March Reading Wrapup

I’d set myself the goal of reading one library book a month this year, but partly inspired by local campaigns to save two library earmarked for closure and partly due to the efficiency of the library request service (which has just resumed after a two year hiatus during the pandemic) all the books I read in March were borrowed from the library.

The Secret of Happy Children by Steve Biddulph

Steve Biddulph was actually suggested to me by my husband who had read one of his other books, and I found this one by chance in our local library. The Secret of Happy Children contains practical parenting skills like activing listening and how to respond to tantrums, sulks and shyness as well as how to model expressing your own anger, sadness and fear appropriately. Biddulph really packs a lot into a short book from a brief description of developmental stages and keeping our expectations realistic to tips about self-care for parents and child-proofing your relationship. This is an easy to read parenting book that’s short but full of practical advice, though at times I felt he was trying to squash too much into too short a book and it lacked depth.

The Monsters of Rookhaven by Padraig Kenny

A creepy, gothic children’s story of a strange family of monsters who live in Rookhaven Manor and whose lives are thrown into disarray when the magic protecting them from the human world starts to fade and two human children cross over. The family soon discover that there are creatures that even monsters fear, but this is a gripping story of friendship, family, compassion and bravery.

The Gentle Discipline Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

In The Gentle Discipline Book, Sarah Ockwell-Smith attempts to redefine our understanding of discipline as a form of teaching instead of being a synonym for punishment. I really appreciated that so much of the book is based on a solid understanding of child developmental stages and reminding parents to have realistic expectations of a child’s age and stage when dealing with sulks, tantrums and a variety of other problematic behaviours. Similar to Philippa Perry’s The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read, there’s a real focus on understanding the cause of the behaviour rather than just trying to correct it and connecting with your child emotionally through the process. I didn’t agree with everything in the book, and I think some of her suggestions make it obvious she’s writing for a middle class audience that some parents may find cost prohibitive, but there’s a lot of useful advice in here that I’ll be applying with my own daughter.

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

This YA fantasy took me a while to get into because there’s a lot going on in the story. This is a retelling of the Goose Girl fairy tale from the maid’s perspective and follows Vanja who was abandoned in a forest by her real mother and adopted by Fate and Death who raise her, before she becomes the servant of a noble family and befriends their daughter, Princess Gisele. When the nobles are cruel and abusive to Vanja, Gisele looks the other way, and in revenge one day Vanja steals Gisele’s identity and Gisele is cast out as a peasant. Vanja uses her newfound privilege to become a thief preying on the noble families who mistreated her until she accidentally crosses paths with a diety who curses her for her greed and threatens to turn her into jewels one body part at a time unless she gives back what she has stolen. Vanja is one of those characters who is deeply sympathetic though not always likable, nevertheless I still found myself rooting for her. Little Thieves is an enjoyable fantasy heist that kept me guessing right up to the end.

How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

Thanks to the unexpected efficiency of the library request service, this was the 3rd parenting book I read in March (meaning I read as many non-fiction books last month as I did in the whole of 2021!) but probably the only one that I’ll be buying a copy of and would recommend to parents for kids of all ages. Published in 1982, I could see how many other parenting gurus and psychologists have been influenced and inspired by the skills and ideas in this book. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk won’t guide you through weaning, potty training or how to get your child to sleep through the night, but will give you practical communication skills to help children process difficult feelings, encourage co-operation and problem-solving between parents and children, offer alternatives to threats and punishment, how to give genuine and constructive praise, and how to let children be themselves instead of pushing them into roles or creating self-fulfilling prophecies. This is an accessible and engaging parenting book that is packed full of useful advice and skills, and one that I’ll definitely be referring to through my own parenting journey.

Have a lovely week. X

March Microadventures

March was a bit of a mixed-up and muddled month for us. We were hit by back-to-back illnesses in the middle of the month that floored us for a couple of weeks, and then after a brief respite when we were all well enough to get out into the good weather, our 2-year-old daughter caught chicken pox on the last day of the month. I am, however, making an effort to focus on the little microadventures we enjoyed despite it all, instead of dwelling on the days spent at home (and hospital!) feeling poorly.

At the start of the month, lighter days and better weather had us seeking out places to visit just a bit further away than our usual haunts, and we spent sunny afternoons strolling along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond at Balloch Country Park, and skimming stones (or just making big splashes) by the water at Helensburgh.

We also had our first family swimming trip, and in the space of an hour, our daughter progressed from crying and clinging to us to calmly floating around in her rubber ring and kicking her legs while we held her hands. My husband and I used to go swimming every week but this was our first time back in the pool in over two years, and a couple of years of the pandemic and parenthood have definitely taken a toll on our fitness, but it felt good to swim a few lengths and we’ll definitely be back again soon with our daughter in tow.

Back at home, we’ve been enjoying playing in the garden and eating dinner in the summerhouse on light, warm evenings, and there were surprise flowers, a homemade truffle and card waiting for me on Mother’s Day.

This weekend has been unexpectedly tiring and stressful as the little one was sent home early from nursery with suspected chicken pox on Friday (later confirmed by the pharmacist) and she didn’t seem to bothered by it, but she was very restless on Saturday night with a stubbornly high fever of 39°C, and by morning she had developed an angry, red rash that didn’t look like the ordinary chicken pox spots. We took her to A&E to get checked over, and they suspected a secondary infection and decided to keep her in overnight to give her IV antibiotics (the cannula is probably one of her least favourite things along with covid swabs), though luckily we were allowed to stay with her. With 3 hourly checks and 6 hour meds through the night, it wasn’t the most restful sleep we’ve ever had but by this morning her stats were stable and improving, and she was discharged just before lunch. It’s a relief to be home again, and see the little one slowly recovering.

Between bad weather, lingering Covid19 restrictions and bouts of illness, it’s been a long winter and I’m so glad to feel the sun’s warmth again, see daffodils flowering and to notice the arrival of spring once more. Take care and have a lovely week. X

February Birthdays, Snow and Gratitude

Over the last few days Winter has shown some signs of surrendering to Spring with a little extra daylight at the start and end of the day, milder temperatures and a little sunshine. Through February we were battered by consecutive storms and a few snow days but luckily we didn’t suffer any storm damage or power cuts.

At the start of the month, we celebrated our daughter’s 2nd birthday. I took the little one out to choose a birthday balloon in the morning (she chose a mermaid), then we decorated the living room while she was napping. She woke up to a room full of grandparents, presents and cake. Our daughter had a wonderful time throwing and chasing balloons, tearing into her presents to find new toys and books inside, and she was singing happy birthday to herself all week.

Our daughter at two years old is already such an interesting little person with so many interests from zooming around on her scooter and splashing in puddles, caring for her dolls and soft toys, playing hide and seek with us, scribbling and painting handprints, picking out stories to read together or demanding to watch Room on the Broom or Dug Days on TV, chattering away and bursting into song with whichever nursery rhyme happens to be stuck in her head. We’ve seen a few tantrums and defiance over the last few months but over all she has a really cheerful and sunny disposition.

Our other little girl, Mara, appears to be determined to hibernate until Winter is over, in a variety of cosy nooks and beds – including a doll’s bed that my daughter got for her birthday. It’s hard to say if Mara is slowing down in her senior years as she’s always been a lazy lump but she’s got a good appetite, still cuddly and playful as ever.

Between all the storms and snow, I’ve been feeling very grateful for the warmth and comfort of our home, and watching the news over the last week or so, I’ve been reminded how lucky we are to live somewhere relatively safe. When the world seems to be spinning out of control, it’s often the smallest moments – a hug from my daughter, a purring cat on my lap, my husband making fresh coffee in the morning, spotting the first daffodil in the garden – that stop my anxiety from spiralling and keep me tethered to the here and now. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Raising a Bookworm

We’re a bookish family and one of the parts of parenthood I’ve looked forward to most is sharing my love of stories with my daughter. I’ve been collecting books for her since birth and have given her the lowest shelf on our bookcase within her reach, but it’s only in the last few months that she’s shown a real interest in stories.

In Scotland, the Scottish Book Trust distributes free books at intervals from birth to five years old to encourage a love of reading and promote literacy. A few of my daughter’s earliest favourites were books she received from the health visitor, including a simple rhyming bed time story called One Sleepy Night and a peekaboo lift the flap book, there was also a rhyming book to help children learn to count in the most recent Bookbug bag by Julia Donaldson called One Mole Digging a Hole that my daughter really likes too.

Although I’ve read to my daughter since birth, once she became mobile she lost interest in books so I picked up a few more interactive sensory books for her from the “That’s Not My” range and a couple of Nosy Crow lift the flap books too to try to keep her interest.

As she’s gotten older, her language skills have developed and her attention span has increased we’ve been able to introduce more narrative stories. One of her earliest favourites that she demanded over and over again was Corduroy by Don Freeman, which tells the story of a bear in a department store who gets overlooked by customers because he’s missing a button on his dungarees and sets out on an adventure to find a button once the shop closes. It’s a really lovely story and one that has aged well since it was first published in 1968.

Another popular classic in our household is The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which also happens to have been one of my husband’s favourite childhood stories) which describes the life cycle of a caterpillar hatching from an egg, eating a lot of food and eventually transforming into a butterfly. My daughter practically knows this one off by heart and enjoys pointing out all the foods that the caterpillar eats.

Between Halloween and Christmas last year, my daughter discovered the wonderful rhyming stories of Julia Donaldson and has been demanding “Broom!” (Room on the Broom) and Gruffalo’s Child regularly. For those unfamiliar with these stories, Room on the Broom is about a witch who keeps losing her belongings which are returned to her by various helpful animals she meets on her journey, who all ask to travel on her broom with her and eventually team up to rescue her when a dragon threatens to eat her. It’s a fun story about helping each other and team work. While The Gruffalo’s Child is the sequel to The Gruffalo, in which the Gruffalo’s daughter sets out on a quest to find the big, bad mouse that scared her father in the original story.

I’m looking forward to seeing how my daughter’s reading tastes change and develop as she grows, and have enjoyed this chance to look back at some of the books that we’ve read together over the last couple of years. Have a lovely week. X

New Year Greetings!

The Christmas tree has started to droop, branches bowed under the weight of the baubles, and tomorrow I’ll put the decorations away for another year, but I’m still enjoying the lull after a busy festive period before work and nursery resume later this week.

This is the second year we’ve hosted Christmas, and my parents stayed with us for a few nights. Our daughter loved having her papa and grandma around to play with, and all the exciting new toys and books she received. My husband deserves all the credit for singlehandedly cooking Christmas Dinner including a turkey crown for my dad (and our cat) and Quorn roasts for the rest of us. Though in addition to the Christmas cake and Dundee cakes, I also baked Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) for the first time when my in-laws visited for a buffet.

With the exception of my parents and in-laws, we’ve kept our socialising to a minimum to avoid Covid19, but we did have a lovely playdate with my daughter’s cousins and a wee jaunt to the Solway Coast to visit close friends, where the little one also got to pet the ponies in their field.

We spent New Year’s Eve at home sipping champagne and watching Disney’s Encanto, which was a refreshing twist on the chosen one story and I loved the vibrant Latin American setting. We were all in bed before midnight but it was a cosy way to end the year. Over the last few days, we’ve spent most of our time at home, reading, watching TV and playing on the floor with our daughter and her new toys. The excitement of Christmas coincided with a developmental leap (our daughter’s language skills seem to have exploded and she’s started stringing sentences together) which has meant her sleep has been pretty disrupted all through December, but she’s such a cheerful little person and so much fun that it’s hard to mind a bit of sleep deprivation now and then.

January is a peaceful month to recover from the hustle and bustle of the festive period, a chance to reflect on the year behind and full of the hopefulness of new beginnings. Despite everything, 2021 was a good year for us with family adventures to the beach, a few playdates, and our daughter’s first visits to the zoo, aquarium and light shows. My fears about sending my daughter to nursery 3 days a week when I returned to work were completely unfounded, as she’s settled in better than I could’ve hoped and usually rushes through the door to find her friends with barely a wave goodbye or backward glance. We also undertook home renovations that we’ve been planning since we moved in five years ago to extend the kitchen and add a downstairs bathroom. Most of all I’ve appreciated time spent with family and friends after so long apart during lockdowns.

There’s been a cold wind blowing today, but whenever it dropped I felt the warmth of the sun and noticed the first hellebores had flowered in the garden, little joys to savour while we’re in the bleak midwinter. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! X

Little Christmas Eve Greetings

December has been a hectic month and I’m trying to gather my thoughts on Little Christmas Eve or Christmas Eve Eve (as I’ve heard the 23rd called recently). I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately, there’s been so much to do but crises at work, uncertainty around the new Covid19 variant and Christmas preparations have sapped my concentration and energy.

As always, the stresses have been balanced by joyful family moments. At 22 months old, our daughter’s still too young to understand Christmas and showed a strong sense of stranger danger clinging to me at playgroup and her keyworker at nursery when Santa appeared, but she enjoyed her Christmas parties at playgroup and toddler sensory, as well as a whole week of festive activites at nursery.

We also visited Five Sisters Zoo for the second time this year (the first time back in the summer) to see their winter illuminations, which were impressive in sheer coverage, but the real highlight for me was getting a glimpse of the illusive snow leopard, as well as the lionesses and a lynx.

Apart from our trips to light shows and parties, we seem to have spent most of our time at home this month, fortunately our daughter is going through a creative phase and is perfectly content to spend hours scribbling with pencils or painting. I’m also pleased to report that our new kitchen has been fitted and we’re appreciating having more space – not to mention the dishwasher!

The presents have been piling up under the tree and there was a last minute addition to our decorations, a lovely paper star made by a crafty friend from work. Our cat has mostly ignored the tree but went wild when she caught the scent of a new toy stuffed with catnip, while our daughter has mostly ignored the presents but has menaced the tree pulling off the baubles she can reach and almost bringing the whole thing down on top of herself at least once.

Despite the frenzy in the run up to Christmas and my seemingly endless to-do list, I’m reminding myself that winter is the season to rest and recharge, providing much needed time to refocus on what (and who) matters most and reflect on the year that’s passed and the new one about to start. Take care, and wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas. X

Autumn into Winter

Time seems to be slipping away as the end of the year rushes towards us. The end of November brought nights so cold and clear that we could see the stars glinting above the city, frosty mornings and on Sunday we woke to a very light dusting of snow – barely enough for a snowball, let alone a snowman but enough to put me in the festive spirit.

I’m usually rushing right up to the last minute but this year our Christmas preparations are well under way. I’ve baked two cakes, my family have always preferred a rich Dundee cake but this year I decided to make a traditional Christmas cake too, both are bursting with raisins, sultanas and glace cherries. Presents have been bought and we’ve treated ourselves to a new decoration for the tree – a handpainted portrait of our cat, Mara, from Maggie’s Studio. We haven’t put our decorations up yet, but we’re hopefully going to get our tree this weekend, and I couldn’t resist putting up a bit of tinsel when I brought the decorations box down last night, and Mara couldn’t resist playing with it.

We’re preparing for another upheaval as our new kitchen is being fitted next week, and I’m keeping everything crossed that it’ll be finished in time for Christmas – which we’re supposed to be hosting, because I don’t fancy cooking a full roast dinner with a microwave and a toaster!

Aside from our Christmas preparations and home improvements, the last few weeks have been busy, we’ve had a family trip to GlasGLOW, I’m still taking my daughter to her sensory class but we’ve also found a local playgroup that’s a fun alternative to the park on cold, wet mornings; there’s no let up in the run up to Christmas as we’ve got a few toddler Christmas parties and at least one more winter light show on the horizon. Have a lovely weekend. X

Autumn Moments

It seemed like autumn was slow to start this year with the leaves clinging to the trees and remaining stubbornly green until mid-October when they seemed to skip all the shades of red and began to create a carpet of muted oranges, yellows and browns on the ground.

We’re an outdoorsy family, but it’s been too wet to play in the park most days so instead we’ve been kicking our way through fallen leaves, splashing in puddles and collecting pine cones with our toddling daughter. We’ve also had plenty of fun inside with homemade playdough, baking cakes (the little one takes her job stirring the ingredients very seriously) and reading stories together.

There’s also been playdates in the park with my friend and her daughter, watching the girls throw handfuls of leaves and chasing each other around while we chatted. Last weekend, we followed a little pumpkin trail at my husband’s cousin’s farmstead where all the kids ignored the pumpkins in favour of feeding the hens, grazing at the buffet table and generally running amok.

This weekend we’ve enjoyed some Halloween fun, our daughter has had fancy dress parties at nursery and her toddler sensory group, and carving a pumpkin lantern at home – though my imagination always exceeds my ability.

The weather this month has been wet and wild, but we haven’t let it dampen our spirits and have embraced so many simple and seasonal pleasures inside and out. Happy Halloween and have a lovely week. X

Summer into Autumn

Summer into Autumn

The sun seems to be rising a little later and setting a little earlier every day, and though the weather is still mild most days, there’s a chill creeping into the mornings and evenings as summer slips into autumn.

This summer has been a memorable one for us full of family adventures from trips to the beach, zoo and aquarium, as well as local toddler sensory classes (full of themed activities and songs), and a summer block of wheelie tots, where our daughter got to try balance bikes, skateboards and scooters which were such a hit that we bought her a scooter soon after. Apart from daytrips and toddler groups, the rest of our time together is usually spent at the local parks or pottering around at home filling our days with nursery rhymes, scribbling with crayons, building blocks, lots of rough and tumble play, or letting her help me with some housework like loading the washing machine, watering the plants, refilling the bird feeder or feeding our cat, Mara.

Our little girl is so curious and adventurous, she’s on-the-go from the moment she wakes up until bedtime, and I wouldn’t have her any other way. She started talking in July, her first proper word was “cracker” (her favourite snack), quickly followed by cat, car, shoes, bubble, bee, more and no, and she’s been adding words to her vocabularly every day.

Mara-cat gave us quite a scare a few months ago when she suddenly became ill with a fever – and we still don’t know what caused it – but she seems to have recovered and is back to her usual cuddly, playful self. During the heatwave, she spent most of her days alternating between sunbathing and trying to cool down, but now that the temperatures have dropped again, she’s been back to snuggling up with me in the evenings, which is always one of the highlights of my day.

Though this has been a good one, summer is my least favourite season, it’s as often hot, humid and wet as it is warm and sunny with blue skies, and I’m already looking forward to the transient beauty of autumn and the cosy times ahead. Have a lovely week. X

Chaos and Calm

Life has been fairly hectic over the last couple of months, I returned to work in March and it’s been quite an adjustment settling back into the routine, getting to grips with a new caseload, MS Teams, lateral flow tests and various other changes that happened while I was on maternity leave. It’s a challenging time to work in Health and Social Care but I’ve returned with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. My husband has recently changed jobs too, finding a position just ten minutes from home, but full of new opportunities and challenges.

Our daughter also started nursery in March and has settled in so well. It’s a relief given how isolated we were during her first year that she’s turned into such a curious, sociable and lively toddler. She’s had almost back to back colds, teething and most recently an ear infection (requiring a late night trip to the out of hours GP and antibiotics) since starting, but she’s a little whirlwind of energy that doesn’t let anything slow her down, and treats the whole world like her playground. We’ve been having lots of fun playing in the garden, visiting our recently re-opened library (closed since the first lockdown last year) and local parks, where dandelion clocks and splashing in puddles are almost as entertaining as swings, slides and tunnels.

Our other little girl, Mara, is also doing well, enjoying a couple of days of peace and quiet while the toddler is at nursery during the week. Mara’s actually been more playful in the last few weeks than she has been all winter, and while she’s not as energetic or acrobatic as she used to be, it’s reassuring to see her hunting and chasing her toys. Mara has slowed down as she’s aged, but she’s still the same affectionate, playful companion she was when we adopted her nearly six years ago.

Renovations have started on our home, we’re building a small extension to our kitchen and adding a downstairs bathroom. The changes are small as we don’t want to change the character of our home too much, but will make a big difference to our living space and daily routines. It does mean the temporary inconvenience of having a skip outside the house, a cement mixer and building materials in the back garden, as well as the fun of walking the plank whenever we leave or enter the house. It’s quite exciting to see ideas we’ve discussed since moving here 4 and a half years ago finally coming to fruition.

Between work, renovations and an adventurous toddler, our days have been full and busy, in contrast our evenings have been fairly calm, once our daughter goes to sleep, my husband and I usually have a quick tidy up around the house, before settling down to watch a little bit of TV, read books or sometimes do a Yoga session together with the DownDog app. We are unfortunately in the only part of Scotland still under travel and socialising restrictions, but we are looking forward to being able to travel further afield and visit loved ones again hopefully in the near future. Take care and have a lovely week. X