Monday 30 September 2013

Coping with a Toddler During Pregnancy (without resorting to TV)

I am not a massive fan of writing blog posts that tell people how to do things as if I am some authority on the subject, however coping with a toddler during pregnancy is something I wondered about when I was pregnant with Boris (not his real name), I never could quite imagine how I would cope being so tired and so sore and also having a toddler to run around after.  It was hard enough sitting at a desk at work all day.  So since I am now pregnant AND have a toddler (and seem to be coping) it seems fitting to describe the experience and the methods I have used to avoid going crazy and/or collapsing from exhaustion! 
Many people wait until their first child is older before having a second for fear of not being able to cope in pregnancy and I want to reassure women who want a second baby but feel they might be too tired that you can do it, you just need to make sure that you aren't trying to do-it-all.  
During the early stages of pregnancy I experienced sickness and tiredness but was physically able to move around fine, now in the later stages of pregnancy, I no longer feel sick but am finding it harder to run around after my little boy and it is now that I am having to come up with more and more strategies to keep me going.
I know plenty of parents let their children watch TV to give them a chance to get on with housework etc, and that is fine for them, but for me, I wouldn't be comfortable with this, especially having read Remotely Controlled by Aric Sigman.  I know everyone does what they need to to survive and I would never judge anyone for resorting to TV during difficult periods, but for me and my family TV isn't a satisfactory choice.
So here are some of the ways that I have changed my lifestyle in order to cope with pregnancy and a toddler:

  • Go to places where your toddler gets to run around and you get to sit down - I used to go to play grounds and parks a lot, also farms and lakes where I would walk around and let Boris run around while I ran around after him.  This has been ok, but I can't do it every day like I used to.  Instead I find it much more relaxing to go somewhere like the children's center or a toddler group where I can have a nice sit down and Boris gets to play with and show me all the exciting toys.  He burns up energy and i get to rest so it's a win win.  There is also opportunities for interaction with other children which is a learning experience for him and usually a chance for me to have a cup of tea and some good conversation with a grown up human!  Children's centers are great because they are free and usually have an outdoor space so your little one gets fresh air.  They also have areas set up with activities at tables so you can sit with your toddler while he explores some play doh or a puzzle for example.  There are usually toddler groups running every day so if you can travel then you can plan your week around toddler groups for maximum rest/play opportunities. 
  •  Sleep when your toddler sleeps - I know this is a cliche and some people find it really annoying to be told this, but I find it quite useful to remind myself that it is OK to sleep when my toddler sleeps.  I am not saying to sleep every time your toddler sleeps, I know there are things that need to be done, but if you can get a day time nap at least a couple of times a week, it does make a difference.
  • Provide stimulating activities for your toddler - I have found that if I spend a bit of time engaging my toddler in a planned, stimulating activity, he is much easier to cope with afterwards, he is often even happy to play by himself for a bit so I can have a sit down.  Obviously you have to  make the effort to come up with an activity, plan in, sort out the materials, set it up and get in there and play with your toddler, which can be tiring when you are pregnant, but it is worth doing on those days when you have nothing else planned.  Here are some ideas for fun things to do with your toddler.
  •  Get out of the house as much as possible - I have found that my toddler goes stir crazy if I try to stay indoors with him all day.  Fresh air and a change of scenery make all the difference so I often take him to the park, for a walk or simply to a friend's house where he can play with other toys and explore different surroundings. Often something as simple as walking to the shops gives your toddler the chance to burn off some energy and get some mental stimulation from his surroundings.  My toddler loves to stop and look at every stick, stone, man hole cover and piece of littler.  Let them, it gives you a chance to stand still for a moment and will make things easier later on because they will have been stimulated.
  • Create a routine - You don't have to stick to it rigidly, but I find that having a predictable routine for the week helps me to feel grounded and  reassured. I like knowing what the week is going to bring and although there is still room for spontaneity, regular activities anchor me throughout the week.  I think that they help Boris too.  So when I look at the week ahead I know that for example I usually meet my NCT group on a Monday afternoon, on Wednesdays I do the weekly shop and go to  Nursery Service at my local church, on Thursday I attend toddler group and on Friday I have my breastfeeding support group.  Just having these few things throughout the week that I know will occur is really reassuring for me, especially coming from a background that was ruled by schedule and repetition (teaching).
  • Don't try to do too much - I usually plan no more than two activities during the day.  One before lunch and one after.  There are times when I will try to do one more things and it ends up being stressful, rushed, and I feel bad for Boris because he doesn't get to take his time with things like his lunch or examining a flower because I am rushing him on to the next activity.  It is much better to be realistic with what you can achieve in one day, take your time, be gentle with yourself and your toddler and don't worry about letting things go.  It is ok to miss a toddler group or meet up with friends that you normally do if it means you can do a one off activity that you want to do, rather than trying to squeeze both activities. I m saying this as much to myself as to anyone else because I am often guilty of trying to do too much. 
I really hope this list of ideas helps anyone out there who is pregnant with a toddler and struggling or anyone who is thinking about having another baby but not sure how they will cope.  I hope I can add to this list, so please let me know if you are pregnant and have a toddler, what do you do to help you cope?

Monday 16 September 2013

Changing the World

Yesterday evening I was browsing Pinterest (something I spend far too much time doing)  and came across a photo that just broke my heart, I couldn't stop looking at it, it made me so so sad.  It was a journalistic style photo of a young boy laid sleeping on a cardboard box on some steps, cradling his younger, toddler aged brother.  I think before I had a child of my own this sort of photo would have saddened me but it wouldn't have affected me like it did yesterday, I literally had tears pouring down my face, it touched me right to my core. I think it was because I could just picture these boys being my own children and they looked so vulnerable, so fragile and alone.  It felt so unfair, I was really struck by the injustice of it, that we can live in a world where there are children sleeping on the street and simultaneously we have people paying $425 to buy capsules of flakes of golds to make their poo glitter (I am not kidding, check it out). Seriously, what is wrong with the world?  It make me feel like I really am so lucky and blessed for everything that I have and the country we live in.  I don't appreciate how fortunate I am, how secure and safe.  Just having basic things like a roof over my head, electricity and clean water makes me one very lucky woman. 
The photo made me feel like I desperately wanted to do something to help, to save children like these little boys, I just wanted to scoop them into my arms and take them away from the poverty and misery and fear, but then at the same time felt helpless because there is so little that I can actually do.  I can give money, but seeing as I don't actually earn any of my own it doesn't really feel like it would be my contribution.
But then I came across this pin:

Corner is picked and ready to change the world :) 
And I remembered that I am doing something to help the world by giving my time to voluntary breastfeeding help through The Breastfeeding Network.  I am helping mothers who want to breastfeed their babies to do so successfully and pain free, and enabling babies to have the most natural first food possible. 
I did my first session of volunteering on Friday and I felt it went really well.  I only spoke to one woman, but hopefully I made a difference to her, what she really needed was someone to listen and to reassure her that what she was doing was the right thing.  So maybe I am not directly helping children living in poverty but I am doing something to help and something I feel really passionate about and in my own small way I am changing the world.  I am not telling you this to say how great I am but to say that even these apparently small things we do can make a real difference.  And many many people are doing the same thing as me, for some it is saving animals, for others it's helping old people and for others it's simply picking up litter or recycling, but we are all doing our own little thing to help to change the world.
What are you doing to change the world today?

Saturday 14 September 2013

40 Soups - Mushroom

Over on my old blog Serendipity Child I started a series of posts call 40 soups based on a theme on a blog I follow by Elise Blaha, although I didn't get far with it, I loved it and have decided I would like to carry it on on this blog.  I really love soup and as it is coming into Autumn and winter when soups are the perfect warmer I thought I would share them with you.
Not only are soups easy to make they are also nutritious, enabling you to eat a few portions of your five a day in one easy meal.  My toddler usually likes them to, I give him the unblended version so he has pieces of food to pick up with his fingers and leave out cream because he has a dairy sensitivity.
This week I made mushroom soup for the first time. I didn't follow a recipe (I rarely do for soups) I just thought about what I would like to do and went ahead.  It isn't the cheapest soup to make because it required a whole pack of mushrooms, but was very very tasty.

I used:
One pack of organic chestnut mushrooms,
One large organic onion,
Three cloves of allotment garlic,
One kallo chicken stock cube,
1 tbs organic olive oil,
A dash of organic double cream.

To begin I chopped the onion and garlic and fried it in the olive oil.  I then chopped the mushrooms and addded them till they went soft and watery.  Next I added enough water to cover the mushrooms plus a bit more and added the chicken stock cube.
After cooking for about 15 mins I blended the whole thing and added the cream.
Served with crusty white bread it was absolutely delicious and tasted just like a bought fresh mushroom soup.
What soup recipes do you love?

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Allotment Update

Or - What went down at the allotment in 2013:

I originally took on my allotment from the local council about 5 years ago, shortly after we moved into the area, things have changed so much there over the years, but I am still not on top of it.  I wonder if you can ever be "on top" of mother nature?  This year I knew that I didn't want to over do it by planting loads of different, exotic vegetables, so stuck with what I know works and what I could manage.  With it being such a dry hot summer things didn't flourish as much as they could have if I had watered on those dry days but I still
harvested a modest amount of food considering how little work I put in.  It is so difficult to get down there with a toddler in tow, he is so curious and loves to explore so I have to either go there and hope he falls asleep in the car on the way or wait until I can go there with someone else who can watch him while I get on.  I am still so thankful to have it though it will be wonderful when Boris is a bit older and I won't have to worry about him eating something he shouldn't or wandering into other peoples' plots.

So now I am just starting to shut everything down at the allotment in preparation for both winter and my impending childbirth, covering the ground in plastic and picking the last of the harvest, a few small beetroots and, some runner beans and a couple of courgettes.  My mum helped me a couple of weeks ago, tidying the edges, tucking everything under the plastic and laying more plastic to keep the weeds at bay.

So I thought it was a pretty good time to do a little review with some photos of the allotment I took a few weeks ago.  I can't believe how much the weather has changed in such a short amount of time!  We were in the heart of summer what seemed like yesterday and now it seems like everything is closing down.
So here is what went down:

The last of the courgettes

The last of the rather straggly looking runner beans,

Small harvest

View of the whole allotment, my mum helped me put down the black plastic. 

What are you currently doing at the allotment?  Are you putting anything in?  Or just taking things out and covering things up? 

Monday 9 September 2013

Fun Things to do with Toddlers - Shaving Foam Play

I think, as with most ideas, I found this activity for the first time on Pinterest, I thought it was a great, fun idea and had to give it a go.  Obviously I had to wait until a time when it was unlikely that Boris would put the shaving foam in his mouth and as we had such lovely weather this summer it was no problem waiting for a good day to go outside and do it.  If you have wood or lino floors you could do this inside, but I felt it was too risky with carpet. I had put off doing this activity for ages because I was thinking it would be a waste of money because Boris wouldn't be into it, and neither my husband nor I use shaving foam, but when I saw I could get a can for 26p I thought why not?!
The basic idea is to spray some shaving foam on the mat or floor, drip food colouring onto it then allow the little one to smear the colours into the foam with their fingers or, if like me your toddler hates getting stuff on his fingers, with a paint brush.

 He soon became very interested in the little food colouring bottles and had a nice time lining them up, chewing them and trying to take the lids off. 

He picked up a plant pot the was lying around and I was very impressed by his creativity to press the pot into the foam and watch it squirt through the holes. 

It was an entertaining activity for me as well as Boris, he had a go at smearing the colours round with the brush and was fascinated by scooping the foam up onto the brush and flicking it about.  It was funny for me if he got even the tiniest bit of foam on his fingers because he insisted that it immediately be wiped off.  He is so funny about having stuff on his hands.  He was very disturbed when I sprayed a blob onto his hand!

This was a great fun activity,brilliant for sensory play and learning about the qualities of materials, but does need careful supervision, it was no trouble to clean up, I just hosed down the mat.  You could do this in the bath too, but I am a bit paranoid about all the chemicals and not really wanting them on Boris' skin. 
I think there are opportunities to develop this activity further with bowls and spoons and scooping and maybe squeezing it through different objects, also would be fun to make beards and hats and the like with it if you aren't paranoid about parabens and artificial fragrances like I am!!

Have you tried this activity or something similar?  What are you doing with your toddler now the days are getting shorter and the weather less welcoming?

Saturday 7 September 2013

What I am Currently Reading - Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

This is a fantastic book which turns everything you thought you knew about behaviour managements and discipline on it's head.
It advocated reasoning, love and persuasion as means of working with your children is preference to rewards and punishments, including time-outs and praise. Our society is so used to using these sorts of behaviour management techniques without question thanks to TV programmes such as Super Nanny, that any alternative seems hard to imagine but Kohn puts forward very persuasive arguments in favour of a different approach to working with children which is far more loving, nurturing and caring than the traditional techniques. 
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about this book going round such as that children are allowed to just get away with anything and aren't given any guidance as to how to behave, but it isn't like this it all, it really needs to be read to be fully understood and I think if you do read it you would find it very hard to fall back on the old techniques that are so frequently peddles by "behaviour specialists". 
The only negatives I can say about this book are that it is quite a hard, challenging read, it requires quite a bit of concentration to understand and would probably take several reads for all the information to truly sink in (this is the second time I have read it, although the first time I didn't manage to finish it)  The other thing I didn't like about this book was a small section which had a bit of a Bible bashing feel.  Kohn argues that an authoritarian approach to discipline has it's roots in certain religious belief systems, citing old testament fire and brimstone as proof of conditional love from God.  However I would argue that the Bible is filled with evidence that God loves us unconditionally because of what he did for us through Jesus, I would also argue that Christianity doesn't assume we are innately bad (as Kohn suggests) which is why we need saving and why we must be taught to behave, but that we are innately good but have gone astray.  This is obviously an extremely simplistic explanation which requires much much more that I can write in this book review (if you are interested read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell), but ultimately I think that in spite of this small section, Unconditional Parenting is still an excellent and extremely useful read.

When I began reading I was furiously underlining sections with a pencil for future reference, but fell behind when I didn't have a pencil handy, so here are a few quotes,, but they are mostly from the beginning of the book:

"What counts is not just that we believe we love [our children] unconditionally, but that they feel loved in that way.

"This approach (unconditional parenting)  offers a vote of confidence in children, a challenge to the assumption that they'll derive the wrong lesson from affection, or that they'd always want to act badly if they thought they could get away with it.

"That's an argument not for more discipline, but for grown-ups to spend more time with kids, to give them more guidance, and to treat them with more respect."

"On balance, the kids who do what they're told are likely to be those whose parents don't rely on power and instead have developed a warm and secure relationship with them. They have parents who treat them with respect, minimise the use of control, and make a point of offering reasons and explanations for what they ask."

An extremely good book for anyone who is interested in gentle parenting, gently discipline and building a strong, respectful relationship with their children.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Autumn is here!

Well not officially, but when I stepped out of the house this morning I could feel it.  The air had a slight nip to it and there was condensation on the cars.  I could smell it too, which is hard to describe but there was definitely a freshness to the air, combined with a mustiness (can those two go together?)  There are yellow leaves on the tree in front of my house now and a few have begun to drop leaving their delicious crunchy carpet behind for us to enjoy

As the day wore on I felt like it might have been the last day of summer, it got really hot and I felt like I should really relish it.  There are other things I need to relish at the start of this season, such as time alone with my son, as the season changes the days of being alone with him are quickly coming to an end because by the end of the Autumn, all being well he will have a baby brother or sister. 

The impending childbirth adds to a mixed feeling about the season.  On the one hand there is so much to love about it, the falling leaves, pumpkin pie, bonfire night, planting onions, but there is a worrying aura hanging in the air fir me when I think about giving birth again, it is a bit like the feeling of waiting for my own execution, I didn't have a very enjoyable birth experience with my son and am currently working on overcoming my negative feelings about childbirth, but it is taking a long time.

Another thing that I am reflecting on today is that pupils went back to school for their first day after the holidays, and a few years ago I would have been doing the same thing as a Secondary Art and Design teacher.  I loved the excitement of a new term, I really loved planning and fantasizing about all the wonderful displays that the work would create, imagining the kids getting all excited and not to mention the best thing of all about starting a new school stationary!!, and in this sense I am feeling a sense of loss. 

However the reality never quite matched the fantasy, the lesson planning sometimes fell through, some kids hated the projects and the fresh new stationary was soon messy and creased, so in this way I am hugely relieved and thankful that I am not having to go to work and can spend my time with my husband and little boy, relishing these last few warm days of the year. 

So it is a season of changes in nature and in life, a season which holds contrasting colours as well as contrasting feelings. Lets see what it holds...

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - Playing with ice

 A few weeks ago when the weather was really hot I thought I would freeze some objects in water in a Tupperware container with the idea that Boris could smash it open and dig all the bits out (I had seen something similar in Pinterest).  I forgot all about it then one sunny day last week when we had nothing in particular to do it popped into my head and I retrieved it from the depths of the freezer.
I thought I would share it with you today as those hot sunny days are rapidly coming to an end and there might not be many more chances to do an activity like this. 
In this tub I froze some sticks, feathers, pebbles, seeds, sand flowers and leaves.

At first he enjoyed scratching the ice crystals that had formed on the lid and on the surface of the ice:

He had a taste of it too,

The ice looked really beautiful filled with the different objects and you could see all the marks created during the formation of the ice inside.

Boris got frustrated because he wanted to get to the pebble straight away but couldn't,

We smashed it with a mallet, I held the handle but Boris had his hand on it too so he could feel involved,

I showed him how to lift up the pieces of broken ice to get to the objects inside,

He enjoyed throwing bits of ice on the ground and making it smash into smaller pieces,

One stick had a piece of ice stuck to the end, Boris licked it like a lolly pop!

He used another stick as a tool to push round and poke the broken pieces of ice,

In this activity Boris learnt a lot about the qualities of ice; that is is cold, wet, disappears over time and turns into water, is hard but breaks easily (brittle), you can see through it, it melts in your mouth, he learnt he could smash it with a heavy object or by throwing it,and that it was slippery and could be pushed around easily.  We spent quite a long time on this activity, we could have spent longer if it had been a cooler day, the ice melted very quickly!!  Boris seemed to really engage with the activity and didn't mind his hands getting wet.  The activity ended because we got too hot sat outside in the sun. 
I have made another one using herbs from the herb garden, it should create an interesting sensory experience when smashed open.

If you have a toddler then I would recommend this activity, it is fun to do and clean, very little clear up and takes very little time to put together (excluding freezing time).
What have you been doing with your toddler recently?

Monday 2 September 2013

Blackberry Picking

Last weekend my sister came to stay and we went to my allotment with Boris.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we decided to pick some blackberries because they were so bog and juice and sweet it would have been shameful not to!
I am sure that any parent of a toddler will agree that it it is so wonderful to have an extra pair of hands (and eyes) when you are out and about, it meant I didn't have to worry about Boris running off or eating something he shouldn't.  Really makes me wish my family lived nearer.
Boris really enjoyed picking the blackberries, some even made it into the bucket!  His little lips and fingers were purple by the end of the afternoon.


When we got home I stewed them with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and they became these (pear and blackberry drop scones):

125g self raising flour,
1/2 tsp cinnamon,
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg,
1 egg,
Milk (we used soya) to make a thick batter)
25g melted butter,
1 pear, stewed blackberries,
golden syrup, butter to taste.

Mix whisk together the flour spices egg and milk then add the melted butter, blob into a hot frying pan and springkle on chopped pear,  cook until little holes begin to appear on the surface then flip and cook on the other side for a couple of mins,
Serve with butter, golden syrup and stewed blackberries.  Yummy!

And these (blackberry sponge cake):

Weigh 2 eggs, whatever the weight of the two eggs is, weigh out the same amount of flour sugar and butter.
Cream together the butter and sugar, add the egg gradually then fold in sifted flour.  Pour into a lined baking tin and stir in some stewed blackberries (maybe two or three tablespoons) Cook at about 220 degrees for 20 mins.   Also yummy!

 Wishing you all a wonderful week.