Monday 27 January 2014

Living Arrows 4/52

"Train, yes train, more train, Mummy."

Ebony was given a train set for Christmas, and after two weeks tidied away upstairs, we got it out again this week. She absolutely loves clicking the pieces together, but has a lot to learn in terms of track management. She isn't overly interested in the trains just yet, I think she sees it more as a giant jigsaw game with endless possibilities. 

living arrows

Friday 24 January 2014

My Rightmove Addiction

One of the problems with working from home, aside from the fact there are no watchful eyes forcing me to be mindful of how many biscuits I eat, is that success relies heavily upon self-motivation. Now, I’m good with deadlines, and always get work done on time. But, if I have a bit of extra time, rather than getting my work finished early so I can enjoy the finer things in life, I tend to just go on rightmove.

Does anybody else do this? Is it a socially acceptable modern pastime? Or am I some kind of house pervert? Perhaps. I do get excited when I see some good alcove shelving. I like the house we live in, but can’t help but gaze longingly at other houses. Especially the bigger ones.

Our house is fine. We bought it thinking it would be a nice little house for dinner parties, and to have friends over, and to be a married couple in. I mean, how much space do a married couple really need? And then we had a baby. And we got a cot, and a huge pram, and a ridiculously massive high chair. And soft toys, and developmental toys, and plastic toys and wooden toys. And board books, and story books and colouring books. And crayons, and pipe cleaners are paints. And a rocking horse, and a painting easel and a wooden train set. And a toy kitchen, and lots of jigsaws, and even more books.

And then our reasonably sized house was tiny and bursting at the seams with the stuff of childhood. And then it really didn’t feel very reasonably sized at all. And our previously perky house was starting to sag under the weight of family life. And the once white walls began to attract tomato-sauce-encrusted hands, and the odd bit of artistic expression in biro, and, well, it all started to look a bit lived in.

So, yes. I started to wonder about other houses. Newer houses, bigger houses, with less signs of toddler. I started to imagine a world where toys and television were kept separately. A land where parents sat down on the sofa at the end of a long day, and didn’t end up perched uncomfortably on a mountain of duplo, wooden blocks and jigsaw pieces. A house with a room that could be described as a lounge, rather than a giant room-sized toy box filled with junk.

Then the daydream became more vivid. I added in another room, an office. I started to imagine working on a desk, my desk, rather than the dining table. I imagined myself sitting down to write without the salt and pepper by my side. I imagined myself saying things like, “I’m in my office.” instead of “Oh balls, there’s a spaghetti hoop stuck in my laptop again.”

And now I find myself living two lives. One in this house, and another, roomier life in my imaginary house with extra rooms. I’m there now in fact, typing busily in my office. Oh, and I’m doing actual work, not just looking on rightmove or writing blog posts about my rightmove addiction. Or maybe I’m on Facebook, I don’t know, it’s a bit of a blurry daydream.

Does anyone else spend a scary amount of time on rightmove, or should I seek professional help immediately?

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Feeding My Vegan Baby

From as soon as I announced my pregnancy, people started paying more interest to my diet. Was I taking vitamins? Yes, all pregnant women are advised to take supplements. Was I craving meat? No, I’m actually not Phoebe Buffay. Was I thinking of raising the baby vegan, or just vegetarian? Always said as though vegetarian would be ok, but vegan would be a step too far.

The only people who weren’t interested in my diet were the healthcare professionals. They checked I was taking folic acid (which they do with all pregnant women), and then moved on. My doctor said that my vegan diet probably meant I was better clued up about food and health than most other pregnant women. I’m not sure it was strictly true at the time, but it is now.

vegan baby memeNothing gets you learning about nutrition than having a vegan baby to feed. The first six months were easy of course, I breastfed on demand and that gave her everything she needed. I took supplements while breastfeeding, when I remembered to, and was sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Except on the days I only ate biscuits, but those were pretty early on, and I’m pretty sure even meat eating mums have those days in the newborn stage.

Then it came time to wean, and I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see her enjoying her first tastes of solid food. The very first thing to pass her lips was a strawberry, stolen from my dish the day before she turned six months. With that one solitary strawberry, she managed to stain her vest, a blanket and a teddy as she gummed it round her mouth. From that point on, I started to give her solids three times a day. Fresh fruit for breakfast, salad or steamed vegetables for lunch, and for dinner she would have what we were having. During her first week this included dahl and madras. She was happy to eat anything, or play with it at least, I’m not sure very much of it made it through her digestive system for the first month at least. But that was fine, I was more worried about her exploring the food than eating it. She was still being breastfed on demand so I wasn’t worried about her missing any nutrients.

As the months went on, she started to eat more at mealtimes. As she got more teeth, she became better at chewing. Baby led weaning gave us hours of fun, and hours of cleaning, watching her enjoy new things. For the first six months of eating solid food, she ate mostly fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, rice and pasta. Sometimes she would clean her tray, other times she would just explore her food but not eat much of it. I didn’t want to force her to eat when she wasn’t hungry, so trusted her to decide what and how much she ate.

As she became mobile, I started leaving snacks in the living room for her so she could eat them at her own will. She would mosey over to the snack table for a nibble every now and again, eating what she wanted and leaving what she didn’t. She had favourite foods, and things she was less keen on, but I kept everything available to accommodate her changing tastes.  

Sometime after her first birthday I started giving her the 1+ alpro soya milk in a cup. She still drinks this, as well as almond milk and water. Despite what some vegan charities may advise, I have never given her fruit juice (even diluted) because it causes tooth decay. Instead I make sure she is offered fresh fruit throughout the day - an offer she rarely refuses.

Without being overly meticulous, I offered her a mix of foods each day. I made sure to give her fruits and vegetables of each colour (red, yellow, green, orange and purple), to make sure she got a proper mix of nutrients. But if she chose not to eat any yellow food one day, then that was fine. I made sure she was regularly offered nuts, seeds, beans and lentils by including them in her daily diet.

At some point after her first birthday I started offering her soya yoghurts and cereal. These are both sugary foods so I tried to limit her intake, but I wanted to make sure she had some B12 fortified foods in her diet and these seemed to be a decent(ish) option.

When she became a toddler, I added more fat into her diet because this is important for brain development. Luckily she loves avocado so this was pretty easy. She will happily wolf down a whole avocado. She also loves coconut oil, which I add to her porridge, popcorn and any baking we do. I use flaxseed oil in her porridge too, and add it to her bowl of soup just before I serve it. She loves tofu, vegan cheese and the odd vegan burger.

Though I received a lot of comments and questions about vegan babies when I was pregnant and when I had a newborn, I very rarely get quizzed about this now. I can only assume this is because my daughter looks as healthy and full of energy as any other two year old, which she is.

Overhearing Other Families

Before I became a parent, I didn’t pay any attention to families whatsoever. Unless, I suppose, they had particularly cute children. But generally, no, I would notice them, try and sit  as far away from them as the situation would allow, and continue listening to my headphones, or reading my book, or whatever taken-for-granted completely-unappreciated pre-parenthood luxury I was indulging in at the time.

Since becoming a parent, I can’t help but people watch other families. Perhaps it is because I no longer have the luxury of music playing directly into my ears, or the escape of a good book. More likely it is because my two year old is staring at the family and so I’m sort of forced to pay attention to them. Or, maybe I’m just really nosey.

I actually think overhearing other parents is a useful tool when honing my parenting skills. I sometimes hear people say things, and then realise I have on occasion said something similar, and vow never to speak to my child like that again. In a way, it’s like a fresh perspective. If you’ve had no sleep, and are dealing with a particularly strong-minded toddler, it’s easy to occasionally lapse into the type of parent you don’t want to be, and sometimes witnessing that style through another family, is all I need to reset myself.

When Ebony is people watching (or, as it is more aptly known, staring wide-eyed and open mouthed at strangers, and occasionally shouting “HELLO! HELLOOOO?” at them), I am very aware of how she may be interpreting events. So, as an example, when we see a mother screaming at her child, I am aware of how scary that might be for Ebony. It’s never nice to witness bullying, especially if the perpetrator is twice the size of the victim. When there is a hysterical child being ignored by his parent, I think of how awful that must seem to Ebony (and to the hysterical child, obviously) who is empathetic towards tears.

There are certain times when I wish we were not witnessing events, because I feel so uncomfortable. The mum threatening to hit her child at the park, or the mum making fun of her toddler for wetting himself at playgroup. The parent walking determinedly away from their sobbing one year old, or the grandparent shouting at their already distressed grandchild.

I really don’t want to be a judgemental person, I want to say ‘each to their own’ and ‘whatever works for your family’, but I can’t help wishing that Ebony didn’t witness that sometimes parents hit, or ‘you are a disgusting little boy’ if you wet yourself, or that it’s ok to ignore the suffering of others. I don’t want her to think any of those things, and she really isn’t very easy to distract when there is a new family to stare at.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Attempting a Routine

I’m not really a big fan of routine, I think life easily becomes boring when strictly regimented. I much prefer spontaneity and freedom. I like being able to do what I want when I went, but mostly I like getting up when I want. That’s the problem really. I’m not a huge fan of mornings. I didn’t even like mornings in years gone by, when my dad was stood outside the bedroom door holding a vegetarian sausage butty. So it’s not wonder I don’t like breakfasts now that I am woken by a shrieking, hair-pulling, nostril-poking, noisy toddler.

My dislike of mornings combined with the fact that it is usually actually quite easy to convince the toddler to have just another short sleep mean we’re late risers. As in, we-can’t-make-it-to-morning-activities-because-we’re-still-asleep late rises. Of course, that then means that the toddlers naps late, and goes to bed late. This is great for Laurie, because it means he gets to spend some quality time with her every evening when he returns from work. When she was a baby, she stayed with us at all times, only going up to bed when we did. And I liked it like that, and I would do it all over again tomorrow.

But… There are times when I really, really want an evening to myself. To sit down in front of the television, read a book, have a bath, blog, work, clean, talk to the husband without having to raise my voice over the repetitive sound of “Mummy? Mummy? Mummy?” At times it can feel like I don’t really get time to myself. When she naps, I work, when she plays with Laurie, I work. When she finally falls asleep for the evening, I run downstairs as fast as possible and drink all the wine before collapsing in bed.

I read an article last week that said most young children should go to bed between 6 and 7:30pm because that is when their natural body clock tells them it’s time for bed. According to the author, if you miss that window, the child gets a second wind and will fight sleep. This made sense to me because my toddler sometimes looks exhausted before dinner, but is then wide awake a bit later. So, I thought I’d try putting her down earlier to see how it went.

The first night it was a complete success, and she was asleep before 8pm. I WATCHED A WHOLE FILM THAT EVENING. Yes, fellow parents, in that evening, no I did not have to stretch it out over a whole week. I watched it from start to finish. I even HAD AN OPINION about the film at the end, because I wasn’t so exhausted I couldn’t concentrate/keep my eyes open/stop myself drinking all the wine.

I have been attempting the early bedtime for almost a week now with varying degrees of success. Some nights she is out like a light, and others she wants to stay up and play. I am (attempting to be) relaxed about it. If she isn’t tired, that’s fine, there is always time to read more books or for more play (with Laurie though, because I’m downstairs drinking all the wine and nursing my shattered nerves while gazing longingly at Netflix).

The only way to try to encourage an early bedtime, is to make sure she’s well and truly exhausted from her daytime activities. So, we now have a schedule (sort of), an activity for each morning of the week. Some days we have visitors, and others we attend groups. This means we get up every day, even if we didn’t all go to sleep early the night before (I’m looking at you, toddler). So far, I think Ebony is enjoying our new schedule. It’s not too busy, we still have plenty of time to stay home and play jigsaws, but we see the same people every week, and go to the same groups. I know there will be times when she doesn’t want to go, and instead wants to stay home, and that’s fine too, as long as we’re awake and out of bed. It’s not a strict schedule, and I would never want to control everything in crazy detail, I just want to make sure I get out of bed in the morning.

The only negative side to this new lifestyle, is that on some days it means Laurie will be home too late to see the toddler before she goes to bed. But I hope that the early mornings will counter that by allowing them to have breakfast together instead. You know, because the toddler shouting “PORRIDGE! COCONUT OIL! RAISINS!” at someone else once in a while is something I welcome.

Do you have schedules with your kids, or do you just take each day as it comes?

Monday 20 January 2014

Living Arrows 3/52

"Hello Mummy, duddles."

We were running very late for a party this afternoon so I woke Ebony up from her nap. I was worried she might wake up in a bad mood (as I do when woken unexpectedly), but far from it. She opened her eyes and gave me a huge smile and asked for a cuddle. 

She's such an affectionate little girl. Always giving kisses and cuddles, or climbing on to my lap. I know she won't be like this forever, so I'm making the most of it while it lasts. 

living arrows

Friday 17 January 2014

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #33

It was the morning after Ebony’s second birthday, and though that may not sound like a particularly likely day for a hangover, we were all a little worse for wear. The problem with second birthday parties is that they start quite early, and though I managed to stay off the wine until after 3:30pm, I then continued to indulge until bedtime. You see the other thing about second birthday parties is that, even when they are a success, they’re quite stressful. Setting up, tidying up, and tightly crossing fingers that toddler meltdowns are avoided, are all tiring jobs, so I felt I’d earned my glass of wine. And the one after that.

After a morning spent nursing a poorly head, and a lunchtime snooze on the sofa, we decided we’d have to head out for some fresh air. Ebony was full of energy and showing little concern for my headache, so we hoped the fresh air would tire her out. We drove to Vernon Park, a small but beautiful park not far away, and set off in search of an adventure.

We had planned to go a certain way, but Ebony had other ideas, and since she is now officially two (aka potentially terrible) and I had one eye clamped closed because of my wine headache, we decided to follow her lead. Ebony has a habit of sticking her hands in her coat pockets as she walks, it is very cute but also slightly dangerous when on a steep incline, so Laurie ran ahead (because she had marched off) to hold her hand. Together they ran down the hill, and I stumbled begrudgingly after them.

Once we reached the bandstand, Ebony climbed up and started running round and round in circles. Laurie started running the opposite way, and Ebony kept getting faster and faster. After a while they started running together, climbing on and off the bandstand as they ran around. Once they had exhausted all directions and speeds for running, we set off towards the woods. It was very muddy in the woods, and was starting to go dark. We had a look at the view, and then splashed our way across the puddles littering the floor of the woods. There are a few fallen trees to climb, and lots of mud to slide in.

Pretty soon it was going dark and time to head back to the car. It was a pretty successful great adventure in terms of tiring Ebony out, but we didn’t spend much time investigating the beauty of nature - I’ll blame the hangover for that.

Thursday 16 January 2014

We Like to Read: V is for Vegan

 V is for Vegan by Ruby Roth

This book is a firm favourite, and Ebony asks me to read ‘vegan book’ most afternoons, along with a couple of other stories. It’s an A-Z book, with rhyming words, and beautiful illustrations. Ebony has a couple of books about veganism, but this is by far the best. Most of the others are too long, uninspiring or feature vegetarians as weak characters (I hate that).

Ebony isn’t old enough to understand veganism yet, she knows the word, and understands that she drinks soya milk instead of cow’s milk, and eats vegan cheese instead of cheese, but anything other than that is beyond her. I think it’s important to introduce these concepts early, because they are a part of our daily lives, so that she will grow up understanding why we choose not to eat certain foods or use certain products.

What I love most about this book, is that it’s simply a positive look at a vegan lifestyle. It talks about eating healthy, recycling, and rescuing animals. It doesn’t talk about factory farming, fur production or animal testing. Of course, all of those issues are important, but I would like to start Ebony’s understanding of veganism from a positive place.

Ebony knows lots of the word to the book, and shouts bits out as we go along. She also mimics the illustrations, and tells me about each page. I’m really pleased she likes it so much, because it’s a great book to read aloud.

If you are looking for good stories to read to your vegan children, this I would strongly recommend this book. It is aimed at 4-8 year olds, but Ebony has loved it she was about 19 months old so it is more than suitable for a younger audience.

You can buy a copy of V is for Vegan here.


Wednesday 15 January 2014

Review: Freedom Mallows

I had a conversation yesterday, about being vegetarian ‘out of duty’. Truth be told, I didn’t quite understand the logic. For many, vegetarianism does feel like a duty, and I’m not sure why that could be seen as a bad thing. Most vegetarians aren’t people who dislike the taste or texture of meat, they are people who put more value on the life of the animal than the taste of the meat. When I went vegan, it wasn’t because all of a sudden I’d decided that cheese tasted terrible, it was because I’d decided I could no longer ignore the suffering of the animals used to make the cheese.

There are lots of things that I learned to live without when I went vegan. Lion bars, meringue pavlovas, cheese slices, and dippy eggs being just a few. I’m not going to pretend becoming vegan was easy, I missed cheese a lot for the first few weeks, but then the cravings passed. I have been vegan for six years, and in that time there have been lots of new products appearing on the market. Being vegan seems to be getting easier and easier. I can get vegan cupcakes delivered to my door with my weekly shop, I can whip up some yorkshire puddings using an egg substitute, and I can pop into the next village for vegan burgers easily enough.

There are some things though, that are harder to come by. Vegan marshmallows, for example, had proved impossible. I have tried a number of brands over the years, each leaving me with a bad taste (or, more accurately, weird texture) in my mouth. The closest I came were from Ms Cupcake, her marshmallows tasted amazing, but didn’t melt in hot chocolate. Instead they kept their shape, and simply released a marshmallow-like residue over the top of the drink, it wasn’t great.

Freedom Mallows contacted me recently, offering me the chance to review their products, and since I am never one to turn down vegan treats, I said yes immediately. To be perfectly honest though, I was slightly concerned that the mallows might be reminiscent of the other vegan mallows I’d tried, leaving me with nothing nice to say. They arrived shortly after, and I’m pleased to say I have plenty of nice things to say.

As soon as I’d opened the box and snuck out of the toddler’s sight, I tried one of the mallows. They do not disappoint. They taste exactly like the marshmallows I remember from my childhood. They aren’t too hard, or too tough or too chewy - they are creamy and delicious and melt in your mouth. Over the course of the afternoon, I managed to eat half of the first bag. In the end I had to hide them from myself to stop me eating them. This says more about my mental state probably, but I also feel it reflects positively on Freedom Mallows.

For me, the most important stage in my rigorous marshmallow testing procedure is the hot chocolate. A vegan hot chocolate will sadly never live up to its non-vegan counterpart not because of the milk or chocolate, both of which can easily be substituted, but the squirty cream. Though there are a few options available, none of them taste anywhere near as good as the squirty cream I remember from my youth, and so are probably best ignored. Marshmallows were previously an equally impossible task, and best left out of a vegan hot chocolate, though I’m delighted this is no longer the case. The Freedom Mallows melted perfectly, leaving only small melted mallow shapes sitting on top of the steaming chocolate. It tasted delicious.

The next test was baking. I had already been told the mallows worked great for krispie cakes, and am looking forward to trying that at Easter, but wanted to do something a bit more ambitious this time. Childhood birthday parties always tasted of party rings, jelly and icecream, and jam mallows. I had to google to find out the name, but jam mallows were some coconut marshmallow jam-filled biscuit, cheap and cheerful, but amazingly tasty in that weird soggy biscuit sort of a way. I loved them and ate them by the bucketload. I haven’t thought about them in a long time, but when I ate my first few Freedom Mallows, I dared myself to dream. Could these mallows be used to create a vegan friendly jam mallow substitute?

It turns out that yes they could, sort of. The jam mallows I made looked nothing like the ones you buy, but they tasted pretty good. The biscuits were a bit thick, and I could do with perfecting that recipe really, but they were sort of right. I used the wrong flavour jam and it was noticeable. To get the mallows to melt, I placed them on top of a biscuit in the oven for two minutes, thinking they wouldn’t melt properly, but they did! The recipe needs some work to make it right, but the Freedom Mallows performed perfectly and tasted delicious in a biscuit.

The final test for these poor squidgy pink mallows, was the toasting test. I used to love burning marshmallows on the bonfire. No, not melting, burning. I just used to set mine alight, blow out the flame and then eat the burnt out shell of mallow. I don’t know why, that’s just what I did. Anyway, Freedom Mallows set alight wonderfully, burn very well, but sadly don’t quite the gooey insides I remember from all those years ago. They do, however, taste really good, so I can forgive them.

Freedom Mallows are priced at £2.49 a bag, and can be bought online here. I’ve also seen them at vegan events and health food shops, so you may be able to buy them in a shop near you. Freedom Mallows are dairy-free, gelatin-free, gluten-free and fat-free. They are Kosher, Halal and suitable for vegans. They are made using natural flavours and colours.

Disclaimer: I was sent some Freedom Mallows for free, but all the words above are my actual real brain thoughts. 

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #32

I’m a bit behind writing up these great adventures, which I can only blame on my annual three weeks of utter stress with Christmas and Ebony’s birthday. Now that this breakdown-inducing season is officially over, I shall hopefully be able to get back on track and start properly maintaining this blog, as well as my house and eyebrows.

For our 29th adventure we went to Delamere Forest and it was beautiful so we planned to return. It’s ideally placed for a meet up with my friends from university, so we arranged to go for a walk over the Christmas holidays. It was supposed to rain all day, but luckily the weather held off and we just had the cold to deal with.

We followed the Stick Man trail, a two mile walk along nice wide paths. There were plenty of things to see along the way, and it was a great trail for Ebony. She walked a lot of the way, albeit very slowly, so it was more of a wait than a walk, but it was fun. Ebony kept offroading, running into the trees at the side of the path, keen for a game of hide and seek or to try and find the gruffalo…

There were huge areas of leaves strewn across the forest floor, and Ebony had great fun marching through these in her wellies. She loves searching for things on the floor, and is always picking up interesting pine cones, sticks and stones to put in her pocket for later. I am forever picking foliage out of washing machine.

About half way round she decided she didn’t want to wear her coat, despite the fact the rest of us were freezing, and marched ahead of us in just her cardigan. It was a lovely day, it was fun to combine an adventure with seeing friends, and I think we shall probably do it again later in the year.

Have you been on any great adventures this week?

Monday 13 January 2014

Living Arrows 2/52

"Ebony cook soup. Spicy soup. Mmm."

Two already, where does the time go? It was Ebony's birthday on Thursday, and she was delighted with her new kitchen. She has been busy making bread and soup ever since. Spicy soup, of course. 

We were up until 2am assembling the kitchen, but it was all worth it when we saw her reaction. I took lots of photos of her on the morning of her birthday, trying to savour these fleeting moments with my growing girl. Two already, really, where does the time go?
living arrows

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Reflections for a Second Birthday

I woke up this morning feeling old. Before I had even opened my eyes, I could feel time slipping away from me. Tomorrow is Ebony’s second birthday, and I truly can’t believe it has come round so soon. It still seems like only yesterday that I was angrily bouncing on my birthing ball, glaring across the room at Laurie, and moaning about my aching hips. It doesn’t seem so long ago that Laurie was sat in the living room, amongst a tangle of wires and pumps, staring at the inflatable birthing pool and wondering why the hell we hadn’t had a practice run at putting up. Can it really have been two whole years since Laurie dragged me out in the rain, and forced me to walk around the block again, desperately waiting for pre-labour to end so that the real show could begin.

And can it really have been two years since I was woken by a contraction, just an hour after falling asleep? I can remember it all so well, the hot water filling the bath, the app on my phone timing the contractions, and the feeling of butterflies in my chest, as labour finally began. At 9:14am tomorrow morning, Ebony will have been my world for two years. From the slippery, grey baby with huge dark eyes in the birthing pool, to the little girl with the big smile, who just ran the whole way home from play group, in just two years.

One thing I have noticed since becoming a mother, is that this is always the best time of all. Whether it was the days cuddled up with a newborn, the long walks with a six month old asleep on my chest, or the conversations I have with my toddler now, I can never imagine life getting any better. Each time I have thought, this is it, this is the happiest time of motherhood, and each time I have been wrong, because it just continues to become more amazing.

I spend most of my time with Ebony, working while she naps so I can spend my days with her, and yet I never tire of her. We were at a group the other day, and she was milling around, getting into the odd confrontation with other children over personal space, but mostly just exploring by herself. She found something interesting and came running over to show me, holding her hand out to lead me there. I love being the person she wants to share things with.

I love when she wakes me up in the morning by giving me cuddles and kisses. I don’t love it when she uses brute force to get me out of bed. I love when she enjoys the food I’ve cooked for her, “Mmmm, wow, yummy!” I don’t like when she takes food off my plate only to regurgitate it back in place moments later. I love watching her care for her toys - kissing them, feeding them and reading them stories. I don’t like when I ask her not to do something, and she immediately grabs a toy and uses their hand to do whatever it was instead, usually while saying, “No, Sweep, no, no, no.”

I love when she is feeling stressed or unhappy, and she puts her hands up to signify ‘stop’ and shouts “Muuuummy!” I love that she is strong-minded and independent, but I hate this means we often have to walk round the village in cold weather while she wears only inside out clothes and no coat. I love it when she dances, and the enjoyment she gets out of music. I love that she likes the Beastie Boys and the Rolling Stones. I love that she is fascinated by new things, and unafraid of nature. I love that she is happy to get dirty, fall over and splash in puddles.

I love that her vocabulary is growing every day, and that she randomly comes out with new words I didn’t know she knew. I don’t like that she hasn’t yet understood social norms for conversation and will happily announce to a queue of old men in Debenhams, “Mummy buy bra, mummy boobies.” I love that when she is proud of something she says “Cheeese!” so that I will take a picture.

Ebony has changed so much over this past year. From the baby who turned one in my arms, unable to walk and barely talking, to the hopping, skipping, jumping toddler telling me about her day. During this next year, there will be lots of changes in her, and though at the moment I feel terrified of her growing up, I know that I will always continue to feel that this, right now, is the greatest moment of all.

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