The Curious and the Thoughtful

Londoners are spoiled for choice for things to do with our primary school-aged children. Really, we are. Once in a while though, everyone gets into a rut. I do. But you’ve got to try and find a light and climb out.

Last Thursday, after a fairly family-focused few weeks (read: exhausted, burned out, could not see the cherubs in my children), I had the unexpected pleasure of a preview tour of the Adventures in Moominland exhibition now on at the Southbank Centre. Followed up by a slightly boozy lunch with a dear friend, it was a somewhat perfect midweek afternoon (but it’s not that kind of blog post) and just the light to get me out of my rut.

20161215_123902-1You’ll need to book in advance and the cost is between £13.50 and £16.50. The recommended age is 7+. You’ll understand why if you go. To walk through these rooms is like being a child on a movie set. You’ll be asked to move around, to look, to listen, to crouch, duck, and peek. You’ll want to touch everything, but you really should not. It looks like it’s been put there just for you to discover. And it has. Appreciate that it takes an army of people to guide the small groups through and tidy up after each of them, restoring each of the several rooms (I lost count) back to its pristine state. If your child likes to run about and doesn’t really care for listening, please skip this event. And if you cannot go for the session without reaching for your mobile phone, please spare the others on the tour. One of our tour members was typing on her mobile the entire way through and it was really, really distracting. Please be considerate of others when you go. Hopefully, someone in your group will be a Moomin enthusiast and you can watch a grown-up gush with excitement over finding a ruby in a suitcase. It’s marvellous.

Now to the important bit. It’s absolutely magical. Having dined on other magical fare in the last few years (Efteling, Disneyland Paris, the Alps) I didn’t expect to be wow-ed by a museum exhibition. But I was.

I’m a latecomer to the Moomin tribe, having discovered a few of the illustrated paperbacks at the library when my children were toddlers. We fell in love with the language (for who wouldn’t love to read words like ‘Tooticky’ and ‘Snorkmaiden’ with your toddler) and the lovely strangeness of the worlds depicted in Jansson’s stories. If you haven’t been to Moominland, wait no more! Get yourself to a library and introduce yourself.

As my toddlers became children (and I regained time and energy to read again) I picked up Tove Jansson’s Summer Book, which she wrote later in life. I fell in love with this little book, a portrait of grandmother and granddaughter castaways, coexisting somewhere off the coast of Finland. Perhaps its the lack of a mother in the book (she’s died recently, thus bringing the pair in the book together) which appeals to me so much. Apart from introducing me to life in the Scandinavian archipelago, a scattering group of rocky outcrops which are only habitable during certain times of the year (how exciting), my heart wanted to know deeply about this relationship between a grandmother and a granddaughter.

Reading of their adventures with the cats, the boats, the weird neighbours, just being bored, I wondered about my own relationship with my grandmothers, strange beings whom I didn’t know very well, but whom I admired and respected deeply. They were tricky ladies–one probably just far too exhausted from raising ten children of her own to bother too much with her childrens’ offspring, but nevertheless taught me important lessons about how to endure and live, about how to be quiet. But in a very good way. The other, who smiled mischievously, and who claimed both Indian (“East”/South Asian) and Arawak ancestry, always seemed a little too attached to an odd collection of things and ideas, including how dark we children should not be allowed to become or how beautiful our long hair was. I tried as an adult to put myself in both of their shoes, as women growing up in very male-dominated, colonial societies where markers of ethnicity mattered and when being a woman meant proper hard work. I wondered as I was reading The Summer Book about whether I’d ever get to have adventures with my own grandchild (I’m an old mother, I’ve recently been told). I hope so. We’d be stranded in the Caribbean archipelago, though.

Anyway, back to the story. Moomin. The magic of Moomin. Tove Jansson has given us so much in her stories, in her sharing of her life with us through them and her drawings. Worlds to explore, the space and silence in them to let our minds wander back to thoughts of our own lives, the memories we are making for our old age.

I’ll remember Tove Jansson’s glasses, the p772691bf529714fdb2fde80d120af800hoto of her swimming outside wearing a floral garland next to the actual floral garland: the very picture of thoughtful decadence, of living (I’ve found a copy of it on someone’s Pinterest page). But it’s the self-portrait in one of the rooms that’s stuck with me after last Thursday. Our tour guide described it as lovely. In its bold strokes of pencil, I saw the wearing of life on a face, tired yet robust and still full of fight. Because I’ve been feeling exactly that myself, I think I was equally relieved to find the one of her swimming and carefree.

Adventures in Moominland is there, at the Southbank Centre, until April 23rd, the world of Moominland, cast in beautiful, sensual imagery and in three-dimensions. After that, you can find it in the books.

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Micro-Scooter Love

She may never ride the bicycle again. . .

We were super excited to review the Maxi Micro-Scooter this month, and my older daughter (age 4, a fairly tall age 4) was just the girl for the job! The specs say it’s for children weighing up to 50kg, so it looks to last around here for several years. She was given an Ozbozz for Christmas last year and she used it a little, but I saw nothing like what I’ve seen in the past few days. The girl is zooming away, using the brake to slow down and stop, and doing tricks! The Maxi Micro-Scooter is stable under her feet and quick. We’ve had it for two weeks and we’ve been around the neighbourhood and in the parks with it. It’s easy to transport in the car boot and very light, so I don’t mind carrying it if I have to. My niece (8 years old) and nephew (9 years old) in the USA both have Micro-Scooters and they love them as well. They were really excited to find out how we liked it. Evidently, it’s THE scooter to have, even on the other side of the Pond. And I do see why.

Compared with the other scooters we’ve had in the house, the Micro-Scooters are clearly better designed for action (and looks). Both of my girls had a Little Tikes 2-in1 as their first scooter, which was good in that they could sit on it or stand, but it was stiff plastic. At £29.99, it was a good value, but I do think they would have had more use out of the Mini Micro-Scooter, had they had it instead. The Little Tikes scooter doesn’t turn at all really, so it’s only good for going in straight lines, but at least it was sturdy underfeet. We also have the Ozbozz “My First Scooter” which is VERY heavy (and so I never like to carry it), not to mention unstable. My daughter fell many times in the early days–even with all four wheels on! Luckily, she is not the type of child to give up. It appears to ride roughly over city pavement. You can hear the wheels banging and knocking over every bump. Not good.

The Maxi Micro-Scooter glides along. . .  quickly! Even at speed or down hill, my four-year old is able to control it. Our three-year old who got the Mini Micro-Scooter for her birthday last month is also happily scooting along.

Maxi Micro-Scooters are priced from £99.95. If you want a fancier model or accessories, you’ll pay up to £123.95. Micro-Scooter offers free delivery on the product and spare parts are easy to come by. These scooters also offer excellent resale value on eBay, so it’s definitely worth buying it new and getting several years’ use out of it.

We met up with some of our Mumsnet friends who also got Micro-Scooters to review at Tumbling Bay playground at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park over the Easter holidays. The kids had a ball. It was a cloudy day, so we had this amazing place mostly to ourselves. I think they had fun!

Expert Tips: Capturing Those “Perfect” Moments

We recently met local photographer Claudine Yap. As a new mum to a two-month old son, she’s making a transition in her photography career from event photography to children and family portrait photography, offering on-location shots or studio shots.

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Based in Buckhurst Hill, she shoots in her bespoke studio or on location for your family.

She specialises in recording the feelings of family life: joy, wonder, happiness, quiet contemplation, and great good humour. Shooting newborns, babies, children and family, she aspires to create a fun and relaxed environment during her photo shoots to bring out the very best in people.

We asked her to give her suggestions for taking our own family photos. We thought this might come in handy as the Christmas season approaches.

  1. I always advise my clients to put plain, bright-coloured clothes on their children, especially if the pictures are taken outdoors, because patterned clothing can sometimes add distraction to the picture on an already busy background. Of course we think you should still go for the shot of the whole gang in Christmas jumpers in front of the tree, but for those special moments, less really might be more.
  2. If possible, always use natural light – near windows if you’re indoors and indirect natural light like under a tree if you are outdoors on a sunny day to avoid harsh light on your subject. Cloudy days usually offer the perfect lighting. Lucky us–we’ve got plenty of those. The light should always be in front of the subject unless aiming for a ‘silhouette’ look. Try to avoid using flash as this can cause red-eye and harsh-looking light on your subject.
  3. It helps to have another parent or “favourite” around to help with getting them to smile. Usually by talking and playing with the children helps. And try to schedule around nap and meal times to avoid erm unpleasant moments.
  4. Take multiple shots at a time to avoid missing out on capturing what could be your child’s best expression and best moments!
  5. Get down to their eye level and see the world from their perspective.
Good luck and remember to have fun! Patience is required to get the perfect shot. You know what we mean.
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If you’re still not convinced that you can swing it, why not give Claudine a call. She’s running a special offer on Mumsnet Local, which you can find on our Offers page. The price in the Offer is based on photography in London and Essex. She is happy to travel further afield, and will give a quotation for that expense.
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Mumsnet’s Miscarriage Code of Care

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This code was drawn up after extensive consultation with Mumsnetters, and professional and campaigning organisations working in this area of care. If implemented by NHS care providers, it could help to lessen the trauma of early pregnancy loss for parents.

1. Supportive staff

GPs, Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) and A&E staff should be trained in communication and listening skills (including things NOT to say to women who are miscarrying), and the psychological effects of miscarriage. Follow-up appointments and/or counselling for those who feel they need it should be routinely offered after miscarriage.

2. Access to scanning

Access to scanning facilities in the case of suspected miscarriage should be easier in cases where scanning is clinically indicated. This could mean Early Pregnancy Assessment Units (EPAUs) opening seven days a week and/or portable ultrasound and trained medical staff being available in A&E and gynaecological units. When women have miscarried at home and have experienced severe symptoms, they should be offered a scan to check that there are no ongoing complications. Where medical staff do not believe that a scan is clinically indicated, or that it would be unlikely to produce reliable results, this decision should be communicated to the patient with tact and understanding, and with a full explanation of the reasons.

3. Safe and appropriate places for treatment

Women undergoing miscarriage or suspected miscarriage should be separated from women having routine antenatal and postnatal care, or women terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Waiting times in confirmed as well as threatened pregnancy loss, but, in particular, for women who need surgery, should be kept to a minimum and not be spent in antenatal or labour ward settings.

4. Good information and effective treatment

All women experiencing miscarriage should receive clear and honest information, sympathetically delivered. Women should be given information about all the available management options – expectant, medical and surgical – and should be able, clinical considerations allowing, to choose the method of management that best suits their circumstances. Women miscarrying at home should be offered appropriate prescription pain relief. In the case of miscarriage occurring in hospital, doctors should discuss with the parents what they wish to happen to the fetus (i.e. it should not be disposed of routinely without prior consultation).

5. Joined-up care

Community midwife teams and GPs should be informed immediately when miscarriage has occurred, and subsequent bookings and scans cancelled, to avoid women who have miscarried being chased by HCPs for ‘missing’ pregnancy appointments. HCPs should be mindful of a woman’s previous miscarriage/s when assessing her needs during subsequent pregnancies, acknowledging any extra anxieties and dealing with them sympathetically.

Although this code is based mostly on the experience of Mumsnetters who have miscarried in-utero pregnancies pre-24 weeks, we think many of its points apply equally to women experiencing stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies.

The code relates directly to England and Wales, but many best practice guidelines can equally apply to Scotland.

Please join us in asking politicians to pledge to improve miscarriage care. 

Read more on Mumsnet.com.