Thursday, 26 November 2009

Creating and Enjoying Family Traditions and Memories

When you think of childhood memories, Christmas is probably a time you remember quite well. An annual celebration, excitement, family time and  traditions all serve to establish memories (hopefully fond!)

I remember helping my Dad wrap presents for my Mum on Christmas Eve, staying up late and going to midnight mass, leaving out a mince pie and a glass of sherry for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph, waking up one Christmas Eve convinced I'd heard Santa's sleigh bells. As a family, we'd often play board games in the afternoon after the excitement of all the gifts had died down and would usually go for a walk for some well-needed fresh air and to stretch our legs.

My husband's family have some distinct culinary Christmas traditions. They always have French onion soup on Christmas Eve and duck for Christmas dinner. The duck tradition has a nice history dating back to his parents first Christmas together just weeks after they were married and while being far away from the extended family. My mother-in-law still has the hand-written recipe card where she wrote the duck recipe that had been memorised by her husband (the Christmas budget wasn't enough to buy the cookbook!).

In a very enjoyable and inspiring post on her blog Serene Journey, Sherri Kruger, mother of two, writes about her chosen theme for the Christmas holidays being to create great memories. She lists some ways she plans to do that and there are some lovely suggestions like having a tea party for the females in the family, enjoying a craft day with family or friends and hosting a movie night. It reminded me how fun it can be to create your own traditions, fun activities and memories as a family. (Read Sherri's post here).

As parents to young children, you have the opportunity to create your very own family traditions, experiences and memories that will bring happiness to all the family. It can be fun to think of what these might be or get ideas of something new to try. They might be particular activities you do all together or specific recipes you make and enjoy as a family. Often the simplest things give the greatest pleasure because it's the sharing and togetherness involved that gives a sense of family fun and will help form happy lasting memories.

What are some of your family traditions or special memories? If you have a very young baby, do you have ideas of things you want to do this Christmas to start a family tradition or a particular activity/meal you can all enjoy this Christmas and for those to come?
photo credit

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Baby-Proofing for Budding Explorers

Once a child starts crawling, they find a wealth of exploration and adventure around the home. Once they start pulling themselves up, cruising furniture and getting ready to take their first steps, they find a whole lot more is within their reach.

My son's favourite activity at present is standing at our coffee table and pulling everything off onto the floor, one item at a time. I was chatting to a couple of other mums the other day and one of them said that they got rid of their coffee table and the other mum said she was considering doing the same thing.

We really have not done any baby-proofing in our flat as yet. The crawling stage was manageable and when our son inevitably went towards things like wires and leads, we told him 'no' and so far he seems to have learned to steer clear of those things. Maybe we've been lucky and I don't want to tempt fate by writing down and publicly declaring the things he hasn't even touched or bothered with but so far it really hasn't been a big deal.

My own mother and my sister-in-law (both mothers to three children) told me that they didn't do any baby-proofing, as they felt it was good for the children to learn what's ok to touch and what's not. My sister-in-law made a good point that if you transform your own home into a totally baby-friendly abode, then when you're at someone else's house, your child won't know that it's not ok to grab their books and rip the pages out or whatever.

So far, our son's prefered activities have come in phases, as his curiosity and development has progressed. I figure the table de-robing is just another phase. I can deal with picking the stuff up off the floor and putting it back on the table several times a day (they're obviously all unbreakable, insignificant things and we've added a few baby-friendly things too). I really don't think we would ever consider getting rid of the coffee table!

Of course, I have a lot of respect for those parents who take measures to create as safe and clear a home environment for their children as possible. It's all done with the utmost care and desire to protect a child from unnecessary risks. I'm sure there will be elements of baby-proofing that we will incorporate into our home as our son becomes even more mobile, such as kitchen cupboard latches to avoid access to any potentially dangerous implements or substances.

However, I think the touching, picking up, moving and general exploration of new things is an important part of a child's development and a way for them to exercise some independence. It's crucial that as parents, we ensure there are no dangerous items within reach but I feel a total re-arrangement of your home should not be needed and could be counter-productive.

What are your experiences? Did you do much baby-proofing of your home? Please share any helpful suggestions in the comments.
photo credit

Friday, 20 November 2009

Mum's The Word

mum's the word
I'm usually the kind of person who keeps ideas, plans or projects under hat until they come to fruition. Like Mummy Zen for example. I didn't tell any of my friends I was working on a blog for Mums, so the first they heard of it was when the site launched and was ready to go.

At the moment I have another project on the burner but this time, I decided to let a couple of people know about it whilst it is still very much in progress. As Kat Vitou mentioned in her business tips post, telling a fellow mum about a business idea you have is often helpful, as they can provide useful feedback and maybe come up with an aspect you hadn't thought about. The few people I have recently spoken to about my project all provided invaluable suggestions that I am incredibly grateful for and will benefit from.

It's not only in matters of business ideas or personal projects that it can help to share your intentions with others. If you are trying to lose weight for example, it can be a good idea to tell your close friends. By verbally communicating it to them, you will feel more motivated to keep up your healthy eating and exercise plan to achieve your goal and your friends will be there to provide encouragement along the way. If you don't tell anyone, it's a lot easier to give up because you only feel accountable to yourself.

I remember a friend telling me that when you are looking for a new job, you should mention it to everyone you come into contact with. The thought behind it being that someone might know of a suitable position or of somebody you should be introduced to. It can be a good way to network.

Travel plans are something many of us are keen to tell our friends about and are a good example of how worthwhile it can be to share plans with people you know. I have had all kinds of useful information provided on areas or cities to visit in a particular country that friends have been to or know well.

Maybe you are naturally open with those around you but for those of you who need a little encouragement to reveal your plans, ideas and projects to others, here are 4 reasons to do so:

- Motivation. Once you tell someone about your idea, their response and excitement will likely motivate you to keep pursuing it. Friends can also be there to help motivate you if you feel like you're struggling.

- Accountability. Telling a couple of friends lends itself to feeling a sense of responsibility for your intended actions so you are more likely to follow-through with your aim.

- More ideas. You'll probably find your friends have some surprisingly helpful suggestions or ideas you hadn't considered. They might have specific expertise to offer you too, relevant to your project.

- Confidence. Voicing your ideas can be confidence-boosting (just the act of saying it out loud). Support from those you talk to about your plans also gives you confidence to work towards achieving your end goal.

Have you benefited from sharing with friends a particular plan, project or goal?

Photo credit

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Importance of Enjoying 'Me-time'


The other morning, I was walking past a local cafe and saw a mum I knew sitting in the window, sipping on a coffee and reading a newspaper. I gave her a wave and thought to myself how nice to just be able to go have a coffee and enjoy a bit of 'me time' in the morning. Her two children had already been dropped off at school and she works part-time so was probably on her way to work.

As a mother, and as a stay-at-home mother particularly, 'me time' can be hard to come by. There are opportunities of course and it's important to take as many of these as you can. Maybe a family member or friend is able to come over to babysit for an hour or so while you go out to get a haircut or meet a friend for coffee. If your child goes to nursery or school and you're not at work, you can do a little something for yourself amidst the daily chores. After the little ones have gone to bed is another good time, as are weekends when Dad is at home. You can get out by yourself or even stay in but do something relaxing and indulgent for yourself.

By 'me time', I mean time to yourself to spend as you like. That might be alone time; going for a walk or a coffee to enjoy some quiet and be with your own thoughts. It might be seeing friend for a chat and laughter over dinner or a glass of wine. Maybe you use your 'me time' for a bit of pampering like a well-deserved massage. Whatever you choose to do, the important part is to feel like that bit of time is all yours.

Even an hour can be a nice break and gives you a chance to step back from the day-to-day routine. 'Me time' helps you recharge and feel energised. It gives you a respite from monotony and the humdrum. I know whenever I get out for some 'me time', I return feeling lighter, happier and enthused to be back with my family doing all the regular things.

To help you get the most out of your 'me time', I've come up with these four tips:
  • Schedule it. Put a time in your diary and stick to it to ensure you don't miss out. This is especially important if you don't have family or friends nearby to help out with babysitting as it's easy for the time to pass without you getting a breather.
  • Plan it. Decide how you want to use your 'me time' so you don't waste any of it.
  • Mix it up. If you usually use your 'me time' to catch up with friends, be sure to allocate some time that's for you alone. It's good to have a bit of quiet time for yourself too and really helps you relax and recharge.
  • Encourage it. Everyone needs their 'me time' so help your husband/partner fit in his fair share too. You'll get the benefit of their time out too when they come back energised and feeling in a good mood.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A Small Effort Goes a Long Way

autumn walk

We all know that making a small gesture towards someone, such as a phone-call to a friend/relative living alone or giving flowers will bring that person a whole lot of happiness and makes them feel cared for. The same principle applies when we make a  small effort to do something for ourselves. It's maybe even harder to make the effort when it's not for someone else, but it's no less important or beneficial. Often the hardest part about it is that the time when you need to make the effort is usually when you feel least like doing so.

My husband's been away most of this week for work. Last night, I felt tired, had a bit of a headache and generally couldn't be bothered to do much. I was deciding what to make myself for dinner and wondering if I could eat pasta and pesto (my default quick and easy meal) for the second time this week. Then I felt ashamed of myself. I love cooking and always thought I wouldn't be one of those people who says it's no fun cooking for one. I knew it wouldn't take me long to make myself a nice bowl of soup which would be a healthier meal and more what I felt like eating. So that's what I did. I forced myself to make a little effort and felt all the better for it.

When we're feeling tired, emotional, depressed or a bit run down we usually lack motivation to do much at all. However, what seems such a struggle at the time, really only requires a little effort. If we make ourselves do one small thing, it tends to do a world of good and make us feel much better. Think about the times when you're not feeling in a sociable mood and just want to curl up on the sofa at'll probably find that a chat with a friend revives you and is exactly what you need to perk you up. Or when you look outside at the rain and the grey sky and think that the last thing you want to do is go out for a walk - often a walk is the best thing for you and you feel better for getting out of the house.

Next time you feel a bit deflated for whatever reason, try to reason with yourself and do whatever it is you're not quite in the mood to do. By making a small effort, I'm sure you will benefit more than you might expect.

Photo credit


Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Do You Play?

paper boatThe School of Life, for those of you not familiar with the organisation, is a little place in London offering courses and services to people who want to expand their mind on topics ranging from philosophy to literature, psychology to the visual arts. Some of the staff, faculty and ambassadors write interesting little musings on their blog and last week I read one about 'The Fear of the Amateur'. In the post, Cathy Haynes presents a view that we have all veered so much towards being audience-critics, with the plethora of TV shows on DIY, cooking, home renovations, singing and dancing; that we no longer dare try being 'amateurs' at a new skill, hobby or activity.
"We fear the amateur in case it causes us to loose face and look uncool. But at the root of the word amateur is the Latin amare, to love. An amateur pursuit is something we have genuine passion for, regardless of how we look to the outside world. By abandoning it, we lose the pleasure of doing something that is playful, creative, absorbing, and solely for itself."

Haynes thinks that we would sooner buy something than make it because we think a purchased product much superior to anything we could produce ourselves. I would add to that, the issue of time. People are always rushing to get things done or wanting to have something new immediately so they just go out and buy it rather than thinking about spending any time on it. Part of the fun of play I think is getting absorbed in what you are doing so that you don't give a thought about the time.

As adults, play shouldn't be something we leave to our children. Just as they enjoy making things and creating, we should remember that we can also still have that kind of enjoyment. It's not about making something perfect, it's about engaging in an activity which can be relaxing, intellectually stimulating, challenging and fun!

Read 'Cathy Haynes on the Fear of the Amateur' here.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Dressed to Impress

fashionWith Stella McCartney's new kids clothing range for Gap recently launched in the UK, there have been lots of articles about fashionably-dressed children and celebrities dressing their children as 'mini-me' versions of themselves. Looking at pictures of the McCartney range, it certainly looks very pretty but I was struck at how 'grown-up' it all seems and can't imagine wanting to dress a little girl in an up-to-the-minute fashionable sweater dress or a cashmere and silk hoodie. Even the less grown-up looking tutu looks more frou-frou than fun.

Yesterday I read of an American study conducted by child health researcher Dr Kristen Copeland, looking at 34 playgroups where children between the ages of three and six were attending. She discovered that those children dressed in pricey designer wear were hesitant to engage in running or rough play for fear of ruining their clothes. Likewise, staff were cautious about encouraging them to join in such activities.

It seems sad to me that children would feel such concern over their clothing that it impinges on their enjoyment and playtime. Of course, if we dress our child in a cute outfit, we all like it to stay looking as good as possible, for as long as possible but we also know that whether it's food, play or a messy nappy - accidents happen.

A few friends and my sister-in-law have very kindly passed on clothes from their children for my son to wear. Hand-me-downs are such a great gift. With babies growing so fast, you could spend a fortune on clothes that last just a couple of months. When my son was christened, another friend (with a selection of more formal outfits to dress her son in when they are in her native Spain) lent me an outfit for him to wear. It was nice not to have to buy something just for the sake of the occasion, that I knew he would never wear again.

I take my son to the park almost every day and there's often a good bit of crawling around in the grass that takes place and his trousers tend to get pretty filthy! On the suggestion of a friend, I now dress him in his 'park' trousers when I know he'll be doing that. A couple of pairs of his trousers have been assigned for the purpose of getting muddy so they don't all get really dirty and in the case of any stains, it won't matter. There will always be the special occasions when we want to dress up our little ones so saving the nicer clothes for those days minimises hassle all round.

There are some adorable clothes out there and I do buy the odd thing that I think is super-cute and can't resist but we should try to have realistic expctations of our children and remember that nice new immaculate clothes probably won't stay that way for long!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Getting the Energy to Boost Your Energy Levels

[caption id="attachment_611" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Photo by Will Foster"]Photo by Will Foster[/caption]

I read a good list yesterday; 'Eight Tips for Feeling More Energetic' (see link at end of post). With each one, I could definitely say I knew it worked for me. Often the hardest challenge when you are feeling lethargic or in a bit of a slump is making yourself get up and do something that will make you feel better. You know that a brisk walk or a chat with a friend will give you the boost you need but it's the' doing it' that can be difficult.

When there's a baby or young child added to the equation, it can sometimes be even more of a mission to take a nap or resist reaching for the chocolate. You need your energy more than ever if you are at home looking after a little one so it is important to do what you can to conserve it or bring it back if you have a lapse.

How to summon the energy (or motivation) to follow helpful suggestions? Well, one good way is to do the things listed on a regular basis. For example, get out for a walk every morning or lunchtime and see or call a friend for a chat at least 4 times a week. By incorporating the suggested tips into your daily life, they become easier to do when you need to do them at a specific moment in order to feel more energetic.

Another idea is to mentally visualise the last time you felt energetic and remember what led you to feel like that. Chances are, you had done something off the aforementioned list of tips. Whilst it can be a mind over matter struggle, by identifying something that worked for you before, you hopefully will want to do the same thing again to return to that feeling of energy.

Read 'Eight Tips for Feeling More Energetic' here.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Business Mama - 8 Tips for Starting Your Own Business

businessThis is a guest post by Kat Vitou, mother to a one-year old and a very inspiring business-woman. Since becoming a Mum, she left her career in magazine publishing to pursue her own ventures. She has set up a successful events business, writes regular magazine features and has another business set to launch next month!

Outlooks on motherhood and career differ for us all and depend on our own personal priorities. Whilst some of us are flying up the career ladder and keen to get back to it after a baby, others find their priorities have changed and decide to be a stay-at-home mum. There are a whole host of successful businesses set up by entrepreneurial mums who have used motherhood as a kickstart to launching a business that matters to them or who have taken an opportunity to pursue something they enjoy with the benefit of flexible working hours.

If you have made the decision not to go back to work, but you want to work for yourself now - here are 8 tips from a mummy who runs businesses without a nanny!

  1. See this as the best opportunity - you are at home already so you have no complications

  2. Have a really good think about what you are interested in to make sure you will continue with it

  3. Do some research. Speak to other mums about your ideal casually and see what they think - mums are intelligent creatures so the feedback generally will be priceless

  4. Develop a business plan. It doesn't have to be difficult but get your ideas written down, look at your spending, check out your market, think about your goal - do you want this to be your bread and butter?

  5. Save some cash - not lots, but enough for you to not get in debt, this could be just £20 a month if that's all you can afford

  6. Manage your time - with a little one this can be a struggle but if you really want it, it's possible. Instead of watching pointless TV when they have gone to bed, write a plan, build a website, get excited and do something with your brain

  7. Find a mentor - someone who has done it and can help guide you - it also helps motivate you

  8. Finally, take the plunge and stick through the hard times. If you want it you will achieve it!

How many of you work from home or have a business idea brewing?

Monday, 2 November 2009

Trying not to make a meal out of it

rejecting foodI haven't written about a baby-specific topic for a while but something came up yesterday which I've decided to share.

My husband and I went out early evening and had good friends of ours over to look after our son while we were gone. They have looked after him a couple of times before so he knows who they are. It turned out to be a challenging evening of babysitting, as he refused to eat any of his dinner and wouldn't touch his bedtime bottle of milk. Every time they tried to give him either his dinner or later his milk, he would become distressed, cry lots, squirming and pushing away whatever they were offering him.

He was fast asleep in bed when we came home and we weren't out long. Our friends (who don't yet have children) were asking us what we thought it was; separation anxiety? was he ill?? It's always a bit of a guess with a baby and certainly for us, teething has often been used as an explanation for particular symptoms or behaviour in our son (it's a running joke now between my husband and I, especially as our son still has no teeth to show!). I went with the guess of separation anxiety. He is at the age where it can strike and demonstrated typical separation anxiety behaviour for the first couple of days we were away with my family in Cornwall the other week.

My husband on the other hand didn't think it was separation anxiety because our son did not cry when we left the room, was not acting clingy before we left, nor displaying any of the other common signs. He thought the difficulties occured because our son is so used to the two of us doing everything for him that if someone else does these everyday tasks with him, it makes him unsettled. Maybe they hold his bottle at a funny angle, maybe the way they speak to him at the dinner table is very different. My husband's point was that we don't really ever have anyone else do these things with our son. This is mostly because we don't have family nearby (both sets of parents live out of the country). Neither do we have close friends right around the corner who are likely to stop by regularly and help out with the baby.

The more I thought about it, the more I started thinking maybe my husband was right. It was naturally a bit upsetting that our baby had refused food and milk while we were gone but it also gave me a bit of a reality check. Should we have encouraged family to feed our son whilst we were all recently on holiday? Should we sometimes coincide visits with mealtimes so friends can feed him whilst we're around to reassure him? It must be one of the benefits of having family down the road who are always coming over and helping out but as we don't have family close by, it's harder to incorporate these simple things into our son's life.

Lots of people live far away from family and are in similar circumstances to us so maybe some of you more experienced Mums have some suggestions to share.....