Monthly Archives: January 2010


Josie's next Writing Workshop is up.  I spent some time musing about which of the topics to do, before it occurred to me that the one paragraph I had so far managed to write in what was supposed to be the belated post about Christmas was, in fact, a perfectly adequate beginning for topic no. 3: What are you guilty of viewing through rose-coloured spectacles?

I'm not much of one for pontificating about how much better things were back in the good old days when I were a lass, but the one major exception to this is (are?) advent calendars.  In my childhood, I used to shop happily for calendars picturing detailed scenes in snowy villages or Santa's workshop that my childhood imagination could spin stories around, with each window revealing a picture that would become a jumping-off point for further installments in the story.  These days, seems like all you can get in the local shops are the kind with chocolate in.  If I want to eat chocolate, I'll eat it – none of this messing around with one tiny morsel per day, thank you.

My all-time favourite advent calendar, by the way, was one that had dials on it instead of windows – each day, you turned the dials another notch to reveal the next thing on them.  There were multiple dials – for the date, the picture, and for lists of things to do each day to prepare for Christmas.  I adored this, and looked out eagerly for another one the next year, and in subsequent years; but I never saw its like again.  After some years of failing to find this type it occurred to me to wonder seriously if – forget rose-coloured glasses – I had actually dreamed the whole calendar in its entirety.  I still wonder that to this day, so, if anyone out there remembers such a calendar from circa late '70s or early '80s, could they please let me know so that I know it wasn't just my vivid imagination?

So.  That aside, am I viewing my childhood advent calendars through rose-coloured glasses?  Were those snowy village scenes and hard-working elves actually less adorably detailed and enticing to the imagination than my memory suggests?  Were the pictures revealed by the opening of each window really so much better than the dull and uninspiring images of ornaments and ice skates in the advent calendar I had last month?

The answer to the latter is quite possibly 'Yes', if only on the basis that, really, how interesting can you make a picture that has to fit in approximately half an inch squared of space?  Especially when you have to produce 24 or 25 of the blighters (come to think of it, that's one thing that I know objectively has changed – it used to be possible to get advent calendars with a window for Christmas Day.  I know this because it was one of my criteria – I insisted on getting my (parents') money's worth out of my advent calendar) and then mass-produce them to be sold for a few quid each?  In all fairness, the pictures in the windows most likely really weren't quite as exciting as I remember, and my imagination probably filled in the gap.  The pictures on the front?  Even after the most meticulous examination of my metaphorical lenses for any hint of pink, I know I remember pictures that were better than anything I can find today; but maybe they were the exception to the rule, not the yearly occurrence I fondly recall.

You know what?  I've just realised I may be able to check.  My mother is currently having the All-Time Massive Clearout of the attic prepatory to turning it into an extra bedroom, and I bet you there are at least some old advent calendars lurking in one of the twenty million boxes she currently has filling her house.  So, Mom – if you do come across any (that you haven't yet consigned to the dustbin of history), do please save them for me to see.  Have I developed rose-coloured glasses on this subject?  Is that the ironic follow-up to my childhood history of not being allowed to order pink spectacle frames because you thought they made me look like Matthew Rabbit?1  I look forward to finding out.

1. This was, I should add, absolutely the correct decision on my mother's part.  The literal rose-coloured glasses provided by the NHS in the '70s are one thing that I am certainly not viewing through metaphorical rose-coloured glasses.  They really were quite hideous.

The other posts for the Writing Workshop are now listed here.  Please go and check them out and leave your comments!



Filed under I think this line's mostly filler

January Carnival Of Breastfeeding: Filling The Information Gap

As part of my new drive to write more posts generally and more about serious topics in particular, I'm going to have a crack at participating in some of the Breastfeeding Carnivals. The topic for January's breastfeeding carnival is to get together a list of links to useful posts on whatever breastfeeding topic we happen to feel passionately.

The topic I feel passionate about is the need to fill the information gap that prevents women from breastfeeding.  The gap between the information women should ideally have about breastfeeding and what they do have.  The gap between the things that women get told about breastfeeding, and the truth.  The gap between the information that health care professionals should have and the information they do have.  I want to see that gap filled in – to do what I can to ensure that a woman who wants to breastfeed is not held back by lack of information, or misinformation, on her part or the part of her healthcare team. 

I picked these posts with the aim of helping to fill that gap.  They aren't a comprehensive resource, but I hope they'll help to equip women who want to try breastfeeding (and anyone who wishes to support them) with information that may make the crucial difference between breastfeeding working and not working out.  Or, as Best for Babes brilliantly put it, help to beat the booby traps.

The ideal time to read these posts is before you give birth,
because knowing some of this stuff right from the very start can make a
real difference to the ease of breastfeeding, and you are not likely to
want to log onto your computer and read through this lot as the
midwives deliver the afterbirth.  However, I do hope several of them
will also provide information, support, and encouragement for women in
the early days.  They are by no means a comprehensive list, but they
are the posts that I could find that were informative and supportive
and non-judgemental and readable.  If you know of any that you think
really should have made this list, do please add them in the comments!

Help!  I don't want to breastfeed.

Do you hate the whole idea of breastfeeding, but still feel maybe
you ought to at least try it?  A supportive, non-judgemental post on
how to address your reservations and give it a shot.

Prepare: The Learning Curve of Breastfeeding

Being prepared to meet difficulties, and knowing that they can be beaten, are the first two steps to overcoming them. This post encourages women on both grounds, and gives excellent initial advice.
(The one part of this post that I was dubious about is the section on guided imagery. Not only is this not for everyone, but I know that focusing too hard on images of a perfect birth would not have been the right thing for me – that would only have made me feel I had an impossibly high standard to live up to. I much preferred seeing myself dealing with possible problems and overcoming them than having a fluffy glowing perfect experience. Horses for courses – take this bit (and others) if you find them helpful, and be willing to ignore anything that just isn't a good fit for you.)

Your A-Team: Finding a Breastfeeding-Friendly Prenatal Care Provider, Hospital, and Pediatrician

Another 'preparation' post.  The
health care professionals you come into contact with in your labour and
the early days of breastfeeding can help you enormously with
breastfeeding – or, if they get it wrong, throw things off very badly
for you. It's worth putting time and effort into finding the ones
who'll be more likely to do the former. This post is written for women
in the US health care system, so some of it will not apply in other
countries – here in the UK, a woman will be more likely to have
midwife-led care during her pregnancy and will have a GP and health
visitor rather than a paediatrician for routine problems. But the
advice to look into finding professionals who know enough about
breastfeeding to help rather than hinder still stands. If you're in the
UK, try to find midwives who are knowledgeable about breastfeeding, and
ask at your GP practice about which doctor might have an interest in
breastfeeding, and see whether you can have a chat with him or her
about some of the points raised.

Get Your Best Game On, Girlfriend: Your Game Plan For Getting Breastfeeding Off To A Great Start

Great advice and encouragement for how to get things to go smoothly in the crucial early days.

Breastfeeding: Why Is It So Hard To Breastfeed A Baby?

guest post on the marvellous 'Ask Moxie' problem page, addressing and busting some of the myths out there.  Unfortunately,
the blogger who posted this has since left the blogging scene and taken
down her own blog, which means that the links in this post no longer
work.  Other than that, a great post.

Breastfeeding: What's The Normal Learning Curve?

Another guest post from Jamie on 'Ask Moxie', this one about breastfeeding in the early days. 

How do I position my baby to breastfeed?

Getting your baby positioned and latched on properly is one of the most basic ingredients in getting breastfeeding to work out. A detailed but straightforward description of how to do this.

Breastfeeding, Bottle Feeding and… Somewhere In-Between… Why the Guilt?

A post by a lactation consultant on how to inform mothers-to-be and new mothers sensitively about breastfeeding and deal with their concerns. Thoughtful advice for health care professionals who want to know how to raise the subject, and makes a couple of excellent points for women who wish to breastfeed (yes, mixed feeding is an option if you're not sure about exclusive breastfeeding – if only more women realised it didn't have to be all or nothing!).

The Princess And The Chick Pea (And The Grape And The Walnut)

A delightful story about sticking up for the best way of doing things in the face of opposition.

Helping A Baby With A Tongue Tie – Information For Parents

Included in memory of my own experience.  A link about a small, easily-fixed problem that unfortunately hinders or destroys so many breastfeeding attempts purely because so few people know enough to recognise it.  Edited to add: And, for those in the UK, here is a list of people who can snip your baby's tongue tie, and here is advice from your GP on how to refer you.

Breastfeeding – Every Day Makes a Difference To Your Baby

Last and most definitely not least, a crucial point which we all end up losing sight of far too often – the importance of focusing on the important thing we're doing in giving breastmilk to babies, rather than beating ourselves up over the ways in which we feel we're falling short of what we should be doing. If you give your baby any amount of breastmilk for any period of time, then you've done something great for him or her.  However long or short a time you manage, however much or little breastmilk you give your baby in that time – always, always remember to feel proud of yourself for managing to breastfeed.  If you've tried to breastfeed and done what you could to make it work out, you've done something grand.

Other carnival posts are now going up!  Check out these links:

Breastfeeding and Thrush (Nipple Yeast) from Angela at Breastfeeding 1-2-3

Increasing Milk Production from Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom

My favorite web resources for some breastfeeding concerns from Tanya on the Motherwear blog

Inspiration For A Nursing Mama's Soul from Paige at Baby Dust Diaries

Full -term breastfeeding posts and pages from Lauren at Hobo Mama


Filed under Milky milky

…and possibly even a song to sing

Several weeks ago, I came across a blogger who runs weekly writing workshops on her blog, Sleep is for the Weak.  On Mondays she posts a list of five possible blogging topics, and people can then pick one (or more) to write a post about.  Two days later everybody who's participated has to list links to all the posts of everyone else who participated, so everybody gets to see what the list has inspired everybody else's creative powers into producing, and everybody's post gets that bit more publicity.  And, of course, everybody gets a list of (hopefully) good posts to read. 

I was torn between feeling intrigued by the whole idea, and recognising the rather obvious fact that, since I was barely managing to find time for one post a month at that point, aiming for one a week on top of all the other stuff on my mental want-to-post-but-can't-find-time list might be just a tad ambitious. As it turned out, I wasn't faced with having to make any sort of decision on the subject at that point, as the blogger who runs it took a few weeks' hiatus from the workshop over Christmas and the latest one has only just been posted.  And I'm going to have a shot at it.  For reasons which, as luck would have it, happen to be covered in the post topic I've picked.

From this week's list of five, I chose no. 3: What steps have you taken this year so far to make a dream a reality?  It's a surprisingly useful question, because it made me stop and think about what my dream actually is.  In amongst all the wishes and hopes and wouldn't-it-be-nice-if daydreams, which one is my dream?

My dream… is to make this blog into one of the really well-known ones – one of the ones that hits Top Mommyblogger lists and that's a familiar name to others across the blogosphere – and to use it for more thought-provoking and informative posts as well as the entertaining ones.  I want to write more posts that look at the controversies of the parenting world, weigh up the evidence even-handedly, distinguish as clearly as possible between myths, uncertainties and facts, and hopefully leave a few people – or more than a few – better-informed than they were before.  And, while doing this, I still want to go on writing about the day-to-day ups and downs of parenthood and anything else that happens to go on in my life.   I want to write posts that will be respectful and informative and interesting and thought-provoking and readable, as well as posts that will be funny and entertaining and poignant and readable.  I want (hell, I'm dreaming, so I'm going to aim high) to write a cross between Mainstream Parenting and Here Be Hippogriffs

I don't expect to get all that much done toward that end in 2010.  But there's a lot I can do to pave the way.

This, of course, is where the writing workshops come in.  Partly because they'll be the ideal way of at least getting a few people coming over to look at this blog – and, hopefully, some of you will like it enough to come back.  But also because sometimes I need a goal to kickstart me past my crippling perfectionism, my reluctance to commit a single word to print until I've planned the entire post in minutest detail, complete with full links and snappy title, and dealt with my entire to-do list into the bargain.  I'm going to have to get past all that, just sit down, and write.  Even if it isn't good.  Especially if it isn't good, because my fear of writing something off-puttingly terrible is one of the hugest things holding me back from blogging more, and I have to get through that and just write.  So that's why it'll be good for me to have weeks when I just make myself pick a post topic from a choice of five and get it written in the next two days.  Forget whether it's perfect, Sarah.  It won't be.  But it will be posted, and that will be a major plus point.

There's also something more indirect that I can do, and that's start dealing with the rest of that mental to-do list.  Sure, one of the reasons I don't blog is because I'm too busy… but another is that that busy-ness is made even worse than it needs to be by all the perceived busy-ness muddying up my head.  It's not just the time I spend on all the things I have to do.  It's also the time I spend feeling that I can't sit down and spend a few minutes blogging because, well, it would be wrong when I have so much else that I should be doing that is, objectively speaking, a higher priority than blogging.  So I don't blog… but a lot of the non-blogging time isn't spent getting the other stuff done, it's spent on fretting over the fact that I should be doing it.

So, to deal with that, I'm going to spend more time on doing the other stuff.  Not by falling into the trap of thinking I have to spend hours on end working through my to-do list, but Flylady style – a manageable bit at a time.  I'm trying to spend at least a few minutes each day working on one of the huge piles of stuff I have to do, and, little by little, it's getting done.  And this frees up enough space in my mind that I can give myself permission to do some blogging as well.  When I spend a bit of time on setting my house in order – literally and figuratively – it leaves me feeling much more comfortable with the idea of spending time on my own hobbies.

So… if you've come over from the Writing Workshop (or from anywhere else), hello and welcome!  I hope you'll take a bit of time to look around and see what you think.  Even better – let me know.  Tell me what you like about this blog, what you don't like, and what bits you disagree with so much you think I'm a complete idiot for even writing them.  Comment on any post you like, current or past – as long as you express your views civilly, I'm happy to hear from anyone of any opinion.  Let me know whether there are any burning topics you'd really like me to blog about (of course, it'll be around 2012 before I get round to it, but it'd still be good to hear your views on what I should write).  Or, if you don't want to make yourself known, just pull up a virtual chair and lurk.  Watch this space, because I aim to make it one worth watching.


Addendum/erratum: Sorry – I thought all part
icipants posted the list of everybody else's link, but I was thinking of the Carnivals.  For the Writing Workshops, the links are all collected in a Wednesday post on Josie's blog.  You can find this week's post here.  My personal favourite was Dulwich DivorcĂ©e's post (and, no, I promise I'm not just saying that because she was the first to comment on mine), but I had tremendous fun reading all the different ones and seeing what different bloggers had made from the prompts.  Enjoy!


Filed under Onward and upward

What Katie did next

Can you tell I've been planning to use that post title almost since my daughter was born?  Less than three years to go now before I can use the "What Katie did at school" title…

Anyway.  On New Year's Eve, while reading back over the-year-that-was in my blog (or what little of it I actually had time to report on), I noticed that it was the one-year anniversary of both Katie's first unsupported step and her first word.  It seemed an apt moment to record how far she'd come since then.  Well, apart from my utter lack of time to do so right then.  So, here I am, at a marginally less apt moment a few days later, blogging about some of the advances my daughter made in 2009.

Walking: Katie now walks, walks backwards, walks sideways (while exclaiming 'Crab! Crab!'), walks in an awkward bended-knee shuffle that is, I gather, an alternative attempt at impersonating crabs, walks downstairs (a skill she applies selectively to times when she's meant to be staying upstairs, seemingly losing whenever I actually want her to come down the stairs), climbs up and down the bunk bed ladder, and has just graduated from the walking-to-two-years Tumbletots class to start the 2 – 3-year-old class at the beginning of this year.  (Which has, incidentally, been a milestone I've been looking forward to for months, as it'll make our schedule on Tuesdays substantially easier.)

Talking: After her first word, Katie seemed to be going on most promisingly to pick up more, and then, a couple of months down the line, stopped using them.  This, of course, led to me spending a lot of time wondering whether I was going to end up having two autistic children instead of one autistic and one neurotypical (a combination I'd been particularly looking forward to, so I wasn't thrilled about the thought that it might not come to pass).  However, my gut feeling about her was that this wasn't really a sign of anything out of the ordinary, and so I never did take her to the doctor.  This isn't a decision I can defend logically – I know that having a child lose words they knew is a red flag, all the more so in a case where there's a family history of autism – but it turned out to be the right one.  After a while – I'm not sure how long, but I'd guess another couple of months after that – Katie started picking up words again.  Interestingly, these proved to be different words from the first time around.  Her first word from Learning To Talk, Take Two, was "'Narna", for 'banana'. 

Other early words, from my memory and from an e-mail I sent to a friend when she was twenty-one months, included (in no particular order):

Mama (I've always referred to myself as 'Mummy' when talking to the kids, so this endearing little touch of the Victorian era was entirely her doing. I almost wish I'd gone along with it and changed the way I refer to myself.)

Bruh (Brother)

Bee (Beep.  Used to mean 1. beeping sound, 2. thing that makes a beeping sound, 3. interesting-looking thing that looked as though it might potentially make a beeping sound if Katie could just get her hands on it.  Or, very occasionally, 'bee'.)

Cluh (Clock)

Pluh (Plum)

Gluh (Glasses)

A'ul (Apple)

Cray (Crayon)

Bah (Bird, bear, or ball)

She moved on in due course to two-word sentences ("Daddy draw!"  "Mama draw!"), and three-word sentences ("Nana draw trac-trac!") and four-word sentences ("Bih bruh pla' pia'" to comment on Jamie bashing away on her toy piano.  Or the time I was reading her a book with a character who splashed in the bath and commented on how her big brother also liked to splash in the bath, didn't he?  "Kay spla' ba' TOO!" she informed me firmly, thumping her chest for emphasis.  This is not a child who likes to be left out of anything.)  And now, she's talking a blue streak.  A lot of it is still too garbled to understand, but she can come out with longish recognisable sentences.  (The latest, today, was "I put 'no'baw Mummy' blue car!" while playing in the snow.  I mean, how good is that?  Six-word sentence with correct use of first-person pronoun, subject/verb/direct object/indirect object structure, and adjective.  Oh, and she knows her colours.)  I must say, it's an absolute delight having a toddler who learns how to talk normally.

Katie's other current skills and interests include:

Counting to fifteen with the seven, twelve, and thirteen omitted.

Being able to fit two jigsaw pieces together, occasionally even the correct pieces in the correct orientation.

Drawing passably recognisable bunk beds.  (She also loves having things drawn for her, as you may well have gathered from her earliest examples of sentences, above.)

Singing 'The Wheels On The Bus'.  ("Weebuh go roun'roun'!  Aww day lon'!  Wi' buh' go swi' swi'…")

Recognising the letter 'K' (my mother taught her when she visited for New Year).

Eating with a spoon.

Sitting on the potty – or on the toilet.  I had a week off around her birthday last November and, as she'd seemed very happy to be put on the potty regularly over the previous month, had a go at training her, but she didn't seem that interested in going of her own accord and started to resist the whole thing.  I put her back into pull-ups for the time being, but, in recent days, she's started yelling "Want sit potty!  Want do poo!" at least some of the time when she wants to go.  This past couple of days, she's decided she wants to sit on the toilet instead, which leads to some conflicts between her and Jamie but does bode well for getting toilet-training done successfully in the foreseeable future.  We shall see how it goes.

Washing hands.  This child is in training to be an OCD sufferer when she grows up.  Let her stand in front of a sink with a running tap and a piece of soap and she'll amuse herself for ages.  If you don't turn the tap on for her, she'll yell until you do.

She loves bananas and cauliflower and couscous and gravy (quite possibly all at the same time).  She also loves cake, but she has apparently heard and taken to heart the old saying about not being able to have your cake and eat it as well and has decided that, if that's the choice, she's going to go for the former option.  A week or so ago Jamie made some Dora the Explorer cupcakes from a pack and the two of them had one each after dinner for the next six days, and, while Jamie finished his off quickly, Katie licked the icing enthusiastically off hers and then hung onto the rest of it, apparently trying to consume the rest of it via the occasional lick, and howling indignantly when I dared to suggest that, given the amount of time she had spent sitting there not eating it, perhaps she could leave the sticky remnants of it and come upstairs with her brother so that we could make a start on preparations for bed.

She was 87 centimetres tall when we measured her on her second birthday, which converts to more conventional measurements as two feet ten and a quarter inches and gives her an es
timated adult height of a respectable 5' 8.5".  Her hair is well past her shoulders now – it's the kind of fine, straight hair that looks really obviously uneven if cut crookedly (unlike Jamie's tousled mop, where a bit of uneven trimming would have probably passed unnoticed), so I don't really want to take her to get it cut until I'm sure she's old enough to understand and follow along with sitting still for the duration.  So it's getting very long and easily tangled, which is a nuisance.  Barry's mother showed him how to twist it into a neat little knot on the back of her head, which makes her look adorably sophisticated, two going on twenty-one.  My beautiful little daughter, who's spent the past year growing from a baby into a wonderful little girl.


Filed under Here Be Offspring, How quickly they grow up

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

Ten years ago almost to the minute, give or take the time it takes me to write this, I was following a man with a lump of coal in his hand into a house in Wales.  The New Year's Eve party I was at had decided to follow the first-footing custom in style, and the whole gathering had turned out to walk in through the door at midnight.  We were assured that this was, in Wales, all part of the custom; in retrospect, I suspect somebody there just thought it would be amusing to get everyone to go out in the cold.  Barry was the one leading the line, having been voted in by the gathering for the job of the official first-footer – he wasn't the darkest person there, nor (for one of the very few times in his life) the tallest, but was judged to be the person who best combined both attributes.  He was my new boyfriend, and it was the second time he and I had met.

Not that that anecdote is really going anywhere much, but it's a good moment to look back on.

I was surprised, yesterday morning, when the radio mentioned that this was the turn of a new decade; I hadn't thought about that aspect of the new year.  Of course, when you've lived through the turn of a new millennium, all subsequent changes of year tend to feel a touch anticlimactic.  But I still like New Years, and the feeling of fresh start that they involve.  A happy turn of year to you all.

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Filed under I think this line's mostly filler