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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Why the Occupy LSX protest is the perfect place for kids

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I really believe in activism. I am absolutely sure that protesting changes things, so bringing the baby on board was always gonna happen. But today I realised that sometimes a protest is the perfect place for the baby. Not just as there is an extra amount of people she can woo and then phones she can steal and chew.

We had a wonderful time with the nippers up at St Pauls for Occupy LSX today– facepainting, parachute games, poetry, juggling, one of the dads even turned up with a bouncy castle. While some of the older kids reflected on and drew their ideas of utopia all around us debate, speeches and conversation took place about how we can change the utterly bankrupt society we live in right now.

I’m no stranger to the shaper edge of protest. In fact (don’t tell my mum this) the first protest I took Ramona on saw us sitting down to breastfeed in a cafe just as a Black Bloc walked past- they picked up a bus stop and smashed the entire front window with it. About 3 feet away us. I have also been in peaceful, sitting down crowds as riot police have bought their truncheons down on heads.

I realise it is not always balloons and bubbles.

But the cost of our younger generation NOT being there is higher than the tiny, one in a million chance of them actually getting hurt.*

For it is here that the little ones learn that there is HOPE – that people do believe in an alternative to the economic apartheid we currently live in. Here they see true, live,  democracy – people listening to each other and voting together. Here they hear the melody of diverse voices, discussing problems and solutions.

But it is also the perfect place for them as it reminds us why we do it. Because they are the generation who will either inherit all this- greed (and the inequality greed gives birth to) – stretched and bloated, many time worse then we have even now, or they will inherit a much fairer and more beautiful society. It is completely up to us.

Someone told me today that there are over 900 occupied cities in over 82 countries. There is an incredible global connection happening that is totally unprecedented. The Occupy movement is gathering momentum and could become enough to change things. As a friend pointed out this week, anti-apartheid protesters couldn’t envision the world beyond apartheid- all they could do was say ENOUGH, enough of this injustice. It doesn’t matter that Occupy LSX doesn’t have a list of policies, we are simply saying ENOUGH.

We have had enough of a world where FTSE 100 directors experience a pay rise of 49% on average compared to 0% increase in the public sector. Enough of a world where CHEESE is the top shoplifted item, because people just literally need to eat (baby formula is the FIFTH, the FIFTH!!!!!) and ENOUGH of a world where one years worth of bankers bonuses could pay for 23 years of the youth service being shut in every poor community in the UK. (More on all this in Polly Toynbee’s excellent article here.)

For our children’s sake. We have had enough.

If you’ve had enough too but weren’t sure about bringing your baby along to Occupy London, please get in touch and I can introduce you to some of the coolest parent and kid activists in town.

There.

I’m sorry, all seriouspants once again. I promise my next post will be about poo.


* There are safety measures you can take, I for one would almost certainly leave with my baby at the first whiff of the riot police or other violence.

**Also, beware of the haters who can be equally vicious. Someone told me off today for taking Ramona to Occupy LSX, suggesting I was teaching kids about squatting and oppressing the rights of others. (Eh?!)  Thankfully it was only on Twitter so I was able to take a breath and graciously respond about how we were actually teaching kids about equality, justice and a loving, fair society. (While mentally taking his 140 characters and flicking them at his ragey right wing eyeballs of course.)

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Edit your jumper: Sleeves into socks

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Shrinking clothes in the wash is one of the most annoying housekeeping disasters I reckon. That heart sinking moment when you see a tiny version of your favourite garment and try really hard to make it fit you, to no avail. Last winter saw some of my warmest woollies get shrivelled and pretty much everyday when I get dressed I think “Argh, that cardi would have been IDEAL today!”- when in actual fact I probably would have left it on a bench somewhere by now.

But there is a benefit to all this shrinkage- the opportunity to make felted goods. I am slowly carving my way through entire jumpers, wasting not a scrap, much like a medieval butcher (Ah- eyeballs! Perfect marbles. Intenstines! Perfect Sausage holders.) or Mcdonalds (Erm… chuck it all in. We’ll call it a Happy Meal.) I have so far made a dress for Ramona and some slippers out of armpits for myself. 

Today I present to you the Sleeve Stockings. They are in the same 3 minute vein, so purely functional. I am sure if you were to attempt it you could make them “beautiful looking and warm”, rather than “ridiculous looking but warm”.  Ramona is wearing these everyday at the moment as it is blinking FREEZUS and we are up at St Pauls with Occupy LSX, that most transformative movement. (Come along, we chill out with all the tots, playing, eating etc) These stockings are great for baby wearing, where your bodies are toasty from being squished up together but the limps are a bit exposed.

Feasting at the Occupation- a glimpse of utopia

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There is a little old lady who lives round the corner from us with a tree in her garden that is spilling over with fat, juicy apples. A few weeks ago we plucked up the courage to knock on her door to see if we could pick some.  She was completely delighted as she can’t reach them and doesn’t even like them (I know! Who doesn’t like apples?!) and in all her time living there (she has lived there FOREVS) no one has asked.

So this morning we packed a few bags of those scrumpcious morsels and took them up to the protest camp in front of St Pauls – Occupy LSX. As we wandered over to the kitchen we saw a table GROANING under the weight of abundant fruit, sandwiches, chocolate, lentil soup. It was exactly like the harvest festival at my primary school when I was a nipper but with a lot less baked beans.

Throughout the course of today this food has been handed around, shared out, feasted on. It is a beautiful, utopian picture of how the world could be. Where people who have lots, bag it up and pass it round the crowd.  Mums and babes getting served first (woo!) along with the really hungry and vulnerable. Skips delved into, bringing out still the freshest of delights; nothing wasted.

It is a really tiny aspect of Occupy LSX, the feasting, but the rest of it is pretty up there with ideal too; the huge diversity – every age, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and salary represented, the creativity and friendliness, the slow and steady democratic process – and the patience shown throughout it.

Of course it is only a tiny corner of the world, but it reveals what is possible AND highlights what a complete, criminal, joke our current global system is- where people simultaneously die of obesity and starvation.

If you haven’t already joined your local occupation, take a few hours this week to join in the antics – even if it’s just for the food. (Jokes, that would be well cheeky. You should at least make a placard or something.)

Today we started a Kids Space, which will be every afternoon from 2-5pm by the big statue in front of the steps. We have bubbles, toys, paper and pens.

This blog was written for Blog Action Day 2011, the theme is Food, coinciding pretty superbly with World Food Day. Check it all out here.

Why we’ll be going to Occupy London today

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I took Ramona to her first protest when she was three months old. It was the TUC march against the cuts and she managed to sleep her way through most of it; brass band, fireworks, whistles and chanting were mere fleas to be flicked off her giant love of snoozing. She sleeps now as I gather together the things we will need for today, her second ever protest. Snacks, marker pens for bespoke placards and bunting. Occupy London here we come!

Today we get the opportunity to march against greed. “You can’t protest greed!” someone Facebooked this week during a little chat about Occupy Wall Street on his wall – try telling that to Gandhi and his salt marchers.  Greed is the source of many of the world’s issues past, and for this present one we are talking about Corporate, Global, Policy-supported Greed. The kind of Greed that in a not-that-roundabout way has us (the less-greedy or the 99%) tangled up in joblessness,  homelessness and even extreme hunger.

Greed can’t be protested? It CAN be protested and it SHOULD be protested. It should be shouted at, danced on, wrapped up in bunting and thrown out.  Every crumb hoovered up by the sheer hopefulness, principles and will of the Occupy movement! Some people do think this is the revolution that will achieve exactly that. Personally I hope that it may at least put the last bit of momentum needed behind the pain free, economically sound and essentially good Robin Hood Tax. Hopes are high, but as Naomi Klein puts it

“With so much at stake, cynicism is a luxury we simply cannot afford.”

It is an absolute outrage that vulnerable families in the UK and seriously poor countries find it even harder to put food on the table because some suited up men in financial institutions play global economics like slot machines and other suited up men in high rises pay their taxes like they pay a visit to the Jobcentre Plus (that is, never.)

Someone needs to start building a path out of this situation and the Banks and Corporates don’t have the morals and Osbourne and Cameron don’t have the balls.

I think the world stands a better chance with Ramona and her blocks frankly.

Thrifty Thursday: The endless giving of childrens annuals

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Childrens annuals are a bottomless treasure trove of vintage craftiness. In the last couple of months I have made a cowboy tin, some bunting, several cards and upcycled a coat hook.  You can pick these up for pennies at car boots or pounds in charity shops that know their stuff; either way it is worth it. You simply can’t exhaust their goodness- you will save wads of cash whipping up gorgeous cards out of their beautiful retro graphics or if you have a bit more time you can craft up a gift for someone- the tin below took about 15 minutes and was lovingly given to my sister (okay, actually she just took it saying “Shall I have this?”)

They provide some great flashbacks (the Blue Peter one with it’s Grange Hill comic strip and epic eighties typeface) and an unhealthy dollop of sexism (sometimes I argue we haven’t got very far with gender equality and then I read Twinkle for Little Girls which stealthily teaches young females to bake and clean through cartoon.) The only problem with them is that they are so cool and old that taking your scissors to them seems quite callous. Get over this hurdle by snipping up the sexist and racist bits- soon you’ll be scissor happy and ready to craft!

The Tin:

Take a Birds Custard Powder tin and cut a comic strip that will fit around the outside of it.

Glue.

Once dry give it a slick or two of varnish.

The Bunting:

Stay with me here, it’s complicated.

Cut into triangles.

Glue onto string.

The Coat Hook:

We had literally been looking in charity shops and skips for a for a bit of wood and hooks to make a peg rail/ coat hook (what do you call these things?!) for AGES.  After a few months we saw a bit of wood by someones bin and thought “PERFECT!” when we turned it over we saw that it already had pegs and was an actual, existing thing! Suffice to say we were exhilarated (just look at our sad, scavangey lives.) It was missing the surface bit of the panels so I cut out two bits of Annual and glued and varnished them on. They are about Dick and his snowballs. Bahahaha.

Hope you find some cheesey, sexist and racist children’s annuals soon!

But there’s nothing in there! Breastfeeding at 11 months.

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I was at the park this week and had the following conversation:

Lady: “You’re still breastfeeding?”

Me: “Yep, you know, every 2-3 hours, day and night.” (Ah, so innocent and forthcoming!)

Lady: “And she is how old?”

Me: “Nearly eleven months”

Lady: “Ummm. You know there’s nothing in there right?”

Me: Chokes on a Wotsit.  “They are full, bursting with milk!  I could actually take your eye out with a stream of this cream or clear up your conjunctivitus from the other side of this swing if you got it one day!” (Okay, not that last bit.)

Lady: “Well, nutritionally. Nothing. Nothing from 6 months.”

Me: “Actually, it is packed with protein, all the vitamins…”

Lady: “But they need IRON!”

I gave in at this point and feebly said “Well, she does eat solids too” (although no doubt she would be appalled at the little amount Ramona does consume.) I truly wish I was armed with the fact that breastmilk is high in iron too AND one of the easiest ways for babes to absorb it.

I was just completely baffled. I had heard some of the myths surrounding breastfeeding but I didn’t actually think anyone believed them- let alone professed them in the playground.

I’d have been embaressed if I wasn’t so stoked with it all. I am so happy breastfeeding Ramona at eleven months, I absoutely LOVE it. Before having Ramona I assumed I would get to 6 months then wean, but as they say that just made an ass out of Umed.

Now I am pretty sure I will keep going until she doesn’t need it anymore, nutritionally or emotionally. And that could be some time…

Here’s why I love it:

I still get a HUGE rush of endorphins from nursing, they flood through me making me feel super relaxed and happy.

It provides a lovely rest as we snuggle down together at various points through the day.

It eases her off into dreamland calmly and consistently.

If we are out and about and late for tea I can feed her something a gazillion times more nutritous than a breadstick (though God love ’em.)

Some days she just doesn’t fancy her olives, pasta and brocoli, I don’t have to fret as I know she’ll just nurse more to make it up.

And, I’m not obsessed with weight, but it is pretty cool eating anything and still losing weight.

I am sure it makes her less fractious, a quick nurse seems to fill her love cup right up and give her a contented little peaceful glow.

Plus it provides endless giggles as she nurses and claps, nurses and sings, nurses and sucks her toes, nurses and Nipple Gripples the other (this last one- not so funny.)

There are loads of benefits to breastfeeding, for mum and baby, and it is bizarre that people seem to think these just stop at 6 months. In lots of countries, like Mongolia (this article completely rocks) and Sweden (yeah, I saw the video at the NHS breastfeeding workshop with all those nakey Swedes and their big chubby, latched on toddlers) extended nursing is the norm. Now that Ramona is getting so big I am beginning to see how abnormal it is here in the UK and how different it is feeding an older one. I really better start reading up so I can bust some myths in the playground.

On a boat on green water.

The weekend that we found Ramona’s Christmas pressie on the street

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Well, we NAILED this surprise heatwave. Swam in the sea at Whitstable, swam in the ponds at Hampstead Heath and swam in the river in Cambridge. The water was ffffffffreezing but once in, amazing, and Ramona completely loves splashing in cold water.

Score of the weekend was found on a corner in Hampstead – a mini house (dolls house/ tiny superhero base; whatevs) complete with all the trimmings. A tiny computer! A tiny shower! A tiny rocking horse! It is so cute and while Ramona mostly enjoys sucking the woolly heads of the tiny people I am having a fantastic time rearranging the furniture and deciding on the decor. (Haaahaha. It would be funny if it wasn’t TRUE. *Ashamed*) It is gonna be the wildest looking dolls house anyone has ever seen. (Yeah, yeah, I know we should do our actual house first. Meh.)

We will give it to Ramona for Christmas. Hello, she’ll be one, she won’t know that you aren’t meant to play with your Christmas pressies 3 months beforehand. And then we might take it away for a bit next year and give it to her for her second Christmas. And maybe with a revamp, again for her third. Ha.

People think we are lucky to find as much cool stuff as we do. But, I’m telling you, it does take some work. (And a back garden where you can dump all the stupid things you drag home.)

Here are my top finding tips:

As you walk or cycle along, scan the end of driveways by bins. People always leave stuff there.

Cross the road to look in skips. People chuck good stuff out all the time.

If you are in a posh area and see that it is rubbish collection day, take an extra special wander and gander.

Don’t be afraid of dirtiness. If it looks and smells okay it probably is okay and most things with a little clean will be more hygenic than lots of items you already own.

Imagine a quick makeover. That nasty pine chair could look GREAT with a coat of grey and a bit of a shabby-chic bash around the edges.

See things afresh. Could you use the knobs from that broken drawer? Would that window make a cool picture frame?

And, finally, remember that dignity is overrated. Most of the people that see you digging around in that skip will be jealous when they see the corroded biscuit tin you pull out of it. HA! Take THAT suckers!!