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Restuffing a stuffed animal: Moomoo never dies

TweetI think my daughter, at age 9, is getting all grown up. She told me recently, “Mummy, I don’t play ‘school’ anymore. I’m too old.” But then we have an exchange like this, about a favourite stuffed animal she received when she was 4 months old: “Mummy, I don’t want Moomoo to die,” she said, her eyes bright with tears. “She’s a stuffed animal,” I said. “She can’t die.” “You know what I mean. I want to have her forever.” She squeezed Moomoo close, which causes a little shower of round stuffing pellets to fall out. “Don’t worry, that won’t happen,” I told her. “But what if it does? She’s losing all her stuffing.” “We’ll get more stuffing.” “But she it keeps coming out of this hole. I don’t ever want her to die.” What are you going to do as a parent when this kind of thing happens? You know what you do: You endeavor to make sure Moomoo never does die. But this turned out to be harder than I thought. Moomoo is made of that slinky material that snags like pantyhose. She’s filled not with regular filling beads like the kind in beanbags, but with supertiny versions of it. These are not easy to find on the Internet. I ordered 1 cubic foot of polystyrene microbeads. They don’t arrive. I email the company and they respond by immediately sending out another bag (thank you, Custompac!). It arrives safely. Then surgery begins: I make an inch-long incision through which beads immediately pour out. My daughter and I create a makeshift funnel, through which we try to scoop in microbeads, using my favourite I ♥ New York. The sofa and rug become a Milky Way of tiny white dots. But gradually Moomoo fills out, gets fatter. My daughter debates how re-stuffed she wants her to be. Eventually we achieve maximum squeezability, the perfect cuddle ratio. I close the hole with two rows of stitches, strong enough to hold back grown-up years for a while longer....

The problem with thank you cards

TweetThe gifts are unwrapped, the leftovers are in the fridge covered in foil, and Christmas songs have lost their lustre. That means only one thing in our house: the race to complete thank you cards is on. On my husband’s side of the family, we draw names and everyone buys one “big” present for someone else. This is good, since there are 5 siblings along with their partners and children. That also in theory reduces the number of thank you cards to be written. In practice, granny can’t resist giving the grandchildren something, Auntie R. and the kids always like to exchange a little something. And on my side of the family it’s a gift-giving free for all, which means cards galore. Writing thank you cards is a good practice for children, helping focus their little minds on the giver as much as the gift. While my family aren’t big thank you card-writers, occasions like anniversaries, weddings, new babies and the like merit them. In my husband’s family, it’s considered a basic tenet of good breeding and not to be overlooked at any time. There’s so much emphasis on them, I always feel the clock ticking. The card mustn’t arrive too late – almost as bad as not arriving at all. But then a part of me thinks, if the card is just a pro forma gesture, is it really sharing a heartfelt thank you at all? If you haven’t had time to wear, use or appreciate the gift before sitting down with pen and card, are you simply ticking a self-serving box that merely reflects on the writer’s demonstrating good manners? Then again, what’s wrong with demonstrating good manners, the way we do everyday when we say ‘please’ and ‘how are you’? All this back-and-forth inner dialogue has meant thank you notes in our house tend to either be written and sent before the wrapping paper hits the floor, or they languish without stamp or address for weeks on end. My copy of The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (yes, I do have one) has advice for parents. Start children writing notes from age 6, with the parent drafting a simple message the child can copy. Weirdly, it gives this example: “Dear Aunt Nancy, Thank you for the magic set. It’s the best present ever. Love, Oliver”, which seems to me an over-the-top description of a magic set from dear old Aunt Nancy who probably doesn’t know that Oliver has totally grown out of that whole magic...

Join #healing4kerry to share prayers

Tweet Usually on this blog I write about travel, expat life or London. Today however I’m going to write about Kerry from Multiple Mummy. Earlier this year Kerry experienced a brain hermorrhage and recently experienced a setback that’s affected her rehabilitation. She’s battling to regain the ability to give hand squeezes and as her husband has posted on her blog, there is limited response on family visits. It’s hard for me to imagine the struggle for her family and close friends. The blogging community has rallied around Kerry – those who knew her well as well as those, like me, knew her only by reputation and through her blog.There’s been a true sense of fellowship and community and over the past several months we’ve relied on updates from Kerry’s husband and blogging friends to keep tabs and hear how they coping. We are all praying that Kerry will be home for Christmas, back with her husband and young children. Liska at New Mum Online has organised a blog hop for showing our support and sharing our prayers for Multiple Mummy and her family. Tonight at 10pm like many others I will be tweeting #healing4kerry. Do join in to show you support and love. Read more about these activities. You can also add your link here:  ...

How do you pack for a life-changing trip? #ONEMums

TweetYou could say I’m a great packer, if only because of the amount of stuff I cram into a suitcase. I never want to be caught without a cardigan/the “right” jeans/my trusty swimcap. That means that I lug 26 kilos of shoes and shirts around the world and wear a fraction of them. Now, preparing for my trip with ONE.org, for the first time I’m facing a whole new raft of challenges. On Saturday I leave for Ethiopia with Michelle (@MichelleTwinMum) and a group of US bloggers and the ONE team to visit Ethiopia. ONE is a “nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.” We’ll be there tell and amplify the stories of the people and organisations that are making a difference on the ground. We’re there to show how the foreign aid our government pledges to Ethiopia is spent. ONE is not a charity or fund-raising organisation; it wants you to add your voice to the discussion. Our mission is high-minded, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I have to have something to wear. I’ve bought anti-mosquito trousers. I’ve raided my wardrobe for long-sleeved shirts to guard against the sun and long skirts to observe the customs. I’ve also gotten my yellow fever and hepatitis jabs and stocked up on (very expensive) malaria drugs. While the inner debate between the red patent heels or the black flats has been quietened this time (I’m pulled out my old hiking boats instead), I’m becoming more and more anxious about what to put in. I think that’s less about whether to take the blue striped shirt and more about embarking with the right frame of mind. I’ve never been to Africa before, so I’m excited about the pure experience of being plunked down in a vibrant, exotically different culture. That in and of itself will be mind-blowing. But I won’t be there as a tourist. I’ve talked to several bloggers who’ve traveled to other countries to shine the spotlight on issues of women and children’s health, and anti-poverty programmes, and they all talk about how the experience shifted their world view. They developed a greater understanding not only of the world but of how people cope, human nature and even themselves. Right now, sitting in my bedroom trying to decide how many pairs of sock to take, I don’t think I can anticipate how this trip will affect me. I feel lucky to be one of the people there to...

The Joy of Swimming

Tweet   On BritMums we’ve just launched our Joy of Swimming Linky Challenge, sponsored by British Gas. You could win a year-long family pass to theme parks and zoos or £250 to spend in JJB Sports. While as a founder of BritMums I can’t compete, I love this theme. The smell of chlorine and the percussive sound of a bellyflop transport me to summers in Texas. The cement around the swimming pool turns skillet-hot, and there’s a delicious moment when you’re airbourne, anticipating the plunge into the diamond-studded water. Our children’s love of swimming pools knows no bounds – sometimes we swim twice a day, doing funny midair poses en route to the deep end, making 4-person high totem poles (the 8-year-old on the 13-year-old’s shoulders, who’s on my shoulders and I’m on my husband’s shoulders), and playing that oldie but goodie Marco Polo. A summer without swimming is inconceivable. Not least of all because the kids wouldn’t let us get away with it. What memories do you have about swimming? Get ready for the season and post what you love about swimming and include your link in the challenge. It’s fun! There are prizes! Plus, British Gas is offering every family (not just customers) a free swim this summer. Check out the Challenge to claim yours!...

How to make and print your own advent calendar

TweetInstead of the usual store-bought advent calendar with chocolate in it, I decided to make a personalised one this year featuring pictures of the family and past Christmases. I did this for the Kodak #printerprojects Christmas challenge – post a picture for the Linky challenge and you could win a camera or a printer package. There’s still time to take part if you enter today! This video describes how I did it, using this advent calendar template.    ...

The truth about teaching children to knit

TweetBecause our parents lived through our own childhoods and then endured those years when we thought they didn’t know anything, the grandparent years must be a rich time. It’s when they can spoil your kids, reverse your decisions whenever your bring your brood to their house, and hand over a big bag of sweeties just as you’re getting in the car to spend a glorious Sunday afternoon on the M4 to London.I bet they cackle into their sherry every time. But my mother-in-law’s latest gesture reveals a diabolic sense of recompense – she has sent my daughter a knitting kit. After spending a weekend learning at granny’s, my daughter has decided she loves knitting. “Polly knits,” she tells me, mentioning another child she plays with at granny’s, looking at me meaningfully. “Does Izzy knit?” she wonders, naming a favourite cousin. Granny of course knits, as do the aunts and probably loads of other people but not mummy. Which is why this particular type of “fun” has been greeted with tears, tantrums and a lip bitten so hard it’s bled. And that’s just me. Because I can tell you that while knitters say picking it up is so easy, they are a bunch of yarn-toting liars. Reminding/teaching a child to knit is difficult even in the Internet age. My husband and I have spent the afternoon looking at countless videos and how to knit pages, few of which can answer questions I’d never even conceived up when I woke up this morning. Things like “what do you do with the tail?” and “Do you put the needle in front of this bunchy bit of wool or behind it?” and “How do we keep the whole mess from getting teeth-clenchingly tight or a loose wobbly mess?” (The two sites that did prove helpful are this basic how-to-knit picture guide and this overview knitting demo.) Of course all this is teaching my daughter persistence and the enjoyment of learning a new craft. Perhaps this was granny’s goal. After all, she is a dream mother-in-law. She cooks fabulously, tells terrific jokes and never forgets a birthday. My guess is that this whole knitting thing will pan out exactly as she planned. Against my better judgement, I confess I’ve found it a bit addictive. I even completed my first little bit of knitting, and if there’s one lesson to be learned from it, it’s that it only gets better from here.  ...

Sex after parenthood? Yes, with these 3 tips

TweetMy latest video blog. This one imparts my solutions for maintaining a hot sex life even when you have kids – all three of them.   Photo: Niallkennedy via Flickr.com...

What makes the world go round: other parents

TweetIt was the kindness of strangers that Blanche Dubois relied on, but for people with children, the largesse of other parents makes all the difference in our lives. This was especially brought home to me this week, with the month-long school break yawning before us, unimpeded by school or any other form of childcare. A friend happily agreed to host a 5-hour playdate today so I can attend an event. Another, several weeks back, booked both of our daughters into a weeklong theatre group camp. Still another stopped me in the playground yesterday and said earnestly, “You’re so busy these days. Do let us know if we can help out. We’ll have your daughter over for a playdate or tea anytime.” I also try to reciprocate when possible, but it doesn’t always come out even. Which simply highlights the fact that many times it’s other mums (because it’s usually mums) pitching in that is the glue for creating a community of parents. Too often the “story” about mums is “SAHM v working mums” or “yummy mummies v slummy mummies”. But this week I was reminded (as if I needed reminding) of how valuable it is to have other women who consider your children part of their whole “raising kids” experience. For these women, it’s “no problem” to pick them up when you’re running late. They’re happy to host a playdate and by the way is there anything your child won’t eat? I find it very moving in a way, and while my husband and I often talk about relocating to another part of town, another city or even another country, this network of friendships is evidence that we have truly put down roots here. We are a part of a community of families, all doing our best. That is somethin I’ll truly be celebrating this Easter break....

How to sing high, according to my daughter

Tweet  Walking to school this morning, my daughter and I were taking turns singing – “a very beautiful song”. She sang a lovely, barely audible high tone. When she finished her warble, she then turned to me. Strangely, the only song to come to my mind was  Looking Through the Eyes of Love. I started la-la-la-ing to the tune but when I got to the high range, my voice cracked. “I can’t sing that anymore. It’s too high,” I said. “Yes, you can,” my daughter said encouragingly. “Just raise your eyebrows. Like this: ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”...

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