Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tandem Toddlers

When I was pregnant with Primrose I hoped to feed her until she was six months; never did it cross my mind that 3 years down the line I’d not only still be feeding her but also feeding her little sister My girls are 17 months and 32 months and both nurse a couple of times a day.

We’ve come a long way since our nervous beginnings; from the initial few days of figuring out what goes where and the first time nursing in public. On that first outing my mum came with me. I had dressed carefully, taking advice from an online breastfeeding forum to wear a layer I could pull down and a layer I could pull up, thus enabling tiny to latch on while remaining discreet. After a bit of fumbling about and my mums reassurance that all flesh was contained I sat back and nursed my little one. Over the following weeks I got braver and stopped fretting about discretion. I soon realised that it made more sense to wear something that could be pulled up and down quickly as opposed to a discreet but intricate system. Soon we were nursing in slings, while shopping ,while out walking, there was nowhere that us two experts could not nurse.

When Primrose was six months we began to gently introduce solids through the baby led weaning approach and a few weeks after that we discovered I was pregnant again so we then went through the ups and downs of pregnant nursing. She weaned at 13 ½ months when my milk dried up, I was almost 8 months pregnant, but a year later she decided that she wanted to nurse again. So just like that, I was tandem feeding toddlers.

Toddler nursing and in particular toddler tandem nursing is a long way from the gentle baby days where my little darling would suckle quietly as I chatted to friends. No longer is nursing time signalled by a little one nuzzling in her sling, gently mewling for a feed, now it’s loud and proud toddlers in the seat of the shopping trolley screaming ‘BOOBIE NOW.’ When my girls were infants I’d feed them on demand, anytime anywhere,now I often try to hold them off with a cup of water or a sandwich until it’s a little more convenient for me.
Gone is the cradle hold, the football hold and the gentle positioning techniques. The minute I take my top off to get dressed or have a shower, tiny greedy eyes light up and I’ll generally just lean over or kneel and they’ll stand there, arms hugging me, feeding. If I sit on the couch I’m in danger of being clambered on, my top wrenched up and a little one snuggling in for a feed. They feed their dolls, they get me to feed their dolls. My 2 ½ year old will tell you proudly,‘I have nipple boobs now but when I a big woman I have big boobies and feed my baby that comes out my ‘gina.’ Oh yes, they’re growing up fast.

I’ve recently had to have a little chat with my girls to explain to them that mummy’s boobies are ‘private’ and when we’re visiting people they either take turns feeding or we go somewhere ‘private’ where they can both feed together. Feeding time is not so much about feeding anymore as it is a family activity. To be honest it’s gotten to be a bit of a production. Like anything else we do there is a lot of giggling, jostling, chatting, messing and general toddlerness. This is all well and good but I’ve moved a little out of my comfort zone when I’m trying to have a conversation with another adult with my top up around my ears and two nutters wrestling over my boobs.
I jokingly called it ‘boobiefest’ one day and it caught on.
‘Mummy, I want a boobiefest NOW.’
‘In a minute love, when I’ve finished cleaning up the little poo pile your sister left behind the couch.’

Did I mention I have to hum ‘neeee, neeeee’ while feeding? It started a few weeks ago when Primrose was complaining the Buttercup had emptied ‘her’ boob. I pretended to fill it up while making the aforementioned ‘neee’ sound. Bad mistake. Himself thinks it’s hilarious and keeps suggesting to the girls that I ought to make a ‘bing’ noise when it’s full. Pity I can’t reach to kick him when the two savages are nursing.

Everything about our nursing relationship feels right to me and totally normal. I’m not sure how long this wonderful part of our reationship will continue but we’ll be at it as long as they like. We may be heading towards the outer reaches of parenting normality in this country but that’s society’s issue. My family are very happy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dyscalculia: one family's story.

What follows is a guest blog by Ann, who has a daughter with dyscalculia

I consider myself a very lucky Mother of a beautiful 10 year old, young lady called Maryanne.
For some years now, Maryanne has really ‘struggled’ with Maths. As her Mum I could personally see her difficulty with grasping Mathematical concepts, retaining & recalling what she had learnt, from a very young age. Her struggle became more apparent from 1st class onwards. From simple things like telling the time, to working out how much things
cost, to her change in the shops (all simplified in relation to her age!).

Maths homework became a hardship for us both. Sometimes I would laugh with her thinking ‘she’s having me on’, pretending not to remember something we had just covered. Sometimes I became frustrated with her thinking ‘she was just not concentrating’. Yet repeatedly it was as though someone has literally pressed ‘erase’ on her Maths memory bank. On occasion I would put her poor ‘short term memory’ down to the fact that she has Epilepsy and takes medication twice daily to control her seizures.

Each school year I spoke with her teachers in 1st class, 2nd class and 3rd class. Expressing my concerns and bringing this to their attention, (especially due to the fact that each year Teacher’s change). With the best will in the world, Maryanne receives ‘learning support in school’. The ‘learning support’ teacher, whom has consistently worked with Maryanne, can see ‘exactly’ the learning difficulties that I can see. This, as her Mum is supportive for me (in other words ‘I am not imagining this’). However Maryanne’s learning difficulty still continues.
In general the class Teacher’s reactions towards her situation have ranged between ‘she will grow out of it, she’ll be grand before she’s married, “we’ve had lots of students just like her and the penny drops around 5th class”. It wasn’t until the Drumcondra tests in 3rd class 2009 that her ‘well below average’ score, rang the school bell !!

In my unending quest to ‘put my finger’ on the source of Maryanne’s learning block, I kept my investigative antenna alert. I recently heard an interview on RTE RADIO 1 with Pat Kenny and a man called Ron Davis. They were discussing Dyslexia and a new book called ‘The Gift of Dyslexia’(by Ron Davis). A fascinating interview, well worth a listen to on the RTE player …(ref: 15th October 2010) with Pat Kenny from RTÉ Radio

In summary Ron Davis (himself a successful entrepreneur with a childhood learning difficulty history) demonstrated the following. A child associates a word such as ‘apple’, with a mental picture of an apple. The word ‘pencil’, with a mental picture of a pencil. The word ‘elephant’, with a mental picture of a large grey elephant. However if one then recites the word ‘and’ to a child with a learning difficulty it suddenly has no mental picture of ‘and’. This ‘disassociation’ with a mental picture (that of the word ‘and’) causes confusion to the child. Almost the same feeling you would get if you were sitting on a train, beside another train, both in the same train station. The other train takes off but for a brief second you feel your train is moving. Suddenly you realise your train hasn’t moved at all, that it’s the other train that has moved. Can you sense that disorientation ?.This is the disorientation a child with a learning difficulty experiences.
So this interview led me to research the book and its author.

My research led me to some ‘inspirational’ findings. I came upon some fantastic websites, in the area of Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia is basically a version of Dyslexia but rather that effecting reading, writing (etc), it effect’s Math’s. Yippee! I suddenly feel as though I have found a key to unlock the door to Maryanne’s learning difficulty with Math’s.

I then looked up the Irish Dyslexia Association website to see if there was any information on Dyscalculia. Thinking to myself that there must at least be some reference or links to, what seemed like to me, a cousin of Dyslexia called Dyscalculia. To my surprise and frustration there was neither reference nor mention on their website. In addition to this I am additionally surprised that neither the school nor Maryanne’s Teachers had heard of Dyscalculia.

There are, in fact some positive, informative, inspiring and up to date study’s, programmes and online diagnosis, both for sale & free on the internet on the subject of Dyscalculia.

This website is most informative. It offers information, symptoms, online diagnosis, suggestive learning and website links.

Ronit Bird is the author of The Dyscalculia Toolkit (2007) and Overcoming Difficulties with Number (2009). The earlier book is a practical manual full of teaching activities and games aimed at teachers of dyscalculic pupils in primary school. The second book addresses math’s difficulties of older learners by providing games and resources suitable for adolescents, followed by step-by-step teaching ideas for key numeracy strategies.
Her website offers some positive, informative, inspiring and up to date information. With some free, printable, online learning aids for, child, guardian and teacher. In addition to ‘training courses’ for both guardians and teachers.

This website has some very useful tactile ‘tools’ to enable the child to easily absorb, learn and remember multiplication tables in a fun way.

Does this story have a happy ending ? With the help and assistance of Maryanne’s (now 4th class) teacher and learning support teacher we are all working together to improve Maryanne’s learning ability with Math’s. In addition, we have found and are fortunate to be able to have a Math’s teacher to give her a weekly (one to one) Math’s class at home. I have bought The Dyscalculia Toolkit by Ronit Bird and the Elephant tables. With allthese boxes ticked I feel we are on a good road now. I am hopefully that the Dyslexia Association of Ireland will include information on Dyscalculia on its website update, in the near future !

I personally believe that early intervention is key with any learning difficulty. It is simply not good enough to waste a child’s precious, fresh, absorbent mind. In doing so we, their Guardians, Teachers and Education system are failing them both now and in their future. When I recently made contact with Ronit Bird, in relation to her training courses she sentme the following reply:

'I am afraid I know of no courses or dyscalculia teachers in Ireland. But I do hope you will find my book useful - I deliberately made it as practical and accessible as I could.

'It is not so surprising that teachers have not yet heard of dyscalculia, which is now where dyslexia was some 20 to 30 years ago. So, it will be people like your daughter who will be contributing to an increased awareness of the problems and the development of a growing consensus about what does and does not help pupils with specific math’s difficulties. Good luck to both of you.'

As we are all so aware, the Irish Economy is struggling to reinvent itself, specifically in both areas of Science and I.T. How can we possibly push forward if we fail to arm ourselves with the relevant, up to date, informative resources available specifically for those who need the extra assistance in this field. Surely we and specifically our precious, future recruits are all worth it !

Knowledge and Awareness is power.
I truly hope that our experience to date may help even just some ‘one’ out there!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

We'd love to, but....

We used to be social butterflies, flitting from play-dates to birthday parties, from coffee mornings to toddler groups. But no more. We have become recluses, rarely venturing to mingle with the other toddlers and mums of this world. Our days sometimes include others but usually in our own house or at the beach and we are careful to avoid meal and snack times. This is life of a family living with food allergies.

Our little Buttercup is too young yet to realise that she can’t just eat anything that is lying about (or within reach of a very nimble climber). Every birthday party and coffee morning is a minefield: cakes, sandwiches, biscuits, scones, pretty much all processed foods will lead to a week of stomach pains and sleepless nights for my little one. And she has a big sister who needs her mummy’s attention too. So, for now, we’ll have to stay away.

But at least something good has come from all this. We are now eating a lot more mindfully (love, love that word).We are all living soya free and almost totally dairy free (with the exception of Primrose’s daily yoghurt) and are heading towards being sugar free too.We make pretty much everything ourselves, our veg and meat are all organic and local and we even have our own laying hens.

Yup, we now have four chooks in the back garden. Our day starts with myself and the tinies donning jackets and wellies over our pyjamas as we head out to let the chickens out and give them their breakfast. Later we collect eggs and muck out the chicken house and let the winged beasties run amok around the garden for a bit. Primrose and Buttercup spend hours chasing the chooks, and hugging them! Primrose has managed to tame the birds better than I ever could.

The girls bake and cook with me as well. Buttercup is now 16 months so is just big enough to stand on a chair and help her sister and I make the bread, the mess is horrendous and all loaves now have to have bellybuttons but it’s great fun. Primrose’s speciality is the hummus, she will slowly test a spoonful and pronounce if it’s a good batch or if we need to add more olive oil or lemon juice.

So, by baking our own bread, cooking everything ourselves and reading labels carefully we’ve been managing to keep Buttercup from discomfort. But then we fell foul of sabotage. Sorry. BUT THEN WE FELL FOUL OF SABOTAGE. That’s better. Yes, it appears that in recent months at least two manufacturers* have added to soya to products that had previously been soya free without even a whisper to warm the unsuspecting consumer. They just changed the ingredient list and didn’t even bother to update the allergy advice or proclaim that they were using a new recipe. Well, we now have an explanation for our little ones recent tummy troubles and escalating sleeplessness and the entire family’s growing exhaustion. I’ve been in touch with both companies, and I am waiting for them to reply. Needless to say I’m pretty upset.....

*For any of you with Soya issues Whole Earth Cornflakes and Biona sunflower spread now contain soya lecithin .

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Going Potty

Primrose’s latest project is ‘toilet training’ Buttercup.
‘Now, take of your nappy and do pee pee on the potty, see like this. Mummy, take off her nappy.’
I do.
Buttercup performs then excitedly grabs a bit of toilet paper to finish off proceedings.
There has, however, been an unwelcome development. Buttercup will now remove her nappy (if she can) just before she poos. No matter where she is. We’re seriously considering using duct tape.
Primrose transitioned from nappies to loo around her second birthday. It was a totally toddler led process; she just decided that she’d had enough of nappies. She’d been using the potty and loo on and off since she was about 10 months old and nudey bum time (kids only) had been a regular activity in our house since she was a wee thing and she rarely had accidents when her nappy was off. One day she started taking off her nappy because it was wet (one of the joys of cloth nappies is they can tell when they are wet) and wanted to use the loo so we just rolled with it. We bought knickers, just like mummy’s (maybe a little smaller). For the first week or so everything in the house revolved around the loo We didn’t go on any car trips or do anything out of the ordinary. And she was grand. Happy out.
The only training that had to be done was training mama and dada to pick up her cues early enough. Himself jokes that I could hear her whisper the word ‘pee pee’ from the other end of the house. If she hadn’t been to the loo for over an hour and half I’d gently start pestering the poor child. ‘Need to do pee pee?’ ‘Remember you’re wearing a knickers love.’ Of course there were a few little accidents, mostly when she was too excited, busy or tired to notice what was going on.

About six weeks on Primrose was going through an emotional time. She was going to bed a lot earlier with all the running around she was doing in the sunshine and she wasn’t getting to see her daddy in the evening. She asked for nappies again and wore them for about two weeks until she was happy and secure in her world again.

When we go on long car trips I’ll ask her if she wants a nappy. Usually she doesn’t but if she’s very sleepy she’ll wear one.
She continues to wear a nappy at night time and I trust that she’ll let me know when she’s ready to go without it.

In the meantime I’ll have to tune in some more to her little sisters toilet cues. At the moment this frazzled mama is relying on her two year old who’ll come running in.’B need a potty.’ or ’ B did a poo already.’ Now where is that roll of duct tape.........

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Little Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten the time to compose a thought much less a blog post. It’s been a while since I’ve slept properly..........but hey, life is good.

So, here’s the update on Buttercup since my last post. Well we went to the allergy paediatrician and he listened to us, questioned us, looked Buttercup over and agreed she seemed to be milk protein intolerant (but thriving otherwise) and suggested that we just keep going as we are and she would probably grow out of it sometime before her third birthday. Oh, and he also suggested that I put her on a special hypoallergenic infant formula as really there was no benefit to her in me still breastfeeding. WTF? This is the head of Paediatrics at our local hospital ! Anyhoo, I quoted a bit of WHO at him and emphasised while that may be his opinion it was not one I was willing to accept. That’s a letter I still have to write. Deep breath and...

Where was I?
Oh, yes
So we’ve since discovered that she is also soy intolerant, which is very common with milk protein intolerance and I think we have eventually managed to get all the hidden soy out of our diets ( as of a month ago) . I wish I had found this document earlier.

So we rolled straight from getting her diet sorted, at last, to both girls teething molars

And while all this was going on we’ve been settling into our new village life, Primrose has turned two and is no longer in nappies during the day, Buttercup has turned one and is running about the place and all four off us are sharing a bed now. We bake all of our own bread and are a soy free, dairy free and low sugar household. More of all that anon.

XX Mama

Monday, February 15, 2010

All better now......

Well blogosphere it’s been a while and so much has been going on for the family (does that sound too mafia?) that it’s difficult to know where to start.

We’ve moved west to more peaceful environs and had a busy Christmas and New Year. But by far the biggest change has been in Primrose’s quality of life. We’ve discovered the root of her discomfort, irritability and reluctance to travel or sleep.

She’s always been a vocal and energetic little thing but has suffered terribly from wind. Early on I cut dairy out my diet, tomatoes (which used to cause her sister upset), onions, and all the usual suspects. Things would often be ok for a few days but she never slept very well and no amount of winding seemed to ease her pain. Every time I’d think we had got to the root of it there would be another horrendous few days where she couldn’t bear to lie down, be in the car seat or be out of mama’s arms. I don’t know what I’d have done without my slings. Doctors suggested colic, one said that it was probably something I was eating, the next said it couldn’t be anything I was eating. I knew my little girl wasn’t right: I was beginning to suspect there might even be a problem with her digestive system. But, she was alert and thriving and putting on loads of weight. In the dark hours I’d wonder if it was all in my head and she was just a cranky baby. But that’s not something that I really believed.

Once Primrose started on solids everything got worse and I slipped into the fug of sleeplessness where it is impossible to figure out what exactly is going on. This coincided with moving house, a round of colds and a bout of tummy bug in the house .After a particularly horrendous few weeks, there came a moment of clarity that resulted Primrose and me both going on a serious elimination diet. We gradually began reintroducing foods into my diet and paying close attention to her reactions. Wheat and gluten were reintroduced successfully (thankfully) and after reactions to goats milk cheese and other dairy products we deduced that she has milk protein intolerance.

Since we’ve both been totally dairy free (goat and sheep too), and neurotic about reading the small print of ingredients, the happy little girl that used to appear periodically is here all the time. We await an appoint with a paediatrician but are delighted to have our tiny ball of energy smiling all day.

And now that mama has two content babas and is getting some sleep herself, there may even be time for blogging and updating the website:)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We wish you…

a green and happy Christmas for you and your little elves

The festive season is almost upon us. This is a time for sharing, for spending some family time together, for exchanging thoughtful gifts, for feasting and rejoicing. Christmas doesn’t have to be all about 10 foot inflatable snowmen and shopping til you drop. A simpler and greener family Christmas may just be what is needed to help everyone relax and enjoy their time together. Decorating and choosing gifts are activities that all the family, even the littlest ones, can participate in.

It’s easier than you think to make your own decorations and it can provide hours of fun and a great sense of achievement for your kids. Like the song goes, ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly’. Use Christmas greens, holly, ivy, pine and spruce branches to create an earth friendly festive atmosphere, think wreaths and garlands. A bowl of dried orange slices, cloves and cinnamon sticks makes a naturally fragrant seasonal display. Collecting the leaves and drying the fruit is half the fun.

Making edible tree decorations can be a great activity for a wet and windy winter’s afternoon. Think gingerbread men and snowmen and star shaped biscuits, just remember to put a hole in them for the ribbon before baking. Try threading popcorn to make garlands or bunch it together for giant snowball decorations. You can paint popcorn with food colouring.

If you are purchasing a tree you can now get live trees in many garden centres, they come in a pot and after Christmas you can plant yours out in your garden.

But don’t forget about the stuff in your attic. Using the artificial tree and decorations stored since last year is much more environmentally friendly than buying new ones.
Last years cards can be recycled to make this year’s decorations, cut out the images, thread through ribbon and add what extra sparkly bits you like. Christmas tree lights aren’t very heavy on electricity but do think twice before lighting up the entire house (or street).

The packaging that goes with many gifts is pure rubbish, so it makes sense to choose gifts with minimal packaging or biodegradable packaging. Try using string instead of tape and pressing and reusing wrapping paper. For an interesting alternative to wrapping paper you could use some nice cloth like the Japanese furoshiki.

If you’d like to source some really special kid’s presents try some of these Irish online retailers who stock fair-trade and ethical toys. There are some nice gifts for kids and adults at the Birdwatch Ireland Shop, and some really great ideas for eco friendly gifts for Dads at the Ecoshop

Homemade gifts are not just for those of the crafty persuasion. Sweets are easy to make. Dip cherries, marzipan and dried fruit in chocolate. Present them in a hand decorated box or bag for a really unique gift – great for Grandparents and neighbours.
You could also put together hampers as gifts, just think of a theme or an activity and put a collection of relevant items together. A winter warmth hamper might include hot water bottle, mug, jar of hot chocolate and some nice biscuits. A teddy bears picnic hamper might include tea set, teddy bear, paper and crayons to make invites. You get the idea…. Put them in a box covered with old wrapping paper, add a bow and voila!

As a gift for the entire family, membership for Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park or a gift voucher for local activities could lead to loads of family days out. Or how about a tree? Or an allotment could be an unusual gift that will bring months of family fun and great home grown produce.

Whatever you decide, have fun and make time for each other. Your kids will have the memories a lot longer than the toys.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight……

This article by Jen Wallace is part of the Green Family series, a partnership project between, the natural and eco parenting website, and , online local listing for kids’ activities, classes, events and services.