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

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

January Snow, Scooters and Self Care

I’ve always quite liked January, partly because of the hopefulness of a new year but also because my dad’s birthday falls in the middle of the month, which always gives us something to look forward to and celebrate after Christmas. This year, my dad came up to stay with us over his birthday weekend, and we took a wrapped up walk around Mugdock Country Park together. My dad hasn’t had the easiest time over the last few years, so I feel very lucky and grateful to watch my daughter and her “papa” playing and laughing together now.

Over the last few weeks, there has been a gradual return to our normal routines. Our daughter has returned to nursery, playgroup and toddler sensory, while my husband and I have resumed work, though I’m still mostly based at home with just one day in the office.

As the weather has been fairly mild, usually in single figures but rarely dipping below zero, we’ve been able to get out to the playparks and letting our toddler zoom around the cul-de-sac on her scooter. It’s quite a contrast from last January when it was so cold that we watched people ice-skating on the frozen ponds in the park and we were still under lockdown. We did have a little bit of snow at the start of the month and had fun throwing snowballs at each other in the garden before it melted.

The weekend just passed was a busy one, starting with toddler sensory which involved a bumped head and a nose bleed, lots of tears and cuddles, coffee with our neighbours in the afternoon, and a solo trip to visit my mum chatting over tea and helping her with a few odd jobs around the house and garden.

January has flown in, it’s been a busy month, but one full of family fun and togetherness. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be prioritising self-care, for me that means yoga and reading, cutting down on junk food, caffeine and alcohol, but also reducing the amount of time I spend scrolling on my phone, and spending more time with family and friends. Take care, and have a lovely week. 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

Stories, Music and Swans

LittleBookworm

As lockdown restrictions are being relaxed here in Scotland, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve spent my maternity leave so far. My days still mostly revolve around my daughter’s feeds and naps but she’s always been very curious and animated, never content to just watch the world from her pram or playmat, and it’s been a fun challenge keeping her entertained without the usual range of playgroups that many parents rely on (though I have signed up for baby massage classes on Zoom).

Unable to go to the library or bookshops during lockdown, I feel like I’ve kept Waterstones in business ordering books for the three of us. My husband and I try to read at least one story to our daughter every day, and we’ve discovered some really lovely picture books (that I’ll review at some point!). Our little bookworm also has a few scrunchy, cloth books that she can gnaw the corners and practise turning the pages.

LittleBookworm2

I’ve always wanted to learn to play piano and started teaching myself last year, but it fell by the wayside and so far all I can play is a passable version of Jingle Bells. As we’ve not been able to join any of the local baby music groups, instead my daughter and I have been plunking away on the piano, and shaking rattles or clapping along to nursery rhymes at home. My husband and I also sing to our daughter (Jason Mraz and Sara Bareilles are favourites in our household at the moment), and bounce her on our knees to the William Tell Overture, Orpheus in the Underworld (the Can Can music) and other jaunty classical pieces.

Piano

Our little girl loves getting out for walks and starts grinning as soon as she sees the baby carrier. We avoided parks during the lockdown, but wandered round our local park for the first time in months when it seemed quiet recently, and our daughter saw the resident swans, cygnets and coots in the pond for the first time.

Pond

I’ve tried to make the best of it over the last few months, but at times I’ve struggled with loneliness and self-doubt. I’m very aware of all the ordinary experiences our daughter has missed out on, but fortunately she’s too young to understand how strange this year has been and for the most part she’s a lively, cuddly girl who keeps me busy and we have a lot of fun together.

As restrictions are lifted, I’m looking forward to taking our daughter further afield, sharing new experiences together and seeing the world through her bright eyes. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Summer Solstice

What a strange year it’s been, it seems like a lifetime ago that we were watching wildfires sweep across Australia on the news and worrying about Brexit, yet here we are halfway through 2020. It’s been a quick year for us personally as our daughter arrived in early February and caring for her has kept us busy during the last few months when a global pandemic turned life upside down.

Our garden has also been a real blessing and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve been able to get done with a baby in tow.

June Roses

June is the month that the roses burst into flower, and since we moved here I’ve been steadily filling our garden with them. There’s the rich red wine coloured Munstead Wood, the bold pink Young Lycidas, and pale sunshine of Crown Princess Margareta. Meanwhile Boscobel is patiently waiting in a large pot for a permanent home.

Every year I vastly underestimate how much space growing vegetables need so I limited myself to broccoli, squash and yellow courgettes this year; then my dad surprised us with some cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts seedlings he’d started off so the veg beds are as crowded with higgledy piggeldy rows of vegetables as ever.

We’re still getting out for walks at least once a day, more often than not with the wee one in the sling or carrier so she can look around. We haven’t ventured out of our local area yet but I enjoy having a nosy at other people’s gardens, and we found a little woodland walkway when we wandered off the beaten track.

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On days when it’s too wet to spend much time outside, we’ve contented ourselves pottering around the home, reading books or watching films and TV series, and playing with the wee one – including a few spontaneous puppet shows.

There have been more visits to and from parents and in-laws, which have helped break the monontony and given us all a much-needed boost as we remain under partial lockdown. Our daughter has been very curious about the “new” faces appearing after spending so much time around me and her dad.

Hope everyone reading is safe and well, take care and have a lovely week. X

Rainbows and Scenes from Lockdown

Raimbows

Our world has shrunk since the lockdown began nine weeks ago, and life now revolves around our daughter, the garden and daily walks around the local area.

Despite the lockdown, life at home is bright and colourful as our nearly 4 month old daughter is alert, curious and animated, amusing us everyday with exaggerated yawns, sighs and sneezes, and delighting us with big, gummy grins and babbling.

Toys

Over the last few weeks we’ve been playing with rainbow ribbons that help with her visual development as she tracks movement and fine motor skills by grabbing them. I use a set of soft blocks as a visual and tactile prop when I make animal noises or sing ‘Old McDonald Had a Farm‘ – though I’ve no idea what sound a tortoise makes or what one is doing on a farm. We’ve also been watching colourful propellers spin in the wind in the the garden. Simple penguin and polar bear finger puppets have also been a hit with our daughter smiling and babbling at them like they’re little friends.

I haven’t been able to join any baby groups but a few friends had their babies just before and after me, and it’s been great to have some peer support, share experiences and ask for advice from other new mums albeit through messages and calls.

We’re missing getting out to beaches and the countryside but still enjoying wandering around the neighbourhood for some exercise almost every day whatever the weather with the wee one in the pram or sling – depending on her mood.

In addition to the rainbows and chalk art we’ve seen decorating windows, fences and pavements, we spotted a Lime Hawk Moth on one of our walks recently, a reminder that nature is carrying on oblivious to the pandemic. We also had an exciting nocturnal visitor in the garden this week, a hedgehog!

One of our neighbours dropped off a homemade stained glass leaf as a little gift, which I’ve hung in the living room. We’ve really appreciated chatting to our neighbours from a safe distance over the garden fence, a little bit of face-to-face contact and community spirit that I value so much more now than before the lockdown.

Shelf

I’m missing our families and friends terribly, but I’m so thankful for the technology that makes it possible to keep in contact, and phone and videocalls have become a regular part of life under lockdown that help to bridge the distance with loved ones until we can meet in person again.

Hope everyone reading is safe and well. Take care. X

Making Friends

It feels like life is on hold as the lockdown continues in our country, yet the last few months have been a whirlwind for us since our daughter was born, and our once quiet, peaceful home is now more lively and full than ever.

It’s been a huge transition for us, but wanted to share a little update on how our cat Mara is adjusting. We adopted Mara four and a half years ago, and it’s honestly hard to remember life before she joined our family because so many of our decisions and daily routines revolve around her. We’re very much “til death do us part” pet owners and re-homing Mara was never an option we were willing to consider when I found out I was pregnant. Fortunately, Mara has a gentle temperament and she’s much more likely to flee to a safe, quiet location than to scratch or bite.

 

Mara’s a creature of habit and routine, most of which were thrown into chaos and disorder by the arrival of our baby daughter. I did worry that Mara thought she’d been replaced at first but my husband and I are very conscious of making sure Mara gets some time and attention every day to play with her, brush her, pet and cuddle her, giving her a few extra treats (including the cat-grass we grow, much to my father-in-law’s amusement) and encouraging her to sit on our laps when we’re not holding the baby.

We were initially worried that Mara might climb into the bedside crib with our daughter, but she usually gives it a wide berth due to the unpredictable and noisy occupant. We’re lucky that our daughter generally sleeps well, and Mara still chooses to sleep at the bottom of our bed most nights.

So far introductions have all been supervised, and most of their interactions have been limited to Mara peering into the crib when the wee one is sleeping, and giving her a tentative sniff when we hold them close enough to see each other. For her part, our daughter isn’t quite sure what to make of Mara either, but usually studies the feline member of our family with a combination of wide eyes and furrowed brows. Little by little, they’re becoming more confident and curious about one another, and I’m hopeful that they’ll become friends as time goes by. Hope everyone is safe and well, have a lovely week. X

Easter Greetings

Easter

Easter weekend coincided with spring sunshine and warmth this year, and normally we’d be heading out for day-trips or visiting family, but with the country still in lockdown we’ve spent most of the weekend at home, savouring the simple pleasures and little luxuries of hot cross buns and cherry blossom tea in the garden.

This isn’t how I expected to spend my maternity leave, and although I’d planned to join the bookbug sessions at our library and the local baby sensory group, I’m quite content to potter around the house and garden with the wee one. I feel very fortunate to be able to stay at home with my daughter when so many others are risking their health at work during the pandemic. My husband had only just returned to work after a month off on paternity leave before the lockdown began and he’s been working from home since, but it’s been lovely having him around to help out and enjoying more time together.

Playtime

Luckily, our little daughter is too young to understand what’s going on and it’s easy to entertain her at home. We’ve been filling our days with tummy-time, singing nursery rhymes and reading picture books, pulling faces at each other, and she’s been rewarding us with lots of smiles. Now nine weeks old, our baby is so alert, her blue eyes wide open observing the world around her.

We’ve also been venturing out most days for our government-approved walk around the neighbourhood for some gentle exercise, zig-zagging across the street to avoid others we encounter, and spotting all the rainbows in the windows and decorating the streets for the NHS staff and other key workers still working hard.

Pram Walks

The last few weeks have been disorienting and overwhelming at times, but we’re trying to make the best of it, enjoying our time together and embracing a slower pace of life. Wishing everyone a happy Easter and a lovely week. X