Tuesday, 28 January 2014


There's been a lot in the UK news about phonics.
It's how kids are taught to read in reception year at school. By all accounts, it's probably better than previous systems. I went to school when "Look and Say" - or rather the 1980's version of said system was in full effect and it let rather a lot of people down. I count myself very lucky that my sister taught me to read and write quite fluently before I ever went near a school (although her methods probably wouldn't be accepted in modern schooling) and that meant that as the teacher went on about something I wasn't much interested, I could sit and read a book. I remember my Mum going to the infant school to complain that I was being sent home with books that had one or two words per page. "But she can read proper books!" she said. The teacher said something about the level I was supposed to be on, but pretty much conceded the point.
From what I've been told, they're not allowed to do that now. All reception year children, be they barely four or almost five, are started from the zero point of assuming they can't tell a letter from a brightly coloured plastic toy and that they probably don't know one end of a pen from the other either. Now, some kids probably don't.
But what about the ones that do?
The latest research is that kids who arrive at the start of this system who can either already read quite well or are well on the way are often damaged by it. Why? Because they have to start at the beginning from scratch regardless. They have to re-learn what is becoming instinctive already and given that half the English language does not follow the rules, causes them nothing but confusion.
Teachers are not allowed to divide the class up into those who can read and those who can't because they all have to take an official phonics test to make sure they know phonics. Not to make sure they can read, but to make sure they've learned the system. That's the mad bit. Apparently a child can do quite badly on the test, especially if they're already a fluent reader as it contains nonsense words to see if they get phonics.
So, my best bet is not to teach Joseph to read.

But here we hit a problem, and not an easy one to bypass.
Joseph is left handed, and very left handed at that.
Why should that be a problem? It might sound irrelevant, but I know it isn't. I am left handed and probably still would be a lot more left handed than I am if I had not grown up in a right handed world. From my point of view, the whole world is the wrong way round. Jars open the wrong way, pens are on the wrong side in banks and I sometimes get tangled up, I am constantly forced to use my weaker side to do things and as a result my poor brain has had to adapt and it isn't always easy. I don't say all this to moan or insist that the world changes for me, but being a leftie does come with a few problems.
Letters and numbers. It took me a long time to be clear over a d and a b. I wanted to write everything backwards, I wanted to write from right to left as that was what was comfortable and natural for me. I was nine or ten when I FINALLY worked out which way round fives, sixes and sevens should be. They just looked better the wrong way round and then I'd get flustered and my primary school teacher decided that it was because I was thick. I wasn't thick, just left handed. Oh how I am glad I started ahead of the curve with reading and writing, I don't think I'd have learned at all if we'd just relied on school alone.
Joseph is highly likely to have all the same problems. He too will quickly see how the world is all back to front and his little brain will have to work harder to make sense of it, so it makes sense to start early and make sure he's not at left to the whims of an education system that always seems to prefer leaving the struggling kids to struggle rather than work out why.
Except, as is now being shown, arriving at reception year at school already able to read IS a disadvantage.
Sometimes home schooling is jolly tempting.
Except that according to all the experty people I will be doing him a disservice by depriving him of regular social contact with his peers.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Yes or no?

It's a bit of a rough ride, this pregnancy. Having gone straight from being sick to constant indigestion I am also suffering with lack of sleep as my joints have got very painful and keep waking me up at night. I'm also finding that if I need to spend any length of time on my feet - even just a little while to do something like cook a meal - then I need to wear support bandages on my lower legs to keep from going light headed. I can't walk far or fast, but they have been very nice to me at work this week. I got to spend the whole day sat at a table at the front of the shop making the models for the Easter Inspiration display. Two painted ducks, one covered in the delightful glue and tissue paper concoction we call decoupatch and a Humpty-Dumpty made from a large brown maché egg. He looks jolly good, though I say so myself.
At least I finally got to see a doctor this week. I have been referred for physio for my joints, but that will all depend on the waiting list. All I want to do is to be able to sleep comfortably! I have been given some cocodamol to help, but I'm rather nervous of taking it, despite being assured it's perfectly fine.
Is it? I was given pure codeine in my last pregnancy near the end of my first tremester for headaches, but found out on line it was not safe except in the second. I've looked again and the advice now says never in the second and emergency use only. Also not ideal in the third as it makes the baby drowsy and the baby can become addicted if used regularly.
The doctor said it was fine, but the leaflet that came with the meds is quite specific - do NOT use if pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. Help! I'd just like to be able to sleep at night and not feel that people with acid covered red-hot pokers are investigating all the joints in my hips and legs.
It's Joseph that's the biggest loser in all of this. I'm permanently tired, bone achingly weary. I can't play with him like I want, my energy levels are too low and I can't sit on the floor for more than a few minutes without terrible pain and then I can't get up again anyway. The weather is either cold, rainy or both so taking him to the park so I can sit on a bench and he can run off his frustrations is a rarity. By the afternoon we inevitably end up snuggled on the sofa with Netflix on. I guess it's better than nothing, but I do have the nasty habit of falling asleep in the middle of whatever we're watching, only to have him poke me and tell me it's finished and can he have another?

Cocodamol isn't the only conflicting pregnancy information out there. There's lots.
Alcohol, for example. None at all is the standard advice, but lots of science people are chiming in saying that a little is ok, even moderate drinking, only to be followed by people who say "oh no it isn't" and then the first lot say "oh yes it is!"
As for eggs.... well, you don't eat raw or runny eggs because of the risk of salmonella. They're good at trumpeting that one about. Except - if you buy fresh eggs in the UK with the little red lion lasered onto it then they're guaranteed to be salmonella free. Also salmonella itself isn't known to harm the baby, but pregnant women are likely to be sicker because of our lowered immune systems. Not that you're at much of a risk of catching it in the first place if you buy the right sort of eggs.
Exercise. Some say none at all, others are equally authoritative that sitting around on your rapidly swelling bum all day is not on. It's not fat, it's oedema. 
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (try saying that when you've had a few, it's hard enough to type it sober!) got into a bit of hot water last year by publishing a list of things pregnant women should avoid and it was rather... well... to be frank, it was rather stupid. It listed things like moisturisers (umm... most pregnant women rub pints of the stuff just on their bump on a daily basis) and shower gell! Now, I'm one of these people with very sensitive skin and I can't shower as often as most people or I would turn into the itchy skin flake monster and then blow away in the next puff of wind, but even I will not give up the use of shower gell, especially as fragrances also make the list.
Also I am not allowed to buy any new furniture or cook wear, especially if it's non stick. I should not eat any form  of processed food, especially if it comes in a plastic pack. I should avoid any form of household chemical (woo-hoo, no cleaning!) and no pesticides. That's ok, we have a cat and she eats all the flies. Except that's not ok as cats are disease ridden bags of nastiness who harbour toxoplasmosis (and a general deep seated loathing for all and sundry, but that's not comunicable) which can harm your baby - but only if you're infected for the first time when pregnant. We've had the fluffy pain the ass for nearly nine years now and long before I was pregnant with Joseph I was having to empty litter trays and generally getting scratched for all my attempts to be affectionate. I probably got my first dose many moons ago and am now probably totally immune. Still, I have been advised to steer clear of poop and sick from the moggy so someone else has to clear it up. He he.

And, as far as I can tell, the most important dietary advice? Don't catch listeria. That's the one that really can harm the baby, but it tends not to get so high up the page as salmonella. That's the one you can get from not re-heating food properly and apparently it likes to grow on cooked rice. It also loves pate, so there are some things I am being jolly careful with.
Ironically it did result in an older lady sighing at me once. At a Christmas event, I had swapped my starter of several different kinds of pate (and it had been out of the fridge for hours!) for cream cheese.
"We didn't have all that in MY day." she said.
Yes, trust me, you did. You had listeria all right, but the risks weren't so well known, that's all. Some of the advice in pregnancy is silly, but some of it is very sensible so please stop saying that to pregnant women, it's one of the reasons less of us die now.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Feel the Love

It occurs to me that my last few blog posts have been in a very much negative frame of mind. I am stressed, I am tired, Joseph is driving me round the bend, I feel ill and I can't get a GP appointment for love nor money at the moment.
Well I've had enough of all the negative negative. Joseph hasn't managed to kill his fish - well all bar one and neon tetras are tiny sensitive little souls - and life in the tank will soon revert to normal as I spent half an hour cleaning sludge out of the filter today and replacing all the media.

I apologise in advance if this blog posting is a little bit more saccharine than usual, but I do feel that despite everything recently my little boy is always well worth all the effort I put in. He's taught me more about unconditional love than I ever thought could exist.
There's the way he bounces up when I go and get him up in the morning and he says "Hello Mummy, how are you today?" and I say "I'm fine, how are you Joseph?" and he says "I'm in my bed!!!"
There's the aggressive politeness - he always says thank-you  and if you don't say "You're welcome" quite quickly then he will keep saying thank-you until you do, in a louder and louder voice. He even started climbing across a table towards me shouting thank-you as he was annoyed I hadn't given him the correct response. If I thank him then I always get a "You're welcome" back.
He insists on holding the front door open for me. If I open the door myself, he gets annoyed and I have to close it again for him to open it. He says "Here you go Mummy." and lets me through first.
He will randomly ask for cuddles and I never turn them down - unless I'm driving, that could be a little awkward - as it makes both of us  very happy. I love it when he comes barrelling towards me with his arms stretched wide open and a big grin on his sweet little face. I know I have to brace myself as the force of it could knock a man down, but a cuddle is a cuddle.
I love our lazy afternoons, when we've had a busy morning out and we're tired we curl up on the sofa together and watch something on the telly. We've sat for an hour and a half at times, usually watching some daft kids film, sometimes under a blanket if it's a bit cold. I love the way he looks sad if I have to get up and then sits patting the empty spot on the sofa saying "Mummy sit here?"
I love the way he reacts when my husband comes home. He hears the door open and says "What's that? It's DADDY!" and then goes running. Unless Cars or Shaun the Sheep is on, sometimes it takes him a moment to notice. Poor Daddy is then not left in peace for a moment, but it often ends up with them conspiring together in Josephs bedroom and building a complicated brio track or some sort of monstrous lego creation. I love listening to the noise and the laughter.
I love that on Wednesday he dragged me upstairs to play in his room and he sat on one of his little chairs, made me sit on the bed and sat kicking his little feet saying "We're talking to each other." and his three year old lisp made the words rather unintelligible. We talked about a lot of things, everything from what the cat did to the anatomy of a steam engine. Joseph knows the valve gear from the smoke box and is getting better at saying "connecting rods". All of this has been learned from a steam train obsession and watching lots of you-tube clips about trains with his Daddy. Today I was explaining some of the basics of a formula one car to him today, he was fascinated.
I love that when we put him to be he yells "Night night!" at us through the door and doesn't stop until we respond. I love going back in on my way to bed and seeing him fast asleep and clutching his teddy.

He's a right pain most of the time, but you just gotta love him.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

What happens if I....?

Ah, the next stage in the mind development of a small boy.
We're getting into the "What happens if I do this?" stage.
Actually, I think there's a bit of that right from the start, but at the age of three he's finding many more things to be irritatingly curious about. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it sure got the toddler into a lot of trouble.

It started because I'm very tired. I'm finding it hard to sleep and that means I don't always make it through the day without a nap, just as Joseph is deciding that he doesn't really need one any more. Now, usually on a Wednesday I wade through a big pile of ironing whilst Joseph is sleeping but I thought I'd have a little bit of a sit down first.
Some long while later I woke up from an unintended but much needed nap to the sound of a toddler who was not asleep and probably never had been. Now, I should have just left him and got on with the ironing as quickly as possible. He didn't sound distressed so he'd probably have been ok, but I don't like leaving him awake in bed for too long.
An unwise decision - I got up, told him he could get up as long as he played upstairs for a bit while I got the ironing done. It didn't look too big a pile, but you know what ironing is like, it always seems to take far longer than it has any right to even if you are doing something of a improper rush job.
Joseph decided that rather than playing with his trains - which he had very much insisted I get out - he'd rather climb up on a chair and make a grab for things he's not allowed. He's getting tall, that boy, and things that were out of reach are no longer so.
Perhaps he was trying to get something else, but I can't help but wonder if he simply thought "I wonder what happens if I knock something over that I have been repeatedly told is delicate and breakable and I'm not allowed to have?"
It goes smash on the floor, that's what. And it makes Mummy cross, oh so very cross. To be honest, I was just as angry with myself over it. It would never have happened if I hadn't been dopey and dropped off to sleep when I had things to do. Still, he's knows he's not supposed to go climbing.
I told him off and told him that his punishment was to stay on his own a whole lot longer, which he seemed to understand and took with a measure of good grace as it appeared to be dawning on him that he'd done something really quite stupid. No downstairs time, no TV time and Mummy time was at an absolute minimum.
Daddy came home. Joseph's enforced banning from the living room came to a natural end and he came rushing downstairs to tell Daddy that he'd just fed his fish.
Huh? Now I know I put the food out of reach and I know he can't get the lid off. What's he done now?
As it turned out, the wretched boy has had another growth spurt and having not really learned the lesson properly from earlier, had embarked on another climbing spree. I still can't work out how he got the lid of the tub of food, he's never managed it before. Still, manage it he did and the entire tub had been tipped into the tank.
I've supervised fish feeding time many many times. Like all toddlers he has a measure of OCD and likes things done in a certain and proper way, the way we always do it. He knows it's two pinches of food and no more, he repeats it every time we feed the poor critters. Alas this time he decided that they must be hungrier than usual, and an awful lot of flake food had been tipped into the tank, around the tank and on the floor. Probably enough food to last about six months.
Anyone who knows anything about fish knows that even small amounts of over feeding can be dangerous, and a lot of excess food can be very toxic. The fish can't eat it, it stops oxygen dissolving in the water properly and as it starts to rot the levels of nitrate in the water skyrocket, poisoning the fish.
Cue an emergency water change and lots of scraping of sludge. Joseph was made to sit in a chair facing the corner the whole time. He just didn't understand how naughty he'd been. After all, he'd just been feeding the fish, something he does three times a week.

Four water changes in 24 hours later.....
Thank goodness we have a large aquarium downstairs that we've been borrowing water from. Andy has got most of the muck out of the water, but we'll probably have to do another couple of changes again tomorrow and strip the filter down to clean out all the sludge it will have inevitably picked up.

So Joseph, I hope you really have learned now. The answer to "What happens if I..." is usually "I get in trouble, a whole big heap of it." and I've learned that if I need to get him to play in his room on his own for a bit then I'm taking away the little chairs that go round his table.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Bump is getting bigger and a little uncomfortable as my abdominal muscles continue to get less and less efficient at what they're meant to do. If I lay down on the sofa to relax for a little bit then watching me get off is like watching a nature documentary about an ungainly walrus. Ok I don't have the teeth or the facial hair, but I do have the waddle. Also, my hips are getting very painful as is my back and thanks to the post Christmas back log (yes, still!) I can't get a GP appointment till next week. It's keeping me up at night and by mid afternoon I am utterly exhausted.
Now I know at three years old that Joseph is a little on the old side to still need a middle of the day nap, but I certainly do. Up till quite recently he's still been very reliable, often giving me a good clear hour and a half in the middle of the day to nap myself or at least just out my feet up with a cuppa and something diverting on the telly. Now, when I need the break more than ever, he's showing signs that he might just be a bit big for napping after all.
It's not being able to tell beforehand that gets me. Some days we have a busy morning, he runs around a lot and eats plenty and round about the usual time he is rubbing his eyes and looking quite tired. I sit him on the potty, get him in a nappy and in bed with little fuss and then spend quite a long time listening to him talking to himself and his toys, chucking stuff about the room and using the wall as a drum kit. Intervention depends on just how tired I am, on a few occasions I have sat listening to the noise and then found myself with a nasty crick in my neck an hour later with a cold cup of tea and a little boy exploring the percussive detail of all the different bits of his bed.
Other days I think it's not worth the bother, he doesn't seem tired and is rather reluctant to go to bed. I put him down, listen to a few minutes of unhappiness before it all goes quiet for a significant amount of time. I drink my tea, but usually don't manage to stay awake through the whole of the TV program.
The really odd thing is that if he's sounding really annoyed and upset then I know he has the greatest chance of actually sleeping. I think it's tiredness that brings it on, plus a good dose of toddler perverseness. I want to go up and comfort him, but I know I have to hold off for a least a while as he's highly likely to drop off.
When he's not sounding distressed I feel less inclined to go up, especially if he's sounding particularly chatty with his teddy, but he's very unlikely to sleep. In the end it comes down to just how tired I am feeling. If I can have even a short break and a little nap then I know we'll have a much better afternoon. I just have to hope he doesn't get too keen on drumming. Soon I know it will be not worth the bother at all, but I'm hoping he can hold out till the baby gets here at least.

I keep wondering what to do about pre-school. Now, I only work one day a week at the moment and that'll go soon. I have had conversations with a few different people and I rather get the impression that people thing I am either odd or bad to have not got Joseph into one now he is three.
My own, personal, opinion is that I'm not sure it's necessary for him. We go to a toddler group once a week, I take him out to the park when the weather isn't too dire and he does have friends and seems to have naturally got past a lot of his shyness, as demonstrated by the very long conversation he had in the supermarket with an older lady whilst I was packing up all the food. Apparently there was a broken light and a lot of cardboard boxes, so he said.
He's my other point - and it seems to surprise a lot of people who are very taken with pre-school - I like having him around. I'll miss him like mad when he goes to school and I'm not in a rush for that. I don't need to send him, I have no childcare issues, and he's not socially isolated. Why take a place away from a child who needs it more?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Toddler Stew

There's a lot of things they don't tell you in parenting books. They're usually packed full of sensible sounding advice, although it is worth checking if the author actually has children of their own. Trust me, the rules are very different between someone who regularly looks after children verses actual parenthood. Now, a lot of childcare experts can look at the situation less emotionally, more scientifically and often can recommend some sensible ideas, but at the end of the day it's you that's the parent and it's you that's feeling emotional. When the frustration is streaking out from you like static electricity and making you feel like your hairstyle has become less "yummy Mummy" and more "crazed dandelion" then all the "sensible" advice in the world is not going to help. Said book of sensible tips is likely to be lobbed across the room to the tune of an over-hormonal woman yelling "what do you know about it anyway????" followed by some untranslatable utterances that can only be put down to hormones.
Seriously, I've come close. Just how do small children work out exactly which day it is that you are at your lowest ebb and then push all your buttons, plus the ones on the remote and the washing machine as well.

And why is it now that he starts to decide he doesn't need his nap any more? I know at 3 he's old for still napping, but he's always seemed to need more sleep than the stated average. He could have picked before I fell pregnant, or later in the year when I hope to be feeling better. At least he was still napping when I was having all the nasty pregnancy sickness, but I'm not exactly well now. I might have the womb of a fertile young woman, but the rest of me feels like it belongs to an eighty year old. I can only hope that the octogenarian who seems to have done an internal body swap with me treats it well and gives it back after I give birth.
And why now does he decide to start having little accidents? It's like we're back at the beginning of potty training again, with damp pants, forgetting to ask and the most irritating of all - the soggy car seat. They might say they come with an easily detachable cover, but they don't, they really don't. Now we have a car that smells of cat pee remover. It does the job all right, removes little boy odours just as well as cats, but it's what you might call pervasive. It doesn't smell of vanilla, it smells of something trying to pretend to be vanilla.

My pensionable hips have been keeping me up at night so I'm short on sleep and today was a little too much. He was ok at his first toddler group of the year, but was a little terror at singing time. He wet the car seat on the way and on the way home was sat on a carrier bag, complaining. He ate his lunch but didn't want to sleep. He wasn't crying, but I could hear him trying to bounce his toys off the wall the whole time. I took a much needed rest anyway and prepared for the afternoon which consisted of constant demands for drinks, TV programs and other incomprehensible items that pushed me to the limit.
I got out a pan and put it on the hob.
I picked up Joseph and asked "Shall we cook you? What would you taste like?" and then in the spirit of not really taking it seriously I turned him upside down and tried to put his head in the pan.
He didn't get the joke. He looked scared and cried out.
"No! Don't roast me, I'm not a cooky boy!"

It took a few minutes to convince him I was being silly. He ended up wearing the pan on his head for a little while and laughing, but kept looking at the cooker, as if somehow it might sneak up on him and cook him anyway.

Btw, he's ok now. He and Daddy are upstairs throwing lego about. Perhaps he'll learn that the cooker is not a toy now.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Cabin Fever

It's been raining a bit round our way. I don't feel I can complain too much, after all we haven't been flooded out of our house or lost power or heating. Plenty of people are suffering quite badly through all of this, all we're having to suffer is a chilly soggy trip back and forth to the car whenever we want to go anywhere.
And that's the problem. We're stuck inside most of the time. It's not as if the weather is just 'a bit nippy' or something similar. When it's not chucking it down, it's howling a gale and when it's not howling a gale it's hailing. When it's not hailing it's doing the other two at the same time. On one occasion, the short walk to the car was accompanied by Joseph's running commentary of "Let's get out of here!" repeated until he was safely stowed in his car seat.
Even the 15 minute walk to the local shopping precinct is out of the question in this weather. If Joseph was still small enough to fit in the buggy and I wasn't suffering from pregnancy exhaustion then I might perhaps chance it.... or not. The only thing on everyones minds right now is - when will this all end?
I'm sick to the back teeth of being cooped up. Andy, understandably, is less than keen on cycling to work at the moment and that leaves me with the choice of walking or chancing the horrific conditions in my battered old citroen. To say that it's seen better days is an understatement. When it got through it's last MOT we were all shocked. She has severe chassis corrosion, peeling paint, mysterious creaks and moss growing in some of her crevices. I have to drive her to work as there's no choice, but I never really fancy carting my precious offspring about in her less than safe insides. I believe she once did have some sort of Euro NCAP safety rating, but I don't think it was very high in the first place and is probably non existent now.

It's nasty out there.

In other news, Joseph has so far rejected all our ideas for baby names. To be fair, we've not been to sure ourselves so we welcomed his input. What name did he pick?


Perhaps we could work out some sort of sponsorship deal......

Thursday, 2 January 2014


When I was pregnant with Joseph I was the picture of health. At the start I had a bit of a run of hormonal headaches which didn't last too long and ironically coincided with the end of the holiday year at work. I'd booked the last remaining weeks off I had in a block before I even fell pregnant. I did not take a single day off sick for the whole pregnancy, but it was a little spoiled by my antenatal classes falling on a day I usually worked. Do you know, that period of time, from about twelve weeks until the last few weeks when I got a bit too bulky to do very much, was probably the healthiest I have ever been. I did not catch any bugs, no colds, no flu-like nasties, no throat infections and no gastric bugs either. All of these I usually get in abundance during the colder parts of the year.
Ah, how I miss that time. I have endured weeks of rotten headaches, which sometimes come back and bug me, months of morning sickness and now I have permanent IBS, indigestion and backache. Now, I did need a bit of gaviscon right at the very end with Joseph, but I'm barely 24 weeks at the moment and have already been taking it regularly for a while.
I had no oedema last time, but now I'm already noticing that sometimes my rings are uncomfortable, my socks are tight and even my bump will dramatically increase in size during the day sometimes. Andy came home from work and put his thumb in his mouth, puffed out his cheeks and asked if I'd been doing the same all day. All I could say was that the nice warm winter coat that still fitted well two days before, no longer did so.
I'm still suffering with a nasty cough from the flu-like thing I caught before Christmas. I used to have a fine soprano voice, now I sound like Marianne Faithful. My back hurts, my hips hurt, my feet hurt.


Even Joseph, as clueless and happy as a three year old usually is, has noticed I'm not quite my usual self. He catches me coughing and says "Are you ok Mummy? Are you ok?" follwed by "You're ok now Mummy." when I stop. He saw a man coughing in the supermarket last week and looked at me and said "He's ok now, Mummy." which did make me laugh, but then made me cough.
He has even told me "You have a rest now Mummy!" and will make me sit on the sofa. However, his attention span is fairly standard for a small boy and I'm usually dragged to my feet only a few minutes later to help scoot cars across the floor, or at least to rescue them from under the sofa.
He did have the best tantrum ever this week. Seriously, it was a good one. I was trying to get him up and dressed and Joseph was in full "I want! I want!" mode.
What did he want?
"I want to make Daddy happy!" repeated over and over, whilst resisting my efforts to get his socks on.