Sunday 27 October 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #22

Argh, I very almost didn’t manage to complete the challenge this week. I had to run out in the rain today and get a quick adventure in before it was too late. I’ve had lots of work on this week, which is great for the finances, but not so great for everything other aspect of life. It feels like all I’ve done this week is work and look after Ebony, I haven’t had a minute to relax. On top of this, Laurie has been crazily busy with work too, working till 2am on a few nights, so it’s been a tough week.

I had planned to have an adventure on Friday, but when I woke up after five hours sleep and looked around my insanely messy house, I decided to reasses. I put in an emergency call to my parents who came round to entertain Ebony for a couple of hours while I got through as much work as possible. By the time they left, Ebony was exhausted and had a huge nap which meant I was able to get even more work done, and tidy the house. By the time she woke up, it was going dark out and too late for an adventure.

I had dedicated today to working, but decided to take an hour or two off to have an adventure. I’ve managed 21 weeks of outdoor fun so far, and really didn’t want to fail at this point. So, after writing a few pregnancy articles, we got dressed in weather-appropriate attire and headed out the door.

We decided to stay local because of the lack of time, and just walked up to the woods near our house. That’s where we had our first adventure, and I love going back and seeing how different the woods are with each changing season. As expected, today’s adventure was wet and muddy, and there were plenty of beautiful fallen leaves to stomp in.

Laurie was with us today, and he’s not the sort of chap to stick to the path, so immediately headed off through the undergrowth. It’s been raining for days so the ground was slippery, and I saw him fall down at least one hill while holding the very precious person I grew, although he later claimed this was deliberate. Deliberately falling down a hill while holding a much-loved toddler, is that a thing?

I stay on the paths, because I really don’t ever want to be the person who discovers a dead body. We walked/slipped down through the trees and found ourselves on the banks of a brook. There were old, rusty bicycles, and what looked to be old-fashioned metal torture devices lying around. Mine and Ebony’s wellies kept getting stuck in the mud, and the Roger Federer logo on Laurie’s favourite shoes had disappeared behind a thick coating of mud.

Ebony had fun snapping branches under her feet, got scared when her wellies got stuck in the mud, and shushed us everytime she heard a bird. She explored the undergrowth unaccompanied, marvelled at the rusted historic artefacts lying around, and splashed in some puddles.

As we were headed back to in the direction of home, Ebony slipped in the mud and landed face first on the ground. She quickly started to cry, and when Laurie picked her up and hugged her, I asked what hurt. “Eba’s snotty nose!” she replied, which is probably the cutest answer ever.

It was really fun to go out into the woods, and to explore a bit of it that I would never dare visit without being forced. It was great to get out of the house and away from my terrifying to do list. I love these great adventures, I’m sure they’re as important for me as they are for Ebony.

Find out more about the great adventures here.

How are your adventures going?  

Thursday 17 October 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #21

I usually try to do my adventuring at the weekend, because that way I have an extra pair of hands and can take the camera and try and capture what Ebony is doing. This weekend, thanks to a lot of work (mine) and a football tournament (Laurie’s), that didn’t happen. So my post is a little late this week, because we went adventuring on Tuesday instead. This meant I had to use my phone to take photos, so apologies for that. And yes, that is my finger on one of the photos, but Ebony was balancing on a narrow wall overlooking the cow’s field so I was absolutely terrified and not paying proper attention to my photography.

I took Ebony for her second dance lesson on Tuesday afternoon. The dance school isn’t the easiest place to get to and, because we were in a rush, I used the Ergo to carry her there. We haven’t been using the Ergo as much recently, it probably only sees the light of day once a week now. Since she started walking, Ebony wants to walk everywhere, and it’s much easier to spend three hours walking home from the corner shop, than it is to spend twenty minutes trying to wrestle her onto my back in the Ergo. What can I say, I like an easy life.

So we got to dancing in time, and Ebony seemed to enjoy the lesson. It definitely went better than her last lesson (you can read about that here). She’s a bit older now, and much more interested in following instruction and copying what other people are doing. After 45 minutes of nursery rhymes, it was time to go home. The dance school is close to a small public gardens called Chadkirk Estate, it’s small but pretty and there’s room to run about so I decided we should head there.

It’s a 10 minute walk from the dance school to the gardens, and it took us one hour and 15 minutes to get there. The first half of the journey was a country lane, or heaven, if you are a puddle-enthusiast like Ebony. She jumped in every single puddle for at least five minutes, and there were quite a few along the way. I eventually coaxed her off the road and onto the secure path. This path is popular amongst dog walkers, and every single dog that walked past us was greeted with squeals of, “Hello, puppy! Snotty nose!” and shrieks of laughter accompanied with aggressive pointing. Er, yeah, sorry dogs. That’s her new joke. It’s not particularly funny, but it’s an improvement on “Hat!” said while holding something that does not qualify as a hat atop her head.

The country path we spent 75 minutes on, is probably the most dull path in the world. Yet somehow Ebony managed to find a lot to do - sniffing flowers, collecting stones, splashing in puddles and getting into fights with long blades of grass.

Eventually, I managed to get her into the gardens, and she ran around screaming excitedly. She loves being chased so we did that for a while (because there wasn’t anyone else around), and then I sat on a bench to catch my breath while Ebony explored the gardens. For the past few weeks, she has been venturing further and further away from me. Where she was once always within a few metres, she is now a tiny dot in the distance, I can only keep track of her because of the sunlight bouncing of her head.

After saying “Hello, moo!” and “Boobies!” to some cows (while pointing aggressively at their udders), smelling every flower in the gardens (approximately 13 million), and being chased across the lawn, she finally announced, “Home.” I managed to coerce her into the carrier, and we made it home just in time for the sun to go down.

Have you been on any adventures this week?

The reasoning behind the great adventures challenge can be found here.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Hands Off My Child

This morning, I took Ebony to one of the new groups we’ve started attending. The group is held in a local recreational centre, and set up like some of the groups I visited as a toddler. There are lots of soft mats, wooden climbing apparatus, and benches set up around the room. The children are free to explore as they wish, jumping around in the soft play, playing with bats and balls, whatever they fancy. 

I like this freedom, and it’s one of the main reasons we attend the group. There are various toys set up across the room too, including a ball launcher. Bear with me, because I just made up the term ball launcher, and from a quick Google image search I can confirm that this is not the correct term. It’s a plastic toy resembling a seesaw, and there is a hole for a ball at one end. You sit the ball in the hole, then walk across to the other end of the seesaw and stamp on it, thus launching the ball in the air. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with terrible drawn-out descriptions of each piece of equipment in the room, it’s just that the ball launcher is an integral prop in this story.

Ebony played with the ball launcher last week, so she knows how it works. A little boy called James was playing with it this week, so Ebony went over to watch. Each time he launched the ball, Ebony would run and get it for him. James would point at the hole, Ebony would place the ball there, James would launch it, and the whole thing would start again. One launch, a little boy called Nigel ran after the ball and picked it up. Ebony began her usual screech of “NO BOY NOOOO, BOY NOOOOO!!!” and pulled a very cross face. I shrugged at her, and said “Nigel has the ball now.” Not because I was trying to rub it in, I was just stating the facts. Ebony accepted this as truth, and followed after Nigel.

She  stood next to him, and waited. After a while, Nigel dropped the ball, and Ebony picked it up. Her eyes were shining with evil at this point, she had clearly been willing him to drop the ball. She began to make her way back over to the ball launcher. James stood ready at the other end, waiting to stamp the team to victory. Ebony was striding towards him, proudly holding the ball, and Nigel was making his way over too. At this point, Nigel’s mum intervened. I’m not sure why, because I have seen all three children play with the ball launcher before, and no-one looked ready to start a fight, not even Ebony. “Put the ball there, Emily.” she demanded.

Ebony, astutely aware that her name is not Emily, gave a disdainful look and shook her head. She continued to walk closer to the hole. Nigel’s mum repeated, “Put the ball there, now, so we can play with it.” Because, you know, play must happen NOW OR IT IS NOT FUN. Ebony, under tha alter ego of her evil twin, Emily, ignored Nigel’s mum again, and so Nigel’s mum tried to take the ball out of Ebony’s hand. Essentially, she tried to snatch it, from a child.

I am currently trying very hard to teach Ebony not to snatch, I want her to learn that this isn’t an acceptable tool for getting what you want. As such, I don’t snatch things off her. Because how can I tell her not to do something that I freely and regularly do myself? Ebony looked horrified that someone was trying to take the ball from her, and held onto the ball tighter, “NOOOOOOOO!” she cried.

At this point, you might expect Nigel’s mum to realise what a knob she is being, and to let go, perhaps with an apology, but no. Nigel’s mum then said, “LET GO OF THE BALL, EMILY.” in a stern voice. Ebony dropped the ball, and looked round to find me, she gave me a look of, “Seriously, who the frick is this anus?”. I walked over, took her hand, and we walked away together while discussing all the things that were wrong about what had just happened.

Ebony didn’t seem too bothered about it in fairness, but seriously, who the hell grabs a strange child and tells them off for playing too slow? Who grabs a strange child at all? Wait, who grabs a child at all? ARGH!

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Mother & Baby Magazine

My birth story was featured in the September issue of Mother & Baby magazine. I was so excited to be included, I’m always keen to bore anyone who’ll listen with the details of Ebony’s birth. When I was pregnant, I found that all I was hearing was absolute horror stories about childbirth (it made me so furious that I actually ranted about it in one of my first ever blogs here). Some of the stories I was told still haunt me to this day, and when I think about it now, I can’t quite believe that people thought it was ok to share them with a heavily pregnant woman.

I met up with a friend the other day, and she said the same thing has been happening to her now that’s pregnant. I think people see a pregnant woman and, in a freakshow style manner, feel the need to talk about childbirth, and, for some reason, all we ever hear about is horror stories. Throughout the whole of my pregnancy, I only heard one good birth story and because it was such an anomaly, I assumed she was just super human.

So, having been through childbirth, I now feel the need to tell everyone that it’s really not that bad. Well, mine wasn’t anyway. I used to read pregnancy magazines a lot when I was expecting, and I was always thankful for positive birth stories, so I was really pleased that my story was picked to feature in the magazine.

For the article, I was asked to give three tips I would give my pregnant friends. One of the tips I always give my pregnant friends, is to read Grantly Dick-Read’s Childbirth Without Fear. I read it when I was three months pregnant, in Italy with my family, and I found it life-changing. Until that point, I’d been unable to really think about the birth because I was worried about how I would cope, but Dick-Read (*snigger*) made me feel confident and calm about giving birth. I focused on what I’d learnt from his book for the rest of the pregnancy, and it helped to block out all the childbirth horror stories I was hearing. If you’re pregnant, I very strongly recommend reading his book.

If you want to read my full birth story, you can find it here (please ignore the typos and grammatical errors, I was a very new mother at the time, and it seems wrong to correct it now).

We like to read: Good-night Owl!

I love taking part in the we like to read series. Ebony has four full shelves of books, which is quite disgusting for a child of 20 months. In her defense though, it is my obsessive book buying that is to blame. One of my favourite things to do is to buy new books from charity shops, I especially like finding vintage books.

Good-night Owl! by Pat Hutchins
I found this book in a local charity shops for 50p. It was printed in 1975, and is still in good condition. I keep it on a high shelf so that Ebony can’t rip it or wee on it (this happened to Zog).

Good-night Owl! is a sweet book about an owl who is kept awake all day by the noisy animals around him. There are plenty of sound effects for Ebony to mimic, and plenty of animal characters to enjoy. In the end, of course, the owl wakes all the other creatures up at nighttime.

I absolutely love the illustrations, I think think the attention to detail is beautiful. Each leaf, each feature has been painted and it gives such a lovely effect. I really love reading this story to Ebony, and pointing out all of the different animals sitting in the tree.


Monday 7 October 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #20

For this week's great adventure, we decided to explore somewhere new. This week, Ebony has discovered the joy of fallen leaves. She has been stomping her way around the town we live in, selecting leaves to bring home each day. So I wanted to take her somewhere that would be filled with fallen autumn leaves so she could experience this on a large scale. 

We headed to Quarry Ridge in Marple, a small forest that fills a disused quarry. It's in a beautiful position, located above the canal, with stunning views of the neighbouring fields and farmland. From the debris we found, I would say this area of natural beauty is mostly enjoyed by teenagers. When we visited, the woods were quiet and we were the only people to be seen. 

Although it only covers a small area, the overgrown nature of the foliage gives the feeling of an impressive woodland. Aside from the views to one side, everywhere you look seems to be filled with more woodland. As I'd hoped, there were plenty of trees and piles and fallen leaves across the floor. It hasn't rained for a few days, so the leaves were nice and crisp for flattening. 

Ebony had fun searching for and collecting acorns, and Laurie ended up with quite an impressive pile in front of him before she moved onto another activity. There were lots of mushrooms growing in the woods, including the beautiful one shown above. I've never seen a mushroom like that before, and there were lots of other types growing on trees and through piles of leaves. 

We found a tree swing, and Laurie had a go at flying through the air. It turns out he's not as young as he used to be, who knew. Ebony watched, amazed, and then decided to climb up the side of the quarry. The woods were perfect for her to explore, because you can see so much of them at once so I didn't feel the need to follow her round, I could just keep an eye on her from a distance. We'll definitely be heading back to these woods for another great adventure soon. 

Have you been on any great adventures this week? 

Here's why I think adventures at important. 

Sunday 6 October 2013

Please Don't Reward My Toddler

Ebony is 20 months old, and this means she has a lot of energy. She likes running, and walking backwards, and walking on her knees. She likes climbing up and down stairs, going down slides and doing somersaults. Most importantly, she likes doing all of this stuff alone. I can watch, of course, but should I dare to offer a hand, she will firmly tell me, “No, no, mummy, no, no. Eba!”

And that’s fine, I’m happy to sit back and observe as she accomplishes new tasks. I know that, when she reaches that top step, or lands at the bottom of the slide, she will look over at me so I can share in her achievement.

Now that she's more active, I've been looking for new activities to take her to. Places she can climb, explore and see other children. On Tuesday, we attended a local group called Little Monkeys. The room was set up with wooden climbing apparatus that filled me with nostalgia for my primary school years. There were benches to balance on, ladders to climb and mats to fall on: it was perfect.

Ebony walked right past the soft play area, and straight to the wooden equipment. I don't like to direct her play, so I try to just let her explore in her own time. She climbed onto a bench and asked for my hand to help her balance as she walked along it. Then she noticed a ladder, so she walked over and confidently climbed to the top. This took her to a raised slide. She navigated climbing up to position herself on the slide, and then pushed herself down. It took her a few minutes, but she managed it alone. Then she walked back over to the ladder to do it again.

At this point, the Little Monkeys leader came over to talk to me. Ebony was, once again, negotiating her way onto the ladder. The leader was looking from Ebony, then to me, then back to Ebony. After a minute of Ebony trying to get into position on the slide, the leader could bear it no longer and held onto Ebony to help her up, "Shall I help you because you can't manage it?" Ebony looked displeased, as you might expect from an independent toddler. I explained that she’d actually already been down once, so would be able to do it again without help. The leader let go, and Ebony climbed up into position and slid down.

Ebony looked over at me and smiled, wanting me to share in her achievement, I smiled back. The leader, obviously thinking I was a cruel and neglectful mother, whooped loudly, “Wow, amazing, well done, Ebony!” This loud and enthusiastic praise continued for the rest of the session, accompanied by questioning glances in my direction to highlight my lack of pom-poms and loud cheering.

A little while later, Ebony was doing somersaults on a mat, and the leader came over with a sheet of paper and a pen, and announced it was ‘badge work time’. “Can you go through this tunnel, Ebony?” she asked. Ebony paused momentarily to say, “No,” and then continued playing on the mat. “Come on, Ebony, through the tunnel. Can you get through the tunnel? If you go through the tunnel, I can give you a tick on this piece of paper, and then you will get a badge!”

Ebony looked up again, “Nooo.” The leader looked a little stressed by this blatant disregard for the badge work, and turned to me, “Is she scared of tunnels?” I explained that no, she isn’t scared of tunnels, she’s just having fun somersaulting at the moment. The leader walked off to persuade another child through the tunnel.

Ebony loved the apparatus at the group, and the freedom to explore. But she doesn’t need a badge to be proud of her activities. She felt proud when she slid down the slide, because she had worked hard to climb up. She was happy when she somersaulted on the mat, because it’s fun to do somersaults. She smiled when she came out of the tunnel (later, when the leader wasn’t watching of course), because going through tunnels is fun. The reward from all of these activities, is the activity itself. She doesn’t need a tick, or a badge, to enjoy doing that. In fact, offering rewards can have the opposite effect, so I would rather avoid a reward system like this altogether. I don’t want Ebony’s enjoyment to come from a tick, some praise and a badge, meaning that she explores only when these are available as rewards. I want the reward to be the new experience, so that she will always climb, explore and investigate, even when no-one is around to congratulate her.

I don’t understand this obsession with reward systems for children. Toddlers love exploring, and a group that feeds that love is, in my opinion, invaluable. I want to take Ebony to play on the wooden apparatus I remember from my youth, but I want her to be free to explore it at her will. I don’t want her to be forced to explore things in a certain order, or in a certain way, in order to be rewarded by a rigid system. I think all exploration is important. Ebony climbing up onto the slide for the first time, is just as important as the time she tried to climb up the ladder backwards only to get stuck on the second rung. She wouldn’t have received any ticks for the latter, but she learnt just as valuable a lesson.

So, the question is, do we return to the group and explain to the leader that we don’t want to take part in the badge system, or do we avoid the group altogether?

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