Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Best News a Parent Can Get

Sometimes, as a parent, I wish I had more things to do. I’m sure other parents will agree with me here, sometimes there just don’t seem to be enough things on my to-do list. I mean, there’s work, of course, and the whole child-rearing side of it. And the nursery run, and the laundry, and the everyday tasks like making dinner or reading bedtime stories. Then there’s the other stuff, the fun stuff, the games and the adventures with my daughter. The afternoons spent snuggled up together being silly, or the messy afternoons of arts and crafts.

And then there’s this blog, and everything that goes along with that. And also I have family and friends to see and speak to. Phone calls to make, messages to reply to, birthday celebrations to attend. And there’s the Christmas concerts, the theatre shows, the trips to museums. The odd jobs around the house, the decorating, feeding the cat. And there’s the food shopping, the endless trips to buy new shoes for my daughter’s growing feet, gymnastic classes to get to. Then there’s Christmas shopping, birthday presents to buy, teeth to clean. Baths to run, cupcakes to bake and books to read.

I just feel like I don’t really have enough to do. There’s another problem too, a little hole in my happiness, something missing from my life. It’s my utility room, you see. I just don’t get to spend enough time in there. It’s quite an exciting room. There’s a litter tray in there, a cupboard full of tools and a huge pile of dirty laundry waiting to be done. And a washing machine, of course. And, the thing that I wish I spent more time with, the tumble dryer.

Luckily, my overwhelming amount of free time and secret desire to spend more time with my dryer have collided in the best way possible this week. It turns out I’ll be able to spend a lot more time in there, just watching my tumble dryer. Great, isn’t it? Apparently, my tumble dryer is one of the ‘significant number’ of tumble dryers in the recall announced earlier this week. There’s a form to fill in to find out if yours is affected, and when you do that, the website gives you the great news that you will be contacted in five weeks. In the meantime, it advises, that you shouldn’t use your tumble dryer unless you’re watching it. In case it sets on fire.

I’m thrilled, of course. Finally I have found something to fill the empty chasm of time I call ‘me time’. Finally I have found a way to develop a stronger relationship with the household appliance that may or may not be secretly planning an arson attack on my home. And what’s extra special about this, is that it’s happened during winter. As the rain beats down on the windows, I needn’t make excuses and simply dry my washing on the line. Oh no, I’ll be inside, watching my tumble dryer. That’s probably at least four hours of intense quality bonding time with my tumble dryer. So, that’s great.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week

This week was Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. As a pregnancy and parenting writer, I’ve written before about the importance of having carbon monoxide detectors in or near to the room your baby sleeps in. The smaller you are, the quicker carbon monoxide poisoning can take effect, and the more serious it can be.

Carbon Monoxide is a gas many of us have in our homes. It’s what heats our boilers and fuels our gas fires. It’s also colourless and odorless, meaning it’s not easy to spot when a leak has occurred. Around 200 people are hospitalised with carbon monoxide poisoning each year, and for some of these people it can be fatal. For others, the poisoning can cause serious long term health problems. Children and the elderly are the most at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

My housemates at university once returned home to find the entire house filled with gas. The gas cooker had been unknowingly left on overnight. When I returned home the next day, the windows were still wide open to keep fresh air circulating. Leaving windows open in the student area of Liverpool is not a decision one takes lightly. It is thought that as many as one in 10 adults have experienced some form of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Reducing The Risk
You can reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home. These detectors let off a beeping sound much like fire alarms, notifying of you of a carbon monoxide leak immediately. Every home should have a carbon monoxide alarm to prevent the risk of poisoning, but currently only half of UK homes a carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is often caused by badly fitted or badly maintained appliances. You should ensure you have your boiler serviced regularly to reduce the risk of a carbon monoxide leak. Bad ventilation is another cause for alarm. If a registered gas engineer fits a new appliance, they should advise you of any necessary additional ventilation. We fitted a new fireplace in our old home and were told to install an air brick to ensure there was enough ventilation.

CORGI Home Plan are raising awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning. Their mission? To make sure each and every home in the UK has a carbon monoxide detector installed. You can find out more about what CORGI Home Plan are doing on their website.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

On Reaching an Age of Acceptance

I feel a little older and wiser these days. I think becoming a mother was a big turning point for me. It helped me to realise which things in life were really important. It taught me not to worry about the little things. And, most importantly, it forced me to appreciate myself for who I was.

Overnight I had become a role model for my daughter. It’s an important job and I’m very aware that how I see myself now will affect how she sees herself in the future. The flaws I show her in my body, she will look for in hers. The things I criticise about myself, she too will view in a negative light. It’s important that I like my body so my daughter can grow up and like hers. It’s my job to be proud, honest and myself so that my daughter can grow up and love herself for who she is, something I want for her more than almost anything else. I don’t want the media’s portrayal of women, girls at school or boys at the pub to make her feel bad herself. I want her to love herself unconditionally, just the way I love her.

I’m not saying I’m perfect, I could be improved pretty easily. I could lose some weight, worry less and maybe even pluck my eyebrows once a week. But those are little issues, things that rarely cross my mind. It’s quite liberating to be free from the self-consciousness of youth. To know that this is who I am and to not want for anything differently. I don’t yearn for plastic surgery, I don’t want have any need for laser tattoo removal and I don’t spend hours staring sadly in the mirror and wondering why I don’t look as good as I want to.  Instead, I have reached an age of acceptance.

How can you not like the body which housed, birthed and nourished your children? It’s pretty hard to criticise your body with any sincerity when you are still in total awe of its achievements. Every time I look at my daughter, I remember when she was a part of me. When the only hint of her existence was the sensation of bubbles shooting across my tummy that sunny morning in July all those years ago. As I stood by and watched my body change and grow to accommodate for the stranger growing inside me, it was hard not to be impressed at how nature works. Pregnancy changes your body and while I can’t say I wouldn’t swap bodies with my 18 year old self (in a heartbeat), it’s hard to hate the body that gave you someone so wonderful.

I know that my face will grow wrinkly, that my hair will grey and my body will age, and I guess I’ll deal with those hurdles as I reach them. Perhaps I’ll start dying my hair again, start spending a fortune on skin creams or decide that I’m a little too old to have a tattoo of a daisy on my hip and have my tattoo removed. Who knows? All I know is that right now, I’m happy with myself and trying my best to show my daughter that.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Falling into a Nursery Routine

Ebony started nursery in September and the weeks have flown by ever since. It’s strange how those few short hours of routine can zap the week away. We no longer have long days stretching ahead of us just waiting to be filled with adventure. Instead, we just have our afternoons together. Once lunch has been eaten, clothes have been changed and nursery tales have been shared, there doesn’t really seem to be much time left at all.

Our mornings, once relaxed and slow, have become rushed as we try (and often fail) to get out of the front door on time. Organisation has never really been my strong point so I can’t say I’m surprised to spend my mornings desperately washing, drying and ironing the uniform that most parents probably have waiting neatly on a hangover the night before.

Ebony seems to spend her days at nursery covering her entire uniform in paint, felt tip and glue. If there is a muddy puddle in her path, she will charge through it, sending mud flying onto her clothes. I am starting to realise I should have bought a complete uniform set for each day of the week. Month, perhaps, with my erratic laundry system in mind.

There have been a couple of days where we have made it to the front gate only for me to turn around and discover Ebony’s unbrushed hair sticking up in all directions. Or we’ve forgotten her book bag. Or her soya milk. And we’ve had to run back inside to deal with the forgotten tasks before running most of the way to nursery together.

I miss the slow, stress-free mornings of days gone by when we controlled our own destiny. The days where we could whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. The days when it was fine for Ebony to spend an hour carefully choosing and putting on her clothes. These days, I urge and coax her into her clothes quickly whilst I try to force myself to embrace the idea of being awake.

Her friendship group has swelled, and now she has a group of friends I’ve never met. Little girls and boys we see on the way into nursery, who wave and say hello at Ebony as she proudly points them out to me. She has a best friend at nursery now, a sweet little boy who she chases down the street the whole way to nursery. They spend their mornings playing firefighters together in the nursery’s outdoor area.

The teachers make an effort to involve her in everything, even making a special batch of vegan biscuits for her when it was Children in Need. To celebrate a teacher’s birthday, the children were given sweets and Ebony was given a bag of vegan gummy bears that had been purchased specially for her. She came out clutching them, excited to have her own vegan sweets.

She’s always excited to go to nursery, and always seems to enjoy her time there. She tells me about the games she plays, the things she learns and the conversations she has with other children. I have gotten used to working each morning, rushing home to write as much as I can before it’s time to collect her. It’s satisfying to be able to tick things off my to-do list each day instead of cramming it all into a weekend day like I used to.

As Christmas approaches, I’m aware of just how quickly the weeks pass now. Of how quickly she is growing up. My parents saw Ebony for the first time in three months recently, they hadn’t seen her since before she started nursery, and they couldn’t believe how much she had changed. These changes slip by unnoticed by me as the days merge together, but I notice little things sometimes. How she can reach higher up in the kitchen cupboards, my little girl growing taller. How she learns new phrases and words as her vocabulary matures. How she can hold a proper conversation now as she chats to me on the way home from nursery. How old and wise she is now, and how quickly she has become the amazing little girl she is today.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Review: Activity Cards by Cardooo

I seem to spend most weekends at parties these days. Kids’ birthday parties to be precise so don’t be too jealous. It’s well and truly birthday season over here, which means our freezer is fully stocked with vegan cupcakes, Ebony is in need of some new dresses and I am finding hangovers worse than usual. Truly, there is nothing worse for a hangover than 20 excitable small children arguing over balloons.

It is also means I should have a constant supply of birthday cards, wrapping paper and child-friendly gifts in the house. I don’t, of course, I’ve not quite reached that stage of being a grown up yet. When Ebony was a baby, we spent an afternoon having fun with some paint and ended up with a year’s supply of ready decorated personalised card. Maternity leave is great, isn’t it? These days, I’m much more likely to chuck a felt tip and blank card towards Ebony as we’re getting in the car in the hope she’ll create something beautiful. Organisation really isn’t my strong point.

So when I was offered some children’s birthday cards to review, well, I couldn’t really turn it down, could I? Now, first, let me say, these particular birthday cards are so much more than cards. The range of activity cards by Cardooo have the magical ability to entertain children. The cards double-up as activity booklets filled with stories, games and activities to enjoy with your child.

Ebony wanted to try out the dinosaur card, so one afternoon last week we cosied up in the conservatory (thanks to the heating, not any sun) and took a closer look at the cards. It looks like a normal birthday card, but opens up to reveal plenty of things to do. There’s a short story in the form of a comic and a dinosaur puzzle to be solved. There’s also a maze puzzle, but Ebony really hasn’t got the hang of those yet so she just scribbled across the page. The cards are aimed at 4-7 year olds, and Ebony is just on the cusp of entering that age bracket (sob). Some of the activities were a little old for her, but the ones she could do still provided plenty of entertainment.

Ebony is a fan of stickers (understatement of the year), so I knew she’d be thrilled to discover a sheet of dinosaur stickers hiding inside the card. The centrefold is your typical dinosaur environment complete with volcanoes and you can arrange the stickers however you want. If you’re Ebony that means piling them one on top of another in an endless heap of dinosaurs (I’m hoping she’ll grow out of that soon).

There’s a colour by numbers page which I thought was going to be too old for Ebony but she actually enjoyed searching for the numbers and colouring in the right bits. She didn’t quite get round to completing it so at the moment it is excessively yellow, but that’s because the board game caught her eye. The book comes complete with pull out board game and this has genuinely provided hours of entertainment since we opened the card last week. I have played this game more times than I can remember and, weirdly, Ebony seems ok about losing this one (the same cannot be said for Snakes and Ladders, Snap or Dinosaur Race).

I think these cards would be perfect for giving children something to do during a birthday lunch. It’s not always easy keeping young children happy in restaurants, but I think this card provides a pretty perfect answer. The cardooo activity cards are being sold exclusively at ASDA, so you should be able to pick one up at your local store. The cards are £3 each which I don’t think is bad considering how much entertainment they provide. You can also order Cardooo activity cards online here.


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