Promises, promises

It’s 2013 in the world and in the Cave and this means promises and resolutions and plans to do better. So:

Consume less, live more. 

This is the motto for 2013 (nod to Aldi for the inspiration).  I’m looking to simplify life this year and these four words are going to get us there.  I am writing the plan here because if it is written It Will Be Done and if it is accompanied by pictures It Will Be Even More Done.

Consume less … things.

So here’s how it’s to work.  Should there be a need for a thing, and should this need be real, and should this thing be unsubstitutable by some thing already in my possession then, before I buy it, I have to try to either make it, borrow it or get it for free from someone who no longer wants said thing.

The making could be interesting.  There’s a new found craftiness around the Cave and lots of glue and scissors and tutorials pinned on Pinterest and grand dreams of building sliding larders from Ikea bookcases and old castors but, well, these hands have never really seen any action in the field to be honest and this could all go horribly Blue Peter.  I gave up knitting in primary school when I discovered my incredible talent for dropping stitches.  I have taken it back up again now and am working on a scarf and am delighted to say that my talent has evolved into an ability to add unwanted stitches at the rate of two a line.  But I will persevere and my child will wear it.

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Borrowing.  This is a great one.  You have to be careful not to end up as Cadging Carol of course but, if you’re generous with your offers as well as your requests, then you can build up a great network of people who are willing to lend each other items rather than stimulate the supply chain needlessly.  This ties in nicely with the Irish concept of meitheal: individual members of a community responding to the needs of other members, knowing that the favour will be returned.  And sure on top of that, there’s always the library for books and for DVDs for family film night.  Important note: the popcorn is not borrowed.  It was bought.  From a shop with, like, money and stuff.  Haven’t got to the stage yet where we’re trying to borrow food.

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And sometimes you don’t even have to give it back!  There’s lots of Freecycle pages on Facebook and sites like Jumbletown where you can get and give items that are no longer wanted.  And if you make sure to donate your own clear out items to the pot, you can rummage through other people’s rubbish with a clear conscience.  (That’s virtual rummaging now.  They get annoyed when you start going through their black bin).  CaveBaby was the happy recipient from one site of a lovely play table that had been outgrown by its previous owner and he flies around the house on his Vtech walker that a neighbour gave to him.

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And if I’ve stuck my fingers together with superglue and freaked out my neighbours by staring through their windows at their stuff and STILL don’t have the item, I’ve to try to get it secondhand.  There are some great buy and sell pages on Facebook, especially for children’s clothing, equipment and toys and then there are also the charity shops.  There’s a handy listing here of all the charity shops in Ireland, searchable by area and by Dublin postcode.  Twenty minutes running around the Phibsboro shops earlier this week netted a haul of puzzles for CaveBoy the Jigsaw Fiend for only five euro!  These old jigsaws get love once more and the forests say thank you.

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Consume less … fuel

Less journeys in the car.  First preference is walking, if possible.  Better for the whole wide world what is around us, better for me and the CaveKids and more fun than hopping in the car.  Second choice is public transport.  I’ve set us up nicely for this by downloading the Dublin Bus app for Android (great app that allows you find bus routes, bus stops and real time information on buses in the city) and by getting a Travel 90 ticket and Leapcard for the wallet.  Leapcard is like always having the exact change ready for the bus and fares are slightly cheaper than cash fares.  Travel 90 allows unlimited bus travel for 90 minutes.  Intended for journeys that involve bus transfers, I like to think of it as a challenge.  The other day I almost managed four journeys from one swipe but had to talk myself back down from the dizzy heights when I realised I’d be late for picking up CaveBoy if I didn’t use the car for the last trip.  Godammit.

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Car is third option, only if the trip is really necessary, and I’m trying to plan car trips out so we hit a few birds with one combustion engine.  Judicious use: yes to using the car to get to nice locations for our Free Range Tuesdays; no to getting milk in the shop.  We’re in the second week of this now and our fuel use is down by about 40%. Crazy.

Consume less … screens

Screens: TV, computer, smartphone.  We all like a bit of screen time in the house but I’m so conscious that it’s really not great for kids or adults and that it sucks away time that could be spent doing something else.  So the TV has been slain and lies silent during the week apart from a half hour for CaveBoy after dinner.  It’s quiet in the house without it after the kids have gone to bed but nice too, peaceful.  It gets fired up for Friday nights (fired up is right, the telly is years old and when you turn it on everything is dark green.  Until it warms up and then everything is light green).  It also gets a outing on Saturday for film night.  So bye bye telly has been fairly successful so far; see below for a shot of the beast, dormant.  Taken from this angle so you don’t get to see the reflection of CaveMammy in her PJs at 11 o’clock of a morning.

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Smartphone is a whole other ballgame. Guilty CaveMammy.  The problem is that the smartphone and Facebook are so bloody useful for making so many things happen in real life.  It’s helped me build a network of people who are interested in what I’m interested in, I get to chat and meet with other mams who are breastfeeding past infancy, who like to wear their babies, who like to create welcoming cosy homes for their families, who are trying to be gentle with their children, who are raising their children without religion, who like to get out and about in nature and get dirt under their fingernails!  Never mind just staying in touch with family and friends who I don’t get to see enough in real life.  And where else would I find strangers to give me their rubbish?!  But it is also very addictive and very easy to lose time that could be spent doing something else or even nothing at all.  CaveHusband ratted me out to the world in this post and I sulked over it but the culture of distraction that’s referenced in Joe Kraus’s presentation is extremely real and it’s a bit scary to think what we might be losing out on by never having daydream time any more.  Here’s the blog post that accompanies the presentation.  CaveMammy must do better.

Consume less … money

Last one, I swear!  Now I’ll be honest, consuming less money isn’t so much of a New Year’s resolution as a a New Year reality (even CaveMammies have credit cards and use them flaithulachly at Christmas) but, you know, I like to pretend that I’ve at least some choice in the matter.  In the good old days, a trip to the shops used to mean a bar of chocolate and a packet of crisps. Then I came over all calorie-conscious and the chocolate and crisps were swapped for a bottle of diet coke.  And then I came over all what-in-christ-am-I-putting into my body conscious and the diet coke was swapped for sparkling water (and sometimes takeaway cappuccino, not so healthy but mmmm).  But all that’s over!  I got myself a reusable coffee mug in Penneys and am carrying water around with me and the wallet gets opened for nuffin, no coffees, no drinks, no newspapers.  It’s two weeks in now and it’s actually unnerving how much it affected me.  For example, I don’t like to walk aimlessly; I like a destination.  And I’ve only now realised how often that destination was somewhere that I could buy something small.  Like the punctuation mark at the end of a journey.  I miss it.  AND I miss transactions.  Buying the Irish Times of a morning mightn’t be the same as going on a credit card spree in some designer boutique but it’s still a purchase and you get to take something new away from the counter and it’s really really odd how much I crave it.  But I’m sure it must be good for the soul to do without.  I wonder am I Buddhist now?  I’m a Buddhist with a pretty coffee cup anyway.

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Phew, that’s an awful lot of consuming less.  Living more is easier (and shorter!).  It’s filling the consumption vaccum with something else.  It’s spending the new quiet time in the evenings chatting or reading or making-and-doing like a nine year old.  It’s doing jigsaws and games and painting with CaveBoy.  It’s being out and about in the fresh air, moving at the walking speed that I do think the mind is set up to expect and crave, taking in a bit of life on the journey.  It’s meeting up with friends, socialising with other crusty mamas at sling meets and breastfeeding groups, finding things to do in the evening that are social but don’t need money (the lovely members of the Dublin North West branch of Cuidiu have a monthly book club AND a craft night where I can finish that increasingly lopsided scarf).  It’s Sundays with family, having a bit of a walk and then coming home and setting the table for a nice dinner from the slow cooker (best invention ever!).  And it doesn’t have to be all sackcloth and ashes.  There’s still room to meet up with the girls and go to a very modern pub and spend real money on real drinkies (has to be real money.  I learned my lesson when I tried to barter veg for pints that last time).  And neither CaveHusband nor I would be saying no to a trip to the cinema, mother of all screens, when CaveUncle agrees to babysit for us.

It’s all balance.  Consume less, live more.  Motto of the cave 2013.

Peace xx

CaveMammy

A rainy day

23rd October 2012

A trip back in time for this post – CaveMammy has a backlog of Free Range Tuesdays to write about!  This day was the first real test of our resolve as it was raining heavily enough and had the potential to be a bit of a miserable afternoon but sure we said we’d give it a go.  The boys were decked out in the full Lidl rain gear regalia, like two matching blue gnomes, and CaveBaby and I were making do with a kind of rain gear hack cobbled out of the babywearing cover and, it seemed, every wet weather accessory I could find in the hall before we left.  He was warm in the sling wearing a small hoody, leg warmers and a balaclava and resting against the jumper I was wearing.  Then he had the MAM waterproof cover over him.  The cover is kind of like the waterproof shell things that people use to keep backpacks dry when cycling and hiking.  It’s comfier than those though –  fleece lined with a waterproof outer layer, it fits snugly around him and then has long ties that I bring over my shoulders to the front, thread through the waist level loops and then tie to keep everything secure.  I also had on rain trousers over leggings and, in a unprecedented scaling of fashion heights, wore a mac in a a sack backwards, using the toggles to tie it at the back of my neck and under CaveBaby’s bum.  As an unexpected bonus, the hood converted to a fetching cowl.  Knowing that you can’t go for an outfit like this half-heartedly, I threw my all at it and finished off with a black woolly hat and a flowery brolly.  We were byuuuuu-riful.

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I’d been hoping to bring the lads back at some stage to Massey’s Woods in Rathfarnham  (the place where we’d headed out with the Free Range Kids group over the summer) and this seemed like a good time as we’d have a bit of shelter from the rain under the trees.  We parked the car just at the entrance to the Hellfire Club carpark and walked back down the road a little to the Massey’s Woods entrance.  The Hellfire Club is a great walk too but can get quite exposed so we stayed downhill.  I knew there was a place near the stream that was good for playing and vaguely remembered how to get to it from the day in the summer but thank god for men and dogs because without directions from one, we’d have been wandering for a while (he heard me saying now let’s find the stream boys, pointedly, in his earshot, with a pleading look).  The walk through the woods was lovely, the air was at saturation point and there were wet autumn leaves everywhere and that lovely damp woods smell.  We spotted a white gazebo set up at a distance through the trees which was probably just a shelter for some orienteering group or other but which looked altogether mystical through the rainy haze.

We eventually found the spot at the stream that we’d been at before so we stopped there to let the lads have a play.  They were crossing over and back through the stream, splashing in the shallows and sliding off stones.  As always the balance between letting them have fun and making sure they don’t require hospitalisation is a fine one.

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Their two different personalities shine through so much when we go out for these walks.  CaveCousin was all on for a bit of construction and jumped at the suggestion to build a dam; CaveBoy said nah and went off to fire rocks into the water and make explosion noises.  Poor auld CaveCousin was let down by my limited dam building experience (it takes a bit of engineering know-how to figure out where in the flow to put the rocks!) and so we found a sandy part and he started to build the outline of a Batcave for himself out of stones.  He was doing really well and ended up with a kind of two-roomed feature that had the look of something uncovered in an archaeological dig.

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Cavebaby was happy enough on the back but did insist on repeatedly sucking the edges of the brolly when he got bored and so kept losing his shelter.  So to distract him and try keep him covered, we got moving again.  We followed the path of the stream, checking out access points as we went, and we found another good splashing spot further on.  The rocks here were mossy, wet and seriously slippy so I banned jumping only to be told by CaveBoy that I’m not jumping mammy I’m just moving fast over the rocks.

Answer. For. Everything.

Even with the tree cover the rain was getting in our bones a bit at this stage so executive decision to return to car was made.  I hadn’t properly take into account that the walk home was all uphill and the poor pets were exhausted by the time we got back.  CaveBaby of course had the best seat in the house and went for a lovely little snooze, not waking up when I sat in the front seat to open the sling nor when I transferred him to the car seat in the back nor at all until we got back home!  I stripped, dried and dressed the two tired (and somewhat cranky!) little boys as quickly as possible, using my stylish mac in a sack as a ground mat and dumping every item we’d been wearing into a big plastic bag in the boot, to be emptied into the washing machine as soon as possible and without touching any home interiors.  And then it was off to nanny’s for warmth, biscuits and a nice civilised play with their Batman toys.  First rainy day conquered!

Free Range Christmas

All has been very quiet on the CaveMammy front for the last few weeks!  We’ve been keeping the home fires burning at the cave and getting out in the Irish winter for our Free Range Tuesdays but there’s been precious little time for writing up our adventures.  So just a little post to say hello before we say goodbye to 2012.

This week we had a special Christmas day out for Free Range Tuesday in Powerscourt House and Gardens in Enniskerry, about a half an hour’s drive south of Dublin.  There was a discounted family ticket going on a deals page a month or so ago and the website had the promise of some Christmas trimmings during the month of December so we nabbed it.  CaveDaddy is on hiatus from the hunt this month (otherwise known as Annual Leave) so he was able to come with us for the trip.

We knew this was going to be a relatively civilised day out so we didn’t go for full rain gear (mistake! ALWAYS go for full rain gear).  The boys just wore their wellies, the adults had hiking boots and CaveBaby and me were resplendent in our new (to us) Suse’s Kindercoat which is a lovely warm waterproof baby wearing jacket that allows babs to pop up through the back in back carry.  It also has an insert at the front that allows you to zip it up over a front carry passenger but still have a part of the coat closed across your chest and throat to keep you warm.  And there are mini hoods on the inserts for baby! So cute.

Peadar on back

It was very foggy in Dublin when we were leaving but by the time we got to Wicklow it had brightened up nicely and had turned into a nice crisp December day.  The stable area beside Powerscourt was set up well with a lovely wintery feel – the Christmas trees for sale were arranged like a little forest and there was a big fire pit in the middle with a heap of burning logs that the boys loved (see photo, complete with CaveDaddy doing jazz hands).

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There were “Christmas animals” in the stables.  Christmas animals, apparently, are deer, goats, guinea pigs and, em, rabbits. Eyebrow raise.  God bless CaveBoy, he does a good wow and gave each animal an oooh look at that mammy.  CaveCousin is street-smarter and was not so impressed.  So after more warming at the fire, we wandered over to the main house which was decorated really nicely with lights and trees and the like and we were only thrilled to meet the Powerscourt Santa walking through the hallway with an elf and a basket of reindeer food.  There was a Free Range detour when CaveMammy realised that Tara’s Palace, the beautiful dollshouse that used to live in Malahide Castle, had moved home to Powerscourt.  I persuaded the boys to come up and look at it with me, but sure of course a toy that you can’t play with is of no use to a four year old so they hit the attached playroom while I walked around the HUGE dollshouse, grinning like a loon at little versions of everything.  OK, I know dollshouses are not related to the caveman life in any way but I can’t resist posting a pic of the kitchen.  Just LOOK at it!

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And then CaveDaddy dragged me back out to the open air and lifesize objects.  The gardens are laid out at the back of the house and there is a spectacular view of the Sugarloaf mountain as you walk out.  The first section, the Italian Garden, is an immaculate sequence of terraced, manicured lawns, balustrades and stepped walkways, that stretches down to the lake.  The lads were having fun running up and down the steps but I was a bit concerned that they’d get bored here quickly if there was nothing but nicely cut grass.  But as it turned out, there was loads more to do.  Down by the lake, they spotted some steps and found the boat house hidden underneath (boathouse, batcave, take your pick).  Bit of heart pounding for the two adults as they went around and around the narrow ledge, scarily close to the very murky, reedy looking lake and the signs saying caution, deep water.  Deep breaths.  Count to ten.  Consider the “hidden risk”, the risk of the child NOT doing this thing that scares the life out of you, the risk that they don’t get the experience, the thrill, the sense of adventure.

OK and that’s enough thrill!  Adventure over, now get back up on that path where I know you’re not going to risk life and limb for at least another five minutes.

Powerscourt give out a nice little hand drawn map of the gardens at the ticket desk so I kneeled down with the boys then and got them to do some map reading and figure out which way to go for the Japanese Garden.

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And it was great there for playing!  Steps, raised paths, mossy nooks, streams and bridges – loads of chasing and hiding and upping and downing.  Poor CaveBaby, he was getting impatient in the sling as he’s at that awkward stage where he can’t walk around and explore but wants to be down in the action nonetheless.  So there was much jigging and singing to keep him happy.

Japanese Garden

The next exciting looking thing on the map was Tower Valley and the Pepperpot Tower.  The boys navigated us again and we got a very impressive glimpse of the tower through the trees on the way there.  We wondered if we would be able to go inside (CaveMammy managing expectations in case if was some kind of blocked up unsafe structure).  We discussed the possibilities as we circled up the path that approached it,

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got excited when we found an open doorway through the ramparts,

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and were thoroughly thrilled when we made out way to the roof!

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Great fun, the boys were happily exhausted running up and down the stairs and CaveBaby was placated somewhat by the views from the roof.  CaveBoy had to be roared at once or twice to get down off those fecking railings at the top before he either killed himself or gave me a premature death through heart failure but calm was restored very quickly after each outburst.

After that it was time to mosey back to the big house.  There was splashing in puddles on the way back (from whence the new rule, always wear full rain gear) and then we came over all modern and went into the Avoca cafe there for a coffee and cake in the tea room.  It has a beautiful view of the Sugarloaf.  CaveCousin was disappointed by the pain au chocolat with sugar dusting that just didn’t live up to his expecations but CaveBaby was happy to hoover it up for him , along with CaveBoy’s plateful of scone crumbs.  Bellies full, we made one last visit to the fire and the Christmas rabbits and then it was time to head for home in the greying light of an Irish winter’s afternoon.

Merry Christmas to all, from our cave to yours! xx CaveMammy

An urban wander

16th Oct 2012

This was the day that CaveBoy turned the big Four.  There was playing to be done with the new Gotham City Jail playset and I expected some resistance to leaving the new toy to go outdoors but I was pleasantly surprised.  We always go to nanny’s house in Cabra to pick up CaveCousin and my plan for this day was to have a car-free adventure, where we would just walk out the door in the middle of the housing estate and keep walking until we found a bit of auld nature.  We were heading in the general direction of Tolka Valley Park, the park that straddles the Tolka River between Finglas and Cabra/Glasnevin.  I liked the idea of not having to get in the car to go somewhere, of them walking the journey and being able to appreciate the transition from one environment to another and hopefully becoming a bit more aware of “Nature” as something they co-exist with on a daily basis and not just once a week on a Tuesday!

So we kitted ourselves out in our rain gear and went off up the road.  There’s a wide grassy space just before you come to level crossing into Finglas and we had a bit of a play there, splashing in puddles and walking along an odd looking line of concrete in the ground that they used as a balancing beam.  I was thrilled when I spotted some blackberry bushes and came over all forage-y.  I brought the boys over to have a look and warned them quickly that we could pick them now but we would have to wash them before we could eat them, just in case they popped them straight in their mouths.  I need not have worried.  They looked at each other and then back at me and CaveBoy told me, with the maximum derision that a four-year old can muster, “we don’t WANT to eat them mammy, they’re disgusting”.  Thus ended our foraging adventures.

Balancing act

Disgusting blackberries

Next we waited at the level crossing for a train to pass and then walked up and over the raised footpath across the canal and on down towards the disused warehouses on the other side of the railway line.  Adventure doesn’t have to be all wood and leaves and bushes; there’s a low wall with fencing along the outside of the warehouses and so they shuffled down this for the next twenty minutes, feet not allowed to touch the ground, danger at every step.  I wasn’t in too much rush to get to the park so we took it easy and let them enjoy this bit.  When we came to the traffic lights, they spotted a landscaped hill at the side of the industrial estate and wanted to explore up there so off we went, summitting the peak and claiming the sign on top, advertising the Polish Mroz shop, for Finglas.

Caped Crusader looks on

Shuffling

We eventually got over to the park proper and wandered along one of the paths, looking for somewhere to have a root around.  We tried to get into one patch of trees but the nettles were too high and we had to retreat, hands in air to keep from getting stung.  There was panic among the little men!  We found another spot that was much better, just a nice big stand of trees, lovely light coming through the leaves and plenty of sticks lying around for whacking and thwacking.  There was what looked like an improvised shelter in there, branches pulled over and kind of woven together.  I wasn’t sure if it was a drinking den for the local lads or a sleeping spot for some poor unfortunate but I made out that it might be a wild man’s home and they got some milage out of that.

Patch of trees

We kept going, along the high path in the park, following the wall on the Glasnevin side.  We could see the river to our left and, beyond it, the lake and fountain, so we set that as our aim to reach.  There’s a lovely stone bridge across the river further down and there was plenty of investigating over the edge of that before we came to the open grassy spaces on the Finglas side of the park.  One big open hill had a tree on top surrounded by fencing and Cave Cousin announced that this was a rocket and another game started.  It was space travel and superheroes and a bit of plain old thumping each other with me and CaveBaby playing referrees but it all worked out with no serious maiming or injury.  I shooed them on then, heading for the lake, but sure we came across a big path of swampy grass and muddy puddle and they took full advantage of their rain gear there for a while.  CaveCousin managed to get extraordinarily filthy, even by Tuesday standards, so it was a good job that we then found a shallow spot in the lake where they could wade in and wash the worst off.  They threw stones and talked to the ducks and then we decided it was time to head back.  The difference this time, of course, was that we didn’t just have a short hop back to the car but a good forty minutes walk back to nanny’s house.  At this point CaveBaby was fast asleep on my back, dreaming whatever CaveBabies dream, and the boys were getting really tired too.  We managed to keep spirits up enough for the walk home but they were both exhausted!  For the first time, nanny saw them as they are directly after the adventure (they are normally semi-cleaned up and in dry clothes before we get back to her house) and we had to corral them in the kitchen to stop them muddying the whole house as they got stripped.  They left behind a puddle of mucky water at the kitchen table, as a memory.

That night, CaveBoy fell asleep on the sofa at six o’clock, was stripped and transferred to bed at eight and slept through it all until seven o’clock the next morning.  That’s what an urban wander does for you.

Slingin’ It

Babywearing – because cavemen didn’t have travel systems.

I try to wear CaveBaby as much as possible.  This means carrying him close to me in a suitably supportive baby carrier, sometimes to get places, sometimes just to have a cuddle, sometimes to comfort him when he’s sick or feeling a bit off.  We own a buggy but it’s gathering dust at the minute and I can’t remember the last time he was in it!

I could talk all day about the benefits we’ve got from babywearing.  He is infinitely portable in a sling.  We can go anywhere: up mountains, through rivers, on the 17a bus that isn’t accessible for buggies.  He’s happy out wrapped up close to me and very rarely gives out which makes life so stress-free. I get to have him close and smell his baby hair and nuzzle his soft warm head and kiss him for no good reason at all and he gets to lay his head on my chest to have a snooze, or he snuggles into my back or he can knead my arms with his hot little hands (sometimes not a benefit, especially when he’s growing talons that could fell a tiger, but still cute).  He will be restful in the sling in a way he wouldn’t be sitting on my lap and it’s a godsend for keeping him safe and quiet while I’m trying to do something else, especially when we’re out and about.  And on top of all that, it’s great exercise, like walking with weights the whole time!  The slings are great for distributing the weight evenly so you don’t get a sore back but you still get a workout, especially if you’re powerwalking for the naoínra pickup because you got distracted by Facebook.

There are so many types of slings: wraps (long pieces of either stretchy or woven material that you tie around the body), ring slings (that sit across one shoulder like a kind of sash), mei tais (a material panel with four long ties that you use to secure baby to body) and soft structured carriers (a material panel secured to body with buckled straps).  And then there are the hybrids: wraps converted to soft structured carriers with all different combinations of buckles and straps.  It’s a bewildering world when you start but very easy to get addicted to.  Babywearing Ireland is a good place to start if you’re interested – you can get advice and information there and hire slings to try out before you buy.  There’s also a very active Irish Facebook group.

Our babywearing career started back in May last year when a pregnant CaveMammy popped in to a breastfeeding coffee morning that’s held once a month in the cafe of the Draíocht theatre in Blanchardstown.  I was taking all the advice I’d read which said to build up a bit of a breastfeeding network before baby came along, for help, support and friendship.  This network was key for us when we ran into problems actually but sure, more of that in another post.  What I didn’t expect that day was to see so many mams wearing their babies in really cosy looking wraps.  I asked about them and before I knew it, I had been trussed up in the material and was cuddling a mini occupant who looked as shocked to see me in close proximity to his face as I was to be wearing him.  As I was four months pregnant at the time, this was my first tandem carry.

I was so impressed with the comfort of the wrap and was completely sold on the idea of being hands-free with a new baby when I had to be running after CaveBoy.  So I got myself a Je Porte Mon Bebe Bebe, a type of stretchy wrap, and waited patiently for its rider to arrive.  Now I won’t lie, there’s a bit of a learning curve to the wrapping and I spent many hours watching online demos, pausing and replaying and driving CaveHusband to distraction asking him to check knots and folds while CaveBaby roared!  In the end, I got a face-to-face demo and we flew it from there – I could now put on the wrap in my sleep. The JPMBB is suitable right up to toddler age because of the kind of fabric it’s made from.  I used it regularly from birth up to about 8 months, when it started to feel a bit too warm for the weather and it was getting kind of awkward to do serious walking with him in front.  Here he is in the woods this spring, snug as a bug:

Over the next few months, I used a ring sling for general carries and a framed hiking backpack carrier for proper walking.  The ring sling is great but can get a bit sore on one shoulder after a while and the backpack carrier, while very handy for its pockets and ease of use, is VERY bulky.  Pictures of both below:

And then along came the Tula, the carrier du jour!  The Tula is a soft structured carrier with buckle straps and we can do front and back carries in it (pics of both below).  It is so handy: he will sit comfy in it for hours, I never get sore shoulders or back and it is a cinch to get on and off.  For winter walks, we got the waterproof fleece-lined cover that’s in the back-carry photo and so he is as cosy as can be while CaveBoy and CaveCousin do their thang of a Tuesday.  Tulas rock!

In short, I really can’t say enough good things about babywearing and if CaveBaby could talk, I’m sure he’d say the same.  And listen, as if that wasn’t enough, slings might even be the missing link!

Over and out, CaveMammy.

The Magazine Fort

For our second Free Range Tuesday, we headed to the Phoenix Park, with the aim of exploring a small part of the south east of the park near the Magazine Fort.  The Magazine Fort was built in 1735.  It’s been used at times for weapons storage but is now locked up and abandoned – see here for some fabulous photos of its innards from the Abandoned Ireland website.  There’s no access to it for the general public but it looks ferociously commanding on its ridge and seemed like a good focal point for the walk and to spark imaginations a bit!

We parked on Chesterfield Avenue, the main road right through the park, not too far up from the turn for the Zoo.  The magazine fort is on the not-Zoo side of Chesterfield Avenue so we walked across the fields there, past the cricket club, and into some trees which were very deep-dark-forest-like and got the lads right into the spirit.  The ground dips down sharply here and we followed the hill down through the trees, crossed the road at the bottom and then made our way up the ridge on the other side.  We had to ford a very, very small stream to get up onto the ridge and there was high excitement as CaveBoy and CaveCousin tried to find firm stepping stones to get through, oh I’d say about two inches of water.  It’s all about perception.

The terrain is great for adventure around here.  There were more trees at the top of this ridge and we could see the fort through them and then we came out on to open grass leading into another dip and hill with the fort looming at the top.  CaveMammy was building up a decent prehistoric sweat at this stage, what with the weight of CaveBaby on the back and all this exciting upping and downing.  The boys were panting a bit too and were glad to get to the top I reckon.  It would have been cool to get into the fort itself and explore but we settled for a full circuit of its walls and a fantastic view of Dublin City from the back.

After breaking apart a fight between the boys (CaveBoy: “I see my house”, CaveCousin (with better sense of direction): “You can’t, your house is the other way”.  Rinse and repeat with rising pitch.), we went back around the front of the fort and ran, tripped, stumbled down the deep grass at this side of the ridge.  I was looking for a nice hill for them to roll down but everywhere either had a big dirty road at the end of it (considered Not Safe) or was laced with stinging nettles (known to be Very Sore).  We played some supergero games (me and CaveBaby are always Joker and Penguin) and I was starting to think this afternoon had reached its peak when we came across… the Mud.

Thick, oozy mud.  We can’t go over it.  We can’t go under it.  Oh no.  We’ll have to go through it.

And by god did they love it.  It was a patch of mud about six foot long by two foot across and in places it had reached the consistency of quicksand.  Wellies were lost and found. Little boys fell on their hands and knees and got up with a slimy layer of gelatinous muck over every part of their clothes and skin.  CaveCousin had mud on his ears and in his eyebrows.  CaveBoy was deliberately getting himself immobilised in the stickiest part and screaming for rescue.  It was mucky mayhem.  After ten minutes I shooed them on and we started walking back towards the road.  At this point, I couldn’t for the life of me see how I was going to get their hands and faces clean enough with my modest packet of babywipes to even sit in the car!

Enter… the stream.  The little dribble of water that they’d heroically forded earlier on goes under the road at this point and emerges from some big piping as a proper, earned-the-name stream.  With magical mud removing properties.  OK, I wouldn’t have them drink the water and I’ll admit that I was doing a bit of the modern mammy “don’t put your hands in your mouth!” type screeching but I let them get right in and rinse off as much of the dirt as possible.  And then we stayed there for the guts of an hour.  The sun broke through, two other little lads came along who were out on a walk with their dad and the dog and the whole lot of them had a grand auld time in the water, sloshing through deep bits, moving stones, throwing rocks (sometimes at unoccupied parts of the river, sometimes not) and making daring forays into the dark mouth of the under-road piping.  CaveMammy and CaveBaby had a little sit down for ourselves on the walled edge and kicked our legs and watched the action.

Back up the ridge then and on towards the car.  We had the happy and unexpected accident of spotting two men doing some kind of boxing training across the field, one in black and one in bright red and yellow.  So I spun the lads a superhero and villain yarn about that to round off the day.  When we got back to the car, it turned out they had to full strip as all that crouching in the stream had left the boys with damp undercarriages.  CaveCousin had the modesty to stay under the tree where I’d put him.  CaveBoy streaked on the bike path.

A good day.

Supermarket sweep

Hunting chicken breast fillets in the chilled aisle.  Gathering mixed seeds from beside the Pringles.  Plucking punnets of plums from the fruit section.  CaveMammy’s weekly forage involves less running through woods with a knapsack and a spear and more sedate pushing of a shopping trolley through the neon aisles at Lidl.  But if you’re interested in eating primal, there’s a lot you can pick up at the local supermarket and it can often be much cheaper than in special “health food” shops.  There’s a good primal blueprint shopping list here that will give you an idea of the kind of foods you should be filling the trolley with and here’s where I get my main ingredients:

Lidl (I use the one near the M50 in Finglas but the stock is generally the same in them all)

I get nice avocados here, broccoli and cauliflower, carrots, onions and garlic, peppers, parsnips, tomatoes, celery, sweet potatoes and normal potatoes.  I’ve a real tendency to stick to the same veg but I try to branch out and sometimes pick up beets, aubergines, green beans, spinach and squash.  I love mushrooms but CaveHusband can’t stand them so I always neglect them.  I need to start cooking them for the boys so I can get them on Team Fungi.  In the meat section I pick up packets of beef pieces for casseroles, chicken breasts for curries and gorgeous lamb loin chops and pork chops.  I get their fab Angus steak every few weeks or so as well.  They sometimes have game meats as a promotion and I would experiment with those when they do.  I never get fish here because all our weekday meals are meat or egg based and so it wouldn’t still be fresh by the time I get to make it.  I’ve been trying to get some fish into our diet at the weekends but am failing miserably, mostly because of complete lack of confidence in buying and cooking it.  I’ve heard that there’s a good fishmongers in the Honest 2 Goodness market in Glasnevin industrial estate on Saturdays and I’m going to try to get down there more regularly and pick up fresh fish for Saturday’s dinner.  For fruit in Lidl, I get apples and bananas (these are the only fruits that CaveBoy will eat), whatever berries they have in or on special that week, cherries, peaches and plums if they’re there, pears, sometimes grapes as CaveBaby loves them cut in half, oranges, kiwis (another CaveBaby favourite, he sucks the green flesh off the skin), lemons for flavouring drinking water and for adding juice to curries. I’ll sometimes also get a pineapple or some other tropical fruit (they’ve had passion fruit, pomegranates and star fruits recently).  Lidl’s not fantastic for nuts and seeds but they do have a new seed mix that’s handy (see the good finds photo below) and big bags of californian walnuts that are gorgeous (also in photo).  Also pictured is their canned coconut milk, cheap enough and lovely and creamy for a dessert, and their Greek yoghurt which is lovely over berries, sprinkled with some nuts and seeds.  I get their olive oil and butter for cooking and they’ve a grand range of dried herbs too.  Cheese is an in-moderation item on primal but we go through one block of their medium mature cheddar almost every week.  Not sure how moderate that is really!

Good finds in Lidl (pictured against a leafy background for that authentic hunter gatherer atmosphere):

Aldi (again, I use the one near the M50 in Finglas but mostly the same stock)

Aldi is great for nuts and seeds.  I go there every few weeks and stock up on sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds, whole and ground almonds and hazelnuts.  They also have a lovely dark chocolate that’s 85% cocoa (Lidl have a nice one too that’s 81% but the Aldi one is smoother).  Seeds are crazy expensive at the health food shops so it’s great to be able to get good quantities at a good price like this.  Sunflower seeds can be ground up, mixed with sesame seeds and a little water and baked to make a kind of primal cracker (recipe here) that can REALLY help if you’re missing breads and crunchy grainy things.  Ground almonds can be used in place of flour in baking (although do be careful as it adds a sweet flavour that flour doesn’t so it can change the taste).  One thing I use ground almonds for is to thicken up my mix for a tuna bake – it does make it taste sweeter but it seems to go down well.

Good finds in Aldi:

Health food shops

And then there’s a few things that I like to have and can really only get in health food shops at the minute (and they’re dirty expensive at that so the sooner they start appearing in Lidl, the better!).  Chief amongst are coconut oil and almond butter.  Coconut oil is great for frying (although I don’t make enough use of it to be honest) and is also a ingredient in a primal energy bar that CaveHusband sometimes makes that never lasts very long in the fridge.  And I LOVE almond butter, especially a spoonful or two of it spread on slices of red apple or pears and you can also make a nice grain-free pancake with it (as per this recipe).

Holland and Barrett haul:

And that’s CaveMammy’s hunting and gathering done for another week.  Time to lug the bounty back to the Cave in our bearskin shopping bags.