Monday, 29 June 2009

Possible recycle fail

The bag with the Tetra-Pak cartons in has completely disappeared. The only thing I can think that has happened to it is that it ended up being put out with the recycling on Wednesday. Since our council doesn't collect Tetra-Pak cartons, I assume it will have gone in the bin on the van or something. Of course, it's possible it's somehow migrated somewhere else in the house. It's also possible that it got put in our bin, though no-one has any recollection of doing so.

Hmm. So technically, I suppose that is a fail. No non-work Internet for me for two days - starting from 2pm (What? I have to tweet it first!).

See you some time after 2pm on Wednesday. Buh-bye!

Friday, 26 June 2009

There’s a spider in my room!

I was woken at 1am by Rosemary screaming ‘There’s a spider in my room! Help!’ I rushed through, to find her standing by her bed, with the covers on the floor, shaking. I sat on the bed and picked her up, cuddling her and saying ‘It’s OK. It was probably just a dream,’ at which point her whole posture changed and she laughed and said ‘Oh yes. Silly me. Or maybe just some shadows.’ She had a drink of milk, lied back down on her pillow and asked for her covers. Of course, I shook the covers out thoroughly before putting them back on her, just in case, though no sign of anything. Said the goodnight stuff ‘Goodnight, sleep tight, sweet dreams,’ shut the door and got back into bed and didn’t hear a peep out of her until 6.15 this morning.

I really hope she hasn’t inherited my weird spider nightmare problems. Mine have lessened considerably since Rosemary was born and I’ve gradually become inured to the threat of spiders (apart from the big scuttly ones – they still freak me out), though they still appear every couple of weeks or so.

They happen when on the cusp of sleep, sometimes when going to sleep and sometimes when drifting out of sleep. I will be awoken with the absolute conviction that a spider is coming down on the line of web from ceiling. It is as though I have already woken and it is happening and real. I will jump – sometimes all the way out of bed – and switch a light on. Sometimes I will shout ‘Arrgh! Spider!’ Sometimes Chris will ask what’s wrong and then I will spend five minutes convincing him that there was a spider. Sometimes we have to take the covers off the bed and shake them out. Usually, after a few minutes, I realise that it wasn’t real.

The thing is, though, it feels completely real. Not like most dreams, which have a surrealness to them that tells your brain that they absolutely are not real. The setting is exactly my bedroom (or hotel room, guest room, wherever I am), with every detail correct, apart from the presence/absence of spiders. Often, even the time will be accurate, so I assume I must have my eyes open, yet somehow still be in dream mode. It’s scary and weird. Over the years, I have come to the point where I can usually recognise it as a dream spider pretty quickly and call out or jump out of bed much less. But it does still happen.

Every now and then I wonder if I should ask a doctor about it, but then think that would be silly. After all, they’re just nightmares. Is it reasonably normal, though? Has Rosemary caught it off me? Chris doesn’t do it and I don’t know anyone else who does.

One of the reasons I worry about it, is that I have a cousin who has a type of schizophrenia that means she is unable to recognise the difference between fantasy and reality. Everyone daydreams, about marrying the guy down the road, having children, buying that lovely house round the corner… She does too, but these things are all real to her. She thinks she’s done them. All her dreams and fantasies. And people are constantly telling her that she’s wrong. That she doesn’t own any houses. That she isn’t married to her old school boyfriend. Can you imagine how completely impossible it is to live like that?

So, whenever I have one of my spider nightmares where, for a few minutes, I am unable to separate fantasy from reality, I wonder and worry if I maybe I might have a crossed wire or something in my brain that works (or, more to the point, doesn’t work) in the same way as my cousin’s. I wonder and worry if one day I won’t be able to realise that there was no spider. And I wonder and worry that this inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality might grow to the point where I cannot function properly in the real world.

And, last night, after Rosemary had gone back to sleep, I lay awake for a while wondering and worrying that I might have passed this crossed-wire on to Rosemary. I hope not.

So, do any of you have spider nightmares or similar? Do you worry about your children picking up on any of your irrational fears? Do you worry about passing on anything to your children?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Morning girls

I love mornings. I do moan a bit if I haven’t had quite enough sleep but, for the most part, I am definitely a morning girl. As is Rosemary. Quite often we sit and chat for a bit in her room, talking about what she did yesterday or what she dreamed about. Then we go downstairs and let the dog out.

Sometimes we hang out in the garden for a bit and look at the plants, and often rescue them from the overnight invasion of slugs. Quite often we bake cakes or cookies (Sunday mornings oatmeal and raisin cookies were gorgeous and included lots that Rosemary could do). Sometimes we play or read books. Sometimes we draw or colour.

But sometimes, like this morning, we just sit together and chatter about all sorts of things. We talked about my cup of tea and how hot it was and how I really like to have tea in the morning. We talked about how Rosemary was going to practise tidying happily today, with Granny and at nursery school. (Yesterday, she cried at nursery school, because she didn’t want to tidy up and on Friday, she was upset after playgroup, because she didn’t get a sticker for tidying up. But yesterday afternoon she had a fantastic time tidying and hoovering and bouncing on sofa cushions with Chris, so she now knows it can be fun.) We talked about snails and slugs, about what I would be doing today, what she would be doing today and what Chris would be doing today.

And she gave me lots of kisses and cuddles and told me that she loved me, which is always lovely.

Anyway, I felt lots of soppy rushes of love and happiness, this morning, and wanted to share it, as opposed to the more frequent moaning or mulling over some topic. Are you a morning person or a night-owl? Do you have times with your children that you especially enjoy?

[Written on train this morning; posted at home as couldn’t find any wi-fi]

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Tag, you’re it!

Quick, quick, Timothy Goes to School is on. We played for about 45 minutes. Not entirely sure what we played, but it involved going on a bear hunt, rescuing bears from crocodiles, having a picnic with bears and tigers, having a sleepover with a bear, reading some stories and playing beads. The Rosemary game, perhaps.

So, I shall take the opportunity of quiet to, rather than empty the dishwasher and the draining board, do the eight things tag, for which I have been tagged by Clareybabbling and Rosie Scribble.

The rules of this one are:

The rules are:

  1. Mention the person(s) who tagged you
  2. Complete the list of 8's
  3. Tag 8 others and let them know (I’m always rubbish at telling people they’ve been tagged, so apologies if I forget!)

8 Things I'm looking forward to

  1. Going to Oxford on Tuesday. Am going for meetings, but hopefully will have time to sit and have a beercoke in the Bird and Baby and peek in some of the shops (though won’t be able to my usual thing of spending £100+ in Borders/Blackwells/Waterstones!
  2. Holiday in Normandy in July. Our first holiday (apart from brief sojourns with relatives) since our honeymoon, five years ago. We almost went to Kenya in January 2006, but found out I was pregnant with Rosemary, so couldn’t (due to higher risk of ectopic pregnancy). We were supposed to go on big fancy all-inclusive holiday to Mexico this autumn, with Chris’ family to celebrate his parents’ ruby (?) wedding anniversary, but found out I was pregnant. But, fortunately, we can make it over the channel to France, despite my being pregnant. I even have a letter from the midwife saying I will be fit to travel. Woo!
  3. Rosemary’s third birthday in August. My baby is going to be three! How’d that happen?
  4. Going to the circus in August. It has been decided that this will be an annual treat for her birthday after a very successful one last year. We’ll have to go to a matinee somewhere accessible by public transport, as we won’t have Chris’ parents or my aunt to drive us.
  5. Next school term, when Rosemary will be going to playgroup and/or nursery school every morning and probably also doing one or two weekend activities (ballet and trampolining are what she wants to do). Don’t know what we’re going to do during the holidays as Rosemary really needs time with other children at the moment!
  6. The arrival of Eleanor in October (or possibly September, if she decides to be as early as Rosemary).
  7. My birthday, which will hopefully not clash with Eleanor’s too much.
  8. Eleanor’s first Christmas. She will, of course, be far too young to understand/appreciate it, but Rosemary will, I think, lap up having a baby sister at Christmas time. And it’s a Stroud one this year, so I get to cook lovely yummy veggie food in my own kitchen and have my family around me (though Carnoustie Christmases have lots of plus points, too!). First Christmas here without my dad, though, which will be difficult.

8 Things I did yesterday

  1. Made porridge
  2. Had a shower
  3. Met three deadlines
  4. Made a recycling pledge
  5. Had eggs chips and beans (Friday night dinner – can’t wait until I can have my eggs with runny yokes!)
  6. Gave Rosemary a bath
  7. Finished the book I was reading (Pretty Dead Things by Barbara Nadel)
  8. Had a lazy evening on the sofa, reading, watching Heathers and blogging.

8 Things I wish I could do

  1. Speak Polish
  2. Speak Chinese (though not sure which one!)
  3. Speak Russian
  4. Speak Arabic
  5. Actually finish writing a novel
  6. Have a novel published
  7. Drive (maybe)
  8. Be an Olympic gymnast (yeah, right)

8 favourite fruits

  1. Strawberries
  2. Golden Delicious apples
  3. Grapes
  4. Nectarines (or peaches, but don’t really like the fluffy skin)
  5. Blackberries
  6. Conference pears
  7. Piccolo tomatoes
  8. Bananas (especially in fruit salad or banana cake)

8 Places I've lived

  1. Upton St Leonards, Gloucestershire
  2. Painswick, Gloucestershire
  3. Valencia, Spain
  4. Bisley, Gloucestershire
  5. Oxford
  6. Bonneville, France
  7. Southampton
  8. Stroud

8 people tagged 

  1. Nixdminx
  2. New Mummy
  3. Maternal Tales
  4. Kelloggsville
  5. Almost Mrs Average
  6. Tawny
  7. The wife of bold
  8. MTFF

Apologies if you’ve done it already. And feel free to ignore, whether you have or not!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Recycle, recycle, recycle

It’s Recycle Week next week and I’ve been tagged by a whole bunch of people (Jo Beaufoix, Maternal Tales and Potty Mummy and quite possibly others, too) to make a pledge and do some other stuff. My pledge is here. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but the last time I checked the nearest place you could recycle Tetra Paks was about three miles away and, since we don’t drive, that was too much of a trek. But I checked the clever maps on the Recycle Now site and found that there’s now many more places that take them, including one only half a mile away. I also want to do the composting, but need to buy a bin and wasn’t sure if it would arrive in time for Recycle Week, so that will be happening soon, too.

This is what you need to do:

  1. Visit and sign up to one of the pledges to waste less.
  2. Share the details of your pledge on your own blog.
  3. Chose five other bloggers, who will also be up for a bit of recycling fun.
  4. Come back to this post at The Rubbish Diet and share your pledge with others, by placing a link to your pledge in the comments field.
  5. Optional - as a thank you to all involved The Rubbish Diet will be publishing a British Mummy Bloggers' Recycle Week carnival on Monday 29th June. To be included, simply submit your favourite post revealing the progress of your pledge by Saturday 27th June - email to karen[at]therubbishdiet[dot]co[dot]uk.

So, goodness knows if I can come up with anyone who hasn’t already been tagged, but I’ll try:

  1. OMG Pregnant, because she should still be just about in the energetic (cough) second trimester, and what better way to start on the whole role modelling to your children?
  2. Part Mummy, Part Me, because newly married life, working, looking after a small girl and a rat can’t possibly be keeping her busy enough!
  3. Perfectly Happy Mum, because she needs a little something else to fill up her time on top of coaching mums and looking after two small boys.
  4. Milla at Country Lite, so she can test out the facilities in a small Cotswold village, as opposed to those in a small Cotswold town down the road.
  5. Zoe at Diary of a Surprise Mum, because she doesn’t have enough on her plate, holding down a day job and looking after the gorgeous Isobel.

Seriously, though… my theme in the tagging seems to be suggesting that recycling takes a lot of time, but it’s not that hard and getting easier as more and more kerbside collections are starting up. And with landfill running ever lower, as parents, this is really something we should be doing for our kids.

OK. Lecture over. Look away now – or go and separate your recycling!

I have also been tagged to do the 8 Things Meme, which I’ll try to do some time over the weekend. Also coming soon will be my take (as a graduate of home education, myself) on the current furore in the home-schooling world – it was going to be a fairly simple post about keeping an open mind about home-schooling, but it might just turn into a rant.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Don’t talk to strangers

The latest topic at nursery school (and will soon be a topic at playgroup, I believe) is ‘Don’t talk to strangers’.

This worries me. Perhaps because I grew up in the idealised seventies, when children would just go out to play in the street with their friends. When, at the age of six or seven, I’d pop up to the shop for my mum. The age when, if you were lost or needed help and your parents were not around, you asked an adult. Any adult. If there was an adult you knew (other child’s parents, shopkeeper, postie), you asked them first, but otherwise any adult.

You were also polite to adults. If an adult said ‘Hello,’ you said ‘Hello,’ back. You answered their questions ‘How old are you, dear?’ ‘Do you like school?’ and so on. And, somehow, you had a sense of who was dodgy and should not be spoken to. You knew that ‘Don’t take sweets from strangers,’ (which was a big advertising campaign at the time), did not include the little old lady waiting at the bus stop.

I had two flasher experiences as a child, and neither of them freaked me out, or scarred me for life. One was in the newsagent. The first thing I did was tell the newsagent and he chased the guy out of the shop, threatening to call the police. I then completed my purchase, walked home and told my mum. She was quite calm about it and said that flashers rarely do any actual harm, and I’d done the right thing. She talked to the newsagent the next time we were up there and that was that. The second time was up the beacon with my mum. She just walked past and ignored him and that was that. No trauma. Never saw them again.

Rosemary is very friendly and sociable. We walk down the street and she says ‘Hello,’ to pretty much everyone. She is quite curious and sometimes a little sad when they don’t respond. It’s lovely when you see someone sitting down or walking along looking unhappy or grumpy and their expression changes to true happiness to have a small child talk to them. Of course, there are also those who remain unhappy or grumpy and ignore her, but that’s fine.

More recently, I’ve noticed, however, that Rosemary rarely says ‘Hello,’ back to someone who says it first and I wonder if this is down to the message ‘Don’t talk to strangers.’ I wonder how they are delivering the message. Are they telling them it’s dangerous? Are they telling them nasty things could happen to them if they talk to strangers? Are they able to get across the ability to differentiate and to have that sense that we had as children of who was OK and who wasn’t?

Does this worry you too, or are you more worried about the dangers out there and feel safer if your children don’t talk to strangers? Do your children say ‘Hello,’ to random people in the street and how do you react?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

British Mummy Bloggers meet-up

This is a quick post from Victoria Station (courtesy of McDonalds’ free wi-fi). I will add proper links and so on later on/tomorrow.

Had a lovely time, and managed to talk to most people, though not everyone. I met Emily of Maternal Tales, Potty Mummy, Part Mummy Part Me, NixdMinx, Noble Savage, Surprised Zoe, Peggy of Perfectly Happy Mum, Melissa of Home Office Mum and More to Life than Laundry and Amy of And One More Makes Four, as well, of course, as the amazing Susanna A Modern Mother, who we have to thank for this meet-up and the whole phenomena that is British Mummy Bloggers. There were some others who I didn’t manage to talk to (and probably some whose names I’ve forgotten – I have mentioned how bad I am at names).

It was lovely to put faces to names and to talk in person to so many people who I feel I know. There were no huge surprises – I did think Susanna had long blond hair, but everyone else looked more or less how I pictured them. And everyone I spoke to was very nice and easy to talk to. When you have been reading about people’s lives for a while, I suppose it makes it easier to talk to them than the school gate nightmare.

Silver Cross, who sponsor BMB and provided the funds for this lunch, were also there to talk about and demonstrate two of their new products, both of which look pretty good – the Halo (stroller and travel system) and the Doodle (very innovative high chair). They were even giving them away. If I didn’t have to trawl all the way back home on the coach, I would have been very tempted by the Halo.

Anyway, I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of McDonalds’ wi-fi and need to go and find the right bay for my coach home.

Lovely to meet you all and hopefully we’ll get a chance for a longer meet-up some time soon (unfortunately, I can’t make it to Butlins).

Friday, 12 June 2009

Daughters, help me be friendly

So, I talked to another playgroup mum today, a little. We were walking up the hill at the same time. We quite often cross paths on the way to playgroup, but usually only muster a tired smile, or an occassional 'Hi'. Today, I managed to supplement the smile with another comment 'That looks like hard work!' (she was pushing a buggy with a baby in and her pre-school daughter perched on top, up a very steep hill). And Rosemary helped, by saying 'Hello!' very brightly. So we ended up walking together. Her daughter, N, got down and she and Rosemary walked the rest of the way holding hands (awww, how sweet), clutching so tight that a small boy trying to come the other way had to phyically prise them apart to get past (though he could have walked round).

I did pretty well, for me, though missed some important follow-ups, such as when I responded to her question 'Where on S Road do you live?', I should have added 'What about you?' We chatted a bit about her baby (1 year old) and our imminent baby (apparently I don't look 5 months pregnant - those of you going to the BMB meet-up on Sunday can check this out for yourselves). I was surprised to find that she knew my name (she bumped the buggy into me, and said 'Sorry, Tash. Are you OK?' How does she know my name and I don't know hers? She was probably in my class at school, or something and I'm being my usual forgetful self. Perhaps there's a list somewhere of children's and parents' names. Who knows? I certainly don't.

As we got closer to the school, we had to stop every few yards for some parent to say hello to her. She seemed to know everyone. The girls waited very patiently each time, while I was thinking 'Come on! I'm late already!' but not wanting either to separate the girls, or mess up this opportunity. She stopped to talk to at least three other parents, including the new Green county councillor (I voted for someone else) and waved hello to a whole bunch more. At one point she turned to me and said 'It gets ridiculous the more people you know at school. Takes forever to get through everyone,' to which I responded something inane like 'Well, I'm amazed at how many people you know!'

Anyway, I think it's some kind of progress. Maybe. I did run straight off after dropping Rosemary off. Didn't hang around to wait for her and walk back down the hill, as she was talking to the playgroup leader and I had work to get on with. But I still have lots of work to do on this whole being sociable thing. Perhaps some of you can help me practise on Sunday?

It's probable that, if Rosemary hadn't decided to walk with N, I would have just hurried us on past, for fear of saying something stupid, or foisting myself on a mum who didn't really want to talk to me, or just general social ineptitude. So, thank you Rosemary, and Eleanor who is now an added talking point. There may be hope for me yet.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Secret of Happy Children

Sorry in advance, this is another long one, but bear with me, it may help you!

My aunt gave me this book when we were visiting her last weekend. My mum had given it to her when she was pregnant with her son, 15 years ago and, it turns out, my mum had been to talk by the author here in Stroud, which was when she’d bought it. And my aunt thought it might be nice for it to come back down this way for a bit.

I started reading it on the train home, when Rosemary was busy chattering away or eating or playing with her cuddly toy, Grommit. The irony wasn’t lost on me that I was reading a parenting book, instead of giving her some one-on-one attention, but she was happy. Really. She particularly enjoyed the game of ‘Boo’ we played with the book, where she shouted ‘Boo!’ at me and I shut the book quickly with a jump and ‘Ah!’ So, clearly it does what it says on the tin, even if you don’t read it.

For the most part, during the train journey, I was reading it out of interest and a little bit of amusement, because it was written a long time ago. The interesting thing was that a lot of the advice I was reading was things that have been taken on board by professionals and parents alike.

For example, early on Biddulph talks about how children hear and take in what you say about them, as well as what you say to them, so that it’s important to be positive, rather than negative and not use put downs, even in a friendly way (“Come here, cloth ears!” “Don’t be stupid, you do it this way.”). And to be careful what you’re saying when you’re talking about your children (“She’s not very good at reading.” “She just won’t sit still for a minute”).

Something else he talks about is ‘anchoring’ whereby a message has more effect when reinforced by other signals. So, your calm ‘Good boys’ and ‘Well dones’ or ‘No, don’t do that, loves’ will be overpowered by the times when you reach the end of your tether and scream ‘Just bloody shut up, you horrible boy!’ with wide eyes and gritted teeth. The reinforcement of the other signals will mean that he will believe that more than the other messages. That’s a bit worrying, because there are certainly times when I lose it, as do most parents I know. But the point of the book is that gives lots of means to avoid this negative anchoring and turn it into positive messages and anchoring instead (blimey, I sound like a self-help book; turn that frown upside down!).

The second chapter talks about what children want and it boils down to love and attention – as well as, of course, having their basic needs met. What a surprise! He talks about the importance of talking to children, right from when they can start to hear in the womb. Not just baby talk (though that’s important for learning language), but talking softly about what you’re doing and where you’re going when you’re carrying or pushing your baby, singing to them while you change their nappy and so on. Talking to your toddler, talking to your pre-schooler, to your school children and to your teenagers. Well, d’oh! We know all this now, but when it was written a lot of this was new (scientifically, at least – I’m sure there were many mums, and dads, who knew this instinctively; though there were plenty who didn’t).

And children want stimulation (and attention). And they’ll take their stimulation (and attention) wherever they can get it. So, if we just potter about doing the dishes and folding the ironing while they’re being good and playing quietly, but turn and shout at them when they start misbehaving, they’re going to misbehave more. Biddulph claims that just half an hour of full-on, positive, one-on-one attention a day, will make the majority of bad behaviour go away.

And I can confirm that, for us, this does seem to work. If you remember, I decided last month to try to make sure I gave Rosemary one-on-one time in the mornings, before playgroup/nursery school/my mum’s, instead of getting the kitchen cleaned or checking on blogs or other such things. And I’ve pretty much been sticking with it, doing lots of baking, colouring, playing doctors, and sometimes just chatting or singing for half an hour. And she’s, for the most part, much happier and better behaved, getting dressed nicely and playing nicely in the time when I’m not giving her attention. We have, in fact, settled in to half hour chunks, it seems. If she’s up very early, we might have a couple of half hour chunks, otherwise just one and the rest of the time I will stop what I’m doing to answer any questions or help her with something, instead of saying ‘In a minute’ all the time. So, when I was reading this book on the train, I was thinking ‘Yes, that’s very true. But how did people not used to know this?’

The three main reasons for children playing up that Biddulph gives are:

  • being bored
  • feeling unwanted
  • to get noticed.

Another important thing Biddulph mentions is active listening, which is something I think I’m inclined to do naturally, though have certainly witnessed some of the other kinds of negative listening that he mentions:

  • patronising
  • lecturing
  • distracting.

And, to be fair, I’m sometimes guilty of the latter two with Rosemary, and the first with other people.

Active listening is where parents ‘are interested, and show it by confirming the child’s feelings and thoughts and by helping the child to think it through’. I think this is something that I tend to do, and have even wondered if I do it a bit too much, so was reassured to read that it was a good thing.

The fourth chapter talks about emotions and how it is important to help children express their emotions in a safe way and be comfortable with them. This is something else that I’ve read in the child care books we’ve edited, or on parenting websites. I know my sister has been on courses where they teach child care practitioners how to help children deal with emotions. And it’s something I try to acknowledge, though do sometimes forget. When reading this chapter, I was reminded that I had noticed my cousin taking note of her daughter’s emotions and saying something like ‘I can see that you are angry. Do you want some time on your own to calm down or can I help you?’ and I recalled thinking ‘Ah, see! She’s recognising O’s emotions and helping her deal with them.’ So, again, this chapter was predominantly confirming things I already knew.

There were a few interesting box-outs in this chapter about tantrums, sulks and shyness, some of which had some suggestions that made feel a little uncomfortable, such as insisting on a shy child greeting a visitor, and using naughty corners or the like to reinforce it. As a shy child (and quite shy adult) this suggestion made me feel uncomfortable, though I have a feeling it might well be right, nonetheless. Fortunately, Rosemary does not have that problem at all. She’s surprisingly sociable considering her parents!

The fifth chapter was the one that hit home most with me and, while it also covered things that I had read about it, it did seem to bring something new for me. And actually elicited a few light-bulb moments - ‘So that’s what I’m doing wrong!’ This chapter talks about being an assertive parent as opposed to an aggressive or passive parent. I was pleased to read:

‘If you have this pattern in your relationship with your child – back down, back down, back down, blow up – then you need to know…:

  • about a third of parents experience this pattern, especially if they have young children, and are just beginning to gain experience in parenting
  • it is not a big problem, just a misdirection of your energies and can be remedied.’

I must admit to feeling uncomfortable at some of what I read in this chapter. A lot of it talks about making sure you, as a parent, feel that you matter too, that you do not come last in the family. I have only recently been able to feel comfortable about seeing to my own needs. For example, I used to get up in the morning, get Rosemary up, let the dog out to do is wee and only then would I go and do my own wee. Lately, I’ve developed the ability to say ‘I need to pee, so I’m going to do that now.’ Yes, I quite often have company, but at least I’m not holding it in for another half an hour while making sure everyone else is seen to first. As I’ve discussed before, I don’t feel I can do anything other than work when Rosemary is away at playgroup, nursery school or my mum’s. That’s work time. Chris can happily hoover the stairs or mow the lawn in that time. He’s happy to catch up with the news and so on during that time. I can’t. Because I don’t feel I have the right to use the time that I’m paying someone else to look after my child for anything other than earning money. That’s something I’m trying to change, but will probably be experiencing again when Eleanor (Baby Number 2 now has a name, by the way!) arrives, because I find the whole guilt thing is worst when they’re babies.

Anyway, according to Biddulph, being an assertive parent involves taking care of your needs and feeling that you are important. You may recognise this as the oft-chanted ‘A happy mum means a happy child.’ And it’s true, we all know, that we will snap more or be less (positively) attentive when we’re tired or stressed or have to sacrifice something we want, whether that’s a bath, a nice haircut, a pint of beer, whatever.

And then there’s action; how to be when you need your child to do something:

  • ‘Be clear in your mind. It’s not a request, it’s not open to debate…
  • Make good contact. Stop what you are doing, go up close… don’t give the instruction until he looks at you.
  • Be clear. Say “I want you to … now. Do you understand?” Make sure you get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  • If they do not obey, repeat the command.Do not discuss, reason, get angry or scared. Breathe slowly and deeply so that you become calmer. What you are signalling to the child is that you are willing to persist on this one and not even get upset about it. This is the key step, and what matter most is what you don’t do. You don’t enter into debate or argument, you don’t get heated, you simply repeat the demand to the child.
  • Stay close… When the task is completed … then don’t make much of this either. Simply say, “Good,” and smile briefly!’

I have to say that the first couple of times I tried this with Rosemary, it worked perfectly, to the point where I was shocked. She seemed to sense that I meant business and said ‘OK’ at the second command. But since then, I’ve lapsed a little back into my old ways and did even screech yesterday morning, which I hadn’t done for a long time. But I had been bargaining and over-explaining, which doesn’t work in that situation. I definitely need to practise this and, having seen it work and almost work when I’ve almost got it right, I really do think it will make a difference. If I can retrain myself enough.

I think the appealing idea about being an assertive parent is that it does not mean being horrible, which is what I think I’ve always feared about the whole ‘being firm’ thing. I think I’ve placed being firm more in the ‘aggressive parent’ camp, rather than recognising the idea of assertiveness. Of course, I’m crap at being assertive in many adult situations, so I probably need more training that others might. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to have fun together, or cuddle or be reassuring and affectionate. Quite the contrary. All these things are really important, too. It’s just about meaning business when it’s necessary.

According to Biddulph, the assertive parent:

  • ‘gives positive strokes
  • is not threatened by conflict
  • makes clear, firm requests and demands
  • sets rules and carries out the consequences
  • negotiates more as children become older and more capable.’

The rest of the book is interesting, though none of it was quite as enlightening as the assertiveness chapter. But other parents might well find enlightening information in them. Chapter 8 goes into detail about the importance of Me Time – though I don’t think he uses that term. Again, this made me feel uncomfortable, though I know it’s right and something I need to work on as much as the assertiveness.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and feel that I got something out of it, and hopefully Rosemary (and Eleanor) will end up benefiting, too. Despite it’s age (it was written in 1984, though has been updated since the author had children of his own!), it still has a lot to say to parents today, if only to reinforce some of things that many of us now do seemingly naturally. I would happily recommend it and it’s still in print, so there’s obviously something in it!

Do you have any parenting (or other books) that have hit home in some particular way and you’d recommend?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Awards and thank yous

I’ve had a whole bunch of awards sitting around gathering dust, so figured I would make use of my unexpected night away from my computer to sit at a different computer and dispense awards left, right and centre (appropriately, it being election day).

Warning: I am almost certainly giving people awards who have already received them. Sorry. It’s difficult enough getting it together to write this awards post, without having to check on who has what!

Fucking Fabulous award

We shall start with rather fantastic Fucking Fabulous award from the equally fantastic Amy at And 1 more means four. Amy somehow manages to juggle four children (and I can’t even manage three balls), a job, a house and a husband, not to mention writing a blog and even going on the radio to talk about it. Wow! She is about ten years younger than me, but I don’t think that alone can explain her endless bounds of energy.

Now, most of these awards come with a bunch of instructions. Here are the ones for this one:

List five current obsessions and pass the award on to five more fabulous blogs. On your post of receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them. When you post your five winners, make sure you link them as well. To add the award to your post, simply right-click, save image, then “add image” in your post as a picture so your winners can save it as well. To add it to your sidebar, add the “picture” widget. Also, don’t forget to let your winners know they won an award from you by leaving a comment on their blog.


  1. Investigating buggies. We need a light-weight buggy that will fold easily for going on buses (though actually the easy folding may not be as much of an issue now I think of it, as Eleanor won’t be going to my mum’s until she’s at least six months, at which point, she can use Rosemary’s MacLaren Triumph) and it must have her facing me and being high up. I am convinced (probably unscientifically so) that Rosemary’s advanced speech is more than partially attributable to pushing her around in her buggy lots when she was very little and talking to her the whole time. So, I can write 100 words about the search for buggies; does that convince you that it’s an obsession?
  2. Trying to persuade Eleanor to stop pushing/kicking whichever internal organ she is pushing/kicking that makes me feel like I’m being leaned on by a very heavy person with very pointy elbows, from INSIDE! Stop it. Please. You’ll have plenty of time to kick me and push me and clamber all over me, if your big sister is anything to go by.
  3. Rewatching Buffy from the start (now on Season 5). It’s been a long time since I’ve watched it, especially all the way through. And I’m pleased to find that I’m loving it. I was a little worried that I was getting too old to appreciate it properly, but it is still great and I have the added bonus of feeling nostalgic when I watch it. Once I have got to the end of Season 7, I shall move on to Angel.
  4. Baking with Rosemary. We are baking something pretty much every other morning. It means we get to spend 20 minutes or so of solid one-on-one attention, which I had become lax at of late. When I ask if she wants to bake, she jumps up and down and says ‘Oh, yes, please Mummy!’ and she often follows that with a big hug and kiss and ‘I love you, Mummy!’ That’s all worth it, of course, but we also get the bonus of yummy cakes and biscuits to eat. May not be doing our waistlines much good, but mine’s disappeared amid baby anyway, so I’ll wait until next year to worry about that!
  5. Our new Wii. Except not so much, because Eleanor (see point 2 above) is not making it easy for me to jump up and down hitting imaginary tennis balls or throwing imaginary bowls. Still, I am very excited to have a Wii finally. I’ve wanted one pretty much since they came out, but haven’t been able to justify the cost. So it was with great delight that I discovered I had won the competition that Single Parent Dad ran in conjunction with Ciao!. I never win anything. Though Chris did remind me that I have actually previously won a different Nintendo games console – won a GameCube about seven or eight years ago. I did pay for my DS, though, promise! Anyway, even though I’m not managing to engage in actually playing with the Wii, I have been enjoying watching Chris and Eva (my sister) playing with it and Rosemary has even had a go. I also watched some of Ashes to Ashes via the BBC’s i-Player. The interface isn’t brilliant for doing so and a proper media extender would be preferable for that kind of thing, but does still allow for catching up on TV in the bedroom.


  1. More than just a mother, whose insight into human nature and ability to tell it how it is can make me laugh, cry and jump about in excitement – sometimes all in one post. If you’ve never read her blog, where the hell have you been? Hopefully, her computer nightmares will be over soon and she will be back entertaining us.
  2. Maternal Tales from the South Coast, who frequently has me rolling around on the floor laughing or, at the very least, spitting tea all over my keyboard and also tends to bestow some really handy advice.
  3. Single Parent Dad, who is responsible for obsession number 5 and who’s blog can be funny, insightful and also incredibly moving.
  4. Are we nearly there yet, Mummy?, who is super famous after a trip to Disney World (or was it Land – I never remember which is which) and has had a lovely make-over and a change of address (update your blogrolls – note to self: update your blogroll!).
  5. Motherhood: The Final Frontier, who is probably the absolute coolest ex-popstar parent blogger out there and who always makes me laugh or think hard or just marvel at her turn of phrase.

One Lovely Blog award

This one came from the lovely Surprised, whose pictures and tales of the young (though fast-growing) Isobel take me back to Rosemary’s early months. She is another supermum (though, as I say that, I realise that pretty much every mum I know through this blogging lark could be described as that, and the dads are super, too) who manages to juggle working with bringing up her daughter, almost single-handedly. I have much admiration for her.

Now, this one has some rules, too, of course:

  1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
  2. Pass the award to 10 other blogs that you've newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
  3. Publish your 5 pet hates.

Pet hates

WARNING: It’s quite possible that you do one (or more) of the below. Fortunately, I am very aware that people are well-rounded and just because you do one or more of these, I will still like you for all that you are. Probably!

  1. People who park on the pavement. The pavement is for pedestrians. For people pushing buggies and wheelchairs. It is not for cars. You have loads of roads and car parks and proper parking spaces. Get off the pavements! I do not want to have to push a buggy with a small child or baby out in the road where other people are driving over the speed limit. I do not want to have to walk into people’s gardens in order to pass you. I want to walk on the pavement. Grrrr.
  2. People who jump to conclusions about other people based solely on their age. Teenagers are all skiving, drunk drug addicts. Old people are all grumpy and boring. People in their early twenties party too much. Gah! Actually, it’s probably jumping to conclusions about people based on any kind of generalisation, be it age, sex, race, class, occupation, or lack thereof. Everyone is different. Get to know the individual first before making assumptions!
  3. People who spend their whole time complaining about everything under the sun, but never doing anything about it.
  4. People who drive to the corner shop. Or to the school round the corner. Or to their friend’s house half a mile down the road. Use your feet. Think about your children’s future. Just get a bit of exercise. And be a role model to your children.
  5. Reality TV shows. And people tweeting about them. I hate Big Brother. I hate The Apprentice. I hate I’m a Celebrity. I hate Britain’s Got Talent (though have to admit watching some of it – oops). I hate lazy and cheap TV programming. Go out and make some good dramas and comedies instead. Or even some interesting, thought-provoking documentaries.


Oh good. I get to choose some newly-discovered blogs. Have found quite a few new recently, though not sure if I’ll be able to muster a whole ten. Since they’re only newly discovered (but mostly because I’m getting tired and still have two awards left), I’m just going to link and not give a whole big write-up and cheer. Sorry. But they’re all great! Go read them, if you don’t already.

  1. Clareybabble
  2. OMG We’re Pregnant
  3. Kelloggsville
  4. Being a Mummy
  5. The hair dog chronicles
  6. All Grown Up
  7. Grit’s Day
  8. A Midwife’s Muse
  9. Country Lite
  10. Little Garden Helpers

The Lemonade Award

This came from one of my new finds, who also gets to experience the ups and downs of working at home. She’s also big into guiding – did you know Baden Powel is some kind of ancestor of mine (can’t remember exactly how, sorry).

OK, here are the rules for this one:

  1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
  2. Nominate up to 10 blogs that show an attitude of gratitude.
  3. Link to your nominees within your post.
  4. Comment on their blogs to let them know they've received this
  5. Share the love and link to this post and the person who nominated you for the award.
  6. Tell us how you've come to have an attitude of gratitude.

Attitude of gratitude

One of the biggest things I’m grateful for is getting to be a mum. I lost three babies before they were born, so having one actually make it the whole way and another half-way there is pretty darned amazing. I’m also generally grateful for my whole life – my husband, my family, my house, my career, the fact that I am able to live in considerable comfort. I have things to moan about, sure, but all in all things are very good and I know that I am extremely lucky to be able to say that.

The winners

I’m just linking again. Really need to get some sleep. But all these people seem to show an attitude of gratitude, many in the face of much adversity. I am thankful to know you all.

  1. Jo Beaufoix
  2. Time Management Mum
  3. Not wrong, just different
  4. I promise that I will do my best
  5. Littlemummy
  6. And 1 more means four
  7. Rosie Scribble
  8. Nixdminx
  9. Sticky Fingers
  10. Violet Posy

Honest Scrap

This one comes from another new discovery. OMG We’re Pregnant is a blog written by Mr and Mrs, a couple who are embarking on parenthood for the first time, and whose due date is pretty darned close to ours. They both write really well about the whole journey of pregnancy. Go read for yourself.

This one has quite simple rules:

The rules of this award are that you choose 7 blogs to pass this award onto, and list 10 facts about yourself as well.

Ten facts about me

  1. I lived in Spain for a year when I was 9/10.
  2. I was homeschooled for a few years of primary school.
  3. I can speak (well, a bit, I’ve forgotten quite a lot) Esperanto (and French, Spanish, German and Italian, oh and sometimes English).
  4. I love to programme and code and have done since I was 7 and got my first computer (ZX81) and learnt BASIC.
  5. I am allergic to cats, even though I grew up with them and didn’t not have a cat until we lived in Spain.
  6. I have a Joint Honours degree in Publishing with French Language and Literature.
  7. I lived in Oxford for seven years and still miss it.
  8. I love my work (most of the time).
  9. I like real ale and live music.
  10. I am happy.

The winners

Links only again. Am determined to get to bed before midnight.

  1. A Modern Mother
  2. Secret Diaries of a Wannabe Yummy Mammy
  3. Home Office Mum
  4. The Potty Diaries
  5. All that comes with it
  6. Bringing up Charlie
  7. Dulwich Divorcee

Take your pick!

Finally, the lovely Clareybabble offered me my pick of three of the above awards, all of which I have already. So… over to you. If you haven’t had one of the above awards and would like it, then it’s yours. Enjoy!

Phew! That was time-consuming and probably the longest post I’ve written. Next time, I will make sure I give them away immediately, instead of saving them up. Telling everyone they’ve won an award will definitely have to wait.

Coming soon… a post about The Secret of Happy Children: A Guide for Parents, by Steve Biddulph.