Month: October 2011

Sloe Gin Recipe

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Sloes
Sloes for the Gin
Gin
A pint of Gin!

I know two blog posts in one day is extravagant, but here at More Than A Mum we don’t like to be too conventional and post rural/urban blog discussion of rural pursuits left Loretta complaining I’d never offered her Sloe Gin! So, here’s the recipe I’m trying this year:

4oz sugar

8oz sloes (skins pricked)

1 pint Gin

Shake daily for a week and then weekly for at least 7 weeks.

Sieve through an old muslin (I knew I’d find a use for them!) into a sterilised airtight bottle.

Keep…or drink!

BritMums blogging prompt: WHO are you?

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So the BritMums blogging prompt this week is:  In 100-200 words WHO are we? (Really got to cut the waffle for this one!)

We are More than a Mum. We want to support women in being brilliant Mums, AND help them to rediscover their own identity.

We are Loretta and Ruth, two Mums who love being parents, but don’t want to lose our own identities or stop thinking intellectually. We both work part-time, to varying degrees; we both love a good socio-political debate; we both love sharing the hints, tips and traumas of motherhood and that’s what our blog is about.

Our posts range from the trials and tribulations of our own motherhood, to discussion of news stories that have a family resonance. We are going to blog about recipes (just sorting out my Sloe Gin one now!), craft ideas, and kid-friendly activities as well as parental concerns, me-time ideas and our own experiences. We also want to create a forum for other Mums (and Dads) to discuss some of the big debates surrounding childhood and parenthood.

We fancy being the Marie Claire of Mummy Blogs…We like to aim high!

187 words – done it!

R

http://www.britmumsblog.com/2011/10/britmums-blogging-prompts-defining-moments/

Silent Sunday 5

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Child Running
Munchkin at Kew

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Urban Vs Rural Childhood

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Recently I have been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of rural versus urban childhoods. Does the perceived safety of a rural environment allow children more freedom? Are children who are brought up in the city more tolerant of difference? Are rural kids fitter? Do urban kids have more access to cultural and intellectual stimulation?

As part of my MEd I had to read a report about urban and rural childhoods.  It was not well researched and had many flaws, but it concluded that those children who grew up in urban environments had much higher ‘social capital’. i.e. they could socialise better with a wider range of people, had a wider range of experiences and social networks and that this is led to more economic stability in adult life. I don’t feel like I was stunted by my own rural up-bringing, nor that I am less economically stable than if I had had an urban upbringing; but who am I to judge myself? Munchkin, at two, has a much more diverse range of experiences than I did at her age thanks to living in London.

The second thing that made me think about the urban vs rural childhood was CoombeMill’s blog and in particular the Country Kids photoblog linky that Fiona has started.  This week she put up photos of her kids climbing trees and I thought, “I remember that, and I loved it!” I remember the freedom of being outside all day from a very early age and wonder if I’d have been given the same freedom had I lived in the city? But I also remember visiting my London cousins and feeling much more naive than them, despite being older.

I grew up in a hamlet of 15 houses miles away with nothing but a post box and a phone box and 3 miles to the nearest bus stop. As a teenager I did get frustrated that I couldn’t visit them without relying on my parents, but overall I loved the freedom.  I’d go miles (literally) on my bike with friends with the only proviso being that I should be back for tea.  I could spend the day making dens in the farmyard.  I could identify flowers, trees and insects.  I got muddy and I knew where milk came from!

As an adult I enjoy the convenience of the big city.  I couldn’t go back to having to get in the car even for a pint of milk, but I do miss the countryside.  I miss the community of living in a small village where I know everyone.  I have much more of a sense of community in London than I thought I would, but I don’t know my near neighbours.  Long Sunday walks to the park are lovely, but not quite the same as a country walk. I make jam, chutney and sloe gin (collected sloes at Mum’s when we visited last weekend!) but I get funny looks when I offer people a jar/bottle!

OH and I are planning to move to the country in the next few years, so whilst we’re in London, I intend to take Munchkin to as many museums and galleries as possible.  I do worry that rural village school will lead to a more blinkered view of things like race and I know that we’ll have to work harder to counter those things.  I hope my understanding of the rural life will allow me to give her more freedom than I would in the city.  There are pros and cons to both upbringings.

I know we have a diverse range of readers and I’d love to know your thoughts.  What are the pros and cons of bringing up children where you live?

R

Daylight Saving Time: Torture for parents!

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I am too tired to write a deep and meaningful blog post this morning and I’ll tell you why:  Whose stupid idea was it to change the clocks twice a year?  Obviously they were not thinking of the impact on Mother’s across the nation whose little darlings get up at 5.30am like mine does!  What on earth were they thinking and just who does this benefit?

Well apparently it’s all to do with saving the hours of daylight, and was started by a chap called William Willett, a London builder, who lived in Petts Wood in Kent.

Basically, he reckoned that you could improve the population’s health and happiness by putting forward the clocks by twenty minutes every Sunday in April and do the opposite in September (quite obviously not a parent!). His idea was not taken up, even though a ‘Daylight Saving Bill’ was introduced some five years before the outbreak of World War One. But once the war started, it was considered prudent to economise, to promote greater efficiency in using daylight hours, and in the use of artificial lighting. And so in 1916, ‘Daylight Saving Time’ was introduced.

Hello?  This was therefore about three reasons: improving health and happiness and economising due to the war.  Not a very extensive study admittedly, but I’m yet to meet a person let alone a parent whose happiness, health or utility bill has been helped by this out-dated notion.

Let me tell you the affect it has on me:  BearCub has never needed much sleep.  He sleeps through the night pretty much without fail (apart from when he’s ill) but he has always been an early riser.  I have done everything to try to change this including pain-stakingly moving his bed time 10 mins a time to an hour later.  As is the pattern I will finally get him into a routine of sleeping until a grand 6.30am when the clocks will change and we’re back to 5.30am wake ups!  I can handle anything past 6am but just that half hour earlier tips me over the edge.  I’m particularly dreading this weekend’s change as BearCub has taken to waking at 5.30am for the last week which means I’m in for a 4.30am little alarm clock on Sunday morning – joy!  It will take me a good few months to get this back to anywhere near 6am and then the clocks will go forward and bedtime will be mucked up with a knock on effect on wake ups!!!  Bloody daylight saving!!

L

 

Teaching children about identity, prejudice and racism

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A couple of things have prompted me to write this blog. Firstly, last week I was described and recommended as a ‘black’ mummy blogger to a mum who was looking for the same (apparently there are not many in the UK so identify yourselves if you’re out there!) In case you’re thinking this offended me, it didn’t in the slightest but as a ‘mixed race’ woman it did get me thinking about identity, culture and heritage and how we communicate/pass that on to our children. I have been asked numerous times in my life whether I see myself as ‘more black’ or ‘more white’ and I always find the question puzzling as in actual fact I don’t see myself as ‘more’ of one or the other. Now, I don’t mean that I see myself as separate from both rather I see myself as entirely both. From a young age my twin sister and I have called ourselves ‘brown’. Not sure if this is PC or not but it’s what we always felt was most fitting. Growing up we hated ‘coloured’ and ‘half-caste’ both common in the 80’s. A friend who has mixed race children used to point out to her children, ‘You are not ‘half’ anything – you are fully black and fully white.’ I quite liked this description owning all of your heritage and not just portions of it. Furthermore, I remember from very young age thinking for myself how wonderful it was that just by existing I represented two races coming together who had such a stark history of ignorance, hate and prejudice – I actually announced this to my teacher when I was around 10 years old! (Can you imagine what an annoying kid I was?) Please don’t stop reading if you’re not an ‘ethnic’ – sorry I’m not good at being P.C – because I think we can apply this to any racial background, not just colour. Whether your background is Welsh, Scottish, Irish or much further afield, our heritage is part of who we are and we should celebrate it and proudly embrace it but I strongly believe it shouldn’t and does not define us.

The thing is race and or ‘difference’ to children, if left to their own devices, really isn’t an issue. It wasn’t when I was little and it isn’t now. It only becomes an issue when children imitate adult’s poor attitudes, representations and prejudices. In short; it is learned behaviour. It’s not that very young children are unaware of ‘difference’ or don’t notice it, they simply accept it, get on with it and even celebrate it! I remember in the summer when BearCub noticed a birthmark Munchkin has on her foot when they were playing. After enquiring what it was, Bearcub actually cried because he wanted one too and we had to draw one on his foot to pretend. I wondered how different that conversation would be had the birthmark been on a child’s face and had they been thirteen!

So how can we encourage our children to keep the wonderful, curious, open-mindedness they have towards other looks, ways of doing things and experiences that they have now while they are pre-schoolers? I believe the answer is to expose them to as many different cultures, types of people and experiences as possible. We are spoilt for this in London as society is so vibrantly varied in terms of different cultures and races. However, I grew up in a school where there were only 4 black people in our year and my sister and I were the only mixed race pupils. Going back to the same school now every class has at least a couple of mixed race students! Mixed-race people are the fastest growing ethnic minority group (defined according to the National Statistics classification) in the UK and, with all mixed categories counted as one sole group, are predicted to be the largest minority group by 2020. I guess one day maybe we’ll all be brown! Last week at my local library they held a ‘Roots of the Caribbean’ day to celebrate Black History Month (This month in case you didn’t know!). It was a great event with Steel drums, traditional soul food and a wonderful carnival vibe.

My little boy doesn’t look like he has any black in him at all (his dad is white) but I think it is important for him to understand and explore his roots, not only so he is able to dance in time at the school discos, but so he can appreciate the wonderful diversity of language, culture, colour and life in general. My son has never asked why Grandad is black and Nanny is white or even why mummy is brown (or gold as he likes to say) because it doesn’t even occur to him. Sometimes by being overly P.C we can create issue where there is none. Wouldn’t it be great if adults took the lead from how young children so readily interact with those different to themselves?

L

Men and babies

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I know that we are More than a Mum, but at the end of last week, I chatted with two men who challenged my preconceptions and made me re-evaluate what it is to be a Mum and what it is to be a Dad.

The first challenge came on Thursday night, when I chatted with Dean from @DaddyNatal. I was really interested in his idea of Daddy Natal, which offers “practical, memorable and enjoyable antenatal education for men, by men.”

At first I was a little sceptical, wondering if there really was this gap in the market. Do men want this sort of personalised Daddy-class? Is it all a bit too girly for them? Surely couples antenatal isn’t sexist…I didn’t notice. But then I mentioned it to my husband and his first comment was, “much-needed.” I asked him why he felt that and he said that sometimes it seems that parenthood has a ‘mummy club’ where women are told all the secrets of parenting and that men are strictly forbidden. He called it the ‘Mummy Masons’! (Though if you read BabyRambles you’ll know it’s not just Dads who feel like they’re out of the loop!)

Hubby said, that whilst he’d found the antenatal classes that we did useful, he felt they were feminised and geared towards the girls. I am ashamed to say I hadn’t even realised he’d felt like that. He’s very lucky with the Dads we met through the group and they do all meet for beers, but as they’re all working fulltime, they don’t do it anywhere near as often as us girls and I’m not sure that even with beer the men discuss parenting in quite the same way we do. So it seems that there is a need for a Daddy-centric approach to antenatal classes.

I was also interested to see that on the website, Daddy Natal also offers new Dad’s classes for Daddy and baby – no Mum’s allowed. Sounds like the tables are turning!

The second meeting that made me reassess my opinions was in my role as a breastfeeding peer supporter. I run a drop in group at the local Sure Start Children’s centre and the Health Visitors do checks in the room next door. On Friday I was introduced to a new trainee Health Visitor, Mike.  Mike, as you may have guessed, is a man.

After I had met him, I wondered how I would have felt if a man had turned up at our door in the first few days to check on us and our baby. I wondered if I’d have been comfortable; and then I checked myself and thought OUR door, US, OUR baby. I wonder if my husband would have felt more at ease with a male Health Visitor? More included? Mike will, after all, have exactly the same qualifications as any female Health Visitor.

R