A Week of Excess

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Mr Techno takes birthdays seriously. He has no fear of getting older and really likes to wring every last drop of enjoyment out of it. Since his birthday was last Wednesday, he took the entire week off work, which resulted in rather too much celebrating!

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We kicked off on Tuesday, with takeout and a bottle of wine (I know right? We really know how to live it up!) Wednesday night, his brother babysat so we could go out for dinner. Then we relocated to Waterloo for the weekend, leaving Tom with Mr Techno’s sister so we could go out with friends. Saturday night was a drunken dinner party in Waterloo, complete with drinking jenga.

The result of all this was a massive overconsumption of both food and alcohol, leaving me feeling rather sluggish. Definitely time for a bit of a detox this week!

We did at least head out on Saturday for a walk…which somehow turned into a visit to the Imperial War Museum. With two toddlers.

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I’ve actually not been before and could have done with my first visit being alone, so I could absorb. It’s not exactly a light Saturday afternoon outing! It’s also extremely un-buggy friendly. We had Tom in the sling/walking, but my neice is still a crawler so we had to check their buggy into the buggy park, due to the many stairs, and carry her.

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Still, at least it got us out of the house!

Guest Post: Trapped Wind and Sleep Deprivation

Hello! Just popping by quickly to say I am guest-posting over at The Butterfly Mother today, as part of Laura’s wonderful My Mountain series about parenting challenges. I’m talking about having a newborn suffering with trapped wind and trying to cope with the lack of sleep. So do head over there and check it out.

In other news, Wednesday was Mr Techno’s birthday, so we are staying at his parents’ house in Waterloo this weekend to take advantage of some free babysitting. Curry with friends tonight, dinner with his extended family tomorrow…and probably an extended hang-over for the whole weekend. But at least we can enjoy some toddler free fun!

Hope you all have a good one!

Garden Update: Building a Mud Kitchen

As long time followers of this blog will know, we’ve been trying to improve our garden space, which is challenging because a) we rent, b) we are broke and c) the space is tiny.

But we have finally made some progress! Ages and ages ago, I picked up a pile of miscellaneous wood that someone was offering on freecycle. It’s been sitting in our hallway for about two months, waiting for a dry day when both Mr Techno and I were home.

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Such a day finally arrived last Wednesday. So we took stock of what we had and drew up a plan.

To be honest, the materials weren’t completely ideal. But we selected a thick panel of mdf, a similarly sized one of chipboard and a scaffold plank.

Step one was cutting the chipboard to the same size as the mdf with our jig saw. I started out doing the cutting, but we swapped when we remembered that I can’t do straight lines.

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Then we cut the scaffolding plank into two pieces that were a bit shorter than the length of the panels.

We took it all out to the garden and screwed it together. The two panels form the top and bottom and the scaffolding plank pieces form the sides.

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This gave us a cuboid, with space for storage inside. The mdf had been covered with a thick layer of gloss paint, which helps with adding some waterproofing, so that panel went on top. We also kept a slight overhang to stop water dripping down inside and raised the whole thing up on bricks to keep the bottom getting too damp.

I then hammered the old nails we had prised off the scaffolding board into the mdf to act as hooks.

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Add Tom’s tea set, toy pans, some stones, and cast off bits from our kirchen and we were good to go.

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We have some wooden discs we plan to glue on as hobs, and I’d like to paint some details on to make it more realistic, but at least we’ve made a start!

And it hasn’t cost us a penny
(well ok, we did own some bits already we had to pay for, like the tea set and the tools. But the structure itself cost us nothing)

Sticks and Stones…

…make really good toys!

There’s been a bout of conjunctivitis going round Tom’s nursery and, when I picked him up last Thursday, it was clear he had succumbed to it. Which meant he couldn’t go to nursery on Friday. Working from home with a toddler, especially one who is not really sick, is a far different thing from working at home with a baby who can’t yet reach your keyboard. Clearly, if I was to get anything done some of Ton’s energy needed to be run off first.

We’ve been working on building him a mud kitchen for the garden, so it seemed like a perfect time to gather up some natural materials to go in it. So off we headed, with an old plastic bag in tow, to gather up some stones from our local patch of woodland.

Tom though this was a great game, once I’d explained what we were doing. Although he was rather too keen to empty everything back out of the bag at various intervals throughout our walk.

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Once we had collected a fair number, we headed home to try out their potential.

They were put into boxes and emptied out. Dipped into plant pots and awkwardly stacked on top of each other. Thrown onto the paving stones to make a clunk and banged against tables. In short, stones are awesome.

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So awesome that Tom kept bringing me his shoes and coat at various points throughout the weekend so we could go back out to play with them again.

Hurray for stones! (And sticks which have provided many a diversion when out on walks)

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Parity, Penises and Parenting: A Post for International Women’s Day

I spent most of my late teens and early twenties insisting I wasn’t a feminist. I didn’t see the need. From my safe, privileged bubble it looked as though that war was over. And I’d bought into the myth that feminists are man-haters who think women are better than men, rather than just equal to. Essentially, past-me was an idiot.

As I got older, entered the workplace and learnt a bit more about the world, I realised that the fight for equality between the genders was very much not over. Even in the UK, where we have made huge strides, women take home less money than men and make up a greater percentage of those earning only the national minimum wage. Almost 80% of senior management posts worldwide are held by men. Meanwhile, 1 in 4 women are subjected to domestic violence in their lifetime (source for all of these stats). Clearly, there is still a huge problem. And that’s even before we look at areas of the world where ‘women’s rights’ is a phrase that simply does not apply.

One of the simultaneously most empowering and most scary parts of being a parent is when you realise how much power you have to shape the views and opinions of another human being. And if we all raise our kids to know in their bones that men and women are equal, that skin colour has nothing to do with a person’s worth, and that who you choose to take to bed is only the business of you and that person (assuming everyone is legal and consenting of course)…we won’t have to have these conversations anymore. Equality will be a given.

Sometimes I think that this must be more straightforward for parents of girls. Not easy. I see nothing easy about having to challenge the endemic and often unconscious sexism that women encounter all the time. But the need to challenge that view, to provide strong female role models, to do your best to bring up an empowered woman who knows her worth…that need must feel pretty urgent.

I don’t have a daughter though. I have a son. My boy is white, male and middle-class, growing up in a world where being white, male and middle-class makes you one of the privileged ones. This makes the need to provide examples of female empowerment feel a little less urgent. A little less relevant. Which is, of course, a dangerous attitude. Because equality between the genders (and I include every possible permutation in that, not just the classic male/female) will only come when everyone believes in it. It’s not a battle that can, or should, be won by women alone.

As always in parenting, this is a matter of balance. Tom was born with a penis. This is a biological fact. And, regardless of whether he grows up to be a straight man, or a gay man, or a trans woman or any other of the wonderful variety of things that humans can be, being born with a penis is going to form a big part of his identity. So the last thing I want to do is make him feel guilty about that. I’ve spent most of my life feeling obscurely guilty for the fact I was lucky enough to be born into a well-off family…as though it was something I chose. I don’t want that for him.

So how do we do this? How do we raise a son who knows that women and men are equal, without making him feel guilty for being born a member of the sex who has historically been dominant? (this is a genuine question by the way – we have some ideas but are not exactly experts…)

He’s only 18 months, so the more in depth conversations are going to have to wait until his vocabulary expands a bit (somehow I don’t think ‘car’ and ‘doggy’ are going to cut it). At the moment, our approach to this issue mainly revolves around not labeling behaviours as typically male or typically female (Tom loves cars for example. And also tea parties and dancing and housework. Sometimes all together).

We are providing him with toys from both the blue and pink sections of the toy aisle – and boy does that bit of marketing make me angry! We are on the look out for stories with strong female characters as well as strong male ones (any suggestions very welcome). And we are trying to model equality in our marriage. Both Mr Techno and I go out to work. Both of us have days where we are home alone with Tom. Both of us cook. Both of us do housework. Both of us do DIY. I’m more likely to do the clothes wash and he’s more likely to handle power tools…but we are getting there.

I guess we just keep talking to Tom. At an age appropriate level. Challenge sexism wherever we see it. Provide examples of both women and men who step outside of accepted gender roles. And make sure he continues to grow up around men who are comfortable in who they are without needing to put down women (or anyone else) in order to feel powerful.

So here is my #PledgeForParity for International Women’s Day: I will not only call myself a feminist, I will raise my son to call himself one too.

Suck on that, past-me.

PS. If you’d like to see some amazing women who are proving that the construction industry isn’t just for men…head over to the SPAB’s Vimeo Channel where my colleague Ali has been putting together videos showcasing women working in building conservation – from architects to building surveyors to stonemasons. And check out the SPAB’s careers advice page whilst you are at it to see how your daughters, or sons, could develop a career working with historic buildings (I wrote it, so you know it will be brilliant).

PPS. This post is linked up with Lulastic’s International Women’s Day link up. So head over there to read more: http://lulastic.co.uk/activism/feminism/international-womens-day-2016-blog-link-up/

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