Knowledge and Understanding of the World

Gardening – It’s Like Watching Water Boil, But More Exciting

I’m so glad I decided to plant the sunflower seeds the same day as the tomato plants, because for days and days nothing happened. We opened the growing thingy each day to find nothing, except one random weed that popped it’s head out. I was beginning to think the Heinz Grow Your Own tomato plants were a fail. I did find another bag of seeds though, so thought I’d try again.

20130505-222540.jpgThe sun flower seeds sprouted and one of the two of them shot right up. It’s pretty cool though. The other may or may not have had a fight with a pigeon. I’ve stuck it back in the ground, but I’m not sure it’s grown at all since then. At least it hasn’t died. That’s progress, right?

It’s been a bit of a rubbish week, weather wise, so I haven’t really been out in the garden much, and left my ‘failed’ tomatoes where they were, and I’m glad I did.  When I got back to them, there were four little plants smiling up at me. I’m not sure if Ameli was more excited, or me!

We’ve replanted the sunflower plants, and will be replanting the little tomatoes soon. In the meantime we’ve also planted some potatoes from the Grow Your Own potatoes scheme that was advertised earlier in the year – did you know there’s a potato council? It’s a little like the Ministry of Magic, eh? – but I took more than a month to open the box, by which time all the eyes had sprouted and now I’m not sure if they’re actually going to grow or not. We’ll see, I guess. I’m still really hopeful for something more than herbs from our garden this year!

Anyway, I have yet to plant the next bag of tomato seeds. They’re a different variety, so hopefully between the two we’ll have a good harvest, and once again I’m really hoping I didn’t leave it too late!


Getting Into Gardening

For the last two years, I have had the worst luck with  my garden. What pregnancy didn’t take out of me, sickness and a newborn did, and then, to top it off it rained so much last year that even my mint died. Do you have any idea how hard it is to kill mint? Well, it drowned. And got moldy.

Of course, this year, what with being in Australia and all, I came a bit late to the planting season, so I had to get a bit of help from the garden centre, but overall, it’s gone okay. This is the ‘before’ photo of the garden. To be honest it’s not all done yet, so there’s no after photo just yet, and the before photo was taken after mowing the lawn and hacking away the foliage, but oh well.



As well as planting an envelope of tomatoes from seed – thank you very much Heinz for sending us a gorgeous wheelbarrow and gardening equipment for Ameli, as well as a bag of seeds – we also planted some sun flowers as I figure they’ll grow quickly and maintain the girls’ interest.  Interestingly, both of them really enjoyed digging about in the ground.


And including their little friends in the process.

As I said, since we’re quite late in the season already, we got some help from the local garden centre and bought a few ready to plant out courgettes, marrows, shallots, kale and a few different herbs.


Well… I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s been fun, but I really do hope we get to eat from our garden this year!

P.S. If we happen to get tomatoes off this plant, Heinz have promised us a hamper of goodies, so here’s hoping we get a double bonus for our efforts! I think Heinz are still giving out grow your own tomato kits, so head over to their Facebook page for some to grow yourself.




Hyperemesis Gravidarum – Pauper to Princess (or Duchess)

I awoke this morning to the news that Kate Middleton is pregnant and has been admitted to hospital with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I have felt nauseas since I heard the news and I’ve been actively avoiding reading any of the comments surrounding the press, because honestly, people are cold hearted and mean, especially when they are lucky enough to have no idea what they are talking about.

I’m not one that’s swayed by celebrities, in any which way, but as a first time mother, I too faced HG and I want to stand up in defence of the Duchess of Cambridge and say IT IS NOT JUST MORNING SICKNESS.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is debilitating. It is like being so hungover you can’t even keep water in your body. And it’s like that 24/7 for however long it lasts. For Ameli that was my life for 18 weeks. With Aviya it was 26 weeks.  

My advice to anyone who says ‘it’s just morning sickness’ is this: go out tonight. Get VERY drunk. So drunk you throw up all day tomorrow. Then imagine that day after day after day after day. Then imagine doing it with the world watching. Then feel free to comment on what the Duchess is experiencing right now. If you just had morning sickness, count your blessing, hug your child, and keep your comments to yourself. 

Like all diseases, Hyperemesis Gravidarum picks you, no matter who you are.

P.S. If you want to know more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum you can find out more on that link. I’ve written about what its like living with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and the general journey of life for an HG sufferer, including mourning the loss of a joyous pregnancy.

4 Lasting Ways To Celebrate Earth Day

It’s Earth Day today, and while many people might not even realise it, millions of others around the world will be participating in Earth Day activities. In past years we’ve done things like black outs, where everyone is encouraged to turn off their lights for an hour in the evening, or meet at a local park to pick up litter.  While those are all fantastic ideas, and well worth doing, when I think of my children and how I can involve them in Earth Day, I realise that to them, a way of life will be so much more meaningful than simply doing special things on one day.

Equate Earth Day to Valentine’s Day. It’s all fine and well spoiling your partner on 14 February, but the rest of the year treating him like he doesn’t matter, you don’t care about him and he is irrelevant to your way of life. There’s little real or lasting about a relationship that only has effort put into it on one day a year.  Earth Day is the same. While 1,000,000 people doing something special on one day of the year is not to be sniffed at, 10,000 people doing something special every day is already almost four times as effective.

So how can I teach my children to treat every day as Earth Day? (more…)

Great YouTube Birth Videos For Children

Preparing for a homebirth is one thing, but preparing your older child for a homebirth has been a whole different adventure. I think how much you’re able to prepare them depends massively on the child’s age, and while I have no evidence of this, I suspect the younger they are, the more ‘easily’ they’ll just ‘go with it’.

We’ve been reading books and practicing mooing and making groany noises together so that Ameli knows what mama might do when the baby comes. With her birth there was no crying or screaming, it was actually very calm and gentle. I’m hoping for the same again this time.

As with any birth, our preparation will only take us so far, then it’s up to nature and a little bit of luck to take you the rest of the way. It’s no different with preparing a child for a birth, whether it’s a home birth or hospital birth. Having never been through it before, we have no idea how Ameli will react, whether she’ll be in any way interested, or will in fact even be awake!

But on the hope that she’ll be there and understand what’s going on, we’ve been watching birth videos together, for preparation.

Below are the best we’ve found. I’ve  specifically chosen videos that aren’t overly graphic, and are relatively short – while the lead up and pregnancy pictures and all that make for a beautiful dedication, they don’t really captivate a two year old! I’ve also gone for gentle and calm births. There were some amazing ones with lots of screaming. She found them disconcerting, and I didn’t feel they were contributing to the positive preparation we were  hoping for.


This is an unassisted birth at home in the bath. Mama doesn’t make a sound the whole way through!

Another in the bath at home. Another really quiet mama! Birth happens about a minute in.

Here the mother labours in a birthpool and it is probably closer to our setup. Mama rocks up and down in the pool while holding her belly through the contractions and there’s some heavy breathing. This is useful for explaining the way you’ll be breathing (i.e. golden thread breathing) and to ‘practice’ it together with your child/ren.  (For the record, I don’t think her breathing would be ideal for me – it’s too panty, but it obviously worked for her.)

Land births:

While we’re not planning a land birth, there’s no harm in preparing Ameli for it too. Also, they’re a bit for explanatory of where the baby comes from, since they show a little more. These are still not very graphic.

Here mama labours on all fours and has gives birth around the 2 minute mark

Quite explicit and straight on, but I still thought this one was tastefully done in a way that was child friendly to watch too.

Older siblings at birth:

Here’s a mix of different births, but with older siblings present. I found these really useful for comparisons. “See how the boy stands next to the pool and doesn’t try to climb in? Ameli mustn’t climb in either when mama’s having the baby.” And so on.

This clip has the nine year old sister aiding in the delivery of the baby, along with the midwife. It’s good though as it shows the baby coming out without actually showing any gory bits.

There’s about a minute of pregnancy pictures here, then a few seconds of labour pictures – birth ball use and so on. This video is good as it involves a bit of groaning and ‘noise’ but nothing ‘violent’ or frightening.  The boy gives his mama cuddles and kisses and generally ‘hangs around’. It’s a beautiful and gentle birth and Ameli copies the lady’s ‘ooh,ooh’s’.

A longer video that has the older brother in the tub with mama for much of the labour. This was a good clip for me to watch too, as I’ve been concerned about being able to focus in with Ameli around, but if this mama can do it, then it obviously can be done! Birth happens around 7 minutes with a realistic amount of panting and groaning and moaning.

Ameli’s birth: 

And of course, no birth viewing session would be complete without the picture slideshow of Ameli’s own birth. This one has the lead up of labour, including the birth ball, gas and air for a while, and labouring in water.  Birth occurs around 2:20.

Books To Prepare Children For Childbirth, Homebirth Or Waterbirth

I went to my library recently to find books to use to prepare Ameli, not only for a new sibling, but also for the arrival of a new child. While there were plenty books and stories, there weren’t any that didn’t have the older sister or brother going in to the hospital room to see the baby  who was generally in the crib next to mama’s bed.

** For books on becoming a sibling rather than birth specific, see books to help prepare siblings for the arrival of a new baby**

While there’s nothing wrong with these stories, in themselves, and they would suit the majority of people, I wanted something more – I wanted to be able to prepare my child for the birth we are planning.

I did a little research and found only three books easily available in the UK. (For a review of books easily available in the US please see Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.)

My New Baby is a cardboard book, definitely aimed at younger children. There aren’t many words, and it isn’t a story as such, but rather, random sentences, like “This bed is bouncy! Is the baby hungry?” or “I’m getting dressed. Is Baby clean yet?” and so on.

The book opens with mother, father, older sibling  (which could pass as a boy or a girl) and baby in bed. Baby is breastfeeding and daddy is playing with the older sibling.

Later you see baby nursing again while OS eats a plate of finger foods, and on the next page, baby is in a sling while OS walks, with the words ‘I love walking. When will Baby walk like me?’ below it, so there are attachment parenting themes throughout, but it’s not alienating – baby is also carried in a bucket car seat, and cries during a nappy change before being put into a Moses Basket to sleep.

It’s a very simple book, and it doesn’t deal with the birth of the baby at all, but only with there being another baby.

The thing I liked most about the book is that because it is so simple, we can adapt the words and the story to suit our needs. We called the older sibling Ameli, and we talk about each picture. For example when the baby is nursing, we talk about how our baby will nurse from Mama, and Ameli will have to share. She turns to me and points at my breasts saying “Baby will have milk”. So, she gets it – but I’m interested to see how she accepts it when its more than pictures in a book.

I think it can be used as quite a useful tool later on too – reminding Ameli to put her own jumper on, like the girl in the book, while Mama dresses the baby, and so on. I also like the fact that though I think it’s obviously a girl on the cover, which works in our favour, you could get away with it being a brother, I think.

While helpful for preparing to adjust to life with a baby, the My New Baby didn’t help with preparing for birth at all.

  • Hello Baby Written by Jenni Overend, Illustrated by Julie Vivas (£5.99 at Amazon UK) (

Hello Baby is a beautiful book, written for, I’d imagine, a slightly older child – perhaps three or four and up. That said, we’ve had great success with using the story as a tool for discussing birth with my two year old.

It’s a ‘normal’ paper book, and the story is nicely written and stunningly illustrated. The words of the story are descriptive of a home birth at its ideal, attended by a midwife and other family members.

The illustrations in this book are quite graphic, without being intimate. There’s a picture of the mother leaning against the father during transition, with the head of the baby visible between her legs as the older children look on. There’s a side profile of the mother, naked, holding the baby with the umbilical cord attached to both of them, and later the midwife holds a bowl with the placenta in it.

While the book is quite detailed, and this may be off-putting for some, I find it a very good way to open conversation. It’s my hope that Ameli will be present at the birth, and having an understanding and a preconception of it can only be helpful.  The final picture has the whole family of six sleeping on sleeping bags in the living room, with mother cosleeping with baby in her arms. The boy, who is telling the story, crawls in with daddy. He can see the baby lying between ‘Mum and Dad’ and wishes he could be there too. We had a really productive chat – as much as you can with a two year old – about how Ameli would sleep in the other room with Daddy for a while, while Mama and Squidgy would sleep in the big bed. Again, she is okay with it in principle… we’ll see how reality pans out.

The story is lovely and detailed and follows the mother as she is in early labour and goes out for a walk in the woods, it talks about the midwife’s arrival and her equipment, and about how Mum yells and shouts at times. It is too detailed for Ameli, so we follow the basics of the story, but mainly using the pictures I tell her the story in age appropriate chunks.

The only negative in the book, is that the midwife ‘pulls on the cord’ to release the placenta – but we just leave that bit out.

I love this book. And I love that it is adaptable across the ages, and that the pictures are tasteful and beautiful, and yet still honest and true to what the child is likely to see at a homebirth.

I highly recommend Hello Baby when preparing your toddler or young child for childbirth.

(Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine has additional thoughts and images from this book)

Our Water Baby is the most expensive of the three books I was able to find. It is also the only one I could find on waterbirth. It is a whole story in which a birth happens, rather than just being about birth. That said, issues surrounding water birth are very nicely explained in conversation between the parents and their son.

“Will the baby know how to swim?” asked liver.

“When babies are born in water, they know how to hold their breath. The baby will not have to swim on his own,” said Oliver’s daddy.

A common question people ask, answered in a simple way that a child will understand.

Our Water Baby mentions the ‘noises’ of birth, and the quiet of concentration during labour, it mentions daddy supporting mummy in the pool, and the midwife using a dopler to listen to the baby’s heart, mentions the mother’s ‘special milk’ and has a lovely bonding scene between big brother and new baby.

The book is beautifully illustrated too, with toys and children’s characters hanging around in random places forming frames around the page, and the birth scenes are completely covered in water, so all you see is a bit of breast above the water – but that’s pretty true to a water birth.

(I do love the picture of granny and grandpa with the midwife in the kitchen cleaning up while the family bonds on the bed!)

This is a very innocent portrayal of birth, while still being factual. It doesn’t have the gritty reality of Hello Baby, and isn’t as focused or detailed, but does the vague job of explaining a birth to a child who may be waiting upstairs.

Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born” tells the story of Max’s birth, which takes place at home in water. Mama tells Max’s older sister the story about when Mama first learned that she was pregnant; about seeing the midwives; about preparing for Max’s arrival and finally his birth in their living room.

The book is beautifully illustrated, with bold, bright colours, and mostly full page illustrations.

Big sister attends the midwife and doula visits – either helping with measuring, or just in the foreground of the image, painting and carrying on with ‘normal’ activities.

Attending the birth are the midwife, doula, daddy, nana and big sister – pretty much exactly like my birth with Aviya (not in the pool or room though – Ameli was in the birthpool for a while, and in the room with us doing busy bag activities).

This book really strikes me as one of those ‘ a picture says a 1000 words’ moments. For example, there’s a picture of Mama labouring in the birth pool with the two midwives with their back to her, writing notes and drinking tea (or something). It’s just such a ‘normal’ scene, a woman labouring, no dramas here. That’s  possibly one of my favourite things about this book.

The birth  picture is not at all graphic. There’s a mama holding her baby up out of the water. The baby is attached by the umbilical cord, and everyone is smiling.

The only thing I found a bit odd was that ‘Max’ was given a hat as soon as he was born. I know that’s common practice in many places, but neither of my babies were given a hat.

Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born is a lovely book, and provided great talking points with my toddler.  It isn’t a complete A-Z of birth – i.e. there’s no mention of the placenta, or noises or anything that a child can expect from the birth itself, but not everyone wants that anyway. For me personally I’d say that if a child wasn’t going to be present at the birth, this is a perfect book, but if they are, this would be a good book to make up part of a set.

It’s a little hard to get hold of though, as it can currently only be purchased on Amazon US or through their own website in Australia.

Part of the Mama, Talk About series from Toni Olson, Mama, Talk About Our New Baby is about a young boy who, with the help of his mother, learns what life will be like after his sister is born. It is beautifully illustrated, and serves as a wonderful guide for parents to help them introduce older children to the concept of a younger sibling. In comparison to many mainstream books, it provides a beautiful introduction to the attached family and helps prepare siblings for life with a new baby.

There are a lot of subtle things in this book, as in the previous one, like the toddlers bed pushed up next to the parents’ for an authentic family bed.  In the explanation of what life with a new baby will be like, there’s a lot of inclusive language, like “You can come cuddle with us and meet your sister” or “Some days we could all nap together”.

There’s a mention and image of tandem feeding, although it’s not called that, folding up reusable nappies (called diapers in the book) and both baby and toddler are rear facing in their car seats. There’s even a picture of Mama wearing the baby and big brother “wearing” his baby, and another of daddy wearing the toddler in a back carry with Mama carrying baby in a ring sling.

I think this is truly one of the most all encompassing Attachment Parenting books for new babies – perhaps the word is definitive, it’s the definitive book for introducing toddlers to the concept of a new sibling. It is an expensive book at US$18 or AUS$15, but I must admit I wish I had it before our baby was born, and I will be holding on to it and treasuring it to loan to many friends in the years to come.

It would be great if it were easily found in the UK, but I’d go so far as to say it was it’s worth importing.

captureThis is a lovely story too, especially if the new sibling is a little older, used to being an only child, and able to talk about emotions with some understanding.

The Magic Basket opens with Amy crying on her bed because she doesn’t want to become a big sister. Her mother brings her a piece of cloth, which opens up into a blue magic basket. Amy puts her hand in the basket, and out comes a feeling – curious – who guides her through how to explore her feelings. Being curious he asks her what she was doing when her mother came in, and next thing you know, another feeling – sad – comes into play. Curious and Sad help explore her feelings of worry about why her parents want another child, and help her realise that maybe they’re not trying to replace her, but ‘add to’ her. It’s a really lovely message, actually, and the transformation that comes from realisation and understanding is very sweet.

This isn’t a book for children at all, but I thought I’d throw it in here anyway. It is the best book I’ve ever read on waterbirth. It’s simple, easy to understand, reader-friendly language, without being too technical and is such an easy read it doesn’t take long at all. If your mother, sister, partner or friend is unsure about water birth: this is the book to give them to read.

Bertram discusses the theory of waterbirth, including why water is beneficial, explaining the logistics of waterbirth and looks at the basics of birth. There’s a section on preparation which includes practical demonstrations such as yoga, deep relaxation, breathing techniques and free movement dance.

The real winner for me, however is part 3 of Choosing Waterbirth, where she shares six water birth stories.

It is an empowering read for the mama-to-be and for those supporting her. (I gave it to my mother to read before my daughter’s birth and it answered most of her questions and put her mind at ease too. I highly recommend this book for anyone considering a waterbirth.)


Do you know of other books for children that I’ve missed out? There are plenty available in the US and another I found in Australia, but are there more in the UK?

Autumn in England

There are many things about life and living in the UK that it seems, even after eight years, that I will just never get on board with. There are things that make me realise painfully, that this is not home. (Home isn’t home any more either, but at least it’s familiar.) But there is something I have in the UK that I do not have in South Africa, and that is an immense freedom.  I realised that again today as Ameli and I walked along a canal and we took in and loved our environment.

If money was no object for me, I would spend January, February, March and April in South Africa, and May, June and November and December each year in England, because Spring is the most beautiful in England, and Autumn is hard to compare to anywhere else I’ve been.

Today I remembered my love for Autumn in England and for the freedom to be without fear …

We went for a walk along the canal

We went for a stroll along the canal...

Watching the ducks

... where we stopped often...


... to observe the wildlife...

examining a spider

...and get up close with the spiders and insects...

smelling the flowers

...and to really smell the flowers...


... and explore our world as we go...

...then stopping to share a well-earned hot chocolate....

…. before heading home for a two-hour nap.

These are the great moments. The ones I don’t want to take for granted.


What message does this send our children?

Author: Martin

To me, there are few places on this earth that so blatantly represent the very worst of naked consumerism than the modern toy store. Now I’m not talking about the family-run shop selling wooden toys and play things – those few that still survive,  anyway. I’m talking about the gleaming multi-coloured superstores with huge in-store displays whose sole intention is to drive kids into such a state of excitement that parents are only too happy to part with large wads of cash if only for the sake of their sanity.

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