Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Best & Worst Things About Babywearing

In honour of the fact that I’m currently giving away a KangaWrap on my blog at the moment (enter here if you haven’t already!), I thought I’d write a post about babywearing. The first time I tried Ebony in the carrier she was just a couple of weeks old, and I remember feeling terrified I would somehow tie it wrong. But, with the help of a couple of instructional YouTube videos, I was soon confident enough to venture out of the safety of my house. I carried Ebony, first in a Sleepy Wrap and later in an Ergo, until she was just over 18 months old.

I loved babywearing, there is really nothing lovelier than having your baby asleep on your chest as you walk by the canal on a sunny day. And the specialness of being able to hold those lovely little feet as they dangle by your sides, and kiss that beautiful fuzzy head whenever you want. So, in the hopes of getting you all fired up to enter my competition, here are some of the best things about babywearing:

1. You can sniff their head all day
I love that amazing smell newborn babies have. They smell warm and snuggly and clammy. I used to spend hours just breathing in Ebony as we got to know each other. What a hassle it would have been to have to bend over and sniff her under a pram hood, but with a sling you have access all day long. And can do it discretely, which is useful if you don’t want to get a weird nickname.

2. They hold your hand
Ebony used to reach out for my hand, well, finger, because that’s how tiny her hands used to be, and just hold on tight. She would fall asleep with her finger gripped in her clammy palm as I walked through the countryside.

3. You know where they are
This might sound a bit stupid, and perhaps it’s true that I was a slightly anxious new mother, but I always wanted to know where Ebony was. I didn’t like the idea of her leaving my sight (crazy much?), so babywearing was perfect for me. You can’t lose something that’s strapped to your chest, well, not easily anyway.

4. You have an audience
In my pre-motherhood days, the worst thing that ever happened to me was when I would think of something hilarious to say and have no-one to share it with. I mean, you can’t ring people out of the blue just to tell them about a pun you just thought up. Eventually they just stop answering your calls. A baby is nothing if not a captive audience. And, with the bonus of babywearing, you don’t need to shout the jokes loudly to your baby in the pram, you can whisper them and avoid being judged by nearby strangers.

5. They are warm
No need to worry about layering up with sweatshirts or buying a new scarf, that portable radiator will keep you nice and toasty on even the coldest of winter walks.

6. People can’t snatch them
I’m talking about friends and family members here, though I suspect even Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s child catcher would have trouble hooking a baby from your sling. Everyone wants a hold of the baby, no matter how much you visibly hate being parted from her. Simply strap the baby to your chest and problem solved, everyone will be too terrified of your sling to even suggest such a maneuver.

7. They see what you see
Your baby is nestled into your chest, and can peer out at the world around her. She will see the things you see, hear the noises you hear, and interact with the same people. Babywearing helps babies to be just that little bit more involved in what’s going on around you.  

And now for some of the negatives about babywearing, because it’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows:

1. People look at you as if you are deranged
From the subtle double take in the street, to this less subtle fearful face as you put your baby in the sling in a public place, you will notice a lot of facial expressions. Even friends and family members won’t be able to stop themselves looking at you as if you might need professional help simply because you have your baby in a sling.

2. People ask if your baby is ok
Strangers perform many wonderful public parenting services. From unsolicited advice to facial prodding, you will soon become well acquainted with total strangers simply because you’ve had a baby. You will get stopped in the street by people enquiring whether your baby is ok in the sling. You know, in case you hadn’t considered that.

3. You get covered in snot
When your baby has a cold, which is basically everyday from October through till March, babywearing pretty much guarantees that your chest will become a hankie. Your chest will shimmer for most of winter, it’s unavoidable.

4. They wee on you
My friend once told me this wasn’t a thing, and that babies don’t wee on you. But, thanks to many a wet patch, I can assure you that they do. Whenever Ebony fell asleep in the sling, she would wee on me. Which is fine, apart from sometimes her nappy would leak. Luckily it was usually on the way home, rather than when we were on our way for lunch. Usually.

5. They are warm
Great in winter, not so great in summer. You will find yourself partially immersed in baby sweat during the summer months. So, actually, you’ll shimmer then too.

6. You have nowhere to put your bags
Prams are so wonderful for storing things, and though I tried to travel light, it’s not that easy when you have a little baby with you. Nappies, outfit changes, toys and snacks, and all of a sudden you’re a bag lady.

7. Your ovaries will tingle
Not while you’re babywearing, but long after, when you encounter a babywearing mum on the street. The sight of a newborn snuggled happily in a sling will set your ovaries alight like nothing else.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Living Arrows 9/52

Payday has finally arrived, and so we celebrated with a lunch at the pub and a trip to the charity shop. I found an unopened mini science kit for 50p, complete with pipette, tweezers and magnifying glass. I've wanted a pipette for Ebony ever since we went to visit our local(ish) Montessori nursery and saw a little girl diligently playing with a pipette and water. And finally the day has arrived. We filled these two (not really, but sort of) test tubes up with water and food colouring, and then experimented with the pipette, mixing the colours together. The glasses are just for fun, obviously.
Living Arrows

Monday, 2 March 2015

The #ARWOMAN Campaign & Great Aunt Polly

Polly in 1962, aged 37.

When Atterley Road got in touch and asked if I’d like to be involved in their #ARWOMAN campaign to celebrate inspiring women, I was thrilled. There are so many women who inspire me, and I thought writing about it was a great idea. In reality, however, the task of whittling my list down to just one woman was much harder than I’d originally expected. I have spent days trying to decide who I should write about. So, first a quick mention for the women I didn’t choose...

My first thought was Susanna Kaysen, author of Girl, Interrupted, because I love the way she writes. I find it inspiring that she takes a personal tragedy and turns it into something beautiful, her books are so well written and so un-put-down-able (that's definitely a word). I first read Girl, Interrupted when I was 12 or 13, and Susanna Kaysen has been an inspiration to me ever since.

And my Year 7 English teacher, Ms Coxon, who once gave an impromptu (and very loud) impassioned lecture about womens rights and sexism in response to a boy laughing about periods. She inspired me to give many drunken impromptu lectures about sexism throughout my adult life, most of them were incomprehensible and probably a bit slurred, but I enjoyed giving them nonetheless.

Another thought was Linor Abargil, a former Miss World who was raped just weeks before being crowned. I recently watched Brave Miss World, a documentary about her, and I felt so incredibly inspired. In the documentary, Linor travels the world meeting with other survivors and giving them the chance to tell their stories. It was a heartbreaking film and I cried pretty much the whole way through, but I was struck by just how inspiring Linor was. The documentary is on Netflix so please watch it, I guarantee it will inspire you.

I think Caroline Lucas is really inspiring too. She is the first Green Party MP, and an absolutely amazing activist. She seems to give so much time to all the causes she cares about, without ever forgetting the needs of her constituents. Unlike most MPs who seem only to attend local events when forced, Caroline seems to be someone who takes her responsibilities seriously. She is always amazing in parliamentary debates, putting other MPs to shame with her well-researched and coherent arguments.

But, for my inspiring woman, I decided to choose someone a little closer to home. The woman I’ve chosen as my inspiration is my Great Aunt Polly. She’s not somebody I knew very well during her life, but the more I find out about her, the more inspiring I find her to be.

A photo of my Granny and Polly from 1941. 
I like to think I am a little like her. In that, though I may not replicate the Conservative values of most of my family (thank goodness), I do carry with me some of the passion for activism that I know was important for Polly during her life. I didn’t know much about Polly when I was younger, only that she was a nice old lady, but in recent years I’ve discovered more about her as my dad has shared more stories about his childhood and his family.

Aunt Polly was my dad’s cool auntie I think, he certainly speaks of her in very high regard. She gave him his first taste of beer, which though cool in this story will most certainly not be cool when someone gives Ebony beer. She was a bit of a rebel, as far as good old fashioned religious families go. She got into trouble with the police during her school years for refusing to carry her ID card. I’m not sure whether this was teenage rebellion, pacifism, or simple teenage forgetfulness, but my dad thinks there must have been a hint of rebellion for it to have happened more than once.

After growing up during a time of intense war propaganda, Polly was one of the early members of the just-established Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). CND first launched in the 1950s as people began to feel uneasy about nuclear weapons and the horror they could potentially cause. There was a huge protest at Aldermaston (the heart of British nuclear weapon production) which kick started CND and the whole movement against nuclear arms. 

For my birthday last year I went to the People’s History Museum and stumbled across some photos of those early marches, and the crowds were made up of a huge mix of people. There is a stereotype of what activists look like, they are young and unruly with wild hair, but if you go on these marches, you soon realise that this isn’t true. The young and wild march next to the elderly, business people, and families. This was true of that first CND march, as thousands of individuals joined together in unity against nuclear arms. Aunt Polly was there, she would have been around 30, marching alongside her friends all of whom shared her views on politics, equality and social justice. After that first march, Polly went on to attend regular marches at Aldermaston, not giving up on the dream of a less violent world. She continued attending peace marches for decades, and her (now grown up) son told me he remembers accompanying her on one when he was 16. I think there’s something wonderful about encouraging children to get involved in activism, and teaching them that individuals have power and can make a difference.

Whilst talking to my dad about Polly this week, he told me that she was a Probation Officer. My dad was a Probation Officer and I asked whether she had inspired his choice of career. He wasn’t sure, but said he went to stay with her for a weekend as a child, and met all of her colleagues which certainly left an impression on him. Polly worked in Probation at a time when women were only allowed to work with female clients and perhaps the odd young boy. She later worked as a Social Worker with a focus on adoption, and then later as a counsellor. I think her work reflects the sort of person she was, caring, but also someone who was driven to improve the world in whatever ways she could, one person at a time.

I didn’t know Polly well myself, but I feel that we have a family connection through the generations. And she may not be in my immediate family, but I feel strangely close to her knowing that we share passions and ideas though we live decades apart. It’s nice to be able to look through the family tree and find someone else who felt the same way I do, and someone else who attended protest marches and wrote letters and hoped for change. And that’s why Polly inspires me.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Living Arrows 8/52

I've given up on waiting for spring, it's just taking too long to come around. So despite the rain and wind, I've started trying to sort out my garden this week. My first job was to dig out a bed, and luckily I had a glamorous assistant to help me. We got her this gardening set for her birthday and I think it was a very wise investment. While I was busy lugging heavy paving slabs across the garden, Ebony was entertained with her spade and fork. I'm hoping it will provides hours of entertainment this year, because my garden needs a lot of work.
Living Arrows

Monday, 23 February 2015

Room Tour: Ebony's Room

Teepee Ebony's bedroom

colourful kids room

Black and white teepee kids room
colourful kids room

homemade dolls house

wall stickers kids room

One of the only rooms that feels (almost) finished in our house, is Ebony's room. It didn't need much doing when we moved in, but we finally got around to painting it before Christmas (with a little help from my mum). 

The teepee was a birthday present from Laurie's parents. I really love the look of it, and think it makes the whole room feel a little more stylish. It's usually rammed full of soft toys and books, because Ebony sometimes sneaks in there when she first wakes up to play. 

A lot of Ebony's things are second hand, either bought from charity shops or stolen from my parents' loft. My parents have kept pretty much everything they have ever come into contact with, so we've been able to hijack lots of books, toys and games from them. The globe pictured above was mine when I was younger, and now Ebony has it. Our local charity shop sells all books for 10p, so we may have acquired a few too many storybooks over the years, if there's such a thing as too many books. She has a bookcase full up here, and always chooses three stories for me to read to her at bedtime. 

The whole room is painted white, so it needed a little bit of colour on the walls. I get photos printed each year around Ebony's birthday, so I can look back on how she's changed over the past 12 months. Some of my favourites are now hanging on Ebony's bedroom walls. The paper elephants are from India, and were a gift from my parents when Ebony was a baby. It's actually a mobile but we didn't get round to putting it up until she was long past the mobile stage. The 'ebony' frame was made by one of my clever friends. The circular frame has Ebony's foot print in from when she was two weeks old, but I was so terrified doing it that I did it way too lightly so you can hardly see it.

The dolls house used to belong to me, but my dad redecorated it and it was given to Ebony for Christmas this year. We keep it upstairs mostly because I am terrified it will get broken if it lives in the playroom, and also because it keeps Ebony entertained so I can grab a few extra zzz's in the mornings. 

I love Ebony's 'Save the planet' pillowcase, and bought it as soon as I saw it. It's a really bright and colourful design so goes great against the white walls. The room isn't quite finished yet, the curtains are just the ones from our old house, and really could do with updating. I would also love to get a blackout blind before the summer sun arrives too, because I'm already dreading those early starts. VELUX blinds have a great selection of blinds for kids bedrooms and are well worth a look. It could do with some more pictures for the walls to add a bit more colour. And a rug would go some way toward hiding the terrible carpet. 


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