One sh1t at a time

My son pooed his pants again today. For me it was one poo too many and he got a firm slap on the bottom and was sent straight to bed with no book. I am at my wits end with this potty training malarkey, particularly as he has days and weeks when he doesn’t put a foot wrong then suddenly he has accidents all over the place. He is only 2 and a half and i have been told that this is typical for boys. It doesn’t make accidents any less palatable and stretches my motherhood patience to the max.

I think that is one of the biggest challenges as a parent, the ability to be patient in perpetuity. However, everyone has to draw a line somewhere and too often i see incidents when no line has been drawn creating an exhausting situation where the parent is at their wits end, while their child continues to misbehave. This was a common problem in the programme Mr Drew’s School for Boys, an example of what happens if bad behaviour continues unchecked.

It is constant, like correcting the course of a sail-boat on a windy day. My daughter was awful on Thursday, grumpy, sulky, whiney and not talking politely to either myself or anyone else, so i talked it over with her that night, discussed what she could have done better then the following day she was brilliant. But today, the bad behaviour returned so I had to call time -out again and then have another discussion about how she could have handled the situation better (ie not punching me when she needed my attention while i was talking to someone). I explained to her that i needed to finish my conversation before i followed Daddy’s request (he was waiting for me and my daughter felt under pressure so she threw me some mini punches).

So i have one child who needs constant reminders about toilets and another requiring training on how to behave around other people and how her actions and behaviour are perceived by others.

Motherhood is like life, you have got to take he rough with the smooth. Thankfully for every poo-ridden, grumpy moment there are 100 moments that if you could you would record to playback when they are grown-up and you are old. One of my biggest fears is that those times will pass too quick for my memory.

I am blogging every day for Unicef. Read about the charity campaign here.

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Dredd in the South-east

I have she-flu but managed to muster enough energy for ballet boot camp but not enough for a vaguely interesting blog post. I figured it had been a while since I had put a pound in the pot to Unicef for a missed post so I took the opportunity yesterday.

I have lived in the South-east all my life, the only slight movements between four counties, but recently have found the walls of the region closing in. I am starting to build up a resentment to passing landmarks that illustrate my younger years (schools, nurseries, friend’s houses etc) and would like to ‘get out’ and live in an area where there are no memories. I’m sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with this admission.

The South-east is also over-crowded and full mostly of people who ant to commute to the ever growing riches of London. I wonder if this trend continues into the next few decades whether England will be closer to resembling the geographic make-up of Judge Dredd. I mentioned to a colleague of mine my concern that the rest of the country, particularly the north, was being left-behind. She said that she didnt care, as far as she was concerned, she had done ‘her time’ up north while living in Nottingham for 10 years, it was abysmal and has never looked back since moving o London.

Being someone who likes to do the opposite of the majority, i am getting more and more inquisitive as to what it would belike to live ump North and become, as the characters in the film ‘lock stock and two smoking barrels’ put it ‘northern monkeys’ as opposed to ‘southern fairies’.

A friend of my husband’s said, ‘you don’t want to move up there, they are all fat’. I believe obesity is a nationwide problem, a trip to any local supermarket proves that point (although the supermarkets themselves are assisting this trend with the increasing price of fruit and vegetables and the decreasing price of crappy processed food). In fact it is not until you step into the rest of Europe (or if you voted Ukip omit ‘the rest’ from that sentence) that you see just how fat a nation we have become. In France, for example, you would be hard -pushed to find an overweight person on a trip to the shops let alone and the same goes for Spain and the Netherlands.

I wonder if part of the reason can be attributed to the cost of food and what is offered to buy. The Spanish and French like to cook most of their food from scratch, this cutting out nasties such as added sugar, which is so prevalent n ready-made food. It is this belief in a return to home cooking that underpins the philosophy of Sarah Wilson’s quit sugar approach – cook like our grandparents used to, with ingredients rather than a fork and a microwave.

I feel the north/south divide has become so defined that contemplating a move upcountry is not dissimilar to emigrating, hence its appeal on the ‘grass is greener front’.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Losing yourself

OK, I admit there are moments (too frequent) when I am away with the fairies. Evident in posts such as the one a few days ago when I was moaning that there was no coverage of the Isle of Man TT race. For some bizarre reason I thought it was taking place over the bank holiday weekend. Imagine my delight and confusion when we purchased a TV recorder earlier this week to find the TT previews and reviews had popped up all over the next 7 days on ITV 4. I even had a stupid moment when I thought ‘well that’s no good, what’s the point in previewing the past’. I feel it is good to recognise moments when my brain has momentarily left my skull and have a little chuckle.

I am seriously liking this record TV lark. I was enjoying it so much i didn’t watch any TV because I was too busy planning what programmes to record. Rather I was spending my TV time in anticipation of good TV. This task kept me up til past midnight (we dont do Sky hence why I am so excited as the ability to actually watch a programme when you want to watch it is a wjole new concept. Although i am only 34 i sound like a complete dinosaur.

However, we still had to watch a film the other night on the tablet because we havent got Netflix sorted put.

Which moves me nicely onto a movie to add to your must see list – Robert Redford’s ‘All is Lost’. Before you groan at the old Redford (my goodness he is old although it looks as if he has ‘had some work’) please don’t let prior judgements get in the way of seeing this film. The dialogue in this film is virtually nothing, Redford is very good at acting without words -arguably a sign of a good actor? in fact the only words you will here is right at the start of the film and then about 3\4  of the way through when he gets a little frustrated. If they had filmed me alone on a boat you would not have wanted to watch it for nearly 2 hours as the scenes would have featured a lot of muttering to myself, lots of swearing, crying, witnessing unpleasant personal’ habits culminating in suicide or an early death because I doubt I would have lasted as long as Redford. However, I am a natural optimist so I would never have admitted ‘all is lost’ even when gulping my last breath (and I wouldnt have wasted my last breath stating the bleeding obvious).

Regardless if you are in or out of sailing, All is Lost, is a brilliant film and I recommend giving it a go.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Taking candy from a baby is as easy as taking candy from a baby

So far so good with quitting sugar for life. I am in my third week and have been impressed with my resistance fending off cheesecakes, cadbury’s chocolate and iced buns without a backward glance. In her book, Sarah Wilson states that as you cleanse and r-train your palate the urges for sugar lessen. For me this has extended to even avoiding a little bit of honey during ‘time of the month’. I am doing so well on this diet that I fear even a little taste of sweetness is going to set-off all the cravings again. In many ways it is like nicotine addiction (I gave that up about 5 years ago and have certainly never looked back).

My children too are benefitting from this and I have noticed this crazy thing that has happened….if you don’t put sugary snacks in their lunch box they don’t ask for them. Instead I have been putting in far healthier ‘sweeter’ snacks such as pure fruit and fruit based snack bars (which do have a sugar content but nowhere near as bad as a biscuit or a cake) and i haven’t heard one complaint. I keep waiting for the moaning to start and it doesnt happen. I have given them ice-cream for pudding occasionally and I don’t prevent them from eating chocolate if it is given to them but i am now resisting the urge to give them a sugary treat favouring the far healthier alternatives – i just  didn’t believe it would be so easy. It just goes to show how much,  as parents, we unwittingly guide our children down the same nutritional path as we follow as well as the eating habits. If your child sees you comfort eat, chances are they will become a comfort-eater too. Just like so many things in life it is lead by example.

One big change I have noticed in my fridge since beginning the no sugar campaign is the lack of yoghurt and juice. I was astonished when I glanced at the nutritional content of a low fat yoghurt and saw the amount of sugar contained in one pot. Yoghurts are now in my’ do not buy’ category and I avoid them like the plague. Once again I feared my children’s reaction to no yoghurt on the menu but was surprised to find they didn’t even miss it let alone ask for it.

This goes to show that Western children are not really that fussy about eating. As long as they have a healthy appetite (ie not fed crap every 5 minutes to the extent that they never feel hungry enough to eat a proper meal), then kids will eat most food offered to them when given a steer as to the right foods to eat by the family (home cooked meal versus mcdonalds).

Check out some good recipes on www.iquitsugar.com

This blog is for Unicef.

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Not such a clever box

The trade-off of enjoying an evening off child-free is that somehow they make you pay for it the following day. My husband and I went to bed in the small hours so we didn’t quite have enough energy for the day ahead, combine this with a baby boy who didn’t get a good night’s sleep and you get the picture.

But bizarrely as soon as the children are in bed and you have a moment to sit down uninterrupted, energy levels are instantly restored, tempting us out of the decision to have an early night.

The reason for our reluctance to turn in is in the shape of a new smart TVand digi box.

My husband and I have never bought our own TV, we have managed to rely on parents’ hand-me-downs. So, when faced with which TV o get t was overwhelming. Three shops and 100 TVs later and we were making our first purchase. I was most excited about the prospect of recording programmes so was disappointed when we returned home to find the TV required another bit of tech available separately to make this happen. Surprise, surprise it was going cost another £150.

I was also excited about catching up on the isle of man tt race through the itv player on the TV. I scanned the entirety of the channel but could not find any footage of the race anywhere.

We then decided to  watch BBC iplayer instead and selected programme only  to have to wait 5 minutes in frequent pauses for buffering, because of our internet connection in the sticks.

This is why i dont get excited about technology, because it never seems to quite deliver.

So we went on a dog walk instead.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Accepting the unacceptable

“It was like someone had dropped a black cage over me and all I could see was darkness”. That was the recollection of a war veteran at a fundraising event myself and my hubby attended for Blind Veterans UK. He was in a building on duty for his boss when the explosion happened. He lost half of his right arm, some of his finger on his left-hand, most of his hearing and virtually all of his sight. The guy next to him died.

Because of this incident he didn’t get to see his 2 children when they were born and watch them grow up as his wife was four months pregnant when the explosion happened. Everything after that changed his life and he had to learn to live in darkness and rely on people, devices and guide dogs to move around. On occasions when he tried to assert independence, humiliating things would happen, like walking in to a river or ending up in someone’s back garden.

His carer said “life is like that, you either sink or swim”.

Blind Veterans UK sweeps up those who have found their life transformed by blindness and gives the support they need to live in their new reality. One of the biggest challenges  in having a disability is to accept it when life seems completely unacceptable.

For more information on Blind Veterans UK click here.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Social school

“The best thing about me is my brain” said my work colleague. It’s right, she is clever, she has such a capacious brain that she never feels the need to write it down, she can retain everything and remember everything. As a result her multi-tasking ability is impressive, which comes in handy for teaching philosophy.

Her brain is the main reason why she is reluctant to jump both feet first into child rearing. “My brain is all I have, if I sacrifice it for nappy brain, that’s it”.

It’s a shame really as it would be good to pass on such clever genes to future generations, although there is never a guarantee the right genes get passed on (the Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe scenario is a good example of this).

With one eye on the subject of my post yesterday, to what extent is a brain genetically modified and to what extent is it nurtured. The psychology of learning is fascinating and an area that Governments should be paying good money to research to advise on education reform.

If we were to understand the barriers to learning and then work hard to remove them what could be achieved? Obviously this is far too simplistic, all that we can really influence is the school environment, the home environment is a very difficult territory to address, particularly if a child is discouraged from learning at home. Generations of children were let down by a shocking state education system and they in turn had children and passed their negative feelings on either deliberately or inadvertently.

So if a Government improves the school life of one generation, then, with consistency and progress in the right way, future generations will fare even better.

Just as older generations suffer from missing certain sociological revolutions at the right age (causing them to vote Ukip and question the number of ethnic minorities in classrooms), what was ‘status quo’ before the age of 25 remains the case throughout life and so the merry-go-round of ideological slow progress continues.

That is why education is so important for humanity and why it is so disastrous if it goes wrong. Gove you have been warned….

I am blogging every day for Unicef.

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Happiness is perfect yet perfect isnt happy

I read an article by actress and stand-up comedian Francesca Martinez. It was brilliant and inspired me to order her book ‘What the f*** is normal?’ It also made me re-evaluate some of my views, particularly relating to parenting disabled children. I had always thought that parenting a disabled child overwhelming, although I could never have brought myself to abort a baby based on a predicted disability forecast by health professionals – a predicament that would have no doubt finished our marriage. My husband’s views on bringing up a disabled child are in contrary to his own childhood, which was marred by severe hearing loss due to brain damage.

Francesca looks at it from a different angle, ‘Most parents-to-be still fear that their beloved Newborn will turn out to be -oh, the horror – disabled. My personal fear is that my future child will turn out to be unhappy. I don’t care what he or she can or can’t do, how they talk or walk or how many fingers and toes they have. Because I don’t think that is a good indicator of happiness. Forget aborting babies because of the suffering they might endure. What about the suffering they will create? Wouldn’t it make sense to develop a test to check for the arms-dealer gene, the advertising executive gene, the corporate-overlord gene, or the gossip-magazine editor gene? That would eliminate quite a lot of suffering.’

I wish I had read Francesca’s article in The Guardian before I passed judgement on my daughter’s maths test mark. She described the scale of marks to me with 6 being the top score. I cant pretend that I was disappointed she had got a 3, they then get a sub mark in the form of letters, with A being the lowest and D being the top. Her total mark was 3B. I couldn’t hold back this disappointment and said that I didn’t  think her mark was ‘that good’ and that if she wanted to get into boarding school (her wish not mine) she was going to need to get a 5 or 6. What made me suddenly turn into a mother with the support and encouragement skills of an amoeba? Why did I turn into one of those pushy mothers who focus so much on grades they don’t recognise their daughter’s anorexia and anxiety attacks because of this unnecessary pressure to perform. Most parents say they just want their child to be happy, but also gets lots of qualifications and a high-earning job, the stress of which will put them into an early grave? I managed to halt the destructive path I was proceeding down when she explained to me that she had done her best and I later described it to Daddy in front of her as a ‘good’ mark, to which he said, ‘well that’s OK, it’s average’ gah! So I quickly added that no doubt Mummy and Daddy would have scored a 0 or a 1 if we had taken the same test at her age. Then I thought about the research that found those  who doubt their own maths abilities pass this down to their children. A fine case of how not to support the school life of an 8 year old. Next time I will apply duck tape to our mouths.

So tests are meant to give the teachers a steer on how the child is progressing and what additional support the child needs. I just wish teachers would give parents a steer  as to how we handle the news of the scores and whether we do nothing, praise regardless or encourage to try harder.

I agree with Francesca that kids and adults should just aim to be happy, so why as parents are we so f***in obsessed with perfection, when we are anything but.

I am blogging for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

 

£10 million to change the world?

So, what would you do with £10 million to conquer some of the world’s biggest challenges. That was the question posed by the BBC tonight when they launched the concept of the Longitude prize, a historic award that had previously achieved revolutions such as putting Greenwich and worldwide timekeeping on the map, thanks to a grant given to a carpenter and watchmaker, who succeeded in making a watch that would keep time at sea.

The Longitude is essentially about humanity and sustaining humanity for the future. The biggest issue facing us and our outlook for the future is climate change so this featured highly in the options. I was tempted to vote for the search to find a carbon neutral power for flight, as planes do the most harm to our environment. However, the winner of The Longitude prize would only have to enable a flight capable of a distance from London to Edinburgh, which I don’t think is enough to make a significant change. I am also unconvinced that aviation companies would be falling over themselves to adopt this new energy as there would surely be significant cost implications and we all know how squeezed profit margins are on airlines already. For this work it would take some Government intervention to put pressure on airlines to adopt the cleaner fuel.

I voted for a sustainable and nourishing food source that could be easily farmed, highly nutritious and wouldn’t cause pollution and waste to create it. The current alternatives are insects – which actually looked quite good and ticked all the boxes in terms of nutrition. For 1kg of beef, 22kg of cow feed needs to be produced – for 1kg in insect meat, only 2.2kg feed is required to give to the insects. I can also see insect farming providing a source of income for farmers in the developing world too. This idea had been developed in the Netherlands and they said the challenge to adoption in the West is changing people’s mind set. I think Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall should step forward and come up with some cunning insect recipes – it would all get us grazing on grasshoppers in no time. The other option is GM food, which has received so much bad press it is hard to understand whether it is good for us or not, apparently it is and is far more nutritious. Whoever wins the prize if food becomes the goal will ave the power o improve people’s diets world-wide, help to eliminate the harmful consequences of malnutrition, such as rickets and scurvey and help those countries who suffer from famine because they are unable to source nutritious food. It may also provide a new source of income and transform farming and agriculture plus reduce pollution as it has to be a sustainable food solution.

If you live in the UK and want to cast your vote, visit the website on the Longitude Prize.

This blog is for UNICEF.

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Break-time

“Red wine, I’ve had a little bit too much”, (as the Lady Gaga song goes) hence no blog last night, so a pound in the pot to UNICEF. Last night I was invited on a rare meeting of mums for a drink. I was very grateful for this as the day had been eventful. I awoke at 6.30 am to hear my son utter the words ‘pool and ‘pants’, I then opened his bedroom door to find poo all over the floor. It is great to start the day with vanish carpet cleaner in one hand and umpteen cloths and kitchen paper in the other, particularly semi-naked. It is the role of a mother to clean up poo, clothe children and put breakfast in front of them before clothing yourself. Its not a pretty sight but someone has got to do it.

Once work was put of the way I began the evening with the dreaded series of tasks before bed-time, tantrums, homework, hovering, clearing up spillages, potty time, empty potty time, bath-time, more hovering. I just thought I had done most of what I had intended to complete before hubby arrived from work when I noticed baby boy had upended a quarter of a bottle of shampoo onto his head and was gaily massaging it in. It took several hair washes before I could actually see hair rather than soap suds. At which point my husband arrives and joins us in the bathroom, helpfully glancing at his watch as if to say ‘why aren’t the children in bed and why isn’t my dinner on the table’ (well not quite as bad as that but you get my drift).

I did what any sane mother would do after an insane day and I threw my son’s watering can up in the air. My husband still hasn’t learnt to wait until I am free of objects in my hand before antagonising me because I am an impulsive hurler when provoked. I am sure this would serve me well in a game of cricket if I stayed angry for long enough. Why is it that, even though I too had worked all day, I was still expected to single-headedly organise the children, keep the housework chores at bay and cook? The watering can was temporarily liberating, so too was walking out the door a little while later to have a drink. Everyone needs the opportunity to let off regardless of  where you are in the world or what your situation is. Just as women in Syria still want to enjoy a hen night regardless of the fact that they are in a refugee camp. Men also need this, although they seem to get away with more expensive retreats such as power tools, sheds and big boy’s toys.

So last night was a much needed break, but I did get swept away with the number of glasses poured for me, I tried to reassure myself that the ‘I quit sugar for life’ book says red wine is better than white.

It is certainly true that a Mum after a night-off is much better than a Mum without a break.

This blog is for UNICEF.

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