Thursday, 24 April 2014

Saying yes to some help

Our little baby girl is approaching four weeks old now. My husband's paternity leave came and went. My parents' visit  also came to an end after Easter. This week I have had my first taste of dealing with the three children on my own, without family around to help out.

My eldest has returned to school after the Easter holidays and on day one of doing the school run, I had a few of my mummy friends kindly offering to help out, whether it was having my two year old over for a few hours so I could rest at home when baby slept or offers to collect my son from school.

It feels like it goes against my natural instinct but I decided to say yes to some of these offers of help. So my daughter went to a friend's house to play with two of her little friends while the big ones were at school one morning this week and I took my friend's advice and lay down when baby slept. It was good for my daughter, as she had not played with any of her peers for a while. She got to do some painting, playing and had lunch there. I felt better for getting to lie down and just generally having a break from keeping my adorable but energetic two year old amused.

I have also had a couple of friends pick up my son from school, again very helpful as my youngest tends to be sleeping around that time and so I don't have to wake her and get both girls ready to rush out for the school run.

On the one hand, I feel a bit selfish accepting these favours. I have a new baby not a life-threatening disease! Surely I can get on with it and manage as best I can with my 5-year old, 2-year old and newborn. Then I try to put myself in the position of the person offering the help and if it was me, I would not make the offer if I did not mean it and was not happy to help. That makes me feel better about accepting it :-). I still feel in debt to the person and like I need to do something to make it up to them but hopefully one day I can return the favour in some way.

It affirms what lovely friends I am lucky enough to have and reminds me that being there for our friends is the greatest gift we can give. I'm not much use to anyone right now, but hopefully I have (and will have) my moments of being a good friend and helping out someone who could use a little break in whatever form that is.

Do you find it difficult saying yes to kind offers from people? Have you had similar experiences of friends helping you out when you needed it?
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photo credit

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Eat your greens soup!

I found myself with some odds and ends of green vegetables left in my fridge this week and not much else. With my husband at home on paternity leave and son on holiday from school, we've got through our weekly veg box faster than usual and this was all I had remaining. As it was a bit of a rainy, gloomy day, I decided to make a soup with what I had. The result was quite tasty and both children enjoyed it too, even though they usually are not so keen on the vegetables it contained!

I'm going to give rough quantities below but obviously the beauty of the recipe is that you can adapt it to whatever green veg you might happen to have lurking in your refrigerator. It is not a heavy, hearty soup so it works well as a meal for a cool spring day. If you wanted to make it richer, you could stir in a spoonful of creme fraiche, some double cream or some grated cheese.

Eat your greens soup!

Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled & diced
  • Green veg (I used 2/3 cauliflower and 1/4 cabbage but broccoli, kale or any green veg would do), cut into smallish pieces
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • Oil of your choice
Method
Pour a splash of oil into a large pan and gently fry the onion and celery until soft.
Add the potato, stir and cover for a couple mins. Then cover generously with water and crumble in your stock cube. Bring to the boil on a high heat, then turn down to low.
Add the green veg and cook gently for 10-15 mins until soft.
Using a hand (immersion) blender or a food processor, blend the soup until smooth, adding more water if necessary to achieve a good consistency.
Stir in the pesto over a gentle heat and season to taste.
Serve warm in bowls with crusty bread.

I'm linking up with this week's #recipe of the week
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photo credit
Link up your recipe of the week

Friday, 4 April 2014

Pregnancy, pillows & sleeping

In this post, I am going to share what helped me get a fair amount of good nights' sleep whilst I was pregnant this third time round. The point comes sooner than you would think in a pregnancy when getting a good night's sleep becomes a challenge. You're supposed to lie on your side, you're getting bigger and heavier, hips start aching, you might be up for several bathroom trips during the night.... There are those that say, it's nature's way of starting to prepare you for the disturbed nights to come but if there is a way to sleep better, I am all for it! Especially moving on to baby number three, I really have no need for preparation for the nights of broken sleep I have got coming. Au contraire!!

I had been complaining about rough nights of sleep to a friend and she kindly dug out her old pregnancy sleeping pillow to lend me. She told me what a miracle it was to her during her pregnancies, how she would take it with her any time they were spending a night elsewhere because it was the only thing that helped her sleep well. I was excited to try it out and experience the blissful night's sleep she had prepared me for.

I'll be honest, the first night I wasn't quite sure which parts of the pillow should go where and just guessed. It didn't seem right though and although I had a decent night's sleep, I felt sure it could be better.  The next day, I searched online for this pillow and how to use it and that night, I tried again, with it in the correct position. I had a terrible night's sleep! I think I gave it one last shot another night but again, it didn't make for a good night's sleep so I returned it to my friend and went back to my own system of a pillow between my knees.

Shortly after that episode, I had started doing some ante-natal pilates. When doing some exercises lying on my side, my instructor would put a cushion in place to support my belly. It really made a difference to the way my weight was positioned on my side so I decided to try the same when sleeping at night.

In addition to my pillow between my knees, I added a small pillow under my bump. It really improved my comfort during the night and I began to sleep better and was waking up with less aches in my hips. So there's my simple tip for better sleeping whilst pregnant - two pillows!

What was your experience of sleeping whilst pregnant? Did you struggle to get comfortable? Did you use any special pregnancy pillow or find any other way to deal with any discomfort?
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photo credit

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

My big secret!

I'll cut straight to the chase and tell you there's been a new addition to our family! As of a couple of days ago we became a family of five and have a new baby daughter!

You may be wondering why I kept it a big secret all this time. We had some scares and concerns earlier in the pregnancy, which made me a little reluctant to share the news initially and then I decided I prefered to wait for the safe arrival of the baby. She did arrive safely thankfully and is in good health. We are all very much enjoying the new member of our family!

I also did not want my blog to turn into a pregnancy/new baby focused blog. After all, most of those posts have been written already with my existing two children. Having said that, I have written a couple of such posts to appear in the immediate future when I may be otherwise engaged! If things go quiet on the blog in April, you'll know why!
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Friday, 28 March 2014

This week: a book, a film, a recipe

Here is what I have watched, been reading and a new recipe I tried this week:

My husband and I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, a film which "examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.". It was certainly interesting and as lovers of dairy, it got us thinking about our somewhat heavy consumption of dairy and we have probably eaten a little less since watching the movie!

I made chapatis for the first ever time this week. I felt like having some with a potato and pea curry I had made one evening and when I saw how easy they were to make, wondered why I had never tried them before! The two-ingredient recipe I followed was from the BBC Food site. They are quick and easy, no dough to rise or advance preparation needed. Give them a try!

After reading the parenting book I recently blogged about, I decided to move on to something completely different. I started reading Handsome Brute: The True Story of a Ladykiller. A book about a murderer might not sound very appealing but I can assure you it is a rather riveting read of a once famous British murder case that unfolded during the post-war period.

Do you have a book, film or recipe recommendation to share from your week?

Friday, 21 March 2014

Squabbling siblings

If you have two or more children, chances are they spend their time together either getting along famously or at each other's throats! It's wonderful when they get along, either playing together or contentedly playing alongside one another. When they snatch, fight, scream at each other and one or both ends in tears, it can be stressful for the whole family.

My two children are aged two and five. It's a tricky stage. The five year old is pretty good at sharing and taking turns. He is for the most part patient and giving. The two year old is at the age where sharing is not yet really understood so if she wants something, she will take it and not give it back without a struggle. You can therefore imagine the kinds of scenes that unfold in our household!

Then there is the physical aspect to their squabbling. My daughter regularly tackles her big brother down to the floor in a fun, playful way so when she is not being playful, she is not afraid to push or worse! Until quite recently, our son would never push her back or inflict any physical actions towards her. He would probably just come and tell my husband and I what his sister had done to him. However, of late that has changed and he now will push her back or be a little too rough with her for my liking. Who can blame him on the one hand? On the other hand, he is a big five year old, she is still a little two year old.

I think back to my own childhood and remember quite regular physical fights with one of my brothers, even though there was a big age gap and I was the youngest! He was the same brother I was closest to growing up though, so I also remember many fond times together. Our physical fights were soon diffused and forgotten and never had any lasting impact.

So then I think, I should not worry too much about my own children getting into little fights. It's all part of growing up, asserting oneself in one's own individual way, learning how to manage one's behaviour in frustrating situations and essentially, learning how to deal with conflict. As much as I can, I try to stay out of my children's squabbles and if my son comes to complain about something that his sister has done, I try to encourage him to come up with a way to deal with it, rather than getting involved too much myself.

Currently, that does not work very well and the situation rarely gets resolved without tears or shouting but I am hoping that with some perseverance, over time, both children will find their own ways of handling their differences and disagreements.

What is your experience of squabbling siblings? Do you intervene much and try to manage their behaviour and reactions or do you step back and let them get on with it? Do your children go through phases of getting on better or worse with one another? I would be very interested to hear your experiences in the comments!
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photo credit

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Calmer communication & cooperation

In my post at the beginning of this year, New year, new parenting goal, I mentioned I was starting to read the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. I have now finished reading it (pretty good going for my slow reading pace these days!) and wanted to share a few bits of the advice I found particularly helpful.

I will start by saying, it is a very useful book for any parent to read. It has simple little exercises throughout so that you are forced to look at your own situation and parenting methods and reflect on how you might change them (if they need changing). The exercises are helpful because you get a real idea of how the advice can relate to you specifically. There are also lots of examples of different situations other parents have struggled with, case studies if you like, that illustrate how the suggested methods can bring about positive results in 'real life'.

At the same time, it is a lot to take in and is the kind of book you can refer back to, rather than aiming to remember and practise every single point it presents. It does give real perspective to the challenges that come with parenting and reminds us that the easy option does not always lead to the best outcome. Parenting, and parenting well, is hard work after all. Like anything else we want to invest ourselves in, it takes time and effort.

It is hard to select just a few points raised in the book but if these I have listed below sound of interest, I recommend you pick up a copy of the book!

Good listening. We might think we listen to our children but many of us are probably also guilty of firing questions (How was your day? Who did you play with? What did you do?...). If we focus more on listening with our full attention, the child is more likely to open up in their own way.

Problem-solving with your child. This is one thing I tested out with my 5-year old and to good effect. I had been getting annoyed with toothpaste smeared on or next to the bathroom sink each day after he brushed his teeth in the mornings. Following the advice in the book, I sat down one day with my son and talked through his possible difficulties, my feelings about seeing the mess and with paper in hand, asked for his suggestions on how we could remedy the situation. He came up with two ideas, which I wrote down. He then wanted to draw a picture of the toothpaste on the paper and we stuck it up above the sink for a few days. Immediately, the mess stopped! After a few days, I praised him for his continued good efforts and suggested we didn't need the note on view any more. He chose to stick it inside a cupboard door where he could still see it if he wanted to (rather than discarding it) but the clean sink remained!

Describe what you see when giving praise. The book suggests that meaningful praise gives the child an awareness of their own merits. So rather than relying on broad compliments like, 'It's great/fantastic/amazing....', describing what you see then helps the child recognise their strengths. For example, to a child who has got dressed by themselves for the first time, you could say something like, 'You put every bit of clothing on in exactly the right place and didn't even need to ask for help - I'm so impressed!', instead of saying, 'You did a great job!'.

The hardest section of the book for me, in terms of relating it to my own self and my own children was the chapter on 'Freeing children from playing roles'. It talks about how parents can be prone to labelling their children, 'She's bossy / he's stubborn / she's a trouble-maker / he's a picky eater etc....' and that by doing so, reinforces that behaviour/trait in the child. It gives various ways to free your child from those 'roles', which all seem very doable and make sense. My struggle was in identifying any labels that may have been applied to my own children - is that because I have done a good job of not labelling them? (obviously what I'd like to think!!) or is it (more likely) because I am oblivious to the labelling I have inadvertently applied? For now, that remains something for me to think about further....

Do you have any thoughts on what I have mentioned above?  Have you discovered your own techniques for calmer communication and cooperation with your children? Have you read the book yourself and if so, what did you think?