Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Dad Question

"Is his Dad good with him?" the woman asked me innocently. "Oskar has two Mummies," I replied, "but yes she's amazing. Oskar adores her". There it was, out in the open at baby music class. Oskar has two mummies. I have a wife. I'm homosexual. 
In the 21st century coming out doesn't seem like such a big deal as it did when we were teenagers. I can remember walking down the street with my very first girlfriend, aged 16, and being shouted at approximately every 10 minutes for being "lesbos". Back then it was still considered an awful, disgusting thing to be. Nowadays acceptance is much higher of course, we have gay marriage, we have equal rights for same sex parents including being able to both be on the birth certificate, and most fertility clinics welcome lesbian couples with open arms (the cynic in me says this is because this healthy fertile population of women who just need sperm makes their success rates seem higher). There are gay families on TV, in adverts, in magazines. It is seen as a different sense of normal, far removed from the seedy, negative image people previously had. 

But there is something about telling people Oskar has two mummies that used to make me hesitate. I have never, ever been ashamed to tell people of my sexuality. It is a part of me, as much as my red hair and my curvy body and my love for sandwiches, it makes me up to being who I am, and I am proud of that. Even more than being proud of who I am, and I am ridiculously proud of who my wife is, who my son's mother is. But at the same time I desperately understand how it feels to be judged and not accepted for something you have no control over, and I desperately don't want that for my son. 

I never want him to feel different, apart from in the way that it makes him unique and he should be proud of that. I never want him to hesitate when people ask about his Dad, unsure of their response when he says he's got two Mums, I never want him to feel what it's like to be isolated and alone because of who you are or how your family is made up. I guess I want more than anything for him to live in a world where it is as normal to have two mummies as it is to only have a daddy, or one of each, or live with your Grandparents, where every single family is seen as as normal and as equal as the other. 
So right there, as I outed myself to our music class, I also made a promise to my son. I will never ever hesitate again when I say he has two mummies and when people ask me about his Dad I will tell them about his Mum. Not his "other" Mum, his Mum, as equal and as important as me. His Mum is amazing, she is smart and funny and beautiful and kind and courageous and he adores her. I want him to learn from me, and others to learn from him. When we sing "hide your eyes from Mummy, hide your eyes from little you, hide your eyes from Daddy" we just replace Daddy with Mama, or sometimes just Mummy again, and I sing it loudly and without hesitation. The wheels on the bus has the phrase "Mummies on the bus say I love you" and then "the Daddies on the bus say I love you too". So again I Sing Mummy and then Mummy again. 

I have felt it on the other side too. Sarah is not his "other" parent because I gave birth to him, we are both his mothers, we are equal. She often is the one who holds in the sling, or pushes his pram when out. And all of a sudden I become the other parent, and sometimes I become invisible. People stop her and talk about what a beautiful little boy he is, ask her how old he is, if he's a good sleeper etc etc, and sometimes just glance over at me, assuming I'm her friend or her sister. And I want to tell them, there and then, I'm his mummy too, I got up last night 376 times to breastfeed him, I bathed him this morning and held him tight whilst rocking him to sleep. But people just don't seem to see it. Woman + child = mother. Woman + woman + child = ?

Maybe the route to the world seeing families like ours for what they are - normal, gorgeous examples of love is for us to live the changes we want to see. Maybe if we are out, at the park, in music class, walking the dog, going shopping, going on holiday, maybe when people stop us and ask about him, assuming whichever one is pushing him is his Mum and correcting them, then people will start to realise that love makes a family, not blood. Oskar might not have a Dad, but he has two wonderful Mummies who love him more than life itself, and I hope as he grows up he is as proud of that as we are.

Monday, 21 November 2016

A basket full of treasure

In the beginning Oskar was drawn to light and dark, black and white, so we spent time looking at black and white toys, we made him a light box and bought him a star projector that he would happily watch for a while. We read him books that had big white pages and black writing with simple illustrations and we made shadow puppets on the wall for him which fascinated and enthralled him. 

As he got bigger and stronger he started to understand that he could participate in our games and began to hit and touch and grasp his toys. And then began to want to taste them too, so began the everything in to his mouth phase. 

Like most curious five month old babies, Oskar has suddenly started to take an interest in the world around him. He wants to grasp everything in sight, he wants to feel it, sense it, and put it in his mouth to taste it. He is starting to understand the concept of distance, of things going under, over and behind other things. He is beginning to make connections between the action and the consequence, like the shaking of a rattle or banging of a spoon on a table. 


With this in mind I have spent the past week or so developing a treasure basket for Oskar, for him to explore while we play. The idea behind a treasure basket is that at their own pace, babies can explore a variety of textures, shapes and colours, as well as the noise and taste of various objects. It stems from the Montessori style of play, something we are both very interested in. 


The great thing about a treasure basket is that the things it contains are not expensive or difficult to find. Most people use everyday objects from around the home, we chose to add in some other objects that we knew Oskar would enjoy exploring, sourced from simple high street shops and online. 


Our treasure basket currently looks like this... 


Within it are some bells which Oskar loves to play with and often reaches for first, a baby hairbrush with a solid plastic handle and soft bristles, a jelly ball filled with amazing pink glitter which sparkles as you roll it, great for showing him perception of distance - he likes to watch it roll away and then gets very excited when it rolls back again! There are a few wooden grasping toys of various shapes and colours, good for tactile exploration and understanding the idea of passing an object between two hands. There are some measuring spoons which he loves to bang on surfaces and a pine cone which is a completely different texture all of its own. And finally some fabric rose petals, which we throw up in the air and watch as they come floating down over our heads.  


The great thing about treasure baskets is that the items can be easily swapped out for another as your child grows and learns and understands more about the world around him. With Christmas approaching we plan to swap out some of the items for more Christmas themed ones such as tinsel and a shiny bauble!


But for now, Oskar certainly seems to be enjoying his basket of treasure! 



Monday, 14 November 2016

The weaning diaries: preparation

If you would've asked me four weeks ago if I was looking forward to weaning Oskar I would've said no, absolutely not. But now, I guess I am. Oskar is 23 weeks old, so according to NHS guidelines, we can begin to wean him on to food in approximately 3 weeks time. Three weeks! 


A month or so ago Oskar still seemed so tiny, so much more newborn like than he does now. In a really short space of time he has gained strength, he has started trying really hard to sit up, he has really perfected reaching for something, grasping it and putting it to his mouth, rarely missing or dropping it. His eyes examine us as we ourselves eat our dinner, his mouth copies ours in a chewing motion. You can see his little brain working hard to understand; what is this they have on their plates? How do they make it disappear like that? Maybe I could try this too? So now, I guess, I'm feeling ready, but I guess he is too. 


We always knew we would wean Oskar the baby led route, but we didn't entirely know why. Just that it seems to follow common sense principles, avoid purees and spoon feeding and allows the baby more control. But the first thing we did in preparation for weaning was to buy Gill Rapley's baby led weaning book, which talks about how to go about this approach. For us it makes so much sense - babies are naturally designed to reach a point where their gross motor skills such as sitting and grasping are refined enough for them to feed themselves. In addition their jaw shape changes to allow them to be able to swallow food, as milk-fed infants have a protective mechanism whereby their tongue pushes out anything solid, to protect from choking, if their bodies aren't ready for food. The book resonated with us, in our beliefs, and our approach to baby led, natural, instinctive parenting, and we agreed that we are both wanting to take this approach. Babies weren't designed to sit and be fed spoon after spoon of pureed vegetables in our opinion! 

The basic idea is to offer your child food off your plate as you eat, and allow them to choose what to eat and how much right from the off. Food should be easy for them to grasp to begin with, such as a stick of carrot or a sliced bit of cheese, but not puréed or mushed. Milk continues to be the main form of nutrition until they are one, in the beginning, it is more about discovering the taste, texture and feel of foods, and learning how to eat.


So having armed ourself with the basic knowledge we need regarding baby led weaning, in the past couple of weeks we have also started to gather a few items which we hope will assist us in our weaning journey. 


Firstly, we bought a high chair. A basic, foldable, easy to clean highchair. We assembled it and put Oskar in - only to find he is too small and can't reach the tray! 

After seeking some advice from the baby led weaning Facebook group, we have taken it back and have bought the Ikea antilop! He was so happy to be able to sit in their while we cooked though, playing and chatting and giggling away, I think he will like sitting in his new chair for meals. 


Next we bought a new set of cheeky wipes. We already have a full set that we use for nappy changing time, but wanted a new set to keep downstairs specifically for cleaning him up after meal times. We have been advised baby led weaning can be rather messy! We opted for the gorgeously soft rainbow coloured microfibre wipes. 

Finally, we have bought a couple of cover all bibs from Close Parent, an ethically sourced, small UK run brand who specialise in gorgeous baby carriers, slings, reusable nappies and more. We think Oskar looks quite pleased with his camper van bib! 



So there we have it, we feel as prepared as we are ever going to, and despite wanting him to be our tiny boy forever, we are excited to begin a new chapter. Weaning, here we come! 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Getting in the (festive) spirit!

As someone who works in a retail environment (albeit not as a sales person), I am in the midst of Christmas for a long time, with our Christmas stock arriving into stock rooms at the start of September, sometimes end of August! Our winter stock starts to go out in September/October, then the start of November is officially all systems go for Christmas in retail. And I love it! I love that the start of November may bring cold weather and dark days, but in the spirit of hygge, there are cosy memories and traditions to be enjoyed everywhere you look! 

We have started to think about how we will spend Christmas, what we will eat, and what gifts we will buy. We are so excited it will be our son's first Christmas, and our first as a family! As our boy will only be 6 months old, we aren't buying him mountains of presents, but instead making memories and traditions we will hopefully continue for many years to come, when he is a bit more aware of what's going on! 
It seems surreal to think our Christmas last year looked like this! 

But as the festive season is officially here, here are the things that always get us well into the festive spirit. 

Red Cups

The Starbucks Christmas drinks arrive at the start of November, with the famous red cups arriving not long after. As fans of Starbucks since we were teenagers, the sight of the bright red cups definitely is a lovely cosy piece of Christmas tradition. We love toffee nut lattes but the gingerbread latte to us tastes like warming your hands with pretty red cups that shout 'Christmas is coming' whilst Christmas shopping and admiring our city's lights, or drives home from work chatting about what we'll eat, buy and do over the festive season. This years cup features different hand drawn designs, and are so pretty!



The city centre - Christmas lights, shop windows and the German market

We love fairy lights whatever the season (and unsurprisingly, our son loves them too!) so having beautiful lights everywhere you look, inside and out, is great! 



We have seen some beautiful shop windows, with John Lewis being the winner for us this year. It has a woodland theme complete with snow topped tree, which we adore, and lots of festive sparkle! 
The lights are also on in our home town of Birmingham, and as I get to work early in the morning, my favourite part of my work day is walking through the empty shopping centre admiring all the lights before anyone else! 


In years past, Birmingham had an annual Christmas parade to mark the light switch on, which we always attended with Sarah's family, getting Christmas drinks afterwards, but sadly the parade ceased to exist a few years ago!


Now the lights coming on usually coincides with the city's German Market, which starts next week. Like many life-long Birmingham residents, we have a love/hate relationship with the German market! On one hand, since Birmingham has been targeted more at tourists and attracting Londoners to spend their money here, the German market has become somewhere that seems permanently like a giant sardine tin, which has queue barriers, crowds directed by loud-speakers, and something that causes a headache if you want to get from A to B and the market is in your path! But if you don't mind crowds, or manage to avoid them, it's pretty, signals the festive season, and brings back lovely memories of wandering round the stalls with a mulled wine in the cold enjoying the sights. We have lovely memories of evenings there with family, friends, and each other.






Christmas music

We don't start playing this at home or in the car until quite close to Christmas, but shops start playing it early November. The store in which I work doesn't start playing Christmas music until mid November - it feels late enough to not feel strange and 'too early', and I love the music our store plays anyway, so the Christmas choices we play are lovely! 

The Christmas ads!

There's that lovely feeling you get when you're snuggled up at home and then the excitement of a Christmas ad first being shown! 
Here are our favourite this year:

John Lewis


Although John Lewis is the one everyone seems to anticipate the most, it often divides opinion! The choice of soundtrack is always beautiful, but last years story was a little too sad for us! 
This year features a girl jumping on her bed, whilst her Dad secretly builds her a trampoline outside in the snow. When night falls, two foxes decide to try out the trampoline for themselves (we LOVE foxes so loved this part!) and are soon joined by a host of woodland animals who also want to try out the trampoline! They are watched with annoyance and jealousy by the family boxer dog, who upon the little girl going outside and gasping at her trampoline on Christmas morning, barges her out of the way to have a good old jump around himself! Some people have said it's not Christmassy, which we can kiiiiind of understand, but Sarah in particular really likes it, as an animal lover and especially a dog lover, it really made her smile, and the boxer dog made her laugh out loud! The music is also lovely - a cover by Vaults of One Day I'll Fly Away. 

Waitrose



This beautifully shot advert shows the importance of togetherness at Christmas, with a robin showing no interest in a mince pie, then going on an epic adventure until he (or she!) finds another robin to share it with. Beautiful message, beautiful advert!

Aldi



A surprising choice but we really liked this one! It's cute, it's entertaining to watch as it tells a story, and it's Christmassy! It shows the journey of a 'little carrot who liked to believe' who wants to see Santa, so goes on an adventure across the dinner table to get to the fire place, and ends up leading Santa's sleigh through the sky! We liked the magical message of this one, it feels very Christmas spirited - we believe too, little carrot!

Marks & Spencer



This one may actually be our favourite, and dare we say it, better than John Lewis'!
This beautifully shot ad shows Santa being waved off to work by Mrs Claus, and once he's left, we see that it's actually Mrs Claus who makes sure everything goes to plan! (No surprises there then!) 
It's shows the story of Mrs Claus reading a late-received letter to Santa, and making a child's wish come true (the whole thing looks AMAZING - think Bond movie style shots of beautiful scenery with red helicopters and snowy mountains!) before returning home to snuggle up with a book, then greeting her unsuspecting husband with a cuddle. It bought a tears to our eyes, looks so beautiful, has a lovely story in the wish of the young boy, and we love the Clauses example of being very much in love and being a great team! Plus our new hero Mrs Claus looks amazing - all cable knit jumpers, cashmere socks, and stunning red coats!

So there you go, a round up of all things that are making us feel festive at the moment! We'd love to hear yours, or what your thoughts on the Christmas ads are! 


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Halloween and how to hygge

We wrote a post over the summer (it was in fact last summer, which shows how fast time goes when you have a baby!) about enjoying time outside wherever you can (even in English weather!), and we recently were thinking about how important it is to enjoy each season for the unique benefits it brings.
So now we are in our favourite season, Autumn, we thought what better time to write about enjoying the seasons, from the view point of a different one!

The Danish word 'hygge' has been rapidly growing in popularity lately, with magazines and newspapers writing articles on it, and it becoming a buzz word in home decor, Sarah's line of work. 
As big fans of Scandinavian and Nordic culture, we had to investigate further. 

But what the heck is hyyge? Ah, well that's the tricky part.
'Hygge' (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish concept, and has no translation to an English equivalent. It is said that hygge is not meant to be described, it is meant to be felt, but the closest translation is probably 'cosiness'. It is the Danish tradition of enjoying warmth and  life's little pleasures. Curling up by the fire with a good book whilst enjoying a coffee, being bundled up in a favourite scarf arriving at a warm house, enjoying good food sat around the table with family...think along these lines and you're getting the picture!

Autumn, in the U.K., of course brings colder weather, with the average temperature for October being between 7 and 14 degrees Celsius on average, with daylight hours between around 7am and 6pm. So autumn, and winter, in the U.K. are the perfect time to get into the spirit of hyyge. 

Various articles describe 'how to hygge', with an article in InStyle magazine interviewing Mette Hay, co-founder of renowned Danish design house Hay -
“When I think of hygge, I often think of food, wine, or hot drinks. But even though it might be great fun, hygge is not a word to describe a wild party. It's more about quiet evenings or mornings with the people you love and care for. It's also about creating the right atmosphere,” she explains. Hay conjures hygge in her workspace and home by “lighting a candle, turning down the lights, or making a cup of tea—preferably in front of a fire." 
Candles, a blanket, comforting food and drinks, and either happy in your own company, or with loved people seem to be the hyyge way -although of course everyone has their own  idea of cosy! But hyyge isn't about following a list -  Hyyge has no competitiveness, just simplicity.

Our ways of enjoying autumn and winter through hyyge follow this path, although learning about our favourite cultures love for hyyge has definitely inspired us to invest in it more!

Candles
Denmark is the worlds biggest consumer of candles - a nation after our own hearts! We have candles lit most evenings, we love the warm, cosy atmosphere, and favour heavily scented ones. 

Tea & coffee
I'm sure tea and coffee runs through our veins, we love them both so much! 





Walks
We've always loved walks, with nearby Canon Hill Park in Birmingham being a regularly visited space, or just around our neighbourhood. We were joined over the years by our pup and our son! We love admiring the blossom in spring and enjoying the warmth in summer, but autumn brings a refreshing chill and the excuse to wrap up in cosy coats and scarves, and admire the colours of the falling leaves rustling under your boots!

Enjoying the season  
Autumn brings changing colours and falling leaves - there are few things more beautiful in our eyes than golden leaves on every tree. We are extremely lucky to live in a beautiful non vehicle access street that really shows the seasons. We look out only onto trees, and it's impossible not to be cheered up by a view solely of natures colours. 



Cold weather = comfort food!
 Lauren loves making soups, casseroles, bread, and pies from scratch, sometimes we pick the fruit ourselves too! And what could feel more hygge than snuggling up with your loved ones with a bowl of delicous home made food?


Autumn also brings Halloween! We have decorated for many years, and are happy that the rest of England seems to be catching up with us and our love of Halloween! We love everything pumpkin, even visiting a small patch on a farm each year, and watching (not too scary) movies.


 This year was our first Halloween as a family, and it was wonderful to visit the pumpkin patch this time with a little one - Oskar certainly looked the part for the whole of Halloween week! 






There are many other moments that being hygge into our lives - snuggling up on the sofa and watching a box set, Sunday cuddles and coffee, wrapped up warm looking at Christmas lights with a Starbucks red cup, or our families annual party on Boxing Day, but we aim to bring hygge into our lives even more than we do now. Plus it's a great way to turn the cold dark days and nights into something beautiful - snuggly candlelit times with your favourite people. 

Simplicity, comfort, togetherness and cosiness are things we always try and fill our lives with - happy hygge-ing!


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