Thursday, 31 May 2012

Achieving an ambition and working on the next one!

Today a piece of my fiction is officially published.  It was selected for inclusion in an ebook by author Caroline Smailes and the resulting collection of flash fiction inspired by music is now available on Amazon to download to Kindle or PC.

I am incredibly proud of this.  I've wanted to write ever since I can remember.  I have a cupboard full of poetry and articles, children's stories and part finished novels.  My 'things to do before I'm....' lists have always included "get published".

So I am proud, chuffed and grinning inanely, and not sure whether to leap about the place or simply sit quietly embracing the achievement.

It's an item I can tick off my list.

And what do I do next?  Move on to the next thing on the list of course; and from a writing perspective that's got to be to achieve publication in hard copy format.  A book you can hold.  That was the original ambition.  The Internet's not that old and didn't exist when my publication dream first came into being!

And so, I keep an eye on those emails to see if the publisher that currently has a copy of my brilliant children's story decides they like it; and I continue to work on the novel, and I start to think about approaching magazines or newspapers to sell articles.

Because, you see, despite the fact that I love my day job, writing is something that writers just do; and I can't stop.

Click here for more information about 100RPM and it's publication to raise money for the charity One in Four who supply support and resources to those who have suffered sexual abuse or violence.  Please download it today!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Can you avoid Visible Pantie Line this summer?

River Island Linen Trousers
There is currently an explosion of VPL.  That's Visible Pantie* Line. 

The explosion is a direct result of the kindling provided by white linen trousers.  White linen see-through trousers. 

If you own a pair of these apparent summer staples then I have a very important public service announcement for you: please be informed: they are ALL see through.  Don't be fooled.  They might look OK in the store, or even at home, but get outside in the bright sunshine and they disappear to nothing.

I don't understand why anyone buys these trousers.  Let me tell you what others are thinking when they see you wearing them. 

"Oh look.  White linen trousers.  I bet they are see through.  I'll take a look." Peers surreptitiously at the wearers bottom. "Ahh, I can't see any VPL.  They've avoided that faux pas.  Good for them.  But how?  Hmmm."  Stares some more.  "I can't see any tell tale signs of a tiny g-string at the base of the spine.  They must be going pantless.  Eeuuuuwww."  The wearer happens to turn around.  "Eeeekkkkk, quick keep your eyes up, up, do not, I repeat, do not look at her crotch."

The end results of this appraisal are all just as horrific as each other.  Let me explain

Either we've looked and established you are wearing pants and the VPL is visible to all and therefore I know what underwear you are wearing; or you are wearing pants that are tiny enough to avoid most VPL and therefore I know what underwear you are wearing; or you are not wearing pants and I know that you are not wearing pants and in some cases whether you prefer a Brazilian or not.  I repeat: Eeeeeuuuuuwwww.  In all cases I seriously do not want to know what underwear you are, or are not, wearing; and I certainly don't want to know your hair removal habits.

The current explosion needs to stop, and to stop soon, before I start going up to random white trouser wearers in the street and telling them how it is.  I don't want to turn into some crazy woman raving about underwear in the middle of Jubilee Weekend celebrations. 

So please, please, please stop wearing them. 

And please, you fashion designers you, STOP MAKING THEM!

* That's knickers, not trousers, just to be clear.

Monday, 28 May 2012

How can you navigate a children's party with your principles intact?

Party games at children's parties have become something of a pet hate of mine.  Parties have become a battle ground anyway.  A battle of mums to provide the very best; in location, entertainment, music, party bags, games and cake. 

Growing up in the 80s parties were much less fraught with 'keeping up the Jones'.  They were very traditional affairs.  The expectation was limited to a game of pass the parcel, a single balloon with a piece of cake in a party bag, and a dance around to music in your mates lounge.

With a heaving trade in parties at a variety of locations you find yourself trooping off to bowling alleys, ski villages, soft play centres and steam railway centres.  That's to name just a selection of party venues I've taken one or the other of my girls to over the last couple of years.

But where ever you are there usually comes a point where there will be a party game.

When was it, and who was it, that decided that all the children who lost the party game would get treats?  Who decided this?  Since when did we celebrate those that lost more than the one that won?  Along with the usual "it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts" speech, we are teaching our children to not care about winning?

With the Olympics coming to the UK I'm not sure this is the right message we should be giving.

Soft play centres are the worst offenders in my experience.  A game of pass the parcel deteriorates, as the children that take a layer off the parcel early in the game all receive a sweet, wrapped in the layer of paper they've pulled off.  Those children become uninterested in the game and disappear off to play.  There's no excitement about who is going to get to open the last layer.  It's such a shame.  My abiding memory of the game, the excitement as the parcel approached, and knowing it was nearly the last layer, but not being 100% certain.  Now, since everyone gets a prize, and often all of equal size, it really doesn't matter if you get the last layer, or indeed any layer, as even those that don't get to unwrap usually get to pick a sweet out of a box afterwards.

We've had a few parties at home for our girls and initially we caved to the pressure and wrapped mini presents within the layers, enough for all children, with a slightly bigger one in the final layer.

But I am tempted to rebel.  I am tempted to go back to traditional, nothing in the layers until the end, pass the parcel.  I am tempted to teach our children that they don't always win.  Surely we should teach our children to be competitive and want to win?
It was our daughter's 6th birthday this week. What did we choose to do to celebrate?  We went to the cinema with 9 of her friends.  At £1 a ticket, with a little extra for popcorn snack boxes and a party bag each with a little stationary set, balloon and party cake, it didn't break the bank and there was no need for games.  That's one way to side step the issue!  Maybe the rebellion starts next time?!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

To iron or not to iron?

I recently discovered that I am something of an oddity.  An alien in the world of mums.  Unusual. Strange.  Some may say even weird.


Because I still iron clothes.

I'm not sure how this has happened.  I thought I'd become such a let loose - fancy free - maybe even slip shod mother, when I stopped ironing knickers, vests, tea towels, sheets and duvet covers; just one of the tips in my 5 quick ironing tips for busy woman post.  But apparently I am not as relaxed as I thought.  Relative to the mums commenting over on my How do I find the time? post, I am ironing when I need not.

In fact I haven't come across anybody else who irons their husbands shirts yet.  Now I realise this isn't particularly feminist of me; but really it was never about it being 'the womans' job, or otherwise; it was just that I quite enjoy ironing compared to other potential tasks (like mowing the lawn) that we split between us in our husband-wife partnership.  I like it because I can watch television whilst doing it.  So my husband and I have a split of chores and I ended up with this one.

What's interesting now the children are growing up is that the ironing pile always consists of 50% children's clothes (cotton dresses, T-shirts, school uniform shirts etc), 45% mu husbands work shirts and T-shirts and only 5% mine.  Since I don't walk around smelling really ripe (at least, if I did, I hope my friends would tell me quick!) then I'm not entirely sure how this happens!

This week's discovery, that I'm fairly alone in the ironing world, put me off doing it.  It almost made me resent doing it.  Then, today, there was an incident that put me off even further.
I managed to knock the board and spill my jug of water on the floor and on the plug extension.  The iron followed, and sat, in the puddle of water, on our wooden floor, steam hissing and bubbling from underneath!  I was slightly freaked; jumped back away from the puddle, screamed at my daughter to stay across the other side of the room, and carefully walked around the board to turn the plug off before catastrophe could hit.

I was shook up.  In a split second I thought I was going to get electrocuted.  And then I thought I was going to burn the house down.  Irrational I know, but I panicked in those seconds.  I put the iron and board away pretty quickly.

Maybe this is a cue to give up ironing entirely?  What do you think?  Is it 'normal' these days? Is everyone else really good at hanging up clothes quickly after drying outside? Or is it natural to just get dressed and let the creases drop out throughout the day?  Do they drop out? Really? I don't trust it... I really don't.... I need help!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Emeli Sande's "Our Version of Events": A Review

When I picture the perfect 'yummy mummy' in my head she is always completely up to date with popular culture, including music.  She listens to the coolest singers and can happily converse with a 15 year old on the subject.

When I became a mum I began to neglect music, so when Mumsnet asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing a new album by Emeli Sande I jumped at the chance.  Let's be honest here; I'd never heard of her.  I know I know, that's really poor isn't it.  Some great artists have sung her songs including Tinie Tempah, Cheryl Cole and The Saturdays.  She was writing songs when she was 11 years old, and turned down a record deal in her teens, preferring instead to finish her exams and begin to study medicine.  This is not just an up and coming singer; this is a songwriter that means business.

The album, Our Version of Events, is a well written selection of songs.  I'd pop the CD in the machine and have those tunes happily rolling away whilst I got on with chores, not unpleasant, but not necessarily stopping me in my tracks or forcing my feet to tap.

"Where I Sleep" is my favourite.  In the interests of being useful I tried to understand why I prefer it to others.  I think because the chorus is a quick to learn, set of lyrics that resonated with me; "And I'm sure of nothing that I know. Except this is us, and this is love, and this is where I'm home".  It reminds me of how lucky I am. 

There were other tunes that I felt would be more suited to an angst-ridden teenager, or indeed anyone in the midst of trying to find their 'one true love'.  I can imagine that you could happily wallow with this album on.  Get the wine and ice cream out, chocolate aplenty.

Is it for me?  I don't think I would have bought this myself.  It's music to a stage of life that I've passed, and I personally prefer my tunes to be a little less serious, a little more fun, with a smile and a wink. 

But that's just my opinion.  And I'm not saying there isn't some catchy stuff on there that I keep finding myself singing ("Next to me-e-e-e-e, woo hoo ooo")

I'm really pleased to have been able to listen to some of 'todays' music.  And I'll be trying to turn on that radio more often.  If this is an example of the quality of music around today, then I have a lot of great music to discover! Maybe I'll be one step closer to my imagined idea of a yummy mummy!

Find out more about Emile at


I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands.  I have not paid for the product or to attend an event.  I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

How do I find the time?

Before you have children you have NO IDEA how much time you have at your disposal.  NONE.  You are in complete ignorance.  You wile away the time watching loads of television, socialising with friends, staying up late, getting up late, working whatever hours you like.  You do things; obviously.  But with no real sense of urgency.  No sense that this abundance of time is soon to run out.  You think you have all the time in the world.

And then you have your first child.

The one thing that no-one thinks to tell you; or if they do you are so in the dark you ignore it anyway; is that you will no longer have ANY time.  You think you are going to get a year off on maternity in which you'll start that book you've been promising yourself you'll write, and get on top of the chores, and read the rest of the classics.  You think "how much time can a baby take up? They sleep most of the time don't they?"

Oh my poor luv.  You have NO IDEA.

Since I've had children everyday involves the logistical planning that top military leaders would be proud of.  From ensuring you've washed and ironed all their clothes as well as your own (so they have something to venture outside the house in..... this is the UK you know; it's cold), to ensuring you've not ran out of milk and cereal (you can't just pop around to the corner shop - you have two young children now.  A trip to the local shop will take 2 hours), to making sure they don't have yogurt in their hair, nor chocolate around their mouth.  All this before 8am. (Click here for my tips to ease the morning rush)

Then there are school and nursery runs; or if your baby really is still a baby, you have the delights of the feeding, winding and changing cycle that means you are lucky if you actually get out of your pyjamas before the evening comes around again. (Take-away anyone?)

With all these things to do, and the added pressure of trying to do all this and still, goodness, dare I say it, look 'yummy', it's a wonder we find time to do anything at all for ourselves.

When fellow blogger and supermum extraordinaire ATO mum at Attempting The Ordinary tagged me to take part in a meme about 'finding the time' I had to really start to think about how I do stuff.  So here it goes.

How and when do you find the time to:

Do the Laundry
This is erratic at best in our house.  I have a lovely hubby who helps with this one by throwing a few loads of washing on each weekend, and sometimes mid week, when he sees it building up.  We should probably do a load every day (we have enough washing for that) but we don't.

I then end up having to spend an entire 3 hours in an evening, probably once a week, ironing everything that needs it.  (Definitely not everything.  Click here for my 5 Quick Ironing Tips for Busy Women)
Write a blog post
There goes most of the other evenings!  I tend to do this after the children have gone to bed when there's something (sport) on the TV that hubby wants to watch.  I am lucky to sometimes get a free day in the week now when both girls are in school and nursery, and of the 5 hours I get I often spend 2 of them writing.  Oh alright; stop twisting my arm; probably 1 hour actually writing, 2 hours flying around the fabulous land of the Internet, and a quick hour tidying round to make it look like I've been very 'busy'.  (I'm eating lunch or snacking in the other hour.  I knew you'd check if it added up!)

Look after yourself
Who me?  Is that my job too?  Blimey.  It's a tough one, but a lot of it is fulfilled by the time I spend writing (see above).  That time, pounding the words into the keyboard, cuppa slowly going cold beside me, is my time. 

I should probably be sat in a candlelit soap filled bath, reading Jane Eyre and painting my toes.  But really.... I have enough trouble prioritising time to keep my roots recoloured  (home colouring) Do you really think I'd prioritise that over this beautiful keyboard! Strokes space bar lovingly.  Realises really shouldn't be writing that.  Tries to delete... delete button stuck.  Darn...........

Spend time with other half
So, I've used up a good couple of evenings ironing, at least 3 writing, so that leaves 2 with the hubby.  Generally spent curled up watching TV if I'm honest.

We try and make the most of the weekends and save our pennies for holidays; but obviously that's the whole family.  Luckily our own parents are fabulous babysitters, so we get the odd date night out too.  Maybe once every couple of months on average, and if we've been good, a weekend away for new year sale shopping.

Do fun stuff with your little ones
I struggle with this one.  On the one hand I do enjoy quality one on one time with them when I get it, and we try to arrange this at the weekends, where one of the girls spends time with my hubby whilst I spend time with the other.  On the other hand they are only 2 years apart so they currently play games together very well.  It's all too tempting to leave them to it when they are playing happily to be honest.  Why should I force my presence into the game when it's not required.

When I do have time with them it's either making a special effort to go the park after school, or we'll bake together at the weekends (great recipe for Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins here that is good to do with children) or I'll get the 'sticking box' out and we'll cover the table with glitter and coloured paper and make cards.  Particularly fun in the fun up to Christmas!  To be honest most of this is done at weekends.  There just isn't much time in the week after we've got in at 4pm, I've made tea (whilst they happily play games or watch a bit of television before tea) we've eaten tea, gone upstairs for bath (about 6pm ish), brushed teeth (to avoid the teeth monster), read stories (one each minimum), sang the lullaby and tucked up in bed.

Although now I've re-read that paragraph I realise that is 'spending time with them'.  I suppose you have to remember that time spent doing daily tasks can also be enjoyable fun time (as long as they aren't tired and causing trouble when they should be getting their teeth brushed.)  It doesn't have to be specifically 'play'.

Spend time with your family
Ha ha ha ha ha.
Finally recovers from rolling around on the floor laughing.  Do I have time?  Unfortunately not.  In our case my parents live a good 45 minutes drive away.  And my mum doesn't drive.  And to get the train she has to get a bus into town first.  So it's easier for me to go to them.  But my girls are at school or nursery.  So it's tricky.

Quite often though my mum will come up to see us on the train. (She's a superstar)  She'll arrive at 10am and stay until 7pm.  It's a long day for her, so we won't be able to continue doing that indefinitely but it works for now and she probably does it roughly once every couple of months.

In between that we'll all get together for birthdays and Christmas.

Socialise with friends
Ha ha ha ha ha hahahahahahahaha.

I don't.

We try and try to do this better.  The last girls evening out I had was probably 4 months ago now.  I see other mummy friends at the school gate (doesn't that count?).  We are starting to try and organise more Sundays where friends come over and we get to catch up whilst the children play in the garden and we have BBQs.  But it's May; and it's still raining.  The weather is thwarting us.

I am bad at this I know.

I'm sorry everyone.  Really sorry!  

Deep clean your house
Deep clean?
My first response was:
"Never.  Ever.  Oh all right then.  Probably once a year in preparation for everyone coming to ours for Christmas.  We clean it so it looks beautiful for all of a day.  Then Father Christmas visits along with 9 other people and the house is once again back to it's chaotic self."

But then I read this back and it dawned on my that we have a wonderful cleaner come in once a week for two hours to blitz the bathrooms/floors/kitchen etc.  She does more in those two hours than I was managing in a month, so it's well worth it.  We decided that, if I was working part-time, part of my earnings would pay for this so that I have time with the girls when am I off.  It works really well, as when I'm off with the younger (3 years old) each week I get to play games with her and not have to worry about bleaching the toilets or scrubbing the oven.

It's the 'keeping it tidy' bit that we struggle with more!

Do the food shopping
Hubby to the rescue on this one.  He takes one or both of the girls to the supermarket at the weekend.  Usually leaving me with some of that ironing we mentioned earlier.  Click here for great tips to keep them entertained whilst they help you shop!

Do bulk ironing
We covered this one further up.  Either in the evenings after the girls are in bed, or at the weekend when they are getting the shopping.

Sum up
And there we have it.  That's how I find the time.  There are a lot of multi-tasking things I do to crowbar other things in like exercise for example (while brushing my teeth) and beauty (plenty of preparation to reduce the time required in the morning to look acceptable.)  But really I prioritise what I think is important; and that is where we'll all differ.  Some won't iron at all (ATOmum I'm looking at you!) and that is absolutely fine.  Some will spend an hour straightening their hair and that is fine too.  As long as we each, individually, feel we are getting the balance right then each to their own.  Of course if you never, ever play games with your children because you are too busy working/beautifying/cleaning then you may just want to rethink.

Now the rules of the meme go something like this:

1) Please post the rules
2) When answering questions give as much information as possible.   It's all about the finer detail people!
3) Add a quick sum up of your normal week.
4) Leave a comment on Sex, drugs, rocker... and stroller, baby.  This is so we can keep track of the Meme and take a polite nose into everyone else's lives.
5) Tag 3 or more people and link to them on your blog.
6) Link back to whoever tagged you and ensure to let them know how you've got on.

I am pleased to tag:

Libby at Truly Myrtle
Emma at Adventures of an Unfit Mother
Angie at Cakes Photos Life

 as I am intrigued as to how they find the time!  I hope you have the time ladies!? 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Oxford Reading Tree: Chip & Biff & why I hate them

The Oxford Reading Tree Read At Home collection
I really don't like the Chip and Biff books. 

I was at the stage of mild dislike, where I tolerated them because I could see that my daughter was able to read the ones she brought home from school.

And clearly school were using them as part of their reading scheme, so my first reaction was to trust that they have a plan; a strategy; and that Biff and Chip must somehow play a part in that plan.

However, after my 5 year old brought home "The Magic Key" last night I moved on a stage - straight to hatred. 

She might as well have been reading a list of words to practise her reading.  The story "The Magic Key" is less of a story and more of a vague throwing together of scenes where the cast have a limited vocabulary that generally involves some, or all, of them saying "Oh no".  The gist of this 'story' was that Chip and Biff found a magic key.  They picked it up and it made them shrink.  They picked up a few random objects on the floor (pencil, pin) and marvelled at how heavy they were (at this point I was vaguely interested in why, of all the objects them could find, a sharp pin which was now the size of a sword, should be chosen. I needn't have bothered)  Then they saw the dolls house and tried to get inside.  OK, so far there is some promise of adventure.  They have, after all, a weapon.  But no.  They couldn't get in the house and that 'storyline' was abandoned.  Then a dark shadow scared them. Oh, I thought, somewhat foolishly, here we go, here's the action.  But no.  It was a mouse.  A boring mouse that looked at them and went away again.  And that, dear readers, was the end.

I can't work out where the drama is in that.  I can't work out where there is consideration of plot.  Of a beginning, a middle and an end.  Of conflict and resolution.  Of character development. 

I refuse to accept the answer that "there doesn't need to be any".  Of course there does.  You wouldn't try and teach a child to read by making them read the dictionary.  The reason to learn to read is to be able to experience other worlds, to jump into stories and enjoy them.  And of course, to be able to learn things from non-fiction books, to read newspapers, to read road signs, to communicate.

Children will not get a love of books (actual books, made of paper) or even a love of reading, if this is what they are subjected to.  You wouldn't produce a film with this plot, so why is it acceptable in a book?

I understand that when writing for a reading scheme you are supposed to use a certain batch of words.  What I am less sure on is why?  Why not just read stories; any stories.  The common words, by their very nature, will appear more often and will be picked up quicker due to their repetition.  There will be tricky words, but then again, I'm in my late 30s and still have to occasionally ask what a word means.  

There are hundreds of stories out there that are good stories.  With all the Roald Dahls, Julia Donaldsons, Enid Blytons, A A Milnes, Roger Hargreaves' out there, why oh why oh why do we need this rubbish?

I have a set of these at home gifted from a neighbour who is also a teacher.  Of all the books my girls have these Chip and Biff stories are NEVER selected by them when it's bedtime story time.

I don't know what frustrates me more.  The fact that my daughter has to read this stuff to tick the box in her Reading Record, or that I could write the stories so much better!

What do you think?  Why do teachers use these 'schemes'? Do you use them at home? What are the advantages of this kind of book? I presume there must be some, otherwise someone, somewhere, is making money out of a con.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.  Biscuits at the ready as ever.

Read my thoughts on the teaching of phonetics and the new phonetics test here.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Zumba classes: will you really lose weight?

After my first taste of Zumba classes back in November I've managed to get to a few classes and I'm really enjoying it.

Check out my initial review here.

But it strikes me that there are particular types of exercise class devotee that you don't necessarily want to be stood next too in class!  So I thought I'd outline all the exercise class types I find at my local Zumba class and leave you to decide which you are, which you think I am, and which you'd rather avoid!

The Exercise Class Bully
There are some people who, whether they know it or not, take up TOO MUCH ROOM.  They are generally tall and strong.  Often very toned, but not slight.  They come to class regularly to the extent that they know every single move; but they don't express any joy in taking part.  Determined is their only expression.  Even in a Zumba class, which is supposed to be a laugh, they are stuck in the fierce, 'pound it out', aerobics class frame of mind.  They are not light on their feet, so it hurts..

a lot..

when they step on yours.

They might lose weight in class, but not the most they could, because they just don't let go and enjoy it.  

The Mechanic
These ladies are slight, petite and annoyingly trendy.  They look like mums, but the sort of mum who is at the gym daily, can run around the garden with her boys playing football and still look good.  They appear cool and calm, and their cut off trousers don't make them look shorter or fatter (like they do me), but rather trendy and youthful.

Once they start exercising they don't let loose and relax, but neither do they pound out the steps.  They seem to do it daintily.  The steps are technically right, but it doesn't look like they'd ever break a sweat doing them.  It's mechanical.  Dancers would refer to it as 'marking'.

The Tryer
These are often older, maybe mid 50s, though not exclusively.  They are not natural movers and can't quite keep up.  You often find yourself nose to nose with them when you turn around and they don't.  You need to keep an eye out for them to ensure you don't tread on them.

But they don't give up.  They are there every week. They meet up with friends at class and enjoy the social aspect.

Again, they don't let themselves go.  Rather they always look slightly worried; as if they are going to be sent to the Headteachers office for doing it wrong.

OTT (Over the top) Show-Off
This is the one that turns up erratically, but picks up the moves quickly and so just has a laugh.  If she goes wrong she just laughs and catches up at the next count of 8.  She throws herself into the moves and has a tendency to use up far too much room, but will keep an eye on the space around her and try not to get in the way.

She's clearly done dance classes before and thinks it means she's an expert, but really she's just not committed enough and should just get out of the way so the rest of us true exercise devotees can get down to serious work.

Ironically she'll probably be the one to burn off the most calories leaping around like a nightclub raver.


Most exercise classes have something in common.  They will only work if you relax, stop worrying about what you may or may not look like and throw yourself into it. 

Remember Phoebe in the US show 'Friends'? Remember how she used to run like a child and just 'let go'?

Remember dancing in nightclubs as an 18 year old?  How much energy did you throw into those moves?  Remember that and recreate it.  It's your time.  Enjoy it.  Then you really will find yourself losing weight.


So what do you think?  Which are you? Which am I? Which would you like to be?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Doubting your own self-worth?

Those of you who follow me on twitter (@ymummyreally) and on facebook may have noticed that I've been feeling a little down in the dumps since Wednesday night, when the cold/virus/joint aching/sore throat/high temperature thing that my children both enjoyed over the bank holiday weekend was lovingly passed on to me.

I fell to sleep at 7.30pm on the sofa on Wednesday night.  That's right!  7.30!  Boy, am I a wuss!  And yes I expect lots of sympathetic comments and virtual biscuits sent over.  (pretty please - bottom lip comes out)

The advantage of feeling rubbish for the last 24 hours has been plenty of time to think.  Oh no! Think? That's not good is it?  My parents always tell me I over-think everything.  Over analyse it all.  Feel like I need to have mapped out all the possibilities, internally debated all the arguments, considered all the outcomes, before doing ANYTHING.

Tea always makes things better
They are right.  I've been thinking about my next blog post and I've been stuck.  This is partly because I found out today that I didn't make the finalist list in The Mad Blog Awards 2012.  As a result I went straight into 'over-analyse' mode.  I sat and spent far too much time, in an already weakened state, reading the 'finalists' blogs.  The idea being that I should be able to pick up some tips to help improve this humble blog and therefore provide you lovely readers with some really great stuff.

I'm sure you can see where this is going can't you?  On a normal, healthy day that plan would be fine.  I'd have a read, enjoy the fantastic blogs that they are (they really are, click on the Mad Blog link above and check them out - but please do come back... whimpers) and use the lessons to build the joy here.  What actually happened was that I got over-emotional, over-awed at these other writers, many of whom have been doing this for years, and felt completely not worthy.  There were even tears.

It was stupid, stupid, stupid.

And so I sat down to write.  Though this post doesn't particularly stick to the main theme of this blog (tips to help us be yummy, even when a mummy) it is to remind me that we are ALL yummy in our own ways.  We have our own skills, our own talents, and, maybe more importantly, our own joys.

I've been writing this blog for 3 years now (has it really been that long) and this will be my 165th published post.  I didn't write it to make money (though if offered that would obviously be nice).  I started it because I've always wanted to be a writer.  I wanted to write.  I wanted to hopefully create something that someone somewhere would find useful or mildly amusing, and I will keep doing that regardless of potential awards, because it is here, with you, that I find my moments of joy.

So thank you for stopping by.  Please stay for biscuits.  Comments and feedback are definitely welcome (I always reply). Above all, stay yummy - it's not just a looks thing; it's a state of mind.*

*good job really - failing at the looks thing!


 The "out of the mouths of babes" link up is still open, and new posts are being added to the list every day.  Feel free to pop on over for a giggle, or to add your own.  Click the button below!


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Could the current lack of sun cause more cases of rickets in the UK?

Rickets: should we be worried?

What is rickets?
Despite this victorian disease being virtually wiped out due to improvements in diet and the fortification of milk and cereals, in recent years the numbers of children presenting with symptoms has increased across the UK.

This disease: a softening of the bones leading to deformaties, is usually seen in children suffering from malnutritian, famine and starvation.  Somewhat worryingly it is reappearing in the UK.

What causes rickets?
The main cause of Rickets is a deficiency in Vitamin D.  Calcium deficiency can also be a cause.  Once you realise that our main sources of Vitamin D are oily fish, eggs and natural sunlight, you immediately start to see why a deficiency may be occurring.

Children are spending a lot of time indoors and when they do go out in the sun we are slathering on the suncream at the first inclining of a sunny day.  Additionally, many children may be covering up for cultural and religious reasons.

The natural sunlight that is required to absorb enough Vitamin D isn't much;  10-15 minutes of sun exposure on hands and face a few times a week.  However it's the UVB rays that induce the vitamin D into our skin, which can't get through if we are covered in sunscreen at all times.  In the UK we use our winter stores of Vitamin D between November and April (when the UVB rays aren't strong enough); but need to get enough Vitamin D in the summer months.

Risk of rickets versus the risk of sun burn
And so here we reach the problem for mothers; how do you ensure your child is getting enough exposure to the sun to avoid a Vitamin D deficiency, whilst also ensuring they don't burn? 

Fair skin?
For children with fair skin, the NHS suggests allowing 10-15 minutes a day (no longer) of time in the sun without sunscreen.  The more skin that is exposed the more Vitamin D will be stored and the shorter the time of exposure required.   Obviously it is then important to apply sunscreen to avoid the risk of burning and many cancers.

In my case I know I can burn with just 10 minutes unprotected exposure at 1pm, but at 10.30am or 3pm I am usually safe to go without sunscreen for short periods.  Use the knowledge you have of your own skin as a starting point.

And of course, if you and your child do not burn within 15 minutes in the UK sun, this may not be the case when you jet off to the Mediterranean for your holidays.  The closer to the equator you get, the stronger the sun.  The children will probably spend most of their Mediterranean holiday outside and in swimsuits, so it's probably safer to avoid any unprotected time for those two weeks unless it's perhaps later in the evening, when the sun is still out but is less strong. 

Dark skin?
Dark skin requires slightly longer to absorb the Vitamin D.  Those of African Caribbean and South Asian descent are at greateer risk of Vitamin D deficiency.  Start with small amounts of unprotected time in the sun at cooler times of the day, and build up gradually to approximately 10-15 minutes.  Again, the more skin that is exposed, the more Vitamin D will be absorbed.

Improving a child's diet
The following foods are rich in Vitamin D:
  • Oily fish
  • Breakfast cereals (check the label)
  • Eggs
  • Margarine
  • Liver

The risk to adults
It's worth pointing out that although Rickets is a childhood disease; Vitamin D deficiency in adults causes osteomalacia, which causes bone pain and tenderness, so it's just as important for us adults to get some sun exposure each day.

Vitamin D during Pregnancy
The NHS also recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding woman take a Vitamin D supplement to ensure their and their babies needs are met. Pregant women and children who qualify can obtain free supplements through the Healthy Start scheme.  Supplements should not exceed 25 micrograms a day. (40IU = 1mg)

Care in the sun
You can't make too much Vitamin D from excessive sun exposure, but you can very quickly burn, so be careful, don't forget to apply that sun screen and if in doubt, cover up.

A video giving advice on how to apply sunscreen is here:

Sources and further information:
Rickets: Wikipedia
NHS Choices: Rickets
NHS Choices: Preventing Rickets
Rickets cases reported in Cardiff by health workers.  July 2011
Sunscreen causes Rickets: New wave of cases in England. Feb 2011
More cases of Rickets turn up in UK, lack of sunshine exposure to blame. Aug 2011

Monday, 7 May 2012

How to get sleep even during a child's illness & what medicines to give when?

How do you console a crying child with a temperature? How do you revitalise a child running a temperature, but who is otherwise absolutely fine?

How do you ensure a temperature doesn't keep a child awake at a time when sleep would be the best thing to help them recover?  How do you do all this without appearing at the doctors office at the first sign of every sniffle?

Every mother I know has a stock of Calpol in the cupboard. Most also have Calprofen. I know we do. But I still go through a debate with myself before I dish out a dose.

Should I be reverting to medicine this quickly? Will they build up a resistance? Could they cope without it? All the questions that you answer one way when you have the luxury of debating it without a weeping child burning up in your arms, but of course, when it comes to it, you dish out that dose pretty quickly.

And so it then becomes a question of dosage and timing. Which to give and when to give it. It took a while for us to work out that you can give both at the same time. Calpol being for pain relief, Calprofen being an  anti-inflammatory. But if you literally give them at the same time, you then have a 4-6 hour window where they are not allowed any more medicine. After 3 hours this can be a problem.

So we tend to alternate.  Calprofen with meals (as required); at 6.30am, 12noon and 6pm. Calpol in between at 9.30am if needed, 2.30 if needed and, in order to ensure we get our sleep at the same time they do, we gently wake them at around 10.30pm to give a dose.

It's this 10.30pm dose that saves our sanity when they are unwell. It means that we get a good batch of sleep ourselves and if we're lucky until 6am. If we skip this dose they tend to wake at 3am; and I don't cope well with 3am wake-ups.  It is seriously detrimental to my ability to calmly nurse them better.  Particularly in the summer when, after sitting with them for half an hour you suddenly hear the birds start singing!

Last night I forgot. My daughter was running a slight temperature, and had swollen tonsils, but was generally fine and running around playing.  She had some medicine at 2.30pm, as she became very hot fairly suddenly;  but then we forgot to do anymore as she seemed fairly well. Of course, at 3.30am this morning she woke up, crying, very hot and with swollen tonsils that were hurting (I could tell by the laboured swallowing). A quick dose of Calprofen was required, but of course I had to sit with her for quite a while to wait for it to start it's work enough for her to fall asleep.

Whilst the Calpol and Calprofen combination works well for things like sore throats and temperatures; (where they are generally fine, but need help fighting something off) I find that the old fashioned cold, with it's runny nose and subsequent coughing, can be stopped just enough for your child to get a good nights sleep with one of these; Karvol, Olbas Oil or Vicks VaboRub. 

The choice depends on symptoms.  With a blocked up nose that needs clearing, Olbas oil works well.  For a runny nose that needs stemming, Karvol works well.  To ease the congestion and tickling at the coughing stage, Vicks Vaborub (rubbed on their feet - yes, I know it's weird, but it works) is our choice.

And did I get back to sleep last night?  As is typical of these kind of nights, the 5 year old then woke up having had a bad dream. I got back into bed at nearly 5am. It's lucky I have a lovely hubby who gave me a surprise lie in this morning in thanks for getting up with the children in the night!  You can't plan for bad dreams unfortunately!

Click here for tips on settling a child to sleep at night.

Please note: the advice here is in no way intended as a substitute for medical advice.  If an appropriate dose of medicine doesn't bring your child's temperature down within an hour, or indeed if they are obviously very unwell, you should seek medical advice.  The advice presented here is purely for those situations where the child is generally fine, but is fighting a slight temperature and occasionally needs assistance with that.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Out of the mouths of babes

My children make me laugh every day.  Every day.  They see the world differently and it shows when they express themselves.  From their view of public sector strikes, to their innocent mispronunciations, it can be anything from enlightening to downright embarrassing.

At the moment my younger, at 3 years old, is starting to understand the concept of 'teasing'.  Mainly, I expect, because her father is a great 'teaser' and is often winding the girls up.

Yesterday, after I'd asked the girls to head upstairs to brush their teeth for bed; and I'd asked twice; she stopped, half way up the stairs.  She sat herself down and her bottom lip inched out.

"Mummy, I don't like you anymore"  she said.
"Oh, why not love?"  I said, wondering if I'd raised my voice more than I thought (I hadn't)
"You always tell us what to do.  I don't want you to be my mummy anymore".

Now at this point my heart was throbbing from the knife stabbed through it.

"Oh love!"  I exclaimed "It wouldn't be very nice if you didn't have a mummy would it?"
"Daddy will look after us" she responded.  The lip was still out and she was looking very coy, though I didn't notice it at the time I was too busy trying not to cry myself.
"Oh" I said.

And then; with timing only a 3 year old could possess, she looked up through those long eyelashes and said, sweet as pie, "It's alright Mummy.  I'm only teasing."

You can imagine it can't you.

And so, I thought it would be nice to bring together other mummy blogger's posts sharing the words of wisdom that our children provide us with.  Here it is; the "Out of the mouths of babes" link up.  Hopefully lots of my lovely fellow mummy bloggers will join up (instructions below) and add their links to the list below.  Have fun reading them!  The aim is to do this every month.  Let's see how it goes!


1.  Grab my button and paste it at the top or bottom of your post, to enable readers to get back to the main list.  (Please let me know if the code doesn't work.  It's the first time I've tried this!)


2.  Publish your post on your blog.
3.  Add your post URL to the Linky tool below and watch your post appear as if by magic to the main list.

Thanks for sharing!

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