We will rock you, rock you, rock you – Nativity play

No this post is nothing to do with the song by Queen! The title refers to the lullaby that Andrew and his friends sang in the nativity play at church on Sunday. This is the second year that the 18 months to 3 years group in Children’s Church has taken part in the annual spectacular that is the HT nativity play (HT = Holy Trinity, Cambridge). They were stable animals, who came on stage just after baby Jesus was born, and sang him a gentle song, the traditional lullaby of Little Jesus Sweetly sleep…

Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir
We will lend a coat of fur
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
See the fur to keep you warm
Snugly round your tiny form.

They’d been practising it in their Sunday morning sessions, and also at the Wednesday afternoon group that we go to at church. Most of them were a little stage struck, but it was very cute to see them all dressed as animals gathered around the manger whilst the music was playing. Andrew did do the rocking action with his arms, and uttered the odd word. I have a video, but as I don’t know whether all parents want their children online, I won’t post it here, nor photos with more than just my boys in.

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As parents, we’d simply been told that they would be stable animals, so it was up to us to choose their costume. It was funny how most ended up being a sheep – all those white/cream knitted wooly jumpers and fleece jackets came out, with various items of headgear to represent the sheepish ears and facial features! My attempt at a sheep head was to take a white knitted wooly bobble hat that we already had, and hand stitch some black ears on. These were made out of an old pair of tights – I cut the two feet off and stuffed them with the rest of the length of the leg on each side. So a bargain and simple to make sheep costume.

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After the play, there was a short talk given by one of the pastors, Diana, explaining more about the meaning of Christmas. She gave an illustration that I thought was very clever, so I thought I’d share it here. Jesus was born into the world as a gift to us from God, and there are three ways that we as humans tend to respond to this gift, which Diana illustrated by offering a beautifully wrapped-up gift to one of the other pastors, Matt…

1. We ignore Jesus (the gift) and get on with life without Him – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift but he just stood there, silent and with arms crossed, and didn’t reply to any of her “here you go, here’s a present for you” offers.

2. We learn about who Jesus is and what he did when he was alive, but don’t go any further than this superficial understanding – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift, and he acknowledged it, but was happy just to look at the wrapping paper, say how lovely and shiny it was, how pretty all the different colours were, and thank her for this nice wrapping paper.

3. We get to know Jesus as a personal Saviour, and believe that through His death and rising again we can draw near to God – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift, he acknowledged it, and ripped open the wrapping paper, thanked her so much for the amazing gift, tried it on straight away (an adult-sized reindeer onesie!!), and showed much joy and appreciation of this kind present.

This Christmas, as we’re opening presents, I will remember this illustration, which reminds us why we give presents at this time of year – to celebrate the biggest gift that we have ever been given. How will you respond – 1, 2 or 3?

Our shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

For a few years now we’ve been joining in with Operation Christmas Child – the world’s largest children’s Christmas project, run by the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. The mission of the project is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Since having children of our own, we have really appreciated how blessed we are to have enough money to feed and clothe them, as well as buy them other nice things, and to have family and friends who give us so many gifts for them that they are never in want of anything. For many children around the world, this is not what life is like.

The idea behind OCC is for people in the UK to send shoeboxes packed with gifts that children in less well-off countries would like to receive. These gifts can include various items from toys and stationary to toiletries and woolies. The shoe boxes should be wrapped up in bright and cheerful wrapping paper, and a sticker stuck on indicating if the gifts inside are for a boy or a girl and which age range they are suitable for.

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In previous years we’ve always done one for a boy, just because I happen to have seen gifts that are more suitable for boys, and since having boys myself, I guess my eye is drawn towards these items in shops anyway. This year, however, when we popped into a few shops, I mainly saw things suitable for girls (or gender neutral) so we went for that. Andrew helped me choose what to buy, and I explained that we were getting these things as presents for a little girl who lives far away from us but who would love to have some nice presents this Christmas, just like he will. I’m not sure he gets the concept of someone living far away from us, but he seemed to understand that we were buying the gifts and putting them in the box for another child.

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OCC like the gifts in the box to include items from all four categories: toys, stationary and school supplies, toiletries and other (sweets/hat/gloves/jewellery etc.) Our gifts included a bumper pack of wax crayons, a ‘Hello Kitty’ notepad/pencil/rubber/sharpener set, a beany teddy, a slinky spring, toothbrushes, soap, flannel, necklace, hair clips. All together these cost us around £10. In order to help with shipping costs, OCC also suggest a £3 donation, which can be done online by credit card.

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We decorated our shoebox with red wrapping paper on the bottom, silver wrapping paper on the lid, and a ribbon stuck on the lid (you’re not supposed to wrap the whole box up or seal it by tying ribbon around the box, because sometimes they need to look in it for customs or other reasons), and finished off with a reindeer tag on the lid. We hope that the little girl who receives it will enjoy opening it and finding out what’s inside.

If you’d like to find out more about Operation Christmas Child, and even get involved yourself by packing a shoebox (or two, or three), visit the OCC website.

Apple day at Burwash Manor – #CountryKids

A few weeks ago we saw an advert for an Apple Day at Burwash Manor near Cambridge that was happening last weekend. We’ve not been to an apple day before, but Tom googled it and found that it’s quite a common tradition for places to put one on. The posters said that there would be various things on there throughout the day, including mini steam train rides and tractor rides, as well as apple related things like stalls selling apples, cider and watching apples be juiced. We knew that the non-apple stuff that was mentioned would be appealing to Andrew, and the entrance fee seemed reasonable for a family, so we headed off to be there for when it opened.

We parked in a muddy field – when I realised that this really wasn’t the weekend to be without our toddler sling that was away to be repaired, and we had to get the buggy out. It wasn’t so muddy when we got to the main field though, and then there was a path too around the toy/craft/food shops bit. The first thing that Andrew saw was the tractors, which were having a ‘ploughing contest’ first thing in the morning. He and Daddy nipped up the field to have a closer look, whilst I waited at the car for Joel to wake up from his nap.

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As we walked up the field towards the entrance, Andrew spotted the next amazing treat in store: the mini steam train that was chugging up the field on its own little track. So he ran off in front of us and, although we called him back, the ladies on the gate had to stop him from running right in without us! We explained that we needed to pay them, and he was happy when he got a sticker to show that we’d paid. Of course he had to have a go on the train before we did anything else. This was in fact the same train that he had been on at another country fair a few months ago – it’s a local enthusiast who has his own portable mini steam railway who goes to event like this and charges a not unreasonable amount for rides.

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There were a few other fairground type rides, but at double the cost of a train ride, we persuaded him that after we’d looked around some other things he could have another train ride. So we headed off to the other parts of the event. The next thing that Andrew spotted was a playground with swings, slides and climbing frames. Of course we then spent a good amount of time there, although it had been raining so the boys got quite wet – they didn’t seem to mind though, and I always carry spare clothes for these kind of situations.

After we’d exhausted the playground, we headed off towards the courtyard where there are little craft, toy and food shops, and on the day there were also food and drink stalls selling fancy cups of coffee and up-market burgers and sausages etc. We had a browse of a few shops, and spent quite a bit of time in the toy shop because they rather handily had some toys on display that you can play with, including a train set!

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When we came out of that shop, we saw that a steel band was about to start playing in the courtyard. They played some classic songs and the music sounded very happy. Quite  a crowd gathered, and there were several young children standing at the front, and most of them joined in with some dancing that a few of them started off. Andrew danced a bit, though he seemed too concentrated on being fascinated with the music to want to dance that much.

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We then headed back towards the field near the entrance, where they were now in full swing juicing apples at one of the stands. This was fun to watch, and Andrew was again fascinated by the machine that took apples in at one end and out came juice at the other. We watched that for quite a while! Opposite this stand were some stalls selling apples and local honey. We tried a few different varieties of apple and then decided to buy some to take home with us. When asked which apple he liked best to take home, Andrew replied with “pear”! So he got a few pears to take home – to be fair, he loves pears, and although he eats apples, pears are a definite favourite at the moment.

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As he had been a good boy, we allowed Andrew his second train ride as promised, and after this we headed out back to the car, passing the tractors on our way, which were still ploughing for the competition. We’d hoped that we could have a tractor ride, but it seemed that these must have been scheduled for later in the afternoon, and we felt as though we’d done what there was for young children and they were getting tired.

It was a fun morning out and we’re glad that we got to experience an apple day for the first time.

Linking up with the fab #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Easter for everyone

Although Andrew is now experiencing his third Easter in life, this is the first year that I have really thought about how to start explaining to him what happened at the very first Easter, because 2 years ago he was just a couple of months old and last year he still wasn’t understanding things we said half as much as he does now. To get some inspiration for how to tell the Easter story in language that a toddler will grasp, I’ve turned to the various children’s Bibles that we have.

Both boys were given some Bibles for their dedications (Joel’s was last week), but despite the number we have, we’ve only ended up with a couple of duplicates between both boys. Some are board books aimed at babies and young toddlers, some have paper pages but lots of pictures and simple text for age 2 years plus, and some have more text aimed at early-school-age children. This is good because as they grow up we have a nice progression of Bibles to read with them.

There is something very refreshing about reading the Bible in a version that is meant for children. It brings me back to basics and reminds me of some of the most important points there are to know about God.That’s not to say that I don’t want to explore the more detailed and challenging points of what we are taught through the Bible using a version meant for adults, but sometimes in studying the more complicated bits, it’s easy to lose sight of the simple truths. So this Easter I have been reminded, through the simplicity of children’s books, of the enormity of what Jesus did for me by dying on the cross and rising again.

The two board book Bibles that Joel was recently given, which are aimed at babies and young toddlers, don’t actually say that Jesus died, but put it more figuratively: ‘Some people did not like Jesus. They took him away….Then Mary saw Jesus. Jesus had come back to life again!’ (The Baby Bible); ‘The people hurt Jesus and then put him on a cross, and soon Jesus was gone. Jesus’ friends took his body down from the cross and carried him to a tomb with a big stone door.’ (Baby’s First Bible).

For about the past year or so, we have been reading a Bible story to Andrew each night before he goes to bed. We’ve been using the two Bibles for toddlers that he was given, and although he doesn’t understand everything, he enjoys looking at the pictures and talking about what’s in them as we read (I say ‘we’, but since Joel’s been born it’s mainly been Daddy reading). As we’ve worked our way through the Bible, we have of course got to the Easter story; he has heard it, but he doesn’t yet understand what it means when they say ‘they left him to die’ (Candle Bible for Toddlers) and ‘Jesus died on the cross’ (The Beginner’s Bible).

However, he does understand that some of the people in the story were very sad about what happened, as he sees the sad faces on the pictures and we explain that they were sad. But the great thing about the Easter story is that although Jesus died, he also rose again, so it’s a happy ending and we can explain to a toddler that the people who were sad became happy again, shown by their expressions in the pictures in the books.

These emotions of sadness and joy are at the heart of how I feel when thinking about what happened to Jesus and why we celebrate Easter. It is so very sad to remember that Jesus died, and in particular that he suffered a horrific death, tortured and killed on a Roman cross, even though he had done nothing wrong – in fact He went through this to make up for all the wrong things that I do which separate me from God. This is such a massive thing to fully appreciate, and it’s quite easy to forget throughout the rest of the year just how hard that must have been for Him, so in the days leading up to Easter Sunday, particularly on Good Friday, I think it’s the least I can do to reflect on this with feelings of sadness and thankfulness.

But in the sadness there is always hope! Death was not the end of Jesus’ life, death did not beat Him. Having been through all that suffering, He rose again back to life from the dead. Now that is definitely a reason to be so very happy. What’s more, Jesus promised that whoever believes in Him and that He died for them to make up for everything they do wrong, they will have everlasting life with Him in heaven after their life in this world. That’s even more reason to be happy, and that’s what I am celebrating today. I have this song in my head and will no doubt be heard humming/singing it several times today 🙂 Happy Easter everyone!

Pain relief medicines for children

A while ago I was contacted by Hannah who I’d met at the BritMums Live! conference back in June. She works for Nurofen for Children, who have recently launched a campaign to help parents use pain relief medicines more effectively to treat their child’s pain and fever symptoms. As part of this, they sponsored a small poll involving 500 mums (MumPoll, Mums Study, April 2012) which asked various questions about pain relief for children. Within the email that Hannah sent me were some results from this poll, and I was quite surprised by them, in that many mums did not seem to know as much about pain relief for children as I thought was general knowledge. I guess I take it for granted that my parents are pharmacists and therefore, along with working in their pharmacy myself as a teenager, I’ve grown up knowing quite a bit about medicines and how/when to take them (or not!)

So I thought I would do my bit in helping to dispel some of the myths surrounding pain relief medicines for children, by writing a blog post about how we use paracetamol and ibuprofen for Andrew (and will do for baby). First, I should say that I’m a firm believer in buying generic (pharmacy-own brand) medicines if they are cheaper than the brands like Calpol and Nurofen, because I don’t believe there is any difference in how they work, despite having heard, either directly or via Facebook or other such media, that various people’s little ones apparently had some kind of reaction (e.g. sickness, runny nappy) after they used own-brand medicine – we’ve never experienced such things with Andrew. I should also say that so far we’ve been very blessed with a child who has hardly ever been ill, had a raised temperature, or suffered much from teething pain. So our use of pain relief medicines has been quite rare, and we’ve only recently started on our second bottles of paracetamol and ibuprofen since he was born 21 months ago. I know this is not the case for all children, some of whom need pain relief more often than others, as is the case with us adults (I know I take paracetamol, and ibuprofen when I’m not pregnant, more often than Tom, for example).

We first used paracetamol when Andrew had his tongue tie snipped at 10 weeks. This was a one-off dose of 2.5ml, as he was still under 3 months old (but he was over 4kg and wasn’t premature – 2 things that need to be the case to give it to a less than 3-month old). He didn’t seem to be too affected by pain after the snip, and calmed down much faster with a feed than he did for his vaccinations, but I thought we’d give him a dose just in case. We didn’t give ibuprofen at this age, because it should only be used from 3 months in babies over 5kg. According to the MumPoll survey, over a quarter of the 500 mums didn’t realise that you can give ibuprofen even as young as 3 months, and I’d say that anecdotally amongst mums I know, this seems to be the case, with paracetamol (or rather ‘Calpol’) being the name that rolls off the tongue in conversation when talking about what they have in for pain relief in young babies.

I’d also say that in general amongst mums, of babies or toddlers, paracetamol is the medicine that I’ve heard mentioned most often when we’re talking about what their child has for pain relief and/or fever. This is supported by the results of the MumPoll survey, which showed that paracetamol is a preferred treatment among mums, with almost two thirds choosing it over ibuprofen to reduce a fever. Maybe it’s because that’s what we remember having as a child ourselves – I know I for one liked the taste of the paracetamol suspension I was given for pain relief, especially for all my bouts of tonsillitis before my tonsils were whipped out. But these days ibuprofen is also an option, and it’d be great if more parents knew about it and what it can do.

Since Andrew was 3 months old, we’ve used both paracetamol and ibuprofen for two main reasons: a raised temperature and teething pain. He’s never had en extremely high temperature, but the times that he has been at 37 or 38 degrees, one or two doses of both medicines (with the correct timing between doses) have helped to bring it down very quickly. That’s another thing that I’ve been surprised by: not everyone knows that doses of paracetamol and ibuprofen can be given at exactly the same time, because the two drugs work in different ways. (It’s the same for adults – taking the correct doses of paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time is fine.)

The MumPoll survey showed that nearly 60% of mums chose paracetamol with the belief that it provides the fastest relief from fever, but in my experience, I’d say that both paracetamol and ibuprofen work at speeds that aren’t distinguishable from one another, and apparently (according to Nurofen for Children) there is evidence that ibuprofen works faster to reduce fever, in as little as 15 minutes (Pelen et al (1998) Treatment of fever. Monotherapy with ibuprofen. Ibuprofen paediatric suspension containing 100mg per 5ml, muliti-centre acceptability study conducted in hospital. Annales de Pediatrie 45(10):719-728. I don’t have access to this journal, so I can’t comment on their research, and the title doesn’t mention a comparison with paracetamol, but Nurofen’s claim seems to be based on something more than my anecdotal evidence that ibuprofen works pretty quickly!)

In my (again, anecdotal) experience, it seems that a fairly common belief amongst parents of young children is that paracetamol is for reducing fever and ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and therefore is for relieving pain like teething and earache that might be accompanied by inflammation. Whilst it is true that ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory, it also works to reduce a high temperature, similarly to (but not in the same way as) paracetamol. And the great thing is, as I said above, you can use them both at the same time! However, you should always read the label on the bottle and check that you’re giving the right dose of each for the child’s age and leaving enough time between doses.

Finally, there’s a handy (if slightly cheesy 😉 ) summary of paracetamol and ibuprofen use for pain relief and fever in children given by Dr Hilary Jones on youtube. I know I’m technically a ‘Dr’, but I guess you’re more likely to take on board what a medical doctor says about pain relief than what I’ve written here, which is based on our own experience. If you’re a parent of a young child, I hope you found this post useful and informative.

Disclaimer: All personal views expressed in this post are my own, based on my own experience. I was given no incentive for writing this.