My sons wear pink, AND they have intact penises

I was recently out with my mum and younger son in our local town centre for a spot of lunch and shopping.  My baby son was 13 months at the time, and had acquired a pair of chopsticks from the fab restaurant we were in (Busaba Ethai).  He was happily waving them around, nibbling on them, dropping them etc., as we made our way around Kingston.  We wandered into a stationary shop, where one of the shop assistants was admiring his chopstick-skills.

“She’s going to be a drummer when she grows up.”

Mum and I whipped round and simultaneously piped up with,

“He’s a boy!”

We weren’t aggressive or offended, and actually found it more amusing than anything.  The shop assistant, however, was mortified and didn’t utter another word.

So what’s the big deal?  Babies must get mistaken for the opposite gender all the time, right?  Well, the big deal was this; the reason the shop assistant assumed he was a girl was because he was wearing a bright pink tank top.  It was a modified t-shirt bought in the girls’ section of TK Maxx.  It had a bulldog on the front, and I thought it would make a cool tank top with the sleeves cut off.  And it did.  He had it teamed with a pair of urban-camo shorts (very ‘masculine’, although I frequently rocked the urban-camo trousers back in my Scary Spice days, circa 1995).

If you’re unfamiliar with the gender non-specific clothing movement and groups like Pink Stinks, you may be wondering why I decided to choose a bright pink tee for my son.  Well, I was getting pretty sick of my sons’ clothes being confined to blues, greens, greys and khakis.  Men, women and girls can purchase clothes in styles of their choice in any colour, yet little boys have such a limited palette to choose from.  This is all because we’ve got it into our heads that wearing pinks, purples and lilacs will somehow make our boys less male than they are.  And this is so ludicrous because really, I’m fairly certain that nothing untoward is going to happen to our boys’ penises if they choose to wear pink.

Children are children and they all seem to enjoy and appreciate every colour.  My children certainly don’t discriminate between any colours, and they’re both boys.  They don’t even discriminate between toys aimed specifically at genders.  I don’t force cars and trains on them, although they do like these toys.  As well as their vehicles, they also have a girl doll called ‘Baby’, as well as an array toy kitchen apparatus.  My elder son loves flowers and cooking as well as horsing around and rough games.

Indeed, my elder son also takes a keen interest in the variety of nail colours that I wear, and insists that he have a nail or two in a matching colour.  In the park recently, we met a woman who saw his toe nails and asked him if he was a girl.  And when shopping in Next a few weeks ago, I was picking two lilac t-shirts for the boys in the girls’ section.  I was with my elder son, and the shop assistant said ‘I hope they’re not for you’ (talking to my son) and directed me to the boys’ section which was home to ONE salmon pink polo shirt.  Amongst other things, I told her to open her mind, which she didn’t appreciate, but hopefully it made her think about her attitude.

Anyway, I know there are other parents who take gender neutrality very seriously, probably way more seriously than I do, and have indeed written about it.  A lot of the focus is on the negative effect that the colour pink has on little girls, but there isn’t so much about the effect of limiting boys to stereotypically boyish colours/appearance.  If a girl dresses in ‘boy’ clothes, she is deemed as a tomboy, which is fairly endearing.  There is no equivalent for boys.  Little boys couldn’t possibly play with dolls, yet they’re expected to grow up and be amazing fathers.  Isn’t the whole purpose of roleplay in childhood to learn about some of the activities that children see their parents doing?  Caring for a younger sibling can be mimicked by looking after a baby doll, and surely this is a positive learning activity for little girls and boys?

Boys’ sexuality is referred to or questioned in a negative manner if they’re seen to be wearing or playing with anything traditionally feminine.  I have never heard of anyone being coerced into a sexual preference because of the clothes they wore as a child or the toys they played with.  And anyway, even if that child later discovers that they are gay, who cares?!

So there.  I just wanted to share with you my annoyance at the absurd notion that girls and boys should have certain toy and colour preferences.  They are all innocent, curious and blank canvases, and should be allowed to make up their own mind about the things that they like.  They shouldn’t have to deal with the nonsensical and historical notions that we hold around gender specificity and I can only imagine how pleasant a world with less of that attitude would be.

In the meantime, here are some photos of my boys rocking pink.  I would, as ever, love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Creating Photo Memories with Photobox

As a parent and blogger I take a lot of photographs, particularly of my children.  Whether it be on outings, at home or special occasions such as birthdays, my camera is never far from reach in a bid to snap a magic moment, or simply capture a lovely photo.

In the digital age, we seem to be very snap-happy; taking a lot of digital photos, storing them on little plastic memory cards, and sometimes never viewing them again.  My parents and in-laws frequently ask for copies of our photographs of the kids, and so naturally we have obliged on many occasions by developing prints of our favourite snaps.  We’ve even gone further by getting some pictures blown up into canvases to display on the walls, and thus appreciated all of the time.

We have always used Photobox as our first and only choice of photo-printing.  My husband first discovered them a few years back when we wanted to print out some of our honeymoon photos.  We had such an excellent service: quick, often receiving our deliveries much sooner than anticipated, and easy with a user-friendly website and excellent customer service team.  As well as an outstanding service, you can get astonishing value for money by ordering your prints with them.

We already have two beautiful canvases of our elder son as a baby; one at my parents’ house and one of our own.  We felt it right to match our one with an equally beautiful baby picture of our younger son, so that they could sit proudly next to each other.  We chose this glorious happy picture which Photobox very generously gifted us in the form of a 20”x 30” classic canvas.

photobox fraser

After placing the order online, we were advised that we should expect a few working days before delivery.  However, less than 48 hours later, I was delighted to open the door to a delivery driver with our brand new canvas, much earlier than expected!

We hung it on the wall immediately, and you can see some snaps of our snaps below.  I’m chuffed to bits as I know we will cherish these canvases for many, many years.

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Here are some photos of our elder son which I had printed with Photobox a while back, and framed.

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As well standard prints and canvases, Photobox also offer a huge range of products which you can customise with your favourite photos.  My husband has customised a mug or two for his dad for Christmas and birthdays, and they have been treasured.

If you’ve got archives of digital photos, why not visit Photobox and get some printed, get them framed or blown up and display them around your home.  They instantly brighten up a wall or make a special gift.  So go on, grab your camera, get snapping and get printing with Photobox!

What to do on a Day to Myself

Since becoming a mum, my life has changed dramatically.  This is no revelation, as most of you either have children, or know people with children and can appreciate how your life is essentially no longer your own once you have kids.  This isn’t a complaint, I’m merely stating a fact.

Getting out of the house on the most basic of trips always proves to be a total mission, usually with fights over getting clothes on/off, minor setbacks such as soiled nappies, having to make about 57 trips up and down the stairs because you’ve forgotten some spare bibs/socks/nappies/bum cream/teddy bears/fire engine/beaker of water… you get the picture.

So it is no wonder that I don’t usually go anywhere of significance with the kids.  It just proves to be such a massive faff that it isn’t worth it.  We keep our trips out simple; dog-free parks (you know much I hate dog poo), a trip to the garden centre (any child can be bribed to be still and quiet with cake), Sainsbury’s (because what child doesn’t love being pushed around at speed whilst sat in a shopping trolley?), the playground (obvious), for a walk (because they need exercise, and apparently so do I).

I never, ever wish that I could have a day without them (honestly, I really don’t).  They’re like my entourage and I feel totally lost on the rare occasions that I pop out without them.  However, I do sometimes ponder over what I would do with my day if I had a day entirely to myself.  You may think this would be an easy choice to make, but I found it quite difficult to decide on that ‘perfect’ activity.  So here I shall list some of the things that I would consider doing on such a day.

I used to make fairly regular trips into London, either for work, shopping or on a public transport jolly.  Hey, I love train journeys, thanks to my dad.  We all know London is incredible for any kind of shopping requirement that you could throw at it.  In London I have previously enjoyed shopping for anything from high street clothes on Oxford Street, to shoes at Neal Street, to body piercing jewellery in Camden, to cowboy boots on Portobello Road (for my dad – I got mine in Schuh).  But really, you can do shopping any time on the internet, for whatever you need.  I know it isn’t supposed to be as fun as shopping in real life, but I just don’t get the buzz from trailing around shops anymore.

borough market

However, I do miss traveling around to places in the city, and would love to get on the train and do a day trip to a few destinations with my trusty (topped-up) Oyster card.  I would probably head to the bustling Borough Market in Southwark, just south of the Thames (yup, even better that we don’t have to cross the river!).  If you’re a foodie you will fall for Borough Market.  Traders cater for all tastes, just check out the pictures if you don’t believe me…

hays galleria

After perusing the stalls, I would get myself a tasty lunch and go sit in the grounds of the magnificent Southwark Cathedral to eat.  After lunch, I would head to the river for a stroll along the south bank towards Tower Bridge, passing the impressive Hays Galleria packed full of shops and restaurants (although may pass on the food after my Borough Market fest), not to mention some glorious architecture.  Not forgetting to marvel at HMS Belfast, I would continue on towards City Hall (the place you can find Mayor Boris Johnson).  The building is pretty cool, with a lot of open space outside to sit and take in the view of Tower Bridge and the river.

city hall

Afterwards, I would head up to and over the iconic Tower Bridge, checking out the incredible view of the city to the west as I crossed to the north side of the river.  It is hard to miss the modern and dazzling Shard on the south side of the river, juxtaposed with the historical Tower of London adjacent to Tower Bridge on the north side of the Thames.  If you fancy a trip through London’s ages, I highly recommend a visit to the Tower of London.  Brimming with 1000 years of London’s history, covering fascinating stories on Sir William Wallace (Braveheart) to the sparkling Crown Jewels, the Tower will feed your hunger for history all under one roof.

Walking on towards Tower Hill station, I would hop on the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) towards Greenwich.  The DLR will forever prompt fond memories of day trips around London with my dad.  It is exactly what it says on the tin; a light railway with short trains.  No driver on board, instead it runs on an automated system.  This means that you can sit right at the front or back of the train with a brilliant view of the tracks and feel like you’re the driver.  I LOVE it!

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I would stay on the DLR until Greenwich, which is back over on the south side of the river in southeast London.  The journey would take me through the heart of the Canary Wharf business district, before heading further south.  Canary Wharf is home to a branch of Charles Fish, a jewellery retailer showcasing some stunning designer jewellery.  You can find my favourite jewellery brand Oak Fine Jewellery stocked there if you fancied treating yourself to some truly special pieces.

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You know you’re near Greenwich once you’ve headed down into the tunnel under the Thames after Island Gardens, which I think is the most fun bit of the journey (especially if you’re sitting at the front or rear of the train).  Greenwich is a super cool little town in southeast London, home to the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory.  Another place that my dad took us to when we were children, the Cutty Sark is another fantastic, historical attraction to visit.  Lovingly restored after the fire in 2007, the Cutty Sark is a tea clipper which captures the imaginations of adults and children alike.  Do visit if you’re in the area.

The Royal Observatory is located at the top of a hill through in Greenwich Park.  The Observatory is home to the Greenwich Meridian Line, which is where Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) originates.  There is a physical line present on the ground where visitors enjoy having their photo taken, straddling the line.  Another great place for families.  After swinging past the Cutty Sark and through Greenwich Park, I would take a stroll through Greenwich market, which is full of arts, crafts, antiques and interesting finds.

greenwich market

I’m going to start to feel a little hungry again, so I would head back onto the DLR to Monument station, where I would head to towards Fleet Street on foot (or to St. Paul’s station if my feet were hurting!).  There is an ancient pub just off Fleet Street called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.  My old friend first introduced me to this pub many years ago, and for me it epitomises what you can imagine ancient London pubs would have been like; a labyrinth of dark, crooked corridors and rooms on several floors below ground.  Said to be the oldest pub in London, It is accessed through an alley leading off Fleet Street.  All you see is the façade of a small pub from the outside, but if you head there on a weekday evening, you will be able to access all of the basement floors (I believe it is closed on the weekend).

Full of nooks and crannies, they serve Samuel Smiths beer as well as all of your usual pub staples.  They also serve a traditional menu here – no hint of gastro-pub in sight.  Although I am a foodie and do appreciate fine dining, I would opt to dine at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese because of the historical atmosphere and for the fact that there is nowhere else that looks like this place.  It is unique and I will always revisit when I can.

After dinner, I would take a bus over the river over Blackfriars Bridge, before taking another walk along a different stretch of the South Bank of the river, passing the Oxo building (now you really can get fine dining at the top of the Oxo tower!), as well as art exhibitions, designers, interiors, cafes and more.

Moving on, I would stroll past the London Television Centre, the place where you can find the likes of Phil and Holly from This Morning most weekday mornings, and sometimes out on the South Bank.  I would then swing past the National Theatre before heading up to Waterloo station and heading home.

So that would be my day to myself.  Possibly a little different to what you might have expected, or maybe not if you know me well.  Either way, that would be a pretty cool day for me.  I would of course have my camera with me to capture the numerous gorgeous photo opportunities whilst out and about.  Notice how I didn’t go for drinks after getting off the bus?  I would probably be exhausted by this time and would want my bed!  But covering some of my favourite watering holes would need to be in a whole other blog post.

What would you do if you had the day entirely to yourself?  I’d love to hear about it!

Toyota, you can go ‘fun yourself’

I was driving back from picking up my elder son from nursery the other afternoon, the car radio on as usual.  An advert came on for Toyota Aygo, part of their ‘Go Fun Yourself’ ad campaign.  It went as follows:

A woman is called by a radio station live on air, to be entered into a competition.  The radio presenter tells her that the prize is a holiday to wherever a spinning globe stops spinning, and the woman has to say ‘stop’ to control where the globe should stop.  She says ‘stop’ and the presenter announces that she is going on a holiday to Siberia.  The woman reacts with complete disappointment at this destination, and then it cuts to the voiceover which says, ‘for a more fun prize, visit the Toyota website…’, or something like that.

I couldn’t obtain a recording of this advert from Toyota, but I did make a video recording of it playing through my laptop (apologies for the close-up of my keyboard).  You can take a listen here:

I thought about it for a moment, and then thought how utterly offensive that is to the countries within the Siberian region.  Who on earth are Toyota to declare that Siberia would be such a ghastly place to visit?  In fact, my husband was in the car with me at the time, and we both agreed that a visit to Siberia would probably be absolutely fantastic, a lot of fun and like no other holiday.

So as a direct response to that utterly offensive advert, I have decided to put together some outstanding things to appreciate and experience if one was ever lucky enough to visit Siberia.

The Trans-Siberian Railway

Photo credited to The Traveller Guide on http://travellerguide.asia

Photo credited to The Traveller Guide on http://travellerguide.asia

So you may or may not know that I’m a huge train fan.  So how on earth could I not tell you about the incredible Trans-Siberian Railway?  Spanning a distance of 5772 miles from Moscow into the Orient, this historical railway is probably one of the most epic, rugged and beautiful journeys to make on rail.  I would love to journey along this railway with the kids in a few years.

The Landscape

Photo credited to http://www.traveltowork.net

Photo credited to http://www.traveltowork.net

Just do a Google search for Siberian landscape, and you will be mesmerised by the gobsmackingly stunning photographs of raw, untouched land from all over Siberia.  Statuesque mountains, crystal clear lakes, snow-covered forests, no signs of humans for as far as the eye can see… and further.  Now go and find me a seaside resort location with more captivatingly powerful beauty.

Wildlife

Image taken from bunkblog.net

Image taken from bunkblog.net

Home to unrivalled beauties such as the Siberian tiger, the Amur leopard and the Siberian husky to name a few.  The chance to spot some of these rare creatures in the wild would be far more magical than visiting the stir-crazy animals confined to your average zoo.

Image taken from WWF Global

Image taken from WWF Global

Image taken from Tiger-pictures.net

Image taken from Tiger-pictures.net

Culture

And if you’re still not convinced that Siberia would be an awesome place to visit, check out this promotional video:

And these incredible photos:

Image from The Siberian Times

Image from The Siberian Times

Image from The Siberian Times

Image from The Siberian Times

Image from The Siberian Times

Image from The Siberian Times

So there.  If I was contacted by a radio station with this incredible prize, I would be stoked to go.  And I’m certain that I would have a heck of a lot more fun on trip to Siberia than driving a Toyota Aygo.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Rear-Facing Car Seats: Surely they’re the way Forward?

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My younger son has a larger than average head circumference.  When I say larger than average, I mean that it is way off the charts, exceeding the top centile.  He’s also a big boy, at the very top of the charts on length and weight, but he is definitely top heavy.

He’s 14 months old and is at the upper end of the weight limit for his baby car seat, which is for 0-18 months or up to 13kg.  We’ve kept him in his baby seat for so long because we felt that his head and neck are far better supported in this reclined, rear-facing position than he would be in a traditional forward-facing toddler seat.

Indeed, I have trialled him in his brother’s forward-facing toddler seat a few times, and although he quite likes being able to see me driving, he does seem to struggle with keeping his head upright when the car brakes.

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I often thought that it would be ideal to have a seat that was big enough for him to sit slightly more upright in, but be rear-facing like his baby seat in order to give his head more support.  After doing some research, I discovered that there are alternatives to the traditional forward-facing toddler seats that we are all used to.

Indeed, some manufacturers make rear-facing toddler seats to accommodate children up to 4 years old.   In Scandinavia, children up to 4-5 years old are in rear-facing car seats.  This has resulted in a significantly lower incidence of fatalities or injuries in children in car accidents in comparison to other countries.  Astonishing.

The reason for this lower incidence in injuries and fatalities is because of the stresses placed on the neck and spine in a road collision.  The child is flung forward, but caught by their harness.  Infants and young children have a much larger head to body size ratio, so it is the equivalent to us having a head several times bigger than they actually are.

Image taken from Rear Facing: the way forward

Image taken from Rear Facing: the way forward

There is a fantastic website called Rear Facing: the way forward and this quote from their website perfectly describes what is happening in the event of an accident:

 “The neck is completely unprotected when the head is catapulted forward. Whether the child can withstand the force of impact has nothing to do with muscle power. It is the spine that has to keep the head in place. (Not even physically strong adults can keep their heads in place using muscle power in an accident, but adult’s skeletons are different to children’s, as we will see.) A child’s spine and skeleton is still growing. It has not solidified into bone yet, but is still very soft with lots of cartilage. This means that the neck is vulnerable to the great force it’s being subjected to in a car crash and in a worst case scenario the neck will stretch so much that the spine snaps. This is called internal decapitation and basically means that the child has been internally beheaded. In tests, the dummy’s neck has been stretched as much as 2 inches, but the spine can not be stretch more than a quarter of an inch before snapping.”

The term ‘internal decapitation’ fills me with horror.  This tremendous site goes on to provide extensive information on the unarguable benefits of facing our children rearward in the car, as well as diagrams and video clips.

So why on earth are we not living in a society where these type of car seats dominate forward-facing seats?  Well it appears that there are some points that have been made that oppose the rear-facing seat.  Parents worry about the child not being able to interact with them in the car.  Rear Facing point out that it is incredibly dangerous to turn around to interact with children whilst driving.  Indeed, I don’t even bother turning round to see my younger son when it is just us in the car.  I have also heard that British cars are too small for rear-facing seats, which doesn’t seem accurate.  Rear Facing may be able to comment on this, but from my point of view, these seats must fit an average-sized car.  People driving around in tiny cars are less likely to be ferrying children.

Image taken from Rear Facing: the way forward

Image taken from Rear Facing: the way forward

However, the biggest reasons why rear-facing seats aren’t common in the UK is because a) they’re simply not stocked over here and b) they’re significantly more expensive than forward-facing.  Even more bonkers is the fact that the manufacturers who make the rear-facing seats for Scandinavian children are the same ones who make all of the traditional seats for the UK market (Britax, Graco…).

So with the knowledge that rear-facing seats are safer for children, why are we not having a drastic overhaul of our child-seat habits?  It is going to be much safer to transition our younger son into a rear-facing toddler seat, but we have no idea where we are going to source one from.  And with all of that information in mind, I feel that I would want to transition our elder son into one of these seats also.

Are rear-facing toddler seats something you have heard about, and are you as shocked as I am about the cavernous lack of them in the UK?  Visit Rear Facing: the way forward for a wealth of information on this topic.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Damage of Gossip

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My mother has a lot of family, all living abroad. She keeps in touch with them and her friends on the phone, and they discuss their social lives, holiday plans etc. with each other.  She always tells me that she makes a point to not discuss details about my children to anybody, as she has no right to divulge information to anybody about them.  In the early days, when my elder son was very young, I didn’t really give it much thought.  There wasn’t really much going on with him, aside from the usual newborn antics of eating, playing, sleeping.  So from my point of view, there wasn’t really much to discuss anyway.

However, another child down the road and a lot of challenging toddler antics, and I can totally understand why she makes a point to not discuss the kids with anybody in detail.  We experience a variety of challenges, like most young families, and parenting is an ongoing learning process.  Parenting is also a highly emotive topic often sparking conflict due to the fact that it is so variable from family to family.

As parents, my husband and I exercise control over what information we share about our children.  When we share information, it is from our point of view, and we give an accurate account of whatever the story might be.  However, the everyday challenges that we face as a little family of four are our business and should be kept private by others.  Why on earth should a group of people who have never met my children, regardless of whether they are family or not, be privy to the intimate details of my children’s routine, behaviour, sleep habits etc?  All of that detail is already highly scrutinised, let alone by people who have never met my kids before.

I believe that gossiping about my children is damaging because it gives people an opportunity to form judgements about them before they’ve even met them, not to mention the opportunity to judge us as parents without even seeing us parent.  The judgements that are made have the potential to influence the way in which we are treated as a family if and when people do meet my kids. The thought of that makes me incredibly angry.

So I am eternally grateful to my mother for choosing not to discuss the details of my children with everybody she knows.  She tells people that the kids are well, that they’re lovely and growing fast.  We share photos.  And that’s it.  And that is all that needs to be said. My kids are beautiful, healthy, loving, crazy and normal.  Like all other children, they have their ups and downs, highs and lows.  Mum doesn’t realise how much of a valuable lesson in life she has shown me simply leading by example.  When we think of parenting, we think of teaching young children lessons in life.  But it never really stops.  I’m 33 and my mum is still teaching me valuable lessons in life as my parent.  The damaging nature of gossip is one lesson that I will be teaching my children when they are old enough to understand.