NASA’s priorities v the world

Although fascinating to discover if there was ever life on Mars, having watched  a BBC Four documentary on NASA’s attempt to send a mobile science lab to the hostile planet, I look at the all the resources being chucked into such a feat and wonder what could be achieved if all these problem-solving skills were channelled into life that already exists on earth and directed towards real problems that have been n existence for hundreds of years – poverty.

If an alien landed on this earth, it would no doubt be perplexed by all NASA’s work to investigate hypothetical questions when all around there is chaos and issues. I like to imagine some long-fingered green stereotypical alien over-sized hand landing atop of the NASA scientist’s head and twisting the head away from the computer screen to stare at many of the insane goings on in the world that are easy to solve. The alien is spoilt for choice in global issues that need tackling. For starters, he could show the scientist a hospital in Africa where babies and children are suffering and dying of Malaria simply because they do not have mosquito nets or anti-malaria tablets. Before working out how to in-filtrate Mars’ hostile atmosphere, how about working out how to free the thousands of prisoners in the North Korean torture camps?

Science is fascinating but, for me, it is a luxury to discover the history of life on Mars when there are still people on this Earth who don’t experience much of life because of problems that could be more easily solved than a NASA mission and with half the resources.

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Fallen from Grace

I feel for depressives. The sun was shining, it was a day to spend with family but could I help feeling blue? No. It was beyond my capability even to try. The reason is two-fold, time of the month plus no sleep = depressive cocktail. Its no good thinking of all the reasons why you should be thankful for the led you have got. If you feel shit, you feel shit. My husband tried to bring me round but I couldn’t even make eye contact with him. Being in he house trying o entertain children while hubby busied himself in the garden seemed to compound feelings of blues and frustration.

So we took a walk with the dogs. We literally had to drag my daughter out of the house kicking and screaming as she hates walking (has done ever since she was 2). Walking along the country lanes holding my daughter’s hand, I tried to enjoy the birds singing the pretty sunlit village and the general surroundings but my brain was determined to feel glum. My eyes pricked with tears for no apparent reason but I tried to fight them. After a couple of attempts I just cried as I walked along and let the breeze gently dry the tears on my cheeks. I started to feel better as we came off the country lanes and wound our way along a path running between fields of two racehorse studs. A dark bay gelding with a wonky white stripe down his face ambled over and pushed his nose over the fence to say hello. He was wearing a leather headcollar with his name on a brass plate ‘Fallen From Grace’. He was inquisitive and kept trying o sniff my husband’s jacket and trousers and my ears. Little boy giggled as he nuzzles at his feet hanging from the backpack carrier behind my husband. Ask I patted the neck of the horse I felt the last bits of angst and general feeling down emotions ebb away. We then carried on into a woodland and stopped for a break on a circle of wood stumps and enjoyed the surroundings. It was then that I felt back to my normal self.

So much so that when I returned to the path we had followed earlier, couldn’t believe I was the same person  treading that path, who, only an hour earlier had felt so low trying to feel positive and failing.

I would have liked to say watching the children enjoy their play and eat their ice creams from the ice-cream van complete with a chocolate flake cheered my soul, but this was only very temporary.

It was a woodland walk and a chance meeting with ‘Fallen From Grace’ that finally lifted my spirits.

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When only chocolate will do…

Approaching Mother’s Day, I am so anxious to ensure my mother receives something for the day, even though she is in Spain that I don’t give my new found role as a mother a second thought. I don’t want to put my kids under pressure to do something amazing for me on Mothers Day, after all it was me (and my husband) who decided to have them in the first place. It is a tough world and not always the most inviting environment to inspire confidence in future happiness for our kids. When things start to get tough for them, we will begin retirement and spoil the grand-kids. So I think the person who should be really under pressure to deliver on Mothers Day is my husband, because technically he made me a Mother in the first place.

But, back to my Mother, one year I forgot Mother’s Day. Well, I didn’t forget, because I gave her present to her in advance before she returned to Spain but she was obviously looking for something else too. I got a call at 11.30 at night from Spain when she said ‘what happened to my special call on mother’s day?’ At home it had been just like any other Sunday, so I had forgotten and my mother took offence. When I tried to argue my case she said, ‘Mother’s Day is more important than birthdays.’ (groan) I wasn’t going to attempt to battle with that viewpoint.

So Mothers day, like Christmas, has just become a day that creates lots of to do lists and pressure. On behalf of my husband I chose some flowers and card for my mother-in-law and for my Mum I already bought a gift and gave it to her a while ago and for the day I will send her a gooey interactive card.

I’m going to say something really naff now and say every day is good to be a mother, particularly when my daughter makes me a cup of tea and my baby boy does something in the potty.

As for my husband, I am trying not to be jealous of the new motorbike he has got, although he says I can ride it. I am going through a phase where my husband is immensely irritating and I find life more complicated when he is around. I am assuming this has something to do with the fact that it is our 10th year of marriage and partly to do with my slightly hostile hormones. Either way he is driving me nuts and no amount of tea, wine or home-baked scones is going to get me out of this mood.

He got me flowers but I really wanted chocolate….

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It has been a week now since the commencement of project potty and I am pleased to report a few Eureka! Moments. I did not think it was possible to get excited at the sight of poo, but it has happened, twice now. I am a very proud parent.

The puddles in the bed every morning are getting smaller too so hopefully the tide will be well and truly out through the night once he has completely grasped the concept. The downside is getting up as soon as baby boy awakes to encourage him on the potty. I have discovered it is a rude awakening at just gone 6am to go straight from a deep sleep into poo and wee cajoling.

The Eureka moment today happened with the guidance of a 3 year old boy. I have to pause at this moment because as I was typing my son suddenly started saying ‘potty’, ‘potty’. So I rushed into the living room to see my son shifting uncomfortably in a damp patch on the sofa. So I put him on the potty while I put the cushion cover in the washing machine along with the trousers and pants.

So, back to the Eureka moment, I figured it had been a while since his last accident, so I put him on the potty and put on his favourite film, cars. After a while I heard him say ‘all done’. He has said this many a time after emerging from a dry potty, but when I glanced down and saw a pool of yellow I cheered as if we had won the lottery (well maybe that is slightly over-dramatized but you get my drift).

Like most parents going through this process (mainly mothers as we tend to be slightly better at multiple reminders), I wondered whether this would represent the turning point. The sofa incident proved that we are still a way off.

This was further confirmed when I watched my baby boy walk across the room with his toy laptop, pause, adjust his legs a little wider, drop a brown bomb that arrived on the laminate flooring with a splat and then carry on walking again as if it was entirely normal to ‘poo on the go’. I suppose he has seen our dogs do it and then watched me picking it up with a bag so assumes its ok for him too. I swiftly picked him up and carried him over to the potty in the next room and placed him on the potty. I hadn’t realised that another brown package had descended on route to the potty and I walked straight through it. My daughter was watching this as if she was watching some disgusting comedy kids programme on TV providing commentary as she watched me tackle the poo. I quickly peeled off my poo covered socks and whisked them to the washing machine.

Then the doorbell rang. It was my friend and I welcomed her in explaining why me and the house might smell a bit suss. Armed with Dettol spray I returned to the site of the incident, I returned to find it had magically disappeared and glanced up to see one of my dogs licking her lips. My daughter said, ‘yeah she just ate the poo’. I don’t know whether she attempted to stop her or whether she decided to keep quiet and see how much of baby boy’s poo our dog was willing to eat.

The whole entire time my son was watching this while sat on his potty. He is going to be one confused kid.

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A dose of London

I went to the big smoke and got a taste of what Evan Davis calls the most productive and creative hub in Britain and why it is a vacuum for businesses and employees. As soon as the train pulled into Waterloo, the buzz of busy people pouring in and out of trains, turnstiles, cafes and offices sweeps you away on a tide of urgency. This sense of self-importance and people on a mission rubs off and is highly infectious. Once I got to my destination, I was able to meet with many people in my line of work and pretty soon ideas, advice and knowledge sharing was ping ponging round the room. I just wouldn’t be able to have access to this knowledge sharing environment in my everyday workplace. As I was furiously scribbling down notes inspired by the people around me, I understood what Evan Davis meant in explaining the importance of the  big city hub mentality for business growth.

It was nice to leave London’s hustle and bustle too. As I left on the train I  felt time was slowing down again and I could relax after an intense business ‘hit’.

London is a bit like Cadbury’s chocolate, nice every now and again but no good for you in the long term if consumed frequently.

On my way I back bought some London landscape stickers for my son and daughter. It was good timing as my daughter had just received he first letter from her pen pal in New York and she is planning to send some of the stickers to her in the hope that they may exchange local landmark stickers. I love it that they are communicating through the traditional way of putting pen and paper and air mail.

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The eye of the beholder

This morning I woke up with my eyes sealed shut, my ears throbbing and the glands in my throat aching – the virus that has lingered with my husband for what feels like weeks has finally taken hold.

Eyes are the Windows to your soul. So when they are all red and gunky its not a great advertisement for your inner emotional wellbeing. I arrive at work and within minutes of being there my colleagues are asking ‘if I am ok?’ with a sympathetic expression on their face, clearly assuming that I had bin crying my eyes out all the way to work. No, I just have this highly contagious affliction. It is lovely that they care enough to ask if I am ok but I then assumed everyone I came into contact with would assume the same thing. Therefore I felt obliged to start all interactions with, ‘yes, about the eyes I have conjunctivitis’, then I watch them physically recoil. It gave me an insight as to what it must feel like to be a social leper, but I can completely understand their reaction.

My solution was to therefore wear my specs. I normally reserve these specs for VDU use or when I want to feel a bit like a foxy secretary (or at least try anyway), I am not sure they work as far as making me appear more intelligent. I prefer to work with people’s pre-conceived ideas in a different way, by looking a bit dopey and then surprising everyone – in the style of racehorse Seabiscuit.

It got me thinking how so many of us are different to how we appear, take David Beckham for example. It can work the other way, there are some people I have come across who look like snobs, and true enough they are. They tend to look as if there is a subtle but permanent foul smell underneath their nose causing it to wrinkle ever so slightly with a slightly elevated jaw, the eyes have a stare that appears so indifferent yet highly judgemental. These people I put into the tosser category and if I had to compile a few characteristics for Room 101, these guys would be top of my list, partly because they exacerbate my inferiority complex, but mainly because of the ignorance which lies at the very root of their snobbish tendencies. This is why I am surprised to find teachers acting this way, because I like to think teachers are, on the whole, intelligent. I believe it is difficult to be both intelligent and ignorant – but maybe it is possible with a crap education system based on the ideology of Michael Wilshaw and Michael Gov.

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A great way to start Monday

I am looking forward to work tomorrow, not because I relish the prospect of what lies in store at my desk but because I will be handing over the responsibility of potty training to the nursery. It is so much easier to say, ‘yes he is in pants but just needs to be put on the potty frequently to remind him when not to do it so he can ensure he pees on the floor the minute your back is turned……oh, and here are the umpteen pairs of trousers and spare pants, just in case.

Since project potty began, I have been waking up at 6 am in anticipation of his morning bowel movement and need to pass water the minute he stirs from is sleep. It is particularly important as he likes to visit his sister first thing in the morning. He woke up with a dry bed yesterday morning and this lulled me into a very false sense of security.

This morning I awoke to, “Mum, he has done a poo in my room”. As I dragged myself from slumber to realise that the sentence was in existence in the conscious world, I leapt to my feet and almost bumped into my hubby as he made his way to her room after having a very similar reaction. I told him to go back to bed for the last 5 minutes before his alarm was due to go off as it doesn’t take more than one parent to pick up a child’s poo.

When I saw a friend later and mentioned the incident she said, ‘oh but that’s not too bad, they are generally easy to pick up’….. not my son’s poo. Without going into too much detail, if it had stayed in his pants it would have made one helluva skidmark. It took 3 sprays of vanish to return the area into a colour that faintly resembled the original carpet. Unfortunately it was only a few centimetres away from where my daughter was sick a few months ago and that was a definite ‘pizza without the base job’, which had me scrubbing for days. At this rate I will have to re-locate my daughter’s bed to expose patches of fresher coloured carpet, but I might just leave that til after the penny has dropped (scuse the pun) with my little boy.

I am sorry that the subjects of recent posts have been dominated by pee, pants, poo and pot. There are far, far, far more interesting topics and important subjects in other blogs. I am hoping that, for some, this offers some light relief from the more high-brow subjects, albeit in the shape of my son’s toileting habits, or lack of.

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Bear talk

We are now on day three of potty training and I am already exhausted with potty reminders. I am seriously considering getting baby boy a build a bear designed for potty training with a recording of my voice saying ‘pee and poo in the potty not in your pants’. This approach would be good for several reasons:

1) Before and after every accident he would be receiving the potty reminder from the calm and friendly face of a bear, in a tone that isn’t being said through gritted teeth and from a face that isn’t trying to suppress frustration

2) I would give my voice a rest and could exercise some of my frustration each time I squeeze the bear to get it to talk

3) I could keep the bear for when he hits his teenage years and threaten to show it to his friends and girlfriend each time he has an attitude problem

4) he might listen to a bear more than he will listen to his mother…

In fact maybe I should get a bear for each stage of his development (although maybe not the birds and the bees – that’s just plain wrong).

In the meantime I will just settle for lots of Dettol, vanish carpet cleaner, an overflowing washing basket and a load of Mickey mouse and Thomas the tank engine pants. Yes the packet of half empty nappies are talking to me in the same way as a Cadbury chocolate bar to try and tempt me but I will not deviate from the path to dryness……..although if this goes on for a fortnight it really will be testing my resolve.

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Swimming for the better

I’m going to have to keep this blog post short as my eyes feel like pissholes in the snow, I am so tired. It is a lovely tiredness, if I could use such an adjective, because it follows the satisfying feeling of completing a challenge. Myself and my friend finished a 5k swim in an hour and a half, which included a couple of breaks as we took it in turns to support my daughter’s swim, whose performance was by the far the most impressive achievement.

She had been so worried that she wouldn’t manage the mile long distance of 64 lengths and I kept reassuring her that it would be manageable once she divided the distance into chunks of 20 lengths. After I had one my first 50 I went o swap with my friend to see how m daughter was doing and I couldn’t believe that she was two thirds of the way through without stopping. She just found her rhythm and kept going. She enjoyed it so much she wants to return next year and do 1oo lengths of the pool. Thus raising the bar for me and my friend to go for the 200 lengths distance.

What undoubtedly kept my daughter going was the support she had already received from friend’s and family – £155. Combined with me and my friend’s target, the grand total we raised was £355. If last night’s sport relief programme is anything to go by this amount will keep a several children in education for a year and will buy plenty of mosquito nets to stop the spread of malaria amongst children.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday evening.

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An inevitable tide

I am about to embark on the Sport Relief challenge but something even more challenging has come my way……potty training.

Not me, I hasten to add, I have been ‘dry’ for about 32 years now, except in I999 when I shouldn’t have touched the bottle of Metaxa….. I am referring to the potty training process of my 2 year old son.

It started with the purchase of Mickey mouse pants (I love encouraging him to repeat that phrase as he has a lisp). Once home I wasted no time getting him on his new pants and saying bye-bye to nappies after over 2 years. Then the ticking time bomb commenced. When would he need to do his first wee? I encouraged him to sit on the potty and then remain on it, reading half of his book collection in an effort to key him on the throne. But to no avail. After a play in the garden, I saw he started to walk like John Wayne and he announced to me that he was ‘wet’. So with minimum fuss I changed him into another version of his Mickey mouse pants and then commenced the frequent reminders of ‘potty’.

After he woke up from his afternoon nap I thought he might need a wizz but 5 books later the well of the potty was still dry. The focus on toilet routines had the opposite effect on me, I wanted to go to the loo even more frequently than normal. So, I decided to lead by example ably assisted by a baby Bjorn trainer seat. He seemed to be happier perched on this but even so all the children’s literature in the world could not encourage the waterworks, not even with the taps running.

So I know he has control, he just needs to learn how to release that control. I fear that will happen in his sleep tonight but I am confident that by this time next week we will be nappy free.

I have just enjoyed watching the Sport Relief programmes on the BBC, including the reports from Africa, which were incredibly difficult to watch but reinforce why Sport Relief is so important. You just get the feeling that much more could be done if our world operated slightly differently (I am referring to programmes, such as last night’s channel Four programme on the customers of Rolls Royce). How many malaria vaccines could be bought with the equivalent capital to buy one person seven Rolls Royce.

But until re-distribution of wealth is sorted, causes like Sport Relief do their best to make do on the generosity of people wanting things to change, if only they could change for good rather than stem the tide of poverty that seems to be inevitable across the world.

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gap between developing and developed countries, rich and poor