Pregnancy Diary: 20 weeks

Today I am 20 weeks and 1 day pregnant.
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Baby is apparently now 26cm long and steadily gaining weight. If I remember correctly most of the ‘important’ stuff has developed by now and the main object of the next 20 weeks is to gain weight and mature organs…etc. I find this reassuring to think of when articles about miracle 23/24 week babies pop up in my newsfeed. God willing this won’t be a situation we have to face but I’m much more aware of these kind of stories than in previous pregnancies and cannot imagine the heartbreak of those families and the agonies they encounter. I think it’s important to be able to talk about these things and the fact that not all pregnancies and births are smooth and trouble free. I don’t feel as if I have any right to talk on the subject but I don’t want to remain silent.

I feel like my belly has really popped put this week, I know it’s silly but I feel properly pregnant now! I can also feel baby moving nearly every time I sit down for more than a few minutes which I love although if it’s just as wiggly as Sophia and Isaac I might be in trouble, was hoping for a chilled out child this time! (I jest, of course)

Up until today I’ve been feeling great the last few weeks, been eating well and exercising and had loads of energy. I’ve had mild acid reflux but managing to keep it at bay. Unfortunately today we had a bit of an epic journey to forest school which included over a mile walk at 7.30am (most of it with Isaac on my shoulders), two buses and a walk the other end. On our return we were saved one of the walks and buses by a lift from a kind fellow forest schooler but still had the mega walk from Thorverton up to home. I was pottering in the kitchen upon my return and trying to decipher what was bothering me before zeroing in on the familiar burning ligament pain in my pelvis which plagued me during the third trimester of my last two pregnancies…the SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) is back. Urgh. I’ve had heat on it which has helped but the pain hasn’t eased. I’m massively fed up that I’ve got it so early this time. I know I could have it a lot worse but it’s still blooming uncomfortable…and inconvenient! My acid reflux was especially bad this evening after some homemade tomato soup so feeling a bit sorry for myself, apologies!

Scan should be this week but due to car issues I had to rebook it for 21 weeks so I’ll have to wait to see the wriggling bean in action! Watch this space!

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HeForShe

I am mad. Really angry. Three nights ago I watched Emma Watson’s incredible speech launching the HeForShe initiative, a UN backed campaign for gender equality. I was inspired and so happy to see that the United Nations had recommitted to this cause, financially and through association. However, since the speech went viral, I have seen numerous articles (here, here and here are just three of the many articles that get thrown up on google) on my newsfeed about the threats Emma Watson has received as a result of her speech. A website has been set up with a countdown of 5 days at which point the consensus is that her personal nude photos will be leaked.

And why? Because she dared to stand up in front of the global media and people around the world and assert that not one country has achieved the goal of equal rights, that gender inequality (negatively) affects both men and women and that we need to be doing more about it. From girls in Africa with no access to secondary schooling (more info here) to women in the UK that still can’t expect the same wage as their male counterparts (information here and here) to the fact that suicide is still the most common cause of death in men under 35 in the UK due to the stigma around mental health support for men.

I just can’t get my head around what their problem is. Why do these anonymous bullies take so much issue with this?? One user reportedly said that feminism is a growing cancer. It’s just so depressing that such vile and vindictive people are out there. I can only assume that they are in the minority that like our current political, social and economic culture the way it is. Or they just get a kick out of bullying people and playing up to misogynistic stereotypes. Beyond that, I am grasping to conceive what their motives could be.

But I urge you to stand up to them by going and reading about the HeForShe campaign, sign up to get involved if it rings true for you and hopefully through supporting the fight for gender equality we can beat the bullies and create a better world for our children to grow up in.

To quote Miss Watson,

‘If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are we can all be freer and that is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.’

A partnership before parentship

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This weekend saw us staying in our bell tent just up the road from the beautiful beach at Bantham to celebrate our wedding anniversary whilst my parents very kindly had the kids for 2 nights. We had an amazing time; we were blessed with beautiful weather (which we were especially grateful for after waking up to thunderstorms on friday morning), went for rambling walks, swam in the sea, had a delicious meal at the Sloop Inn and possibly most importantly and cherished, had two completely undisturbed nights of sleep and conversations that weren’t punctuated with the demands or interjections of small children.

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It reminded me of my ongoing ponderings about the importance of holding on to your relationship as husband and wife, partners, lovers, above the connection you share through having children together. That is not to say that you shouldn’t rejoice in your children and try and be united in your approach to parenting. Not at all. But as a wise person said, once the children have grown up and left home, you still have to spend the rest of your life with your other half so it’s worth investing in that relationship right now, so that your house isn’t filled with awkward empty silences in 18 years time.

This is something that Dan and I have talked about often; our lives have changed beyond recognition from when we were first married six years ago and we are both aware that our interests aren’t quite as aligned as they once were. When we first met, we played a lot of music together and spent a lot of time outside, walking and swimming. These days, Dan still pursues his love of music but I’ve found it incredibly hard to join in, not only is it challenging to find babysitters regularly for gigs or to play gigs with the sprogs in tow but I’m so busy at home that I find it hard to find time to practice. In addition, as a result of having children I have discovered that I am passionate about physiologically normal birth and rights in birth, breastfeeding and home education. Although Dan is on board with all of these things, he doesn’t find them quite as all consuming or interesting as me (can’t imagine why?!) We do however, encourage each other in mad off grid ideas and apocalyptic back up plans (!) so we’re on the same page in that respect at least.

So we consciously endeavour to regularly spend time together as a couple, to connect and converse and stay involved and interested in each others lives. Even if it just means eating dinner separately to the children and watching a film together, we’ve found it really helpful in maintaining our relationship outside of parenthood. A weekend away is a luxurious extension of this commitment but we had such a lovely time and had so much to talk about (the worrier in me almost made conversation topic lists so that I didn’t talk of nothing but the kids all weekend!) that I wanted to share my thoughts to try and encourage other parents out there that might have got stuck in the rut of being parents and are having trouble nurturing the partnership that their family grew from.

So romance your spouse! Talk to them…and not about the children or finances or your upcoming plans. Have fun together. Enjoy being yourself with them, shrug off your identity as Mum or Dad for a few hours and embrace the person that he or she fell in love with.

Happy Anniversary Dan - love you hubster!

Happy (belated) Anniversary Dan – love you hubster!

Project Sweetie

Last week Sophia started playing a game in which she pretended to sell sweets in the garden. She made a sign (‘Roll up, Roll up. Sweets!’) and taped it to the top of a tall branch before taking it up to our driveway to be displayed next to our gate. She got frustrated at the lack of customers and her lack of actual sweets or money. Her imaginative play was blurring lines with reality and she was starting to get fed up and to be honest, I think a little confused with what she actually wanted to do or achieve…

So Dan came up with a good idea. He would help her make proper advertising, take her to the cash and carry to bulk buy some sweets, work out pricing and take her to a car boot so she could tout her wares (who couldn’t resist buying a bag of sweets from a cute 4 year old, desperate to play shop?!) She was ecstatic! I thought about it a bit and suggested that rather than buying some sweets we could make some to sell. I’m not sure who was more excited; Sophia at the idea of making her own sweets or Dan at the idea of Sophia seeing a ‘business’ through from beginning to end!

So today we chose some recipes and gave Dan a shopping list. Once we’d finished our ‘work’ for the day we attempted our first sweet recipe, a simple recipe from an old book to make little toffees. And it was an absolute, complete and utter fail! I’ve never boiled sugar before and did think it was odd that the only ingredients were sugar, water and vinegar but trusted the book and their picture of delicious looking golden brown toffees, topped with hundreds and thousands. We followed the recipe to the letter but unfortunately the end result was these…

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Essentially, rock hard, clear, sticky lumps of boiled sugar….complete with hundreds and thousands! I almost broke a tooth trying to eat one. We’d had some leftover ‘toffee’ and I’d dipped apples in them but it made the apples impenetrable so I ended up chipping the hard sugar off the apples so the kids could actually eat the apples whilst Isaac moaned about having sugar stuck in his teeth.

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However, despite me suggesting that we throw them all and start again another day, Sophia still insisted on trying to eat one of the original toffees. After a valiant attempt, more teeth picking and stickiness pervading every area of the table, she admitted defeat and agreed that we won’t be making toffees for her to sell! We’ve got ingredients to make fudge so she’s feeling optimistic (as am I!) about making some fudge on Wednesday.

It was a good learning experience though. Sophia often struggles with not getting things right the first time so it was good for her to see us trying something, not managing it, but still having fun. There was a lot of laughter as our treat was downgraded from homemade toffees to toffee apples to….apples on sticks! We were also able to talk about where we might have gone wrong, did we boil the sugar for too long, did we need extra ingredients, are they good for anything but the bin now?

So stay tuned to see how we get on with fudge later in the week. Once we have 2 or 3 good recipes under our belts, Dan is going to take over and talk about pricing with Sophia before making some signs and researching which car boot they could go to and how much it’ll cost them to have a table. It feels like quite an exciting project for all of us to be taking part in and the best bit is that it has organically evolved from imaginative play and is being developed and followed by Sophia herself, just with help from us where needed. I foresee Businesswoman of the Year in her future!

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Mmm….sticky!

Our first week

Our first week of officially home educating (in that Sophia is now of school age) is over. And I think we got off to a really good start;  if every week is like it I’ll be pretty darn happy!

I didn’t take any photos so I’m afraid this post won’t be accompanied by pictures of happy smiling children diligently doing activities (!!) but for posterity’s sake I wanted to record what we’ve been up to. As I mentioned several times before we’re following the Wee Folk Art Harvest Time ‘curriculum’ and it really is the perfect fit for us. The term started by focusing on vegetables. We had two books to read throughout the week, a field trip and a few activities to do. The books were ‘Tops and Bottoms’ by Janet Stevens and ‘The Vegetables We Eat’ by Gail Gibbons. Both were really lovely books, a good story and beautiful illustrations in the former and precise and understandable information laid out in an attractive way in the latter. The latter identifies 8 different vegetable groups according to what part of the plant we eat (seed, stem, leaf, flower bud, tuber, root, fruit and bulb) and the theme of identifying vegetables then ran throughout our week. We started by reading the book, then identifying the vegetables we were growing outside, Sophia spoke to Dan about them over dinner and we culminated it all in a ‘Field Trip’ to the Farm shop where I think we managed to spot one from each category. Sophia spoke to one of the staff about where some of the vegetables came from (Cheriton Bishop and Silverton – neighbouring villages) and then Isaac and Sophia chose some vegetables to have with the delicious local sausages for dinner. They chose a teeny tiny pumpkin, cauliflower, carrots and we supplemented with our abundant runner beans. I was reminded of how overrated I think pumpkin is, such a bland vegetable! Maybe I just need to keep trying new recipes but at the moment all I’m convinced they are good for is carving.

At the end of the week Sophia narrated back to me the plot of Tops and Bottoms and copied down her narration onto a journal sheet and accompanied it with a picture. We also learnt ‘Little Boy Blue’, read a different Flower Fairy poem every day and made saltdough pumpkins and carrots. We painted them as suggested but I wish we hadn’t as I keep catching Isaac sucking them and getting wet (possibly not edible!) paint everywhere. You live and learn I guess!

Alongside the curriculum guide, Sophia wanted to maths and reading so she practiced reading the Biff and Chip book that she’d chosen at the library to me (and impressed me with how much she could read unaided, although she does have a habit of trying to make up the story from the picture without reading the words!) and I printed her out a few maths worksheets which she absolutely whizzed through. I need to find her some harder ones to give her a bit of a challenge I think. During the week she also spent a bit of time on the BBC KS1 bitesize site playing some of the science and maths games and wrote a letter to her Nanny and Papi, bizarrely mentioning her birthday party (which isn’t really booked or planned yet….given that her birthday is in December!) We also baked bread, went berry picking and made blackberry crumble, went to the Not Back to School home ed picnic, went to our first home ed group meet of the term, her first dance class of the term and trialled a home ed forest school group at Exeter Forest School which they both loved and we will definitely be signing up to.

What I also (mostly) love is the numerous conversations that we have that they are learning so much from. A conversation about buying local vegetables leads to talking about pollution to how electricity is made to why environmentally friendly options like solar panels and wind turbines are better for our world. A brief mention of the plan for next week’s home ed group leads to a questioning on the Romans, everything they invented and other era’s in history. I remember one of the first books on home education I read (Educating Your Child at Home by Alan Lowe) spoke a lot about how much is learnt informally through conversation and with a very inquisitive almost 5 year old, I am really seeing how true that is! The challenge for me though is to answer all though questions and remain engaged and present when sometimes I just want a cuppa and a sit down with my kitting!

All in all though, a good week. Reading back, it sounds like we were quite busy but with tuesday and wednesday entirely at home it didn’t feel that way. It was nice to be active, to have a plan and to have a good balance of structured learning at home, getting out and about and just doing normal family activities together.

I’m hoping I can hold onto all the positivity and momentum I’m feeling to keep this rhythm going as it seems to really suit us. Not to say it prevented all sibling fighting….I don’t know if the super moon is to blame, the start of term, the change in weather or nothing at all but there is a real love/hate thing going on with them at the moment. Hopefully they’ll settle down soon, I’m not the best at being a calm and just mediator, especially when I’m tired. In fact I was listening to a worship song this morning with the lyrics ‘You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger’ and although it is obviously talking about God it struck me. That is what I want to try and emulate in my attitude towards the kids; rich in love and slow to anger. It’s true that when I’m more angry, they’re more angry and when I’m more patient and calm, they tend to be also. So I’m going to try and follow a regular rhythm, be more loving and hopefully it’ll have a positive effect on all of us.

Have your kids started school? Or has your home ed term re-started? Would love to hear how the start in term and change in seasons is going for you all out there!

Pregnancy Diary: 18 weeks

Today I am 18 weeks pregnant. (Sorry I missed a week, been slightly preoccupied but more of that in another post, another day)

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I feel very bumpy this week! Have also started to feel those familiar faint flutterings, so exciting but then gone before you know it. I’m looking forward to them being stronger and more often, a good reminder that there is indeed a baby in there, doing it’s thing.

Apparently baby is now 12cm long and his/her ears are in their final place and should be working soon. We have the scan in a few weeks but as before are opting out of finding the gender, much to Sophia’s annoyance. But as we said to her, there are so few surprises left in the world, why not wait?!

I’m feeling possibly the best I have yet in pregnancy this week. Have restarted the exercise and healthy eating after a few weeks slacking so I’m attributing it to that. I am getting frustrated by the conflicting information on what weightlifting exercises I can and cannot do though. I know not to do anything lying on my back and that I can’t do exercises that involve lifting weights over my head but one source says to continue abdominal exercises and another says not to, one says squats are an absolute no and another says to avoid lower back exercises. ARGH! Any knowledgeable folk out there that know the real skinny, please enlighten me! Am just being sensible and sticking to chest, shoulder, arms, upper back and leg exercises and light cardio for now whilst I research further.

A (non) milestone

My news feed on facebook today has been full of pictures of friends’ children, smiling for the camera, dressed proudly in school uniform, ready for their first day at school. In a bit of a contrasting damp squib moment, Sophia spent the day with Isaac and me at my Mum’s, reading books, dressing up, squabbling, catching crabs and making fudge. We’ve had a lovely day but not quite the momentous first day at school experienced by many of her peers today. image

Not that she minds (and I don’t really either). I think we’re both looking forward to the ‘not-back-to-school’ home ed picnic on Monday, our home education groups restarting after the summer break and as Sophia puts it, having a timetable. By this, she is referring to us starting the Wee Folk Art ‘curriculum’ that I mentioned in a previous post. It’s a very gentle approach, we’re going to do it over 3 days a week, have 2 days ‘off’ for groups and getting out and about and hopefully will be manageable as I get more pregnant and then busy with a new tiny one in the Spring.

There isn’t much point to this post, I just wanted to mark what could have been a milestone in some way. It’s a funny feeling, diverting from the mainstream path so dramatically. Although some of our early parenting choices may have put us in the minority (breastfeeding past a year, babywearing, co sleeping), choosing to home educate feels like a completely different ballpark. We’re embarking on a journey that less than 1% of parents in the UK have chosen to take.

But, we are not alone. We are part of a thriving community and have friends that home educate scattered all over Mid and South Devon. And that is what makes it, not a potentially isolating, but an exciting and enriching experience, not just for Sophia and Isaac, but the whole family. So I enter this school year looking forward to what it holds and to being able to be an active part of Sophia’s education and most importantly, without a hint of regret.

I’ll stop rambling now but just leave you with a lovely photo of crabbing during Dartmouth Regatta with some of our further flung friends. We were delighted to have the newlyweds and their girls to visit last week and look forward to seeing them again soon-congrats Matt and Jo, we love you guys!

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