Friday, 2 August 2013

Does this make me....crunchy?

Remember way back when, at least a year ago now, I said I was going to try my hand at cloth nappies? A year on, I'm really happy to say that I didn't give up. Little Monster has been in cloth for (most of) his 18 months. I really wondered how it would turn out. Would they be less effective? Would I cope with the washing, especially after returning to work? I actually found out that the washing wasn't too bad. Even when I had to send Little Monster to nursery in disposables on nappy wash day, it still meant he was in cloth most of the time. And, for us at least, I found that we had fewer leaks with cloth than we had with disposables - especially in the earlier days before he was on solids. 

When we decided to try cloth it was really to save money and because the pictures of the amount of non-biodegradable landfill from a year's worth of nappies were a little terrifying. I'm not perfect, we still use disposables when we need to, but...eek...it's a scary picture.

Anyway, my U.S. friends have introduced me to the delightful expression 'crunchy'.

Crunchy. Adjective. Used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippies, tree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc. 

I don't think I could ever be described as politically strongly left-leaning..or vegetarian, vegan or eco-tarian...but I guess I have the odd crunch now and again and, ultimately, I'm a mum, and every penny counts. Which brings me to my latest experiment, homemade washing powder. I've been trying to figure out ways to cut back on our monthly spending recently and I've read really good things about homemade washing powder, especially for a family with a history of skin issues like we have with eczema.

After a lot of reading, I've purchased soda crystals, vegetable soap and borax replacement and produced two tubs of powder. (Really easy - grate soap, mix in the rest of the ingredients, voila!).
 

1kg Soda crystals - £1
1 bar of vegetable soap - 60p
1kg borax substitute - £5.27
Total - £6.87

These ingredients have made enough powder for about 70-75 washes. An example own-brand pack of non-bio washing capsules is £4.80 for 24 washes, so £14.40 for 72 washes. 

So...I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Watch this space! And if you have any other miraculous money saving ideas, let me know!



Saturday, 6 April 2013

How children teach adults to speak properly

Over some scrummy coffee and cake yesterday afternoon, the mummies and I got talking about our little people and their sponge-like ability to pick up new information. The perplexing thing is - how do they know, I mean really how do they know to filter out all the good and useful information we're trying to teach them and yet remember every single indiscretion or swear word that we mutter in their presence?


Little Monster is nearly 14 months now. We don't have too many words yet. The odd 'cuddle' has been uttered (how cute a first word is that?). And to my doting parent ears, I'm sure there have been things that have sounded like 'hello' and 'cat' too. Or perhaps that's wishful thinking. But over the last couple of months, it's become clear that Little Monster understands quite a lot more than he's previously let on and I swear he pretends not to understand at his convenience. One of the things that has given away his level of understanding is his new favourite activity - pointing. I'm pretty sure that pointing is the pre-talking version of 'what's that? And that? Why does it do that? Why?'. Oh joy.

The problem is, you never quite realise your child's level of cognitive development until they demonstrate it - usually at the most socially awkward juncture (do they do that on purpose too?). Little Monster has a cool set of bath toys that are like little octopuses which suck up water and let you squirt it out. A few months ago it seemed amusing when we nicknamed the little blue octopus Blueberry Fart. Now that Little Monster's pointing skills have developed and he points to the toy in response to us saying Blueberry Fart, it suddenly seems like a really, really bad idea.


Still, I'm learning my lesson early. If Little Monster says 'fart' at nursery, it'll probably get a few chuckles. If he says some other f-words, they might be somewhat less amused and I will be somewhat more mortified. Perhaps we'll stick with pointing for a while...I think the whole talking thing could be overrated.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

On the move...

In my (short) journey into parenthood so far I'm learning that it's a series of challenges and difficult decisions. There's a whole lot of great and rewarding...but it's definitely challenging. One of the early challenges was figuring out how to teach Little Monster how to sleep without either him or us getting too upset. It was painful at the time but we got over that challenge and, like most things, it doesn't seem half as bad looking back on it.

More recently, we decided we needed to address Little Monster's lack of movement. At a year old, it had reached the point where we were pretty sure that he could move if he chose to, it was more a case of motivation. The worst part was, we felt like we were the cause of the problem. From an early age, he loved being walked around holding onto our hands and we did it so much that I think he just thought that that was normal. Who would want to learn to move around at floor level when Mummy and Daddy will walk you around on your feet?

So a few weeks ago, we decided to force the issue and started refusing to walk him around whenever he cried. Now that I'm back at work, the weekends are even more precious and it was pretty horrible for all of us sitting with a screaming child. We tried putting objects on the floor out of reach, we tried encouragement, we tried leaving the room. In the end, the clincher was a killer combo of two iPhones and a remote control. So if anyone's wondering, that's you get a baby to crawl.

A couple of weeks on, he has pretty much perfected his slithery commando crawl and will now travel about pretty happily. He's even working on pulling himself up at nursery. Here's a slightly fuzzy pic of the man in action at nursery.



Tuesday, 12 February 2013

One

My sweet baby.

It's not often I'm lost for words. But somehow, today, it's so hard to tell you what this year has been, what it's meant and how I'm grateful every day for the gift of you.

This blog was about you, about us, about our journey. When I started it we had only just met and you were tiny and wrinkly and new. I didn't know how to be a mother and you didn't know how to be a son. Now, on the eve of the day that we celebrate your first birthday, I can't help thinking back through those months.


Those first few months were so hard. Every day I thought I was doing it wrong and that it would never get easier. Gradually I learnt that I could leave the house, I would sleep again and you would go longer than 2 hours without a feed eventually. I remember lovely spring days with you in the sling, walking up to the woods. I walked through the bluebells and wondered when you'd be old enough to appreciate them. I remember how you loved the baby massage classes and started to lift your head and shoulders off the floor.

At 6 months we went on your first seaside holiday, to visit Granny and Grandad in Devon. You had such a wonderful time and I'll never forget how you stood bravely in the waves, excited to see and smell and touch. One day soon, we'll be back there laughing as you chase seagulls along the shore.

Now, at a year, you are still making me smile every day as you learn new things. You're just starting to move by yourself and I've no doubt you'll soon discover just how much freedom you could have.

From the very first day we met, you showed the world how chilled out you could be. You watched everything and took it all in. You've always liked to see how things work and you test the boundaries in every sense. Every day, your personality shines through just a bit more and I can't wait to know the person that you become.

Happy birthday, my sweet baby. I hope you learn and grow every year as much as you have this year. I hope every year brings you new experiences. And I hope every year, you know how much we love you. X


Friday, 8 February 2013

Peanut butter turns me to jelly

Having taken the perilous step into motherhood, I am, clearly, now a bona fide super-heroine. I find it somewhat surprising, in fact, that the hideous paper disposable briefs that women supposedly wear during labour have not long since been discarded in favour of scarlet or black Lycra versions. Hospital gowns should be replaced with capes (it's not like the gowns preserve our dignity anyway) and eye masks should...well perhaps I'm getting a bit carried away.

The point is, overnight you turn into this person who is somehow supposed to know all the answers, to know how to parent, to keep on top of a child's development. I honestly have no idea how mothers maintained the super-heroine illusion in the pre-Google world. If you're anything like me, you read books, stalk forums and obsessively sign up to parenting emails. You know the ones - they tell you what your baby is going to start doing each month, turn you into some crazy person watching to see if they do it and then make you go a bit nuts worrying over whether they've technically missed a 'milestone'.

I have done more than my fair share of worrying. Remember how I worried about Little Monster's eating? Yeah, he's pretty much a walking dustbin since he started going to nursery. My more recent worrying has been focussed on Little Monster's movement, or lack thereof. He'll be a year on Wednesday and as I watched the last few months go by, he watched me from the same spot on the floor. The only change was that his expression became more reproachful that I had the nerve to leave him there. This week it's been all change in Little Monster's world. He started pulling himself up at nursery and doing a sort of commando crawl. He's also getting much more confident in taking a few steps by himself. Any sane person, (anyone except his mother, that is), can probably see that there is clearly nothing wrong with his motor development.

See what I mean?


All of this is actually a roundabout way of saying that I'm very grateful to have hubs here to keep me on the straight and narrow. He can see what my mother's eyes can't and he tosses out the books and the forums and the emails in favour of good old intuition. When I arrived home the other day to find hubs feeding my nearly 1 yr old son peanut butter for the first time, my first instinct was run around the kitchen waving my arms in panic about some kind of nut allergy. In fact, just like his motor skills, Little Monster was taking it all in his stride. Just goes to show, I'm not a super-heroine after all. But if I keep wearing my mask, maybe, just maybe, noone except hubs will notice.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Next Step

Almost exactly a year ago, I was clearing out my desk at work. I was huge and I waddled. I had hopes and dreams and thoughts that kept me awake at night and I had no idea what this next step on my journey was really going to be like. I started this blog to keep me sane through the difficult times and to document my ups and downs and trials of parenthood. The blog has really become more than that for me, but that's a story for another day.



Today I walked the 1.5 miles into my nearest town with Little Monster. It's something I've done several times a week for the last 10 months. It's become a routine that symbolises this first year with him; he babbles and chatters or snoozes his way through the ride and I take my time, do a little soul searching, listen to an audiobook, plan my day. Along the way, I'll probably pull faces at him to make him giggle, stop several times to adjust his socks, his hat, pick up a discarded toy. When we get to town, we normally find our way to the post office where the two wonderfully fabulous men behind the counter have a quick chat with Little Monster which involves street style chest thumping and hand signals which perhaps mean more to Little Monster than they do to me. We might have a coffee and Little Monster will snack on dried apricots and mini rice cakes while he's charming the pants off the other residents of the cafe and I steal a sneaky 5 minutes of down time. We'll wander home again, Little Monster a new person from getting out of the house and me feeling virtuous from my 3 mile walk.

It's a routine I've come to love and yet I never thought I would. For the first 6 weeks, even making it out of the house was some kind of Herculean task. Making it out of the house to be somewhere on time was nigh on impossible. And, like all things, now that I'm faced with the thought of giving it up, I know it's something I'm going to miss terribly.

A year seemed an absolute lifetime at the start. Sometimes I wondered how I'd even survive it. But now, as it's coming to an end, I feel sad. Little Monster and I have come such a long way this year. It has been both the best and worst year of my life rolled into one. He and I have grown and learned and changed and got to know each other. Sometimes I think I've grown and changed almost as much as he has. We've got through learning to sleep, learning to eat solid food, trips to hospital for him and for me, trying to walk, figuring out that construction is (nearly) as much fun as destruction, first paddles in the sea, first tastes of cake and so many other firsts that I can't count them.

I know that returning  to work is the right thing for me and I hope that nursery will be the right thing for Little Monster. We've survived the first step. I can't wait for the next one.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Skin and Bones

A couple of conversations with different people lately have left me thinking about family, what it means to be family, how to make and keep those strong, lifelong relationships of love and trust and honesty.

I think my whirlpool of thoughts stem from Little Monster, as they often do. I got to thinking about my blood relationships. What's great about them? What do I want to change? How do I nurture my relationship with Little Monster so that we can love and trust and be honest with each other into adulthood?

That last one is a really hard question. I'm lucky with my blood family. I have strong and loving relationships with them. That's not to say everything about our relationships is always perfect but there are many people out there who constantly struggle to have positive relationships with parents, siblings, extended family. I think there are a lot of reasons for it. Oftentimes, people are just different. They grate against each other and, with all the will in the world, they struggle to find common ground. Other times I think there's such a weight of expectation of what your family should be that it stops people from appreciating what they are.

For most of my adult life, for a number of reasons, I've been a big believer that families can be made, not just born and constructed from the same DNA. There is an urban term 'skin and bones' which refers to when your friends become your family. Some of the people I've met along the way fall in to that category. Some of them have been around most of my life. Some of them I've just met in the last few years. Some of them I've only ever met virtually. All of them are family to me because of what they are and what they mean. They are family because they don't judge me for what I tell them and they're family because I know they'll be there, physically or otherwise, no matter what happens. One of those family recently told me that a friend she met online is going to live with her. The circumstances that led to that inspire me on many levels and just make me believe more firmly in building family. Isn't the greatest accolade to choose someone to be family?


To build that kind of relationship with Little Monster, I know that I'm probably going to have to work harder at it than a lot of people. I'm not naturally open. I tend to keep things internalised, at least until I've resolved them. And there's a reasonable chance that Little Monster will inherit that from me, so I'll have to work doubly hard. But I know that I want to offer him that kind of relationship with me. If families are chosen and not born, I want him to choose me one day.