Thursday, 15 September 2016

Thursday Adventures

When Scarlett returned to school I felt a little sad, we had enjoyed a really long and good summer and she is really good for me in that I try new things, laugh more and can even be a little bit adventurous.
Despite a very busy summer, I also realised that there were still a few places we hadn't found the time to visit.
I wondered if I could combine the two postively so I suggested a Thursday Adventure. The rules are simple - just the two of us and we must be home by 6/6.30.
Scarlett loved the idea and created a special tin and then we both wrote our ideas down and put them in, reasonably secretly....

 Last week was the first week of school so the first Thursday Adventure. Scarlett picked first and selected.....

Now, call me a snob, but I do like really nice food and The Thrasher is just about the lowest on my list of places to try. Over the last three or four years we have driven past the pub at least once a week. It has a play area, and large tree to climb as well as an occassional bouncy castle.
Best ever Pester Power!
I could fob her off no more so we headed there - and had quite an experience. The staff were very friendly but the service was slow and disorganised, the place was clean but our plates were left for so long that we had a wasp settle in and eat quite a chunk of my leftovers. Scarlett made some friends, got to climb the tree and played football whilst I used the time to do a little bit of reading in the sun.
As for the food.... mine was inedible (really bad) but Scarlett said hers was delicious:

What is that skin?!

So this week, Scarlett picked out one of my adventures which read 'Jump'. This could be interpreted anyway but we decided to try Flux Freestyle for some trampolining as it has only been open a short while and this activity seems to be all the rage (according to Radio 4 any way).

We totally loved it - although we were worn out after fifteen minutes! You get a special pair of socks and there is so much variety - who knew you could trampoline on your back, looking like you are climbing a wall?

I wonder what we'll be doing next week......

[By the way I have completely stolen this idea from Gretchen Rubin's book 'Happier at Home' - although the picking at random is my own twist - a bid to be less controlling.]

Saturday, 2 July 2016

The occasional downside of being a do-gooder

I'm always trying to do the right thing and, if in doubt, I always try to be kind (although sometimes that is hard, I grant you).
So, for example, last weekend I called an ambulance for a man who had passed out at a bus stop. It would have been easier to walk past and go for supper but I remember learning about the Bystander Effect at university. Essentially, you are more likely to be helped when there are less people around because we tend to assume someone else is going to deal with the problem. But on many occasions, no-one has called the emergency services.....
One of my bugbears is the amount of litter dropped on our lane. Northgate School children seem to be the main culprits, aided by the Co-op for providing the shop they visit on the way home from school and the local council for not providing enough bins (although to be fair to them, they did provide one but it was blown up. Yes, really).
On Tuesday I was walking home from a close friend's Dad's funeral, feeling quite nostalgic and heartened, when I saw lots of McDonald's wrappers that had been thrown from a car into the bushes. I walked over, chatting to my friend and wham - my legs went from under me and I landed sideways in the mud and on the tarmac. Shocked and embarassed I hobbled home - with the wrappers in hand - before I realised my shoe was full of blood and my skirt was sticking to my leg.
Turns out my friend isn't great in a crisis so she pretty much hopped into her car leaving me to negotiate getting into the house, letting the dogs into the garden and then trying to wash the dirt out of the quite significant wounds without leaving too much blood on the floor.....
Four days on and I have a dressing on my knee, a sore arm from my seventh Tetanus injection and I am cautiously eyeing up my FitFlop sandals, blaming them for not having sufficient grip on the sole.....
I did, however, pick up a piece of rubbish last night.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Eat more fat, drink more wine and give up the toxins - three good books.

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
I should have read this a long time ago, Gary is a journalist so he writes in a really accessible way (and if you don't want to read the book, a precise of it is available through Jimmy Moore's Livin' La Vida Low Carb podcasts as the talk he gave at the South African conference in 2015). My take home messages are: thank god I found the Harcombe Diet when I did; genetics; hormones; have patience; eat fewer carbs, dairy, coffee and nuts if weightloss stalling, leafy green vegetables have a low Gylcemic Index (GI) keeping you full for longer but can keep your carbohydrate intake high if you eat a lot of them and add more sodium to the diet to prevent losing too much when the kidneys excrete water (as insulin levels drop).

The Good News about Booze by Tony Edwards
Such a fun read, really amusing at times - he looks at lots of studies with large numbers of participants so uses (in my opinion) good science. My take home messages are: genes; that half a bottle of red wine every day may prevent you developing most diseases and conditions; that teetotallers have a shorter predicted lifespan; there is no evidence suggesting alcohol (and nuts) prevent weightloss, it is more what they might do to appetite; alcohol was shown to be a possible predictor of weightloss (so I won't panic over the occasional large glass of red); GI matters with drinks like beer; don't drink for the 'wrong reasons' and never on an empty stomach (as the alcohol goes straight to the intestines and is absorbed very quickly).

A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, MD
 This book is essentially aimed at women and seeing depression as a symptom but I think anyone would enjoy the read (she is very interesting when she talks about the side-effects of anti-depressants as well as statins and birth control pills). My take home messages are: gut health; to remember how important sleep and exercise are to me; to stay eating this way forever; to use my meditation app more; to filter my tap water; to take an activated B complex supplement and possibly maca powder (depending on how some results comes back) and to use as many products around the home free of nasty compounds. She does talk about eating carbs and reintroducing them once symptoms have subsided - it's interesting to read her reasoning (but they don't seem to work for me).

Sunday, 17 April 2016

What to do when your seesaw gets stuck on the floor

I have just returned from a lovely three day break with my Mum in the middle of nowhere. We wore dressing gowns, had no decisions to make, slept well, ate good food and read alot.
I needed this break so much.
I always imagine life is like a seesaw. Bouncing up and down depending on what is taking my priority - the point is that it keeps moving so that the lovely stuff and the tough times smoothly alternate.

But then there comes a time when the seesaw gets stuck at the bottom and you just can't get up again. You keep pushing but all you do is bounce slightly. So after a while you just sit there waiting for someone to come along and get you moving again.
So I had been sitting on one end of the seesaw for a while and I had got so fed up, I was thinking about getting off. But I knew that if I got off it would be really hard to get back on....
And then this trip came along and the seesaw is now balanced and bouncing up and down with ease once again.
My seesaw just needs sleep, exercise, quiet time, the right food and kind people..... oh and an occasional dose of perspective.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

What to expect when your child has squint surgery (strabismus)

On 13 January this year, Scarlett had bilateral strabismus surgery - basically squint surgery on both eyes.
Although there are lots of images and technical articles on the web, I struggled to find anything that told me what to expect as a parent/carer so here goes....

Here is an example of Scarlett's eyes pre-op (apologies for the quality, it does get better) :

After many discussions with our opthamologist and the surgeon we decided to have the operation, despite it being cosmetic and that she will always have some form of squint.
I think this is because Scarlett's is quite strong and inter-changeable - but I'm not 100% sure.
We were told that it was an hour long operation, there was a chance of pain afterwards, she would need a week off school and four weeks off swimming.
The pre-op appointment ran really smoothly and the staff were lovely. Unfortunately Scarlett had burned her back the day before so we had been in A&E for a few hours before our appointment which meant she was pretty relaxed and bemused by the whole thing really. However the short film showing what would happen and how they put the drugs in was really helpful and settled plenty of the questions in my head.

The operation took place at 11am and Scarlett was third on the list (it runs by age at our hospital). We had DVDs to watch and the staff were in and out which kept the wait light-hearted. I went down to theatre with her so I was gowned up and saw them fit the canula (whilst she looked for Wally) and administer the drugs. Seeing her drift off into anaesthesia was incredibly difficult, even though I knew she was safe and fine. I cried all the way back to the room.

Thankfully we had packed to survive the longest-hour-of-our-lives-to-date with social media (Dan), crochet (me) and something to eat - we hadn't wanted to waft food under her nose when she had been starved since supper the previous evening.

No sooner had we settled into Despicable Me than the surgeon popped in to say the operation had gone well and she was wheeled back. But oh so drowsy, rubbing her eyes and crying - her tears were blood which was a shock to Dan (but was nothing to worry about). We kept her calm, called the family to say she was OK and then tried to manage her desperate desire for food and water and the hospital's need for these things to enter her tummy slowly......

This is her half an hour after waking up:

You can see the slight redness in the corner of both eyes where they operated.
Apart from a tiny spike in her temperature mid-afternoon she was totally fine and we were home by 4pm. We managed her pain with paracetamol and ibuprofen (the hospital gave me a sheet to fill in so that I could keep a track of what she had - this was really useful as I felt tired and confused by the end of the day so it was good to be able to see where we were). Unfortunately the eyedrops really stung so we had a bit of a battle getting these in, and she needed them three times a day. On the Great Ormond Street Hospital website it said you could put the drops in the corner of a closed eye so we did this - and promised her Hermione Grainger robes and a Hogwarts tie if she would let us do this for a week. It wasn't perfect administering but she got used to it and as she didn't get an infection I have to assume we got away with it.

This is Day Two:

You can see the eyes were very red. She struggled to watch telly or do anything for too long with bright lights. She complained of double vision and was on full painkillers. But she slept and ate quite normally.

Day Three:

Much less need for painkillers from here on. The double vision persisted and she needed her glasses from the moment she woke to when she fell asleep. We stayed at home and negotiated some half days with school to ease her back in.

Three weeks later, and you can hopefully see quite a difference:

For the first couple of weeks we could see the eye pulling when she focused, as if the brain and eye were trying to work together as previously. By this stage though the squint had been stabilised and if you compare the above image with the first you can see the progress. The double vision (which is apparently normal whilst the brain is receiving two images) had gone by this stage.

After four weeks we had a post-op appointment - everyone was happy and we have another in May (four months after the operation). Scarlett returned to swimming mid-February with no real problems (I think the pool at school made her eyes sting but our usual one doesn't) and she has returned to occasionally reading/watching television without her glasses on.

She managed the eye drops for six weeks and then we ceremoniously dumped them in the bin (I suspect she was dressed as Hermione).

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

KonMari folding of my smalls

So two years ago I decluttered and tidied the house and then one year ago I decluttered again prior to our house move and once more after we had moved.
You'd think I was living a zen minimalist life - but no, quite the opposite - we are not wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling in possessions (and we have an empty loft space) but I often get that creeping feeling of disorganisation when there is just stuff in my way, I feel crowded or I can't find something quickly.
In the first week of January, three people on Instagram and two friends mentioned Marie Kondo's book on tidying - and as I have a personal rule 'if something is mentioned to me two to three times it must be explored' I bought her book as part of my Big New Year Book Buy (I get lots of book vouchers for Christmas).

All I knew was that you asked yourself if each item 'sparked joy' before you decided whether to keep or recycle and you thank your items for working hard. The latter was way too woo for me so the book sat on my shelf for a week and I read something else.
After a particularly annoying day of delving around in my Tardis-like handbag for phone, keys and lipstick (but only finding a lolly, three times) I cherry-picked the section on bags - rolled my eyes and put the book back on the shelf.
But then I thought about what I had read and realised that I do carry an awful lot of stuff I need, but not everyday - so I allocated an empty drawer in the kitchen and unpacked my handbag - throwing the damned lolly away.
The next morning I picked a joyful handbag, packed what I needed and unpacked again when I came home. I had no problems finding one of the three things I had packed and I didn't feel as if I was lugging a big sack around all day.

This was my epiphany. My sudden revelation.

I have now read the book from cover to cover and have worked through my clothes (four wardrobes down to two), books (I adore her Hall of Fame idea), toiletries (a shocking level of hoarding - how many cotton buds does one family need?) and I am halfway through papers. Previously I have tidied by room, but following a list of categories is simpler.
Luckily all that previous decluttering has made this a much easier journey and I am already pretty good at keeping alike items in one location (something she recommends for ease when it comes to living back in the real world).
Back to the woo - when she suggests you don't fold your socks as they have worked hard and need a rest I try not to think of them as sentient beings and remember that the elastic on socks/tights continues to be stretched when you ball them up (as I did, tightly, pre-epiphany), and who wants saggy clothes?
It has now been a few days since I tidied my clothes - I feel quite energised when I think about what I am going to wear, there are no conversations in my head about why I should wear this or what needs to happen before I wear that. I have even maintained the neat drawers of underwear/gym clothes/tops/nightwear/cardigans - yes, I have fitted all that in one big drawer - and am almost quite fast at her way of folding, even when tired.
The only downside has been that I am very sniffly and I am not sure if I have a cold or if this is a reaction to all the dust I have unsettled.....

PS apparently this is my 200th blog. Wow.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Where to start...

I was going to be organised. I was going to have a work/life balance - I even stopped a much loved job to free up time. And what happened? A blur.
A blur of essays, meetings, deadlines, leaflet proofs, remembering (and forgetting) things for school, not getting much sleep and just wanting to sit on the sofa with a book or a film and my crochet.
Today I finish modules in Social & Developmental Psychology and Social Theory and I am not back at university for 5 weeks.
Time to catch a breath.
In three hours I am going to see Star Wars with Scarlett - celebrating in style.