Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Bond Between Man and Dog

I know I have already posted this photo over on Instagram but I couldn't resist posting it again.

There are so many moments in my daily life that make my heart sing ... and this wasn't even one of them! 

This was a photo I took by mistake when I was trying to get Miss Olive to do what she had been doing only moments earlier and hug Harry.

I know that they adore each other, so I think the double side eye is aimed at me for having the temerity to interfere.

I get it, I get it, you are not performing seals.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

I Am A Woman Of Worth

Last week I went to an anonymous hotel room to meet a complete stranger, strip down to my underwear and pose for photos.

This is not something I make a habit of doing, especially not as a happily married lady, but this was a different sort of hotel room liaison.

Last week I became part of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, and it was in equal parts a humbling and empowering experience. 

The brainchild of Ashlee Wells-Jackson, this project has profound meaning for her and for those of us who are lucky enough to participate:
The project exists because women are judged too crudely on the way we look and are often told we don’t measure up. Because no real person can compete with the tools in Photoshop and glossy magazine covers. And because motherhood is sacred and should be celebrated. 
There is a lot of secrecy around the location and format of each shoot - and rightly so, these are personal and often visceral journeys we are sharing - but Ashlee and her partner Laura are careful to honour them with calm, quiet and safe surroundings. 

Before starting the shoot, Ashlee spent some time interviewing me about my journey through motherhood. The final question she asked is why I wanted to be part of the project.

That was a hard question for me to answer.

The truth is that like a lot of women I have a complex relationship with my body. There are parts I think look fabulous, there are parts I think wobble more than they probably should. 

It’s wrong to say that I don’t care how my body looks because I am human, so I care that I am no longer a gravity defying 18 year old just as much as I am proud to be a gravity embracing 36 year old.

The truth of me is this: I'm a mama who has grown three children, who has a healthy relationship with food, who puts more emphasis on fitness than thinness. 

I work full time, I parent, I write, I live and I love. 

All of these things coexist and demand compromise and all of them form a part of who I am.

I am a woman of worth.

There is as much discussion today as there ever has been around the rightful place of a woman. The internet has brought freedom of expression not only to those of us who recognise that we bear a responsibility in how we use our voice, but to any damn fool with a keyboard and an appendage to poke at it.

The world is a noisy place and, for the first time in history, my children will grow up to the sound track of this never silenced crowd: The feminists, the men’s right activists, the backdrop of systemic gender roles, point and counter point, anywhere, any time. 

My voice is only one.

I remember St Valentine’s Day as a child. Each year I would receive a card and a little token from my mum and each year I remember thinking that it didn't“count” because it was in her job description to love me. My beauty wasn't validated by her, but by the attentions of whichever awkward boy I had in my sights at that time. Boys who, in reality, barely knew I existed and yet who unwittingly held my entire future happiness in their hands. At least for that week.

It’s a privilege of age to look back at that time with a sense of perspective.

Now it is time for me to pick up the mantle of unconditional love for my children and demonstrate that worth is not bound by physical perfection or the whim of others. 

Melissa Atkins Wardy wrote recently about how “the daily, sometimes gruelling work of instilling in our daughters an unshakable knowledge that she has worth. Everything else in the world will tell her otherwise. We have to raise our daughters in such a way that when we send her out into the world she has the heart and courage of a lioness.” 

So what drove me to become part of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project

It’s me, with my one voice, showing my children, with all my heart and soul, as the product of every part of my 36 year journey, what it means to be a woman of worth.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum

In three short months Alfie starts home-schooling. In my head that statement reads slightly differently; it reads more along the lines of “holy shit we’re about to become responsible for the entire future well-being of our child!!”

You could say that is a point of stress for me.

Picking a Homeschool Approach

Keith is his usual nonchalant self: “we’ll un-school” he shrugs, “just take every day as it comes”.

To a highly organised person like me, that’s a shrug away from a nervous breakdown. 

I'm the sort of person who has lists, and maps and itineraries, preferably colour coded and available in the cloud in case I need them when I'm half way round the world.

I need plans people, PLANS. I need to be able to measure and record and tick shit off.

We all play to our strengths I suppose, and it’s not that I hate the meandering organic approach to life; it’s more that I also love being organised. 

Being organised frees my mind to allow me to enjoy the meandering you could say.

A lifetime ago, Keith and I went on a ten day tour of Ireland on our bikes and after we had come up with the general idea, I told Keith to “leave it with me”.

A week later I presented him with a map showing our route, rooms booked at suitable intervals at local pubs, and “must-see” attractions marked along the way. It was a masterpiece of organisation. 

My cosmic punishment? 

Keith’s bike broke down before we had even left, one of the places I had booked was in a village so small they had forgotten to signpost it, the EU funding had run out for road building so half the ride was on dirt tracks, one of our Guinness posters came flying out of our luggage on a stretch of motorway and we nearly crashed going to see a local celebrity dolphin. 

All in all, it was the best holiday of my life.

None of this has any bearing on home-schooling of course, but it should go some way to explaining how I roll and why, at the moment, my brain is consumed with home-schooling nightmares.

I might not be worried, were it not for the fact that someone in the family (i.e. me) has to fill in some very official forms that need to convince the government we have some small idea of what we are doing.

And I don’t think they go bundles on “take every day as it comes” as an answer.

So I went on-line and searched for “Home-school Curriculum” which led to the internet delivering me 1,430,000 head fucks in 0.29 seconds.

According to the internet, approaches to educating your child, include (but are not limited to) Traditional, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Lap booking, Note booking, Unit Learning, Un-schooling and for the indecisive amongst us, Eclectic.

How do you choose? 

Well you pick a style that suits both you as a teacher and your child as a learner. 


Or if you are me you spend days looking for sites that offer free resources, read them until you never want to see another piece of free clip art and then try and work out which ones you will be able to convince your family to use while also being able to convince the government you aren't making it up as you go along.

Dear future well adjusted children, I hope it now becomes clear why your father was the one who stayed at home with you. 

Also why we never had any money for holidays; we spent it all on laminators and field trips, that shit doesn't come cheap.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Review of “Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family”

What if there was a parenting advice book that started from the premise that you were already an expert? What if there was a book that gave you a big warm hug and said “you got this mama”?

How about if that book was also full of evidence based advice presented in a supportive and non judgemental way? How about if it gave you solutions to problems and told you that all that crazy newborn shit that your child is pulling is all totally normal?

That’d be a pretty awesome book, wouldn't it?

It would be the sort of book that would have made the first time mum I was in 2009 realise that my instincts were more valuable than the opinion of a “baby expert”. It would have given me the tools to know how to deal with the scare-mongering of health visitors and the sniffing disapproval of family members.

If only such a book existed .....

I was asked to review Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family and I have to admit, part of me was wondering whether this book was going to heal my rift with “parenting books” or whether it was going to give me an excuse to buy a dart board.

The children and I are unanimous in our view, this book will only be a force for good in your life.

It will not make you feel like a failure for your choices, it will not pretend that your difficulties are a result of you doing something wrong.

It WILL, however, give you ideas and tools to help you achieve safe co-sleeping, breastfeeding friendly night times. It will remind you of what “normal” really looks like and it will quote the experiences of other parents who are going through EXACTLY the same problems as you!!

The book is written in an informal conversational style which I really loved. If you are used to an instruction manual approach to parenting books then this might throw you a bit because this book is more about offering research, suggestions and then telling you to take what works and do what feels right.

Oh yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, this book puts parents front and centre as the experts in their own children (the scandal!) and while it might offer suggestions and guidance, it’s not going to tell you that what you are doing is wrong.

It covers everything from the early days when you don’t know which way is up, to the days of toddler sleep regression and nap dropping. It looks at how to help sleep to happen and how to keep it happening. In fact, it looks at pretty much every permutation of every sleep issue you can even think of, including possibly the best ever come back to the question of how you will have sex if your baby is in your bed
“Well we didn't make our first baby in a bed, so I don't see why we would need to make the other ones there”
If you are one of those normal parents, with a normal baby, who doesn't sleep 12 hours a night straight off the bat, then this book might well save your sanity.

If you know a parent who fits that description, be their best friend forever; buy them a copy and place it quietly on the chair beside them before retreating to the kitchen to make them some tea. 
They may well name their future child after you in gratitude.

Pinter and Martin Publishers sent me a copy of Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family to review. You can purchase your copy directly from their website or from any other good book retailer.
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