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Fair Trade clothing November 30, 2007

Filed under: environment,parenting articles,Tatty Bumpkin — paulabrown @ 10:16 am


I have recently been doing an audit on my social, ethical and environmental footprint and while I feel virtuous in many areas, there are one or two things which I am almost embarrassed to admit. Let’s start with the good things:

  • we produce very little waste, our rubbish bin is half full when it is emptied weekly, we compost anything organic (including compostable disposables which we don’t use on the soil but do have a special bin to degrade at the end of the garden), we buy in bulk and get a veg box so use very little packaging and reuse and recycle most things
  • we eat organic food, avoid food from more than 100 miles away if at all possible (the exception being tea, wine and fair trade bananas) and buy and use fair trade products where possible, including a large proportion of organic clothing from Bishopston Trading Company and for kids, Tatty Bumpkin of course!
  • socially we are involved in a lot of community groups from the PSA to Woodcraft Folk, local storytelling groups, fundraising groups etc and are passionate especially about all children getting the best start
  • we ensure our money is saved in ethical bank accounts
  • there are other things which elude me now…!

So vices:

  • having not had a car for years I have grown used to using it almost daily for my work (going to Tatty Bumpkin classes, dropping Barefoot Books off). I am exploring a kid’s bike trailer which I can use for my gear and cycle to classes in
  • our house is Victorian and not naturally well insulated etc and we need to do more work on this
  • lastly, and most worryingly, I do shop at Tescos twice a month and although I don’t spend much, I have bought the odd item of clothing in there (see my blog entry on my shock at school uniform prices there). I recently came across this article which upset me and has led to a renewed vow to avoid doing this any more if at all possible. Fair trade and supermarkets  With a long street full of good-quality charity shops, Bishopston Trading Company and a gorgeous UK-hand-made boutique I’m hoping to change my strategy. Also see article on animal welfare and ‘natural’ fibres check out benefits of bamboo for why bamboo fibre clothing is better for you and the environment- Bam also sell adult bamboo clothing while  sells children’s clothes in organic cotton and bamboo fibre mix

Always eat your bogies November 24, 2007

Filed under: parenting articles,poetry and stuff,the kids — paulabrown @ 7:48 pm

So my boys like to talk about bogies and poo which is so unusual for boys of 2 and 4 don’t you think? We heard on the radio today some bizarre inventions, including a ‘bogie pouch’ which can hold up to 500 bogies. Nice. So here’s a poem, recommended by my Auntie Marsha who’s just the queen of poetry…

Always eat your bogies,
don’t wipe them on your clothes,
just gulp them down in one
as you pick them from your nose

For they’re full of crunchy goodness,
they’re best when green and long,
so always eat your bogies
and you’ll grow up big and strong.


Sleep… November 18, 2007

Filed under: General,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 1:29 pm

So when Gabe, my elder son, was little I went through about 3 weeks of around 1 hr sleep a night and couldn’t manage to get him to sleep long enough in the day to catch up. I was desperate, I fantasised about sleep all the time, when I watch programmes that featured people getting into bed I would start weeping, I even googled how long you could sleep without dying. We’ve all been there but here are some great facts about sleep…


The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.

It’s impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.

Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.

A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours lost sleep for parents in the first year

One of the best predictors of insomnia later in life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by young children.

The continuous brain recordings that led to the discovery of REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep were not done until 1953, partly because the scientists involved were concerned about wasting paper.

REM sleep occurs in bursts totalling about 2 hours a night, usually beginning about 90 minutes after falling asleep.

Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It’s possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.

REM dreams are characterised by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery – obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.

Certain types of eye movements during REM sleep correspond to specific movements in dreams, suggesting at least part of the dreaming process is analagous to watching a film

No-one knows for sure if other species dream but some do have sleep cycles similar to humans.

Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep.

Some scientists believe we dream to fix experiences in long-term memory, that is, we dream about things worth remembering. Others reckon we dream about things worth forgetting – to eliminate overlapping memories that would otherwise clog up our brains.

Dreams may not serve any purpose at all but be merely a meaningless byproduct of two evolutionary adaptations – sleep and consciousness.

REM sleep may help developing brains mature. Premature babies have 75 per cent REM sleep, 10 per cent more than full-term bubs. Similarly, a newborn kitten puppy rat or hampster experiences only REM sleep, while a newborn guinea pig (which is much more developed at birth) has almost no REM sleep at all.

Scientists have not been able to explain a 1998 study showing a bright light shone on the backs of human knees can reset the brain’s sleep-wake clock.

British Ministry of Defence researchers have been able to reset soldiers’ body clocks so they can go without sleep for up to 36 hrs. Tiny optical fibres embedded in special spectacles project a ring of bright white light (with a spectrum identical to a sunrise) around the edge of soldiers’ retinas, fooling them into thinking they have just woken up. The system was first used on US pilots during the bombing of Kosovo.

Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.

– The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep-deprivation played a role.

The NRMA estimates fatigue is involved in one in 6 fatal road accidents.

Exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake. Unfamiliar noise, and noise during the first and last two hours of sleep, has the greatest disruptive effect on the sleep cycle.

The “natural alarm clock” which enables some people to wake up more or less when they want to is caused by a burst of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin. Researchers say this reflects an unconscious anticipation of the stress of waking up.

Some sleeping tablets, such as barbiturates suppress REM sleep, which can be harmful over a long period.

In insomnia following bereavement, sleeping pills can disrupt grieving.

Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a “neural switch” in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.

To drop off we must cool off; body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That’s why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep. The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. But later in life, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees – one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.

A night on the grog will help you get to sleep but it will be a light slumber and you won’t dream much.

After five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you’ve slept enough.

Humans sleep on average around three hours less than other primates like chimps, rhesus monkeys, squirrel monkeys and baboons, all of whom sleep for 10 hours.

Ducks at risk of attack by predators are able to balance the need for sleep and survival, keeping one half of the brain awake while the other slips into sleep mode.

Ten per cent of snorers have sleep apnoea, a disorder which causes sufferers to stop breathing up to 300 times a night and significantly increases the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Snoring occurs only in non-REM sleep

Teenagers need as much sleep as small children (about 10 hrs) while those over 65 need the least of all (about six hours). For the average adult aged 25-55, eight hours is considered optimal

Some studies suggest women need up to an hour’s extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men.

Feeling tired can feel normal after a short time. Those deliberately deprived of sleep for research initially noticed greatly the effects on their alertness, mood and physical performance, but the awareness dropped off after the first few days.

Diaries from the pre-electric-light-globe Victorian era show adults slept nine to 10 hours a night with periods of rest changing with the seasons in line with sunrise and sunsets.

Most of what we know about sleep we’ve learned in the past 25 years.

As a group, 18 to 24 year-olds deprived of sleep suffer more from impaired performance than older adults.

Experts say one of the most alluring sleep distractions is the 24-hour accessibility of the internet.

The extra-hour of sleep received when clocks are put back at the start of daylight in Canada has been found to coincide with a fall in the number of road accidents.


What’s in your handbag / man bag? November 17, 2007

Filed under: parenting articles — paulabrown @ 10:49 pm


OK so we are all friends, right? So I feel it’s time to share some personal stuff. No, not that personal. I’m going to share what I take around in my Mary Poppins-like carpet bag and hope you’ll give me a few tips too. So here’s what’s lying on my living room floor, merrily dumped from my enormous handbag:

arnica – essential when you have two boys who like to get bruises – if you’re not familiar it’s nothing short of miraculous for immediately stopping any kind of swelling or bruise-like tissue damage if applied immediately. Also available as a homeopathic tablet if you happen to be giving birth.

lavender oil – dual purpose as it is brilliant for burns if applied immediately (only oil that can be applied neat). Also doubles as a ‘downer’ if you are in dire need of calmness (I alternate between a sniff of this and breathing slowly into a paper bag, often requested in shops like Scoopaway, see previous blog on shopping expedition with the goats). Rescue Remedy for the same reason (though children shouldn’t have it internally because of alcohol content you can put a bit on their temples).

Plasters – more for ‘attending’ to minor ouchies than from necessity

child distraction – I have finely honed children distractions to the smallest things I could find namely a) the tinest cars you’ve ever seen, micro cars I think they call them x 2 in my case (you MUST have the same number of each distraction as children for obvious reasons b) small notepads and little pencils x 2 c) something small in a box – in this case something called an endless landscape (little cards that make a landscape in all different formations) – note the word ‘endless’.

wet wipes– even if they’re teenagers, you just never do know

plastic bags – to save using new ones

calculator (hey I’m a direct seller, you never know!), scissors (for emergency craft projects or foraging), books catalogues, Tatty Bumpkin CD (you never know when I might be called upon to do some bending and giggling…)

notepad with a felt red dragon on it for my interminable lists

I do also have in the bottom of my bag some face glitter, a clothes peg, a pair of socks and pants, some spare change, some pritt stick, a snack bar, some worry beads, a compass, a swiss army knife, a sand timer (in case of rows over length of time ‘sharing’).

Now that I write this I’m wondering if it’s overkill… I sometimes even remember my purse and house keys…

What do you have in your bag that you couldn’t live without?


The safety valve

Filed under: parenting articles — paulabrown @ 10:29 pm


So today I was a Bad Mummy. I’ve had a crazy week of my usual pretence at full time mummy while ‘moonlighting’ as an almost full time worker. By this I mean that I’m with my children most of the time and work most evenings and the milisecond they are at school or playgroup I’m multi-tasking like you wouldn’t believe. Several things suffer in this apparent have-it-all world of mine: the state of my house, my long suffering husband and occasionally my sanity.

I’ve been running around with books on the Christmas circuit and fitting in the odd Tatty Bumpkin party, class, franchise development plan and I’m as battered as a piece of mid-Atlantic cod. Today my children woke before 6 (bearing in mind they wake way beyond 7 most school days so we’re zipping around trying to get ready so to wake early on the only days we don’t have to feels like some sort of sick joke!). Suffice it to say the day didn’t start well, much less so ending well. I was horrible, irritable, over-tired, pre-menstual, unreasonable, uncreative and inconsitent. Not that I’m being hard on myself.

So as soon as they were in the proverbial land of nod, I bolted. When everything seems to be caving in on me and I’m so tired that things no longer make sense I go to my bolt hole, the cinema. Note that this isn’t a fun thing, I don’t go with friends, I just go, pick whatever is on next when I arrive (invariably just the thing I need at the time, last time it was Hairspray, this time it was the Jane Austen Book Club), it doesn’t matter. What matters is the popcorn, the dark room, the lack of need to interact. With anyone. And when I come back I feel a bit more like me. Oh and I take chocolate.

What’s your safety valve?


Cowboys and Idiots November 13, 2007

Filed under: parenting articles,the kids — paulabrown @ 4:40 pm


Today my son played with his playmobil people and reported that he was playing ‘Cowboys and Idiots’! It became apparent that this was a misunderstanding, rather than a very un-p.c. statement.

We have friends who eat ‘dalek bread’ instead of garlic bread. Do you have any amusing mispronunciations in your family?


Christmas haiku November 11, 2007

Filed under: Christmas — paulabrown @ 8:37 pm


Christmas by Paula Brown (I wrote this when I was 10. I didn’t really like Christmas. It was for a school Christmas poem competition. I didn’t win)




Over by 26th December

Please don’t tell me it’s not a proper haiku! I know!