Monday, 21 January 2019

The Curse Of The Squawking Toddler

I don’t know if this is a second child thing, or if we have just done a terrible job of parenting the second time around, but my two-year-old squawks.

She also talks, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some weird new way of communicating. She hasn’t developed her own language or figured out a way to share anecdotes with her feather friends. It’s a thing she does as well as talking, not at the same time you understand, but just as an extra tool in her communicating toolbox. She’s got the expressive facial expressions down (shit-eye much?), the body language (she can throw her arms in the air like no other), the angry sentences (‘no, mummy, I not use my words,’ said defiantly and often) and now she has the squawk.

It is high-pitched and loud and very much like the kind of sound you would expect to hear from a deranged and tortured bird. We live in a terraced house so I am expecting the RSPCA to knock on the door any day now. ‘Excuse me, ma’am, but we received reports of a bird of prey being mistreated.” Our local RSPCA officer is probably American and I almost certainly have the eyebags to pull off ma’am.

The squawk comes during times of great neglect. Like the time I told her she couldn’t have another biscuit or the time I politely suggested it might be bedtime. Sometimes she does it at 3 am because she is enraged that she needs the toilet (if you own a lucrative earplug factory, it is probably our neighbours making you rich). Sometimes she does it because she doesn’t like her dinner or because she wants to go out in January wearing only her sister’s t-shirt (no shoes, no knickers, no coat).

It starts with a warning. A wide-mouthed wide-eyed silent scream to let me know she means business. If I do not immediately concede and let her have what she wants, the squawk starts. It is loud, especially loud between the hours of midnight at 4 am, I have noticed. Sometimes, it is a short sharp note not unlike a smoke alarm. Other times it turns into an endless high-pitched shriek that only culminates when she runs out of breath. Thank god for her toddler-sized lungs otherwise she would probably already have an ASBO.

I have observed the reactions of our cat and nearby wildlife and it is clear that my toddler is no Dolittle, the squawk merely comes from a place of spite. She does it for no other reason than because she can. I am hoping she will grow out of it, that one day she will simply learn to say ‘I’m disappointed to hear that,’ instead of squawking like an unhinged bird frothing from the beak.

I am not used to this unnecessary screech, my first child displayed her annoyance at this age by saying things like, ‘I want to scrunch you up and throw you in the bin.’ Now that I could handle. If anything, my heart swelled with pride at her threats and insults, my talented little wordsmith. I struggle to feel anything when faced with the squawk, especially when I am half asleep.

She will grow out of it, right?

* Squawk not pictured.

Friday, 18 January 2019

5 tips for the perfect pre-spring clean

5 tips for the perfect pre-spring clean
I haven’t yet watched Tidying Up on Netflix but it’s on my list of things to binge. Our house is feeling pretty cluttered at the moment. I spent most of yesterday sorting through my bedroom and getting rid of things I don’t want or need. I gave the playroom the same treatment before Christmas, though it probably needs doing again thanks to Father Christmas.
With a house full of new toys and books, now feels like the perfect time for a pre-spring clean to set the house up for the year ahead — here are five fab tips to get you started.
  1. Cruelty-free hand cream
This time of year is not kind to hands, add in some cleaning products and elbow grease and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Grab some cruelty-free hand cream from natural store Kijani Living — ingredients like lemon, peppermint and cocoa butter will keep your hands supple and smooth while you spring clean.
  1. Green duster
Our house has high-ceilings so a duster is needed to get rid of hard-to-reach cobwebs. Opt for an eco-friendly duster like the ones from Greener Cleaner which are 100 per cent crafted from wood pulp and Eco-Flek.
  1. Gentle furniture polish
Cleaning seems to be on-trend at the moment and I’m sure that the companies who make cleaning products are enjoying booming sales. Worryingly, many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that you may want to think twice about before using them in your home.
Amazon’s selection of eco-friendly furniture polishes is pretty impressive. Opt for a product with natural scents and oils to reduce its impact on the environment.
  1. Make your own
If you’re hoping to reduce your reliance on plastic this year, you might consider making your own cleaning products. This will save you money, keep your home free from harmful chemicals and reduce your plastic waste. There are plenty of videos and blogs explaining how to make effective cleaning products yourself.
  1. Tough door mats
A practical product to place at your door is a tough yet attractive door mat which will trap external dirt and detritus and protect your carpets from gunk and grime.
Specialist mats from hygiene gurus Kleen-Tex have plenty of options — their classic kleen-scrape model is grease, oil and solvent-resistant, so it’ll cope admirably with fierce family footfall from children, pets and guests.
Can you add any cleaning tips? Please share them in the comments section.

This is a collaborative post.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Thursday, 17 January 2019

#FamilyHolidays2019 — 5 tips for food, leisure and logistics

#FamilyHolidays2019 — 5 tips for food, leisure and logistics
January is a funny old month, isn’t it? Christmas is over for another year and, with it, all of the stress of buying presents, writing cards, hosting family and drinking your weight in vegan Baileys. The weather isn’t great (though arguably, this year is pretty mild so far) and you’re probably skint.
One guaranteed way to improve your mood is to start planning your summer holiday. Whether you’re heading across the globe to a luxury resort or popping across to France in your caravan, a vegan holiday takes a little bit of forward-planning.
So here are five tips for food, leisure and logistics on your 2019 family break.
  1. Vegan restaurant finder
Some cuisines are more accessible to vegans than others — for instance, India has lots of inspirational plant-based dishes but you might struggle a little more for food options in the Czech Republic.
However, locating vegan restaurants on takes the stress out of eating on holiday — browse their desktop site or download the app to find your plant-based fix in over 185 nations worldwide. You’ll be able to find not only vegan restaurants but other eateries in the area that serve vegan options.
  1. Vegan passport
The Vegan Passport is a multilingual phrasebook developed by The Vegan Society which provides the phrases for ordering animal-free fare in 78 languages — including Zulu and Igbo as well as Euro favourites French and German.
96 per cent of all global languages are covered and there are handy photo prompts to be double-sure nothing gets lost in translation.
This indispensable travel tool is now available in app form — check for details.
  1. Vegan airline food
I haven’t flown long-distance since my honeymoon and back then vegan airline food was pretty grim. A lot has changed since then, though, and I am assured by my forever-backpacking sister that airline food is now pretty tasty.
A recent airline food poll by Vegan News found Emirates to be the best airline for vegan meals. With delectable dishes like meat-free lasagna peppered with premium ingredients, this is one carrier that doesn’t make alternative diet options feel like an afterthought. If you want a vegan meal on your flight, don’t forget to book this in advance.
  1. Family airport lounges
Several UK airports offer family lounges with affordable deals if you book ahead of time. And if you want to secure a stress-free start to your trip, these havens of tranquillity just yards from the busy concourse are heaven-sent. Aspire Lounges at  Manchester’s terminals 1-3 welcome kids of age 2 and over. Check online to see if your departure airport offers something similar.
  1. Airport parking
Cruising to the airport in your own car can be conducive to calm when your party includes children at a range of difficult ages — and it’s so convenient hopping back in your ride on the return leg of your trip.
So booking airport parking with helps you bag a bargain on park and ride or valet services and provides peace of mind that your vehicle will be stored safely and securely while you’re away.

This is a collaborative post.

Monday, 14 January 2019

How Much Freedom Should A Seven-Year-Old Have?

It takes a while to settle into a new job role, doesn’t it? At first, you feel unsure of what you’re doing and terrified that the rest of your colleagues can tell. And then your confidence starts to grow and people start asking you for your advice and, eventually, you feel like you belong. How long that takes varies from job to job, with parenting, it takes more than seven years. I have now been a mother for seven whole years and I am no wiser (but plenty older) than I was on day one.

The thing about parenting is that it’s constantly changing. As soon as you think you have the hang of something, the world spins and everything you thought you ‘knew’ comes crashing down around you. I remember that so well from when my firstborn was a baby. I knew when she would sleep and how to soothe her and how often she would feed, and then a regression would hit and it was as though she’d been switched for a completely different baby.

I’ve noticed that parenting gets both easier and harder at the same time. Toddlers might sleep a little better than newborns, but they also put a lot of energy into trying to escape from your grip when you’re walking down busy roads. They may not leave you with chapped nipples, but they will throw a bowl of tomato soup at your once-white kitchen walls. Four-year-olds can be reasoned with, but they are also capable of biting other kids on the heads when they don’t get their own way. Six-year-olds may be the perfect companions for days out and restaurants, but they will shout that they hate you when they’re mad at you.

My eldest daughter turned seven this week and, for some reason, this feels huge. Seven is on the cusp of something, isn’t it? Seven isn’t big or mature, but it’s heading in that direction. It feels, to me, a world away from six. Seven seems like the right time to start giving her some freedom, to let her out into the world to make decisions and mistakes for herself (with me, pressed up against the front bedroom window, watching intently, probably). To me, she still seems so little, but she isn’t really. She’s growing up fast, and it’s important to me that she grows up feeling sure of herself and I think independence is an important part of that.

So now, as a parent, I have the tough job of navigating this awkward in-between stage somewhere little and desperately wanting not to be. She isn’t yet demanding things older kids have, there are things she would like, sure, but nothing she is desperate for. She isn’t begging to do things by herself, but I don’t necessarily think I need to wait for her to reach that stage before she gets some independence.

One thing I feel very aware of at the moment, probably because it’s January and we’ve been spending a lot of time indoors, is how little freedom Ebony really has. We live on a fairly busy road so she can’t play out on the street. I asked about independence over on Facebook and quite a few parents said their kids were allowed to play out with kids on the street. That sadly isn’t an option for us because we live on a busy road. And that causes problems with the other things she could do because crossing that busy road is necessary to get most places she could go. I think I will work on her road crossing skills over the coming weeks and then reassess.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

7 Things You'll Know If Your Toddler Loves Babies A Little Too Much

My two-year-old is obsessed with babies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that, she is a huge fan of babies. She can’t get enough of them. She would happily spend all day staring at them, cuddling them and holding hands with them. They’re her favourites. She has little time for kids her age, but she loves babies (I should mention here that she calls anyone younger or shorter than her ‘baby’ so they’re not always actually babies). But her favourite babies are brand new, so fragile and immobile that they cannot physically get away from her.

I haven’t yet met another toddler with a baby obsession to match Ember’s, but I’m assured they exist. So this is for the other parents who, like me, find their toddler’s love of babies somewhat worrying. It’s not that I don’t want her to love babies, I’m all for it. It’s really lovely to see her be gentle and loving towards a baby, but I would prefer if it was a hobby she dabbled in rather than her life’s work. I haven’t seen her tire of a baby yet.

Here are 7 things you might be familiar with if you have a toddler who loves babies:

1. The baby fever
Ember will stop at nothing to get hold of a baby. She will run alongside fast-moving prams in an attempt to get a hold of a baby’s hand. She will elbow older siblings out of the way, climb on chairs and beg to be near babies. She has no shame. It’s almost as though she doesn’t know she’s acting strangely.

She has a radar for babies, as soon as one comes anywhere near us, she is over there in optimum looming position. Those poor babies and their terrified parents don’t stand a chance. She’s like one of the girls chasing The Beatles in the black and white grainy footage from the 60s. Apart from she’s not wearing a mini skirt, and she isn’t chasing after Paul McCartney, and she isn’t in a crowd. So, not that similar, but she runs with the same open-mouthed expression of pure excitement on her face, towards one baby, then another, then another.

2. The apologising
I literally spend all day apologising. Every time we leave the house I am forced to apologise to at least a handful of parents as my daughter stares at and looms over and tries to hold hands with their babies. I spend playgroup just making a continuous circuit of the room, apologising to all of the parents of babies as I go. Sorry, my daughter is nose-to-nose with your baby. Sorry, my daughter is trying to hold your baby’s hand. Sorry, my daughter keeps lying on the floor in front of your baby in the hope that he will crawl across her. Sorry that she likes babies so much.

3. The quarantine
Ember’s baby obsession is holding me back. She is holding me captive in my own house. Since November hit and her pet caterpillars have come out of hibernation from her nostrils, I’ve had to keep her at home. I can’t have her coughing, sneezing and snotting all over these tiny babies. It’s bad enough she’s getting so close to them as it is, without her being a walking petri dish of cold and flu season.

I’ve already missed a full week of playgroups this winter because she is coughing and spluttering germs everywhere she goes. And yeah, maybe I could explain that she’s not well and should avoid the babies for a while, but she’s two and she definitely wouldn’t listen to me. If anything, she would deliberately rub snot all over all of the babies just to make a point. And then we’d probably get barred from playgroup.

4. The fear
You know what is terrifying when you have a child like mine? Pregnancies. Yeah, nothing fills me with dread more than a friend announcing a pregnancy. Oh crap, I think, now I can’t be their friend anymore or Ember will be weird with their baby. Because she doesn’t want just one hold, she wants all the holds. I have a friend who recently had a baby and I actually think Ember has had more cuddles than the mum. It’s all she wants all of the time. Even at a playgroup surrounded by brightly coloured toys and kids her own age, she just wants the baby.

So, whilst I’m happy for my friends as they announce their pregnancies, I’m also sad that our friendships are over for the foreseeable future. Maybe Ember will grow out of the baby thing, I think hopefully, knowing full well that she won’t. She will be yanking those babies towards her for cuddles even as an adult, I can tell.

5. The comments
The problem when you have a baby-obsessed toddler is that people feel the need to comment on it. As she sits under a baby, her arms gently cradling the fragile baby, a wide smile stretched across her face, people can’t help but comment. You’ll have to have another, they say. Over and over again. It’s all anyone says. If you took a dog for a walk and that dog chased a rabbit to within an inch of his life, nobody would advise you to get a pet rabbit. Nobody would look at the wide petrified eyes of the rabbit and think that it was ok, yet people are more than happy to overlook the cries of the terrified baby in the arms of my unpredictable and unruly toddler.

6. Having to play babies
When we’re not following babies around the streets of Romiley, getting as close to babies as is physically possible at playgroup or talking about babies, we’re playing babies. Playing babies isn’t a game that she plays alone with her dolls like you might think. That would be ok. I would be happy for her to engage in some baby-themed independent play to free up a bit of my time. But no, that isn’t what she wants to do. She just wants to lie in my arms with her eyes closed pretending to be a baby. This game can last a long time and sometimes she yells Goo Goo Gaa Gaa in my face even though no baby has ever actually said that.

7. The love of second-time parents
When my firstborn was little, if a snotty-nosed toddler had come within an inch of my baby I would have done three things. Firstly, I would have smiled sweetly at the toddler while standing up quickly so they couldn’t get anywhere near my precious first born. Then I would have looked around for the parent, the sweet smile still forced across my face and pretended it was ‘fine’ while hoping my eyes communicated clearly that it was not. And lastly, I would have spent days waiting for my baby to come down with whatever life-threatening illness it was that caused the toddler’s snot.

Second parents aren’t like this. They don’t seem as nervous when their new babies are stalked by enthusiastically friendly toddlers. With first time parents, I have to rush over and immediately start my apologising. But these relaxed second-time parents seem much happier to have a toddler near their baby. I’m still apologising a lot, of course, that’s what I am forced to do since I am mother to the world’s broodiest toddler. If Ember spots the baby of a third-time parent then it’s like she’s won the lottery. They will happily let her paw, maul and sniff their baby to her heart’s content. To them, she is not a germ-infested personal-space-eschewing whirlwind of chaos, she’s just a willing babysitter.

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