DECEMBER MADNESS

Was that December that just flew past me in a blur? I think it was, though it all happened so fast I’m not sure. There seemed to be so much going on last month that it’s taken a few days to digest it all. First there was my birthday on the 1st. It wasn’t a big one, not yet; I’m still clinging on to my thirties, but nevertheless I still like to mark the occasion.

Then there were an endless number of nights out. Everyone feels as though they must catch up before Christmas, as though it is some kind of deadline that cannot be missed. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a night out, but I went out more times in one month than I had done all year; our baby sitter practically moved in. I had to drive to a few of these nights out so as to avoid a hangover. I can’t do hangovers on school nights any more.

Talking of school, with two children in full time education and one at pre school, there are an endless amount of activities going on throughout the year, december being perhaps the busiest. As it is, I have a calendar which has a column for each of us, plus a spreadsheet (I kid you not) with all the during and after school clubs that they do so that I can keep track. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue. In addition is a notice board for the extra activities that get thrown at you. Last month it was all about nativity performances and christmas parties, oh and a Roman day thrown in for good luck.

One mouse costume was all I had to provide (mice played a pivotal role in the nativity story!) thank goodness. My son was dressed up as a shepherd for his in what looked like the entire stock of the pre school tea towel supply. Still it was very cute, and it only lasted ten minutes, which was long enough for a bunch of 3-4 year olds. Next came the parties. One daughter had to bring in her own plate of non-perishable food, which basically translates as sweet and savoury treats and resulted in a hyperactive frenzy of five year olds, charging out of their classroom at pick up time.

We went to see my family for Christmas this year which meant that we had to fit in seeing the other side of the family at some point. We settled on a date in the week before Christmas, as that was the only one we could all do. That was probably the busiest week of the whole month, so perhaps not the best idea on reflection. Still, it was fun and it marked the start of present giving and receiving, which for us then seemed to continue until Christmas Day.

Christmas Day is my son’s birthday. He was four this time and it still doesn’t seem as though we have worked out exactly what to do for his birthday. And I’m still not sure he realises when it is. This year he opened presents on the 19th, both Christmas and birthday, with his auntie and cousins and grandparents. Then he had a party on the 21st and opened more presents. Then on Christmas Day itself, he had presents from his other relatives in addition to his christmas ones. Now I’m convinced that he thinks the whole of that week was devoted to his birthday!

Incidentally, the 21st of December was not only our sons birthday party, it was also our tenth wedding anniversary. We had planned to go out that evening but we were too exhausted after we had tidied up and got the kids to bed. In the week of ‘fitting everything in’ that was the one thing that we didn’t manage to do. But luckily we had anticipated this and had a weekend away in September!

So after all the nights out, parties and festivities I was quite glad to get home and return to normality. This is the first time I have managed to reflect on the month gone by and I can see now why it went so quickly. It is not surprising that we chose to stay in on New Year’s Eve this year and I didn’t mind one bit. In fact it was refreshing to spend New Year’s Day hangover free. I have never gotten so much done on that day before; the decorations came down, the house was tidied, it felt the appropriate thing to do. Time to draw a line under 2012, breathe a sigh of relief that we got through the last month and start to look forward to what 2013 will bring.

HEALTH KICK

Wednesday 12th September

HEALTH KICK

I have just started an extremely restricted diet for the sake of my health.  It is not the first time I have done this diet, but this time I am determined to do it properly.  The reasons behind this go back to way before I had children, when I suffered from IBS problems, plus various other things.  At the time I saw an amazing Homeopath, who helped to ‘sort me out’ and during my child bearing years I didn’t suffer at all.

However, after I had my third child, the problems started back again and it felt like all the good work that the Homeopath had done was unravelling.  Once I had emerged out of the fog that is the initial year or so after having a new baby, I decided enough was enough and had to do something about it.

I went to see an allergy specialist who tested my tolerance to a wide range of food stuffs and there was a very clear pattern that emerged.  I was having a problem with two things in particular, first was the nightshade group of foods, which includes tomatoes, potatoes and peppers (things that I ate practically every day) and secondly was yeast.  I went away from this appointment having been told to cut out all foods containing the offended items for the next two months to see how I got on.

I was feeling optimistic about this and up for the challenge until I read the list of what I had to give up.  If you are going to cut out yeast and in so doing kill off the overgrowth that so commonly occurs in the gut, then you need to cut out every form of sugar from your diet.  This includes milk, cheese and fruit, as well as the common forms of sugar, like sucrose and glucose.  And it even includes anything that is readily converted to glucose when eaten, such as white pasta or white flour (anything not wholegrain).  Then there are the foodstuffs that contain yeast and this includes bread, anything containing breadcrumbs, gravy, yeast extracts and funghi related foods such as mushrooms.

I wasn’t given a list of what I actually was allowed to eat and it didn’t seem like it would have been a very long list either.  But when I sat down and thought about it I realised that I could get by on a very plain diet of meat and fish with vegetables and substitute potatoes for rice, pasta or other grains.  And this I did for the stated two months (with a little bit of cheating like the odd bowl of low sugar cereal with a scraping of milk) and I have to admit that I felt a lot better for it.

That was nearly two years ago and the stomach pains have come back.  So this time I am going to have to do it a little more seriously and try to develop my diet so that I can sustain this type of eating for the long term.  To help me I have bought a cookery book, with recipes that are specially designed to contain no sugar, yeast or other offending items.  The recipes for the main meals sound really good, so I have decided that I will cook them for the whole family.  It cannot do them any harm to eat like this.  After all, once you start to look, you realise just what an incredible amount of sugar we actually eat in our diet without even realising it.

There are a few things I am really going to struggle with, one of which is snacks.  I do need to eat something between meals, but I cannot live the rest of my life eating only ryvitas, rice cakes and oatcakes.  Fortunately there are quite a few snack-type recipes in my book to try.  Having said that I have just made a carrot cake this afternoon with my son and believe me ‘cake’ is too good a word for it.  I mean you can’t call anything without sugar a ‘cake’ can you?  I would be more inclined to call it wholemeal pastry with a taste of cinnamon.  Anyway, it’s the first recipe I’ve tried, it’s edible and it’s a change from ryvitas.

The second thing I am really going to miss is coffee.  I was one of those people who could actually state that I can’t live without my daily cup of coffee and although I’m not yet craving the fix, I think in the long term I will just feel like I’m really missing out whenever I smell that lovely aroma.  I’ve told myself that in a couple of months I may treat myself to a decaf.  It’s not actually allowed, but life’s too short not to bend the rules a little.

And the final thing I will really struggle with is the no alcohol rule.  I like to have a glass of wine now and then and see it as a social accessory, rather than a relaxation tool.  There are so many social situations that arise and having to be tee-total at all of them will be a drag.  Wine and beer will definitely have to be ruled out for now, but I will have to sneak in a vodka here and there to keep my spirits up (quite literally), I’m sure.

The great thing about this diet for me though, is that it feels like I am literally giving my body a spring clean (even though it’s nearly Autumn) and it feels like a step in the right direction for the whole family towards a healthier lifestyle.  Here’s hoping we can keep it up.

Aside

Little Heroes Nursery Appeal

http://www.rlsb.org.uk/2012/the-positive-impact-of-music-therapy/

The Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB) are running a campaign to raise funds for their nursery; ‘£100,000 in 100 days for blind toddlers’

Support the appeal – text NURSERY to 70007 to give £3 to help blind toddlers.

www.littleheroesappeal.com

Link

WOBBLY TEETH

WEDNESDAY 22ND AUGUST

LOOSE TEETH

My five year old has recently lost the first 3 of her milk teeth.  True to her character, the first 2 of these teeth were literally lost, presumed eaten (I didn’t check).  For some reason my daughter has always had a fear of the unknown and an unwillingness to try new things.  So unlike probably every child that has ever been or will be, she refused to wobble her loose teeth.  How anyone could resist wobbling a loose tooth is beyond me, but it meant that said teeth were left hanging by a thread.  It was a case of here one minute and gone the next, never to be seen again.  Luckily, because my daughter had no idea about the tooth fairy bringing you a coin in exchange for your tooth (it must have passed her by whenever my eldest daughter lost hers) it wasn’t a big deal and we cordially wrote a note to apologise to the tooth fairy and explain the situation.  By the time the third tooth was ready to come out lessons should have been learned, but apparently not.  My daughter was distraught at the idea of wobbling it to make it come out and freaked out when her elder sister said she would do it for her.  In the end this meant a whole afternoon with the tooth hanging by a thread.  ‘Here we go again,’ I thought, but by some miracle the tooth came out during dinner and was saved.  Third time lucky, as they say.

This time there was much excitement about putting the tooth under the pillow and my elder daughter helped her sister to write a note asking lots of questions of her tooth fairy.  However, the next morning saw my daughter completely forgetting to look for the coin or an answer to the note.  It was left to her sister to remind her, as I think the whole idea fuels her imagination in a much greater way than it does her five year old sibling.  Even at the same age, she would have tried to stay awake all night just to catch a glimpse of her fairy.

In contrast to her younger sister, when my eldest lost a tooth on holiday recently (after wobbling it for hours on end), she carefully set it out by her bed with a note asking questions regarding who this ‘holiday’ tooth fairy was and whether she knew the one back home.  The next morning no tooth fairy had been (oops) and she was most disappointed.  This led to the launch of an elaborate story/lie on my part about how we were on holiday so her usual tooth fairy would have had to contact another one who lived near to where we were staying to ask her to collect the tooth instead.  As we were only visiting, this new tooth fairy would have had to put us to the bottom of her list, so that she could see to her usual children first and that maybe she’d been particularly busy and hadn’t managed to get to us yet.

And would you believe it, when we got back from breakfast she had been!  She even managed to leave a note telling us all about herself and how she knew my daughter’s tooth fairy back home.

I was telling some friends later about how such an elaborate lie to an eight/nearly nine year old did not sit comfortably with me.  After all aren’t we teaching our children how important it is to tell the truth?  My friends said I should get over it as it is lovely that she still believes.  The jury is still out as far as I am concerned.  It doesn’t feel like lying when the children are younger, but my eldest is getting to that age where she wants to know ‘things’ and she wants to be grown up; it feels like we’re teetering on the edge of that baby phase and all the things that are comforting to know and believe.  I don’t know if I want that bubble to burst just yet, but I know it won’t be long until it does.

I hope that when the time comes to stop believing in the tooth fairy, my daughter will not come charging through the door demanding to know why I lied to her for all those years. Instead I hope she appreciates how much fun it was to believe and can look back on it with fondness.  I hope, also that she will see it as a graduation into the ‘grown-ups’ club.  The challenge will be if she can welcome the responsibility of keeping the secret safe for the sake of her two younger siblings or whether she will feel compelled to dispel the myth to them on the grounds that if she knows the truth then why should they get to carry on believing.  We will have to wait and see.

Aside

MEMORABLE WEEK

Sunday 5th August

MEMORABLE WEEK

The first day back from holiday is always the hardest. Unpacking, washing, ironing (if you can be bothered) and having to cook again! I have just spent a whole week not having to do any of that and it was bliss, but by the end of today it felt like a distant dream. Thank goodness for the fantastic night of athletics last night to cheer me from the depression and delay the post holiday blues.

One week is just not long enough for a holiday, though. I always feel that it takes until Wednesday for everyone to relax and settle into the new surroundings, especially my youngest, who was asking to go home up until then. But by then you only have two more days before you are thinking about packing and coming home. It’s just not fair.

I feel particularly pouty about coming home from holiday this time as we have spent a week in the company of a wonderful family, who we only get to see either yearly or every couple of years. They live on the beautiful Island of Jersey and it is a joy to have the excuse of taking a whole week’s holiday in order to see them. But it is always sad to say goodbye.

My friend and I met when we trekked the Inca Trail in 1999. We shared a tent and were literally huddled up together at night to keep warm. If you can’t make a friend for life in that situation then I don’t think you ever will. Lucky for us that we got on so well and have kept in touch ever since.

Over the years we’ve visited each other and have seen our families grow; my friend already had a daughter, but since then has gone on to have three boys. Up until I had my first child, I stayed at my friend’s house and would only visit for a weekend. But when child number two came along (for both me and my friend) we decided to turn our visit in to a family holiday and have since been four times. I can’t say I will ever tire of going, as it is such a great place. This time we took the grandparents and they had a great time too.

It was such a joy to spend time with my friend and her family. It was great seeing how much her children have grown and come on since the last time we saw them. And unbelievably they all got on so well with each other. My children are lucky to have their ‘Jersey friends’ who they can look forward to seeing when we go there. I think that made the holiday particularly special for them.

Sometimes you make a friend who you know is a friend for life. Other people may come and go, and you may not see or speak to each other very often, but it doesn’t matter. You know that you can drop straight back into easy conversation as though it were only yesterday that you last spoke. That is certainly how I feel about my friend, and although I was sad to say goodbye knowing that we might go a whole year without seeing each other again, I know that we will have a wonderful time when we do.

Aside

SUMMER OF SPORT

Tues 3rd July

THE SUMMER OF SPORT

We have been building up to the Olympics for so long now; not only as a nation but also at individual school level, that the children are positively bursting with excitement. We’ve had aerial photos of the children dressed in the Olympic ring colours, a fake torch being circulated to all the schools in the area, which was greeted with a procession and a performance of the Olympic Mascot dance, Olympic themed sports events and even a sports-related summer fair. To top it all off, the children have been given permission to be taken out of school on the day that the real Olympic torch passes through our town. The irony is hardly any of us have managed to secure any tickets to the actual event, which is a huge shame, especially as the Olympic Park is practically on our door step.

Last week was a very ‘sporty’ week for us at school; my five year old had her first ever sports event, which for reception, year 1 and year 2 involves fun activities like obstacle courses and parachute games. The children move around a circuit of activities with their whole class, within which they are split into teams (or houses) to ‘compete’ against each other. There are no winners or losers at this level.

I thought my daughter would be indifferent towards the sports morning, but every time I looked at her she was jumping up and down, eager for her team mates to return and for her turn to arrive. In the past I have seen children complete the obstacle course with such precision that they have had to turn back and repeat parts of it if they felt they hadn’t done it properly. The fact that it was actually a race had not even registered with them. So it was interesting to see the first signs of competitiveness in my own five year old.

It contrast to the lower school, the children in years 3-6 take part in a much more traditional style sports day, with track and field events, as well as the much loved egg and spoon, sack and three legged races. My elder daughter competed in this sports day for the first time this year. It was amazing to see the difference in the attitudes of the children at this level. Obviously some are naturally more competitive than others, but by year 3 they all understand what it means to be involved in a competition. Hearing them chanting the name of their houses and cheering on their team mates made for a great atmosphere. It was very infectious too; I was jumping up and down cheering on my daughter’s team even when she wasn’t racing.

I know that some schools do not have individual races anymore, only team events. It is supposed to protect the children from the winning and losing scenario, but I think that is a shame and I’m glad my children’s school don’t do that. My daughter might not excel in maths but she is a pretty decent sprinter, so why shouldn’t she get her chance to shine?

On the same evening we went to a district sports event to compete on behalf of the school against other schools in the area. It was difficult for the children as they were all tired after the mornings’ sports but they did really well. My daughter loved it; she only did one race but it was more about the camaraderie than anything else.

Being part of a team is a great experience and instilling a sense of competition into children is good for them too as it drives them to succeed and better themselves. Children need to learn that they can’t be good at everything, but it is important for them to find what they are good at, whether it’s creative, academic or sporty, so that they can nurture their talent. Sometimes we lose a race, we may fail a test or an audition or someone may produce a better quality piece of work than us. The question is though, do we give up and refuse to try again or do we take the attitude that we will work harder for next time?

‘It’s not the winning that’s important it’s the taking part’

But is it though? To a great extent ‘yes’ but the will to win is the driving force behind most of society’s successful people, from business entrepreneurs to sports people.

Hopefully, the children of the UK, having already been inspired by the Olympics coming to London, will find further inspiration when they see the athletes in action. Our family will certainly be cheering on team GB and we are looking forward to some memorable moments from this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Aside

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD READS?

Tues 24th June

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD READS?

My eldest daughter has recently turned into a bit of a book worm. What’s surprising about this is she has struggled so much with her reading that it hasn’t interested her much up to now. She has always loved stories though, but enjoyed being read to more than learning to read alone.

When my daughter started school, the first books she brought home were picture books i.e. no words; the idea being for the child to tell the story themselves by looking at the illustrations. It was a real struggle for me to get my daughter to sit down and go through these books; they didn’t inspire her and she wasn’t interested in even trying.

Looking back I think it was quite hard at the time to sit down and spend a quiet few moments going through the books. I had a newborn and a two year old to deal with, so there was plenty to keep me occupied and the only time we had to sit down together was at bed time. That was always too late; tiredness would only make her worse and we used to end up falling out. I used to tear my hair out in frustration at her inability to grasp the whole concept of sounding out the words and recognising repeat ones.

At the end of reception year, my daughter had still not grasped the concept and she almost had to start again in year one. I blamed the reading scheme, as a lot of the books that were included at each level were factual and not aimed at girls. I remember one book where we had to read about pipes underground; everything from water mains to electricity cables and telephone lines. I challenge anyone to find that interesting.

So for a while we did our own reading; I bought some books from another reading scheme and things finally started to fall into place. Then last year I was at my mum’s house and I discovered all my old books in the loft. I brought them home with me and started reading them to my daughter. I didn’t push her to read them by herself, but I wanted to read to her some of the stories that had inspired me; stories that had such an impact on me that I can still remember them to this day.

It has been fantastic to re-read some of my old favourites, and to see my daughter enjoying them too is even better. I think that is has inspired her at last, as she has now started to read them on her own. Every night she reads before she goes to sleep and is often reluctant to put the book away when it’s ‘lights out’, as she’s become so absorbed in the story and its characters.

These are some of the books that were my favourites:

Heidi – Johanna Spyri

Beezus and Ramona/Ramona the Pest – Beverly Cleary

The Enchanted Wood/The Folk of the Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton

The Wishing Chair – Enid Blyton

The Famous Five – Enid Blyton

Malory Towers – Enid Blyton

My Naughty Little Sister series – Dorothy Edwards

Gobolino the Witches Cat – Ursula Moray Williams

Little Old Mrs Pepperpot – Alf Proysen

James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dhal

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dhal

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing/Superfudge – Judy Blume

Are you there God, It’s me, Margaret? – Judy Blume

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgeson Burnett

What Katy Did – Susan Coolidge

Little Women – Louisa M Allcott

Just last week, my daughter finished reading ‘Lily Alone’ by Jacqueline Wilson. She was left feeling let down because the ending wasn’t as she expected and she didn’t know if the children in the story were going to be ok. Jacqueline Wilson books are often about socially deprived children in difficult situations and things don’t always work out as you hope they would; a bit like real life you might say, but my eight year old isn’t ready for that yet. She still needs a happy ending. It doesn’t have to be fairytale style, but one where you are left feeling that everything will be ok.

I quickly directed her to ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’ by Judy Blume; an easy to read introduction to a fantastic author, who, not unlike Jacqueline Wilson, wrote about real life situations, but with a lighter touch. When I heard my daughter laughing out loud at the antics of one of the characters in this book, I knew that we were ok again.

I know there are some fantastic new authors out there for today’s generation, but it’s great to see that the old ones have stood the test of time.

What were your favourite books as a child?

Aside

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