend snakes, lots of strings can be hung up as a bead curtain, or you could just take them off and start threading again!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Nappy Free

It's been a couple of weeks since Alice wore her last nappy, so I'm pretty confident that she's now 'potty trained,' except there wasn't any real training involved.

I've had numerous comments about how early it is to be out of nappies at 20 months, but in reality the process has been pretty extended. I first came across Elimination Communication when Alice was a few months old, and I already felt I'd missed the boat. I couldn't recognise any of her cues to eliminate, and I thought it would be too much like hard (and messy) work to start. At 11 months, Alice was suffering from bad nappy rash which seemed to be caused by teething. As it healed, I tried to give her as much nappy free time as possible. It didn't take long for her to get interested in her eliminations. I noticed that she would do a little wee, crawl to another place and squeeze hard to wee again. It made me realise that she had more control of her bladder than I thought. Without any real expectations, I sat her on the potty, and we were both delighted when she did a wee inside!

Around the same time, she started making it clear when she was about to pooh. I began sitting her on the potty to catch these, and within a short time discovered that she would hold on until her nappy was off before poohing. It certainly made my washing load easier! Over the next ten months, she usually wore a nappy. I'd sit her on the toilet or potty after naps.

At 20 months old, she started removing her nappy, and showing more interest in the potty. She began to say 'big pooh!' and 'wee wee!' before she eliminated, and I thought we'd try going nappy free at home. There were many accidents, especially if I wasn't paying attention. One morning, I was in the kitchen and heard the sound of splashing. I ran in, muslin in hand to wipe up the puddle only to find Alice sitting on the potty. This was the first time she'd got there herself. That was a majot turning point, and the accidents virtually stopped. Alice chose some 'big girl pants' and wore them while we were out. After a few wet trouser incidents, she suddenly was dry and I began to feel more relaxed about taking her out nappy free.

Although I hadn't planned to cut out night nappies, believing that would be a step too far, Alice led the way by removing her nappy and sleeping until the morning without wetting.

Our transition from nappies to pants has been a very long and gentle one, and it has given me great faith in allowing your child to take the lead. In line with the way we choose to raise her, she's never been praised for eliminating on the potty or toilet. We've done no reward charts or stickers. I've just tried to follow her cues. I realise that this is a thoroughly self indulgent post, as our experience is unique. I'm certainly not holding it up as a method for others to emulate. It was a process that worked well for us as a family, and more importantly, it responded to Alice
's needs as she developed. In my mind, that's the most important thing.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


A few weeks ago, I read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and found myself challenged by a number of ideas. As the title suggests, the book encourages parents to simplify their family lives, limiting possessions and establishing a daily, weekly and yearly rhythm. I was already on board with keeping a limit on toys, and tried to ensure that the ones available to Alice were open ended to encourage her to use her imagination. What threw me was that the author recommended limiting the number of books available too. Initially, I was dismissive. As a child, there was nothing I loved more than to read or be read to. I always had a few books on the go at once, and would disappear for hours as soon as I got home from the library. Echoes of my teacher training also returned to me, reminding me of how important it is to have a rich and varied reading environment. Clearly 'simplifying' Alice's already plentiful collection of books wasn't for me.

A few days later I was reading with Alice. Cuddled up together, we reached the final page. I closed the book. Then, in the grand toddler tradition, my little girl looked at me and said "Again?" This was far from the first occasion this has happened. At any one time, there are always two or three books that she adores and will listen to as many times as I have patience to read. For a week or two, she'll obsess about them. Snippets of their plots will pop up in her conversation and several times she has mentioned favourite phrases in her sleep. I found this pretty wearing. She had so many books to choose from, why bring me the same ones? To my shame, I ended up trying to hide some books when I became fed up of reading them. Suddenly, the wisdom of reducing available books made sense. The richness and quality of a child's exposure to books isn't down to how many they are read. Becoming totally familiar and involved with a story is of far greater importance. Repetition puts a small child at ease and they are able to process the words, pictures, intonation and associated feelings far more than if they read a new book every day.

I have decided to take the same attitude to books that I do with toys. I will be ruthless with those that do nothing to inspire the imagination, and keep only those that are good quality stories. Out of that collection, I will store some out of sight to act as our own mini library, leaving just a few for Alice to choose from at any one time. Although I thought this would involve consigning myself to literary boredom, I'm surprised at how much I enjoy rereading the stories. It is amazing at how a well written and illustrated children's book has more to offer than it at first appears. Through learning to take my daughter's lead, we're both finding the benefit of saying "Again?"

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Honouring Moontime

OK, I confess. When I wrote the title of this post, it made me cringe. Our society likes to keep periods pretty quiet. Sanitary products are advertised by letting us know that nobody else will ever know you're 'on'. Fear not! Normal life can be resumed and you can go jogging in white shorts. Any celebration of your 'moontime,' on the other hand, is frankly rather weird. Well, with apologies to anyone's delicate sensibilities, I'm going to tell the story of my relationship with periods .

My feelings about menstruation have been pretty mixed over the years. My first one arrived on Halloween when I was staying over at a school friend's house, aged 11. Thanks to my mum and the school nurse, I was pretty clear on the theory, but the reality was never the less quite disconcerting. In the following years I would dread my time of the month coming. I suffered with awful cramps that would wake me sweating and crying in the night. I had PMT that made me hard to live with, and my acne covered face really knocked my confidence. I always struggled to use tampons, and towels made me feel hot and unclean. I felt far from womanly.

A significant change in attitude came during my university years when I discovered the Mooncup. For the uninitiated, it is a silicone cup inserted into the vagina which collects the menstrual blood. For someone who couldn't even use a tampon, this seemingly giant cup looked pretty intimidating, but after a few tries I was amazed to find I couldn't feel a thing. Emptying the cup removed some of the mystery of my period. It was no longer something foul and hidden. I felt clean and for some reason I still don't understand, my cramps eased considerably.

Then came pregnancy followed by ecological breastfeeding and my Mooncup was packed away. When my period arrived yesterday, 30 months after my last one, my heart sank. It appears my luteal phase (the time between ovulation and menstruation) is only 5 days. Far too short to sustain a pregnancy just yet. I've decided to put away my negative attitudes, and celebrate this time of the month. It is a time when my body is giving me clear instructions to take it easy. It's a few days where I can focus on myself and gaining the energy to begin again with renewed enthusiasm. I've taken the time to learn and try a few gentle yoga positions to relieve cramps. I've taken out sewing projects that have been put to one side and I'm making an effort to eat wholesome foods. My lovely husband is shouldering the responsibilities I'm stepping back from, and as a result, he and Alice are getting some closer time together. By respecting this time, I'm able to see my moontime as a blessing, not a curse.