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.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Getting Your Family Home Organised

For some reason, the winter always feels more chaotic in my house. In the summer, we spend enough time outside that inside either stays relatively tidy or I’m just not indoors enough to witness the mess. In winter, however, when the dark evenings and cold weather leave us cooped up after school, the house gets untidy. As I type this, there is a pile of jigsaw pieces in the middle of the living room floor, a collection of children’s books dumped next to the designated book box, and the mantelpiece is full of things waiting to go upstairs. Add to that, the fact that we have an empty bedroom waiting to be decorated upstairs and a playroom upturned thanks to a pre-Christmas sort out and, well, you get the picture.

I found this article about time management in the Guardian really interesting, and it definitely struck a few chords with me. I am forever losing things and while I often blame this on things not having a place, usually it’s just that things have got lost amidst the clutter. School shoes, bobbles, white polo shirts and all homework just seem to disappear in our house. Inspired by the Guardian article, I wanted to share some ideas for how to get your family home organised, these are all things we have done or are planning to do:

1. Invest in some decent toy storage
Toys just get everywhere, don’t they? One thing I have found that makes this much easier to handle is everywhere having a place. And not an artfully chosen place on a designated shelf to ensure your home is always Instagram ready, but a place kids can reach to tidy away their own stuff. I hate the mess that my toddler can make, but I also love her having the freedom to choose and get out her own toys. I don’t want to put things out of her reach or put myself in charge of what she plays with. I want her to have control when it comes to her things. Storage baskets are the answer. You need to have storage baskets or boxes for everything so they can be tipped out but tidied away just as easily.

2. Don’t pretend it’s all the kids’ faults
If I look around my house, I can see as much of my mess as I can of the kids. I just seem to have so much stuff, and even though I know where it should go, it can take a long time to actually get there. We pretty much always have a bag of crap in the kitchen just waiting to go upstairs. The mantelpiece in the living room is full of things that should have been taken upstairs. And don’t even open the door to my office unless you’re feeling emotionally ready to see chaos. When I do eventually take things upstairs, I usually just dump them on the desk in my office because I don’t have the time to sort them out just yet. I really need to start making the time.

I have decided to create some designated areas for Crap That Should Be Upstairs and Crap That Needs Sorting Out. A couple of wicker baskets in the living room and kitchen would be enough to make a huge difference both to the space and to my stress levels.

3. Work your way through your home
All I really want is to feel like my house is nice when I first come in. If the entrance hall feels cosy and welcoming then I forgive the textured wallpaper (I can’t, I will never forgive it, it needs to come down). My worst thing is walking into an untidy hallway. We haven’t decorated the hallway, stairs or landing yet but I know we will at some point in the future (maybe before I am 60, fingers crossed) so it’s not an area I want to spend much money on in the short-term. We do have coat hooks but we could do with a couple of extras low down so that Ember has somewhere to hang her coat when she gets in. We are also in desperate need of shoe storage to try and stop shoes from spilling out all over the house.

So, start at your front door and work your way through your home making organisational improvements as you go. Doing it this way will allow you to immediately see your hard work paying off, and it will make coming home even nicer. Take a look at The Holding Company to see if any of their products could help to revolutionise your home.   

If you have any tips that might help me get my life in order, please do share them with me.

This is a collaborative post.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Thursday 1 November 2018

Happy World Vegan Day

I get a lot of press releases. Most of the time they are about absolute shite like Kate Middleton’s pelvic floor, but sometimes they are interesting. I have had a few press releases about veganism this week which isn’t surprising because today marks World Vegan Day.

Life as a vegan has changed a lot over the past decade (read 10 things that have changed in my 10 years of being vegan). It is so much easier now. It is easier and more affordable to find vegan products, and there are so many substitutes out there. Vegan is a word people understand now (they really didn’t 10 years ago), and restaurants tell you in moments whether they cater for vegans. It’s easy to eat out, there are vegan Magnums and vegan makeup is readily available now. Unsurprisingly, it’s the young driving this change. While their grandparents are getting excited about Brexit, young people are making informed food choices for the planet.

Hitwise sent me a press release to let me know that online searches relating to veganism have increased by 84% in the past three years. And, after analysing the data, they have revealed that the following questions are the 10 most asked. So, I figured I would answer them.

1.     Who makes vegan strip lashes?
Superdrug! They make vegan everything, pretty much. And it’s always labelled so you know which products are suitable for vegans. Superdrug is my one-stop shop for all such things.

2.     When is vegan week bake off?
You missed it. But don’t worry, from what I heard, it was just Paul Hollywood walking around being condescending about vegan food, so you didn’t miss much. I decided not to watch it because I figured that was going to happen. A lot of people have been telling me about vegan meringue since watching it though so it clearly impressed the general public.  

3.     Who sells vegan pizza?
Everybody. It’s almost too easy to get vegan pizza nowadays. I’m almost tired of sampling them all. You can get vegan pizzas at supermarkets, restaurants and even some takeaways. The days of painstakingly making your own vegan pizza are long behind us. I kind of miss them, sometimes, but also there is nothing quite like an oven pizza on family movie night.

4.     What would happen if everyone turned vegan?
People would stop making fun of vegans. And, um, probably the word vegan would go extinct. And the planet might be a little healthier. And there would probably be a black market of meat products from unspecified sources. And animals wouldn’t spend their lives in factory farms. And Tunnocks would have to diversify and veganise Snowballs which would be, to be honest, my favourite thing about the entire world adopting a vegan diet.

5.     Why aren't avocados vegan?
Remember before that QI episode when nobody talked about how vegetables weren’t actually vegan? Man, I miss those days. So, basically, for those of you who missed QI, vegetables are farmed using bees to pollinate the plants. And this isn’t done in a happy-go-lucky ‘I hope a bee comes along soon’ kind of way, it’s done in a ‘I control the bees, work for me, bee-tch’ kind of a way. So, yeah, that doesn’t sound that vegan. Neither are pesticides. Or most medicines. Or screens (they have gelatin in). So, it’s pretty difficult to live an entirely vegan life in modern society, but that doesn’t mean there’s no point in doing your best. Eating avocados is vegan, you’re still vegan if you eat them, even if the farming methods suck. [Side note: isn’t it tedious how desperate people are to see vegans ‘break’ their veganism with stuff like this?]

6.     What happens to cattle if everyone becomes vegan?
Um, well, wild cattle would probably continue to be on the endangered list. Maybe people would be more interested in conserving them if they weren’t also eating them, so perhaps it would be a good thing for those populations. And, there would be no need to farm cattle anymore, so farmers would stop breeding them and then they wouldn’t live on factory farms or be slaughtered for food.

7.     What would happen if we all became vegan?
Um, I already answered this. See number 4. But, basically, it would be great.

8.     Where can I buy red vegan stew?
I don’t even know what this is!? I’ve never heard of it. I hope you find it soon. K, thanks.

9.     Where can I buy mini vegan sausage rolls?
Ocado, for sure. Probably other supermarkets, too. Also, you could just cut up regular sized vegan sausage rolls, right? In the 80s, you’d have had to make your own. Another reason to be thankful that the 80s are over.

10.  Why is honey not vegan?
(said very slowly) Because it is an animal product.
Honey isn’t vegan because animals are exploited to make it. They are bred, they die in transit, Queen bees have their wings clipped. It’s just not vegan. If you can get your head around not eating steak and not eating yoghurt, then honey is that far a leap from there.

Photo by Ivana Milakovic on Unsplash

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