Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tag, you’re it

I have been tagged by Emily at Maternal Tales, Almost American and Amy at and 1 more means four (I think that’s everyone, but it’s always possible I’ve missed someone!).

1. What are your current obsessions?
To be honest, the only one I can think of is blogging.

2. Which item of clothes do you wear most often?
Long cardigan. I have two of them, and could really do with at least five. They go on and off throughout the day, depending on my temperature and comfort needs. Now the weather is more spring-like, they’re often used as coats, as well.

3. What's for dinner tonight?
Tonight we had noodle stir-fry. Onion, peppers, sweetcorn, pineapple, beansprouts and noodles with some pineapple juice, rice vinegar, sesame oil, a stock cube and some soy sauce. Quick, simple and very yummy – and one of Rosemary’s favourites.

4. What's the last thing you bought?
Can of coke, pint of milk and Special Delivery (sending out proofs) in the post office this afternoon.

5. What are you currently listening to? Timothy Goes to School, the dog biting his nails and Rosemary slurping warm milk. The dangers of the afternoon nap, mean she is up later than normal, on the first night in a while that I was looking forward to vegging out in front of the TV and catching up on my blogroll instead of working. Ah well, need to get used to the idea of not having evenings again, anyway.

6. What TV shows are you watching at the moment?
Bones and ER on a Thursday night – my TV night, which I look forward to every week. Am also watching The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Ashes to Ashes on the i-Player while working and have just started going through my Buffy DVDs right from the start (again, while working).

7. What are you reading now?
At the moment I’m on a bit of a Faye Kellerman kick. Am reading Milk and Honey at the moment and just finished Prayers for the Dead.

8. Use 4 words to describe yourself.
Contented, listener, hard-working, curious

9. What is your guilty pleasure?
At the moment it’s Fruit Pastilles. I’m really not supposed to eat them, as they have gelatine in but, for some reason, when I’m pregnant, I find it very difficult to not buy them and even more difficult to not eat them. Perhaps I need the gelatine to build up the baby’s bones? Yeah, probably not.

10. Who or what makes you laugh until you're weak?
At the moment it would have to be Rosemary. There are also a few blogs that frequently test my pelvic floor – More than Just a Mother, Motherhood: The Final Frontier and Millennium Housewife in particular.

11. First Spring thing?

12. Where are you planning on travelling to next?
Normandy! Going for our first holiday abroad since our honeymoon (almost five years ago), thanks to Chris’ parents who will be driving us all there and paying for much of it. We’ll be renting a lovely-looking house for a week and eating lots of lovely French food (though I’ll have to lay off the Camembert, sadly), probably going to the beach a couple of times and probably some other stuff, too. And hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to speak some French to some actual French people, which I miss a lot. I really cannot wait. It’s 10 weeks away (or maybe even 11?) and I sincerely wish it were tomorrow.  

13. What was the best thing you ate or drank recently?
Hmm. Probably the aubergine and mozzarella pasta on Monday night, though last night’s lasagne (dug out from the freezer, so not as nice as it is fresh) came pretty close, too.

14. When did you last get tipsy?
I really can’t remember. Maybe Christmas, though I don’t think I really did get tipsy, then, even though I wasn’t breast-feeding or pregnant. I just don’t seem to have the urge these days, and am content with an occasional small glass of wine with dinner and maybe a Baileys in the evening (nothing at all at the moment – the only alcohol I’ve had since getting pregnant is one sip of Chris’ beer).

15. What is your favourite film?
I have to pick one? I usually say When Harry Met Sally, but I haven’t watched it for a long time, so maybe not anymore. Grosse Pointe Blank perhaps. But there are loads of films that I like watching over and it depends on my mood and what I feel like.

16. Share a piece of wisdom.
Always look on the bright side of life.

17. What's your favourite song?
I don’t know that I have a favourite song, really. I have bands and singers and albums that I like to listen to, but no one song really stands out. One that I particularly like is Mon amie la rose by Francoise Hardy, but I don’t know that I could say it’s my favourite. As with a film, it can change with my moods.

18. If you could change anything in your life so far, what would it be?
I would make it so my dad didn’t die.

The rules are as follows. I tag you. You answer the questions, replace one question with a question of your choice and then tag 8 people. Simple! Here's the 8 people I tag.

Not sure if I can find 8 people who haven’t done this already!

Well, I’ll start by tagging two people who are off gallivanting at Disneyworld (or is it Disneyland?) since, while they may already have been tagged, they won’t have had time to do the meme – Laura at Are we nearly there yet mummy? and Erica at Little Mummy. Ella at Most | Least, because she could do with something fun/silly to do (I hope). More than just a mother because, while she’s already been tagged by plenty of people, she hasn’t done it yet, so it will still count. Tara at Sticky Fingers because, again, she hasn’t done it yet, so it counts – really, it does. Noble Savage, though it’s a lot less intellectual and thought-provoking than her usual material. Rosie Scribble, who I think may also have been tagged, but I’m sure (?) won’t mind being so again. Oh, OK, and Home Office Mum, because it’s not like she won’t have enough to do when she gets back from her week’s training.

Phew! Did it. Of course, none of you are under any obligation to do the meme, if you don’t want to/don’t have time/are incredibly fed up with these questions after reading them on every other blog on your blogroll.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Parenting choices

New parents have a lot of choices to make when their first baby arrives. Whether to breast- or bottle-feed; whether to follow the advice about where baby should sleep, put her straight in a cot in the nursery or bring her into bed with them; whether to follow strict routines, baby, or something in between; whether to use baby wipes and Johnson’s bubble bath, or warm water and cotton wool; whether to wash clothes in non-biological washing products, or go for the dazzling whites and bright colours of the biological…

More choices come up as the new baby moves through the first few months: when to wean and how; when to stop breast-feeding; when to introduce dairy; whether and when to go back to work; who to leave baby with; if and when to start pre-school; when to start potty training; how to deal with unwanted behaviour…

And for almost every one of these decisions, the new parents will need to justify them to at least one person, if not many. The most common people to question parenting choices are the grandparents. So much has changed since they were parents that it is fairly inevitable that some choices will be different to theirs. Many grandparents feel it is criticism of their own parenting choices when their children do something differently, rather than a desire to follow the latest guidance and advice. But they also have many years of child-rearing and parenting behind them and, as we all know, it is only nature to want to give advice and make suggestions; to share one’s own mistakes and successes in the hope that the new parents will gain from our experiences.

And it’s not just grandparents giving the advice. Friends who already have children will shower you with tips and stories of how they did this and that. They will also seem offended when you appear to make a different choice to them. They will wonder why you don’t listen when they tell you to baby really should go to sleep on his own and not be rocked or fed to sleep. They will wonder why you don’t listen when they tell you that baby really needs some porridge or banana at four months, because she’s quite clearly ready for solids. For the most part it is well-meaning, though it rarely feels so to the new parents finding their feet and needing to find their own way of doing things, however many mistakes they make along the way.

And then the second baby comes along. From what I’ve seen (and what I’m experiencing myself now), unless theirs a very large gap between the two, the tendency is to just do things the same way as you did with the first, perhaps trying to alter a few things that didn’t work quite as well as you would have hoped. With first babies you read all the latest advice and studies about all the parenting choices, in an attempt to come up with ones that will suit you, incorporating your gut-feelings, your families’ experiences and what your peers on baby forums or parenting blogs are saying. With second babies you stick with the research from a year ago, three years ago, even five. Which may mean you’re going against the some of the latest research. But it worked for Baby 1 – it will work for Baby 2, as well.

For the record, I breastfed Rosemary; she slept in a crib next to me until she was about seven or eight months, coming in to our bed to feed and quite often to sleep, as well; we followed Rosemary for our routines, having no need to do otherwise (working from home gives ultimate flexibility here); we used warm water and cotton wool to top and tail her and only bathed her about once a week (just in warm water) until she was around about six or seven months and starting to (very messily) eat food; and we used non-biological washing blobs, obsessively (re-washed any clothes that came from shops or friends and relatives, even ones I knew used non-biological powder, anyway).

We did baby-led weaning, letting her help herself to food on our plates from about six months and gradually putting her in her high-chair at the table with offerings of various finger food; I didn’t stop breast-feeding until Rosemary was just over two; she had dairy from as soon as she started eating, but didn’t have cow’s milk until she was a year; I was working within a few days of Rosemary’s birth, though obviously not full-time, gradually adding more and more hours as she got older; my mum came to look after her here until she was about 14 months and then she started going back to her house with her (I didn’t let anyone else push her in her buggy without me until she was six months old, when both grandmothers got to take her out and take turns); she started nursery school at 2 years 3 months and was very ready for it and is starting playgroup in a couple of weeks (we had expected that she wouldn’t go until she was three, but we followed her lead and needs); we also followed her lead with potty-training, taking it as easily and slowly as we could (she’s pretty much potty-trained in the day now, with occasional accidents when overly excited or very tired, though she’s still not mastered night-time); our dealing with unwanted behaviour has not been particularly well planned and we will probably try different approaches next time (we both shouted far too often and didn’t have consistent approaches, in fact we weren’t even consistent on what was unwanted behaviour).

Will we do everything the same way next time? For the most part, yes. But it will be tempered with our experiences, so it’s quite likely that Baby Number 2 will not be rocked or fed to sleep (though I reserve the right to change my mind); there may be a bit more routine, to fit in with Rosemary’s routine (though we’re fortunate that there are two of us at home all the time, so we won’t need to be quite as regimented as others – Chris will be able to take Rosemary to playgroup, while I stay with baby, for example); we’ll probably offer Baby Number 2 more meat when doing the baby-led-weaning; I’ll probably let other people push Baby Number 2 around in the buggy from a much earlier age and hopefully we’ll do better with behaviour management, once the terrible twos come into play again.

Did you feel you had to defend your parenting choices? Did you change them with subsequent children or stick with what worked? Do you feel upset or disapproving when a close friend or relative makes a different parenting choice to you?

Friday, 17 April 2009

Splish splash

Yesterday, we took Rosemary for a day out to the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham. Birmingham’s about an hour and a half on the train, so not too long journey. We left the house at a very civilised 9.45am, leaving my mother to dog sit, and were back by 4.30pm.

As some of you will know, we don’t drive, so trips like this have to be in public transport reach. But, even if we did drive, I’d be inclined to use the train as often as possible, because it’s a lot easier to keep a small child amused on one, than strapped into a tiny seat in a car. In a lot of cars, small children can’t see out of the windows, whereas there’s lots to sea from the train windows – trees, fields, cows, sheep, building… You can walk up and down as much as you like (though I do recall it getting a bit tedious walking Rosemary up and down and up and down and up and down… for the whole journey to Wales when she was only just on her feet). You can get food and drink from the buffet or unpack your own packed lunch. Children can draw, read, play games, even meet and befriend other children. But it does mean we can’t easily go somewhere like Longleat or Bowood or Alton Towers.

So, the train journey was pretty good, even though we didn’t get a table seat. On arriving in Birmingham, the signposts for how to get out of Birmingham New Street station weren’t brilliant and we ended up traipsing through a mall for a fair way before finding the fresh (and rather wet) air. Then we had the fun of trying to find the right way to the Sealife Centre. We didn’t print a map out, because the website had said just follow signs to the ICC and NIA. The first sign we found actually pointed to the Sealife Centre itself and the rest to the International Convention Centre. And they weren’t always terribly clear. Personally, if I were editing the website, I would also have put the number of a bus going from the station to the centre, or close, and an actual map.

We got there in the end, to see huge queues stretching all the way round the building. There were staff going up and down the line selling Sea Life branded rain coats and offering immediate entrance to anyone willing to purchase a year’s membership. Fortunately for us, Chris had had the sense to buy tickets online in advance, so were able to go straight inside. I would definitely recommend doing so, especially if you’re visiting in the school holidays – it’s cheaper to buy them online, as well.

We saw a number of pools and tanks with fish and eels in them, as we followed the one-way trail round. There was then a larger pool, with (quite small) sharks and rays in. Rosemary was fascinated in everything so far. She then got an opportunity to touch a crab, which she seemed to enjoy. We then saw some otters swimming around. And then, one of the highlights of the trip (as is so often the case with these kinds of outings); we had an ice cream.

After that, we moved into darkened areas and saw lots of different sea creatures. Chris would probably be able to tell you in proper detail, but I was flagging a bit by now, as was Rosemary. We think she was a little bit scared in the darker bits, but also the dark was making her sleepy. After a quick glance at the sea horses (would have liked to have spent a bit more time looking at them) and a loo break, we went in the lift to the tunnel.

I think the tunnel was probably the most stunning bit, though it was all pretty amazing. There were lots of fish swimming around, but the highlight were two large turtles which looked like they were flying over our heads. I did feel a bit odd in the tunnel, though, a bit like going in a very fast lift, or taking off in a plane.

After that there was a rather bizarre mirror maze that led directly into the shop. Very manipulative planning there. We had to fight our way through trying to escape. I noticed a family with young twins – the mother pushing the twin buggy and the father desperately trying to keep hold of both children’s hands. Made me think of MTJAM and how it might not be the easiest place for her to navigate!

We came out into quite heavy rain, though it was a bit of a relief after the crowded and very warm centre. We had had the foresight to pack Rosemary’s raincoat, but neither of us even had coats. It wasn’t very cold though. We went and found a cafe and sat down and a drink and bite to eat, then braved the downpour to catch the 14:40 home. My SPD started playing up on the walk to the station and I was very glad to sit down when we reached the train, just in time.

I would definitely recommend the Sea Life Centre, particularly for slightly older children. If you can go during school terms, it’s probably a bit quieter, but that’s the case with most things. And, if you’re going by train, print out a map of how to get there from the station!

I think Chris enjoyed it a lot more than I did and, if he reads this, will wonder why I haven’t mentioned this and that the other – feel free to comment, honey!

Have you been going on any trips over the Easter holidays? Do you prefer to travel by train or car, or hot air balloon? Have you been anywhere recently that you would particularly recommend? 

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Review: Aveeno skincare products

Almost a month ago, I was sent some Aveeno skincare products to review and I’m finally getting round to writing the review. I used the products immediately, but my plan was to wait until I’d used the Daily Moisturising Lotion every day for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I have this weird thing where I only use products like that after shaving my legs and… well, I only got around to doing that twice in the last month. Yes, I know, ew. But I can’t shave in the shower (just come up all pimply) and can only do it in the bath and, well, honestly, how often do I get to have a bath? So, I thought I should forget about the scientific tests and just review the products anyway.

I got three products to review: the Daily Moisturising Lotion, the Aveeno Cream (specifically designed for dry and sensitive skin) and the Aveeno Colloidal bath powder.

The first thing I did was have a bath with the powder – obviously; I’m a busy mum who (as mentioned above) finds it hard to find time for baths, I’m hardly going to ignore the added reason/excuse to have one! The instructions said to put the powder in a bath under vigorously running water. I read this and hummed and hahed. Our bath does not do vigorously running water unless it’s stone cold. If you want a hot bath, you’re going to have to make do with little more than a trickle (this does have the benefit of giving you enough time to make a cup of tea and find your book and clean clothes for after the bath while it’s running). Ah well, might as well give it a go, anyway.

When I came back to it, the bath was coated in a layer or what I can only describe as scum. It looked like someone who hadn’t washed in a month had just soaked in the bath. And it didn’t smell much better. OK. All in the name of science and reviews and it was obviously of utmost importance for my blog, so I jumped in. It felt fine, the smell and the scum dissipated quite quickly and I was able to enjoy a good soak in the bath. And when I had finished, I can report that my skin did feel considerably softer.

I think it’s probable that the scum was mostly down to our non-vigorous tap, so I would still recommend this product, provided you have good water pressure!

I couldn’t find much difference between the lotion and the cream, though the cream is supposed to be an intensive one specially designed for very dry and sensitive skin, so perhaps if my skin was particularly dry, I would have noticed more difference. But both these products were pretty astounding. I’ve tried a lot of moisturising lotions over the years, in particular for after shaving my legs, as I tend to have problems with rashes and stinging, and I can definitely say that this is the best I have ever tried.

The lotion (or cream) was soaked up into the skin and I didn’t have to use a towel to get rid of the residue, as I often have to with other products. The softness lasted at least 24 hours, but actually my skin stayed softer for about a week after only one application. The lack of perfume was a big bonus for me, as many perfumed products cause nasty rashes for me. If only it had stopped the leg hair growing, as well, it would have been perfect!

So, if you have sensitive or dry skin, you should definitely try some Aveeno products. But I would also suggest, even if you have perfect skin, you should try it out, too, because you really won’t believe how soft your skin feels afterwards or how well the products are soaked into the skin.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

A little help with the housework

To hear my mum talk, you’d think she was Cinderella as a child. She was the eldest of four children. Her parents worked in their factory in the back yard (her father was a furniture designer and manufacturer; her mother essentially ran the office). She was brought up by nannies, none of whom spoke much English (she didn’t speak herself until she was three, though she came straight out with a complete sentence, none of this Ma-Ma and Da-Da stuff), but was largely responsible for bringing up her two younger sisters. Among her chores were the daily shopping, cleaning out the fireplaces and setting the fires (which, because matches were banned in the house, involved walking from the boiler in the basement, holding a burning splint of wood or newspaper and walking through the house to each of the fires, often dropping and stamping out burning embers on the route) and washing up. There may have been more, though the shopping was a fairly big chore, taking an hour and a half round trip.

From the age of about seven, my main chore was the washing up. Doing the washing-up every night gained me my £5 a week pocket money. Other than that I had to help out intermittently with cooking, hoovering, washing, hanging washing out, etc. But not much. When I was older (from mid-teens, I think), I cooked once a week.

I had a boyfriend many moons ago, who had three siblings and they had a rota of housework, including washing up, feeding pets, cooking, and some general cleaning, though they had a cleaner who came in twice a week to do the hoovering and clean the bathrooms.

At secondary school, I had a friend who did absolutely nothing. Not because she didn’t want to, but because her mum wouldn’t let her. Her mum still tidied and cleaned her bedroom and made her packed lunch every day. (My friend claimed that she wasn’t allowed to make her own packed lunch, because then her younger sister would insist on doing so, too, which would not be a good thing.)

There seems to be such a variety of ways of dealing with children and housework. Rosemary has been helping out (often it ends up being the opposite of helping out, but hopefully not forever) since she has been physically capable of doing so. She helps put the washing on – puts clothes from basket into machine, gets the tub of washing blobs out, puts a blob in, presses the buttons I tell her to (used to be ‘Press that one. Good. Now that one.’; but now it’s ‘Press the cotton button twice, then the drying button, then the start button. Now press and hold the lock button until it beeps.’; later in the year it will probably just be ‘Set in for a low cotton wash and iron dry.’) and sometimes she’ll hand me the pegs and/or clothes when hanging them up.

She loves sweeping up and is obsessed with wiping any surface she’s allowed to. She quite likes hoovering. She would love to wash up, but only gets to try that occasionally with a few wooden spoons and her own plastic plates and cups. But she already knows that she has to rinse after scrubbing (with the right cloth) and put the items to drain, not dry them with a tea-towel (I am ridiculously fussy about washing up). She’s very hit and miss about tidying up. Sometimes she’s really into it and sometimes she’ll scream and kick if someone else is threatening to tidy the room. But she does know where most things go and can tidy up when willing. She would love to help with the cooking all the time, but there are limited things she can help with. She will often stand on a chair while we’re chopping vegetables and pass us the items we need, but she gets bored of that quickly. She’ll be happier once she’s allowed to cut them herself (not for a while yet, I think).

I’m looking out for signs for her to be ready to be given her own job. Not sure yet what that might be. Maybe wiping the table after dinner (actually, she could probably do that now) or bringing the dirty laundry downstairs or something. Personally, I think it’s really important to give children these kinds of responsibilities, though I do realise there’s a line to be drawn (see my mum’s story above) between teaching responsibility and taking advantage. I want my children to grow up knowing how to wash up, wash clothes, sweep, hoover, clean bathrooms (and even loos), cook, etc. etc. I don’t want them to grow neurotic about any of it (which would be difficult in our house, to be honest), but I want them to know how to look after themselves when they leave home. And that will, of course, go for Number 2 whether they are a boy or a girl. In fact, I think it’s so important, that I’m loathe to get a cleaner again, in case it takes away the opportunity for the children to learn these skills.

So when do your children start helping with the housework? Is their pocket money conditional on their doing their chores? Or do you not ask them to help? Do you consider it slave labour or teaching important life skills?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Looking back and looking forward (and a little poll)

I’ve been reading back over Rosemary’s blog, recently, trying to remember what it’s like to have a small baby. I’ve gotten pretty used to my life getting back to some semblance of normality over the last year or so. Having evenings to myself, going out with Chris for meals or a drink, working something close to normal hours (give or take the occasional horrendous week like the last one), having baths whenever I want to, and so on.

To be honest, I’ve been a bit worried about how to cope with adding a new baby into the mix. How am I going to find the time to work and spend time with Rosemary? Will I have any Me Time left in among it all? Will I ever be able to iron again?

But I’d forgotten that the first few months are actually fine in terms of finding the time to work and that there’s lots of time to relax while pushing a buggy round and breast-feeding. Of course, that won’t stop me occasionally wishing for a different life:

I'm exhausted, though, and do wish I could be a 'normal' mum sometimes and not have the added responsibility of working. It's not much fun when every moment of Rosemary sleeping during the day has to be used for working. It would be nice to, oh, I don't know, play a computer game or something (hmm, why would I use that as an example?). Do some studying (somehow don't think I'll be doing any more OU courses for a long while!) maybe. Of course, I do get to do relaxing things like watching TV or reading while she's feeding and can (at the moment, anyway) watch TV while I'm playing with her, so I do get some 'leisure time' then. And I get to go out walking and meet people for coffee or lunch, which I never used to have time to do. So I have a much more varied life than I used to. I'm much, much fitter too. All this pushing a buggy is great. Still have the tummy flap of flab, though. Don't know how to get rid of that.

That was written when Rosemary was three months old. What this reminds me is that I will cope fine. I will adjust to Number 2, just as I adjusted to Number 1. And I will probably find that I get a nice balance back again, as it’s been a while since I’ve had nice strolls round town and gone for coffee in Costa and so on (will need a bit more money to do Costa, of course). Rosemary will be at nursery school and playgroup every morning and some afternoons from September and maybe, just maybe, she’ll have learnt to sleep through the night by then, as well. She’ll be old enough to actually help out a bit. It will be great.

Now, apparently MTJAM only just worked out what WAHM means. So, I’d be interested to know how many of you know what it means and have always done so. Or did it take a while for you to realise, as well? Hands up, don’t be shy!