Summer Time Treats!

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So I discovered a ridiculously easy way to get my daughter to think she is having a treat while keeping her cool and getting her to eat fruit all at the same time. We are actually having a heatwave here in Ireland – imagine that a heatwave in Ireland!!! It reminds me a lot of that first hot summer when my daughter arrived to a very nervous new mum. This new mum had stocked up on everything you could possibly need for a new baby – and some things I really didn’t need (two types of baby bath – what was I thinking? ). One of the items I grabbed during a newborn sleep deprived spending binge was an ice lolly mould sold to new parents as a wonderful way to soothe aching gums. Great, I thought, this will come in handy when she starts teething. As the baby in question was only 2 months old and didn’t get her first teeth until she was 9 months, the mould was put in a press and promptly forgotten about. Until now. Looking for a measuring jug I came across this long forgotten item and excitedly decided to make ice lollies. I researched recipes before remembering I am a disaster with such things and besides I was too lazy to go to the shop. Mushed up strawberries it was. I mashed some strawberries with a fork and shoved them into the mini moulds. Put them in the freezer and two hours later I was enjoying a cool and delicious ‘treat’ with my mini me. The only problem is now she is asking for them everyday. This is not the problem itself,  it’s just that she asks all the time. In public. Very very loudly. People must think I spend my days loading her up with sugary treats. I long to shout – you’ve gotten it wrong, they are healthy I promise – but I do crazy too much these days so I’ll just have to play the bad parent. Now hand me those strawberries it’s getting hot out there!

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The practical side of parenting

Since my daughter’s birth nearly two years ago (TWO yikes!) I have been constantly confronted by the notion that I am completely unprepared as a mother. It started in the hospital. I arrived with 0 to 3 month clothes having been convinced she wouldn’t fit into the teeny newborn items. In my defence at my last scan she had measured 7.5. This was a few days before the birth so I figured she would have grown a little by the time she actually arrived. But wouldn’t you know it she was a tiddler. So she spent her first day swimming around in the outfit I had spent ages picking out for her. Pink and perfect and much too big. Relatives were duly dispatched to nearby shops. Oh and could you also bring some cot sheets, more blankets, mittens and chocolate (that last was for me – not a fan of hospital food). Thanks so much! I was woefully unprepared despite the two bags I’d lugged into the hospital that first day.

Since then things have pretty much been the same. In my first few weeks as a new mother I was constantly forgetting some must need item from the nappy bag from actual nappies to muslins to bibs. Each time it happened I vowed to make a ‘nappy bag list’. This list was never written .

I’d like to tell you things have changed since those early weeks…but that would be a big fat lie. Only the other week out for a shopping trip with a friend I forgot to pack a spare pair of clothes for my daughter. Obviously the tiny lady then had to go and spill juice all over herself. “But she rarely needs a change!” I wailed! My friend wisely said nothing.

Only a few weeks before this fateful trip my husband and I had brought the tiny lady out for a picnic…and forgot to pack a nappy. She did the biggest poop ever….then went down a slide and mushed it all up her back. That was one long stinky drive home!

Today the long promised heat wave hit. What was my daughter wearing? A long sleeved vest, long sleeved top, a skirt and tights! Yes tights! I realised her summer wardrobe consists of two t shirts and both were in the wash. One frantic trip to tesco later and there she was in shorts and a sleeveless t shirt (for a wonder we actually did have short sleeve vests).

As we drove home I thought about how utterly useless I am at the practical side of parenting. I just don’t seem to be clued into it at all. She can go at least a week without me remembering to cut her nails and don’t get me started on the onerous task of ear cleaning! I can’t even excuse myself on the grounds that I hate these tasks I just genuinely don’t think of them! What does that say about me??

All I can hope is that she knows she is very much loved despite my devil may care attitude to the more practical side of life!

What’s in a toy?

A recent phenomenon struck me the other day; while the worlds of young girls are expanding everyday the worlds of young boys are contracting more than ever. Little girls are now being raised to believe they can be anything from Elsa to Spiderman to Darth Vader! Meanwhile little boys are still very much expected to tow the line of convention. I came across an article written by the mother of a five year old boy who loves Elsa just as much as my little two year old girl. But, while my tiny lady could easily find a costume and swish around the room to her heart’s content, this little boy will tread a harder path. His mother spoke of how she and her husband have to balance a fine line between allowing the child freedom to express himself while at the same not allowing the world to hurt him when he does express himself.

The world is a tough place for a boy like this. He enjoys My Little Pony but his mother worries about the reactions of other people to him if he plays with these type of toys in public. We are all about allowing little girls the freedom to engage with what were once traditionally seen as ‘boys’ toys e.g. cars, garages, toolboxes etc. Yet it seems as a society we are not as comfortable seeing boys play with dolls and make-up kits. There is still something unsettling about it.

Personally I do not yet have a little boy but I did work with toddlers for years and they do not know anything about gender division at this young age. Little boys would happily wheel their dolls around in buggies and help set up house. Yet as two turned into three the gender divide began to emerge. The girls began to play kitchen and dress-up and dolls while the boys played rough and tumble in the soft play area. Where is this coming from? I don’t think it’s instinct. I think it comes from a society that still is caught up on ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ toys. Look at any toy catalogue and you will see girls’ toys separated from boys’. The ‘boy’ toy pages are coloured with blue and red and darker tones while the girls’ are all pink and yellow and bright tones.

We have come a long way sure but I think that there is still much much further we can go. And unfortunately until society can be more open-minded about gender and gender roles the life of a little boy who loves My Little Pony might be harder than his parents would like. I wish them all the best and hope one day he can wear his My Little Pony t-shirt with pride.

Hunger Strike in Toddlerdom

Is there anything more soul destroying than a toddler hunger strike? Our tiny lady is currently on a dinner strike. She will not touch anything resembling dinner with the one exception being pasta in tomato sauce with cheese on top. Clearly she can’t eat this everyday though for the sake of two very tired and worried parents she probably gets it more often than she should!

We are worn out with trying different tactics. Distraction. Bribery. Coercion. Encouragement. Stern faces. Happy faces. Mama eating it. Teddy eating it. Nothing works. Nothing. No amount of cajoling or threatening or pleading is getting that child to eat. I confess I’m slightly impressed by her willpower! I wish I could apply the same to my love of junk food.

I’m thinking that this is life’s way of playing a little joke on me. Hey remember how fussy an eater you used to be? Remember all the times your poor mother tried to get you to eat even a banana and you wouldn’t? Well ha ha this is exactly how she felt. Kharma at its very best. I remember, as a three or four year old, hiding behind our sofa because my mother was trying to get me to taste jam! Ugh, I thought, it’s so sticky and weird looking, no way am I eating that. My mum offered to allow both my sister and I an ice-cream if I just took a little taste. I think she was hoping the guilt of depriving my sibling as well as myself might work. She didn’t count on sister solidarity. My sister joined me behind the couch and assured me it was okay; she could live without the ice-cream!

It may seem odd that my mum was getting so worked up about jam which isn’t even the healthiest of lunch options but this poor woman was at her wit’s end. I was an absolutely terrible eater and she was running out of things to feed me. She probably thought jam would be something nice I could have in a sandwich. She didn’t count on me being so stubborn. I still don’t like jam today despite having actually tried it. And guess what? My daughter doesn’t care for it much either!

I am guessing I will just have to accept that my girl takes after me in more than just looks. She can be stubborn to the point of pigheadedness when it comes to making a stand about something. Sometimes it is like arguing with myself.

So I’ve just had to live with the idea that this is the way things are for now. She clearly isn’t starving. She hasn’t lost a dramatic amount of weight.  She eats quite well at other meal times. She has just decided to wield some power when it comes to her dinner time. Toddlers don’t have a lot of power in their little worlds so I’m willing to allow that she might want to have some say in her day to day routine and this is where she has decided to stick her oar in. I don’t think it will last forever (despite it feeling like forever now) and I’m sure it will pass. By then we will have moved onto some other toddler power play. I look forward to it…really I do!*    *wipes sweat from face!

Egg Head (as seen on Bing)

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My daughter is completely infatuated with a little bunny called Bing on Cbeebies. In one episode (which I’ve seen way too many times) Bing makes an eggy head – basically an empty egg with cress seeds inside. Husband is off college now so we thought a fun little family activity would be if we made eggy heads too. It’s so simple but a certain tiny lady found it so much fun. Plus as an extra bonus she put the seeds into an empty cup and took them out again for about half an hour after we were finished. And she didn’t try to eat them – widens eyes in disbelief!

If you want to give this a go here is how we did it.

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What we used:

3 hard boiled eggs (insides scooped out)
Cress seeds
Googly eyes
Black marker
Cotton wool

What we did:

There was much debate over how to prepare the eggs. I can be a bit clueless when it comes to these things so Husband too charge. Eggs were boiled about an hour or two in advance and left to cool. Hint: always buy more than you need in case of breakages!

After the eggs cooled Husband carefully removed the top of each one and scooped out the insides. Hint: this can be then used to make egg mayonnaise if you are so way inclined which I most definitely am!

We sat down at the table and took turns drawing faces on our eggs. Toddler needed some help with hers! Next were the Googly eyes – these can be tricky. The backs are often a nightmare to peel off if you don’t have long nails and they often get stuck to little fingers! You can use glue if the backs are too much of a hassle for you. Or better still use the sticker version!

Next we dampened the cotton wool. Husband rook charge of this which was a mistake as he ruined one batch with enthusiasm for too much water! Remember damp not sodden!

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Next we pushed the cotton wool into the eggs and sprinkled on the seeds. We then had to explain that the seeds would take some time to grow. Toddler didn’t care as she was too busy filling an empty cup with leftover seeds.

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Now we wait with bated breath to see if they actually grow!

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A ridiculously easy (and slightly messy) rainy day activity

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I don’t usually post activity posts as there are so many brilliant activity based blogs out there already. But felt I had to share this as it kept my tiny lady quiet for half an hour…that’s right half an hour! Practically unheard of for a two year old – in this house anyway!

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Things you will need:

*paint – any colour
*paper
*toy cars

That’s it just three things! Pop toddler in chair in old clothes – things will get messy! Pour some paint on to the paper and that’s it! Just let your toddler roll the cars through the paint. You can also paint the wheels of the cars to make more defined tracks. Toddler may decide to paint the whole car and this is okay too.

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Warning:

If you like your toy  cars  clean and sparkling don’t do this! I soaked mine in hot soapy water and they are still a little mucky. We don’t mind that here but some people might not enjoy the mess! As a former total neat freak I get this completely!

Ps:

You can extend this activity by grabbing some pasta shells and painting those too. We used animal shaped pasta which added to the fun! 

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Confession Time Mums and Dads!

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My tiny lady was awake way too early
this morning. So after an hour of pretending to myself that she would go back to sleep, we went downstairs to watch TV…. or should I say to watch Bing! She was thrilled, I lay on the couch praying for the energy to make a coffee.

I watched an episode I shockingly hadn’t seen a dozen times and noticed a character I’ve become slightly intrigued by. She is the mother of Bing’s cousins Coco and Charlie. She never speaks and for a long time I actually didn’t know if she was male or female. I’ve decided female as she seems to have a bun in her hair – though you never know he could have a trendy man bun!

This character is seen at various times throughout the shows. Sometimes she can be glimpsed from afar dropping the cousins at Bing’s house. Today I actually saw her up close at the window! Well the excitement! Then…all my dreams came true…She spoke!!! She is a she! I had literally never heard her speak and well needless to say my day took a turn for the better.

It then occurred to me how utterly  uncool I’ve become since my pre – mum days. Obsessing over a character in a children’s tv show! But I wonder how many parents this happens to? They dealt with this topic in an episode of Modern Family recently when Manny became a bit too involved in one of Joe’s cartoons. It reminded me of how I used to secretly watch the end of My Little Pony episodes after my tiny lady went to bed. She didn’t care what happened after the intro song but I wanted to know what Pinky Pie was up to and how the gang would defeat evil this time!

Another thing I find funny is how we parents add extra details to shows. This will sound completely off the wall but my husband and I have decided that Flop (Bing’s father) is stringing along the two mothers in the show, dating each one and playing them off each other. Yes we are a little sad but it makes these sometimes mind numbing shows a little more interesting. We kind of enhance the watching experience by gossiping about the lives these characters might lead off – screen!

So I wonder how many other parents out there are willing to admit to becoming a little too interested in Justin’s relationship with Robert the Robot or end up in an impassioned debate over which My Little Pony is the coolest (this never happened I promise)! Fess up, please tell me we aren’t the only ones!

Toddlers & Temperatures

I am writing this in a somewhat delirious haze. A certain tiny lady woke at 1am and then did not sleep again until about 4am. Needless to say I am shattered, wrecked, knackered, tired beyond words. Not only was she awake at 1am but she was wide awake as in standing at the end of her cot, talking at the top of her voice awake. This is not like her. She hasn’t woken at night since those early, sleep-deprived newborn days and I have always been thankful for it. If she does wake she is generally still very sleepy and easy enough to lure back to sleep.

Not so last night. Or should I say this morning. I went in and picked her up. She was thrilled. She was also burning up. The thermometer read 35.4 degrees but I know a sick toddler when I see one. She was behaving very much like I do when I have a fever – very chatty, very hot and very hyper. She actually asked me for calpol! I agreed it seemed like a good idea. Calpol was duly administered. I climbed into the spare bed with her and was just drifting off to sleep when the chatting began again. Great. Here comes the calpol high. She was telling me all sorts of stories – half of them so garbled I couldn’t even make out what she was saying…and I was so tired I didn’t care to be quite honest. Then she started to shout for water. The neighbours must love us – a loud toddler screaming for water and a mother on the verge of shouting back. I gave her water, I settled her back down….and then she started to bounce on the bed. Bouncing on the bed at 3am! What fresh hell is this! I was very close to tears and very close to losing the rag…but you can’t very well get cross with a sick child can you?! Can you??

Obviously the easiest solution would have been to call my husband. He even offered to take over. But no. Thank you maternal instinct because as much as I was hating the lack of sleep I knew I couldn’t leave her either. I would only end up lying in my own bed listening out for her and wanting to be near her again.

There were some compensations. She isn’t the most cuddly of creatures but she was extremely cuddly last night. She rolled herself into me but then kept jumping awake causing me to wake from various nonsensical dream scenarios with a start. She also woke at one point asking for Bing’s house. I can only guess she was visiting Bing in her dreams! Finally, finally after seconds that felt like hours and minutes that felt like days she fell properly asleep. It was an unsettled sleep with lots of snuffles and murmurs but it was sleep.

Husband took over at nine am but like Lady MacBeth sleep was lost to me now. Husband, noting the bags under my eyes, begged me to nap when she does. She is napping now and here I am writing so you can imagine how I took that advice! Now off I go to get more coffee and carbs and cheese – these will surely keep me going!*

*Apologies if this blog lacks sense and any kind of meaning!

Mama knows best

Naptime and Bedtime have become a bit of a battle in our house over the past few weeks. My daughter’s latest trick is propping herself up at the end of her cot, throwing all her cuddly toys out then shouting for us until she gets some attention. This can go on for at least half an hour sometimes longer before she finally gives up…or we do. Now I know some people might suggest she doesn’t need as much sleep anymore now that she is nearly two. Couldn’t we cut back on the naps? To those people I would say – are you f***ing kidding me?? This child needs her sleep and we need her to sleep. She is not a pleasant kid to be around when naps are off the agenda for the day.

All children are different and I think, as a parent, you are able to recognise when your child doesn’t conform to the developmental guidelines of a particular stage. I used to work in a creche and there were some two year olds who could last the day on very little sleep. Others….well the less said about them the better. They needed that rest! As children get older some drop naps altogether while some still benefit from an afternoon siesta. As it stands my tiny lady has quite an odd napping schedule. I always thought she would need an afternoon nap – all the books speak about an afternoon nap and thats what I was familiar with. But my tiny lady gets tired around half ten so its usually snack then bed at eleven am. She has her lunch when she wakes up and is generally good to go for the rest of the day…until the dreaded five o’clock slump but that’s a tale for another day.

I am very glad she attends a childminder rather than a creche as in a creche it is easier for the older toddlers to nap around the same time. Generally this is just after lunch around one o’clock. This is to allow for children to get maximum fun and activity time but it would not suit my little girl. If I try to stretch her nap past eleven then we miss the vital window of opportunity. After that it’s terror toddler for the rest of the day as she fights any attempts to put her back down. Thankfully her childminder works around her schedule not the other way around for this we are very grateful!

The point of this slightly manic blog is this; you know your own child best. So if she wants to nap for 15 minutes or three hours then work with her needs. If she wants to nap mid morning go with that. Don’t listen to the advice of others if you have a routine that works for you and your child. Yes there will be times when your toddler fights her sleep or just doesn’t nap but this doesn’t always mean she is ready to go without sleep either. Trust your instincts and trust your gut. Mama (and papa) know best!

Won’t somebody please think of the staff?

New regulations have recently been published in relation to early childhood care in Ireland. While I welcome these wholeheartedly I do wonder again where this leaves childcare staff. One of the regulations is that all staff now must have at least a level 5 qualification in childcare. This is a big step forward as it is now law that anyone not reaching this standard cannot work with children. Surely a welcome change. However, I would ask what is the benefit to staff?

Having once worked in the early years profession I can honestly say its a very tough gig with very little pay or benefits. So while I am glad that government is taking steps to create a safe, educational and fun place for children I am concerned that staff are continuously being over-looked. Early years education and care starts with good, motivated and passionate staff members. While good staff will always remain committed to their work they can hardly be expected to continue to remain motivated or passionate working in a sector so under-valued by society.

It is, as a staff member, your responsibility to keep on top of your training and your qualifications. You pay for most of this up-skilling yourself while working on very low pay. The minimum wage now stands at 9.15 an hour and most childcare workers do not make more than this despite being highly qualified and maintaining an interest in professional development. Meanwhile Lidl signed the Living Wage Agreement back in October 2015 and pledged to pay its workers a minimum of 11.50 increasing incrementally to 13 euro per hour over a period of two years. That means you can train and work for years in childcare and still make less than someone who has just started a retail career with Lidl. This does not seem very fair to me.

Many childcare centres today are privately run and these owners struggle to meet overheads such as rent, electricity, heating etc. on top of paying staff. There are no government resources to help and often management cannot afford to pay much more than minimum wage despite wishing to reward staff for their hard work. Quite often highly qualified and committed professionals end up leaving the sector as it just doesn’t pay the bills and they need to put their own families’ needs first. When I first started in the industry I had no idea how badly paid and undervalued it was and if given the chance again I would follow a different path. I would advise against childcare as a solid career path. This saddens me,

I loved working with children. They are so full of life and energy and new ideas. They live life fully in the moment and are such a joy to work with. Nevertheless it is also a stressful profession working for little pay yet one must meet various demanding roles and juggle a number of balls. You teach, you care, you observe, you communicate, you research, you plan….and so on. It’s tough and demanding and no way is all this work represented in your pay packet.

We trust childcare staff with our most precious resource, our children, but clearly don’t value them enough to pay them for their time, experience and training. It is time the government took note and awarded childcare staff the respect and wages they so clearly deserve.