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glow
Earlier this summer, we spent a week in Puerto de Sóller, Mallorca. From the first day, it was clear that the people of the area are very proud of their oranges (rightfully so, I might add). Taking the expensive, but charming, tram to Sóller, my two eldest were deeply fascinated to see lemons and oranges actually hanging from the branches in the orchards we went past. The next day, I went to the tourist information to ask if they knew of any orchards we could visit so that the children (and I!) could get to see where the oranges grow and possibly pick some. I expected the answer to be something like "yeah, there's lots", but to my surprise the woman behind the woman knew of exactly one: Ecovinyassa. (Carretera Fornalutx, camí de Sa Vinyassa, 07100 Sóller, +34 615 17 27 50) For €10 per person older than 14, we would get a walk around the orchard, a taste of their orange juice, a light snack and some oranges to take home. Children under 14 went for free. My mother and I were definitely going there with the kids.

The orchard is located in Sóller, not too far from the main square. We took the bus from Puerto de Sóller to Sóller, then walked the last distance. With two children aged six and eight walking, and a baby on my back, I'd say the walk took a bit under half an hour. It's a nice walk, not getting a taxi was well worth it. When we arrived at the Ecovinyassa, we were greeted by a man who didn't speak much English. He showed us the way into the orchard, where signs with information were placed next to a path. For us, with two children speaking neither Spanish nor English, this was the perfect guided tour! We could walk at our own pace, translating the signs to the boys when they were interested and just reading on our own when they were not. They enjoyed the beginning of the tour a lot, even if they were a bit disappointed by not being allowed to pick oranges from the trees while we were walking. Free range hens and peacocks caught their interest for quite a while, too. After a while, they tired a bit of the information, but since we were walking on our own rather than listening to a guide, we could handle that first by taking a break, then by walking a bit faster through the last part of the path.

After the walk, it was time for the "orange juice and light snack". My expectations were pretty low, I had pictured us standing there with a small plastic glass in one hand of orange juice and three olives in the other. Oh my, was I wrong! We were seated at a table in the shade of a huge, old tree, and served orange juice and lovely olives as a starter. After the olives came a serving of a vegetarian pizza before a piece of orange cake for each. The children could choose ice cream from the Sóller ice cream factory Sa Fábrica instead of the cake - which they did. After the meal, also got a chance to do something most children can never get enough of: Playing with cute, young kittens.

Everyone, from the baby to the grandmother had a good stay. I can warmly recommend the Ecovinyassa tour to anyone wanting to learn the story behind the oranges in the shops and the juice cartons.


Ecovinyassa

Counting my blessings, #5: Social democracy.

glow
So, we spent last weekend camping in Sweden. Or, more precisely, we spent one night camping and one day and night inspecting the facilities of the emergency department and children's unit of a nearby hospital when the playground fun came to an abrupt end. X-rays, morphine, plaster cast, staying the night ... I was pretty glad that we have a travel insurance.

We didn't need it, though. Children are treated for free.

Social democracy rocks. 
glow
With three children in the house, there is always someone who needs an item of clothing. This morning, as I took the soft, old cotton pajamas of my baby, I realised (again) how grateful I am for all the clothes that have been handed down to us. Washed again and again, they are creamy soft against the children’s skin and traces of questionable chemicals are long since washed out. The clothes are free, and thus part of what allows us both to work a bit less than full time. Oh, and the clothes are either picked up at the homes of or delivered straight to my home by friends or family. That way, I don’t need to spend time and energy going shopping for a myriad of basic items. Instead, I can sit down with a cup of coffee and catch up with the person handing down the clothes.

What’s not to like?

GbgTradgardsq

If you have clothes your children have outgrown that you would like to pass on, but don't have family or friends needing or wanting the clothes, please remember that there are people who need clothes but don't have anyone passing on to them. One organization doing this is  Native Progress, through their Okini Program. I currently have a box packed and ready for shipping to a mother with younger children than mine. I'm grateful for this chance to pay it forward.

Who's feelings is it, anyway?

glow
Wanting to read something, but having just a few minutes on my own, I picked up the first book I found that wasn't either a novel or a children's board book: "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk". I opened it up on a page where I had left a pencil earlier, and read a few pages on from there. The topic just there is talking with children about their feelings. I soon came to a part that struck a chord with me.

One mother said: "I've just begun to realize what unnecessary pressure I've been putting myself under to make sure my kids are happy all the time. I first became aware of how far-gone I was when I found myself trying to scotch-tape a broken pretzel together to stop my four-year-old from crying. I've also begun to realize what a burden I've been putting on the children. Think of it! Not only are they upset about the original problem, but then they get more upset because they see me suffering over their suffering. My mother used to do that to me and I remember feeling so guilty - as if there was something wrong with me for not being happy all the time. I want my kids to know that they're entitled to be miserable, without their mother falling apart."

While I haven't tried taping a pretzel, that may well be because pretzels aren't common where I live. I've sure done some odd jumping through hoops while trying to soothe sore feelings. Have you?

It's been nearly eight years since I first became a mother, eight years where baby carriers have been important tools of the trade to me. I daresay that my parenting style had been a different one had I not picked up my first carriers. Carrying my babies close has allowed me to keep my children close while doing activities that need both hands. Like, well, when I think back to those early baby days, eating. Later, stable chores, getting laundry done with a fussy baby and walking in rough terrain all worked their way into my days far smoother than they could have done if I had to drag a car seat wherever the stroller couldn't go.


My first baby carrier was a hand-me-down BabyBjörn. Some friends had invited us over to look over their baby stuff and see what we wanted to use. I remember seeing the Björn and think that yes!, carrying my baby made all kinds of sense. While riding my horse with my baby in it sounded somewhat dangerous (even if I recalled seeing a woman doing that when I was younger), I could think of several situations where having my baby close and my hands free sounded like a good plan.

Fast forward a few weeks and you can picture me sitting in the maternity ward common room, sore and overwhelmed, listening to information from the resident physiotherapist on things to do and things to avoid. "Baby carriers," she said, "place babies in a position that is so hard on the small baby's skeleton, that they are best avoided until the baby is strong enough to sit up by herself." I remember wondering about what age that would be, but since I didn't want to sound stupid I kept my mouth shut.

Fast forward yet some weeks, it had become clear that we might as well have named our baby "Roo". He wanted to be close to us at nearly all times. When awake, when asleep and most of all when sleepy but not yet sleeping. After fiddling with the BabyBjörn a number of times but putting it down for fear of harming my precious bundle of ... frustration, I decided to give it a short try. Oh joy! While calling it a life saver would be stretching the truth quite a bit, it sure was a sanity saver. My baby was close to me and content, and I had my hands free.

Over the next months, I used the BabyBjörn carrier to wear him down to sleep, to go for walks and to calm him when he was fussy. While calling it a life saver would be stretching it, it certainly was a sanity-saver. It wasn't the most comfortable of carriers, but we were fine. My baby communicated clearly, I could trust him to start squirming a little as soon as the position started to tire him out. I learned that he was comfortable in the carrier for a maximum of 30-45 minutes, and I respected that. Looking at a photo now, though, I can easily see how I had to compensate as much for the weight in front with an infant in the BB as I did with a toddler in a mei tai. So what? He was happy, I was happy and our days worked out nicely. Win, win, win. Later, the BabyBjörn collected dust while other carriers shone, but I'll always think fondly of it for the joy it brought me in the beginning.
Baby in BabyBjörn

Counting my blessings. #3: Tea


Tea is never wrong. It is extra right, though, after finishing my stable chores on an icy day. Blessings_tea 

Counting my blessings. #2: The telly.

glow
Ok, I'll admit it: As much as I think about throwing the telly out as I feel it steals too much time from my children's everyday life, I love that allowing the eldest to snuggle under a duvet on the couch in front of the telly on a Saturday morning allows me to drink a warm cup of tea while catching up with other 'net mamas.
glow
It's time, I think, to revive this journal. By now, I've become a parent of three, I am currently on maternal leave with my third. As I was taking a shower today, I smiled at said third who was lying on the floor looking at me and exploring his hands. How lucky I am this time, to have a baby who actually thinks lying on a towel while I shower is an acceptable - even enjoyable - way of spending a few minutes!

My meandering mothering experience

got my fire back





This was originally meant to be an e-mail to a friend who said she'd like some advice on parenting. Wow. Really? Am I being asked to dispense some advice, rather than stepping on toes because I can't keep my mouth shut? Again: Wow. Thanks.

So, my friend who's not named Penelope, this is largely for you. Here are some of my thoughts on attachment, nappies, baby carriers, feeding, mama monopoly, clothes, sleep ... and whatever else may fall into my head before I decide to stop thinking and start posting.


It takes a village to raise a child

If I should identify one single factor that I feel is making family life unnecessary hard, it is how closed our families are today. Raising children is largely seen as a matter for the parents only. I'm not saying that everything was better in the past. Still, I do believe that the extended families that we see in several parts of the world, and that was the rule even in our cultures up to not all that long ago, have very strong benefits for children and parents both. To quote Alfie Kohn: "Raising kids isn't for wimps." To pull through, we need to share our joys, our frustrations and our responsibilities with others. Sometimes, all I need to get a through a difficult situation is five minutes on the phone with a friend who also has children and know how exasperated we sometimes get. Letting the steam out over a cup of tea, a phone call or a little rant on a web board can help me get it out of the system and making me ready to remember that this too shall pass. And sometimes, I'm so chuffed over a little one's cute comments that I'm just bursting to share. Of course I share both the ups and the downs with my partner, but sometimes a little mother-to-mother chat is just what the doctor ordered.

Use internet with your brain turned on. On their best, the web boards where mothers hang out can create a supportive atmosphere that can be a part of your village. On their worst, they are snarky mothering competitions creating an incessant pressure to do everything flippin' perfect. I've found that the places where a fair share of crunchy granola mamas hang tends to suit me best. While I'm merely slightly semi-crunchy myself (more a chocolate bar with almonds and raisins than a Crunchie), I've co-slept, breastfed for rather a while and been carrying my babies rather a lot. These are decisions I cannot be bothered to keep defending, so I've sought out haunts where those things are acceptable to most. I also prefer hangouts where the average member is prone to good spelling. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Tara Maclay I tend to get frustrated by repeated bouts of bad spelling.

I'm sure having more adults around is good for the children as well. It gives them more role models, other glasses to see the world through. Sure, they will meet such people through childcare and school, but I think adding more adults that we, the parents, know and respect to the mix on a frequent basis gives our children something very healthy. Aunts, uncles, grandparents and family friends can take on a much more personal role in a child's life if they are able to take part in the child's everyday life from time to time. The trust gained from this can be very good to have when a chubby baby suddenly has stretched into adolescence. Even if we, the parents, are at the centre of their world just now, there are days ahead when a talk in confidence with an adult who is not one of the parents can do our children a world of good.

Healthy attachment

When my eldest was born, I did not know that there was something called "Attachment parenting", or AP. I noticed, though, that a lot of what seemed right for our child was against the book. That is, against the wee, heavily sponsored paperback I got at the maternity ward before leaving the hospital. Co-sleeping was at that point heavily advised against due to the correlation between co-sleeping and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Now, SIDS is something most modern parents more or less fear. Of course we do - losing a child must be an absolute nightmare. It soon became clear, though, that our little, newborn boy had such a strong need to feel close to us that we had the choice between co-sleeping or no sleeping. And in the long run, no sleeping pretty much sucks. So we ended up as co-sleepers, without really knowing that there was such a word. During the day time, I spent a lot of time carrying him or keeping him close to me in his rocking chair. In the evenings, he often fell asleep between us in the corner of our couch. Those nights we'd just keep him with us until we were headed for bed ourselves. He wasn't a very fussy baby, but he was a baby with a strong need to be close to us for a great deal of the day. That was right for him, and I believe that we have made life easier for him and for us by responding to his needs.

There is no such thing as spoiling an infant by giving too much TLC. Don't ever let anyone talk you out of keeping your baby close to you when you want to. Cuddle. Carry. Breastfeed if you can. Sleep in the same room, or in the same bed. There is no such thing as spoiling an infant by giving too much TLC, so don't be afraid that responding to your baby's needs will create a clingy, or needy child. Mind you, I'm not guaranteeing that you won't feel like your child is clingy and needy at times, actually I'll guarantee that you WILL feel like that every now and again, sometimes for longer than you think you can bear, but it will not be the closeness to you that creates it. There is no such thing as spoiling an infant by giving too much TLC.

I'm not into parenting by labels. In my day to day life I don't think: «What's the AP thing to do?» I do what I feel is right, supporting that feel by literature and discussions whith others when I realise that my gut feeling is inadequate. I did invent my own label on a lark when my eldest was just a few months – natural mumkidship – but that probably makes more sense to my fellow horsey mothers than to anyone else.

Baby carriers

To me, having some decent baby carriers has been the be-all and end-all of my transition from happy-go-lucky horsey gal to happy-go-lucky horsey mama. I love being able to choose the stairs rather than the elevator when I'm shopping, to go for a walk on a forest path, not having to wait for the special luggage to show up on the conveyor belt when we're travelling, being able to get on and off a train without help … I love getting around without a pram, plain and simply. Anyone who's ever walked up a steep Edinburgh close can see that while baby buggies are an excellent invention, they do have their limitations.

A comfortable baby carrier makes multitasking easier. I can't even begin to count the times I've made supper, done the dishes, fetched the mail, gone for a walk, surfed the web or eaten a meal with a baby in a sling. I love not being forced to choose between responding to a child's need for me and my own need to do something else. Once, someone asked me if I didn't feel tied down by having my baby on me so much of the time. It's been quite the opposite: My baby carriers has allowed me to feel me, feel free. 



Clothes

Don't buy too many tiny clothes. You can not imagine how fast they outgrow them. Also, you will not know what you like and find practical before you've tried this parenting stuff. A few hints on the way to the shops, though: Washability and ease of use. If a garment isn't washable and easy to get on and off, you won't use it.

Feeding

You know, there's SO much that can be said about breast and bottle that I think I'll keep this really, really short: If you can breastfeed, I'd advice you to give it a try. It's so much more practical than bottle feeding. If you want me to write at length about the ups and downs of breastfeeding for more months in a row than you can probably imagine just now, let me know. Ok?

Nappies

We started using cloth nappies on our eldest when he was nine months old, and never really looked back. For us, cloth nappies was a reliable, practical alternative to getting a bigger rubbish bin. I never found the work involved with washing and hanging to dry any more or less of a hassle than getting disposable nappies into and out of the house. Besides, cloth nappies are nicer, cuter and come in funky colours. If someone out there wants a more detailed post on how to succeed with cloth, let me know. I'll be happy to write down what I've figured out if it is of use to anyone.

 


Good luck. It'll be the most challenging, most exasperating, most fascinating task you've ever taken on.

Oh. Exasperation. Well. I'll have to come back to that. I promise I will, because at some point I can promise you that you will feel more desperate than you've ever done before in your life. We all do. But you'll be fine, I promise.

Top Mom™? Not this mom, anyway.

got my fire back
 In the September issue of US Vogue, there is a feature on Gwyneth Paltrow and her upcoming cookbook. Now, I’m neither a foodie nor a particularly avid fan of Ms Paltrow, but when I treat myself to a magazine I tend to read most of it no matter the topic. As long as the writer is a good wordsmith, I’ll read just about anything.

Gwyneth Paltrow, from VogueSuddenly, therefore, I found myself face-to-face with an extremely polished Gwyneth in an extremely polished kitchen with the slightest hints of family life strewn around in a fake-messed up fashion.  The text on the picture read “Top Mom”.  Is this, then, what a mama should aspire to in the A/W of 2010? If that is so, please count me out.  My life is strewn with sticky fingerprints, knife marks in the kitchen table, pastel chalk drawings on the door (of the unwanted kind) and practical clothes. I am un-bloody-believably messy, and have a temper to match the red hair I was not born with but still love to have.  I can cook decently on a need-to-do basis, and sew an acceptable children’s garment when I want to, but topmomship is miles away from what I feel is attainable. Stretching after the polishedness of a smiling Gwyneth doesn’t as much inspire me as it does intimidate me.

Tomorrow, I’ll wear my Batman top with my favourite pair of little brother jeans (y’know, like boyfriend jeans only it’s my not-so-little brother who’s handed them down) and see the look in my five-year-old’s eyes. I may not be a Top Mom™, but I can be quite the cool mama. 

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got my fire back
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