Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Interview - Rebecca (Kadria Skincare)

Today, we bring you an interview with Rebecca, the founder of Kadria Skincare, whose Baby Balm Emi reviewed earlier this week...

Tell us about yourself...
I am a 38 year old woman of Anglo-Arabic background. I am a social worker, massage therapist and owner of Kadria Skincare, a natural and ethical skincare range for pregnant women, mums and babies.

Tell us about your wonderful children...

I have two children, Alexander just turned 6 and Leilah is 3 years old.

Why did you start Kadria?

I have, since my teens been interested in aromatherapy. As a young adult I used to make face oils. At that time I was not so much interested in the health benefits I just really enjoyed the fresh and natural smell of the oils. Over the years I learnt more about the wonders of essential oils and then when studying aromatherapy massage I started making balms and body oils. Kadria essentially started off as a hobby, it then developed from there.

How did you choose your business's unusual name?

Kadria is my middle name and it also means ‘power’ in Arabic. I thought it would be perfect as Kadria is all about the power of nature, the power of essential oils, vegetable oils and extracts and all other nature derived ingredients in between.

What is your personal favourite product?

I love the baby balm and the balancing face oil. The baby balm, should probably be called the ‘all rounder’ as it can be used for everything. I use it if or my son or I have a little eczema flair up to help as an emmolient. It can be used just about anywhere.
The Balancing Face Oil is a lovely, light and easily absorbed face oil. It contains a good amount of frankincense and neroli which makes it smell lovely . It is a great oil for adding a bit of extra value to your moisturiser or as a night time treat for the skin.

What are your most important things to you regarding your business?

I am interested in the environment and making sure my business activities do not have a negative impact on it. The formulas have to be biodegradable and the packaging should be easily recycled. That is very important to me. But for me, the most important thing is that we use fair trade ingredients. I have a background in international and social development, I have an understanding about the way international trade relationships work and I have a keen interest in imperialism. I get a lot of my raw materials from developing countries and I would like to know as much as possible that the people I am trading with are getting a good deal.

What inspires you?

Well, it’s more who than what – Noam Chomsky – he is that quiet yet powerful voice and he talks a lot of sense to me.
[American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, historian, political critic, and activist]

Where would you like Kadria to go next, and what are your plans for the future?

I am in the process of rebranding and reformulating. I am rethinking my products and am hoping to make the products inclusive to all women.

What is your favourite thing to do, just for yourself?
I like to meet with friends and also have massages but I really like making face creams . I am trying to make my perfect face cream!

What is the worst parenting moment you’ve ever experienced?
My son started reception last year and I missed his sports day. I went there in my lunch break and it had all finished by the time I got there. I found him though so he was happy to see me but disappointed that I did not see him in the games.

What springs to mind when you think of one of your favourite parenting memories?

Watching both Alex and Leilah dancing frenetically in the kitchen to the Doobie Brothers ‘I Don’t Like Cricket’. It was the funniest sight! But generally, I love cuddling up with them on the sofa.

What are the best, and worst, pieces of parenting advice you’ve been given?
My son was very small when he was born and the doctors wanted me to supplement my plentiful milk supply with formula. I did this for a week and then decided to trust my instincts. My son now has a milk allergy.

What has most surprised you on your parenting journey?
How smart children are! They never cease to amaze.

If you could change one thing about the world today to make it better for your child, what would it be?

There is a lot of bigotry, hatred and violence in the world. I do not think it needs to be this way. It won’t change but I don’t have to like it.

You can find Rebecca's amazing Kadria products on her Etsy store, or direct from the Kadria website, and she's kindly provided us with a code for use on her Etsy store, giving a 20% discount! Simply use the code 'NURTUREYOU' at the checkout!

She also writes a fantastic skincare and pregnancy blog too!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: The Seven Silly Eaters

~ by Kendal

Of all the baby and toddler books that we have ever read, I have one firm favourite – the same favourite that Ava happens to have; The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman.

We’ve had it for over a year, and yet even when Ava was pretty young, she would sit enthralled at the cascading rhyme that runs throughout the story and the brilliant artwork by Marla Frazee

The story is about Mr and Mrs. Peters and their seven children, all of whom have very unusual eating habits. Peter only wants milk,  Lucy only wants pink lemonade,  ('Not from a can...Oh, no...Homemade’),  Jack only wants applesauce, Mac oatmeal (‘But if his oatmeal had a lump, Mac would dump it on the cat, Mrs. Peters hated that'), Mary Lou only eats homemade bread and Flo and Fran poached and fried eggs.

Over the years, with each new addition to the Peters’ clan, Mrs. Peters does her very best to accommodate the specific wishes of each child but ends up feeling, well, just a little frazzled!

 'Creamy oatmeal, pots of it!
Homemade bread and lots of it!
Peeling apples by the peck,
Mrs. Peters was a wreck.'

Noticing their Mama’s exhaustion, the children decide to make Mrs. Peters a special birthday breakfast made up of all the food that she makes them every day. They wake up at the crack of dawn on her birthday and sneak down to the kitchen, however since none of them know how to cook, it ends up being a disaster, and they fling their concoction into one pot.

'But when they saw what they had done
They wished they never had begun
They'd hardly slept a wink that night
And still things hadn't turned out right.
And even though they'd tried their best,
It hadn't worked,
They were depressed.'

Hiding it in the oven, which is still hot, they wake up to their Mama dancing around the kitchen with glee. In the oven is a ‘pink and plump and perfect cake’ – and since this birthday cake is made only from the special foods each child likes, it becomes the single meal they prepare every day – each of them helping and taking turns to fix it.

It is such a heartwarming story and Mrs. Peters comes across as such a gentle, lovely Mama, with her brood of fantastically individual children on her little homestead, that it certainly appealed to us.

The drawings match the up-beat, wry and heartwarming rhyme perfectly, and leave you feeling as if you know the Peters family very well. Ava certainly knows each of the children and what they love to eat. Sometimes when she eats oatmeal she will point at it and say, ‘Mac! Mac!’ which I just love.

Mary Ann Hoberman was the children’s Poet Laureate from 2008 until 2010 and it is easy to see why. We also have A House is a House for Me, which has the same kind of riotous and whimsical rhyme. As for Marla Frazee, the illustrator, her drawings are second to none. Another children’s book she has illustrated – Everywhere Babies – is another favourite here, and the only kids book I own where there are several gay couples depicted throughout, as well as images of breastfeeding and babywearing Mamas too!

I hope you get a chance to read The Seven Silly Eaters at some point. I keep buying it for people I know, so certain I am that they will fall in love with it too. After a year of reading it aloud to Ava at least once a day,  I know most of it off by heart – sometimes I even wake up reciting the lines in my head! For us, it is the perfect family, read-aloud story.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Big Tutorial + Giveaway - Easy Halloween Tutu

 - by Emi

So it's coming up to one of my most favourite times of year. Halloween.

Stephen and I are Pagans, so we celebrate Samhain on the 31st. Among other things, Samhain celebrates those who have passed on in the previous 12 months and on honouring them.This remembrance of the dead, combined with folklore telling us that they, and other less savoury creatures, are closer than we know at this time of year, has evolved into the celebration as we know it today.

My biggest bugbear with Halloween in that there seems to be an awful lot of girls who look like... well... my Nannan would use the word 'trollop'. Even worse, this state of (un)dress worryingly seems to be filtering down to young children's costumes as well.

Consequently, I think it's even more important to make your own costumes, if you can, giving us as parents a modicum of control over how sexual a costume our child wears. Don't get me wrong, I've had my fair share of drunken Halloweens, dressed as a burlesque vampire, that's just not what I want my children to be wearing!

Today, I am going to teach you how to make your very own tutu! These are so super-easy, requiring little sewing skill (or none, depending on how you do it), and can be adapted for any costume or colourscheme, as well as for any child or adult (I can imagine my friend Arianne reading this blog post and doing some kind of high-pitched shriek at the thought of her very own pink, princess tutu!).

You're going to need a lot of netting for this, as well as elastic. I tend to buy rolls of soft netting in bulk for use within MamaPixie, so I used half a roll of green and half of purple that I had left over. The rolls are 6" wide and 25m long. If you don't have this, a trip to your local Boyes will provide a plethora of netting in a whole bunch of different colours. It's a little stiffer than the netting I used, but will work just as well. Having never made a tutu with the latter type of netting, I'm going to guess that you'd need 2 meters-ish for a child's tutu, less for a toddler or baby and more for an adult.

Now, you need to cut it into strips. I cut mine to about 60 or 70cms long, and 3" wide. This is quite a laborious task, so I did it with husband-made hot chocolate and ogled Bradley Cooper in Limitless whilst I worked! I did start off counting how many I cut, but Mr Cooper's beautiful behind was pretty distracting and I lost count.

You'll end up with a big pile of netting strips, like mine below...

We're now going to make the waistband. With the elastic, you'll need to measure your child's waist size and add on an inch. Cut the elastic to that length, form a loop overlapping the ends and sew together. I use 1" wide elastic. This one has an unstretched length of 20-ish", so will fit several inches wider than that. To give a frame of reference, this size is too big for my 13 month old Pixie, and fits with no stretch at all on 3 and a half year old Ru.

You could do this by hand if you don't own a sewing machine, though it would take you a smidge longer.

Then, we begin the most time-consuming part of this tutu tute, actually putting the netting onto the elastic.

Take a strip of netting, fold it in half. Pass the tail ends of the netting round the elastic and through the loop in the middle of the netting, pulling it tightly.

I then tied the two tails into a knot a couple of times. This doesn't make the netting stay on better, it simply makes a later step easier for you (you'll see what I mean!).

Repeat this step over and over... and over... and over... and over...

If you're using more than one colour, you can alternate the strips; I did two green, then two purple, two green and so on.

I don't know about your kids, but mine seem to really love 'helping' me. And by 'helping', I mean liberally scattering them across the floor and giggling manically whilst throwing them into the air. This activity was also shared by the cats, who really seemed to enjoy sliding across the floor and through the strips.

Eventually, kids and cats aside, your tutu will start to look like this...

Carry on looping the netting round the elastic until you've completely filled it. Then, if you want a flouncier tutu, add more! I usually find one layer to be sufficient for a child.

Now, you'll see there are still some white bits of the elastic showing through. If you don't mind that, then TA DAA! Your tutu is finished!

If you do mind it, grab a strip of netting, tie one end round the elastic and then begin to wrap it around. Because you tied the tails in knots earlier, it is now easier to see where you need to wrap the netting inbetween each knot. When you reach the end of your wrapping strip, tie on another and tuck the ends under to make it look neater.

And you're done!

It would be really easy to customise this, white for an angel, pink for a princess, rainbow for... a rainbow... You could also make your strips of netting longer for a longer tutu as well, which is what I'd advise if you were making this for an adult. You could also easily hand sew some little bat shapes on to make your tutu extra spookalicious!

And it's not even limited to Halloween either, tutus are a fantastic addition to any dressing up box. Ru loves the one I made for this tutorial so much that I'm having to make an exact copy for him! Tutus ain't just for girls!

So, to win the gorgeous green and purple tutu made in the tutorial today, simply leave a comment telling me your all-time favourite scary movie! The winner will be picked on Wednesday 31st October, using a random number generator.

"Yowling, prowling, growling cat
Why do you swish your tail like that?

Why do your eyes flash gold and green?
Could be--must be--Halloween!

Slinky, inky, blinky cat,
Why do you arch your back like that?
What scary creatures have you seen?
Could be--must be-- Halloween!"

Friday, 26 October 2012

A Day in the Life

~by Kendal

‘Do the best that you can in the place where you are, and be kind’
- Scott Nearing.

Like most Mamas I know, I often hold myself up to unrealistic expectations. I have the sense that I could and should be doing everything I want to, all at once, managing effortlessly without food smeared on my clothes and dark rings of tiredness under my eyes.

Like most Mamas, I find myself looking at other women who seem to do so much and who make it look so easy, and I wonder what their secret is. I’ve certainly had my fair share of people comment the same to me – how do I manage to be an attentive parent, to keep a clean house, to sew as much as I do, to have two blogs, to go out and do things? And when I write it down like that I think, wow, how do I manage all that? I know Emi gets the same kind of question too, and when it came up again recently, on here, we got to talking about how it is always a misconception that we, that any of us, can do everything without other things falling to the wayside.

So, following the suggestion of one our readers, we thought it would be a good idea to talk a little about what our days are actually like, and our weeks too. What we do do, what we wish we could do, and what we simply don’t manage. What things get sacrificed when it comes down to choosing how we spend our time, because the truth is, something always does get sacrificed, and this shouldn’t go unnoticed.

When I think back to the first year of Ava’s life, one thing stands out. How very unproductive  I was. Ava was a babe-in-arms all right, and she was literally attached me to me 24/7. When she was awake, she was nursing, and when she was asleep, she was always asleep on me, so I got very little done. If I got dressed, let alone showered, it was a small miracle. Housework was done only when Howard was home and we could manage to do the bare minimum to keep things clean, if not always tidy. I certainly didn’t even consider doing all the things I do now, and I often wondered if I’d ever be a functioning member of society again.

But Ava grew, as babies do. And round about the time that she started to get a little less attached, I started to really want to make things. The urge was so strong, and felt so necessary, that I invested in a lot of expensive quilting equipment, bought a book, got a sewing machine, and made my first quilt. And that was me, hooked.

I think now that this was a need for me to have something to do for myself, something to let me feel productive and, more importantly, creative, and it felt so good. It didn’t matter if I was bone-tired the next morning, sewing into the wee hours of the night awoke a passion for making things that I had only been vaguely aware of previously in my life.

And that began to fit into a new rhythm we were finding as a family, as we looked for ways to spend our time, our precious time, as well as possible.
For us, that’s the key to being productive – spending our time wisely, choosing to use time instead of simply letting it pass.

But it is also very much about going with the flow of where each of us, individually, are in terms of energy and need. Right now, for example, I simply do not have the energy to spend four or five hours sewing in the evenings, as much as I would love to do so. Instead, I am reading or sleeping and trying not to feel restless, trying to honour the importance of relaxation and rest.

In a typical week, just as in a typical day, we have certain things we like to do. Because Howard works 9-5, we always do special family things at the weekend, lots of outings to the park, swimming, coffees and lunches out etc. But during the week, when it is just me and Ava, I find that a regular rhythm works really well for us.

We always go out at least once a day, and almost always in the mornings, which are our busy periods. On Monday morning we go to the library and to town. On Tuesday mornings we go to Natural Nurturing Network, or see friends when it’s not on. On Wednesday mornings we either go to the library or swimming. On Thursday mornings we go to Woodland group and then friends come back to our house for lunch and playing, and on Friday we usually go to the Museum gardens in town and feed the squirrels and birds.

Ava usually naps just after lunch, so we spend the afternoon doing more chilled out activities likes drawing or painting, having friends over, or going to the local park, and then Ava ‘helps’ me cook dinner.

And then, within each day, we have certain routines and rituals we follow. For example, Ava sits on the counter and has a glass of milk and piece of fruit whilst I make tea and oatmeal, and then we sit in the dining room and look out at the garden eating our breakfast. Then we read some stories, and then, between 8 and 10, I try to do any housework that needs doing and have showers/baths, get ready.

Ava loves to be involved in things so she always ‘helps’ me clean the bathroom (she uses a baby wipe to wipe things) or hoover (she uses an attachment to pretend hoover the carpet). If I have any breakfast dishes to do, Ava will sit up with me and either help dry them or, if she’s not in the mood, sing songs.

Whatever we do, I try to make sure Ava is always involved, even if that means she bounces up and down on the bed whilst I put clothes away. This helps me get things done whilst still being attentive to Ava, and I also think it’s really good for her to see me happily doing things, and enjoying housework, so that she might want to join and help too.

In the evenings, when Howard comes home, we eat dinner together in the dining room and then read stories in the living room. Ava goes to sleep around 8pm, and this is usually when I start doing anything like sewing or quilting, up in my craft room. If I haven’t spent too long sewing, I also try to read for an hour or so before bed. Sometimes, Howard and I will sit and talk instead, or we will watch a show we have streamed, depending on our mood.

But this brings me to an important point. Everything we choose to do, we choose in favour of doing something else. One of the most important decisions we made was not to get a TV license, which means we can never just sit and watch TV. Since we stopped watching TV, both Howard and I have found so much more free time to do other things – for me, making clothes or quilts or household things, as well as having the time to write for both of my blogs and for other writing projects on the go. For Howard, that means time to read a lot of books, and time to write his novel.

But this decision has affected us in a great many ways. It has changed the energy and harmony in our house too. It affects the way Ava behaves, or more to the point, doesn’t behave. During times when she has watched more TV, like when we lived with family, I have noticed an increase in four things – aggressive behaviour, lack of responsiveness, attention issues and hyperactivity. And these things seep into the times when the TV is not on, too. These are the same things I have seen over and over throughout my life, without exception, in children who watch a lot of TV, and both Howard and I saw how strongly it created a disconnection between how we wanted to spend our time and how Ava was reacting to us and to her environment,

And so, without TV, we sometimes put on a film for her, but even this is a thing we do very rarely these days. And this has had the biggest impact on how we spend our time and also, Ava’s capacity for spending time calmly, engaging, interacting. When she needs down time, we quietly read stories or lie on the bed together talking and gently playing. We sometimes draw or I just let her wander about the back garden, but it certainly leads to a much calmer, happier child, who can play with her toys in a much more creative and imaginative way and without aggression.

(Plus, since children below the age of 7 have no way of editing out the things they see on TV, I don’t have to worry about her little sponge brain picking up things completely unsuitable for her – things I certainly don’t want affecting her personality and development.)

Aside from removing TV as a presence in our household, we’ve also had to choose carefully from the things we really want to do. We try to spend some time alone, doing something for ourselves at least once a week, to replenish and reinvigorate ourselves, and this helps a great deal too. But there are only so many hours in the day, and there are things I would love to do that I never get the chance to, at the moment. I would love to do Pilates and meditate – things I did a lot of before Ava was born – but I choose to do other things instead.

I might choose, for example, to write for this, or my other blog instead of watching a film in the evenings, or having a bath, or doing something else that might be beneficial, but writing is more important to me. I also know that I have times of high productivity and times of low productivity, and that for me, it’s a challenge to find a balance between the two. My husband says I am terrible at pacing myself and he is right, which means I have a tendency to burn out sometimes, and whilst I used to be able to hibernate before Ava, I don’t have that option now.

I find that since I only have limited making time, and this is almost always in the evening when Ava is asleep, I have to choose wisely what I want to make. I came to realise that although I love having an Etsy store, I would much rather spend my time making things for Ava, for the house, or for friends and family, than I would for strangers purchasing items online. I don’t get very much satisfaction from that, and so I tend to focus on making things that I feel would benefit our lives in some way.

And the last thing that we try to remember, especially in times when it seems days have passed without us getting much done at all, is that the best way to approach things is 'one stitch at a time'. A little here and there. Whether that’s with housework or making something, just doing a little bit often can have a huge and cumulative affect on our productivity and it also helps to keep our sanity in check too.

I think whatever we are doing, it is important to remember that we are also not doing something else at the same time. I have no idea how single parents manage to be attentive and productive at the same time, and I am in awe of their ability to do both. I am in awe of working mums who manage to organise their days and their children and still come home ready for being present with their Littles. I often wonder how people with four or five children do it – and it really seems like a miracle to me that anyone does. 

But, like a good friend pointed out recently, it is impossible, and detrimental, to compare your situation to anyone else’s because we all have our own set of challenges, our own energy levels, our own emotional dramas to deal with. We all have such different lives, and we all need different things to feel healthy. I try to remember this when I find myself wondering how other people do ‘it’, because ‘it’ doesn’t really exist, and comparing yourself to others can lead to a feeling of never being good enough, which is something as Mamas we deal with all the time. We are all doing our best with what we’ve got, where we are.


Soon, Emi will talk about what her days and weeks look like, and what works and doesn’t work for her family

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Crafty Tutorial: Gratitude Cards

~by Kendal

Gratitude is a principle very important in our family. In my experience, aside from love, there’s no more powerful or transformative emotion than feeling thankful. I try to incorporate a gratitude meditation into each day, and it leaves me feeling very refreshed and very thankful for all the wonderful things and people in our lives.

We try to do things with Ava to encourage this, too. For the period leading up to Yule, we often have a ‘Gratitude Tree’ on our dining room table where every day we write down something we are grateful for – however small – and hang it on the branches.

Today, I’ll be sharing with you our recent exercise in gratitude – thank you cards! We did these specifically to thank people for the beautiful gifts they gave Ava for her birthday, and for coming to her party, but I like to do these for all sorts of occasions – sometimes just to remind someone special that we’re grateful for knowing them.

Since Ava can’t write yet, I wrote the cards and helped with their design, and Ava did all the finger painting, which she happens to love right now.

All you need is:

Card of different colours
Felt tip pens
Craft glue
Finger paints/ordinary paints to dip fingers in!

Ava is an Autumn baby, so we made Autumn themed gratitude cards – I used a selection of red, purple, orange, gold and green card, which I trimmed and folded in half to make into a good card size.

Then, I cut some orange card into rectangles (to fit onto the front of our cards) and drew a tree on each in brown felt tip pen. I gave them to Ava to finger paint leaves on in red and yellow paint (she enjoys making dots and cicrcles at the moment so I figured this would work quite well, and it did, until she got a paintbrush out and decided to paint on some leaves too!)

Whilst these were drying, I stuck some cream paper to the inside of each card, for writing on. 

Then, once the trees were dried, Ava helped me glue the back of each tree and we stuck them onto the different coloured cards. 

Ava was really quite pleased with herself and wanted to put them up in her gallery, but I explained we were giving them to people we loved.

And that’s it! Simple little Autumn tree cards to send to loved ones. I’m sure there are lots of ways to incorporate finger painting into card making and we might have another go soon for Yule cards.


'I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.'

Monday, 22 October 2012

Homemade Muesli

~by Kendal

A few years ago whilst I was living in London I went on a bit of a health kick after a particularly unhealthy period. I was incredibly busy doing a full time MA and teaching too, so I was always trying to find high energy healthy foods to eat. Enter oats. And all their terrific health inducing properties (like naturally boosting your milk supply if you are a breastfeeding Mama!) Not to mention, they gave me just the energy kick I was after without the crash that usually follows.

The only trouble is I didn’t like porridge much, so I started to try different kinds of muesli, and eventually settled on my own, tweaked, much loved muesli recipe which is still one of my favourite things to eat to this day.

There’s no actual baking or cooking required in this recipe, but it is so delicious and so nutritious that I really wanted to share it with you. It is usually my breakfast of choice and my favourite any-time-of-day pregnancy snack. In fact I’m thinking of making up jars of this as Yule gifts for friends and family.

There are 3 tips to making this muesli above and beyond delicious.

1. You must use organic dried apricots instead of ordinary dried apricots. The difference is very noticeable and changes the taste entirely.
2. Once everything is added, sprinkle a generous amount of cinnamon on top and give it a good mix. 
3. Always add some fresh fruit before serving. Nothing beats a combination of blueberries and chopped apples, so I urge you to start there.


Large bag of Organic Muesli mix or Organic jumbo oats
Bag of brazil nuts
Bag of seed mix ( I use an omega 3 seed mix)
Bag of dried, organic apricots
Large sprinkle of cinnamon
Chopped up apples and blueberries (or fruit of your choice)
Milk/soy milk

(I usually get all of these from my local Holland & Barrett)

How to

I mix up a large batch in one go because it’s so tasty and so healthy I want to eat this all the time.

Put all your oats/muesli flakes into a large jar. Chop up the brazil nuts and cut the dried apricots into little bits. (You can also use any combination of other nuts or dried fruit, but this is the yummiest combination I've found yet). Add in all the seeds. Give it a good mix.

When ready to serve, add your milk and leave it to steep for a few minutes, which makes everything get a little soft. Then add your blueberries, chopped apples and cinammon, and give it a good mix.


Then enjoy again, later. And later still. Yummy and super good for you!


(If you have any left over oats, you can always use them as an amazing facial scrub - Just put some in a bowl, add a little hot water, mix up and then slather all over your face. Messy and icky but fun. Rub in gently then rinse off. Follow up by slathering some honey all over your face and leaving it there for half an hour and you will have the most glowing, soft, radiant skin you can imagine!)

Friday, 19 October 2012


 - By Emi

We had a sad thing happen recently.

One of our cats, Tasha, a beautiful black witch's cat with green eyes, was run over and killed outside our house.

As awful as it sounds, these things happen. It's one of the hazards of owning a pet. Especially when you live next to a road and own cats that go outdoors. It doesn't make it any *easier* knowing this when you're burying the first pet you and your husband ever got together.

Sat on the grass outside my house, stroking Tasha, I was thinking several things, namely wondering why the person who hit her drove off, combined with relief that her death was obviously instantaneous and with minimal suffering, gratitude for the two women who saw it happen, moved my cat off the road and knocked on doors to find the owner, and worry.

Worrying how I would explain this to Ru.

Don't get me wrong, I think my child is smart as hell. But in the end, he's only three.


How do I explain death to a three year old, in terms he can understand, in the midst of my own sadness, giving enough detail so he understands the situation but not enough that it overwhelms him?


I am reminded of a situation when I was a nanny. One of the little girls I nannied and I were walking to the park when she asked me "On the weekends when you go home and see your Mummy, does Stephen go and see his Mummy too?". I stopped, knelt down next to her and explained that Stephen's Mama died when he was very little, so he couldn't see her anymore.

She then asked me if Stephen was still very sad about it, to which I replied that he was at the time, but only a little bit now because it was a long time ago.

We carried on towards the park when suddenly she stopped, gave me a thoughtful look and asked "When someone dies, we can't see them any more, can we?". I confirmed this. She seemed accepting of this, and went off to play on the swings.

Our day proceeded to carry on as normal, and the little girl didn't mention the subject again...

Until about 2 hours later when she suddenly announced in front of her mother and grandmother, in the loudest *possible*, matter of fact, in a strong Bradford accent...

"Stephen's mum's *DEAD*."

Both hilarious and awful at the same time.

Cue a conversation with her mother, that resulted in me resolving that when I had my own children, I would always be honest with them, especially about things as serious as death.


Which brings us back to the present day.

Luckily, Tasha looked perfect still, apart from an exploded eyeball. I profusely thanked the women for coming to find me, and took Tasha inside. Irrationally, I was thinking that I couldn't leave her outside in the garden, so I put her in the spare bedroom on a blanket, arranging her so her damaged eye was hidden.

I then went downstairs, informed Stephen who was at work at the time, and text Kendal who duly came round.

Whilst waiting for Kendal to arrive, I took a deep breath and in the absence of Stephen to discuss it with, but knowing he values honesty as I do, I decided to be gently honest with Ru.

I sat him down, and asked if he knew why we had to be careful when we crossed the road. He answered that we had to be careful because a car could hit us and hurt us and that wouldn't be good.

I swallowed, and began to explain in the best way I could given the situation, that Tasha had been crossing the road and a car had hit her. Giving him a few moments to process this information, he asked where she was. I told him that she was upstairs and he asked if he could see her.

I said yes.

Now, I know that some people will think I am stark raving ballybonkers for letting him, but that resolution made years before to be honest with my children had come back to the forefront of my mind.

I took him upstairs, and we sat next to her. I cried a little. He rested his hand on my knee, more empathy in that one little gesture than his three-year old vocabulary could express.

"She's poorly, Mama."

"No, baby... she's dead. It's like... she's gone to sleep, and she won't wake up."

"Why are you crying, Mama?"

"Because I feel sad about what has happened to Tasha. She is very special to me."

He stroked her a little, kissed her fur, and told me very seriously "Millie will be very cross at that car for hitting Tasha. She will EAT that car up." (Millie is another of our cats). We went downstairs and he didn't mention it again.

Two of the other cats, Millie and Harrogate, weren't bothered about Tasha. The littlest, Yuli, was desperate to get in the room that Tasha's body was in, and when I finally let her in, she groomed her friend, making sad little mewling noises.

Seems that I wasn't the only one who understands loss.

When Stephen returned home from work, both kids asleep, we both cried, me more than him. We buried Tasha at the bottom of the garden the next day.

Ru said goodbye to her, stroking her silky fur as I explained that we were going to bury her in the garden, that her body would break down and become the earth that would help our flowers and vegetables grow.

It comforts me to know that she is in the garden, that she is at home.

We have three other cats, and won't be getting another one right now.

In the end, honesty governed my choices. Death is a natural part of life. Stephen and I have always aimed to be honest with our children, including death. Some people may be aghast that Ru was allowed to see Tasha after the accident, but I felt like he needed to understand that she was dead, and that that was final, and not just some abstract concept.

I did not write this to defend my actions.

I wrote this to explain why I feel that honesty is so important when it comes to children, in every aspect of our lives together. I had someone tell me that I should have hidden how I was feeling from Ru, not cried in front of him. I disagree. I think it is important for Ru to see both his Mama and Daddy being open about their emotions.

Life is a beautiful, amazing, wondrous thing, but as the seasons pass, the tides go in and out, the weather changes, so do our lives. Death is a part of that. We follow the natural cycle of the seasons in our home, the gentle changes... Life, growth, death, rebirth.

So many positive things have been garnered from her death.

A new found appreciation for those carrying life...

Remaining kitties who have been fussed, petted, loved, cuddled, stroked, cherished...

A friendship begun with one of the women who saw Tasha get hit, who has a son in the same nursery class as Ru...

An opportunity for Ru to learn and experience...

A wonderful reminder that there are good people in the world,who comfort strangers in their sadness, who care enough to go knocking on doors to find a hurt cat's owner...

And an affirmation that pets are such an important part of childhood.

They teach children about the joy of caring for others, responsibility, love, respect, as well as how far you can go pulling a cat's tail before it scratches you... I could go into details about how pets can help calm the stresses of autistic children, how people with pets live longer, have lower blood pressure, the benefits of pet ownership for children, but that doesn't seem right here. For another post, I think.

So, I share with you my fond, happy memories of Tasha. A black witch's cat with green eyes, who came to us as a scared, skinny, underfed, cowering, wee thing. A cat who used to overgroom to the point of baldness when she was left alone. A cat who snored. A cat who gently headbutted those she loved. A cat who when Ru cried as a newborn, used to come from wherever she was in the house to sit next to him. A cat who hated tomatoes but ate onion. A cat who used to throw up A LOT, usually on the only bit of carpet we have in the house, usually discovered by me standing in it. A cat who taught my son so many valuable lessons.

A house is not a home without a cat. And love. And honesty.

Always honesty.

"When you notice a cat in profound meditation
the reason, I tell you, is always the same.
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
of the thought
of the thought
of the thought if his name.
His ineffable
deep and inscrutable
singular name."T. S. Elliot

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review - Kadria Baby Balm

 - By Emi

Well, I am a very lucky girl indeed!

Earlier this year, I was chosen to review some products for The Green Parent magazine. Soon, a box full of lovely goodies arrived, and I went in to raptures over the sheer amount of products in there!

However, there was one that really stood out. A product that I Could Not Fault.

Enter stage left: Kadria Baby Balm.
I mean, come on! Look at that packaging!

I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of cutesy-packaged baby products, so this really appealed to me. It looks grown up and elegant. The simple black and white colour scheme is carried through the entire range, and makes me feel like an adult woman for a moment, briefly forgetting the smushed banana in my hair, the damp patch on my top where the toddler spilled juice on me, the paint on my jeans... Heaven. (And we haven't even opened the bottle yet!)

Once you get inside (packaging is remarkably toddler-proof! Yay!), a big sniff of the contents transports you to another world. Deep frankincense notes mix with an underlying layer of lavender.

The yellow balm is super rich and effortlessly creamy. Add in to the mix the fact that this balm doesn't stain our cloth nappies... well... it just gets better and better.

What's that?

You want more from a baby balm than just a good smell and pretty labels?

You need it to be fairtrade? And made from organic and wild-harvested plants? No alcohol? Vegan friendly? Suitable for sensitive baba skin? Suitable for use on with eczema and psoriasis?


*points at the Kadria*

It's also not tested on animals, the packaging is biodegradable, and the shea butter comes from a cooperative in Ghana, so you're supporting them too!

I rave about this stuff to ALL mothers.

Now, admittedly, you may shy away at the idea of £14 for a baby balm, but trust me, this is so worth it! The tiniest bit goes a long, long way, so it lasts a really long time. Not only that, knowing that it really is a high-quality product, so you truly get what you pay for.

And you know what else? All Kadria products are made in small batches by a wonderful, British, WAHM named Rebecca, who has two children of her own so she *knows* first-hand what a balm needs to be.

If you want to treat yourself and your baby to some of this crazily-gorgeous balm or anything else from this equally sweet range, head on over to the Kadria Etsy store or the Kadria website.

And you know what?

I think I know a very special, newly preggy Crafty by Nurture Mama who might be getting some Kadria Baby Balm in her Yule stocking if she's a very, very good girl...

Even better, we'll be bringing you an interview with Rebecca, the founder of Kadria, very soon!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Guest Post - The Scar

Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. At 7pm, a wave of light from simple candles will travel across the world, in memory of those small, fragile lives that left before their time.

To mark this, and to honour the tears of Mamas just like you and I, Crafty by Nurture is bringing you a very unique guest post.

This post is not to frighten or upset, merely share another facet of parenthood, and hopefully bring the thought 'I am not alone' to women who are remembering today, and every day.

This is a heart-wrenching story, but one that shows so much strength and light in this woman.

Thank you, Sarah, for opening your heart to us.

Emi, x

EDIT: If you need someone to talk to, I have had Sands, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity recommended. Thanks to Lara M-B for this.

The Scar

 - by Sarah C.

I am one of the multitudes of women who carry a scar around with them.  It isn’t one that you will see.  It is so very common, and yet it is very nearly a secret in our culture.  Sometimes it is a heavy leaden burden in the pit of my stomach.  Sometimes it is the lightest butterfly kiss reminding me of all of the many blessings that have touched my life.  Sometimes it is a raw gaping wound that leaves me gasping and crying, as if it were yesterday.

A kindly stranger sees my armful of coats and bags, the empty sling over my shoulder, the trike I am dragging through the park.  They smile knowingly, look about, intuitively connecting me with the scattered happy play of small daughters; trying to match me to the children I belong with.  “How many do you have?” they say, nodding to the sheer number of items I am juggling, or perhaps to the older child taking the baby down the slide, or the child-painted name-labelled bags of library books.

“Four!”  I say.

My heart says, “Seven.”

This conversation happens a hundred ways, different folks, different days.  Time doesn't remove that first soul-response.  I am a mother seven times over.  Sometimes I even feel guilty, irrationally stung to be leaving out the dear loves of my heart.  I wonder if I’m being rude, whether perhaps I frown or look preoccupied, or if the sensation of the truth being brushed away reveals itself to these friendly passing people.  Yet there is one sense in which I treasure the secret – don’t wish to name the scar or share it with anyone who might not understand.

Three of my babies died.

The first, I barely knew I was carrying before I knew I was losing.  The loss was shocking, nothing I had ever imagined could happen to me.  I was sad.  Angry.  Confused.  When I immediately became pregnant again, I celebrated and grieved all at the same time.  I started to feel safe, believe that I was actually pregnant again, when a day of heavy bleeding and a twelve week scan (on my twenty-first birthday) showed that we had lost another child without even seeing their heart beating or knowing a thing about them.  These were my hardest griefs, the most unbearable to me, that I should be cheated out of every tiny celebration, out of every experience that could have been consoling (or torturous) to remember.  I no longer believe in a hierarchy of loss, in which some losses are automatically easier or harder, real or not real.

Years later, two healthy children, and I felt some measure of trust for the process of pregnancy again.  I passed twelve weeks, I saw the midwife, began to show, caress my sweet little bump and take pregnancy pictures.  My darling baby swam within me safe and comfortable. 

Then one morning I woke in the early hours and my first thought was, “I am in labour.”  I was still a good way shy of twenty weeks pregnant, and I knew only two things.  That this could stop, and we would be fine.  Or that I would birth a baby who would never take a breath.

It didn’t occur to me to look for help, it didn’t even occur to me to wake my husband; I ran myself a bath and sat in a dream-like state feeling waves of contractions and not even being able to weep.  It was the most intense hour of my life.  And when I felt my waters break, and lifted my tiny finger-length baby from the bath tub, all I could feel was astonishment.

Lael was so beautiful.  My tiny pink jellyfish baby, trailing his cord on my palm.

That was the end.  It was a beginning, too.  After losing the earlier two pregnancies I had discovered many many other women with stories of their own, and I had learned the awful ways in which such losses can be dismissed as not real or not important.  I had become a sort of expert in the things to say and the things to not say.  And here I was, at a complete loss, learning how to grieve all over again, how to respect and live with my own pain.

I don’t think I will ever be an expert again, even in my own story.  I have hesitated to write like this, to repeat the tales of my own babies, not because there is nothing to say but because it is so complex and personal.  Yet we need these stories, we need to hear these real pourings-out of women just like you and I, who have lost, who know loss, who stand up and say “Me too”.

The fifteenth of October is the day Lael might have been born to us.  It is also the day of the International Wave of Light, world-wide candle lighting for pregnancy and infant loss awareness at 7pm.  As I light my candles I am holding in my heart a long list of names, the grieving families that I know – and those that I don’t.

To all of you, my sisters with the secret scars, your pain is different to mine – and so are your joys.  Your scars are different and affect you in different ways.  Let yourself be just how you are, in your truth, with the words that are comfortable to you.  Grieve in your own way, however that is.  It’s OK to feel whatever you feel.

If you know one of these families, this is the best resource that I know of for learning how to be there and offer comfort to a friend grieving the loss of a child.

May we all find healing over the years, and learn gentleness and grace to ourselves and our sister-mothers.

Here is the full story of Lael’s loss as I wrote it at the time, unedited and unrefined by the gentle haze of passing time.  Please feel free to leave this link unopened if you feel the burden of taking another’s rawest grief away with you would be too much to bear.  It is graphic and sensitive.

Lael's Story

Friday, 12 October 2012

On being pregnant, again.

~ by Kendal

Everyone remembers the moment they first find out they’re pregnant. With Ava, I managed to covertly pee on a pregnancy test whilst Howard was in the shower, running back through minutes later, half-dressed, with a positive test waving about in my hand whilst shouting, ‘I’m pregnant! I’m pregnant!’ I remember Howard’s shocked face peering out the glass door of the shower, completely unaware of what was going on.

Not exactly smooth. So it’s not a surprise that when I found out I was pregnant again, for the second time, it took me four tests and three days to really feel certain that I was, indeed, with child. Again. After a year of breastfeeding on demand my period returned almost exactly on Ava’s 1st birthday. As good a time as any, I thought, to kind of start trying for baby number two. Five children take time, after all, and my only-child longing for many children wasn’t getting any quieter.

I knew that it might take some time since I was and still am breastfeeding Ava on demand. I read that, period or not, it can take some women two or three years to conceive again, but I was determined that nothing was going to stop me nursing Ava and somewhat naively assumed that since it took us a couple of months the first time round, it would probably follow suit again.

But then six months followed that were probably the most stressful of my whole life. We moved house three times. Howard was searching for the right job, and we were amidst near constant family drama that made it seem like it might, in fact, be the very worst time to get pregnant again. And unsurprisingly, it just didn’t happen.

During this time I was recommended a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility which brought out a raging feminist from within that I frankly didn’t know existed. Not just about how to understand your own fertility, this book educated me in the ways of my own body to such an extent that I wondered why it wasn’t handed out to every 14 year old girl in need of answers. I started to take notice of my monthly cycle – every stage of it – and it became easy to interpret various signs and see that in fact my fertility was clearly not back to where it should be. Whether this was due to the breastfeeding or the stress, I don’t know.

But then we moved into this house and everything settled. Howard found a good job, and I felt everything in me just relax and let go. And two months later, hey-ho, I was pregnant. And really bloody happy that it hadn’t happened in amidst turbulent times, when I would surely have been constantly worried that such stress was having a negative effect on a baby.

Still, nothing quite prepares you for the feeling of seeing that line on a test. Even if at first that line is very faint, just the suggestion that somehow, without you knowing, this incredible, life-changing thing has happened, is not the easiest thing to process. In fact, it doesn’t quite seem real until my body starts to react to the surge of pregnancy hormones and sickness and exhaustion take over.

The past nine weeks have been challenging in a number of different ways than it was with Ava. Unexpectedly, I’ve been more sick this time around, but I’ve been able to nap with Ava for a couple of hours most days which means I’ve not been quite as bone-tired exhausted as I was when I was working. We’ve watched a lot more films during the day than I ever thought we would, but sometimes it felt like lying on the couch with Ava and watching Mary Poppins for the twentieth time that week was all I could muster. You begin to understand that it’s okay to let go of some things, to compromise.

Most days I waited for Howard to get home so I could run upstairs and fall fast asleep in bed. My ‘morning sickness’ was worst between 5 and 7pm at night, which meant eating dinner was impossible.  However this time round, instead of going off meat/protein, I actively craved it. I discovered almonds not only stopped the first trimester heartburn that seems to occur, but it also helps with nausea.

As for breastfeeding, my feelings have changed a little. I still nurse Ava and it’s my hope that I continue to do so until she wants to stop, but I find myself discouraging it more and more, since it has added an extra feeling of being drained that I didn’t expect. I have never been worried about nursing whilst pregnant – I’ve read enough to know how natural and possible it is but I’m sure my milk supply has gone right down already, and I can tell by the way Ava responds that she has noticed. I suspect that she is one of those children who will happily nurse through the next six months, milk or not, rather than wean, but we’ll see, I suppose. The logistics of sleep nursing with a huge tummy seems a conundrum.

And now here I am, about to enter my second trimester tomorrow, having mostly passed that really challenging stage, and wondering how it is that I could possibly have two children. Two human beings that depend on me. Two children I love as much as I have one. It is a concept very hard to understand. Perhaps more so because this time around, with a rambunctious toddler running around, I have had so little time to focus on being pregnant, to fantasise and ruminate on who this little person is.

Again, so different than the first time round, when all my thoughts were focused on one thing and one thing alone. The advantage to this, I think, is that your body just gets on with doing what it has to do, and you don’t have the time to worry and panic over every little thing. I’ve managed to write a few lists which mostly consist of slings, reusable nappies, a sheepskin and little things I want to make, but so much less to buy than last time. Unless of course I get carried away with the beautiful range of slings I covet almost daily. No pushchairs, no Moses basket, and certainly no Pampers.

When we were notified our first scan would fall on Ava’s birthday, I thought it a particularly lovely stroke of luck. I didn’t feel too nervous this time, in part because my body is so unbelievably sensitive to hormonal changes that it’s somewhat of a comfort to feel so sick, as if you can really believe that something big must be going on.

But at the same time, lying on the hospital bed with Ava and Howard next to me whilst a huge picture of a little baby flickered on screen – I also felt incredibly relieved. There it was – there he or she was. Proof that there’s a human being growing at a phenomenal rate inside me. Proof that I haven’t just been imagining the past three months, complete with fabricated pregnancy symptoms and a swollen tummy.

A little fluttering heartbeat, and hands that flicked around everytime my tummy was prodded.  A near identical profile to Ava’s scan. And for the first time since finding out I was pregnant, I really did feel a rush of love, of protectiveness, or warmth towards this little person. I understood for the first time how easy it would be to love another person as much, as unconditionally, as I do Ava. Love is not a pie after all. And as I lay there with this baby bobbing around on screen and inside me, whilst Ava clambered to get up beside me and Howard earnestly tried to divert her attention towards the picture of her new baby brother or sister, it seemed like the most easy thing in the world to just welcome another person into our family.

Ava tells me the baby is a boy. I’m inclined to agree. She likes to pretend-feed my tummy blueberries and sometimes, if she’s feeling particularly generous, yoghurt covered raIsons. She is the first to remind me at dinner to take my ‘preggy pill’, which has become her job. I have a feeling she is going to be the most amazing big sister, and everytime I imagine it I am flooded with gratitude for our growing family. These are good days.

  Ava and I snuggled up on the couch watching Mary Poppins during one of my 'sick' days

Monday, 8 October 2012


~ by Kendal

Today has been a day of twos. Ava turns two at exactly 7.40pm this evening. Two whole years, so full with living, that the number itself seems less than the person.

My Ava, so full of life.

And as it happened, today was also the day we saw baby number two, for the first time. This little Pillywiggin is due in Spring. A full, good, happy day indeed.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

DaddyBlog - The Magic of The Written Word

~by Steve

(AKA. "You want to read that book AGAIN?!"

I've learnt something about myself recently. I can apparently write, creatively, but I need inspiration! That little spark to prompt me, to set the creative juices flowing... It just so happens that my muse is also my wife.

Sat thinking about topics for this month's Daddyblog, she makes me aware that it is National Children's Book Week. That little board meeting of tiny Stephens that I imagine are in my head every time I'm trying to think of something, suddenly start brainstorming. They fire up an interactive whiteboard covered with a spider diagram with "kids books" at the very centre in bold. Ideas are fired back and forth between the suited individuals, each one shot down in a chorus of "Nay!"
Suddenly, the hands of the anthropomorphically named Ikea clock start spinning faster and settle at 3am. Everyone is tired, the coffee pot is dry, the idea pot is even drier when a tiny, sore throated voice pipes up "Can't we just review a book?". Everybody cheers and they fill in the necessary paperwork required to make my mouth work...
"I'll review a book" I say...
"Nope" says my wife "I'm doing that... Why don't you talk about how hard you initially found it to read to Ru?"
There it was, the spark she always gives me.
I believe I mentioned in my very first post back in August that I'm not a big reader. I can read (at the age of 8, I had the reading age of a 15 year old) but I don't particularly find enjoyment in it. When I think about it, most, if not all, of the books I have really enjoyed reading in recent years have been film based - Jurassic Park, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Harry Potter - but I can't seem to pick something up if I have to create the character images myself. This particular feeling of ambivalence towards the written word caused a small issue for me when faced with a certain life changing event and I was suddenly presented with a Son who loves books and loved having Mama and Daddy read them to him.
At only mere moments old he would sit, mesmerised, as my wife regaled him with the suspense filled thriller 'That's Not My Monkey!'. It had everything - mystery and heartache at the loss of a beloved primate, the feelings of disappointment that no other simian could live up to the fluffy-tummied wonder that once filled the life of the main protagonist, and the eventual elation and happiness at the discovery of the missing orang-utan. I'll admit, I was looking forward to having him look at me in the same way as I read to him, so I gave it a go....
"He's only a week old, Steve! Slow down!"
I suddenly became very aware that, yes, I was indeed rushing to reach the end of the book. There was no logical reason for it, I just wanted to finish it as quickly as possible. Then it hit me; for no discernible reason, I was embarrassed to be reading out loud. I'd always been an introverted reader, at book time when I was 6, the other kids would tell the teacher I wasn't reading because I wasn't joining in with the deafening din that was 20 or so fledgling Yorkshire accents spouting verses from Ladybird books as my classmates read aloud to themselves. I didn't need to, I could hear the words in my head. All of a sudden, 20 years has passed and I'm reading these words out loud...


I'm uncomfortable with it. To make matters worse, I was reading him my favourite childhood book - 'The Magic Faraway Tree' by Enid Blyton. This is a book that I have fond memories of my Dad reading every night as I fell asleep, and I longed for the same to happen in my relationship with my son. He clearly has no concept of what I'm saying nor any concept whatsoever of the cringeworthy position I feel I am in and he actually seems to enjoy me reading to him. As he gets older, his interest in books only increases, as does our parental feelings that we should encourage this as a healthy habit. Unfortunately, although I have put my initial feelings behind me for his sake, my enthusiasm for reading has nowhere near grown as much as his.
I'll be honest with you, I genuinely felt guilty for this. He would come up to me, book in hand, the look of adoration in his eyes that only a Son can have for his Daddy. And there I would be, knowing deep down that I was not enjoying it as much as I should...
Then one day it happened; my spark, my muse, my wife.
I'm not sure why, but I was slowly beginning to enjoy our reading sessions more and more... And I thought to myself, I'll put a bit of effort into this new one. It just so happened that Ru had brought me 'A Squash and A Squeeze' by Julia Donaldson. It was written with a comfortable rhythm for me, I particularly loved the rhyming couplets used.

In my head I suddenly became Jay-Z, spitting rhymes on the mic of steel over a reworked Motown classic, anticipating the responses that Kanye West would provide me and preparing to, essentially, read the shit out of that book! I reach the final sentence with the suspense filled staccato of a William Shatner monologue and I feel a hand on my shoulder....
"That is the best I have ever heard you read to him."
The spark alights a pile of discarded newspapers in the deep recesses of the basement of my mind, and I notice the long forgotten headlines. I remember things from my childhood, actually I remember *a* thing from my childhood; my love of The Magic Faraway Tree and a particular incident when out for a walk in Dalby Forest. I can remember it now as vividly as it happened... There was an old, rotten tree with a hole right through the trunk, it was just me and my dad, I can't have been much older than 3 or 4, my imagination kicked in with the fine prowess that only a toddler has...
"Daddy! It's the Faraway Tree!"
Without a moments hesitation, he positively affirms my suspicions, hushes me to silence and, urging me to watch carefully, he creeps behind the tree in search of the inhabitants. A small face made using the fingers of the right hand of a fully grown man appears at the hole in the tree, (this mattered not to me as I was in imagination mode), and then a familiar voice rings out...
"What are you doing looking in my window?!!"
It wasn't my dad's voice, it was the voice of the angry pixie from the book!
The spark had now become a roaring house fire! I remembered that story time was a Milligan-esque cavalcade of characterisation and enthusiasm. This was why I loved having *my* dad read to me...
And so it began, I became a method actor of Kirk Lazarus proportions (infinite respect to anyone that gets that reference...) and I decided to give my voice box a workout. All of a sudden the Wise Old Man in 'A Squash and A Squeeze' had the voice of Bane from Dark Knight Rises, whose voice is based on a bare-knuckle boxing champion. It amuses me to picture the bearded, long-coated purveyor of living-quarter space-based knowledge from the book dipping his hands into glue and broken glass like a scene from Rambo 3 (or Hot Shots Part Deux).
I followed in the footsteps of a good friend of ours and turned the mouse from The Gruffalo into an overly confident rodent, hailing from somewhere just outside of Solihull.
I've also adopted my wife's version of Marjorie the Cow in 'The Cow That Laid An Egg'. Let me illustrate why:
"I've laid an egg!"
Read that out loud in your own voice... Go on, trust me - this is going somewhere.
Read it aloud again, except this time, with the Lancastrian twinge of a surprised Jane Horrocks (a-la 'Chicken Run').

Suddenly more interesting isn't it?

That feeling you have now... that sudden realisation that words are more than just a collection of letters scrawled upon a page, that they are a gateway to a theatrical and comedic event - that's how I feel when I get the chance to crack out my very best (albeit west country) pirate voice.

"But Steve...." I hear you cry, "do you have any tips/handy hints if I'm facing the same situation?"

Well yes, as I appear to like ending my posts with lists, here you go:

1. Youtube. 
Absolute minefield of inspiration. Whether it be watching 'Jackanory' to remind yourself how the professionals do it or (my personal favourite) watching an old cartoon to try and emulate the voices... I do a mean 'Fat Controller' even if I say so myself.

2. Practice Makes Perfect.
Genuinely, I find myself reading Ru's books without him just to see what characters there are and to decide what regional accent they need. My default is Geordie!

3. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!

The worst bit about reading to your kids? When they ask you to read them the same book for the third time... and the sixth... and the ninth... over and over until you want to poke pins in your eyes till they bleed. This is a good sign. (The repetition, not the pins-in-eyes bit). Repetition of stories cements the ideas and memories in their heads. Much loved books can then be 'read' back to you, just from memory alone (and we all know that a good memory is something many of us lack!).
And, to be honest, the only tip you need,
4. No-one's Judging You.
Whether it's theatrical re-enactment on a Royal Shakespeare Company scale, or impression skills to rival Jon Culshaw, your effort makes it something special. Your child is not judging your terrible 'pirate' or 'troll' voice, all they see is a beloved parent, who cares enough to share the magic of literature with them.

Reading time is important bonding time - don't miss out on it like I nearly did.

Love of the written word is the best gift I can give my children. And one of the best ones they have given me.

"I surrendered to a world of my imagination,
re-enacting all those wonderful tales my father would read aloud to me."

Andrew Wyeth