Thursday, 21 November 2013

What I wish I'd known about toddlerdom before I got here

So, here is my post that's all about things about having a toddler that books can't prepare you for, no matter how many you read.

I don't care that we are going out in five minutes, I want to go out NOW

1.  The tantrum that you thought would end all tantrums will be worse later.

OK, they've just starting toddling and thus they are a toddler.  They throw a tantrum because you said they couldn't have more banana or because you said they couldn't walk round the supermarket and should sit in the trolley.  It is horrific.  They shout, they scream, they hit their fists on the floor and dig in their heels and you can't imagine it will get any worse.  Here's the problem though, they are quite small just now but they will be a toddler till they are at least three, they will get bigger, they will get stronger and they will get better at knowing how to push your button, they are clever, you see.

That said, my experience is that the tantrums get less frequent, as they child becomes slightly (only slightly) more rational, they stop being an every day occurrence BUT when they do occur, they get even more horrific.  Sorry.

2.  As an adult you have to learn that toddlers are not often rational

"Mummy, the ball is round, I want it to be square"
"Mummy, I want to splash in puddles but not get wet"
"Mummy, I want to bake a cake even though you don't have any eggs"
"Mummy, I know I kept you up all night but I now need you to be fun [read energetic]"
"Mummy, this pen won't wipe off my hand"
"Mummy, this ice cube is cold"

These are all real examples of things my toddler has been upset about.  When we first hit toddlerdom I thought I would be able to reason with her, explain to her, help her be rational.  Not so.  And toddlers shouldn't be rational because the whole point about this phase is that they are working out how the world works and how they relate to it.  It is healthy to go through it and it would be unhealthy for them to stay as a baby and never go through this.

3.  It is tiring. No, scrap that, it's exhausting.

The baby phase is physically exhausting, all those night feeds and cuddling, settling, pram pushing and soothing and it is a good thing that it passes but I have found that the next stage is emotionally draining and as such just as exhausting, albeit in a different way.

There is only so much time you can spend in the company of someone who climbs on you, moans at you, doesn't listen to you, fights the simplest of instruction but also likes to be right under your elbow at all times before it takes its toll and you want/need a break.  You know what? That's alright and I recommend you find a way to get some time out. (This looks different for different people, for me it is running for others it is a nap, whatever it is, find your way to rest.)

4.  There's no "right" way to deal with things.

No matter what the books say or your supernanny types like to spout, there is no right way to do things and it is all a bit trial and error.  Also, things might work for a while but always be prepared to adapt.  For a long time we did time out and it worked well but lately I have noticed that it has left me focussing on the negative and making me shouty.  I am about to change to more of a reward chart (well jar) based coping strategy so that I spend more time focussing on the positive and rewarding what is good rather than punishing what is bad.

On this subject, my one top tip is to know that you cannot change your toddler but you can change yourself.  The days that my toddler(s) are least compliant and most naughty are the days that *I* am tired and *I* am grumpy.  Choosing to be calm and rational myself creates an environment where others are calm and rational (even the two year olds).

5.  It WILL get easier

If you are reading this because you have found yourself thrown into a pit of toddler tantrums and unreasonableness then please know, it WILL get easier.  I am by no means out of it (not least of all as I went and had another baby!!) but I can see it easing, changing, become less of a constant battle zone.  It's true what they say, this too shall pass!  It might be hard and I think you can speed the process by engaging with it rather than ignoring it and hoping it will just disappear, but it will pass.

Monday, 18 November 2013

You know you are a parent to two toddlers when...

Miriam is desperately close to toddling and much of her behaviour is already morphing into toddler type stuff so here is my list of ways you know you have two (or more) toddlers in the house.

1.  Phrases like "Don't use your sister as a pillow" just slide off the tongue and don't seem particularly odd.

2.  You have seriously considered installing a button you can push that would just say "be gentle", "be kind" and "leave her alone" so you didn't have to say them constantly, all day, every day.

3.  The very idea of trying to teach your children to share sends shivers down your spine, you know you need to but have considered that it might be easier just to buy two of everything.

4.  Your children are growing so fast that it is impossible to keep them in clothes that actually fit.  As a result they wear 3/4 length trousers all year round and dresses stop only just below the buttocks despite this not having been your intention.

5.  Despite the fact you buy them EVERY single time you venture near a supermarket, you never have enough bananas in the house.  Or milk.

6.  You have considered a career change to police negotiator as even securing the release of hostages must be easier than persuading your children to wear a coat on a cold day or to eat their green beans.

7.  The sound of silence causes you to be more afraid than words can convey.  Just what are they getting up to...

8.  If your child spontaneously says please or thank you you feel a simultaneous sense of pride and a wondering of why they never do that for you...

9.  You constantly wonder just how bad your cauliflower cheese must taste that it will be refused but mud and sticks will be eaten while playing outside.

10.  You love your children more than words could express but this is easiest to remember when you are standing in their room, just before you go to bed, watching them sleep.

Friday, 4 October 2013


This is a great craft for Autumn, not least of as it is next to free and another activity is collecting the leaves in the first place!

What you need:
Glue (PVA is best but you could just use a glue stick if you wanted)

What you do:
Stick! Job done

How you can make it better:
Draw a tree trunk on the page and decorate your tree

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Normal doesn't mean easy

I am about to have a rant.  Feel free to comment if you life but the main point of this post is just to rant and get my feelings out.

I am dealing with a few issues just now and all of  them are very, VERY normal.

1.  I live in a town where I have no friends.  I have met lots of really lovely people and I look forward to getting to know them better but right now they don't know much more about me than my name, how many children I have and that I moved here recently.  My really good friends live in Aberdeenshire or Loughborough. And you know what, I am lonely.  Really lonely.  So lonely it makes me cry sometimes.  This is normal, we've not long moved here and missing the people I have deep relationships with is normal.  Wishing I could just pop round and say hello is normal.  Feeling down and wishing I could have coffee with them is normal.

2.  My children fight.  Constantly.  With each other and with me.  Now that Miriam can move Naomi gets upset that her toys are stolen but equally doesn't understand that Miriam can't really play with her yet.  Naomi doesn't listen to a thing I say from the beginning of the day to the end, unless I am offering her cake.  This is normal, she is two.  She is working out the world doesn't revolve around her and she is sad about it.  It is normal that Miriam wants to explore her sister's toys and doesn't understand that Naomi thinks they are all hers.

3.  I am exhausted.  This is normal, I have two small children and I am with them constantly as neither of them have any childcare so I look after them morning, noon and night seven days a week.  At this point in life I shouldn't expect to feel anything other than tired.

The thing is, though.  Just because it is normal doesn't make it easy.  Just because it is normal for my two year old to go through a phase of refusing to use a knife and fork doesn't mean I shouldn't try and make her at least try.  Just because it is normal for me to feel lonely when  my friends live so far away doesn't make it any easier for me to get through each day longing for deeper relationships and doesn't mean I should just get over it and stop feeling low.

I have stopped telling people about my difficulties, at least not so much as I feel all I get is a platitude of "it's normal".  It is normal, and that provides a small amount of comfort that my problems aren't of a magnitude that can't be dealt with but it doesn't change anything, not least of all that life feels a bit tiring, challenging and difficult right now and I feel like I genuinely need help, be it advice or 10 minutes off in a day and don't know where to get it.

Anyway, we'll get through this phase, like we've got through every other and move on to the next "normal" problem.

Monday, 26 August 2013

An Open Letter to GP practices everywhere

It must be really annoying when people say they have an emergency when they clearly don't but let me go some way to explain why.  Here is an account of what happened for me this morning....

At each of these times I phoned my GP practice

7:58 : "Your practice is closed, please phone back after 8am"
7:59 : "Your practice is closed, please phone back after 8am"
7:59 : "Your practice is closed, please phone back after 8am"
8:00 : Engaged
8:01: Engaged
8:01: Engaged
8:01: Engaged
8:02 :

Me : "Hi, I'd like to make an appointment for my daughter"
GP : "We can give her an appointment next week, all the appointments for today are already gone"
Me : "Really?!"
GP : "If you feel it is an emergency you can bring her to the emergency clinic at 11am"
Me : "I wouldn't use the word emergency but I'd like her seen in the next couple of days
GP : "We don't have any appointments left"
Me : "I guess I'll bring her to the emergency clinic then"

Sort it out!!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Inexpensive date night ideas

My husband and I have a date night every week.  I couldn't recommend this highly enough, it means that every week there is one evening where we are both together and we have a rule that we don't do jobs on the computers or even look at our phones, we are just with each other.  Makes such a difference to our relationship.  Let's be realistic though, as much as we would like to go out more, we have children and don't have a never ending supply of babysitters so the vast majority of dates happen at home.  Therefore we try and think of different things to do so we don't just end up watching *another* movie that I will fall asleep half way through.  We are also on a budget, with this in mind I thought I'd share with you some of our date night activities that don't cost a fortune (I'm hoping these should all come in under £3) and I'm not including TV/movie watching as I think that's a little obvious and unimaginative!

1.  Games! We love scrabble and chess.  Sometimes we even just play connect four!  We sometimes get the Wii out and play some Mario cart or something like that.  The game doesn't matter but it is always a great conversation starter too, especially scrabble when you get to talk about the words being put down.

2.  Food!  We love food so sometimes I will buy us a treat, my latest favourite is to buy some camembert and nice bread (in Sainsburys a value camembert and a tiger baguette costs a total of £2.13)

3.  Baking! (We do love food a lot).  Sometimes we bake a cake together (and then eat it).  Last night was date night for us and we made bread together, we needed bread anyway but this way it was yummy and we had the fun of making it first.  Baking is essentially messy play for grown ups.

4. Reminiscing.  Get out the photos from holidays gone by or even just look at them on the computer (in this digital age). Remember all the fun you've had as a family, laugh at ridiculous outfits you've worn, recall the romantic nights out you've had or the places you used to frequent as a student.  This is one of my favourite things to do and as a bonus it is completely free!

5.  Massage.  Give each other a massage, if you want some oil but don't want to buy just use a little olive oil from the kitchen, it is a perfectly good option.  Set a timer and do however long you want each.  The great thing about this date night is often leads to other very fun *cough* marital activities ;-)

6.  Make plans together.  Plan that holiday you've always wanted to go on, think of the places you'd visit.  Or design your dream home together.  My husband and I like making up quizzes, sometimes a date night has just been making up a quiz for the fun of it!  You could even just imagine what it would be like to grow old together.

7.  I'm not sure this would work for me and my husband as we are into quite different kinds of books but have a book club for two.  Discuss what you like/don't like about a book or what challenged you or whatever you would normally discuss in a book club.

8. Set up a romantic cafe for yourselves.  Especially if it is summer and a bit warmer, get a candle lit and sit over a lovely cup of coffee (I always have nice coffee including decaf in so could make a latte style thing).  If your budget wasn't as tight as mine, get a bottle of wine or some beers in instead but still get sitting in a more romantic scene with candle or flowers or whatever.

9. Sex! While this is obvious, why not take some time to be more imaginative with positions or take longer over foreplay.  Make this more special than the odd quicky!!

Do you have your own suggestions? I'd love to hear, we need to fill 52 date nights a year, it's hard not to get bogged down in date night routine!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

My Issues with Baby Led Weaning

Having enjoyed some weetabix and banana for breakfast
This post has been rattling around in my head for ages and before I start typing it I would like to make the following disclaimer:

How you wean your baby is your decision and I believe there are pros and cons to all methods and I do think there is a lot to be said for baby led weaning (I use little bits of the concept myself) and I have dear friends who I love dearly who swear by it and I still love them despite anything I am about to say.

Weaning, it's another one of those contentious parenting issues isn't it.  That separates people into "good" parents and "bad" parents depending on what you do.  Do you use purees? Are they home made or do you used shop bought packets of puree? Do you start at four months? Wait till six? Or do you do baby led weaning?

In case you don't know the idea with baby led weaning is that babies eat lots of finger foods/things they can pick up.  They can munch on what they can manage and get all the rest of what they need from milk, as they get older and more proficient at eating they get more of there nutrients and substance from solid food and less from milk, it is so called because the baby sets the pace.

Here are my issues though...

The name!  Baby Led Weaning, and even more so when you think that BLW folks tend to refer to the alternative as spoon led weaning, makes it sound like having decided to spoon feed my children that I am force feeding them!  They still dictate when they have had enough, they are more than capable of communicating when they are done and we don't finish every meal that we start.

The idea that just because we are puree feeding we are chained to the kitchen making special foods for ever more.  In the early days we just pureed some of the veg that we were having in our dinner anyway and very quickly we progressed to just eating whatever the rest of us were having for dinner.  I think that Miriam was 5 months old when she had her first curry (a dinner she loves!) and she continues to just eat whatever the rest of us are having, just pureed to a texture and consistency she could manage.  Now that she is a little older it is normally just mushed up with a fork or increasingly I just put bits down for her to pick up for herself (there's that nod to baby led weaning from me)

My baby (both of them actually, but even more so Miriam) was ravenous, long before she was ready to do baby led weaning, she could hold her head up quite the thing but nowhere near being able to sit up.  And I don't just mean she was waking up more (I am well aware this isn't necessarily a sign that it is time to start weaning), I mean she was grumpy, she was obvious hungry and at meal times when the rest of the family ate she screamed her way through.  I started weaning at four months and if I had waited any longer I would have been subjecting everyone to a very sad two months, everyone was happier (not least of all her) when she starting having some extra food inside her belly.

I frequently hear that BLW is better for avoiding allergies, and I am happy to admit that I have no evidence that it isn't but I would love to see some evidence that it is!  As far as I can tell apart from delaying the age we wean at the only difference between what I feed my child and what a BLWer feeds their child is the form it is served in...  Maybe I am just lucky but both my puree fed children are completely allergy free!

Also, and this is a very minor issue, how do children who are exclusively given meals to pick at learn to use a knife and fork? (I know they must do but for my children it was just natural to start using the spoon when I left it sitting to get a mouthful of my own dinner and then progress from there to a fork...)

Mainly though. I think my issue comes down to the fact that I feel judged.  I feel like if you have chosen BLW that you think I am harming my children or doing it "wrong".  My children are happy, healthy, love fruit and veg, not overweight and don't eat lots of junk food so please can you try and adjust your language? Or maybe I just need one or to of the baby led weaning camp to tell me what beautiful children I have and tell me I must feed them lovely healthy food for them to be doing so well.  Because you know what? I do and they are!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Got to Dance?

With a toddler running around my feet and a baby needing lots of my time it can be very difficult to find things to do just for myself, however, the girls have been getting better at having one nap a day at the same time allowing me five minutes to put my feet up.  Often during this time I stick the telly on and recently I have been watching Sky One's "Got to Dance".  I like the fact it is a competition where people do it for the love of dance rather than a desire too get famous.  I like that it is gentle and I love that the kinds of dance are so wide and varied.

Today, though, I watched it and my heart broke.  A dance troop came on, it was entirely made up of 10 and 11 year old girls.  Little girls.  Precious little girls.  They put on their game faces and they danced, danced like their lives depended on it to the dance track, "I'm sexy and I know it".

Everything in me wanted to buy each child a doll and get them to sit down and play with playdough, or maybe to build a den.  They can play with cars for all I care, I don't buy into gender stereotypes  I'll be honest, they can even dance, they can do street dancing, I have no problems with that, I approve of them getting some physical exercise.  It was all about the song.

These children were not sexy, they were 10 and 11, no-one should even begin to think of them as sexy, least of all themselves.  They should be young, innocent, protected from such concepts and yet instead we get them running around a stage showing us how sexy they are.

Why are we so desperate for our girls to grow up? They will have years and years where they can be sexual beings (as one I can confirm it is rather a lot of fun) but don't make it start when they are 10.

Am I alone? Am I old-fashioned? Should I just accept that my little girls will be thrusting her groin when her age has only just hit double figures? Or should I help them stay young, innocent and pure for as long as I can?

I will be trying my best to shelter them for as long as I can, regardless of whether I should or not.  I will do everything I can to keep them children for all the time I can, as their mother I believe I owe them that much.