Monday 29 July 2013

We Like to Read: My First Book

My First Book by Jane Belk Moncure
illustrated by Kathryn Hutton

I found this book in a local charity shop last week. It's a book to help children learn to read, so is a bit advanced for Ebony, but she loves looking at the pictures all the same. We have a bookshelf filled with books in the living room, and this one keeps getting dragged out and handed to me. "Knee. Knee." she says, until I sit her on my knee and start reading.

She enjoys joining in with the book. Pointing at hers eyes when it says eye, and showing me her toy box when it says box. I love the illustrations, I think they look much older than they are (it was originally published in the 80s). Another great charity shop find.

Check out the rest of the 'we like to read' series over on Fritha's blog.

The rest of my posts about what we like to read can be found here.

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #10

Week ten already, time really does fly when you force yourself to get out and about, whatever the weather. It was our third wedding anniversary on Wednesday, so we took Ebony to Lyme Park for a picnic. The weather stayed ok, although we did get damp bums from sitting on the soggy grass. I had assumed the park would be nice and quiet on a weekday, because I am an idiot who forgets about school holidays. The playground and picnic area was heaving, but the house and gardens were relatively quiet so we found a peaceful spot to eat our picnic.

Ebony tried to feed some carrot crisps to a duck, before we gently persuaded her that this was perhaps not the best use of one of her precious crisps. She also tried every single stuffed vine leaf in the tin, before deciding she did not like stuffed vine leaves.

Last time we visited Lyme Park, Ebony spent a lot of time playing near the lake. This time she was less keen, possibly because there was a huge Mr Darcey sculpture peering out at her. Instead, she spent her time running around the lawn, and staring at older children. She is fascinated by other kids, especially older one, and will happily follow them around gormlessly for hours if left to her own devices.

After the picnic, she made a beeline for the stairs. “STEP STEP STEP” is a common screech in our house now, as Ebony loves playing on the stairs. She navigated her way up the concrete stairs at Lyme Park, teetering dangerously off the edge of the railing on a number of occasion. Occasionally, other people would dare to use the stairs, and Ebony would shout “Noooo, noooo NOOOO.” at them in her thick Lancashire accent, while I nervously muttered things like, “Oh dear, Ebony, we should say hello to strangers.”

After tiring of the stairs, she then proceeded to clamber up the steep banks next to them instead, leaving me with the vague paranoia that she may fall backwards and smack her head on the concrete steps at any time.

Once we reached the top gardens, she became distracted by some older children. The children were rolling down the grassy embankment and then running to the top for another go. Ebony stared, taking it all in, and then determinedly climbed the bank to join them. She couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of rolling down sideways, and so instead lay face down on the grass in a vertical sort of direction. She slowly shoved herself down the hill, gathering her dress under her tummy as she went, screeching “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” while moving at a snail’s pace in the general downhill direction. It took her about five minutes, and two thousand grass stains, to get to the bottom. And then she headed straight back up to the top for another go.

She was undisturbed by the fact that she was, quite obviously, doing it wrong, and that all the other children were looking at her with a faint sense of pity. After a few more attempts to break the world record for slowest hill roll, we set off back to the car.

Read this to find out more about where the idea came from, and why we’re embarking on this series of adventures.

You can keep up with mine and Ebony’s explorations here. Check out this great adventure post over on chatiryworld.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Review: EverEarth Flip Over Musical Triangle

I was recently contacted by Eco Market and asked to become one of their official bloggers. I was really pleased to be asked, not least because it means someone reads my blog, or because I get to support a lovely ethical eco company, but also because I’ll be sent products to review.

They sell so many different things, and I was asked to put together a wish list of products to review. I spent a lot of time browsing the kids section, and choosing things I thought Ebony would enjoy. My first review product arrived two weeks ago, and I’m excited to say it was the very first thing I added to my wish list. As soon as I saw it, I knew Ebony would love it.

I was sent the EverEarth Flip Over Musical Triangle sold by Tread Lightly Toys. Ebony loves singing, dancing, musical instruments and general loudness, so I was pretty confident that this would be a hit. As soon as I opened the package, I heard a “Oooooh!” from Ebony as she clambered up onto the sofa to have a look.

EverEarth is the only toy manufacturer who owns 100% of the forests they source their wood from, meaning they can ensure all wood comes from sustainable sources. The distance from forest to factory is just 50 miles, limiting the amount of transportation required to produce these products.

The packaging is made from recyclable materials and looks great, I think this would make such a brilliant gift. It’s a high quality children’s toy that looks attractive even in the packaging. The toy is two sided and features a xylophone, click wheel, scratch wheel, drum, washboard and tap activity.

When I’d taken it out of the packaging, I sat the toy next to Ebony and let her explore it for herself. I didn’t want to show her how to use it, because I wanted her to discover it all independently. She instantly recognised the drum and xylophone functions and was happily bashing away on them. The drum and xylophone are smaller than ones she has used previously, so they will be good for improving her coordination. The washboard and tap activity were next to be discovered, as she worked out what to do with them. The washboard was hit with the drumstick a few times before she located the correct tool.

The click and scratch wheel are a bit too advanced for her yet, although she can manage to rotate each part way, she can’t spin it yet. The toy is recommended for 2+ so I’m sure she’ll grow into this function. She knows what she’s meant to do, but just can’t quite seem to control the small handles well enough just yet.

The toy has taken pride of place on the bookshelf, and is pulled out most days for a session. We also played with it outside quite a bit last week, to make the most of the weather. I set up a den to give Ebony some shade, and put some of her favourite toys in there to entice her into the shade. This toy was a clear winner and kept her shaded long enough for me to read a chapter of my book (Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell - which was amazing, in case you were wondering).

We also used it as in-car entertainment at the weekend. Ebony isn’t a huge fan of car journeys, so I always end up packing a bag full of toys to try and keep her happy in the car. Packing the EverEarth Flip Over Musical Instrument meant I didn’t need to worry about packing other things. There were enough bits to keep her entertained, and she liked singing and playing along to the radio.

This is such a beautiful toy, I think it would make the perfect present for a toddler. It is high quality, entertaining, sustainable and eco friendly - what more do you want?

Tread Lightly Toys was set up by a stay at home mum who was fed up of paying over the odds for eco friendly and fairtrade toys. The company prides itself on working with suppliers who use wood from sustainable FSC forests, alternative materials and fairtrade items. For every item you buy, Tread Lightly Toys makes a donation to the woodland trust and the fairtrade foundation.

Monday 22 July 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #9

We spent quite a lot of time outdoors over the past week. Ebony was back to health after her virus, and so we thought we’d try and make the most of the remaining sunshine. We paddled in streams, climbed statues, conquered playgrounds and explored undergrowths. The outing I’ve chosen to write about for this week’s great adventure, was our trip to Etherow Park.

Etherow Park isn’t far from our house, so we go there fairly regularly, in fact we went there for week six of the great adventure challenge. This week, instead of doing our usual walk around the lake, we headed down to the children’s education area.

I’m not sure what exactly the children’s education area is, but there is lots of open space to run around and, most importantly, no lake to fall in. Ebony loves running now, so she enjoyed the freedom of galavanting without me screeching “BE CAAAREFUL” in the background.

There was a fallen tree trunk on the grass, and Ebony ran over to climb it. She slipped but managed to get up without any help, and then looked so unbelievably proud of herself. She had a huge smile plastered on her face, and kept climbing down and repeat the feat. I love seeing her embrace her new skills, and push her boundaries to see what she can achieve.

We found a hollowed out tree, and Ebony spent some time shouting “Helloooo?” into it, before realising no-one was answering. We followed some butterflies, spotted a few bees and saw a few different birds. Etherow park is full of wildlife so it’s a really great place to take an inquisitive toddler.

 With thunderstorms expected for most of this week, I think the next great adventure instalment will be lots of fun. I need to dig out those waterproofs!


I've challenged myself to take Ebony out once a week, every week - whatever the weather. I want her to be connected with her surroundings, passionate about nature and unafraid of the British weather. You can follow my adventures here. Leave a comment below if you'd like to join in!

Friday 19 July 2013

I Do All My Own Stunts

You know when you watch films and the main character, a supposedly normal person, gets into an extraordinary situation and suddenly whips out all these impressive moves - flying kicks, back flips and leaping off moving trains? Yeah, well I always used to watch those films and think “What a load of crap. No-one would be able to do that without intensive training.”

That was before I became a parent. Now, I know I could do all of those ridiculously high-stamina things in life-threatening situations, because parenting is pretty much hands on training. And it’s not just a weekend course, I have been living in this highly-stressed, ridiculously energised way for a year and a half now.
While the characters in action films may seem impressive, almost superhuman, stick a baby in their arms and they’re pretty much your average parent. Since having my daughter, I feel a whole lot closer to Bruce Willis.
Let’s take my average evening routine, as an example. It starts with the mind games, all action films have at least an element of mind control. We psyche each other out. I try to convince her she’s tired. She tries to jump on my back, play music on my phone and generally give off an air of awakeness. This process can last for hours, with neither side giving in. I continue to maintain a sea of calm in the face of an overenthusiastic wide awake child. Of course it is frustrating, but I must not let that show. Never reveal your weakness. Stay calm until the end. Fifteen false alarm potty trips later, and she might be ready to think about, THINK ABOUT, sleep. Maybe.
I lie with her, trying to create a warm and calm environment in which for her to sleep. She slaps me repeatedly in the face, pulls my face and kicks me in the fanny. With her cocooned in my arm, I use my remaining free hand to try and shield myself from any potential injuries - a fingernail to the eyeball, for example. I maintain a strict poker face throughout. At this point in the game (remember, this could be two hours in), I am focused only on the end. I ignore the fact that she’s trying to pull out my eyelashes, and I hum quietly to try and help her drift off.
At some point, my hard work pays off. I look down and see her snoring gently in my arms. I cannot help but feel relief, although I know the worst is yet to come. I very carefully ease her out of my arms, and onto the bed. She stirs, perhaps, but doesn’t wake. I attempt to slide effortlessly out of the bed, but of course this is more like an elephant attempting to rise gracefully on a bed of oil. I grunt, huff and the bed creaks loudly as I untangle myself from the covers. I begin to tiptoe delicately across the room to freedom (read: wine). And then BAM, I unwittingly kick one of the (no doubt deliberately placed, don’t be fooled by those big blue eyes of hers) toys strewn across the floor. It’s not a soft toy that might silently shuffle across the room, no, because this is my life, it’s the top half of a wooden Russian doll. In the general air of chaos of the path to the door, I have encountered a landmine. The legless doll catapults across the wooden floorboards, the sound echoing round the room. The hand-painted eyes glare at me with contempt as they whirl away from me, ricocheting off the wall and continuing on their ever louder voyage of destruction.

I don’t need to check the bed to work out that the shrieking Russian has awoken the child, I know it has, because this is my life. My inner Bruce takes charge and flings me to the ground. I lie flat, pressed against the floorboards, holding my breath, hoping that she will go back to sleep. I hear her lift her head, and move it from side to side. It must be my lucky day, because she accepts defeat and drops back down to sleep.
I can breathe again. Quietly. My inner Bruce warns me not to be too cocky, and so I - very slowly - begin to army crawl my way out of the room, commando style. Anything to avoid the dreaded “Mama?” from the lips of my relentless arch enemy.
I get to the door, and take one last look at the sleeping child, before hot footing it down the stairs. Faster than a high speed chase, I run to the wine, and sit with it awaiting the next battle cry on the baby monitor.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Making the Most of the Garden

Disclaimer: I was compensated for writing this post, but all words, thoughts, feelings, great ideas and full stops are mine.

Our garden has always been a bit of eyesore. The path is gravelled, and looks awful. The beds are overly big and in constant need of weeding. The plants are green most of the year and then crazily beautiful but for only about two weeks, then the garden turns green once more. The worst thing about our garden is the lack of privacy. The fences are low, wire mesh things which barely act as a partition and certainly don’t keep out prying eyes. On one side, the fence is hidden by a line of bushes and so privacy isn’t really a problem, but the other side has always felt exposed.

Our elderly neighbour, who can often be found in the front garden muttering “sick to the back teeth of ‘em,” about the kids who play on the front street, sits in her back room. Right at the window. So if I’m in the garden, she’s there too. I’m not used to the lack of privacy because my parents’ garden was always enclosed and cut off from the outside world. So, earlier in the year when  we came across a little bit of extra money, we decided to invest in some fencing.

It has been a long labour of love, and still isn’t quite finished, but we now have a proper fence (well, three quarters of one at least). Our garden is now private, and since I’ve been stuck at home with a poorly toddler for over a week, we’ve been making the most of our garden to soak up some of the sunshine. Here's how I've been enjoying my garden this summer, whilst still keeping the toddler entertained:

Now that the garden is somewhere I want to be, I’ve started trying to tackle the weeds. Yeah, there’s a lot of them. Ebony has been helping too, well, ok sometimes she’s just been ripping flowers out of the ground, but she’s trying. Ebony has a toy wheelbarrow, spade, fork and watering can that she uses while I’m gardening. She takes great pride in watering the flowers (and gravel), and loves carting gravel around in her wheelbarrow while making a “beep beep” sound. There’s a small patch of soil that is yet to be covered in lawn, so we’ve stationed Ebony’s bucket and spade there so she can get involved with digging.

Ball games
I think pretty much all kids love balls, and Ebony is no exception. Footballs, beach balls, plastic balls and tennis balls are never hard to find in our garden. Ebony loves kicking the balls around, playing catch and even playing fetch with herself. Our rabbit has some boredom buster toys too, and she loves rolling those across the garden for the rabbit to chase.

Paddling pool
I bought our paddling pool in winter, and waited patiently for a splinter in the clouds so I could claim it was hot enough to inflate the pool. I couldn’t wait for Ebony to play in a paddling pool for the first time. Our pool is quite big, so it’s a good size for a playdate, and we have lots of bath toys and pourers in there to explore. I always use warm water from the tap to fill the pool, because the hose water is too cold and Ebony won’t stay in as long if she’s chilly.

Recycled toys
Children can find joy out of pretty much anything, so I like giving Ebony a variety of recycled materials to play with. In the paddling pool, she has a few empty bottles and tubs and pouring. In fact, the old bubble bath bottle is one of her favourite things to play with in water. She loves filling it up and pouring it out again. Whenever we get a cardboard box, I try to make something fun for her out of that too (obviously not for in the paddling pool though). This week we had quite a large box, so I used it to make her a ramp for her cars. She had fun hurling the cars down the ramp, and then clambering into and out of the box.

Ebony loves animals. We have a rabbit in the garden, and he loves (and needs) a lot of human interaction. Luckily for him, Ebony is his biggest fan and would happily move into his hutch with him given half a chance. She loves feeding him, stroking him, playing with his balls and filling his water bowl up. There are also quite a few neighbourhood cats who frequent our garden, and Ebony goes crazy for them too. She follows them around saying, “Tsh tsh tsh Kitty”. I always point out insects to her too, bees, spiders and snails are all observed with fascination.

Climbing frame
Sadly, we don’t really have the room for a climbing frame in our current garden, but I hope we’ll get one in our next house. I had a climbing frame growing up and I loved it, my sister and I could easily spend whole afternoons playing in the garden. We had a swing, climbing frame and a beautiful wooden wendy house. I hope one day we have the space to offer Ebony as many garden toys to explore. I think Ebony would love this play centre from All Garden Fun. Whenever we go to the park, she runs straight over to the over 7’s area and shimmies straight up to the top of the climbing frame. It is truly terrifying.

We Like to Read: Moon Rabbit

We had two rabbits when Ebony was born (now, sadly, we only have one) and so Ebony received a mountain of bunny-related gifts. Bunny pyjamas, soft bunnies and bunny dresses filled the nursery. One day it occurred to me that we didn't really have enough bunny stuff, and then I came across this beautiful book in a charity shop.

Moon Rabbit by Natalie Russell is the cute story about a city bunny and a country bun-kin who fall in love. I used to read this book to Ebony every night when she was teeny tiny, and it always reminds me of that time. It has recently fallen into favour again, and I've been reading it to her in the afternoons. I love the style of the illustrations, I think the bunnies are really cute and beautifully simple. 

You can find the rest of this week's 'we like to read' posts over on Tigerlilly Quinn.

If you're a fan of books, make sure you check out review & giveaway of The Day The Crayons Quit this week.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Giveaway: The Day The Crayons Quit

When Ebony was just a tiny baby, my friend, Scott, bought her a book. Scott used to work in the children’s library, and during that time had seen a lot of children’s books. His favourite, and the one he bought for Ebony, was How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers. It’s such a lovely book, and the illustrations are beautiful so it soon became a firm favourite for bedtimes.

I was thrilled to be sent a review copy of Oliver Jeffers’ newest venture, The Day The Crayons Quit. Oliver Jeffers has provided the illustrations to accompany a story written by Drew Daywalt. We’ve had the book for about a week, and I must have read it over 30 times. Ebony loves it.

In the story, Duncan wants to do some colouring in, but discovers that all his crayons have quit. Blue is exhausted from colouring in the sea, beige is fed up of competing with brown, and pink is fed up of being stereotyped as a girls' colour.

The story is cute and funny, and though Ebony may not be old enough to appreciate some of the humour, she still enjoys listening to me read it. The illustrations are beautiful. The pages feature childlike drawings of all sorts of things. Each crayon’s letter is penned (or, more accurately, crayoned) in childlike writing, and accompanied by a handful of pictures drawn by that crayon. Ebony loves telling me what each of the pictures are, and I’m hoping it will be a useful tool for teaching her about colours.

The Day The Crayons Quit is a New York Times #1 Best Seller, and I am lucky enough to have a spare copy to give away. To enter, all you need to do is fill in the Rafflecopter below, and a winner will be picked at random. Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway ThePrizeFinder - UK Competitions

Monday 15 July 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #8

I have noticed that each time I dare to say aloud something that pleases me, within weeks things will take a turn. When Ebony was just three months old, she would go to sleep when we did, and would sleep until around 8am. At a baby group, a health visitor asked me about Ebony’s sleep, so I answered her honestly. Some exhausted looking mums threw hateful glares my way. A week later, when we gathered at the same group, I had the dark circles and poor concentration to prove that my lucky streak had come to an end.

A couple of weeks ago, Ebony had a playdate with her friend. I stupidly said aloud that Ebony hadn’t been ill for months. In fact, she hasn’t had so much as a cough since she had pneumonia in February. I shouldn’t have said it out loud. It was stupid.

Last Sunday we went to Lyme Park for our seventh great adventure, and I noticed as we sat by the lake that one of Ebony’s eyes looked a little pink. I assumed, as one does, that Laurie had accidentally smeared sun cream onto her eyeball while getting her ready that morning. 

She didn’t sleep well that night, and wake screaming every few hours.The next morning, both her eyes were pink and weepy. We had to cancel our playdate that afternoon for fear of infecting a gaggle of toddlers. By the Tuesday, she was suffering with every viral symptom possible. She was covered in a rash that she complained was “itchy”, she had a fever and a runny nose on the scale of niagara falls. Needless to say, we didn’t go any many adventures this week.
In fact, despite the beautiful sunshine and bucket load of fun activities I had lined up, we didn’t get to leave our home. We made the most of the sun by playing in the garden, but I spent most of the week soothing an unhappy toddler. It has been a long week. I kept expecting her recover, but then the next day she would still be poorly.

Yesterday, Ebony still seemed cranky and a bit sorry for herself, but had definitely improved so we decided to take her out. We didn’t want to go far in case she seemed unhappy, so we just went to a nearby stream to paddle. The water was cold, but Ebony had fun skimming stones (dropping stones) and splashing about. She had fun with Laurie, being thrown around in the water and wading in deep (much deeper than I ever let her). She played for about 20 minutes, and then decided it was time to go home. On the walk up the bank, she tripped and grazed her knee which prompted ten minutes of crying on the way back to the car. She’s definitely not quite back to normal yet.

So, week 8 wasn’t our most successful great adventure yet. How did you do?

Friday 12 July 2013

Kindly Stop Breastfeeding, You're Putting me off my Crumpet

Another day, another breastfeeding blog. Yeah, sorry about that. This morning, as Ebony fed the rabbit through the bars of his run, I checked my Twitter feed. A friend had sent me a link to a story about a breastfeeding mother being asked to feed in private.

There are a number of things about this story that make me feel angry. The first is that this happened at Kiddicare, a shop filled with baby products. During those early days of breastfeeding, I felt most safe in places that stocked baby products - because SURELY they have breastfeeding mothers in there all the time. John Lewis and Mothercare were two places I frequented during the first few months of Ebony’s life.

This isn’t the first story of a breastfeeding mother being asked to leave a shop or cafe, and it sadly won’t be the last. So, who’s fault is it that this keeps happening?

Is it Kiddicare’s fault for not ensuring their staff know about their pro-breastfeeding policy? Yes, I would say it is. As a youngster I worked in a large department store, and was never told about breastfeeding policies. I don’t know what I’d have done if a member of the public complained about the sight of a breastfeeding mother. As a 16 year old, I hadn’t given much thought to breastfeeding, and I certainly wouldn’t have been informed about a mother’s legally protected right to breastfeed in public. Would I have told a breastfeeding mother to move somewhere more private? I hope not, but without knowing store policies and legal issues, I can’t say for certain.

So yes, it is Kiddicare’s responsibility to ensure their staff are aware of the Sexual Discrimination Act and the fact that it protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in public. While it’s great that large stores like Kiddicare offer feeding rooms, staff should be made aware that they are for the convenience - not censorship - of the mothers. If a mother is happily feeding in a cafe while enjoying a drink and talking to her friends, then she shouldn’t feel forced to move into the breastfeeding room. Breastfeeding rooms, while great for cautious mothers, made me feel a bit like a dairy cow trapped in a farm with a host of other breastfeeding mothers.

I’m really glad that the mother at the heart of this particular story, refused to move. I think that’s great, and hopefully the miserable misinformed misogynist who complained, will now be better educated about where the law stands on this issue. Breastfeeding is public can be a daunting experience, and in fact puts some mums off breastfeeding altogether. Isn’t that awful? In a country where you can see tits, boobs and knockers lining the shelf of every supermarket and newsagents, women feel terrified to feed their babies in public in case they accidentally flash a bit of flesh.

The sight of a woman feeding her child should be welcomed by society. Is there anything more lovely than seeing a new mother bonding and taking care of her newborn baby? This shouldn’t be something women are worried about doing, it should be an occurrence that doesn’t get a second thought. I hope that news stories like this one are making people aware of where the law stands on this issue, and preventing potential future complaints. 

I hope this woman’s stand inspires other breastfeeding mothers to do the same. It’s easy to feel flustered and shrink away when confronted (especially when you have a breast on show at the time), but we shouldn’t feel embarrassed. We should feel confident to explain the law and the fact that, by asking us to move, the staff member has just broken the law. We should then watch with glee as the staff member goes back to whichever customer complained and explains the situation.

Have you ever been asked to stop breastfeeding? How did it make you feel?

My giveaway to win some breastfeeding goodies from Earth Mama Angel Babies closes tonight. Don't forget to enter!

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Eighteen Months Old: Dear Ebony

Dear Ebony,

You are 18 months old now. I know it’s cliché, but I really don’t know where the time has gone. I remember the first time I met you as if it happened yesterday, your cloudy eyes staring up at mine as I held you in the birthing pool, I’ve never felt more terrified in my entire life. Your clay-like skin, wet and slippery from the pool, your cloudy eyes searching for mine, I couldn’t catch a breath.

You are not a little baby anymore, you are growing and developing and finding your place in the world. You are so determined in everything that you do, and you know exactly what you want. You demand your own way, and we always give in, so amazed are we by your strength and unfaltering pursuit of your wants.

You are sweet and loving, always giving kisses and cuddles. On our trips with the carrier, you will sometimes wriggle your arms free just so you can wrap them around me and squeeze tightly. When you are walking on an adventure, you always grip my hand with yours if we are near roads, and you rarely struggle to get free.

Sharing a bed with you is one of the most special things in the world. Your face is the last thing I see at night, before I switch off the light, watching you breathe in and out as you dream peacefully of unknown things. My mornings start with kisses and cuddles as you try to rouse me from my sleep. Occasionally you will be more forceful, and use all your strength to try and shove me from my slumber.

You are so friendly with strangers, always saying hello and waving. You march to the middle of the path, and stand proudly waving until you have been acknowledged. You make friends wherever you go, with strangers on the bus and children at the park, you love to be a part of it.

You love animals so much. You are so gentle and respectful towards them. You don’t run at birds and scare them, or pull the tails of cats. You stroke gently, whisper quietly and observe with love, I feel so proud to be your mother.

You love music, and dancing in particular. You will point excitedly at the TV, with your expectant face on, until I play you some music. You grab your Daddy’s phone and dance to nothing until he puts Chuck Berry on for you to dance to. Recently, you have learnt to sing and it is so lovely to listen to you “la la la” along with the music. If we are walking down the street, and a car drives past with music blaring, you will break your arms free of the carrier so you can dance. It seems almost uncontrollable at times, your intense desire to dance.

Stories are one of your favourite pastimes. You will walk over to the shelf and pick one of your many books, and walk over to me with outstretched arms. We sit together in the afternoons, and I read you story after story until you decide you’ve had enough. Sometimes you read them to me too, “loodle loodle loodle” you always say.

We spend our days outside, exploring woods, walking through meadows and clambering on playground equipment. You have no awareness of danger, and love marching up to nettles, stroking bees and climbing the over 7s equipment. I live in a constant state of fear that something terrible will happen, but I fight the urge to intervene. I stand back and let you climb, and sometimes fall, because I know how much you love the independence, and how important it is to let you be you.

I am so proud of you, Ebony. I feel so lucky to be part of your life, and to be sharing in your childhood.

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