Saturday, 30 November 2013

Addis Beza: Helping Prevent HIV Through Dance

Today's young people are the first generation that has never known a world without HIV and AIDS. In Ethiopia, where more than half of the population is under the age of 24, cultural attitudes among the older generation towards sexual health issues are making it difficult for young people to arm themselves with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe.

But one enterprising group of youngsters in Addis Ababa, the BEZA Anti-AIDS youth group, are determined to use their combined talents for music and dance to get messages about HIV prevention across to the public and their peers. Members of the youth group, all aged between 15 and 20, have founded a dance troupe called Addis Beza, meaning “to live for others”. The troupe perform regularly in popular public spots around Addis Ababa, using the occasion to hand out information leaflets and to encourage people to get tested for HIV free of charge so that they know their status and can be treated accordingly.

The mobile testing clinics are organised by the Organization for Social Services for AIDS (OSSA), Ethiopia’s largest NGO working on HIV, and attract up to a thousand people over the course of five days. If somebody is found to be HIV positive, they are then referred on to a local health facility for access to treatment, care and support.

At the youth club centre, as well as training long hours to learn dance moves, members take it in turns to offer a drop in counselling service for young people and to give out free condoms. Habtegoregies Hailu, better known as Habte, is the club’s chairman, and is determined to help them navigate through their teenage years.

The troupe practising their dance moves

Photo credit: duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance

 “We’re going to save ourselves first, and then become a shelter for others who need protection,” he says. “This is the start not the end for us, helping protect young people from HIV.”

The Youth Group’s Debates
The club’s regular debate session is always well attended by members and this month’s topic - what is the right age to start having sex – drew quite a crowd. At these debates, opinion is often fiercely divided, but everybody gets the chance to express their view.

Club chairman Habte’s offering sees him open up the floor to personal opinion and thought. “How much control we do we have over ourselves, over our bodies? Marriage is not necessarily a timetable for having sex. It’s ok to experience, but we must be careful. It’s ok to jump in and enjoy life but do we take responsibility for our actions? Enjoy life but go and get information on how to enjoy it responsibly and carefully.”

Charismatic troupe leader Samson, 17, had this to say: “We have to have sex, we strongly have to. Because the Bible says to be reproductive – so we have to fulfil God’s word and use our body.  What is it for otherwise?”

Wendimagegne is more hesitant: “I’m waiting until marriage, because otherwise we won’t be able to handle the consequences. We’re not knowledgeable enough at 16.”

Samson and his story
Samson is typical of the kind of young person that the club aims to attract. Now a model student taking an evening class in hotel management, he was once branded a troublemaker and had a history of petty stealing. Brought up by his grandmother, his father died when he was a baby and he has no real knowledge of his mother. Remembering when he was younger, he says: “We got into fights with gangs from other villages and had problems with the police.”

Samson standing in front of a mobile HIV-testing clinic

Photo credit: duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance

 “I feel I have benefitted greatly from joining Addis Beza,” he continues. “The main benefit is a change in my life. Although I joined for the dance troupe, I’ve learnt lots of things. I did not have self-awareness until now and it has helped me to teach other people what I have learned. There is a big difference between the old me and the new me.”

Samson has seen first hand the tragedy that HIV can hold for young people if they do not have the knowledge they need to understand how to manage the virus. His friend Abel took his own life on discovering that he was positive, too frightened to reveal his diagnosis to his family for fear of being rejected.

“If you catch HIV it means that everyone will discriminate against you,” Samson says.  “People will think that you can’t live with anyone, that it is an alien disease. [Before joining the youth group] the opinion I had is that it’s not even possible to eat together.  Our families used to say that it's a punishment from God.”

 “I did not have any knowledge and didn't know its methods of transmission, but I have learned to practise safe sex, when I should start having sex, what I need to do after sex if a woman gets pregnant.”

With young people aged 15-24 accounting for 40% of new HIV infections globally, Samson and his fellow dancers are playing their part as duty bearing citizens. “I want to make Ethiopian culture known to the world,” he says proudly.  “Here we say that we want to be the light for others.”

The troupe performing in the piazza

Photo credit: duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Link Up
Ethiopia is one of five countries currently being targeted by the Alliance and its partners through Link Up, an initiative that aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV.

Over the course of the next three years, Link Up will reach more than one million young people aged 15-24 by implementing tailored HIV and sexual and reproductive health interventions to increase uptake and access to services and reduce unintended pregnancies, new HIV infections and HIV-related maternal mortality. In Ethiopia the initiative aims to reach 140,000 young people to improve their sexual health.

What can you do to help?
Show your support to Addis Beza, the Link Up programme and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance by:
  1. Sharing the dance troupe’s story on Twitter and on Facebook) #LinkUp
  2. Keeping up to date with the work being carried out through Link Up at
  3. Follow the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on Twitter @theaidsalliance and on Facebook

Thank you for taking the time to read about Addis BEZA today. It means a lot to everyone involved in this project.

 Guest blog post by Battenhall, 22 November 2013

Momina's Story

Meet Momina

Momina is a 22 year old single mother of two who lives in the city of Adama in central Ethiopia and was diagnosed as living with HIV three years ago. Although she wears a smile, sadness is etched across her face when she talks about her younger son, Yerosa. Born HIV positive, he is now three but Momina knows very little of his life save for the occasional photos she is sent by the American family who adopted him. Momina took the agonising decision to give him up for adoption in the hope that he would be able to receive medical treatment.    

In telling her story today, Momina hopes that she might help other young women just like her, to know how they can protect themselves from contracting HIV and get the care and support they need through projects like Link Up being led by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

 Momina’s Story
When Momima was a teenager, she left her family home as she was afraid that her parents would marry her off to an older man as they did with her older sister - who later died of AIDS. After falling pregnant with her first child Rapira, and without the support of her parents, she was forced to move from community to community, taking temporary jobs where she could, to try to provide food and shelter for her son.

“I don’t want my child to starve or get hurt,” says Momina.

“There are times when I feed my child and I do not eat at all. I sometimes come home late from work, there are times when I wake him up and feed him because I don’t want him to sleep on an empty belly.”

Without life being tough enough already, three years ago Momina was diagnosed as living with HIV. At that time she had no idea that she was pregnant and subsequently she was not able to receive the treatment needed to protect her unborn child from onward transmission of the virus. When her youngest son, Yerosa was just four months old, Momina learned that he was HIV positive and took the agonising decision to give him up to a family in the US with the hope that he would receive the medical care he needed.

“I convinced myself that it’s better to see my child well. If he had not been seriously ill, I would have not given him away. I would have fought until the end. I am praying for him to be well wherever he is.”

Living with HIV
Determined not to be defined by her HIV status, even when her own mother will not allow her into her family home for fear that she might infect her siblings, Momina remains candid about her condition with friends and colleagues. But in a country where HIV stigma and discrimination still prevail, her openness sometimes costs her and she is presently between jobs.

“I do not let myself down because I live with HIV and have my own objectives.”

“I want to continue my education and qualify as a nurse. I have always had a passion and love for the profession and I want to serve people like me, people living with the virus. I would be happy if I could do that. My biggest aim is to get educated, get a job and live my own life but at the same time I don’t want to cry over split milk”

Momina is assisted with access to HIV treatment and care by Ethiopia’s largest NGO working on HIV, the Organization for Social Services for AIDS (OSSA), who in turn is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. Every fortnight she attends a support group meeting organised by OSSA where she and other members of her community living with HIV meet to share their experiences.

OSSA have also helped contribute to her son Rapira’s annual school fee. Momina is determined to see that he gets a good education.
 “I wish for him something much greater than I had,” she says with feeling.

“I hope he can go all the way and graduate which I was unable to do.”

In another world, life for Momina and her family could have turned out so very differently. If she had known how to protect herself against HIV. If she had gone through proper antenatal care when she was pregnant with Yerosa. If she had not felt compelled to run away from home for fear of early marriage. If she was able to work freely without worrying about becoming a target for discrimination.

“I would like people to see me a strong person,” she smiles. “I know that there is strength in me; I got that strength from the life I have had. I want young people of my age to be strong and to have the strength to face and overcome challenges.”

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Link Up
Ethiopia is one of five countries currently being targeted by the Alliance and its partners through Link Up, an initiative that aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV.

Over the course of the next three years, Link Up will reach more than one million young people aged 15-24 by implementing tailored HIV and sexual and reproductive health interventions to increase uptake and access to services and reduce unintended pregnancies, new HIV infections and HIV-related maternal mortality. In Ethiopia the initiative aims to reach 140,000 young people to improve their sexual health.

What can you do to help?
Show your support to Momina, Link Up and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance by:
  1. Sharing Momina’s story on Twitter and Facebook #LinkUp
  2. Keeping up to date with the work being carried out through Link Up at
  3. Follow the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on Twitter @theaidsalliance and on Facebook
Thank you for taking the time to read Momina’s story today. It means a lot to everyone involved in this project.
Guest blog post by Battenhall, 22 November 2013
Photo credits: Benjamin Chesterton\duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance


World Aids Day

Sunday 1st December is World Aids Day.

Aids is something we have heard talk about for many years, but for most of us in the UK, the nearest we have knowingly come to it in our lives was watching Mark Fowler in Eastenders - but that's been over 10 years now!

Back in 2010, I was ask to take a group of Senior Section girls aged 14-17 to South Africa.  Its was part of the centenary celebrations of Girl Guiding, and 100 members from London and the South East travelled to South Africa over the summer and between us we built a house for a local family in the Kwa Zulu Natal area just north of Durban.  The materials for the house were paid for by fundraising in the UK, all the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides helped.

We were helped in our quest by an organisation called Gods Golden Acre.  They describe their work as "Supporting and caring for orphaned and vulnerable children whose lives have been devastated as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty and violence."  You see, its not just those living with HIV who are affected, its their families too.  Gods Golden Acre recognises this, and doesn't differentiate when it comes to helping those in need. 

In recognition of this year's World Aid's Day, I have been asked to host two guest posts by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.  I hope you stop by to read them.

The first is Momina's Story, a young brave woman and mother who has had to make enormous sacrifices in order to provide the best for her children.

The second is the upbeat story of a dance troupe called Addis Beza who are using their youthful energy to create a safe environment for HIV to be discussed.  Its a happy story.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Knitting Fridays

Not as much progress as I had hoped this week!  I always imagine that when I go away for a weekend, that somehow I will have lots of time to knit... think I managed about 3 rows!  Not to worry though - I did get the chance to let my Mum take a look at the pattern and scribble some notes so hopefully I can finish the neck now!
More exciting than my knitting this week is that I have been joined on my Knitting Fridays by the lovely Sarah from Toby Goes Bananas.  She is busy making Toby an Elf hat for his Christmas party - be sure to pop over and take a look, the colours are fantastic!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Little Owl @ 19 months

Still with a nice even 12 but at least one of her canines is making a bid for freedom!
I really have lost count now!  Little Owl made it to 50 signs but I just can't keep up!  One of her current favourite signs is for pen or writing.  Little Owl just loves drawing and even holds her pens properly!  Always in the left hand - she used to swap over but I haven't seen her use her right hand for a pen for at least a month possibly two.  Another favourite sign is the letter 'I' which stands for Little Owl's best friend and cousin Woo.  You can sign 'I' by pointing with your forefinger to the middle finger on your other hand.  Little Owl doesn't always get the right finger but she made a very good attempt at the first go which shows how hard she is trying to be understood.
The other day I heard someone speaking on the radio about speech development in toddlers.  She said that most fall in to one of two types.  The first type is the kids that can say lots of individual words.  The second type was described as those who know the tune and not the words.  Little Owl definitely fits into this category - I think she may even start to talk without me noticing as I'm so used to hearing her chatting away and sometimes you can join in a conversation as you can fix some words to the sounds she is making.  Way back in September, Little Owl was able to say 'where mumma is' without actually saying more than 'mumma' before.  This weekend I was out with my family and Little Owl was on my back.  I could hear her babbling but didn't really pay any attention until a stranger handed me Little Owl's hat which she had dropped on the floor.  It was then that I realised that she had shouted 'my hat my hat', my family had also heard this but not taken it in until we were given the hat!
What's new?
Most of the new things this month involve talking - she now says 'choo choo' whenever we mention Granddad who works for a preservation steam railway.  Everything at the moment is 'upthere' 'upstairs' 'downthere' 'downstairs' for which she also points in the appropriate direction.  I think without the pointing, you wouldn't understand what she is saying, again, the tune is there but not the words.

In the water, Little Owl is just growing in confidence - we have gone from 7 floats on her belt to 5 in the last few weeks.  She didn't notice when I took the first one away, but its taken her a couple of weeks to get used to 5.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Knitting Fridays

Here it is - this week's effort.  The next light green stripe will decrease for the arms, then two more dark stripes before I really do have to shape the neck and shoulders... can't put it off much longer...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


It was one of those days with lots of errands, not so much mine but my parents and I'd been ask to act as chauffeur to help speed things up and save them from parking each time.

Stop one was my mum's first errand and left my Dad, Little Owl and I in the car. Little Owl was asleep already after a superb effort at swimming in the morning. Mum gets back in the car and we go to stop two and drop her off before going to stop 3. Stop 3 was a shop - the good news was that we got parked outside, the bad news was it was shut. Still, at least we didn't wake Little Owl up.

Stop 4 was my errand and as I couldn't park I just stopped in the road and dropped my item off before heading to stop 5 to pick my Mum up. Do you see the type of day it is becoming?

On the way to stop 6 I noticed a rather unpleasant smell but chose not to say anything. Stop 6 was my Dad's errand (on behalf of my brother) which he failed to complete and upon returning to the car, he noticed a rather unpleasant smell but again didn't say anything. The smell was getting stronger.

Stop 7 and it was my Dad's turn to stay in the car whilst my Mum and I visited a few shops. The smell was really unpleasant now and as we got out of the car Little Owl woke. My Mum said to me "I think your daughter has done something in her nappy - let's be quick".

Now that thought had just been occurring in my mind - but at 18 months I have only had 5 dirty nappies since Little Owl turned one - the thought of her producing one in her sleep seemed unlikely - but if not - what was that smell?

Stop 7 took longer than expected and we returned to the car to find my Dad frozen and huddled in the front seat - he said he couldn't decide whether to stay in the car with the smell which by this time was getting unbearable or stand outside in the cold. I couldn't take the smell and opened the windows as we drove back to stop 6.
On the second visit, my Dad managed to complete his errand at stop 6 but by this time the smell was really getting strong and the window remained open at stop 8 and then for our return journey back to my parents house.
I was surprised that Little Owl wasn't making a fuss about the stink bomb in her nappy and I braced myself as I got her out of the car and into the house to change.  I really wasn't looking forward to it.... I'd stopped using liners ages ago as there seemed not point and never before had she produced anything this bad.  Not being at home, it took a bit of time to make sure I had everything needed to perform this stinkiest of changes, but eventually I couldn't put it off any longer... I undid her nappy and...
It was empty. 
Lovely white minkee staring back at me. 
So it wasn't Little Owl.
I call to my Dad who then goes on a sniff inspection of our shoes - surely one of us must have trodden in something.
Back to the car for a full sniff inspection.
The smell had gone.
Couldn't find it anywhere.
That was until...
we opened the fridge!
At stop 5 my mum had bought....

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

World Toilet Day

Did you know that today was World Toilet Day? Did you even know there was a World Toilet Day?! The aim of the day is to raise awareness of the one in 3 people on this globe who don't have access to a toilet. Can you imagine not being able to go in private? As well as that thought being just quite horrific, it is also believed to be on of the main causes of girls dropping out of school when they reach puberty.

It didn't come as a surprise to me to learn that 66% of those in the world practising open defecation live in India. You see it, children going at the side of the road, properly going.  Its never pleasant and never a sight you get used to, I find it one of the most disturbing things to see.  I know there are lots of unpleasant things that happen in the world but as a whole they are behind closed doors.  This should be and isn't.  
About 10 years ago, I visited a crèche on a building site for the children of the construction workers run by a charity called Mobile Crèche.  The children ranged from 12 days to 12 years old.  None of the bubas wore a nappy and after meal times all the children that were big enough to walk were led outside to an area where they could all 'go' together. I wonder what Ofsted would make of that?

So in honour of World Toilet Day, I thought I would share a campfire song with you that was very popular when I was a Guide, particularly on camps where there weren't plumbed in facilities!
 (The chorus is to the tune of "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas")

I'm dreaming of a flush toilet
Just like the ones we have at home
With a silver chain
and proper drain
And somewhere for it all to go
Tiptoe through the tent pegs
Through the tent pegs
To the lavatory
Come tiptoe
Through the tent pegs with me
I'm dreaming of a flush toilet
Just like the ones we have at home
With a silver chain
and proper drain
And somewhere for it all to go

And if that wasn't exciting enough for you - have a go at this great little game from Unicef - Toilet Trek

Monday, 18 November 2013

Two months until I fly to India...

It is exactly 2 months today until I fly to India with Little Owl and what have I done to prepare? Not a lot really!

I so helpfully wrote myself a to do list when I first blogged about my trip 5 weeks ago but since then I've kinda forgotten about it!

Looking at the list now, I have managed to do a few important jobs. Firstly our insurance is booked - we went with the British Mountaineering Council's insurance. We've used them quite a lot and while we've never had to make a claim, we are confident that should we need to, they won't start asking stupid questions about tour operators and travel agents. As an added bonus, it turned out Little Owl was free!

Another important job that I can tick off is our injections. I needed Typhoid and Hepatitis A (which if I actually remember to go back for my booster in 6 months time, I won't need again for 20 years!).  Little Owl is apparently too young to have the typhoid vaccination which worried me slightly but I have been reassured that good food and hand hygiene should mean she is at very little risk. I let Little Owl watch me have my injections first, she was curious and quite happy to sit on my knee and let her arm be exposed when it was her turn.  Not so impressed when the needle went in and she shot the nurse a filthy look before her face crumpled but luckily it was short lived and no actual tears came.  If I remember to get her Hepatitis A booster done when she goes for her 2 year injections then she won't need another one until she is 21 - now that's a thought!
I've also confirmed my booking at Sangam World Centre where we will be staying.  Sangam is one of the 4 world centres belonging to WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts).  I worked at Sangam as a Programme Volunteer back in 2002/3, and been back several times since, so excited, its like I'm going home!

A couple of exciting things have been planned too - an old school friend who now lives in Mumbai has said she will travel to Pune to see me! And another friend who lives in Canada has confirmed she will be in Pune at the same time so we can spend some time together and let our little ones play together.  I'm really happy that Little Owl already has some play dates lined up!

There is one important thing that I haven't done yet, and that is to get our visas.  I used to enjoy going to the Indian Embassy in London to get my visa but sadly those days are over. The job of processing visas has been contracted out to an agency and an online form has to be completed and the passports sent off in the post. Unfortunately I hear that the form is complicated and the price has shot up.  I really must get on with that or I risk our passports getting caught up in the Christmas post.

That's the most important job really. I also need to get in touch with the airline and check a few things out. From reading the list of toddler stuff I wrote before, I realise how much Little Owl has developed in the last few weeks so I can't really make a decision on a lot of things I might need to take for her until after Christmas although it will be a bit 'panic stations' by then!

In the 5 years since I last went to India my life has changed a lot and I've been luckily enough to have made quite a few new friends in that time.  It is these friends that are most surprised that I am taking Little Owl to India and that I'm leaving Papa Owl at home. My old friends have probably been expecting it... they remember when I seemed to go every year, sometimes twice.  Once, during my PGCE year, I took a Friday and Monday off of school and went just for the weekend! I mainly went on my own but I have been with my Papa Owl, my parents and I even took my Rangers!  It is a little bit scary to be taking Little Owl, but although Papa Owl isn't with me, other then on the flight I won't be on my own.

Oh and one last thing... I have learnt the sign for camel! What others signs do you think I should learn before I go?

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Toadstool Christmas Wishlist!

Christmas is coming!!!

I am so not one of those people who can do all their shopping months in advance, in fact, if I parted with money before December I would feel like I haven't bought anything for that person by the time Christmas came along and would go out and buy something else!  This is why my friends who live overseas rarely get their presents on time...

However, I do like to start window shopping (online of course) well in advance for Little Owl.  As she is too young to express an opinion on what she would like, I can see the responsibility lying with me for a long time to come!  Being the first born, I have no idea what toys are available or what she would like, and what is age appropriate!

Given all of this, I was quite excited when The Toadstool launched their Christmas Wish list, inviting bloggers to browse their shop and create their own Christmas wish list (or should that be the kids wishlist?). 

This Christmas, Little Owl will be 20 months.  Lets get shopping!

The first thing I notice on The Toadstool website is that the toys can be sorted by age - BRILLIANT!!!  I know these things aren't set in stone but it gives me a great starting point.  You can also sort by a more general option of 'toddler'.  As I went through all of the toys, I pinned them to a board on Pinterest which you can find here.

Wooden Small World Playset: Nativity Scene. Boxes unfolds to play space
Haba Cookie or Clay baking set - nativity themeThe first two things that caught my eye were Christmas themed.  One was the First Nativity Play Scene by Haba.  Little Owl likes to carry small toys like this around with her and although she is too young to understand the nativity, we could use it to start introducing some of the characters that she will see over the Christmas period and practise the signs (we've just learnt the sign for camel!).

The second Christmas item was the Haba Nativity Baking Set.  I can see this item becoming part of our Christmas traditions, perhaps always being baked on the first Sunday in advent to mark the beginning of the season.
The main thing that struck me as I browsed The Toadstool website was that all of their toys could be described as 'slow toys' meaning there was little if any plastic available and batteries are not included because they are not needed!   This suits us just fine as Little Owl only has a handful of battery operated toys, all of which I think have been given to us.
So why, when I have so far naturally avoided noisy toys, was I so drawn to the range of Haba musical instruments?  I have no ability for music myself, and I've always considered people who do to have magical abilities which I envy.  I want to encourage Little Owl to explore music and sound, and the items are just asking to be played with!

But the toys that really stole my heart were the Walter collection from Lilliputiens.  Walter is a dragon.  I like dragons.  And how can anyone resist this pouffe?  I think I'm in love.

lilliputiens walter pouf
But there are other Walter toys too...  There's the cute 'musical cuddle' which not only plays music but is a nightlight too!  Then there is Walter's Castle which doubles up as a toy storage box, I could see hours of fun being had with this and the colours go perfect with Little Owl's yellow bedroom.  Actually its been hard to find things to decorate Little Owl's bedroom with, pink fairies and the like just don't go with bright yellow, and while many 'boy' things are brighter colours, cars etc don't rock my boat!  However the Walter wall stickers are just perfect with castles, princess, knights, frogs and flowers they truly are unisex and as the stickers can be peeled off and re-stuck, they can create so many stories!
So that's it, my (Little Owl's honest) wish list and entry to The Big Christmas Wishlist blogger competition and don't forget to look at my pinterest board too!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Knitting Fridays

So it appears that I had knitted the front of the jumper and not the back!  I had wondered why the pattern hadn't mentioned stopping the stripes and continuing in the green like the picture showed but as it had missed out the yellow and dark green stripes I had assumed this was just another error.  However, my eagle eyed mother spotted in one of the pictures, that the stripes continued all the way up the back. 
Luckily this was spotted before I had gone too far - the neck on the front of tops starts lower than it does on the back.  I couldn't put off shaping the neck and shoulders any longer.  Here are the instructions:
bind off the middle 14 sts and on both sides thereof bind off in every 2nd row another
3 sts  once, 2 sts 2 times + 1 st  once.  Slope shoulder at the same length as for back.

I hadn't understood how I was meant to shape the shoulders when I thought I was doing the back, but they didn't need shaping for another 4cm which at least gave me time to sort the neck. 

I had 56 stitches on my needle, if I was to cast off 14, that would leave me with 21 on each side of the neck, so my next line should actually read:

Knit 21 stitches, cast off 14, knit to end of row

Next, working on the right shoulder, I decreased at the neck by 3, 2, 2 and 1 stitch.  This left me with 13 stitches.  I continued in stocking stitch until I had reached the right length to shape the shoulder.  These instructions read:

bind off on both sides in every 2nd row 4 sts 2 times and 5 sts once
Brilliant - this is 13 stitches, the exact number that I had on my needle.  Job done!


Finally I have completed part of this jumper! 

And so, for the 3rd time now, I am starting the back of the jumper, here it is, 9 rows of 192 stitches!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Paid to breastfeed?

If you haven't already heard, there is a pilot scheme going to run in 3 areas of the UK where women will be rewarded for continuing to breastfeed their babies with shopping vouchers up to the value of £200 if they are still feeding at 6 months.

I don't think I have ever seen a BBC article shared by so many people and pages as this article has been today - you can find it here by the way, just in case you haven't seen it.
I've joined in a few conversations about this today, but to be honest, I'm not that fussed, although I did get it when some women said it was insulting, well it is isn't it?
The thing is, something needs to happen.  The rates of breastfeeding in the UK just aren't good enough.  Breastfeeding is hard, trust me I know, but unless there is something in the water making us less medically able than the rest of the world, then the problem has to be cultural. 
I've heard women mention just today about problems latching, lack of supply, hungry babies, unhappy parents and babies, post-natal depression etc etc etc.  These won't magically go away if breastfeeding was more culturally supported, but perhaps, just by the whole country being aware - these problems are more surmountable?
Lots of comments today have mentioned how this money could be better spent on training some breastfeeding councillors or the training of midwives and health visitors.  The thing is, we're not talking a lot of money here - from what I understand, each pilot will involve 130 women, so even if all 130 women successfully breastfed for 6 months, we're only talking £26000.  That's not an earth shattering amount, its not going to train and pay for a full time breastfeeding councillor in that area.
But perhaps, with an incentive, the health visitors will feel more able to keep the conversation open about how to continue and support the mother in breastfeeding, in a light hearted kind of way, you know  - "so are you still planning on a shopping spree when you get to 6 months?"  I think that some heath professionals are so worried that they might be seen as pressurising the women in their care into breastfeeding that they miss the signs that the mother actually needs and wants help.  We're a bit rubbish in the UK at asking for help.
Certainly this is the feeling I got from my Health Visitor.  I'm not going to tell my 'breastfeeding story' now, it deserves its own post, when the time is right, but I feel my HV is worth a mention.  Freshly trained, I had high hopes for this woman.  She diligently worked her way through the booklet of questions - still not completely sure why she needed to know about Little Owl's Uncles who live Hong Kong and Australia, but she seemed keen.  When she asked me how I intended to feed my baby, I replied - breast, I might have made some quip about being far too lazy to sterilise bottles but I was not prepared for her response "don't bother too much about breastfeeding as its quite hard".
It would appear that the latest NHS training had made my Health Visitor more concerned about my mental health than she was about breastfeeding.  Perhaps that is the right thing but when Little Owl was a week old and I thought I was unable to feed her, felt I had failed her so early in her life, that was when I was most at risk of PND.  Not because of unrealistic pressures put on me by the breast is brigade, because actually, I'm intelligent, I can work out breast is best for myself.  Pussyfooting around mothers who need help and direction to breastfeed because you might upset them is not helping either.
Please don't think I'm judging you if you didn't breastfeed for whatever reason.  I also know that my BMI is not what it should be.  I know I don't take enough exercise and miss the target of 5-a-day more often than I hit it.  I have also read about research this week that says children under 2 shouldn't watch any TV - whoops.  I'm not perfect, but you don't need to hide the truth from me in order to protect me.
If my health visitor is typical of the current thinking and training in the NHS, then something is not working. 
Something does needs to be done, we've got to stop worrying about offending the minority and start supporting the majority, and if the vouchers create a 'safe' way to continue the conversation about breastfeeding, then why not give it a go? 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Sleep Baby Sleep

We were so cocky

Our newborn baby slept

All the way through the night quite often

Others struggled, we sympathised but OUR BABY slept!

Little Owl was an easy newborn as far as sleep was concerned

Then things changed.

We got all out of kilter when Papa Owl was on summer holidays.

Now I don't do 'routine' but perhaps we had formed one without realising and then, we changed

Going away to visit family in Holland probably didn't help.

Camping for 8 days with 7000 scouts and guides really didn't help!

The end of the summer came and our baby WOKE every 2 hours!

We limped on for, well the whole school year really.

Kept hoping for a miracle cure

If we just tried this one thing, then maybe she will sleep tonight?

But she didn't

Summer came round again and we decided it was time to take action.

And we did.

Nothing major.

Subtle changes.

We bought the No Cry Sleep Solution but only read 4 chapters

But it was enough to start a conversation

To tweak things a bit

Earlier dinner

Earlier to bed

A bottle to drink from in the night

Leave the landing light on

And to re-settle her when she woke rather then the easy option of taking her to our bed

It worked

Over a space of a few weeks Little Owl started to sleep all the way through to 5:20!

We had our evenings back.

We were getting more than 4 hours of consecutive sleep!

Life was good.

We even began to discuss the possibility of encouraging her to sleep later.

We got greedy.

Something changed.

We didn't notice it happening.

But Little Owl wasn't sleeping.

Up once or twice in the evening.

Then again not long after we went to bed.

We were tired.

It was the end of a long term.

Too tired to resettle.

To tired to think straight.

Back to the beginning.

Where did we go wrong?

Need to start again but what had changed?

Earlier meals and nights.

That helped.

The bottle is being rejected.

Change the bedding.

Sleeping bag?


Sleeping bag and duvet?

She slept til 2!

Perhaps she was cold.

Forgot the sleeping bag and she woke and often.

Definitely cold.

Found a fleece sleep suit.

Tried that with the duvet...


A one off?



Will she do it again?
No, but this time it was 3am.
And we do have our evenings back.
Must not get greedy.
She will sleep when she is a teenager right?
Night all x

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Baby Show with TotsBots

I love The Baby Show, in fact any show, I did the wedding show a couple of times, and have even been to the Knit and Stitch show at Ally Pally, oh - and the Outdoor Show at the NEC.    Actually the first show I ever went to was when I was 19.  It was The Dive Show at the NEC and I was working on one of the stands.  I haven't a clue about diving but I remember a couple got married in a tank and it made the local news!

I like to see all the products at the shows and interact with the people behind them, especially the brands at the Baby Show as I have followed many of my favourites on Facebook and feel like I know some of them well. 
I went to my first Baby Show when pregnant with Little Owl, and have been to two shows since she was born!  As Little Owl is now a toddler, I had thought that perhaps that we had out grown the show and was struggling to justify buying a ticket this year so was over the moon when TotsBots said they would give us a complementary ticket!
We are big fans of TotsBots nappies since Little Owl tried her first one at just 5 weeks old and I was delighted a few months ago when I was asked to become a Fluffragette - a brand ambassador for TotsBots.  As well as entry to the show, the lovely Fiona (founder of TotsBots) treated all the Fluffragettes to lunch.  It was great to meet each other in 'real life' after months of chatting on Facebook, although I felt I knew some of the babies already from their pictures!

After lunch it was time for some shopping, I had written a little list!  First stop was the TotsBots stand of course!  I wanted to buy some more Potion - I just love Little Owl's nappies smelling of Mint Humbug!  I snuck a tub of Parma Violets in too just to see what it was like!

Next on the list was me&i who are a Swedish clothing company with some fantastic designs.  I bought a beautiful dress from them at a previous show, but as Little Owl still hasn't grown into it my aim this time was to buy something in her size, and look what I found!

Little Owl looks gorgeous in it, I shall post a picture of her wearing it soon!

Next I came across the Cheeky Wipes stand, I'm a big fan of their products which means I have everything I need, but I couldn't resist these new Rainbow Microfibre Wipes - they are so pretty!  Luckily there was another Fluffragette at hand to go halves with!

The final item on the shopping list was a new body warmer from Konfidence.  Little Owl is doing so well on her swimming and when she is warm she'll happily stay in the water for ages after her lesson has finished.  Konfidence body warmers do what they say on the label! 

All the shopping completed, we were about to head home when I spotted the Oyster stand.  Although we mainly carry Little Owl, we love our Oyster pushchair for when wheels are needed - such was mammoth shopping trips. 
However, when I put Little Owl in it on the morning of the show I noticed the straps were tight.  As I was passing their stand, I thought I would stop and ask if it was possible to loosen the straps any more then I had.  Apparently I had done all that I could so the lovely man said he would post me some extra long straps - and he did - they arrived two days later!

This time I really was heading for the exit when Little Owl caught sight of a huge bunny on the Aden + Annis stand.
The lovely staff asked if they could take some photos of Little Owl to share on their Facebook page and in return they gave her a Kangaroo.

I like bright colours and so probably wouldn't have chosen this grey toy but Little Owl absolutely adores it!  She cuddles it when she is tired and its the only toy ever to have been taken out in the sling!

So that was it.  Our day out at The Baby Show - thank you TotBots! 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Knitting Fridays

Look what I've done in a week!!!

Little Owl was a bit off colour last weekend which meant lots of cuddles
on the sofa and quite a bit of knitting!
But now the fun begins... so far on this pattern I have had to look at the picture as well as trying to read the Dutch version to figure out what was going on - they had missed the yellow and dark green stripes out on the English version!
Next I have to shape the shoulders and the neck.  I think I can figure out the shoulders but the neck instructions read:
At the same time as beg shoulders bind off the middle 22 sts and on both sides thereof bind off in every 2nd row another 3 sts once and 1st st once.
This is going to need some thinking about!
Wish me luck!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

For the love of chocolate!

I'm a glass half full kinda girl.
Always have been.
Most situations are new doors opening.
Its just how I am.
Sometimes its not so easy.
Like last week when I dropped a tub of hot chocolate.
The lid fell off and the entire contents fell on the kitchen floor.
All that chocolate wasted.
Not good.
Sad face.
I hoovered up the mess and had a cup of tea.
Never mind.
When I got home today ...
the house smelled of chocolate!!!
Papa Owl was busy hoovering
(with Little Owl's help)
And the more he hoovered,
the more chocolate loveliness was spread.
Today was a good day!

Monday, 4 November 2013

A feather in my cap!

These are our Bonfire Hats.  Papa Owl wears the bowler hat and the top hat is mine, I love it!  The tricorn belongs to Grandma Owl and it really suits her.  However, she doesn't love it, she felt it was dull and needed jazzing up. 

 My cue to go shopping!  I looked for red, yellow and blue ribbon for our society colours, but also anything else in those colours to help jazz up the tricorn.  I couldn't help but jazz up my hat too when I found these feathers!  I love my hat even more now!

But the tricorn.... I'm rather proud of what I have done there...

I hope Grandma Owl likes it!
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