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.

Voilà! 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.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Controlling anger

Lately, my gentle parenting aspirations have taken a bit of a battering. Alice has traded in her meltdowns for less spectacular, but more prolonged whining. Unfortunately for us both, this presses all my buttons, and I find myself frequently snapping and shouting. What follows then, is by no means a perfect solution. I'm quite clearly no expert when it comes to anger management, but I find some of the ideas below are helping me, and making my angry outbursts less common.

The key to preventing toddler meltdowns is making sure your child is well fed and rested. Difficult as it sometimes is, make sure you do the same for yourself. It's worth the investment. Think about when you're at your most volatile. For me, this is the afternoon when Alice is often whiny, and there's still a few hours before my husband gets in. I've started sharing a cup of chamomile tea with Alice, and we talk about the day. Whether it's the chamomile taking effect, or just the act of spending a relaxing few minutes together, we're both soothed by this little routine. Try to find a shared activity that you both enjoy. I also find it really crucial to spend time with other adults, ideally every day. Being in the house with your child all day can make both of you irritable with each other. I find getting together with other mums acts as an invaluable pressure relief valve.

If your well laid plans have failed and you feel the anger rising, try some techniques to control yourself. These are almost clichés, but sometimes the old ones are the best!

If possible, make sure your child is in a safe place, then walk away for a little while to collect yourself. Make it clear to them that you are going to calm down for a moment, and will be back soon.
Close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Make yourself aware of areas of tension, especially in your neck, shoulders, jaw, brow and hands. Make a conscious effort to relax them.
Remind yourself of how wonderful your child is. Think of the moments when you felt you could hardly breathe because you loved them so fiercely. Remember how they look when they sleep.

Once you return, you try to explain that you got angry, and how you're both going to move on. I find it really important that I reconnect with Alice, and the easiest way for me is through physical contact. Sharing a hug, or stroking the nape of her neck. Gentle, maternal actions awaken my motherly instincts and are often enough to shake off any remaining ill feeling.

If all this hasn't worked, and you've blown your top, apologise. Not for being angry, that's a valid emotion we all experience, but for how you expressed it. Maybe tell your child what you should have done instead. Don't labour the point though. Children are generally more forgiving than adults, and a clear, simple apology is all that's needed. No self-flagellation necessary. Try to forgive yourself too. I first heard the idea that people who feel bad behave badly in relation to children, but I think it's the same for us all. When I feel like a crappy mum, I generally act like one. No, it's not OK to shout and scream at your child, but we all slip up now and again. Remind yourself that you're the best parent this child can have, and move on from your mistakes.

As with most things in parenting, we're never going to get it right all the time, but hopefully we can aim to improve as we go along.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Living in the Moment

While walking back to our holiday cottage in Cornwall last week, I was chatting to Alice about the horses in the field. She was clearly very excited to see them, and I casually asked "Do you like horses?" She didn't reply. It's not the first time. She's a chatty little girl, but she has never replied to a question about her preferences. I started thinking about the way toddlers view the word, and realised that they live in an eternal present. They simply experience what goes on around them without weighing it up against previous encounters. To say we like or don't like something requires that you compare it with other times we've experienced it. It's a developmental stage that is still ahead of Alice.

I tried to imagine what life would be like if you live completely in the moment. You would become mindful of what was around you. I've often been amazed at the tiny things Alice spots or faint sounds she hears that are just background noise for me. I think this is because toddlers minds aren't clouded by the countless thoughts that whirr around an adult's head. I don't think it is sustainable, or even desirable for an adult to constantly live in the moment in the same way, but taking time to experience the world like a child for short periods would be very liberating.

Taking my daughter as my teacher, I've been trying to really sense what goes on around me. To throw myself into our games without planning how they'll end up, thinking about when to put dinner on, or worrying about what other people might be thinking. I aim to enjoy time with my daughter without comparing her to her past self, or thinking about what will happen as she grows up. I hope it demonstrates to her that I value her play. Even the short periods I manage to spend in this way act like little calm oases, reinvigorating me to take on the rest of the day.

Saturday, 9 April 2011


I've been thinking lately about the huge responsibility a parent has to make decisions for their children. Even before conception there are so many choices. The easiest path to take is to follow the general population. You don't cause ripples, you assume someone has researched for you, and if Mrs Bloggs' kids turned out OK, most likely yours will too.

Sometimes I wish I could take the easy way, but I can't. I feel I have to read up on every issue I encounter. Sometimes I come to a quick decision. It just feels right. I knew I wouldn't ever let my baby 'Cry it out'. Yes, I read a lot to support my decision, but I didn't need a book to tell me how wrong it feels to let a baby cry uncomforted. Then there are the decisions that took a little longer to make. I began bed sharing with a huge burden of guilt. I'd said all through pregnancy that I'd follow the FSID guidelines for safe sleeping, and keep my baby in a cot. After less than a week, she was in our bed, and closer research revealed that this was actually not just better for me, but also better for Alice, I felt vindicated.

Unfortunately, there are also decisions that I sit on the fence with. At 19 months old, Alice still hasn't had her MMR jab. Frankly, I hate both the idea of her having it, and the idea of her not having it. My heart and instincts are useless to me in this decision, and I'm so confused. Equally, should I get pregnant again, I don't know if I'll want dopplers and ultrasounds used on me. I find in medical matters, I'm completely clueless, and sway wildly from one point of view to the next.

In the natural parenting community, I think there is sometimes pressure (self imposed, I must add) to collect the full set: Breastfeed, babywear, bedshare, eat wholefood/vegan/raw/paleo/organic, don't vaccinate, use homoeopathy, home birth, practise EC, unschool, plus many others. Straying from these makes me feel uncertain. If people I respect and identify with have gone a particular way, maybe I should too. I suppose that a decision made purely to fit in with a particular group is as ill-considered as blindly taking the conventional route.

I may not always make the right choices. There are already many I regret, and there will be many more, but I hope my children will know I always had their best interests in mind.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Dandelion Syrup

After my previous post on dandelion tea, I thought I'd try a recipe using the flowers rather than the leaves. As ever, there are a million and one recipes for how to make it online, so I've cobbled my version together out of a few of them.

Pick as many flower heads as you can (ideally about 100) from a pesticide free area well away from roads. If you've got some in your garden, even better! Try to do this on a sunny day when the flowers are open.
As ever when foraging, make sure you are absolutely sure what you're picking. There are some look-a-likes of dandelions, make sure you check exactly what you've found first. The one you're after has an unbranching hollow stem from a rosette of leaves.

Cut the ends off the flowers with a knife and remove the green sepals. They are edible, but they'll make the syrup more of a muddy colour. Put the petals in a sieve. This step takes a lot of patience, so don't hurry it. Probably best done outside with a nice glass of something summery.

Rinse the petals and add to a pan with just enough water to cover them. Turn on a low heat until it reaches boiling point, then remove from the heat, put a lid on and leave overnight to infuse. If you've not got time, you could simmer the petals for 20 minutes instead.

Strain the liquid and weigh it. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Add the same weight of white sugar as liquid to your pan, and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Continue simmering until the liquid becomes syrupy. This took about half an hour for me.

Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and keep any opened ones in the fridge.

You can use the syrup as a cordial, poured over pancakes or add hot water for a soothing drink. Apparently, you an also add some pectin and keep boiling the syrup to make dandelion jam. A project for another day!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Dandelion Tea

I've been in need of a bit of a spring time tonic lately, so thought I'd make use of a plant that is permanently taking over my garden. Dandelions.

I'm no expert when it comes to nutrition and the properties of plants, but I do remember that an alternative and rather less charming name for dandelions is piss-a-bed! It's a handy reminder that dandelions have long been known as a diuretic, and act as a cleanser on the body. The whole plant is edible - roots, leaves and flowers. Apparently, it is a good source of Vitamin A and K and various other vitamins and minerals. See here for a fuller description.

To make my tea, I just pick about 10 young leaves, tear them into pieces and pour on boiling water leaving it to brew for about 5 minutes before straining. I like to add a drop of lemon juice for a fresher flavour.

Healthy, tasty and counts as weeding my garden!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Thanks Mum

It's my second Mothering Sunday since Alice was born, and I've been treated like a queen by my husband. You could argue that our mothering is something that should be celebrated year round, and it is for us, but I think it's nice to have a day when we can really focus on what we're grateful for.

I got thinking about my own mum and what a huge impact she's had on my journey as a mother. One of the many things I am grateful for is that she breastfed me until I was 18 months old until the day I said 'No gack', and that was that. I don't have any clear memories of her feeding me, but she often told me fond memories of how I fed, and I was brought up knowing that breastfeeding was not only normal and natural, but that it felt great too. Having her example before me as I started out as a mother, I never even considered formula as an option, and never doubted my ability to feed my baby. I'm sure that confidence is often half the battle when it comes to breastfeeding, and having a positive role model on the end of the phone boosted that confidence no end.

She had me at a time when she'd moved away from family, to a small town with few friends around her. She didn't read books on child rearing or take much advice from others (I am grateful for it!) but she mothered according to her instincts. She tells me now that she often felt as if she was doing it wrong. She fed me on demand and to get me to sleep. I was a fussy baby who frequently cried, and she would hold me rather than leave me to cry it out. Now I am raising Alice in much the same way, she says that she has come to realised that the way she did things weren't so bad after all!

I'm also grateful for the respectful way she raised me. There was no 'Because I said so" in our relationship. I was treated with the same consideration as an adult, and felt I would always be listened to. That feeling is something I hope Alice also experiences. My feelings, however odd, were validated rather than ridiculed. When I had a phase of nightmares, my parents' bed was always open to me, and always felt like a safe haven. When I struggled at school, my mum always took my side and recognised that sick days weren't always about physical illness, but mental welfare too. She was (and is) a fixer of things, and she'd take an interest in any problem I brought to her. She eased my path through my childhood, and is still doing it now I'm an adult.

We speak every day, usually more than once, and see each other every fortnight. She's my closest friend, and a wonderful grandmother to Alice. If I can be proud of any part of my mothering, it's because I was mothered so well myself. Thanks mum.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Sewing fun!

A shameless show off post today. After months of inactivity, my sewing machine has whirred back into life. I've made a very simple drawstring bag to hold Alice's friend's first birthday present. It's my first attempt at appliqué since I was in school, so I'm quite pleased!

And as we're basking in beautiful Spring sunshine, I thought Alice could do with a new hat. It's reversible, and the purple side is waterproof. Handy for our unpredictable weather! It's a bit wonky in places, but I'm very proud of it, and Alice likes it a lot.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

My daughter, my teacher.

It is often said that nothing can prepare you for parenthood. It didn't stop me from trying as hard as I could . My husband and I went to NCT prenatal classes, I read books and visited websites and forums gleaning knowledge wherever I could. I began to feel that I may be able to manage being a mum. I knew what was important to me: Make sure the baby doesn't come in your bed or you'll never get them to sleep on their own, establish a flexible routine early on, feed on demand (roughly every 3-4 hours), use a bouncy chair to occupy the baby while you get on around the house.

Then Alice arrived.

A peaceful birth followed by months of anything but peace. Any slight discomfort was enough to send her screaming. For weeks it seemed as if the only time she was content was if she was suckling. I struggled to put her down for more than a few seconds. I ended up wearing her often in a sling, and just sitting holding her much of the rest of the time. When reading The Continuum Concept by the late Jean Liedloff, I felt so grateful to my opinionated little girl that she had made her needs so patently obvious.

Desperation and exhaustion led us to cosleeping less than a week after the birth, and I began to research to see just how dangerous the practice was. To my delight, I discovered Three in a Bed by Deborah Jackson, and realised that bed sharing was actually preferable to having my baby in a cot.

After some poor advice from my health visitor which resulted in my attempting to only feed every 2 hours rather than every half hour, Alice became truly hysterical, struggled to latch as I had become so engorged, and promptly threw up her entire feed in spectacular fashion. I quickly learnt that feeding on demand really does mean feeding as often as the baby demands.

Even now, Alice makes her feelings known very clearly, although thankfully she's beginning to find alternatives to bellowing at the top of her lungs. At times, it is exhausting, but I'm thoroughly grateful. I believe she is demanding what is best for all babies, to be held close and understood. As my head was filled with 'parenting advice' more subtle cues would undoubtedly have passed me by. Through her high needs, I have learnt to be a better mother than I would have been with a more placid child. We are learning together.

Friday, 11 March 2011

DIY finger paints

Thought I'd share a fun little activity we did today. It was very easy to do and kept Alice enthralled for ages.

As usual, there are lots of how to guides on-line. This is my combination of them!

Mix about 2 tbsp cornflour with a tbsp cold water until it forms a paste. This in itself is fun to play with as it forms a suspension. Hard when you apply pressure, then liquid when you let it go. Alice isn't old enough to understand the fun of this yet, but I enjoyed it! Anyway, on with the paint!

Add a cup of boiling water to the mix and stir quite vigourously until it gets gloopy like wallpaper paste. If it's not playing ball, heat it gently in a saucepan, stirring all the time.

Decant your mixture into separate pots and add small quantities of food colouring to each. I think I played it too safe as the colours we made were very pale. It's a good idea to paint on a heavy weight paper too as if your child is anything like mine, they'll be pretty much ladeling on the paint and thinner paper gets crinkly.

It's non toxic, but probably could stain depending on how much colouring you use. Scruffy clothes are a good option for this!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Good Girl

I'm committed to gentle parenting (although I admit, I slip up pretty often,) but sometimes my resolve waivers. It's not easy swimming upstream. If I were to take a more controlling parenting path, which thanks to my bossy personality would be very easy for me to do, wouldn't life be easier? Ignoring tantrums may cause a child to repress big feelings, but then don't we all do that to some extent? Not having to deal with stares and tuts would be a real benefit. Making Alice apologise if she snatches or pushes, reminding her to say please and thank you on cue. Little niceties like that would make her seem so much more appealing to others, and would reflect well on me too. When she's older, if I made it clear I was the boss, and expected no talking back, she'd be far less challenging than a child who speaks her mind.

All this may be true. I do sometimes look at the archetypal 'good' child, and regret that the way I am bringing Alice up is unlikely to produce such a paragon. We may think we've come a long way from the Victorian tenet that children should be seen and not heard, but in reality, that's still what we imagine to be a good child. One who doesn't interrupt when the grown ups are talking. One who parrots stock phrases, regardless of his true feelings. One who obeys without question 'Because I said so.'

In answer to my original question, yes life probably would be easier. For me. But when I became a parent, my priorities shifted. It's not about me any more. It is my responsibility to guide my daughter to become a happy, well adjusted adult. We don't value blind obedience in adults, nor do we appreciate falseness. If I am to help her to become a woman who is confident in accepting and dealing with her feelings, I have to show her that I accept them. I don't want her to be polite out of habit or sense of duty, I want her to do it because she respects her fellow human beings.

While Alice is still growing up, she may be vocal about her feelings, she may not conform to social expectations. The choices we've made as parents are unlikely to be the easy option, but it's my hope that they will help her to become a confident, empathetic, free thinking woman.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Dyeing Playsilks

Since reading up a bit on Steiner Waldorf education, I've started to think more carefully about the toys Alice plays with. Some toys are quite prescriptive and can only be played with in a particular way. They have limited value to a child's imagination. The best sort of toys (in my opinion) are ones which can become whatever the child imagines! Blocks of wood can form walls, chairs, steps or countless other things. Play silks are another good example, able to become tents, capes, bedclothes or to dance with. You can buy a whole range of beautifully coloured silks, but I have been a bit put off by the cost of them. I was so excited when I came across a post on Natural Mamas forum giving information on where to buy plain silk scarves, and how to dye your own with food colouring! There are lots of guides about how to do this, so I've muddled through using a combination of a few. Here's what I did:

Put the silks in a bowl of very hot water with some vinegar. The vinegar acts as the mordant, allows the dye to fix properly. You need to leave this for at least 20 minutes.

In a glass or ceramic bowl, (plastic stains and metal does something funny - not sure what but was advised to avoid!) mix half a cup of vinegar with 2 cups of very hot water, and enough food colouring to get a dark colour. I used about 15 drops to get the colour above. Make sure you use synthetic colours. The natural colours apparently are less effective for dyeing. You can mix colourings too to get the colour you want.

Put the scarf in the bowl and ensure it is completely covered in the dye. Cover the bowl with clingfilm, and place in the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stir, allow to sit for a few minutes (very important. See my notes below!) then repeat until there is hardly any colour in the water. It will probably take between 9 and 12 minutes in the microwave in total.

Carefully remove from the bowl, and rinse in cold water before wringing out and drying.

Here are my colours! They are a bit splodgy in places, but I quite like the home-made look. It nice to know they are an individual set!

Unfortunately, I was a bit hasty. I didn't allow the bowl to sit for long between stirring, and it didn't agree with my microwave! After my third silk, I realised the microwave was no longer actually heating. I put the remaining two silks in the same dye mix in covered glass casserole dishes, and put them in an oven at 180° for about half an hour. The red one looked great, but I think the oven heat didn't agree with the green as it went a bit funny coloured with splodges. Alice didn't seem to mind though. She's been playing with them non stop. That's worth a broken microwave I think!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Why I Won't Be Using Time Out

The use of 'Time Out' as a method of discipline seems to be almost universal these days. It comes in various forms: steps, spots, corners and chairs where the 'naughty' child has to stay for a period of time. It is not a method I use, and I am confident that I never will. Here's why.

The heart of Time Out is separation. The child is removed from the rest of the family as their behaviour is unacceptable. Yet a three year old is more likely to interpret this separation as because they themselves are innately unacceptable. I fully believe that when you feel bad, you behave badly, so a child who feels naughty is likely to behave that way.

Proponents of the technique argue that it allows the child time to reflect on their bad behaviour. I think this is hopelessly overoptimistic. Anger, frustration and tiredness are often at the root of misbehaviour. In such a state it is hard for a child to think logically about the consequences of their actions. Think about times in your childhood when you were sent to your room. If you lay on your bed thinking "I see now that the behaviour I showed was inappropriate. I shall try to improve in future." you had greater control of your emotions than I do as an adult! My thoughts veered wildly between believing myself to be the most hard done by child ever to have lived, seething anger at my parents or crushing guilt and self loathing (I was a dramatic child, but you get the picture!).

An added twist, which has gained popularity, is making the child apologise before finishing their time out. It makes sense to our adult minds. A wrong has been committed, punishment served, and to wrap it all up nicely, forgiveness is sought and given. I doubt very much that many of the apologies offered are anything like genuine. Sitting stewing in emotions such as those I mentioned previously is unlikely to foster heartfelt regret. What is a parent to do? Accept a sullen 'Sorry!' and move on, or utter the immortal phrase "Say it like you mean it!" What does that teach a child? To lie more convincingly if they are to be accepted back into the family again? To repress their true feelings to save themselves from further punishment? Neither the muttered apology or the seemingly sincere one are of any true value, and may well be damaging.

So what can you do? Let's face it, sometimes children misbehave. It's our job as parents to guide them, and to help our families work harmoniously. Children are inexperienced at dealing with big feelings. They need a helping hand, so removing them from the situation, and staying with them shows they are accepted warts and all even when their actions are not. From this position of security, they have a better chance of facing up to their behaviour and learning how to change it.

Out of the terrifyingly confusing morass of parenting advice, I carry one mantra. In fact it's a good one for life in general. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If I was in the child's position, I know how I would want to be treated, and it wouldn't involve Time Out.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Body of a mother

It is probably safe to say that from time to time, most women worry about how they look. Whether it's a wrinkled neck, chunky thighs or spotty skin, there's usually something that makes us feel bad about ourselves. I am no exception. There are days when I avoid mirrors and flirt with the idea of a diet, but since becoming a mum, those days are few and far between. Almost as soon as I knew I was pregnant, I began to feel more comfortable with myself. Of course my waistline was expanding, I was growing a whole new person! Silently, miraculously, I was forming a baby. Cells were developing and tissue was created inside me without any conscious direction. How could I view my body with disgust when it was doing such a wondrous job?

After the birth, my skin sagged around my stomach, my breasts constantly leaked and one was significantly larger than the other! The rush of hormones played havoc with my skin. I know all this, and yet I had never felt so secure in myself. My body had done as it was meant to. It had performed the miracle that happens every day all over the world, and I felt beautiful.

As time has passed, I sometimes lose that secure feeling, but Alice soon restores it. Yesterday, I was cuddling her on the sofa and she began pointing out moles on my arms. For each one she saw, she'd joyfully crow "Mole!" and give it a kiss. They weren't blemishes to her. They were a part of her mummy, and she loved them.

I am starting to value my body for how it serves me rather than how it looks. I feel my legs and back growing stronger than they ever have as I carry Alice in the mei tai. My breasts provide her with food, drink and a boost to her immune system. I am grateful for my health and that I am able to look after my daughter well. Somehow, in the face of this new found respect, my hang ups about appearance have all but faded away. I'm starting to be happy with who I am, inside and out.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

As my little girl is rapidly growing older, I thought it was time to start thinking about how to deal with behaviour. I'm convinced that I want to avoid rewards or punishments, but this is virgin territory for me. How do you confront challenging behaviour without either carrot or stick?
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk was a title that I'd heard recommended in a number of blogs and forums, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm so glad I did!

It's a very easy read, and even comes complete with cartoons to illustrate the key points! It reads like a manual and is very firmly grounded in the practical application of the tools it offers. In fact, the authors even set assignments and exercises to complete, and exhort you to actually write your responses. Their background is in parenting workshops, and reading this book made me feel I had attended one. I particularly appreciated the numerous references to when parents, and even the authors themselves, get it wrong and how it is possible to put right your inevitable slip ups. This is a book written for fallible human beings and unique, complex relationships, not for textbook, theoretical families.

The authors clearly regard children in a positive light. It's a far cry from the conventional attitude that children are basically bad and need cajoling to become socially acceptable. Instead, the approach is unremittingly respectful and relies on developing good relationships within a family where all members can speak freely and solve problems together.

A revelation for me was that it is acceptable, even essential, that we show our true emotions to our children. I have somehow always felt that certain feelings, especially anger, should be hidden, and the goal of a good parent should be to maintain a calm appearance. I realise now how dangerous this could be. You run the risk firstly of overreacting when all those suppressed feelings finally explode out of you, or perhaps worse, you pass on the message to your child that strong emotions are unacceptable and must be hidden away. The book provides practical ways in which we can acknowledge our anger, and model good ways to deal with it.

A comment at the end of the book really struck me. The authors identify learning their skills with learning a new language "To learn a new language is not easy. For one thing, you will always speak with an accent. . . . But for your children, it will be their native tongue!" (p271) Making the effort to sidestep the generally accepted methods of raising children has an impact not only on our relationship with them, but also on their relationships with others. We are providing them with the tools to communicate effectively. I can think of few better gifts I could give my daughter than that.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Sourdough loaf: The first attempt

Just over a week after starting my sourdough starter, it was finally ready to use. Full of bubbles, and smelling sweet and quite winey, I couldn't wait to start.

I made a sponge using some of the starter, flour and warm water, then left it in the airing cupboard. By the end of the day, it was bubbly and ready to use.

More flour and some oil got added to the sponge to make the dough. I enjoyed the rhythmic, repetitive task of kneading, although if pushed for time in future, I may use the dough blades on my mixer.

The dough then rose in the airing cupboard overnight.

I knocked back the dough, and put it into my makeshift breadbasket to rise a second time before putting it in a hot, steamy oven.

And here's the result!

I'm going to fiddle about with how to form the dough, as this was a little flat and wide, and I'm looking to find ways to make it less dense. A brief look on-line has shown me just how much of an art this is, one that takes years to perfect. Having said that, I'm delighted with the first attempt, and the taste is fantastic. I'm definitely hooked!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

The past few days haven't been plain sailing for me and Alice. She's endlessly teething, and getting frustrated if I don't understand her attempts to speak. Little things are of cataclysmic importance to her. Heaven forbid I cut a piece of food for her that she wanted whole, or put the left shoe on before the right. She's less tolerant of other children than usual, and if someone so much as brushes past her, she collapses in tears. She seems perpetually frustrated and angry.

Me? I'm fine. Honestly.

I thought I was fine until I went upstairs to the bathroom, and caught sight of myself in the mirror. Reflected back at me was a frowning face with a deep furrow between the eyes, and a turned down mouth. I honestly looked like a villain from a Disney film. Quickly, I made the effort (and it was an effort) to relax the muscles in my face. I took some deep, slow breaths and closed my eyes before heading back downstairs to my already wailing child. Almost as soon as she saw me, I noticed a change in her behaviour. Her tight little muscles began relaxing and her movements became less jerky. It was obvious that my display of physical ease and contentment was affecting her own feelings.

Now I'm not going to pretend that all has been plain sailing since. She has her own feelings regardless of mine, but my efforts to control how I displayed myself to her seemed to break the cycle of stress. Imagine you had to spend all day with a person who looked pained and even resentful. Even the most buoyant of characters would find it hard to stay happy under those circumstances. Being more aware of my body language and facial expressions not only makes me feel more relaxed and positive, but it has a similar effect on Alice too. It's a significant step towards turning a negative cycle into a positive one.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Something for nothing

Getting something for nothing is great. When that something is a nourishing stock that provides the base for countless tasty dishes, it's even better. After a difficult day, I found making a batch somehow eased my tensions. Everything in it would otherwise have been thrown away. Tops of leeks, a bendy carrot and a few sticks of elderly celery, outer cabbage leaves, a few leaves of lettuce left over from lunch, a slightly soft onion and broccoli 'trunks.' A couple of bay leaves and a few whole peppercorns and Bob's your uncle. You may be tutting at me and thinking that I should have planned my meals better to use up every veggy available, but I defy anyone not to forget the odd bit of vegetation at the back of the fridge. Stock is an easy and useful way to make use of every last leaf and root.

If we have any meat on the bone, it will always be turned into stock. I eat meat, but I am always aware that an animal died to provide me with food. I think it is therefore important to make the most of it. It makes financial sense too. I only buy free range meat, and preferably organic too, so it is a hefty portion of our food budget and needs to be appreciated. A rich, dark chicken stock adds lots of flavour to an otherwise uninspiring meal.

Making food for a baby means using little or no added salt, so stock cubes are a no-no. I like to make a big batch of stock and freeze smaller portions ready to defrost when needed. Thrifty, tasty and simple.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Unexpected Opposition

At 17 months old, Alice is still a fairly frequent feeder at home, but in public, she's usually too busy to want to nurse. Oddly enough, when she does want to feed, I find myself heading to more secluded places. Not because I'm embarrassed to NIP, (quite the opposite!) but because she needs to have peace and quiet to feed well, and perhaps help her to nap. On a couple of recent occasions I have taken her to a baby feeding room in our local shopping centre.

I have been fortunate to have never experienced negative comments when feeding Alice in public before, so it came as a surprise to receive my very first from fellow breastfeeders. On two occasions, as I have latched Alice on, I have looked up to see a woman nursing her own baby with a horrified expression, and have been asked "How old is she?!" with an incredulous tone. One lady told me that her husband had said she needed to stop feeding her two month old soon otherwise he'd get too attached. She said she wanted to feed until three months "but no longer, or I'll end up with a nightmare like you!" Another woman asked me "shouldn't she be eating solid food instead by now?"

These comments bothered me far more than they would have done coming from other people. I wondered why they were judging me in a way that others hadn't. I think in part it is because of their own insecurities about nursing babies. I've been fortunate in that I have been well supported by family and friends. I attend a La Leche League group, and know my stuff when it comes to the benefits of breastmilk. Many women are not so fortunate. They feed in the knowledge that 'breast is best' or because they have a deep biological desire to nourish their child, but negative comments can get you down. Seeing a woman still happily breastfeeding well past the 1 month, 3 month or 6 month target they've set themselves must be threatening. When we're threatened, we often attack. I think that the disapproval they showed me was as a result of that they they had received.

Although my experiences were a little disheartening, and I must admit they made me a little more self conscious about pulling my top down to feed, I have been spurred on to continue NIP wherever Alice wants to, and to make sure I answer negativity with positivity and confidence. Hopefully, it won't be too long before nursing an older baby, toddler or child becomes a more common and accepted sight.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Carry On Carrying

Not too long ago, I wrote a post explaining how I had started to use a pushchair as Alice was getting too heavy to be carried. Reading it back, I can tell how much this upset me, but thought this was the way it had to be. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to meet Angela a couple of months ago who gave me hope that maybe my babywearing days were not quite over. She has a business making and selling a variety of beautiful slings, and still wears her 4 year old if the occasion demands it. I was inspired. I persevered with the BabyHawk, but it was too short for my lanky toddler. Angela let me try out one of her toddler mei tais, and the difference was astounding. I had no hesitation in asking her to make me my own. An unexpected bonus is that now Alice associates the sleep hood with sleeping, so even if she's awake, she'll rest her head on my back and close her eyes when I pull it up. I can carry her for at least and hour and a half before I need a break.

My brief hiatus in babywearing has made me appreciate the benefits even more. These are the key advantages I've noticed:

Improved social interaction - Not only do I find I talk and sing more directly to Alice when I'm carrying her, she's also more involved in the daily interactions I have with others. She's on a level where she can hear the speech and closely observe the facial expressions of people we meet.

Better bonding - I don't think I am alone in finding the toddler stage difficult at times. Wearing Alice gives us physical closeness that somehow translates to feeling emotionally close again. However angry I have become, I find it melts away after a little time of carrying her.

Calming for the child - My strong willed little girl has some big emotions to deal with, and like many toddlers, she sometimes finds them frightening. Securely held against my body enables her to feel safe and allows her to relax again.

Confidence building - Carrying a toddler shows them how important they are to you. You are making it clear that you want to be close to them, and this must inevitably have a positive impact on the way they view themselves.

Convenience - As Alice increasingly wants to walk, I can pop the carrier in my bag and get it out again when she's tired. I am no longer barred from shops with heavy doors and steps, or narrow aisles, I can head up escalators rather than searching out the lift, and I can pick my way through woods, beaches and fields with no problems!

Those are my reasons I'm so glad to be babywearing again. Let me know if you think of anything I've missed!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Our Daily Bread

Here's a little game for you. What's this?

Not particularly beautiful is it? Well, it is to me. It's the start of something I've been meaning to do for a while, and I'm very excited about it.

It's my first attempt at a sourdough starter so that I can bake my own bread. For the uninitiated, the idea is that you mix flour and water, and cross your fingers in hope that airborne yeasts will ferment the mixture. From these humble beginnings, you can keep taking portions of the starter to make your bread. You then 'feed' the starter daily with flour and water, and keep it in a warm place.

I've no idea if this first attempt will work, but I have a good feeling. As I whisked the mixture into a thick consistency, I imagines all the loaves that it would one day help to form. All the sandwiches, bread and butter puddings, golden breadcrumbs and crunchy slices of toast. Despite the rather unappealing look of the starter, my mouth was already watering.

Only time will tell if it will ferment as it should. It's currently nestled in the airing cupboard, surrounded by towels and bedlinen, looking a little out of place. Hopefully, this will be the perfect place to encourage those yeasts to perform their magic.

If I get this right, I'm hoping that good quality, slow risen bread will be on the menu every day in our house.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Apple printing

It's my Grandmother's birthday this week, and I decided it would be nice to send her a picture painted by Alice. I thought we'd have a go at potato prints, but we ate our last potato yesterday (we aren't as impoverished as that sounds, our veg box is due to arrive tomorrow!). I raided the fruit bowl and found a rather sad looking apple that was going to become a crumble. Looks like it had a higher purpose!

Here are my top tips for potato (or apple!) printing with a toddler.

Get prepared Use a wipe clean floor or a large shower curtain taped to the carpet, and have a damp cloth close at hand. Make sure you and your little artist are wearing clothes that can get a little painty.

Make the printing blocks the right size They need to be be chunky enough to make a good clear print, but not too big for little hands to hold. About 7cm across is probably a good guide.

Keep the paper still Stick the paper to the floor with tape. I'd suggest using a few sheets of paper or one big one, as toddlers like lots of room to work with.

Model how to do it After some initial goes of smearing the apple around the page, I showed Alice how to bash the apple down and pull it straight up. She enjoyed hearing the sound it made, and we got some quite effective prints.

Use a range of colours It looks lovely to have more than one colour per print. You could also try adding a little glitter.

Relax! As with all art with small children (or anyone really) don't worry if it doesn't fit your idea of a good picture. If they are happier smearing paint around rather than making clear prints, let them. It's all about them enjoying themselves and experimenting. This is their picture. Have your own piece if you want to get creative, but allow them to find their own way.

Monday, 7 February 2011


I've had a difficult few days lately. Poor Alice is going through the mill. She's seems to be constantly tired, but fighting sleep and her favourite word is NO! which tends to be shouted in my face. We just don't seem to be getting on well.

I got to the end of the day yesterday after finally getting her to sleep at nearly 10pm, and the thought popped into my mind

I wish this whole day had never happened

Almost immediately, I realised how foolish and ungrateful this was. If in ten years time, or even five years, I was given the opportunity to live that day again, I am certain I would jump at the chance. It was a day that my daughter was 17 months old, I was able to cuddle and kiss her, to wipe her face after a meal and hold her hand as she tentatively walked downstairs. It was a day that I breastfed her and dressed her, gave her a bath and stroked her hair.

I will never have the chance to live that day again, and I should be grateful for it. It's been a comfort to me, and has given me perspective when all I want to do is run and hide.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Attention Span

When I was training to be a teacher, I was told to always remember how short children's attention spans are. A good rule of thumb, so the experts said, was to assume a child could concentrate for the same number of minutes as they were years old. To expect a five year old to concentrate on one task for longer than 5 minutes was asking for trouble.

I have been wondering lately if these minuscule attention spans are something we develop in our children rather than something that is innate. Have you ever watched a tiny child left to their own devices? One action can be repeated over and over. Sometimes they are delighted by it, sometimes frustrated, but it holds their attention and for much longer than the minute or two I was told we could reasonably expect from a child of their age.

As adults, this is sometimes hard to bear. The value of a task as insignificant as putting pebbles in a jar or making finger trails through sand is hard to appreciate. We might smile at the action for a few minutes, but it soon becomes tedious. We've got appointments to keep, rooms to tidy, 101 more useful tasks to be doing. Even if we do continue to play, we all too often feel the need to alter the game, maybe introducing other elements to keep our interest. It isn't the child's attention span that is lacking - its ours!

I imagine it doesn't take long for the child to realise that flitting from one task to the next is standard. What a shock it must be when they are suddenly expected to concentrate for a length of time on a task that doesn't interest them.

Being able to apply focussed attention is an important ability. It is through this that learning naturally develops. It should be our aim to foster this natural skill in our children and allow them time to explore their world in their own time.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Enjoying the Journey

This post has been a long time coming. I was thinking about it over Christmas but I've struggled to get my thoughts into order, so I hope this doesn't sound too garbled.

It started when I was reading
The Continuum Concept. I expected the book would give me insight into raising children (which it did) but I was surprised that it had perhaps more advice for my personal development. Briefly, Jean Liedloff describes the radically different attitudes of the Tauripan people and the Westerners she travelled with when faced with a difficult journey (pp. 23- 25). She observed that she and her Italian companions were "grim faced and hating every moment" whereas the Tauripan people were smiling, joking and seemingly enjoying the arduous task of carrying a canoe through the jungle. Liedloff puts this down to the difference in expectation. She had been dreading the journey whereas the native people lived in the moment. The expectations of individuals coloured their actual experience.

This has a huge impact on my attitude to raising Alice. Sometimes, I am so focussed on reaching the goal, that the journey seems like a hassle. I have been guilty of wishing away parts of her babyhood as I think about the next stage: I can't wait until she can talk, it will make life so much easier, When she stops needing milk feeds so often I'll be able to be so much more productive and many, many similar thoughts. By doing this I am in danger of missing out on a time that neither of us will ever be able to recover. Even though some stages may be tough, they are precious.

Alice herself has taught me more patience recently. She enjoys walking outside more often now, and stops at every pebble and piece of litter to examine them. Sometimes she even goes back a little to step on a particularly enthralling paving slab. My grown up mind is screaming in frustration. Doesn't she know we're going to the park? We've got to reach the end point so she can play! Then I realise how ridiculous that thought is. She is playing. She's enjoying every step of the journey. She's living it, and learning from it. Children are born knowing how to do this, but in our society it is all too frequently sapped away.

I want to allow her to continue feeling the joy in the journey, whether it's an actual journey from one place to another, or a task that needs completing. I realise that this means that I need to model the behaviour myself. As I wash the dishes I try to enjoy the process. I put on some music, feel the warm water and bubbles and I am ready to stop without rolling my eyes and huffing if Alice wants me to read her a book instead. I leave extra time to go out, and try to see the world as she does. It isn't easy. In fact, I think it's a job that might never be finished, but I'm enjoying the journey.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


It seems I'm starting a bit of an oats theme after yesterday's post!

Alice is like many toddlers. She prefers to graze throughout the day rather than sit down to three solid meals. It is sometimes hard to find snacks that are easy to take out and about but are also healthy. She has recently started enjoying oatcakes, but the bought ones all seem to contain fairly high salt levels, and they aren't that cheap to buy.

I've had a go at making some. I started with a few recipes, but I find this sort of thing better when you just throw in ingredients according to how it looks and feels, so if you want to try this out, use your judgement.

200g oats
2 tbsp plain flour
1/4 tsp salt (you could leave this out if you like, but I think a little is necessary)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp melted butter
A pinch of black pepper
Cold water

Put the oats, flour, salt, bicarb and melted butter into a food processor (or similar - a blender would probably work too). Blitz until the oats are broken down fairly finely.

Pour a little cold water at a time into the mixer while it's running until the mixture forms a stiff dough.

Remove the dough and knead it for a few minutes.

Roll out and cut out rounds. Put them on a greased baking tray and cook at around 200 for about 10 minutes, or until they are slightly brown around the edges.

Place on a wire rack to cool. Store them in an airtight container if they last that long!
I'm sure I'll be making these again. They'd be lovely with different herbs added, or even finely grated lemon of orange zest.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Natural relief for dry skin

Just a little post to pass on a favourite tip of mine.

Since being very little, Alice has had patches of quite dry skin and eczema. A trip to the doctor resulted in no less than 3 types of lotions and potions to try and clear it up. We dutifully used them for a while, but there was little real difference, and I became uneasy about using products packed with chemicals on her skin.

The only thing that has made a big difference to her skin after bath time has been oats. If she's having an eczema breakout, I put a tablespoon or two of oats into a piece of muslin, fold up the edges and tie with string to make a little parcel. I then pop this in the bath as it's running. It immediately makes the water cloudy, and squeezing the bag releases a gloopy liquid that is great to rub directly onto dry patches. I've found it good on my skin too if it dries out due to a combination of cold weather and central heating.

Cheap, natural and effective, it's worth a try.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Still Struggling

Over the past few months, I've learnt a few things.
  • A negative pregnancy test remains negative however much you squint at it, hold it in different lights or however close you hold it to your eye.
  • Stomach cramps may not herald the imminent return of a period, ovulation is about to occur or be conclusive proof that conception has happened.
  • Taking lots of pregnancy or ovulation tests, stroking your belly and thinking obsessively about conceiving don't make your chances of conception any higher.
  • Bad moods are more likely to be due to grey skies and the end of Christmas than a sign of PMT or pregnancy.

Despite the good intentions I discussed in my previous post, I've not managed to totally relax about our attempts to get pregnant. I think about it almost constantly. I've decide I really must get this in check, not only for my peace of mind, but for Alice too.

Some time ago, a friend with three children suggested you should consider every child you have to be your last. At the time, I didn't realised how wise this advice was. By thinking so much about the next pregnancy, birth and baby, I'm in danger of missing the stages Alice is going through. Regardless of whether I have another child, another 3 or no more at all, I want to enjoy Alice's development as much as I can. As I was reading Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner yesterday, this quote leapt of the page "If we can turn loose of our yearning to control what is out of our control, we'll have a chance to enjoy the blessings we have." (p56)

Unfortunately, my desire for another child seems to be more of a emotional need than an intellectual one, and so far however much I rationalise I find myself still struggling. It's good to have a challenge though I suppose.