Saturday, 25 December 2010

An Almost Perfect Christmas

J has been an angel today - cooked the Christmas dinner, tidied up, washed up, helped loads with Little Liss.

I've chilled out, eaten lots and drank (a little) bucks fizz. We went for a walk across snow covered fields and Alicia 'sung' to us all the way. Lush.

Liss loves her Sophie the Giraffe teether, and we love her new Sterntaler boots. We tried them out on our Christmas walk and they stayed on the whole time! They have an adjustable elasticated inner sock which means they stay put on even the most wiggly baby.

Alicia chewing Sophie the Giraffe (tastes so much better upside down!)

Me and Liss - check out her new sparkly shoes!

Daddy and Lissy with her new Sterntaler boots

J loves his new telescope, I love my new jewellery, red slippers and promise of a child-free shopping trip to buy me a winter coat in the sales :-)

In fact, it's been a perfect Christmas. Actually, make that an ALMOST perfect Christmas - Els is with her dad this year and so we just had a Skype call with her. We miss her.

Unusually, we didn't have her Christmas Eve either (usually whichever parent doesn't have her Christmas Day has her Christmas Eve) because her dad wanted to take her to his girlfriend's parents and then to her Nonna (Granny) so he needed her for a good few days together. Ah well, our turn next year!

Hope you had a lovely Christmas too.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The True Cost of Cheap Food

I'm seriously thinking about going vegan again - anyone else see the Panorama programme last night? Eew those mega dairies...scary places.

Although it was an expose of the real cost of cheap food - the toll on the environment and on animal welfare - it also reminded me why I first became vegetarian twenty six years ago. It's easy to forget why we do something when that something has become an ingrained habit, something I rarely think about anymore. But I'm thinking again...

Maybe I'm still a bit hormonal, but seeing a sow feeding her youngsters in a tiny cage (yes in the UK, no they don't roam around in fields much anymore like we all think they do) made me cry. Properly cry. Perhaps cos I'm breastfeeding at the moment I felt an affinity with that mummy pig and her babies.

The babies are reared under artificial light, in small spaces, with no rooting opportunities (essential for a piggy's happiness). A mummy pig is allowed to nurse her babies for only two to three weeks before being reimpregnated and having her babies taken from her. The babies get killed at six months.

But of course my conscience is eased by the fact I don't eat pork or bacon. But J does (mainly in his sandwiches during the working week) and so does Ella (mainly at her dad's though as I only cook veggie and vegan at home). I blithely buy cheap factory farmed meat for him when I can't find any organic piggies on the shelves in Tesco. And it turns out that large scale organic producers raise their animals in a smilar way anyhow, just without the gratuitous antibiotics and growth hormones.

I will make it my mission to source local suppliers who treat their animals well. I'm also going to make J's sandwiches more often so he gets a few veggie lunches at work too. I'm lucky to have the True Food Co-op within a short drive and I think they do some organic meat reared in small-scale farms.

As for contemplating the vegan thing again. Well, I was vegalicious once and I know that diary cows have a hard time of it. Forced to be pregnant continually so they keep producing milk, slaughtered at around five years old when they're no longer 'useful' and their babies killed shortly after birth or raised as veal calves.

Not to mention the distress they must feel at having their babies taken away from them. And I'm not anthropomorphising:

"The harsh reality is that to produce milk, a cow must have a calf. To maximise production, each calf is taken from its mother within 24-48 hours of birth. Calves would naturally suckle for 6-12 months.

"Separation is a distressing process as mother and calf form a strong maternal bond. Dairy cow husbandry expert, Professor John Webster described the removal of the calf as the “most potentially distressing incident in the life of the dairy cow”. Webster points out that “the cow will submit herself to considerable personal discomfort or risk to nourish and protect her calf”. Examples of this are cows that have escaped and travelled several miles to find their own calf after it has been sold on to another farm"
Excerpt from The Vegan Society website

As a mother, I can't fail to be moved. But veganism can be a tricky thing to manage 100%. Which is why I'm going to approach it softly, softly and initially just aim to eat more vegan meals and use Kara, oat milk etc (I don't like the taste of soya milk much!) in my teas and coffees but not panic if I'm at a friend's house and have cow's milk.

If you're not a veggie or vegan but would like to reduce the cruelty content in your diet, how about having a Meatless Monday? It's easy to achieve and, as they say at Tesco, every little helps...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Homemade Christmas

There's a lady in the village next to mine who works from home as a florist. Every December she runs wreath-making courses. I was intrigued, so went along.

Bless her, the old dear is registered blind but still can whip up an amazing bouquet in a matter of minutes. We were shown how to make a wreath using an oasis and loads of greenery. There was a cornucopia of festive fruits and flowers to then adorn your wreath with. I loved it all so used a bit of everthing she had on offer. After all, less is definitely not more at Christmas.

Here's my effort, what d'ya think?:

Beacuse I'm not back to work until January, and SMP is a bit pants to be honest, I'm making my family's Christmas pressie this year. Well, apart from the little kids' presents which are more appreciated if they are plastic, expensive or both.


I'm making massage/moisturising oils with organic sunflower oil from the supermarket, these fabulous blue bottles which become squeezy bottles because when you first screw the cap on it automatically adds a clear plastic top with a hole. It looks very professional, but I'm not sure you can re-use them so may not be good for home use.

Boys will get a 'muscle rub' made by adding orange, ginger and black pepper essential oils from Aromantic and the Soap Kitchen to the sunflower oil base. I'm going to play around with quantities but plan to use a total of 30-50 drops of essential oil to 100ml of base oil.

Girls will get a relaxing, feminine massage oil (can also use as a body moisturiser and bath oil) with a combination of rose, jasmine and ylang ylang essential oils.

I'vbe bought kilner-style jars from Tesco for just over a pound each, and am planning to fill them with homemade chocolate chip cookies, white chocolate and cranberry cookies or bath salts made with equal parts sea salt, epsom salt, bicarb of soda and essential oils to scent.

Maybe lavender and rose for relaxation, mandarin and cinnamon for a warming, Christmassy soak. Again, all ingredients sourced from Aromantic and the Soap Kitchen (although I'm sure you can get them from a supermarket and health food store too).

The other things I'm planning to make are bath melts - so lovely and so easy. The recipe is from The Holistic Beauty Book and you can find it here along with a recipe for a sugar scrub which would also be great in one of those kilner jars.

Finally, I'm planning to do little bags of what I call 'biscuit bites' loosely based on Nigella's Rocky Road Bars. I use the little plastic food bags, pop four or five squares of the biscuit bites inside and secure with curling ribbon. Looks pretty, tastes divine and is super quick and easy to make. Fun to do with your kids.

Are you doing anything homemade this Christmas - presents or decorations? Do share your plans...

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

I'm British Mummy Blogger of the Week :-)

Oh. My. God.

I'm soooo chuffed.

You see, I blog because I enjoy it. Part as a release, part as a record that my family and I can look back on in years to come. Of course, I hope to entertain and inspire my readers too. And I would love to have more readers. Many, many more.

But, I don't spend enough time on promoting my blog (typically marketeer hey?!) to get an impressive number of readers. I'm not high profile in the illustrious ranks of the top Mummy Bloggers - the ones who get book deals and freebies to Disneyland (Florida, not Paris BTW). I wish...

In fact, I marvel at some of the blogs I follow whose readers run to several hundreds - and that's just the readers who follow publically. I must confess to being a teensy bit jealous. OK, let's be honest, completely green eyed.

So, it was a huge surprise and a lovely compliment to be nominated as the British Mummy Blogger of the Week. If not 'fame at last!' then definitely some recognition.

It's confirmed that I'm not just writing for myself, my mum and my close mates. Other (high profile) bloggers and blog readers have noticed me. Yay! It feels good. Really good.

Now where's my trip to Florida?!

P.S. If you read me from time to time please subscribe or follow me publically. It does a girl good to see who she's writing for. Come on and show me some lurrve!! Use those Subscribe and Follow links. Mwaw xxx

Free Organic JASON Products for Adults and Kids!!!

By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post. I'm just genuinely excited by this product and the free stuff promo. Sad but true!

I love organic products but my budget doesn't always stretch to them. If I could, I'd only ever use natural organic lotions and potions on my and my family's skin. I'd also only ever feed us organic food. And we would skip through fields of daffodils, singing and laughing as we made our way towards an eternally rising sun...

Back on planet earth (not always as wonderful as Planet Anna, but a good deal less cliched nevertheless), I have been stocking up on my current fave (and very affordable)organic product. Well, it's 95% organic which is good enough for me.

I found JASON Vitamin E oil in my local health food shop and have been using it to help fade my stretchmarks and smooth my little under eye creases for the last three months now.

It's so fabulous it has now replaced my day cream, night cream and eye cream as well as being my 'much better than Bio Oil' anti-wrinkle and anti-stretchmark oil, hand moisturiser and my daughter's favourite steal ("ooh can I have some Mummy? It smells of marzipan!".

Here's a list of a few ways that Vitamin E oil can benefit your skin. It's famed for it's effectiveness in treating scars, stretchmarks and wrinkles. It's also very easily absorbed by the skin.

The stuff I was using is a blend of almond (hence the marzipan smell), apricot, avocado and wheatgerm oils giving 5,000 I.U. of vitamin E. I got 118 ml for around £5.50 and it has lasted me a good three months or so. And I use it a lot.

Imagine my excitement when I found out JASON do a super strength version - delivering 45,000 IU of vitamin E for less than a tenner. OK, so it's half the size (60ml) as the one I was using but you get a lot more bang for your buck. Weirdly, it uses completely different oils: blackcurrant, evening primrose, macadamia nut and borage so it's unlikely to smell of marzipan (no almond oil).

I stocked up on a few of these and as I went to the virtual checkout I noticed that the price of one bottle had automatically been deducted! There's no mention of a discount on the site, but once you've payed it confirms that there is a limited 'cheapest product free' offer at the moment because the website is new.

To celebrate the launch of the new JASON website they’re also currently offering Free Samples to everyone who requests them while stocks last.

All you need to do is email JASON your address to one, or both, of the email addresses below by clicking on the link and they’ll send you some sachets and travel size samples for free. I'm not sure what products you'll get as I've only just sent my emails today.

Children’s samples:

Adult samples:

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Real Postnatal Celeb

Thank you Kim Kardashian for speaking out and letting us mere mortal mamas know that celebs have postnatal bellies too. They just get photoshopped out to entice us to buy certain magazines.

Shame on you, OK magazine. Check the before and after photos here

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) - or OMG Look at the F**king Mess!

What is Baby Led Weaning?

None of my friends or family would ever use the words 'house proud' and 'Anna' in the same sentence. But even I have blanched in the face of the utter carnage that is Baby Led Weaning (or BLW as it's commonly known).

The principle is sound - skip the purees and go straight to finger food beacuse we're advised to wean babies later now (around six months instead of four) and self-feeding enables them to listen to their own appetite and choose what they want to eat.

With BLW, baby learns to chew before s/he swallows (with traditional spoon feeding it's the other way round), and experiments with a wider range of tastes and textures because BLW experts advise you let baby select their own meal from four or five different finger foods in front of them.

Baby Led Weaning is a method that supports babies in learning to love their food and develop a broader palate than if you choose to wean by what Gill Rapley's Baby Led Weaning book calls 'force feeding' (spoon feeding to us less militant folk).

BLW babies can usually eat the same thing as the rest of the family (without the sugar or salt) from about 7-8 months. So, it's a more sociable way of eating for baby and it's far easier for Mum who doesn't have to rack her brains for interesting puree combinations (sweet potato and blueberries anyone?).

Here are some of the benefits of Baby Led Weaning.

Why is Baby Led Weaning so Messy?

The friend who gave me The BLW book did make a vague reference to the mess. But, I brushed it off as I am no stranger to mess. Hell, this is the woman who has a fridge magnet proudly proclaiming 'A Clean House is a Sign of a Wasted Life'.

With Baby Led Weaning, you let your Precious Angel self-feed. I use the term 'self-feed' loosely. It's actually more akin to a food fight. Really, they're just playing with the food at first. Mushing it onto themselves (Alicia tucked some avocado behind her ear recently though I think she was aiming for her mouth), and spreading it liberally around the table and floor.

Tips for Easier Baby Led Weaning

Like any new experience though it gets easier with time. You develop better coping tactics. We've now abandoned the Tripp-Trapp style high chair (BTW, this highchair is less than half the price and is pretty much the same)and eating straight off the table thing.

It didn't work for us. Everything ended up on the floor within 30 seconds, and the five second rule doesn't really apply in a house where the floor gets mopped once every two months (I'm really not joking. I wish I were).

What works much better is sticking Little Liss in a Bumbo directly on the dining table, putting an array of finger foods onto the Bumbo tray. She was more interested in the bowl and mat than the food when we attempted that little combo).

The beauty of the Bumbo seat is that you can bung it in the (empty) bath and hose it all down with the shower afterwards. Sleeved bibs are another godsend.

Here's a link to some photos in Flickr of Alicia's Baby Led Weaning adventures (I'm having problems uploading photos in Blogger at the moment).

As you can see, I do occassionally give her purees too but I load up the spoon and put it onto the tray so she can self feed. Unlike some other BLW Mums, I don't think purees are the devil's work, especially when you have a hungry baby who won't really get much into her tummy in the first few weeks of Baby Led Weaning.

BLW Key Points

If you fancy giving BLW a try, here's a booklet on the key points. This BLW blog is a good resource too.

Don't get distressed if your baby coughs or gags on the food at first, just let it happen and watch them like a hawk for any signs of choking (although it's very unlikely they will choke).

Gagging generally doesn't upset them, and their gag reflex is a lot farther forward than ours. It's a natural reflex to help them expel food and doesn't mean they're choking(although when I first witnessed it I was convinced that she was).

If a baby chokes they usually don't make a sound beacuse the food is blocking their airway. To give yourself peace of mind, watch this vide on dealing with a choking baby Apparently, choking is more common when a traditionally weaned baby transitions to lumpy purees and food because they have learned to swallow and not chew. BLW babies do it the other way round - master chewing before swallowing.

Recommended First Foods

Although Gill Rapley recommends you try pretty much any food as long as it doesn't have sugar or salt in it (both very, very bad for babies - salt can even kill them), I'm playing it a bit safer and going with my favourite nutritionist's recommendations as outlined in Optimum Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy
. I'm also mainly sticking to organic foods as babies and pesticides don't mix very well (I prefer to eat organic myself too when availability and budget allow).

So, until she's nine months Little Liss will be making her way through:
*Vegetables except the nightshade varieties (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines)
*Fruits (not citrus)
*Pulses and beans
*Wholefood grains: rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat

If you aren't bringing up your baby as a veggie then you can also include fish (pref organic, wild or deep sea).

Patrick Holford recommends waiting until nine months to introduce the following:

*Meat & poultry
*Grains that can cause sensitivity ie oats, corn, barley and rye
*Live yoghurt and eggs
*Soya and nightshade vegetables

He also recommends you leave the following until 12 months: citrus fruits, wheat, dairy, nuts and seeds (but with peanuts wait as long as you can and then only organic varieties).

So, there you have it. BLW - makes sense (to me anyway), great fun (especially for baby) but a bit messy at first!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Yule Just Love These!

Excuse the appalling pun, couldn't help myself.

We've just been elfing ourselves and urge you to do the same. It's bloody hilarious.

You go to the website, upload some pics of your family - from your PC or via a link from your facebook account - and it will turn you and your loved ones into funky dancing Christmas elves.

You can then post the link to your friends' facebook walls, email the link and/or download the video. It's completely brilliant and makes a great (and free!) alternative to Christmas cards.

You can choose from several different dance styles including eighties, Charleston, Hip Hop and Country & Western. We went for Disco, despite (actually because of) hubby getting all the 'village people' style dance moves. I'm seeing him in a totally new light.

Another cool Yule thing to do is to check out the Portable North Pole site where you can create personalised video messages from Santa for toddlers, older children and grown ups.

It's not just their name that Santa uses, he will also talk about your choice of personalised messages and show their photo in his magical book. It's beautifully done.

We did this for Ella last year and she was totally awestruck. Shame she doesn't believe in him now - I'll just have to be satisfied with my jokey one for J and wait a few years till Little Liss is old enough to enjoy her digital message from the great white bearded one.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Garlic in Her Baby Socks

Poor little Liss has had her first heavy cold. She's had snuffles a few times before but this time it was more serious.

We kissed goodbye to sleeping through the night and said a reluctant 'oh, hi again' to waking every two hours to pop a boob in the crying mouth of a restless baby.

After a day of ineffectual faffing around with my mother and baby homeopathy kit, I decided to bring out the big guns. Garlic.

As well as being nature's antibiotic, garlic has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties. I know that this marvellous member of the onion family works best when eaten raw, but how to get it into my baby?

My aha moment came when flicking through my copy of the excellent Gentle Healing for Baby and Child book which informed me that garlic can be absorbed through the skin so if a child won't take it by mouth you can crush a clove and smear it, with the help of a little olive oil, onto their feet secure it with a gauze bandage and leave (to marinate?) overnight.

So I duly turned my baby into a french cannibal's dream. A dash of olive oil, a crush of fresh garlic et voila un bebe delicieux! With no gauze in sight, I 'double bagged' my precious one with baby socks and then tights over the top to keep the garlic socks in place.

Seeing as Alicia was too ill for us to venture out, and I didn't have Ella so wasn't on school run duty for a few days either, we stayed in the house and Alicia wore garlic socks for two days running.

Boy did she pong, but within eight hours of her first having garlic feet I noticed a marked difference. Her chest sounded looser and she was less distressed. The cold seemed to be breaking, the garlic was doing its job marvellously.

Were I made of sterner stuff, I would have continued the garlic treatment a little longer but once she was over the worst I was keen to switch to a more fragrant remedy. One that I could use in the day too without alarming potential new friends at the mum and baby groups we go to.

My friend Sarada recently gave me a hugely useful and inspiring book on aromatherapy - The Fragrant Pharmacy. It has a section dedicated to babies so I read the advice for coughs and colds in that section and adapted the blend 'recipes' they recommend to suit what oils I already have.

This is the Baby Snuffle Blend I created a few days ago:

10 drops Eucalyptus, 5 drops Tea tree, 10 drops Lavender, 5 drops Thyme.

I put 3 drops into a bowl of hot water and placed that near Alicia's cot at night. I also used 3 drops of this blend in approx 2 teaspoons of sweet almond oil and used it as a chest and back rub three times a day. The oils are widely available in healthfood shops or you could order from the internet - try Neal's Yard.

She's waking only once or twice a night now and is easily settled. Her breathing is much easier. She's still a little chesty but the cough has gone. Oh, and she smells sooo much better now!

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Heartwarming Thanksgiving Christmas Tree

Yes, I know I orbited out of the blogosphere for some time. I can't promise it won't happen again and no, I don't have a good reason for my absence. I've been spending plenty of time on the internet but have been in receiving mode rather than transmitting mode.

And my how time has flown. Alicia is now five months old and as cute as a button. Scrub that, as buttons aren't particularly cute. Cute as an ickle fluffy kitten. No, cuter. Like a baby panda bear.

Actually that panda clip is scarily appropriate. I seem to spend the majority of my time sitting around eating while Alicia chills out next to me, all smiles and scrumminess for 90% of the time and then out of the blue becomes what hubby calls a 'sound terrorist'. Bless her.

I've recently started buying the Green Parent Magazine. I love it. It's full of the type of mummies I aspire to be but know I'll never fully become...

Natural earth mothers raising wholesome, home-schooled vegan children (at least four or five of them). Baking tasty yet nutritious treats whilst wearing the baby and leading the whole family into wonderful, inspiring craft projects.

Actually, to give me my dues I do bake once or twice a week. But I realised that it's been a while since I did any crafts with Ella and one idea in this month's issue really appealed to me: creating a Thanksgiving Tree.

It was great timing as I'd already been thinking of making a tree-to-display-on-the-wall to compensate for our lack of fir tree this year. We have to do without the because my new nursing chair is now occupying the only spot in our tyeeny tiny house where a Christmas tree could possibly go.

The Green Parent suggests creating a family project-cum-ritual in homage to the American harvest festival-style celebration of Thanksgiving.

You create a tree cutout and get each family member to trace their handprints on coloured card and cut out to form the leaves of the tree. Each person then writes things they are grateful for onto their 'leaves' and decorates the paper tree. Aha I thought, with a minor adaptation that could become our paper Christmas tree. And what a nice activity to balance out the rampant consumerism that drives the season of goodwill.

After a nice roast dinner with friends (followed by my first ever pumpkin pie!), Ella and I cut a large Christmas tree shape out of gold wrapping paper and set to making paper shapes to decorate it with - handprints, baubles, holly etc all of which we inscribed with things we are grateful for. Mid-activity, Ella said "it's nice to be able to do this sort of thing with people you trust. It's nice to share our feelings." Hear hear.

We even traced Alicia's handprint and wrote 'milk' on it after also considering 'playgym' and 'cuddles'. J was busy with Alicia for most of the activity so he told us a few things to write on his behalf (one of which was my cooking. Aww!).

Due to lack of blu-tack, the Thanksgiving/Christmas tree and decorations aren't yet up on the wall. Ella's now with her dad for a few days so we'll finish the activity when she's back and post a piccie of the result. Be warned - I'm not that artistic!

The activity was a heart-warming, wonderfully bonding thing to do. I so enjoyed sprinkling the lounge floor with glitter that I've decided we should also make all of our Christmas decorations this year.

LATER NOTE: Here's our tree

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Alicia's Naming Ceremony

As I promised in the last post, here is the ceremony in full.

How cute is Ella's pledge?!

(ANNA)What is a naming ceremony?
Thank you for coming to this naming ceremony. A naming ceremony’s purpose is to officially give a baby their name and welcome them into the world. It is a non-religious christening. Today we celebrate the birth of Alicia, and welcome her into her community of family, godparents and our close friends.

Across the world ceremonies or rituals are used to define the more important stages of our lives. From these celebrations are born new roles, new relationships and new responsibilities.

For you all, as family and close friends this ceremony is an opportunity to consider the relationship that you will have with Alicia, and the role that you want to take in her upbringing.

Julia Moulton’s Reading
This reading is adapted from an American Indian Naming Ceremony:

Alicia Lily Higgs, born of two hearts
You are grace
You are beauty
You are love beyond measure
And gift without price

We are gathered this day
To introduce you to your greater family,
And to bless you, before the world
Even as we have been blessed by your birth!

We offer you to the Four Winds
That you might embrace adventure
And know the wonder of far-off lands

We offer you to the Sky
That you may steer by the stars
And never feel that you are far from home

We offer you to the Sun
That warmth and light may surround you always
And guide you safely on your way

We offer you to the Moon
That you may find comfort in darkness
And never have cause to fear the night

(ANNA) Alicia’s Name
Alicia is the Spanish form of Alice. This acknowledges John’s Spanish roots, and my side of the family as my grandmother was called Alice. We’ve chosen the english pronounciation Alicia instead of the Spanish a-LEE-thya.

Her middle name is Lily because it’s one of my favourite flowers and her sister Ella also has a fragrant flower as her middle name (Jasmin)

Alicia means NOBLE person. Dictionary defines noble as:

A person of high birth or rank (well she’s definitely our little princess)

Being very impressive or imposing in appearance (which she is with her bright blue eyes and amazing mop of hair!)

Having excellent qualities or abilities and an exemplary moral character (We will do our best to instill good values in her .We have chosen godparents who we think can inspire her with certain excellent qualities)

(JOHN) Being a Godparent

In children's stories, a fairy godmother makes an appearance just when she's needed most. With the wave of a wand, she can make everything right. Godparents might not have a magic wand, but their role in a child's life can have a magical effect.
It is said that the biggest gift a Godparent can give their Godchild is time.

We have chosen godparents who we think will be interested in Alicia and willing to get involved in her life. But we recognise that the role of godparent is theirs to make of what they will, and so we are asking each godparent today to make their own personal commitment, a pledge, to Alicia.

Godparents Introduction and Pledges

John’s Choices

I’ve chosen Julie for her strong sense of morality, her generosity and her strength in times of need. Most of all for her heart of gold. I’ve also chosen her partner Paul (known as Charlie to his friends) for his spirit of adventure and his drive to achieve his aspirations. And for his interest in culture, music and travel which I hope he will inspire Alicia with.

Julie and Charlie what is your pledge to Alicia?
We promise to use our experience of life to enhance your development. We also agree to be supportive whenever and wherever possible to help you fulfil your dreams.

I’ve chosen Paul for his gentleness, loyalty and sincerity. He is very charming in company and I hope he can pass this quality to Alicia.

Paul, what is your pledge to Alicia?
I promise to extend my friendship with John & Anna to you, their daughter. If you need someone to turn or talk to, I promise my door will always be open, and I will always listen.

I’ve chosen Selina for her caring nature, infectious laughter, enthusiasm for life and being a great confidante – which I’m sure she will be for Alicia.

Selina, what is your pledge to Alicia?
I promise to love, support, listen and encourage you. I promise to always be your friend, and will enjoy being a part of your life, watching you grow up, and find your way in the world.

Anna’s Choices
I’ve chosen Anna because she is my oldest and most loyal friend, and in the 23 years I’ve known her I’ve never heard her say a bad word about anyone. She never judges and she never complains, and she is a brilliant listener – qualities that will make her a great godparent to Alicia. I’ve also chosen Rob, Anna’s husband, because together they are raising their children in a way I completely agree with – in love and kindness but also with firm boundaries.

Anna and Rob, what is your pledge to Alicia?
We promise to encourage and praise you, give you the confidence to be you and express yourself. We will always believe in you. We promise to always be there for you, always listen to you and we will never judge you.

I’ve chosen Sarada because she is my oldest and one of my most treasured friends. She helped me immensely during Alicia’s birth, giving both me and John support and encouragement throughout. She is hugely generous with her time despite her busy life. She is strong, warm and loving and lots of fun and she has always given me excellent advice when I’ve needed it. I know she will be happy to do the same for Alicia, and will always welcome her with open arms – oh, and Sarada’s a great veggie cook so I’m sure Alicia will also appreciate that as much as I do!

Sarada, what is your pledge to Alicia?
My dear Alicia - what an honour to be chosen as your godparent! I promise to do my best to be whatever you need me to be - a shoulder to cry on, someone you can turn to for advice, someone to laugh and have fun with and definitely someone to feed you! I promise to help you find the strength and truth that lies within you to guide you on your journey through life. And I will love you with all my heart.

(JOHN) John and Anna’s Pledge
Thank you all for agreeing to be godparents to Alicia. She’s a lucky girl to have your support throughout her life. Alicia, we promise to be the best parents we can be, to love you and listen to you, to guide you and encourage you always. We want to help you enjoy your life, and to have the confidence to do whatever interests and inspires you.

(ELLA) Ella’s Pledge
Alicia I promise to care for you and play with you, and be a wonderful sister. I love you to bits and I always will.

(JOHN) (John’s Reading)
They say that:
A baby will make love stronger
Days shorter, Nights longer
Bankroll smaller, Clothes shabbier, Home happier,
The past forgotten,
And the future worth living for.

(ANNA) (Anna’s Reading) The following poem seems very fitting. It manages to encapsulate my attitude towards child rearing and to housework as well!
A Mothers Wish

I hope my child looks back on today
And sees a Mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking,
But children grow up when you're not looking.
Tomorrow I'll do all the chores you can mention
But today, my baby needs time and attention.
So settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm cuddling my baby, and babies don't keep.

(JOHN) I’d like to propose a toast to Alicia Lily Higgs – may she have a fabulous life full of love and adventure. To Alicia Lily.
You now have the opportunity to take photos and then we’ll go to the Bunkfest - please join us for a little while but do feel free to wander off whenever you feel like it as there’s lots going on and we will be easy to find throughout the day – we’ll mainly be in the Kinecroft area.
Thank you all for coming.
Photo session then celebration at Bunkfest

Naming Ceremony

On Saturday we had a lovely do-it-yourself naming ceremony for Alicia. It was a perfect day.

We went to Wallingford Castle grounds with some champagne and around 30 people - mainly family and godparents with a few close friends. We'd asked the godparents to make a commitment to Alicia, a special pledge, and to write this in a special book for when she's older. We asked that the book was something that had meaning for them or had inspired them.

To the guests who wanted to bring something as a gift, we suggested they write a letter to Alicia which she can open on a milestone birthday - either 10,18 or 21.

The sun shone, the ceremony was heartfelt, and everyone enjoyed the Wallingford Bunkfest afterwards. I missed out on most of the fabulous entertainment as I was happy to just sit in the sunshine next to the donkeys and goats (who you could brush for £2) and chat to the guests whilst Alicia slept off the excitement of her Big Day.

I've never been to a naming ceremony before and there wasn't much inspiration on the internet so the next post is the naming ceremony in full in case you - or someone you know - are planning one too.

Oh, and I used a template from here to create a flyer with the readings, pledges and photos of Alicia as an 'order of service' and keepsake.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Status Anxiety

Since we got back from camping in the New Forest, where Ella roamed in relative freedom with other people's kids, I've let Ella off the leash a little. She's pretty sensible and road safety aware so she's now allowed to cycle unsupervised around the few streets that make up our neighbourhood.

She gets a taste of freedom, I get a break and everyone's happy.

The other day she made a friend while out on her bike. Ella doesn't go to school in the village so it's a wonderful thing that she has a new play mate living just sec
onds away from us. She returned home with a phone number, written on a scrap of paper by the girl's mother, and a verbal invitation to play at their house the next morning.

I was so pleased for her that I called her dad to alter our childcare agreement (he was due to have her that day). I called the mother and found myself rushing into waffle mode in an attempt to prove I'm not a negligent mother. I mean, who else lets their seven year old out alone nowadays?

After gushing about Ella's 'just down the street for ten minutes' boundaries, my having a new baby and Ella needing to do play outside when I'm busy with said baby and she's bored etc etc I eventually paused for breath and New Friend's Mother (NFM) invited me to drop Ella off and stay for a coffee. Lovely.

The next day, I discovered NFM has a HUGE house with a swimming pool and zip wire for the kids to play on. What a result for Ella!

While having tea with NFM, who seems very nice, and her neighbour who had popped round (also very nice) NFM's father-in-law appeared and was introduced to me as "Lord So-and-So". Actually, she said his first name but I've substitituted So-and-So in respect of his privacy.

Now, I've been to boarding school with a Right Honourable so I'm not phased by aristos but I got to thinking that my lower social status might be a barrier to Ella's burgeoning friendship.

I'm sure NFM doesn't expect her daughter to hang out solely with the progeny of nobility, but I suddenly felt acutely aware of the class divide and anxious that I would be found out and promptly discarded along with my daughter.

You see, I still retain a vaguely posh boarding school accent. My parents, a teacher and a retired Army Major, are stoically middle class. The majority of parents at Ella's state school think I'm posh (in the main, they don't 'speak proper like I does' despite living in Henley and they're mainly blue collar workers or can't be arsed to work). It could be misleading to someone I've just met.

However, I'm married to a plumber, I live in low rent accommodation (albeit in a very posh area) and my approach to housework is lax on a good day and fairly shocking the rest of the time.

Also, thanks to her peer group, Ella now says 'fanks' instead of 'thanks', regularly drops her Ts, favours the word 'innit' and has stopped calling me 'mummy' in favour of 'mum'. I may have slipped down the ranks somewhat since leaving school.

So, during tea with NFM I became concerned that Ella and I may soon be deemed to be decidedly NOCD (
a deplorable yet strangely amusing phrase used by Army officers' wives when assessing new aquaintances, their child's new boyfriend/girlfriend etc meaning 'Not Our Class Darling' - and by implication not to be associated with).

NFM asked that I pick Ella up from her play date slap bang in the middle of Alicia's nap time. Because Alicia, and of course I, had suffered an unusually early start that morning I explained how keen I was to stay at home so Little Liss could have her full nap so please could she send Ella home at noon.

Suspiciously, to me anyway, she offered to drop Ella off instead (it's less than a minute's walk to my house). I casually breezed 'no need to worry, I am happy for Ella to make her own way back' whilst secretly cringeing at the current disarray of my home and garden.

Unfortunately, NFM ignored my preference and turned up at my teeny tiny two bedroom bungalow with her kids and Ella.

Thank god they didn't come to the door but, horrendously, they lingered by the gate - gazing in wide eyed surprise/horror at the knee high grass on my lawn (we've been away for godsake and busy, um, very, very busy), John's white van parked outside and the rolls of old carpet dumped in next door's garden (they're in the middle of redecorating).

To quote that floppy haired chap in Four Weddings and a Funeral Oh f*ck. F*ckity f*ckity f*ck.

On the bright side, J has now mowed the lawn in a fit of shame and I have taken to sweeping the floors once a day (it used to be once a fortnight) - and am contemplating mopping them in the near future. Once I figure out where we keep the mop...

Saturday, 31 July 2010

My Girl's Seven!

On 19th July my darling eldest daughter turned seven. It's such a cliche but I can't believe how quickly she has grown up. I guess if cliches weren't so true and relevant they wouldn't be cliches as no one would say them.

She is such a kind, loving, intelligent, funny, beautiful girl. She makes my heart swell with pride.

Els had a birthday treat with me on Sunday (the day before her birthday). - pony riding at a lovely equestrian centre in Checkendon

and then three of her best gal pals over for junk food and birthday cake.

I couldn't face an actual party due to having a newborn to care for plus the fact that J had a lad's night out in London and wouldn't be around to help until noon. Anyhow, she didn't seem to mind that the celebrations were fairly low key this year.

I nearly made a hash of Nigella's Victoria Sponge recipe (oven too hot) but managed to disguise the obverly brown crust with pink buttercream icing and jelly sweets. The cake was a big hit thank god!

She opened her pressies on Monday (her birthday) before school and then her dad took her and a few friends to the Build a Bear shop in the Oracle. There are distinct advantages in having two families (two birthday celebrations, two Christmasses!).

Monday, 26 July 2010

Birthing Alicia

Hmm, my newborn is now five, nearly six, weeks old and although I've visualised myself many times blogging about her birth - and other events of the last few weeks - I haven't quite managed to act. Shame, as I've now told the story so many times I am no longer gagging to give a blow-by-blow account. However, I do want to record at least an outline of the day, or rather dayS plural, for posterity. So here goes...

I got the birth I'd hoped for. It was a lot longer than I'd imagined but I kept calm throughout, apart from a slightly panicky/'I want to give up' 20 mins towards the end (when I was probably in transition). I also dealt with the pain incredibly well considering a) it bloody hurt way more than I remembered b) I had a LOT of strong contractions over a 27 hour period - although, insultingly, I was only in 'established labour' for 10 hours c) if I stub my toe the whole world knows about it - I would consider my pain threshold to be fairly low.

Yes, not even a toot of gas and air passed my lips. Well, not till afterwards when my nether regions got aquainted with needle and thread. I put this down to the hypnobirthing course and CDs helping me to be relaxed and to deal with the pain without fear, the wonderful nurturing warmth of the birthing pool, and the amazing support of lovely hubby J and fab friend and birthing partner Sarada.

Oh, and I found that blowing on the outbreath, mooing and making low, loud 'ooooh, aahh, eeh' noises helped me cope through the contractions. Unfortunately, my voice is still not quite back to normal as I was quite vocal throughout the 27+ hours and had only just recovered from a rather persistent cold so my poor ole vocal chords took quite a bashing.

The contractions were all in my back and greatly soothed by massage, heat packs and encouraging words. Thankfully, I had a wonderful sense of time distortion which meant my one minute contractions felt like ten seconds and the two or three minute pauses in between became twenty minute rest breaks, so much so that I even fell asleep during them!

J had really set up the sitting room beautifully. He'd cleared some of the furniture to the garden shed to create space, covered the floor with cotton sheets on top of plastic sheeting, set up 12 hours of chillout music on the Ipod (which we had to replay!), inflated and filled the pool, dimmed the lights and had Roman Chamomile essential oil burning in the oil burner. Deeply relaxing.

I was often encouraged by Mary the midwife to get out of the pool and walk around to speed things up (hah!) but much preferred languishing in the warm water and trancing out in my liquid labourland. Around 3am on Thursday morning (17th June, my niece Sulis's birthday) I got out and went to the bedroom, doubled over cushions on the bed and was massaged and soothed by John through a particularly painful set of contractions. Then - at last! - my waters went with a 'pop' and I got back in the pool hugely encouraged by this sign of progress.

A few hours later I was pushing with all my might, contrary to my birth plan and the hypnobirthing exortation to 'breathe your baby out'. No way Jose. I wanted to PUSH and had no faith that breathing would get my little lady to make her entrance into the world. So push I did, and I was surprised to find that this stage was completely pain free and actually quite satisfying. I didn't even experience the 'ring of fire', just a mild stinging sensation as she crowned.

Reaching down to feel her head was a beautiful moment. I was excited and relieved that it would all be over soon. As it turned out, not as soon as I'd have liked. I was pushing hard for about an hour and Alicia was half way out with just her head and shoulders in the water for ages. Luckily, I'd watched quite a few water births on You Tube and knew that babies could hang around in the water for ages without their being any risk of drowning - they don't breathe until they're immersed in air.

So, there I was with my baby half in and half out for quite some time. I started to lose fiath that she would come out at all and in desperation asked 'can someone please just pull her out. I can't do this any more'. Mary asked me to stand up and both midwives helped me out of the pool, as I scissored my legs over the sides the rest of Alicia slid out in a gush and Mary caught her and passed her to me. My slippery little baby! I clung to her and just thought 'thank god she's finally here'.

I looked up into J's eyes and saw..abject fear. Not quite what I was expecting. I noticed the midwives' eyes had also widened in surprise and seconds later I found out why. Mary said, 'Anna, we may have to take you into hospital, you've lost more blood than we would like.' Oh, so that was the gush then. Not actually a gush but a haemorrhage. I had my baby in my arms was still in the floaty world of labourland so this turn of events didn't bother me in the slightest. J however was clearly shocked.

A quick injection in my shaking leg to help clot the blood and I was allowed to stay at home. Yay! Here we are a few minutes later...

A job well done by all!

See my previous post for pictures of Alicia looking distinctly less blue..

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Alicia Lily

My gorgeous daughter, Alicia Lily Higgs, was born at 6am on 17th June at home into water. More about the birth later (it went well, no pain relief thanks to hypnobirthing and the support of my fab birth companions John and Sarada - but it was tough at times and took bloody ages!).

Here are some photos of our little angel...

with big sister Ella...

with mummy and daddy...

milk drunk...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Birth Plan

What with a strong urge to hibernate, even though I'm sleeping better at night now, and an increase in period-like twinges I think Alicia may make an appearance before the weekend.

I can't wait to meet her!

Once she's here (and I'm compos mentis enough to write a post) I thought it would be interesting to compare my hopes for the birth with the reality. So, here's my birth plan:


I have SPD (Pelvic Girdle Pain), and cannot open my legs wider than hip width without discomfort.
Ideally, I plan to have a water birth at home with either no or minimal pain relief e.g. gas and air.
I have been preparing for birth with the Natal Hypnotherapy CD and ask that you use the term ‘surges’ instead of contractions and refrain from discussing pain, hurt or time predictions (ie how long I will take) as I would prefer to listen to my body and not feel under pressure to perform.
Please don’t offer medication or labour enhancing procedures unless requested or there is a danger to myself or the baby. If you think intervention is necessary, please give us half an hour to ourselves to make a decision. Please explain: How it will be helpful. What the risks are. Why you think it must be done now. What might happen if we wait another hour. What the advantages and disadvantages are. This may be a routine procedure, but please explain what other approaches there are.

No artificial rupture of membranes. Minimal vaginal examinations – avoiding lithotomy position due to SPD.
Labour to be allowed to take its natural course without reference to ‘moving things along’ or ‘augmenting labour’. In the event of a slow/resting labour I prefer to use natural oxytocinon stimulation and to have the privacy to do so.
Encouragement to drink regularly and go to the toilet.
Please keep conversation to a minimum and where possible direct questions to my husband (especially in the more serious parts of labour) so I can focus on maintaining a calm, relaxed state. I would prefer no trivial conversation so that I can focus on birthing.
My birthing environment to have dimmed lighting, soft music and hypnobirthing CDs playing.
Minimal, intermittent hand monitoring. Help me avoid feeling observed, keeping my birthing environment calm and private with minimal people, talking and monitoring.
Encourage me to breathe quietly and rhythmically through each surge (contraction), with a long exhalation through the mouth.
Slowly say the words ‘3..2..1..relax Anna’ I have heard this so many times on the natal
hypnotherapy CD and it will trigger me to relax and breathe deeply, facilitating an easier birth.
If I request pain relief, initially please take this as a request for more emotional support and encourage me instead e.g. ‘you’re doing really well’, ‘the surge will be over soon and then you can rest’, ‘you’re strong, you can do this’ etc. If I continue to ask for pain relief despite your emotional support and encouragement, I would prefer to have gas and air and for you and/or my husband to help coach me with breathing (slow and rhythmic breathing, longer outbreaths) and massage. If I
request stronger pain relief then a minimal dose of pethidine to be administered.
I would like the freedom to have the pool temperature regulated to my own comfort, and for you to encourage me to leave and re-enter the pool in the first stage of labour as and when I wish. However, I am happy for you to check both the temperature of the water and my temperature, to make sure that I remain comfortable.

Again, during transition I would appreciate any additional encouragement and emotional support you can give me – reassurance that the baby’s nearly here, I’m doing well etc.
I would like to remain in the pool for waterbirthing. Please do not coach me to push as I will be using mother-directed breathing to allow the natural expulsive pulsations of the body to help the baby descend. I think I will prefer to give birth in a supported kneeling position or on all fours.
Please encourage me to reach down to feel my baby’s head when crowning.
I welcome any help/coaching you can give to ensure my perineum remains intact. Episiotomy only if necessary and use of anaesthetic for this procedure.

Immediate skin-to-skin contact with baby placed on my stomach or chest. No wrapping of baby.
Father to place his hand on baby’s back under warming blanket. Baby to remain with me in the pool for an hour before weighing etc. Encourage me to get baby to suckle a few times to assist with natural placenta delivery.
Cord to be clamped only after pulsation has stopped. Father to cut cord.
Allow vernix to be absorbed into baby’s skin – delay ‘cleaning or rubbing’.
No vitamin K orally or by injection.