Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Wednesday Knitting and Reading

This week I have mostly been knitting small things, which makes for a lot of progress! I finished the test knit for Jennie at A Lovely Homemade Life, and it's gorgeous!

Next I cast on a newborn-sized Snapdragon soaker to take to my local nappy library. It's so tiny! Bob is a little dink, but he suddenly seems big in comparison. Unfortunately casting it on has taken me over my personal target maximum for Works In Progress, so I shall have to finish something this week! Personally, I think it will be this. It's tiny!

I cast on the extra stitches for the body on Bob's hoodie, I'm pleased with how the yarn is knitting up, and I love the sideways construction. I have made a few changes this time from when I knitted this for Sausages. I must have gained a little knitting wisdom in the intervening years!

I have managed a bit of dyeing this week. This is my "raspberry ripple," a happy accident which came about when I couldn't get blue dye to take fully, There is just a hint of blue where the pink meets the white. I love it! This is probably destined for soakers, so get in touch if you'd like one. I think I have finally made it out of my phase of dyeing everything yellow and green. Speaking of which, I will be chatting about my last yellow dye job this week, so do pop back if you're interested.

I finished Carpe Jugulum. This is not the first time I have read it, and I love it so much! Next up is Why Doulas Matter, by the wonderful Maddie McMahon. Maddie is an amazing supporter of women, who helped me a lot when I was preparing for my second birth after a traumatic first birth, and when I was trying to establish breastfeeding with Bob. I'm only a couple of pages in, but I'm really enjoying the book. Here's a picture for Irenee, who once asked me where I found the time to read. This is where!

Don't forget to pop over to Ginny's and Nicole's to see what everyone else is crafting this week. I'd love to hear what you're up to! I was glad to hear last week that so many others love the Discworld books too.

Take care,


Monday, 27 April 2015

Love Your Blog: Gratitude

The theme of this week's Love Your Blog link-up hosted by Kate at A Playful Day is Gratitude.

I'm grateful for finding my creative side. I was useless at sports, drama at art at school, but very academic, and followed that side for many years. I thought that since I couldn't draw or choose colours or clothes I was not creative, only bookish. This idea of my limitations lasted well into my twenties. I started knitting when I was stuck at home with hyperemesis gravidarum when I was expecting Sausages, and I haven't looked back!

Knitting carried me through those tough days, and tougher ones that were to come. One stitch at a time. When I took a step back from my career it led me to the world of blogging, and to starting this blog, for which I am so grateful! Knitting is my therapy, and my primary craft, but this creative journey has also led me to crochet, felting, sewing, dyeing, and many other crafts. When I was suddenly and unexpectedly a stay-at-home mother blogging, and other activities, made me feel like I was still a person with purpose and value. I know that being a mother is a full time job, but society doesn't, and it's good to have something else to mention when people ask what you do. This blog prompts me to see my life from an external perspective, which helps me to see the really good bits without being overwhelmed by the difficult bits. It also gives me an opportunity to write, which I have missed since I left academia, where I wrote every day.

My creative pursuits have brought me many new friends, who have taught me so much - some of it even craft-related! Sharing a creative interest is a wonderful basis for friendship, and I have only met one person who wasn't eager to share their knowledge and experience with those around them. Craft groups are great places to meet people with similar outlooks on life. People who are interested in making and the hand made already have a lot in common. Many craft groups are made up only of women, and I have met some wonderful women through such groups, so that my mothering journey has overlapped with my creative journey. This has enriched my mothering so much, and my boys have really benefited. Crafting also gives me an outlet for my stress and tension, making for a calmer family environment.

My crafty hobbies have helped me to live the lifestyle I want for my family too. I can buy a ball of yarn and create a one-of-a-kind gift for a friend or relative, that I wouldn't be able to afford to buy. I can make warm clothes for my family and wrap them in my love. I can turn my hand to crafts that allow me to make my home look the way I want without spending a lot of money. I can buy inexpensive food and turn it into interesting and nutritious meals for my family. I am so grateful for this. Husband and I are trying to live the challenge of living the life we want to live and being the people we want to be, and not to be overwhelmed by the challenges and limitations we face.

I'd love to hear what a creative life has brought others, please do tell me. I feel so lucky, I hope you do too!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Yarn Along

This week's knitting is a test knit for Jennie at A Lovely Homemade Life. It's a gorgeous pattern. It came at a perfect time because I'm very into soakers at the moment. In fact I'm thinking of giving one away for Real Nappy Week, so watch this space! This is the first time I have used Cascade 220, and I'm really pleased with it. It's really soft, the colour is gorgeous (this is one of the "heathers" colourways), and it's very affordable. Usually I find that 100% wool is either fairly coarse, or expensive. I'll definitely be using it again. I bought three skeins because I wanted to be sure to have enough for two soakers, and at this rate I may well have enough for a sweater for Bob.

Reading this week is the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett. Carpe Jugulum is from his Discworld series of fantasy novels. I really enjoy them as a bit of mental floss between more serious reading. If you're interested in Terry Pratchett you might like to see his documentary Facing Extinction, currently available on the BBC IPlayer. It shows his descent into early-onset Alzheimer's disease, so take this as a trigger warning.

If you're interested in what other bloggers are crafting and reading this week, pop over to Ginny's or Nicole's and enjoy!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Breast Intentions: Review

Last month I read Breast Intentions: How women sabotage breastfeeding for themselves and others, by Alison Dixley. This book has really challenged me, so I thought I'd give it it's own post rather than lump it in with my regular Wednesday knitting and reading.

You might be familiar with Dixley from her blog, The Alpha Parent. I followed it for a while on facebook, but I stopped because I found it to be unnecessarily hard on mothers. I'm definitely going to revisit the blog after reading the book, but my feelings are very mixed.

Breast Intentions is about how mothers communicate about and react to their experience of infant feeding practices. This is not a warm book about how mothers support each other despite their differences. The chapter titles are: Deception; Guilt; Excuses; Envy; Contempt; Defensiveness; Sabotage. She describes how mothers who have given up breastfeeding feel bereaved and guilty, and how they create a practiced explanation of how this happened, both to convince themselves and others that they have not done anything wrong (they haven't, of course. The only person who feels this is themselves. Feeding your child artificial milk is not actually an abusive thing to do!). Dixley discusses how failure is built in to many women's breastfeeding experience from pregnancy, by lowering expectations, buying artificial feeding equipment just in case, and being exposed to myth-sharing by other mothers. These factors have an enormous impact on the likelihood of breastfeeding success. She also discusses how mothers who have given up breastfeeding push the myths of failure on to expectant and new mothers in order to cover their own experience.

It might be assumed that only artificial feeders come in for criticism in this book, but breastfeeders do not escape unsinged by Dixley's burning evangelism. She claims that breastfeeding mothers cannot identify with artificial feeders and cannot help but judge them, and that the most unsympathetic are those who have been through the most to breastfeed. However, she believes that there is a positive side to this contempt, and that stifling it prohibits the exposition of flaws in parenting practice. In other words, we should hold mothers to account for their feeding decisions. 

I found this book especially challenging because while I feel that what Dixley has to say is deeply unpleasant, I also know much of it to be true. As a breastfeeding mother, I frequently experience other mothers spontaneously and unsolicited giving me detailed accounts of how and why the end of their breastfeeding attempts came about. These stories come from mothers with children of all ages, whose infant feeding choices were made recently or long ago, and always feature the same excuses that Dixley lists in her book as tested and acceptable. I feel that my job in life is not to judge other people, but to be as supportive as I can. When I receive these stories I always assumed that the best thing for me to do would be to help the mother to find the positive side of her story, to be comfortable with herself as a mother, to show that I as a breastfeeder don't judge artificial feeders. After a few years I did start to wonder WHY these stories kept coming, when I felt that they were none of my business. I also started to get tired with some of the excuses: complaints about lack of support from people who didn't seek it out; claims that mothers didn't know what was normal when they hadn't bothered to inform themselves; tongue tie as a complete reason for not breastfeeding when I have successfully fed two tongue tied children for years. I have to agree with Dixley that we have to stop proliferating the myth that it is common not to be able to breastfeed. It is, as she says, simply common to quit.

Recently there was an article in the BBC about a piece of research on infant feeding practices and future intelligence. The article was titled "Breastfeeding "linked to higher IQ"." I criticised the article on my facebook page, commenting that it would be more accurate to say that not breastfeeding might be linked to lower IQ, since breastfeeding is the biological norm. I believe that using more accurate language is important for improving perceptions and understanding of breastfeeding. This is why I use the technical term "artificial feeding" or "artificial milk" rather than the more widely used marketing term, with its scientific connotations. For the record, and as I stated on that thread, I do not believe that breastfeeding or not is the only factor determining intelligence. The thread raised some defensive artificial feeders, one of whom stated that we shouldn't publicise such studies because they are hurtful to artificial feeders. This anecdotal evidence strongly reinforces Dixley's work. We shouldn't prevent mothers who have yet to make their infant feeding choices from accessing pro-breastfeeding information, and therefore increase the probability of their breastfeeding failure, in order to shield those who feel they have failed at breastfeeding in the past.

I feel that the people who should read this book are expectant mothers, both those who have yet to make any infant feeding decisions, and those who have artificially fed a previous child and hope to breastfeed in the future, and health care professionals who have the power to sabotage infant feeding decisions, or to collude in their self-sabotage, such as midwives, health visitors, and GPs. I still can't say whether I recommend this book or not. The most accurate thing I can say is: it isn't nice, but it isn't wrong.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this book and these subjects, but please don't take this as an opportunity to criticise mothers without being helpful. It breaks my heart that this major issue divides us sister-mothers in such a painful way.


Love Your Blog: Ugly

I missed last week's Love Your Blog link-up because I was travelling and nowhere near a computer, but my laptop and I are reunited and ready to face this week's prompt which is...ugly.

Man, that's hard. Who wants to talk about ugly? Not me! It's NOT a nice word. It's critical and judgmental, and not in a helpful way. It's a word I hope my children don't know the meaning of until they are much older. It's a word I NEVER want to hear from their mouths. Other words that go into the same category for me are: stupid; shut up; cretin; retard...I could go on. But I won't, because that would make for very ugly conversation. What do these words have in common? They are all offensive and hurtful. They are all used with intention to cause upset. There are always words you could use instead that would convey the relevant information without being so unpleasant. I feel much less strongly about the use of some traditional swear words (no, I won't list them. You've had enough bad language from me!).

So how do I intend to keep these common words out of my children's vocabularies? The same way I try to shape other aspects of their lives: by example. Sausages was an early talker, using proper sentences including "please" and "thank you" by nine months old. All of a sudden Husband and I had to watch our language. This was a challenge to me because I was with him 24/7 and had to watch my language all the time, and to Husband because he was out in the real world all day dealing with colleagues and teenagers, and then had to remember to switch on his internal censor when he was with us. Not that we're terribly rude people, but bad habits are easily formed. Of course there have been slips over the years, and Sausages has come out with some cracking language, but it's usually swear words, and if ignored they disappear fast enough. They bother me so much less than the other, "ugly" language.

If you don't have small people repeating everything you say, you might find that you unconsciously use this "ugly" language all the time. Get a friend or partner to spot it for you. If you're not using any, congratulations! You probably realised all of this long before me. If not, think a bit about who might be hearing those words. Not just children, but all sorts of people who might find they cut deeper than you intended. Make your speech beautiful, and your interactions will be too!

Pop over to A Playful Day to see what others have to say about "ugly."


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Holiday Knitting

This week I am on holibobs, working on some prototypes for a design that's in my head, fiddling around with details and fit. I spent a chunk of yesterday working on it on a blanket on the beach, and got very sunburned. Now I need to graft a seam, and I don't have a trip to the yarn shop anyone?

Pop over to Small Things and Frontier Dreams to see what people are actually crafting on, not just messing around in the sunshine! 

E x

Monday, 6 April 2015

Interactions and Community - Love Your Blog!

This month I have decided to join in with the Love Your Blog Monday link-ups initiated by Kate at A Playful Day. This week's theme is "Interactions and Community."

I've been thinking about the theme for a few days now, and I couldn't decide which of two subjects I wanted to talk to you about, so I'm going for both!

This week we are with family in our family home, and I am really enjoying how my boys are interacting with the adults around them. At the moment they are the only children in the family. These beautiful interactions have been a long time coming! Sausages has always struggled with the attention of other people, but this year he seems to have grown up so much, and is really enjoying spending time with his grandparents, aunties and uncles. They have been doing all sorts of things together! My sister Wooodle has created a detailed story for him every day, culminating in a tea-aged treasure map on Easter Sunday, leading him to the inevitable chocolate treats, and a few pirate books. A year ago he would have struggled to let himself get engaged with this. The irrepressible Bob is absolutely devoted to my mum, and has followed her around all week. I feel so happy that they have these relationships in their lives. Imagine me beaming and beaming!

On the other hand, having moved to a new area where I don't know anyone, I have had to make a real effort to interact with other people and find a new community. I am not good at this - I guess it wasn't from the wind that Sausages got it. I am shy. I really really struggle to get out and surround myself with strangers. But I know that if I don't meet some people I will be sad and lonely, and my boys need other children to play with. So what have I done? I have joined a local group of mothers who identify themselves as "natural parents," who have both an online group for chat, and a monthly meet up. This has been a gateway to finding other things. I have joined my local Positive Birth Movement group in the hope of meeting like-minded women, and I have! The same goes for getting involved with my local La Leche League branches. I have also joined a Facebook group for local advocates of attachment parenting, which again organises occasional meet-ups. I have been going to Mass, but I haven't really managed to meet anyone that way.

It's hard to meet new people, most of all to find real friends. It seems strange to me that Facebook has opened the doors for me, but I have found that it's all about turning the resources we have at our disposal to our advantage. It's popular to bash Facebook and claim that it has a negative impact on community, but without it I wouldn't interact with my cousins so often and so casually; be able to chat with old friends in a relaxed way whenever I have thirty seconds to pop off a message; get support from small private groups of close friends even though they are far away; or find out where to start in building a new community in our new home. I'm getting there, and I'm not alone.

Interactions? Make them where you can. Community? It evolves over time, but it doesn't have to fit into conventional shapes. Please head over to see what Kate and everyone else has made of the theme of "Interactions and Community," and don't forget to let me know about your own thoughts