Monday, 30 January 2017


There are times right now when the world seems like a scary place. Terrorism, the refugee crisis, the rise in fascist sentiments, and of course the hate-driven dictates of a certain recently appointed world leader - sometimes I find it all so overwhelming. I wonder why I am living through these terrifying times.

But a few weeks ago, when I was trying to get my baby to sleep in his carrier before picking his sister up from school, I wandered around the local churchyard. I read the gravestones there. I saw so many like the one above. And my heart broke for the people who went before me.

"Three sons & one daughter, who died in their Infancy." There isn't even space to name them. Maybe they died before they could be named.

Yes, the world around me might be going mad right now, but at least I don't know the horrific pain of losing a child in infancy. Let alone four.

And I know that I am so very fortunate. I know people are still going through the horror of infant loss and I can't imagine that devastation. Walking around that graveyard, it was hard to find a family monument that didn't include at least one baby who had died. Several had three or four. How did they cope with that?

So I am grateful. I am grateful for clean homes and healthy diets. I am grateful for trained midwives who can monitor pregnancies. I am grateful for ultrasounds, and urine tests, and blood pressure monitors. I am grateful that most women can now give birth in a safe place with proper supervision, whether that place is at home or in a hospital. I am grateful for improved hygiene. For vaccinations. For infant screening. I am grateful for feeding support (no matter how patchy) and that, for those mother-infant dyads who are unable to breastfeed, there is a better alternative than bread and milk or other concoctions that babies were reared on in times gone by. I am grateful that so many diseases that took little lives in previous centuries are now rare or even non-existent.

Things are frightening right now. But that doesn't mean this is the worst time to be alive. I am healthy. My children are healthy. Many more people are healthy now than one or two hundred years ago. We did that - us, the human race, we made things better. And we can all strive for a world where everyone has access to a safe home, to healthcare, to good food. Where more and more babies survive into adulthood, not lost through disease, malnutrition or war.

We have come so far, and there is further to go, but I am grateful to be on this earth right now. Because really I'm incredibly lucky. And maybe I can make a difference, however small, while I'm here.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Reading With The Baby: Dear Zoo

I have a confession: I'm a hypocrite.

Back in the mists of time when I had just one child to lavish my attention on, I wrote this blog post about getting your baby to love books. And yet, this time around, I've been rubbish at reading with the baby.

I tried. But not that hard. I kept forgetting to do it, or leaving books out for him to play with but not actually reading them. He just didn't seem that bothered. (Of course he didn't. I wasn't making a point of regularly reading to him.)

But now he's rapidly approaching toddlerhood (waah) I thought I'd better make more of an effort. I tried a few different books with varying results then went to the old classic, 'Dear Zoo'.

I won't review the book. Chances are you've all read it. Heck it's been around since 1982 - your parents might have read it to you! But it was quite wonderful seeing Baby read it for the first time. His eyes lit up when I lifted the first flap, and by the end he was actually giggling!

It's a simple thing. We take lift-the-flap books for granted, but to a baby they really are very exciting! 'Dear Zoo' is now a big favourite and I'm looking out for more lift-the-flap books to introduce him to. What are your suggestions?

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Forty Winks

In the absence of a photo of me getting some sleep, here's the reason I never do
Do you know what I miss? Sleep.

This won't be news to anyone who knows me, or follows me on Twitter. I bang on about it all the time.

But I really do. I really, really, REALLY miss sleep.

I miss going to bed at night and not even thinking about when I'll be woken up because it was unlikely I would be.

I miss being able to stay up watching TV because I knew I'd still get enough sleep after.

I miss the days when 7am was an early start and not a lie-in.

I miss the days when at 9.30pm I'd say, "I'm having an early night," rather than, "how did it get so late?"

I miss hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock for an extra five minutes.

I miss having an alarm clock.

I miss lie-ins on weekends, proper lie-ins that last until at least 9am.

I miss having a nap on Sunday afternoons despite aforementioned lie-in.

I miss complaining about 'only' getting six hours sleep rather than celebrating it.

And I love my children. I really do. I'm enjoying the baby stage so much this time. I'm sad it's nearly over. I wouldn't change my little ones for the world. My life is immeasurably better with them in it.

But I still miss sleep.

I'm not even looking for advice. I know what I've tried, I know the reasons for not trying the things I haven't tried. I know this will pass. I know my five year old now sleeps through most nights, and so will my baby one day. I really don't need tips on how to change things, because I know they'll change of their own accord in their own sweet time.

But I still miss sleep.

I don't even want a night off. The thought of not having my little boy next to me at night is too much to even contemplate. I wouldn't sleep, I'd be worried about how he'd cope without me.

But I still miss sleep.

And there's really no other point to this post. That's it. I miss sleep.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

How To Choose The Right Primary School

This time last year I was in a panic. 11 days until the application deadline and I hadn't decided which primary school to put as first choice.

Choosing a primary school feels like an enormous decision. In most cases, you are committing your child to the same place for the next seven years. Not only is primary school an important foundation for learning, it is hugely significant socially - my best friend from primary school is still one of my best friends now. So what happens in primary school will have a massive effect on your child's life.

Have I made you nervous? Sorry. But if I have, this blog post is for you. It's for the people who have been on the school tours, asked the questions, and are still racking their brains with the deadline looming large.

If that's you, here are my tips on making the big decision.

1. Talk to parents of schoolchildren

One of the best things I did was talk to parents who already had children at the local schools. I didn't grill them particularly, but things cropped up in conversation which informed my choice. Absorb what they say - are their kids happy? How have issues been dealt with? Do they rave or complain about anything? Actually most of the parents I talked to seemed very happy with their chosen school but paying attention to their experiences proved very informative.

2. Keep an open mind

It might be that you'd always imagined your child going to one school but now you're having second thoughts. That's OK. It might be last minute wobbles, or it might be new information causing you to reconsider. Forget what you'd imagined and look at what you've learnt of each school over the last few months. Also, be open-minded if the school is having building work or renovations done - yes it might look a bit shabby now, but remember a lot can happen in nine months. It might be totally transformed by September.

3. Think about YOUR child

Are your friends all saying they like one school but you're not so sure? Yes it would be lovely to keep friendship groups together but you've got to think about what's the right setting for your child and your family. If you think a different school would be better for your little one, so be it, They will make new friends and can always see their old friends in the holidays.

4. Be realistic

Every area has that school that everyone wants to get their kid into, but be honest - do you stand a chance? Do you live close enough? Are they expecting an influx of siblings? Much as it might feel like you should put it as first choice just in case, to save heartache later it might be better to be objective and think about how likely it is you'll get a place, and whether you'd spend three months getting your hopes up.

5. Go with your gut

At one school tour we went to the headteacher said you'll know in your gut when you've walked into the right school for your child. Actually, we didn't. We only realistically had two choices and had reservations about both in all honesty. What guided us was a feeling that one school was NOT the right one for us! It felt strange to make the choice on a negative feeling, but in the end we just had to take the plunge. Both are good schools so we knew we couldn't go too far wrong. And actually I don't think we did.

Did we make the right choice? We'll never know - we can't set up an alternative reality in which Girl Child went to our second choice instead and compare. But she's happy, she's stimulated and the staff have been fantastic with her so far. 

And that's the most important thing to remember - you'll never know for certain that you got it right but as long as things go smoothly that doesn't matter. And if things don't go smoothly it's always fixable, you can switch schools later on, it's just trickier.

To those of you applying now, good luck! If you've done this all before, what would your tips be?