Posted tagged ‘postaweek2013’

Mums – where did the time go?

February 23, 2013
Kids get lost in a game. Grown ups clock watch because it's nearly time to eat...

Kids get lost in a game. Grown ups clock watch because it’s nearly time to eat… (I think the dog thinks so too!).

This blog post takes a look at the problems of letting time fly. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see She has also written a parenting book, see  Homemade Kids. More info at

Interviewing a fantastic local activist, see here, recently I was bemoaning how fast time flies past. She claimed this was just something that women with children always complained about. “New mothers put all their focus on the kids and have no time for themselves. They’re the ones who will look up and say where did the years go?”

Now 61, she claims she never wanted her own children – but she’s not anti-kids. She has had plenty of involvement with young people through local activism and teaching at schools. Her wise comment to women who are child-free (or possibly have grown up children) dealing with friends who are pregnant or new mothers is that “You have to shut your mouth for 15 years.”

Another full-time working friend who at 48 has no children tells me how much she loves her nieces. She can treat them, spoil them, borrow them and utterly enjoy their delight in life and growing up – all the pleasures of being around children – but can hand them back too.

Big and small cousins bonding over lunch.

Big and small cousins bonding over lunch.

Now I have daughters who are 14 and 12 I try to encourage them to enjoy being around younger children so they don’t lose the skills of how to play and be in the moment. My daughters are still young enough to lose themselves in a game and not resent the time they spend doing something they love -an attitude it’s pretty hard to maintain if you are an adult on a manic home-life schedule which includes meals for fussy toddlers and hungry juniors every four hours until bedtime. My 14 year old occasionally babysits, something it’s lovely for her to do, but I hope she won’t as a result see being around younger children as something you do just to raise money.

It is strange how in the UK (maybe other places too) if you have children you have a chunk of your life when there’s no time for anything but children, and then when you’ve mastered this juggling they grow up and your skill has to be about letting go of them. Often this means not seeing much of kids any more, which (certainly for me) seems like an incredible loss. I expect it feels like that for many of us – and I’m guessing especially older people.  We all worry about strangers (or dodgy family) abusing our kids and yet at the same time the protection offered by strangers looking out for kids they see in passing on their daily routes/chores is already as good as gone. I’m not sure this is logical!

Over to you
What are your tips about making best use of your time, or trying to help your own children fit in as much experience as possible without running them on a schedule?


Do you love your neighbours?

February 6, 2013

I’m one of the lucky ones – surrounded by great neighbours. Here are some reasons I ought to bake a massive cake to share with my neighbours this Valentine’s Day.  I’ve only picked out six great women, but have a hunch that those of you with small children or kind hearts may be  in a similarly loved up place?  If not here’s hoping you can find a way to make it so. Happy Valentine’s…  For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see or my parenting book, Homemade Kids. More info at

1 PASSING ON OUTGROWN CLOTHES Last tuesday evening I popped over to Sara’s house with a wetsuit and a lovely warm coat that my kids have outgrown. Both had been donated to me by local families and used first by Lola, then by Nell. Now they are able to “enjoy” a third family using them. Literally 10 minutes later Sue rang the doorbell with a bag of clothes donated by her graduate daughter. Without this regular – and unplanned – swapping of clothes we’d all be a) poorer, and b) less well kitted out!

2 SHARING INFO Nicolette lives over the road and runs a regular emailed neighbourhood newsletter that lets 100s of us know what’s up locally. Nicolette has lived here for 17 years, written a biography of the man the street is named after (and at one time was also the name of the pub on the corner too). Here’s info about her book The Plimsoll Sensation: the great campaign to save lives at sea, and here’s an interview that star #4, Jo, did recently with Nicolette on Soundcloud.

3 CARING WITH CAKES AND GARDENING Naomi is a gardener and photographer. She’s got a blog,  Out of my Shed, with zillions of followers and a new book out in March 2013, Veg Street: growing dinner on your doorstep, about how her love of gardening has helped bring the neighbourhood together. I’m a particular fan of her activities not least because my tree pit (a project she encouraged and in summer especially makes the side streets locally look lovely) won a mini cup at last summer’s seed swap and cake tasting shindig.

4 THINKING BIG This is the role taken on by Jo who lives a couple of streets away. Recently her work at Finsbury Park Transition Town has been rewarded with a decent size grant and the opportunity to employ people on various volunteer co-ordinating, gardening and foraging projects close to Manor House tube.

5 LOOKING OUT FOR EACH OTHER When a man tried to break into our home earlier this year someone heard him, and called the police so potential burglary averted. Phew. Even better the next day Sai called round checking we were OK. How lovely. On a more pragmatic level about 12 households are members of a babysitting circle which means it’s possible to go out for an evening without wilting at the £8 an hour babysitting fee. Sorry about this local teenagers.

Here’s how to set up your own babysitting circle so you can go out – if you want – this Valentine’s Day.

Over to you
Besides that significant other who else would you like to say a lovely big thank you to for making life with your children easier and/or more fun?

How are the kids’ new year resolutions going?

January 25, 2013

This blog post takes a look at new year resolutions. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see She has also written a parenting book, see  Homemade Kids. More info at

Ready to surf, even though it's proper winter.

Ready to surf, even though it’s proper winter.

Who will you be in 2013?

Who will you be in 2013?

It’s so wonderful to be dreamy enough to believe in the new year-new you rebirth. But I rarely make new year resolutions. My excuse is that it’s always better to aim to take something up, rather than give it up.

So when Nell, 11, said on a slightly mad New Year’s Eve (everyone was dressed up as something beginning with B*) that she’d like to do more adventurous things during 2013 I was impressed. Not so long ago she used to try to give up yucky broccoli or some other vegetable she had a vendetta against. But this year she started off her adventure persona well, as you can see from the pic showing her ready to swim/body surf in freezing Cornwall on 2 January with friends.

When children have enough nouse to think up something they’d like to work on to improve the quality of their life they deserve a big cheer. After that I think everyone else in the family needs to forget everyone else’s “new year resolution” so that at no point is anyone nagged into their new character. If this doesn’t happen it is too easy for rowing kids or tired adults to take pot shots at often very peculiar fears (eg, scary clowns, the monsters under the bed, eating too much) simply because their “target” suggested  that they wanted to live their life a little differently as the clock ticked off New Year’s Eve.

* Nell’s B outfit was buccanneer. I went as a (polar) bear, but got mistaken as a badger. Pete was Tom Baker as Dr Who (an excuse to offer jelly babies around)…

Over to you
What have your kids given or taken up for the new year – and how did it make you feel as they try to do it, or abandon the cause?

Why’s there so much asthma?

January 17, 2013

This blog post is by Nicola Baird and her daughter Nell. It’s all about their dream to breathe in healthy air. Nicola writes a once-a-week blog about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see She has also written a parenting book, see  Homemade Kids. More info at

Nell sweeping the ground with a stick. For fun!

Nell sweeping the ground with a stick. For fun!

My youngest daughter Nell, 11, has been in hospital twice after her asthma got out of control when she was just 4 and again at 10. Without medication she would have died. Nowadays she takes a preventer puff of steroid twice a day, and when necessary will also take a puff from the blue reliever. She is surprisingly cheery about this, as you can see in this one minute video 

More than 1.1 million kids have asthma in the UK. No one knows why it’s become a national epidemic… but air pollution doesn’t help. The links between fossil fuels and climate change are well known – burning carbon (eg, in gas for central heating or to heat water; or when you drive a car) adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Driving adds other nasties too, including air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sooty particulates.

Not so lovely London
London’s air pollution is hideous. Levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on some of London’s busiest roads are currently over three times the legal limit. Given that, perhaps it is no surprise that the poorer you are in London the more likely you are to live by a massive road, and the more likely you are to die younger.

In December 2012 London Assembly’s health and environment committee pointed out that the long-term health impact of exposure to toxic air pollutants lead to life-shortening lung and heart conditions.

Right now there are more than 4,000 extra deaths each year in London from dirty air (particulates). This costs the economy a staggering £20 billion a year – twice the cost of obesity. Nell lives in Islington where about one in 15 deaths each year  (7.9 per cent) are “attributable to long-term exposure to current levels of anthropogenic particulate air pollution”. Yuck.

Don’t misunderstand: these statistics are not a reason for the lucky families who can buy or rent wherever they choose to escape to the country. They are a reason to ensure every child can breathe healthy air, wherever they live.

Clean up time
Air’s kind of invisible so it looks clean. But blow your nose at Holloway tube by the A1 and inspect the grimy contents or try taking a walk in white coat and gloves (ha ha!) and you’ll see evidence of some gruesome grime. Or just go talk to an asthmatic – anyone with lung disease actually.

Nell cleans up the pavement.

Nell cleans up the pavement.

“I can breathe. Right now I mean,” says Nell. “But I remember how I felt in hospital. Not being able to breathe feels tiring. You want to lie down. You’re all wheezy. And it’s hard to talk.”

When there’s a crisis families are too busy coping to be able to speak out. Nell and I worked on this blog post together when things are calm on the health front in a bid to get more families – from Mumsnet and other blog readers – to do something to tackle air pollution in 2013, the Year of Air. Here’s hoping you can help.

Here’s how to help

  • When you drive always turn off your engine if you are stationary or stuck in a traffic jam
  • Choose petrol over diesel
  • Avoid using your car as a shopping trolley. You could use a buggy, cycle paniers, a granny trolley (rebranded in our home as a “warrior trolley” so Dad doesn’t mind taking a spin to the shops) or opt for a supermarket home delivery.
  • Choose schools that are close to your home so the school run can be easily walked.
  • Sign up to the soon to get going Healthy Air Campaign to voice your support for government  action on air pollution. Some things can only really be effective if we do them together…

5 reasons to enjoy rain

January 15, 2013

This post offers good reasons to enjoy the rain. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children click here or follow this blog.

Singing in the rain room (an art installation where you get to control the flow).

Singing in the rain room (an art installation where you get to control the flow).

1 It makes you sing. From Here comes the rain again to Singing in the Rain there are zillions of classics that make the best of the weather.

2 You miss the rain like an old friend. A friend born in India says his first memory is of the monsoon – how all the kids ran into the street and jumped around screaming with joy when the big rains came. Nell, 11 and Lola, 14, agree – they were willing to queue for two hours at the Barbican to experience Random International’s rain room at the Barbican ( cost free, dates 4 Oct 2012 – 3 Mar 2013). Once in the downpour (like a giant shower except that you control the rain so wherever you walk you don’t get wet) it was amazing to see how everyone reacted with childlike excitement. They smiled, kissed, tried to do little gigs (and sometimes slipped over which made everyone else giggle). Lola whirled around – a dry whirling dervish. In contrast Nell ran trying to defy control and was rewarded by getting very wet.

3 Splashing in puddles is a favourite activity for little people. Let them do it, let them get wet and then change their clothes if you need to do so. Or just organise decent fitting waterproofs to start with.

4 It’s your private orchestra. Try listening under a bus shelter, tent awning, skylight roof and see what you hear. You’ll soon be launching into songs from Les Miserables. “Can you hear the people sing…”

5 It’s life affirming. Rain causes floods, it washes away. It drowns. But in the end it’s life affirming. After the flood there’s the rainbow… even on a saturated farm with 600ha of flooded potato crop.

So what do you feel about hitting?

January 11, 2013
Absolutely no smacking.

Absolutely no smacking.

This post looks at who hits kids and bans them from their beds – thanks to a Pulitzer prizewinner stepping into the debate. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children click here or follow this blog.

I’m not asking if you have ever hit your child, I’m asking what you feel about hitting.  I hate it – not least because the people who hit their children tend to be parents who claim to love their child best. They also tend to be bigger than the kid. So now that my most favourite environmental writer, the super Pulitzer prize-winning Jared Diamond has spelt out that modern children who are smacked are getting a raw deal. I feel families now have a very strong steer – charted through history – as to why smacking should not  be acceptable.

Even if your kids survived it, maybe you could lay off your grandchildren?

It’s not the only aspect of childcare that is a disaster for children, as Diamond says in his new book The World Until Yesterday “probably no infant in human history was ever left to cry itself to sleep in its own crib or bedroom before 10,000 years ago.”  Take note Gina Ford followers.

Jared Diamond has spent many years in Oceania, in particular in remote parts of Papua New Guinea, and he’s seen traditional societies at very close quarters. There children are part of so much, carried around, present – never banished from rooms/weddings/funerals/celebrations.

Writing in the Guardian on 11 January 2013 Diamond says: “The small societies that don’t smack their children differ on average from modern westernised societies in at least seven other features of child-rearing.

  • They carry babies upright and facing forwards, so that babies see where they are being carried.
  • They respond almost instantly to an infant’s crying; they don’t let an infant cry for 10 minutes “to learn self-control”.
  • Responsibility for a group’s children is shared not just by the parents but also among other adults.
  • Children are given far more freedom of choice than western micromanaging parents permit.
  • Infants are held almost constantly
  • … [they aren’t left to cry].
  • And mothers breastfeed children for several years.

I was lucky to live in the next door country to PNG, Solomon Islands from 1990-92 before I had children and was stunned to see children be so much a part of everyone’s life. until then I thought everywhere did “seen but not heard”. I hope the influence has rubbed off to the good on my own parenting styles – it certainly is a mindset that helped underpin this blog with its thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. And the kids are alright (at the mo!).

I’ve even interviewed Jared Diamond after he’d written a previous book, see page 9 in this PDF from Friends of the Earth’s Earthmatters magazine (summer 2005). What a shame I didn’t catch up with him in this book promotional tour. I’d like to ask him a lot about how he hopes to see his ideas of a smack-free society (and plenty more besides, like sustainability, etc) come about.

Over to you?
What are your parenting lode stones? A book, film, feeling or your own familial experience?

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