Let’s Talk About Religion

Another tricky subject to discuss today: religion.

I’ve had a tricky relationship with religion personally. I was raised Christian until about age 9 when my parents seemed to give up on the whole thing (I’m not sure why, they never really spoke to me about it). I was then what I’d probably describe as agnostic through my teens. In early adulthood, I briefly became religious again but then realised that hadn’t been because I really believed in it, it was because I felt isolated and depressed and wanted to belong to something (not good reasons for belonging to a religion, I now admit). These days, I’m an atheist.

From when she attended nursery at a Catholic Primary School, to going on trips to Church with her current school and being friends with children of a range of different religions and beliefs, my daughter has always been full of questions about religion. While I give her the facts where they’re available, with this subject I try to help her reach her own conclusions. We’ve always said that if she wanted to follow a religion, we’d support that but from a pretty young age, she came to the conclusion that she didn’t believe in God. She does enjoy some Bible stories (although she’s found some pretty disturbing). At her school, there are children of different religions and she’s learnt a great deal about them (something I am very much in favour of).

Recently at Easter, as well as at previous Easters, I had to answer some rather difficult questions. She wanted to know how rabbits and chocolate eggs are connected with the story of Jesus. I told her they’re not really. The way Easter is celebrated in UK is very much a mixture of different traditions, stemming from different beliefs. Celebrating new life in Spring is an extremely old concept, much older than Christianity. I also told her that while Christians are celebrating Easter, Jews are celebrating Passover. We didn’t go into much detail with that but I’ve made a little note to maybe learn more about it next year. I have noticed that while she’s learnt a lot about Christianity plus a bit about Islam and Hinduism as school, she’s learnt pretty much nothing at all about Judaism, Buddhism or Sikhism. The concept of atheism hasn’t been mentioned at all and was met with confusion from her classmates when she told them she’s an atheist.

I will make clear now that I like my daughter’s school. We researched it, it was our first choice and we were happy when she got a place. For the most part, she’s been happy there and she’s making excellent progress in her education there. I like that she’s socialising with people of various backgrounds and faiths.

However, I have an issue with how non-faith schools in the UK are required to promote Christianity. I do not agree that ‘daily collective worship’ of a ‘broadly Christian character’ should be a part of the school day. I am uncomfortable with my child, either in school or on trips to churches, being told about Christian beliefs as fact. It is my opinion that education in school should be secular in nature. This isn’t just because I do not share these beliefs. This is because I feel children are not mature enough to think critically and form their own opinions, especially when their teachers (who they should be able to trust to give them facts) are actively promoting religious beliefs. From my experience as a parent, my child has regularly felt isolated and uncomfortable when told to take part in Christian worship in school. I did not ask her if she felt this way, she volunteered the information when I asked her why she was upset on coming home from school on several occasions. Logically, I can only think that she won’t be the only one.

Learning about religion is important. It helps us to understand and respect other people. It gives us a wider perspective of the world and helps us to see things from different points of view.

Celebrating traditional British holidays is also important, as well as enjoyable. As with Easter, people have been celebrating the Winter Solstice for far longer than Christianity has been around and a lot of the celebration of Christmas in UK reflects that. We’re not Christian but we celebrate Christmas, as do many other atheists and non-Christians. It’s a part of our national culture. Nativity plays are a great way of teaching children a key part of Christian belief. It’s also a story that children enjoy. Therefore, I see no problem with it. Certainly in my daughter’s school, they also put on celebrations for other religious holidays, such as Divali and Eid. I see that as a fun way to learn and again, see no problem with it.

If you want your child to have religious worship be a part of their school day, there are plenty of faith schools, covering different denominations of Christianity, as well as Islam and Judaism. You have that option. I, on the other hand, have no option at all to send my child to school where religious worship does not feature. I have friends who have given this as one of their reasons for home schooling their child. I considered it myself, although we instead decided on sending her to school but making sure she can form her own opinions and think critically about what she’s told – an important skill in all aspects of education.

I end this post by making something very clear. I have no issue with other people having religious beliefs. If a parent wishes to have their child follow a religion, that’s their choice and I respect that. However, I should have the choice to send my child to a genuinely non-religious school. While it’s a requirement for UK schools to have collective daily worship, that is not a choice I have.

Lets Talk About Puberty

Following on from my ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ post, today’s post is all about talking to children about puberty.

There is a little crossover between this subject and sex because puberty is essentially your body developing into adulthood and a lot of that is about developing the ability to reproduce. So for example, when my daughter asked where babies come from, the answer is about sex but might well (and in fact did) have follow up questions about how her body will change in order to grow a baby.

Talking about what life will be like when they’re grown ups is pretty normal for kids. Their future careers and lifestyle choices and often under discussion, although frequently changing as the child learns more about the adult world or simply changes their mind. The first time we had a real discussion about how her body would be different as a grown up came when my daughter saw me taking a sanitary pad from my desk drawer and asked what it was. I explained what it was and why, as a woman, I need one. I explained what a period was and why women have them. I explained that while they might not seem like a pleasant thing, periods are a sign that your body is functioning as it should.

A few more questions followed:

When would she start having them? Answer: Probably between 4 – 8 years from now (she’s 7). Girls start at different times, there’s nothing wrong with starting earlier or later.

So they can just start any time? You don’t get a warning? Answer: Yes but that’s ok because you’ll be ready whenever it does start. When you’re a little bit older, I’ll make sure there are always pads for you to use and you’ll know what’s going on because we’ve had this talk!

What does it feel like? Answer: Well, you can’t feel it happening exactly. But you might get an ache in your tummy. That’s unfortunately a pretty normal thing, although some women get it worse than others. You can use a hot water bottle to make it feel better or you can take a painkiller if it’s really hurting you.

That was about it for that conversation. She’s also asked me about when she’d ‘get boobs’. I said they’d probably start to grow at roughly the same time as her periods arrived but they can keep growing until she’s about 19.

As yet, we’ve not had any questions about puberty for boys. She knows they won’t have periods because their bodies don’t grow babies. I can only assume that at some point she’ll have some curiosity about how a boy develops into an adult too. Like sex, puberty is bound to be a subject discussed in the playground too. I distinctly remember a schoolfriend of mine telling me that when a lady decides she wants a baby, she has ‘pyramids’. The friend couldn’t tell me what a pyramid was or how they might help in making a baby and I was left pretty confused. Periods weren’t discussed with teachers at all and only when I was in Year 6 did a nurse come to talk with us about it. A friend of mine started the year before that, at age 9, and was totally panicked by it, having no clue what was going on. We were separated from the boys for the nurse’s visit and it was years into high school before we learnt about how puberty affects the opposite sex. I knew boys who had very little idea of what a period was. I guess my experience made me keen to make sure my daughter had all of the facts, although it’s possible that it almost two decades, things have moved on a bit!

Puberty is a big stage in anyone’s life. You’re changing in every way and it can all be a bit overwhelming, especially as your emotions can be pretty out of control. It’s my opinion that knowing what’s happening in your body well in advance is helpful in feeling more in control of it.

How are you handling telling your children about puberty? Did you wait for questions or take the lead to start a conversation?

 

 

 

Family Day Out: Caerphilly Castle

The first week of the Easter Holidays brought us some lovely Spring weather. Knowing that the sunshine can disappear as quickly as it arrives, we made the most of it with a trip to Caerphilly Castle.

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Sitting right in the middle of the town of Caerphilly and surrounded by an extensive moat, the castle is partly ruins with one ominously leaning tower, although in nice weather this makes for a pleasant walk.

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Pip was thrilled to find dragons in the castle grounds!

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These sculptures were amazing, such beautiful detail. The red dragon has apparently been at the castle for a long time, while the blue was added more recently.

Signs warned us not to approach the geese that waddled about, as they’re nesting at the moment.

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We walked up a winding narrow staircase to reach the top of the castle. If I’m honest, I’m not keen on spiral staircases, particularly ones with ancient slippery steps and even less so when my daughter happily bounds up them when I’d rather she take her time. There’s no stopping little adventurers! However, I’d say the view from the top is well worth the climb.

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I would say that this is not a suitable day out for pushchairs or wheelchairs. There’d be very little you could see and even navigating the grounds could be tricky.

The price of entry was perhaps a little expensive for what’s on offer. £7.95 for adults, £5.20 for students, senior citizens and under 16s or £23.70 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children). I understand that maintaining an ancient structure costs money and that’s probably reflected in the price but there wasn’t a lot to interact with. I suppose I’m comparing that with Cardiff Castle, which as Cardiff residents, we only have to pay £6 every 3 years for our Castle Keys for unlimited entries and reduced event prices.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, we ended our day out with a drink in the visitor centre cafe.

Overall, we enjoyed this trip. It was a good learning experience and an enjoyable walk outdoors in the Spring sunshine!

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The Weeks Eats {14.4.17}

So we’re now on Easter Holidays! Is it just me or is this year going by really quickly?

With Pip at home and as we had family visiting earlier this week, we’ve been doing lots of Easter baking! To an extent, my diet has fallen by the wayside a little, although I am trying to keep with working and making sure that even if I’m having a few treats, my main meals are still healthy and low calorie. I have accepted that I’m simply not going to lose as much weight over the next couple of weeks.

But you’ve got to treat yourself, especially at special times of the year! So here are our two favourite Easter baking recipes:

Cornflake Nests

A staple recipe when cooking with children, we’ve been making these every year since Pip was about two. Only this year, now at 7 years old, has Pip been allowed to stir the melting chocolate in the saucepan (obviously with close supervision!).

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Ingredients: 

150g cornflakes

150g milk chocolate

75g butter

4 tbsp golden syrup

Cadbury’s Mini Eggs (optional)

Method:

Break the chocolate into small pieces and add to a small saucepan, along with the butter and golden syrup. Over a low to medium heat, stir until everything has melted. Leave for a few minutes to cool a bit (maybe while you weigh out your cornflakes).

Put the cornflakes in a large mixing bowl then pour the melted ingredients over them. Stir thoroughly to coat all the cornflakes but be careful not to crush them!

Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases. Top with a couple of mini eggs, if using. Put them in the fridge for about an hour to set. Then tuck in!

Carrot Cupcakes

I wouldn’t call these healthy exactly but they are a little better than a standard cupcake. I don’t often use oil in cakes but that plus the carrots make these super moist – delicious!

carrot cupcakes

Ingredients: 

200g carrot, grated

200g self raising flour

175g light brown sugar

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

2tsp mixed spice

zest 1 orange

2 eggs

150ml vegetable or sunflower oil

225g icing sugar

3-4 tbsp hot water

1 tsp vanilla extract

Decorations (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (160 degrees fan, gas mark 4). Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Add to a large mixing bowl the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest. Mix well.

In another bowl or jug, add the oil and eggs and whisk together thoroughly.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, along with the carrot. Mix everything until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared paper cases.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Then allow to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, put the icing sugar in a mixing bowl, add the vanilla extract then gradually add the boiling water, mixing as you go. You should end up with a fairly thick icing but not a paste.

Use a spoon to pour icing over the cakes (who cares if it dribbles a bit, right?), then use the back of the spoon to spread the icing to cover each cake completely.

Add decorations, if using (I found these cute little carrots for mine but you could use sprinkles or anything else that takes your fancy!). Allow fifteen minutes or so for the icing to set.

 

This week I also tried out another meal prep idea. If you read the last The Weeks Eats, you’ll have seen my black bean and veg stew that lasted me a few days. This time, I’ve gone for turkey mince. I sautéed it in a little oil with a minced clove of garlic. Once it was cooked, I mixed half of it with chopped tomatoes and mixed herbs and the other half I mixed with chopped spring onions, soy sauce, honey and ginger. I shared each mixture between two food containers then added some steamed vegetables. Once they were cool, I popped them in the fridge. Four days of lovely lunches ready to go!

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Plenty of other bloggers have been posting their own Easter treats too! The following are a few of my favourites. Alice from NewYoungMum made these awesome looking Speckled Easter Cake – I love the alternating sponges inside. These Easter Egg Sprinkle Cookies from Sarah’s Little Kitchen are so cute! As a big peanut butter fan, I’d love to try these Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs from Invisible No More – so beautifully decorated too!

So that’s my second The Weeks Eats done! I hope you enjoyed it. I’m hoping for some nice weather next week so I might be posting some of our favourite picnic ideas and recipes!

Thanks for reading.

Let’s Talk About Sex

The big talk. The birds and the bees. Where babies come from. It’s the conversation most parents dread. When their tiny innocent child looks up at them with their big angelic eyes and asks, ‘What is sex?’

Once upon a time, parents might have been able to put it off for longer. But now it’s talked about everywhere and your child hearing the word is pretty much inescapable. Pip was two years old when she asked us where babies come from. We told her they come from their Mummy’s tummy, where they grow. She accepted this readily.

It was  a few years later (thank goodness!) that she asked what sex was. I’m not quite sure where she first heard the term. As I said, it’s such a common subject that it’s quite difficult even to pinpoint where a five year old might have heard it. She could have overheard the news, a conversation in the street or indeed a conversation between myself and Husband that wasn’t really intended for her to hear (anyone else had that horrifically awkward moment when you’re discussing grown up stuff and you turn to find a child you had no idea was in the room, blinking up at you with a very confused look on their face?).

I find she asks about these things every now and then, perhaps a couple of times a year. It’s like she’s aware that she’s grown a little older and more knowledgeable and is ready for an update. She does glean a little more information each time. There have been issues I wrestled with. Commonly parents seem to tell their kids that sex is nothing more or less than how you get a baby. I can see the appeal of this explanation. It leaves out anything about adult relationships and sticks to something that can be explained in scientific terms. But this does not fit in well with our family rule of never telling our daughter lies, for that is what this is. Sex, for most adults, is not simply for reproduction. It’s an important aspect of most adult romantic relationships and it’s enjoyable! So I told her this. I didn’t go too much into the mechanics of the act, deciding instead to tell her that it’s ‘like a special cuddle only for grown ups’. Again, she seemed to just accept this and ended her line of questioning there.

Now she’s seven and getting to a stage where playground gossip is playing a part in the information she gets. I’ve made it clear that she can talk to me about anything a friend tells her, there’s no need to be embarrassed. Which is probably why a couple of weeks ago she asked me if grown ups have sex in the bath. Bearing in mind again that I don’t lie to her, I said yes, sometimes they do. I then asked where she’d gotten that idea from. She replied, ‘I don’t know. It definitely wasn’t [name of schoolfriend]!’ Aha.

I really think the key to these tricky issues is a balance of honesty and openness while keeping in mind what a child will understand at different ages. I might have skirted the sex in the bath question if a three year old had asked it, for example, and probably been far more concerned about where they’d heard such an idea.

Sex is a part of the adult world. It’s our job as parents to make sure our children are prepared for that world.

How do you handle questions about sex and adult relationships?

 

 

The Weeks Eats {05.04.17}

I’ve been wanting to start blogging more about food for a while now. Since this week I really felt like I’ve fallen into some surprisingly good habits and managed to lose another 3lb (Yay!), now seems like a good time to start another good habit – a weekly blog post about food. I plan for this to be a sort of roundup of recipes I’ve used in the last week, what I’ve eaten outside home, tips and ideas for cooking and meal prep and recipes that I’ve found and fancy trying out soon. I hope you like it!

To begin with, here’s a recipe I used last week for several of my lunches:

Bean & Veggie Stew

Now this is my take on another recipe I tried ages ago that was actually a chilli. But I don’t actually like my food very hot so I took the chilli out so I can’t really call it a chilli anymore (we all remember Jamie Oliver’s paella debacle!). So instead it’s now a stew. Anyway, I like eating this with brown rice or stuffed in a pitta or even with a poached egg perched on top. It’s ridiculously simple and easy to make, very healthy and could easily be adapted with different beans or vegetables.

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Ingredients:

1 red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or very finely chopped

1 medium courgette, chopped

1 240g tin black beans, drained

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 300g tin chickpeas, drained

A few sprays or about 1 tsp vegetable oil or other oil of your choice

1 tsp cumin

1tsp ground coriander

Method:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and courgette and fry for about 10 minutes or until softened a little.

Stir in the cumin and coriander.

Add the black beans, chickpeas and tomatoes.

Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and leave to simmer for about twenty minutes.

Serve and enjoy. Or portion into containers and store in the fridge for 3 days (possibly might be ok for a little longer, this is just how long it lasted for me!).

Serves: 4

Calories per portion: 176

Going out for food can be really tricky when you’re trying to be healthier. My usual rule is that, as I don’t do so very often, I can see it as a treat and not worry too much about what I have. However, something I do more regularly is to sit in a coffee shop and write for a couple of hours, perhaps accompanied by an insanely large mug of hot chocolate and some kind of pastry. I’ve had to admit to myself that this is IMG_1516actually just a bad habit but I am determined to still have my out-of-the-house writing time. So when I popped into Starbucks last Friday, I steered well clear of my usual and instead went for a can of Innocent Bubbles and a Skinny Blueberry muffin. This came in at 396 calories. Perhaps a little more than I’d usually have for a weekday breakfast but still, pretty good and still tasty. I thought the muffin would be a let down but actually the oats make it rather filling and it still tasted like a treat!

Speaking of treats, I’ve also been on the lookout for a snack I can have in the evenings, to substitute the bags propercornof crisps we often have while watching movies. I spotted Propercorn on offer at the local supermarket and decided to give them a go. I got the coconut and vanilla flavour, since the others there were savoury and I prefer my popcorn sweet. It’s delicious! Ok, they’re not super low in calories but still, a healthier movie snack than Doritos!

 

A couple of my favourite meals from this week….

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I read lots of other blogs and that’s where I get lots of my own food inspiration. With next week being school holidays, I’d love to try building these Carrot and Runner Bean Towers from A Mummy Too with my daughter. Or as we’ll be out and about quite a bit, this recipe for Homemade Museli Flapjacks form Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary could come in handy! This recipe for Ten Minute Mango Pancakes from Deliciously Ella looks perfect for slightly lazier than normal mornings. Finally, as a big fan of banana bread, I’d love to try this healthy version from The Picky Eater.

So there we have it! I hope you enjoyed The Weeks Eats and look forward to next week’s post when I’ll be featuring some Easter themed treats!

Thanks for reading!

Review: Papergang Subscription Box March 2017

This month’s Papergang Box arrived at my door a couple of days ago. This is a monthly stationary box, based here in the UK. Here’s my vlog review of it:

As I said in the video, while I am happy with the box, I’m not quite as thrilled with it as I was last month. That being said, all of the items are useful for me.

Also, I mentioned in the video that there were unusually two calendars included. I contacted Ohh Deer, the company behind the Papergang box, and they got back to me very quickly to explain. Due to international customers getting their boxes a little later than us in the UK, they weren’t getting to use the calendars fully, hence a calendar being sent out a month in advance to fix this issue. I must say, both on the quick and polite reply and also on fixing a customer issue, that’s pretty good customer service!

If you’re interested in subscribing to the Papergang Box, here’s a link for you!

Hope you like the video!