Tuesday, 20 January 2015


With one term completed, I have learnt a lot about school uniform. Before my daughter started school, I thought it was simple. There is a uniform. You buy it; they wear it.

If only...

Here's what I didn't know:

My daughter prefers polo shirts with a little pocket on the front. She likes to collect interesting things during the school day and put them into these pockets. She does the same with the pockets on her cardigans. I have to carefully check and empty all pockets before putting uniform into the washing machine. So far, I have inadvertently laundered: sycamore seeds, sequins, buttons, glass marbles and (worst of all!) holes from a hole punch!

Trousers vs pinafores:
My daughter cannot wear most skirts or trousers because she has a narrow waist. I bought pinafore dresses for her to wear to school but they are no good for the days on which she has PE because she has to get herself changed. It's not the dress but the tights that she wears underneath that are the problem. (Roll on summer!) So, I bought some elasticated waisted trousers. She prefers the trousers.

[What am I going to do with all the dresses?!]

Cardigan vs sweater:
I bought cardigans because I thought they would be easier for her to put on and take off. They are but a sweater would be better for the days on which she does PE, as they often do sports outside. Note: the cardigan must *only* be fastened by the top button - any more buttoning is seriously uncool!

Socks vs tights:
White socks get filthy! They have to be replaced - often! It's a good job they are cheap.

Grey tights are warm under dresses but the legs shrink up and the waistband expands in the tumble dryer.

Shoes: patent leather or not?
Black shoes are fine. We went for a sandal (T-bar) style with a velcro fastening. My daughter thinks they are boring, so we chose a pair with lights in the sole that flash as she walks. I opted for patent leather and discovered that they wipe clean with wet wipes! The velcro, however, has become matted with carpet fluff and hair and dirt from outside and is impossible to clean.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Getting ready for BLW

My baby girl is 20 weeks old: we are fast approaching the weaning stage - in a few weeks, it will be upon us! Despite feeling quite anxious about weaning my elder daughter, I'm really looking forward to introducing my younger daughter to food. I guess this is because I know a bit more about what to expect as well as the fact that baby-led weaning is now the recommended method (rather than the new-fangled 'fad' it was deemed to be when I did it before).

In preparation, we are helping her to practise her sitting-up skills and hand-eye co-ordination. We have set up the high-chair in the kitchen and, if she is awake and happy, we have started to sit her in it when we have dinner or breakfast. She has a table-top toy to play with but sometimes just watches what we are doing. We tell her what we are eating!

My four-year-old is a fantastic big sister and loves to be helpful, so we've told her the rules about weaning:

1) ALWAYS check with Mummy/Daddy if it's okay to offer your sister something to eat (to make sure it is safe and appropriate food)

2) NEVER put food in your sister's mouth - put it in front of her, so she can feed it to herself

I expect to continue breastfeeding for at least another six months and I know that my baby is unlikely to drop a feed until she's about nine months old but, since I'm not planning to return to work until after her birthday, this won't be a problem.

I'm hoping that we'll have lots of fun on our weaning adventure: Bring on the mess!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Book review: "Your Baby Week by Week"

This book is the one parenting book that I found helpful when I had my first daughter. I borrowed several books from the library but this was the only one that seemed to have pragmatic advice that suited my approach and fitted with me and my baby. I dug it out of the cupboard just before my second daughter was born and have found it as helpful over the past few months as it was first time round.

It does what it says on the cover: it gives you advice and information about your baby's growth and development, week by week, for the first six months. Each 'chapter' corresponds to one week of your baby's life and the following topics are covered: sleep, crying, feeding, nappies, washing, development and playing, when to see a doctor, and what's happening to mum.

The book is written by two mothers - one a doctor, the other a journalist - and it reads as if it was penned by a good friend. The tone is informal yet authoritative and the style and content of the book helped me to feel more confident about motherhood and looking after my babies. It's also quite short and you only have to read the week ahead. The index at the back is very helpful too.

My favourite sentence occurs at the beginning of week 13: "If you've cosseted your baby over the past weeks, then congratulations because most experts are now convinced that lots of cuddling will help your baby to grow up to be secure." (As a first-time mum, I was relieved to read this and wished I'd read it sooner, since I had spent a lot of time in the first three months worrying that I was doing it all 'wrong'!)

I have recommended this book to expectant friends. It has been a great reference guide and a mine of information and I look at it a couple of times each week. My baby is four months old now and we are coming to the end of the book (it only goes as far as week 24). I plan to pass the book on to someone who is expecting their first child and I'll be sorry to see it go...

but not for long because I have the sequel ("Baby to Toddler Month by Month") to look forward to!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Can explorers wear princess dresses?

The next term at school has begun with a dressing-up day to introduce a new whole-school topic: explorers! This promises to be an exciting and engaging topic for learning but, over the holidays, it raised a few questions, namely: what do explorers look like? One of the other mums said that her daughter only likes dressing up as a princess. Can explorers wear princess dresses?

The question set me thinking about stereotypes and role models and I wondered what are the most important characteristics that explorers exhibit. A love of princess dresses probably isn't on the list and I'm guessing fashion isn't particularly important when planning an expedition!

What explorers wear largely depends upon what they set out to explore: underwater explorers wear diving gear (and I truly hope that someone turned up to school in a wetsuit with a snorkel, face mask and flippers!); interstellar explorers wear space suits; jungle explorers wear light, cool clothing; and arctic explorers dress for the cold.

Apart from Lara Croft and Dora the Explorer, we struggled to think of famous female explorers. Amelia Earhart came to mind, as did Helen Sharman (who I met, once, back in the '90s). I turned to Wikipedia for a list but, shamefully, recognised only one name. Literature didn't help much - I thought of Lucy from "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" but didn't have a fur coat to hand.

So, rather than emulate a famous explorer, we put together a costume from things we could make and clothes we already own.

My daughter is a mountain explorer: she wore sturdy boots with thick socks, a gilet and a hat, and she carried a rucksack with binoculars, a telescope and a hand-drawn map. We talked about the skills that explorers use (navigation and planning) and their characteristics (a sense of adventure, courage and perseverance).

I wonder what adventures she will have as an explorer at school today?