Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Bet he'll be glad to get back to work. A stream of consciousness Xmas.

Xmas Eve: frantic children believing a lie that YOU (and I ) endorse so we can have a (huge) whisky and blame a fictional figure. Her sack is bigger. No, it's not. It's just a different pillowcase. How will he get in? We don't even have a fireplace. Oh, that magic key shit. No, he won't go into your room if you leave the sack downstairs. I agree, it IS creepy. I did my sack (ooer) on Ebay for a measley tenner each child. Can I drink the rest of the whisky?

Xmas Day:Yes, it's 5am. Oh well. Let's all rip open everything in a random way that makes identifying gift tags redundant. And do it quickly ,before we have to get dressed and stuff everything into the the car to travel to the relative du jour. They won! Now our holiday is just like a playgroup day! Get dressed! Quick! We're on a timetable! Again! Stuff evry single toy into the boot. Arrive. Open more toys. Frantic children being so surrounded by gifts that they end up hitting each other for the sake of familiar fun. Eating (you, not the kids. They live on Jelly Tots.) The main cook saying "I'm really not that hungry, you're not, when you've spent all day cooking" (sigh, nose down, trough). Drinking (only one of you. One of you has to drive back from the relatives du Jour). Task Arguing. "YOU put them to bed, I spent all day being SOBER". "No YOU, it was YOUR PARENTS, I NEEDED Lager". Slumping in front of diabolical TV, asking "Who got run over in Eastenders this year?" before passing out, dressed. One of you makes it to bed. Did I get a present? Oh, bless, it's jewellery far too fragile for my everyday existence, from tesco points. The gift of love.

Boxing day: The Other Lot. The ones that didn't get the kids on Xmas day. Its MORE FUN than Xmas day, even though the kids are knackered. Oh, ANOTHER EFFING DINNER. Yep, we could all do with another 3 courses. And more packaging, for our bonfire the size of the house. Can I watch my recorded Dr Who now? No? Oh. What's that you say? Daughter is weird? Well, yes. Oh, sweaty wierd. Ill weird. Initially, this means a glad token of being able to usher out the Other Lot early.By 10pm, it's clear it's the usual Xmas virus. Yes, the floor is lovely in here. Just give me a duvet and the calpol dispenser. I'll sleep on a rug in her bedroom.

Oh, still. Still every 3 hours, 3 days in. Days are spent on the sofa watching The Wizard of Oz. My God, Glindas' hands are big. Start spotting disenfranchised height challenged people not being proper Munchkins. After 8 viewings, root for a Witch Wins version. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh Sod it. I'll run in front of her toting a jug of gin, she'd follow then, and sod Toto. Son is less enamoured. Stupid little poeple, why are they giving her a lollipop and what are those monkeys doing with wings? Can we go OUT?

Here's the rub, Husband is on holiday. He thinks, (laugh) that this is a HOLIDAY! No, you cannot sit and watch the History Channel. No, you cannot lie in. Here's an idea, why not take the not-sick kid out? And LEAVE ME ALONE?

Phew. Now I can watch the Stupid Wizard of the Stupid Arsing Oz again, with sick kid. And wine.

Oh, wait. Everyone is almost well. You''ll cook dinner? I would be happy, but I know this is just a lovely way of standing in the kitchen for 6 hours and leaving every single sodding pan dirty for the poor other sods to wash up. Can't I cook? Oh. I must sit down (read: deal with kids). I cooked the other day. But I WANT TO COOK LIKE YOU DO. Not the actual recipe. That is neither here nor there. I want to take 4 hours on a tomato sauce, with a glass in hand, without having to wipe a childs arse in the meantime.

The kids are "I want Daddy to do it". Fine. Daddy gets all the good bits. I notice it's never Daddy who gets to wipe bums. Still, the sheen is off. He's been off for days. The kids are having philosophical debates as to the nature of a minute, due to his "In a minute" responses. My minutes are minutes. Not so his. And you know, kids don't really like watching the history channel, and I don't want them seeing the holocaust episodes, really, so, if you don't mind, can you go back to work? Because, I might kill you otherwise, and you will go crazy, and I will weep, because you have no conception of how I run this. Go.

We all love Xmas.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Bad mother misses Nativity.

And it was his first ever one. Bad brained mother here was just downright empty headed about it and flummoxed by the Medieval system of school security. Unable to process the arcane rituals of gate openings, I was stymied by the blockade and, being 5ft, unable to scale the walls, clutching daughter and the Phil and Teds. Here is how it begins.

I drop son off to the usual playgroup entrance. I access this through the left-hand school gate, Gate A, which is open for the 8.50 drop-off,(Otherwise closed for the 11.50 pick-up, open again at 3pm. Guarded by Cerebrus in the meantime) walk across the school grounds and say "See you at the Nativity!". I then walk into "town" (this is in speechmarks because really, 2 charity shops and a bakery do not make a town). I walk through the Town school gate,Gate B, open for the 8.50 drop-off, but closed for the 11.50 pick-up, open again at 3pm. Otherwise, guarded by Orcs and an all-seeing eye. Gate A saves me a long walk, as Gate C, near to the playgroup and open for the 11.50 pick-up and 3pm pick-up, otherwise closed and guarded by sundry demons, is a mile and half around the town away. So my walk to playgroup in the morning is 2.5 miles, on the way back it is 4 miles. The politics of the Gate are arcane and not open to reason. A friend with SPD and heavily pregnant was not allowed to spare herself the walk at the 11.50 pick up, and was forced to walk the 1.5 extra miles. The Gates cannot be opened. I walked her boy rather than see her struggle. The Gate protects the kids, it must not be breached. Mexico border controls are more lenient than this.

Anyway, I then return, after whiling away an hour in the library with daughter, to Gate C, for the 11.15 performance of Nativity, starring son as shepherd, and many varied carols that bear no relation to ones you might know. Gate C is locked. I ring friend, who is in hall. "Help! Gate C is locked! I can't fling my Phil and Teds over the fence! Can you get someone to open it?" No. Nobody will open it. I must run.

I do not run. Apart from a brief period in the early 90's, which was really all about snaring some unworthwhile bloke, when I went to the gym 3 times a week, I have never run. Never. I may jog, I may speed walk with a double buggy, but I do not run. Until now. Strapping a screaming daughter into the buggy "NOOOOOO! I want to WALKKKKKK!", I pound the pavements, swerving people on mobility buggies and cursing their wheels, run, run, until I reach Gate A, which is open, all the Orcs being inside watching the Nativity that I AM MISSING. I screech to a halt in the school reception and demand to be let into the hall. Obviously, I am bright purple, sweating, about to have a heart attack, and clutching a puce angry daughter. I look insane. The Head comes out as the scretary has evidently pressed the panic button. They let me in. As soon as daughter sees the stage and bright lights she exhibits her (thankfully present) anti-X-Factor genes and screams. We go out again. I find crumb sodden old dummy from last month in bottom of my bag, shove it in and return to see the last song being sung and son looking bored in a tea towel. All the other mums are looking at me. They all have cars. Son asks why I was late. "The Orcs were not at the gates", I tell him. And he just accepts it.

Later, I get the DVD. Sons head is obscured by Marys' voluminous headress throughout.

Friday, 17 December 2010

4 years ago, I stopped working.

Not literally. I mean, my arms and legs still go (althought my thyroid could do with some work), and I still (just about) string a sentence together. So, yes, I still work. But I don't WORK. This time, 4 years ago, I said goodbye to my form group, fellow teachers, and GCSE/AS/A2 students, saying "See you in a year!", and waddled out that door, heavily pregnant, and never went back. I've been at home, with kid(s) ever since. For a while, post son, I said I was going back. 6 months in, I tried to read a book about Napoleonic warfare, and the new syllabus, and failed. My brain hurt. I visited childminders in our neck of East London, fully intending to leave my little bundle with them and return to work. The fact that I wouldn't have left a dog with them decided me. (Amongst the gems were a woman with 6 dogs, one who said she wouldn't take me because I was ethnically wrong, and another who stood smoking on the doorstep saying she "only did it outside" in such a manner that I wondered what it was she did outside, as it could have been any number of things, including soliciting).

We moved. We moved far, and cheap. We moved far and cheap enough so that we could manage on one wage for a few years. Just as well ,as along came surpise daughter. (Yep, really. 6 months in surprise. You know when they say breastfeeding is not a contraceptive? They are right). But what was happening to me? In the (admittedly brief) interim between children, I struggled. I had been a 5.30 am riser, who went to work, worked all day, came back, planned, did some more work, then went to the pub. I was a good, committed teacher and a big socialiser. My love of subject (history and polictics) ,was such that I spent weekends campaigning, visiting musuems, and husband and I courted on the IWW battlefields, in trenches. I loved my job. I loved watching my class set up as the League of Nations, and do a better job than they did. I loved it. I loved my form group. I loved my work. And now, I didn't have it. What was I?

Well, to some of my friends, I was a big wash out, a let-down. Someone who had "wasted" their education. To others, I simply wasn't down the pub anymore, and slipped away. To one, I had "let myself down". I should be being MORE, being a job, an ambition, a dream. What could I say? Yes, I had a half finished novel, but waking up 5 times a night does for that. Yes, I loved my work, but was that all I was? And most importantly, is that all that matters? No.

I can honestly say it took over a year. Over a year to not be upset by my demotion, for, let's be frank, that is what it is. You had a bank account, it had stuff going in, now, it doesn't. You have to ask for money, or set up a joint account. You had a timetable, now you don't, your day is dictated by breastfeeding, weaning, potty training. (See previous posts for how I cope with this: effectively, I just teach a subject a week to them, it gives me a timetable and a focus). You used to have lunchbreaks and piss alone. Now you don't. Ever. (I still don' know what to do on "lady" days. I distract them with a trick.)You used to have a status, now you are "just" a mum. You used to have a purpose, now you are "just" a mum. You used to have targets, discernable results, now the only result comes when they are 18 and not a serial killer. Yet. There's time. It takes time. It took a gut wrench instinct to say "I want to be at home", as every fibre of my intellect screamed that no, I was a working woman, but all my mum fibres said "sod it". I fought it, but I settled. I have seen every first. I have cooked a gazillion refused meals. I wipe up wee. I wipe bums. I read "Peepo" 8 times in a row. But I am still a teacher. I explain sunlight, rainbows. I explain why they need to go to bed. I am lawmaker. I am a scary monster. I am the builder of sofa cushion rafts. I am the one they hate. Until they fall over. I am the bad cop mum who says "What do you say? How do you ask nicely?" when good cop dad can waltz in from work and be fun. I am the dispenser of Savlon. I am a mum. I am not a worker.

And yet. I am. I am there, the whole time. So much that they get bored of me. I am up at 6 sometimes sooner, bed early, for the night shift. I know i'll be up at least twice, for wees, lost toys, wonky duvets. It's work, but the results you want are different. It's not attainment based, it's happiness based. Can I help my son and daughter be happy? Can I make their days at home, with me, a privilige? Can I make them into nice people? Funny people? Tolerable people? When I shout, can I say "sorry"? Can I make them able to enter school, secure in the knowledge that when they come home and ask for fishfingers and mash, I really know they are asking for a hug? It seems like nothing, sometimes, this stay at home lark. But when, as I did today, you hear you son say to the searching playgroup lady, sending him out to be picked up, "My mummy is over there, she ALWAYS is", it does seem worth it, as well as a life sentence. Or am I just justifying my choice? So hard to know. I just know, I'm glad i've done it. Although I wish it had a ruddy wage and some respect. It's a life skill, a diversifiable skill, a transferable skill to be able to find the bedtime teddy when it goes missing. (In the drawer, in a tupperware box. Of course.)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Make do and Mend.

Well, I've spent the last few nights snipping and sewing stuff from the little scraps I've had lying around, and some of the pillowcases I obsessively collect for 10p from the local Sally Army ("It's only 10P!!!! I MUST have it!") I whizzed up some bunting for daughters room to brighten it up a bit (must snip that thread!), using pillowcases for some of the flags and bias tape, and some leftover quilt patches for the rest.

I snipped at the shrunken jumper to fashion it into a bag. It's not quite done, some applique to do, but it is a bag from a jumper, albeit an odd shaped one due to the armholes, but a bag nonetheless. I've mended my jeans and even saved all the little itty itty bits from my cutting mat for stuffing toys. I'm being tight, i'm mending and making do. It's partly part of my year of thrift (see previous posts about not buying any new clothes for a year: nearly there!) , and partly because I've been inspired, again, by my Nan, now passed on, whose sewing box I inherited in April but only recently picked up.

It is GORGEOUS. Not to look at, just your standard wooden box, one knob missing. Butinside there is a wealth of making-do. Alongside the box, I got a tub of crochet hooks, a tin of ribbons and ric-rac, a tin of elastic and fastenings, and a tub of needles and scissors. Nothing was ever thrown away by my nan. Every ribbon from every present was tucked away. Every sequin that came off saved. The cotton reels alone are amazing, some of them are wooden, and wound with silk thread that was made in Britain. But this little envelope I found truly amazing. A little selection of nylon and silk thread in stocking colours, wound round card, with their own matches attached to melt the threads together. Imagine. Not throwing away a stocking, but darning it and melting it, and using them till they dropped. Last night I took a leaf out of my nan's book and what I couldn't mend from my mending pile, I unwound or cut into patches for later, some old trousers are earmarked for a doorstop. God, even the words "mending pile" sound great, but kind of 1950's. Inspired by my Nan, and by how easy it was to not buy any clothes this year, I am going to do it again this coming year. A bit early for New Years Resolutions, I know, but really, one purchase of snowboots in a year was actually quite easy, once i'd gotten over the thrill of spending. And this year, I promise, will be even better. This year I will not only buy secondhand (my limit was £5.00 a week), I will REFASHION. Take a look at this lady, who did a dress a day, from charity shop jobs, every day for a year. Now if that isn't inspiring enough to get me to learn how to seam, nothing is. I WILL learn how to hem properly, I WILL use my nan's thread to sew up a storm from a size 20 charity shop dress, and I WILL, (maybe) learn to crochet).
And check out the "Mend and Make Do" thread on Netmums, where ladies are going crazy on their machines.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The power of a lullaby: and what to do when your child is choking.

Lullabies and choking are not connected, maybe, but this weekend, they were.
When son was little, I sang and sang, he was a super colic baby and did nothing but scream for 4 months. The singing was often less to do with soothing and more to do with drowning the noise out. The only was he would settle (settle, not sleep, Lord no, not for 16 months....) was by flinging him about to Frank Zappa telling him not to eat yellow snow or wailing Little Green Rosetta, which lasts for 8 very long minutes. I'm not even the Zappa fan in this house. (That said, he is a great Pixies singer now, so i'm getting my return). He would allow me put him in the bouncy chair if I sang "Let's go fly a Kite" from Mary Poppins constantly, on occaision allowing a segway to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". But daughter was different. Whether it wa second child so-soon-after status or not, she would always pop down for a nap and go to sleep beautifully (even though she still wakes up for a "chat" at 4am). I would sing her a lullaby every night feeding her to sleep. I know I wasn't meant to, but hey, both mine self weaned no problem at 15 months. (smug). Our verse of choice was "My Bonny" (click here for a wiki about the song, and see above for the chap in question, Bonnie Prince Charlie) and every night we'd go through 4 rounds of it. Even now, at 2 and a half, it retains a massive power. It literally knocks her out. I can sing it in the middle of the day and her eyes go sleepy. It it so intrinsically linked in her mind to sleep that it sends some sort of "Sleeeep" message to her cortex and off she goes. How I wish I had one of these for son. He does still sing "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" though.
How does this relate to choking? On Friday I put them both to bed at 7pm with nary a bother and absolutely no sign of any illness at all. I spent the evening sewing and quaffing a nice wine. At 11pm, we heard a barking noise from daughters room, and as husband shot upstairs, we found her choking, making that croupy noise and gasping for air. My first thought was that she'd swallowed something from her dolls house. We rushed her downstairs and I called 99, I am really not au fait as to how to cope with small 2 year olds choking, my first aid is all about teenagers. By the time they arrived it was clear she could breathe, but badly, and the medics took one look at her and slapped her back in particular places, and dislodged some almighty globule of mucus. Splat. Daughter was in receipt of one of the worlds fastest acting colds. As she returned to a normal colour, we could see that her eyes were gunky, her nose was blocked and her throat was raw. Poor wee thing. Plus, she was surrounded by medics, stressed parents who were also a little embaressed that it was just mucus and panic, and grandparents who had sped over at breakneck pace. Cue screaming and some obviously healthy lungs. Medics said goodbye, rather reluctantly, as we sent them off to Peterborough at chucking out time. I took daughter to bed. And here is where the lullaby does it's stuff. Nurofen, a nightlight and "my Bonny" and whack she was away, despite all the excitement.
And now for the choking bit.
I knew how to do a Heimlich on an older child, from my teaching training. But toddlers and babies are different. Firstly, if the child is breathing even slightly, as daughter was (ie, if they can make a noise), then do NOT slap their back . It could dislodge anything and send it further down. The correct technique for toddlers and babies is completely different to adult techniques. Here's a link to a baby example. For toddlers, or small children like my daughter (who at 2, is still in 12-18 month clothes), lay them over your knee face down rather than your arm as shown by this gent. I am off to find a Red Cross class that deals with kids first aid. So that I won't have to call out the ambulance unless it's really needed, and I'll be able to cope until they get here if they are.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

NO! When little boys get hormones.

I attended son's playgroup parents evening last week. According to them, he is learning to stand up for himself, after a shy start, and is as good as the proverbial golden child. I retreated, gobsmacked. At home, he doesn't have to stand up for himself, because he is too busy lording it over his sister. He is not in the least bit shy, and he certainly isn't good. he is Omen like in his ability to predict what will annoy most. So far this week, he has cut his sisters hair (again, so she looks like something from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), taken to smacking her on the head when he thinks I'm not looking (despite my telling him, with alittle artistic licence, that it hurts your brain, in retrospect, this is possibly encouraging him), waited till she's set up her entire doll's house and then driven his motorbike and army men through it ("what? What? they're just having a smash-up party!"), lied ("I DID NOT eat the gingerbread!" Here's a hint, wipe the gingerbread mush off of your face before you deny it), smashed his room up when sent to it, and scribbled biro over the bath. Which to be fair, was hardly noticeable alongside all the grime and rust from skanky bath toys. All of this accompanied by a point blank refusal to sit on the naughty step. (Look at him in this pic, I thought he was bad at 2, but boy, I was wrong).

He is rising 4, and I'm wondering if this sudden bout of sheer stubborn naughtiness is a hormone surge. At around aged 4, boys experience the first of many (ARRRGH) hormone surges, which increase aggressiveness, energy levels and urge to engage in boisterous play (launching himself at husband as soon as he gets in from work screaming "fight me!"), and reduce their ability to concentrate. Luckily for us mums, this first surge lasts about a year (a YEAR?) and then fades until about aged 7. Steve Biddulphs' book "Raising Boys" is very informative on this. I can glance across to son at any given point in the day and he will be engaged in transmuting his sisters carefully thought out narrative with the farm animals into a farm armageddon. Yes, a definate hormone surge. Only a few months ago he was gentle thing. Now he is a maniac. So what to do?

I'm trialling the 1,2,3 method. It's meant to work well with boys and children with autistic spectrum disorders, because the rules are simple and do not allow for much negotiation. Now son is older, I often find myself embroiled in negotiating with the boy rather than stating what he should do. As a teacher, it's a cardinal rule: you earn the right to negotiate, it's not a given. Yet here I was, involved in some high table UN debate with a 3 year old. 1,2,3 it was. Basically, it's an old teaching trick but it works, hopefully. State to the child that they get 3 warnings only and on "3" , what the consequence will be. As son will now no longer sit on the step without running off it to where I am and mooning at me (yes, really), my "3" consequence is for him to be put in his bedroom without his favourite toy motorbikes for 5 minutes, then 5 again if he hasn't calmed down and apologised. Then, you clearly get to "3". Here's an example from this morning.

Daughter is screaming, with real tears. Son has hold of the toy she had, and she haltingly (but with glee) stammers out that son hit her on the head. I know she's egging it a bit, she's gone all Bette Davis, but hey, he did hit her. Son admits it.

"Say sorry to your sister and give her the toy back"
"No! I don't want to!"
(Holding up finger, speaking calmly) "That's one. Can you please say sorry and give the toy back."
"NOOOOOOO! it's MINE! (stamping feet)"
"That's 2. Can you please say sorry and give the toy back. It is not nice to hit on heads, or snatch".
"No!" (throws toy).
"That's 3. To your room, please". March him upstairs. Remove motorbikes. Much wailing and screaming. After 5 minutes he is still lobbing stuff about. Tell him he has another 5 minutes. Go back in after that, he is forlorn on the bed.
"Why did I put you in your room?"
"Because I whacked her and now her brain might hurt". (near enough).
"So what are you going to do?"
Gives sister cuddle, has a cuddle, carries on until next outburst approximately an hour later.

By the end of the day I usually only have to get to 2, or sometimes even 1. It does seem to be working, but as with everything, consistancy is key. I know I am doing it religiously, as daughter was telling her dollshouse crew off in the same manner.

Other pointers for the angry boy parents out there.

Firstly, accept that he will get angry. Example: yesterday, I told him not to take food from the fridge without permission. He denied he was (still clutching the chicken leg). I asked him to put it back, he got angry. After the 1, 2, 3 scene, we had a chat about why he got angry. "Because I really wanted the chicken but you said no", and discussed what could be done instead of getting angry. "You could have asked me nicely for a snack, couldn't you?" and so on. Make it clear that everyone gets angry, but that there are often other options.

Praise the gentle. Really go overboard. "Oh son, the way you are stroking the chicken gently is lovely, they really like that" etc etc. Praise nice behaviour to the high heavens.

Go rough. Make an assault course of cushions, play boys games (yes, there will be killing in them), and encourage LOTS of walking, running. Get out everyday. Get messy. Be a boy for a bit. And, if there is a man on the scene, a daddy, uncle, whatever, rough play. I simply don't get the rolling around bit, but they do and they love it. It's a very important bit of male whatever. I know it hypes 'em up before bedtime, if, like me, the man arrives home just before bed, but hey, go to bed 15 minutes later.

Get your man model to model being gentle. And if your man model shouts (mine does at times) make him say SORRY. Little men will copy the big ones.

Get some man on boy time. Send them off to do tasks. Boys often learn by DOING at this age, and a morning with the man sweeping snow or hammering will work wonders. And get him to praise, praise praise while he's doing it.
Now, i'm off to do my counting again, as I can just hear a yell......

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Conservatives smash childhood dreams shocker, and a cushion.

When I was little (or young, i'm still pretty little, height wise at least), I was desperate to be a showjumper like Harvey Smith, then I went through a phase of being a librarian and forcing mum to take books out all the time while I stamped them and fined her (none of my childhood books are untouched), and finally, a teacher phase, bossing my sister around and criticising her efforts. "NO! Do this NOW! No, no, don't cry, Mum will come, here is a biscuit".) And you know, apart from the showjumping, I DID do that. I was a childrens librarian for years, and then retrained as a teacher, which I loved, for years. I did what I wanted to do. Son is obsessed with levers, gears, mechanics. My dad is an engineer, In Law dad is an engineer, there is a clear obsessional path for him. Daughter is currently limited to doing whatever pees son off most. But whatever they want to do, I will say, "You CAN do it". Because really, they're bright, they're funny, they have drive, they can. Even if he still wants to be a policeman.

Except they can't. We will never, never, never have enough money to pay for degrees for our kids. Read that again. NEVER. This country now has the most expensive education in the world. Kids that are bright, from less well off families, will never get to University. The Conservative blurb may say "It's merely a debt...." blah blah" , but people who have no money do NOT get into debt. Imagine being an 18 year old from a poor background, and being told that your debt on leaving will be 40K, 3 years work for your dad. You wouldn't countenance it. Of course, it's probably different, if , like David Cameron, you are worth 19 million and you think this makes you Middle Class. I won't even mention Clegg, nobody can hear him from the cavernous recesses of Camerons passage anyway. Cameron just excuses any noise as being "something he ate".
This is what this government wants: education for the elite, the ones who a 40K debt means nothing to. Their dads earn it in a few months. I was the first person in my family to get to University, indeed, even finish school. I managed because I had no fees, and a grant. I repaid that generosity by doing public sector work for years. The State helped me, I help the state. I believed in the State. I put something back. They more than got their moneys worth from me, from the teaching in the East End alone, believe me. ("No, pupil, I cannot come and pick you up from Budgens for shoplifting. I am not your mother. I am your teacher. Oh. Alright. She's with you. And caught shoplifting. I'm on my way.")
No more. This week we learned that the local (and only) secondary school has lost it's Building Schools for the Future money. 9 million. This was to provide for more space and facilities. The school was built in 1938 for 500 students. It now has 1,350. The money has gone. Not needed, says the government. Not needed , says local bigwig Martin Curtis, and minister for children, no less, who also said that "screaming and shouting" won't do anything. Fine. We'll all just accept it then, shall we? And the fact that you've just more or less told our kids that they're worth much less to this government than the kids of the small enclave of wealthy Free school parents. And the 1,000 homes you've just agreed will be built here, to add to our hugely overcrowded school and village with no facilities and schools that are too small. ( Strange that all the local Conservative councillors are so keen on the idea, possibly it has something to do with the huge links to the building trade many of them have. ) This government sucks big time.
The students round here already perform terribly. Fenland has the lowest tertiary education take up of ANY English area. It has the lowest parental tertiary take up. It is a rural, on the land work, area. And a safe, very safe, Tory seat. Nobody votes, apart from the landowners, and me. Everyone else is too apathetic, working on the land they don't own, or in the middle of the Fens picking leeks for minimum wage, for 14 hours, while the voting goes on. So why should the local MP Mr Steve Barclay care? He doesn't. He went to Rugby. He is a golden boy who replies to my letters with the party line and never holds a surgery in my village, knowing full well there is no bus on earth that will get me, my kids and my hatred to his actual surgery. So i've written to him. (Again. See previous posts to hear about my effort to build up enough asinine replies that I can furnish my chicken coop with them. And they can shit on him. I know it's childish.) Would he like to come and tell my son that his local schools are falling to bits, with the government sanction? Would he like to come and explain why my kids will never get to tertiary education? Would he buggery. He goes to the opening of a crisp packet, but he won't come here.

And because i've made myself really cross again, here's a picture of some stuff I sewed last night: a taggie for an upcoming baby (NOT mine, dear me NO), a pot stand, and a pink(ish) cushion for daughters room. I'm getting into the swing of the machine now. I even wound a bobbin. (clap, clap, clap) Once I get good enough, I may even attempt to sew a tiny mannikin of our MP as a pincushion.

Monday, 29 November 2010

We bunked off and made gingerbread

It was snowing this morning. So much snowing, in fact, that the 45 minute walk to playgroup and back again appealed about as much as kissing Michael Gove. Still, I tried. We dressed in 4 billion layers each, and walked with arms and legs swaddled in thermals to the buggy, which a) daughter refused to get in and b) wouldn't go in the snow anyway. Both children are born for the sunnier climes of South America or Spain, not rural Fenland, much to Yorkshire husbands disgust. By the time we had struggled down the road, buggy veering from left to right as I failed to discover the wheel lock, with my best impression of bad mother voice shrieking "Come ON! It's just a bit of snow!" whilst son wailed despondantly "It's getting in my EYES! My EEEEYYYYES!", I realised that this was not going to happen. For one, I couldn't really shout "Come ON!" for an hour in a blizzard, and secondly, daughter had flung herself from the buggy into the snow and was weeping. We turned back and happily plunged into the house again.

By 10.30 we had eaten all the crumpets and were shouting at each other. So we made gingerbread. This is simply the best gingerbread ever, it is exceptionally more-ish and, if you don't mind your kids getting dental caries for the sake of an hours peace, the kids will eat all of it if you let them. It's another wet/dry recipe, my absolute favourite type as they are virtually idiot and chidl proof. You will need:

Dry stuff: 225g plain flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp bicarb, 1 and 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Sift.
Wet stuff: 55g butter, 115g soft brown sugar, 115g black treacle. Melt all together and leave to cool a bit. + (1 tbsp milk if needed for dough).
Mix it all together, until it turns into a dough. If it's too sticky and tough, add a bit of milk. Roll out to 5mm thickness and cut out shapes. I usually get about 25-30 assorted snails, squirrels and stars from this. Bake at gas mark 5 for 10-15 minutes, but a lot depends on the shape of the biscuit. Eat. All of them.

Whilst they were eating, I finally decided to crack on with using the sewing machine, which has been sitting and intimidating me. Having forced MIL to wind me lots of bobbins (I simply cannot do that yet), I grasped the nettle and a big stack of the cheap vintage pillowcases I keep buying because they are 10p, and decided to make some skirts for daughter, who thankfully doesn't care what she looks like yet, being 2. she will be in pillowcase outfits until she comes weeping to me and shows me photos of all her friends in Reebok or whatever, and even then i'll still moan.

So I chopped the top and end off of one fetching pillowcase featuring cars and bikes (she WILL not be girly, not if it's up to me. No pink here!) until it was a good skirt length. Then I turned it wrong side out, and straight stitched a pocket for elastic. At the bottom, I took a leftover bit of binding and sewed it around the hem, turned it right side out, and then sewed it around again. Wonky stitching covered. For skirt 2 I chose a green pillowcase, did the same thing, but this time without the binding edge and some ribbon instead, once i'd gotten the hang of sewing straighter.

Both skirts are very wonky and very amateur, but they took an hour of gingerbread eating and broke my machine virginity, so i'll always love them.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

It's MY 30 Minutes, damn you!

I think the thing I miss most about smoking (and I've already come to the conclusion that I am always going to be a smoker, even If I am not smoking), is not the nicotine, but the 3 minutes. It was 3 minutes standing outside, usually, with the most interesting people. I would take a breather (even though I wasn't, I was inhaling), and have 3 minutes away from whatever I was doing. I'd chat about something frivolous. When alone, my first and favourite fag was the one when I got home from work. I was never a first-thing smoker, I always went all day, but my first cig when I got in, before I started the marking, was just the best. On the balcony, 3 minutes just letting go of it all, breathing the commute into the air and starting the day again.

Of course, as soon as I realised I was pregnant with son, I stopped and didn't even notice, really. The observant ones will be saying, well, if you didn't have one till 6pm anyway, you're not addicted. Well, I was. But to the minutes, not the fags. I didn't notice pre-son, because I was busy, and my evenings were mine. I just replaced the evening cig with a devilish cake. Job done. It was only after son, and then daughter, that I realised that I was addicted, to my 3 minutes outside without any of them. Because ever since son was born, Jan 2007, I haven't ever had more than 30 minutes alone. Not ever. I poo in company: "Mummy, don't strain. Do you want a book? Stella has weed on the bed". I suppose there was a brief moment, as they took daughet to weigh her post labour, before 15 month old son and husband arrived as visitors, but I can't remember it. I spend my entire day, 6am, sometimes earlier, till 7.30,. with company of the most demanding type. I never have 3 minutes to nip outside and go "ahhhhh".

It was only as the nights are drawing in, and husband has been getting in earlier, at 7.30ish as opposed to 8, that I have felt the terrible urge to yell. 7.30 till 8 was MINE! It was me, sitting on the bed, reading, blissfully. Let me put you in the picture. 7 is bedtime. It starts at 6.30. We read, we argue about teeth, we threaten that there will be no stories if teeth are not cleaned, we resort to headlock. We read that stupid Bog Baby book 3 times, sing "My Bonnie" and then that is one down. She is out like a light, to gather her strength before she rises at 3am to demand that I straighten her duvet. Now. Boy has "Cops and Robbers" (at least Ahlberg is interesting) and no song. But he decrees I must stay upstairs till he is "actually asleep" which leads to lots of "Mummy? I am not asleep? Are you here?" and so I have taken to reading a book, yes a BOOK upstairs while he dozes off, before going down and doing husbands tea. I sound 1950's, but there is revolution in my veins.

That half hour is MINE! Without it, as I discovered when husband rocked up at 7.25 and prevented kid to bedding, and lost me my half hour, I am crazy enough to consider murder. Or a fag, again.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Easy peasy pie child pacifier banana cakes

It is 2 in the afternoon. A walk to the park in freezing polar wind resulted in increased snottiness and wails of "My feeeeeet!" from daughter, who is genetically designed to live in San Tropez, not the Fens, where there is no tree windbreak effect. Lunch was wrong, just wrong, the quiche being one with "bits in". The "bits" were lovely last week, but this week they are disgusting. Shrek is now rubbish, apart from that bit where he farts. The hobby horse has been converted into a weapon. Whatever one has, the other must have, or die in the attempt. It goes like this:

"I love my Princess Joanna, she is better than YOUR stupid army man"
"No, she is not. I love my army man, he is cool, look, he can jump"
"I want the army man"
"No. Give me Princess Joanna"
"No." (picks up weapon, which is, nearest to hand, a small Roary the Racing Car).
"But I want her." (edges to sofa, reaches underneath for debris he knows to be there, it's probably sharp and unhygienic, result!)
By 3pm, I am exhausted from shouting and referee work. The Scottish refs have it easy. Rather death threats from Celtic fans than being shut in this house for much longer. The only way out, the only way to bring peace, is to bake.
For some reason, even the most aggressive fight will cease when I shout I am baking. I have rules: you must share, you must not throw, and you must wash your hands, as a token gesture, even though I know you will pick your nose halfway through and eat raw egg. The prospect of licking the bowl out and eating cake often forces them to work together in some sort of entente, like France and England, being nice to eat other whilst quickly trying to eat as much of the cake mix as they can on the quiet. My own personal rule is that whatever cake we make must be prepared on the wet/dry basis, where you have one bowl of dry, one bowl of wet, then slap it all together.
These cakey muffiny things are quite the easiest and tastiest, and it matters not one jot of they turn out somewhat dense, as the banana provides an excuse for this.

You will need:
Dry bowl: 250 g Self-raising
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarb
115 g caster sugar (or brown if you like things heavier).
Sift all this.
Wet bowl:
75g melted butter
vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
125 ml milk
3 small or 2 medium black and squishy bananas, squished.

Mix! Bake at Gas 5 for 25 minutes. You can muffin or fairy cake them, makes no odds.
Eat them watching the fart bit in Shrek.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Go in and watch them sleeping.

When you've told them, over 4 hundred million billion willion times to say "please" and they still say "get me". Yes, i've actually chopped the poo in half to get it down the loo. No, I don't know if it will be ok in the sewers. Who has pulled the chair out from under the daughter? There is much bleeding, and wailing, and lying ("But I DIDN'T!!!!" "Er, I saw you?"). There is a chunk of hair in the bedroom, and the so-called safety scissors are gone. The food goes to the chickens, again, who are fat, and no, you cannot have a biscuit. A Jaffa cake IS a biscuit, actually. Alright, it's a cake-biscuit. Do not run to Grandma saying "What have you got for me now?" (I told her, to STOP BUYING STUFF!). Array of interesting scribble all over the wall. And a damp patch there. And there. 4 toilet rolls and a toy dog are down the toilet. I am not sure if they have been weed on. No-one knows. The chicken poo trodden into the rug is no-ones fault again. That dastardly fairy of chaos, was it? or the pair of you, in wellies? What is stinking behind the sofa? It cannot be identified. The hair is tangled, my dear, because you put a great glop of icing in it. No, it is not nice to sing songs about willlies in front of people. I don't care what Daddy does. No, leave it alone. Put the chickens down. Down, I said. Well, if you will pick them up like that. Go and change. No, it is sub-zero out there, not the bathing pants. I don't know where the playmobil gun is. Where? You don't put things up there! No, I told you last time. Get the vaseline. Sneeze. Again. Good. No, let me wash it. You hate me. At 3. Well, I don't know what you will think by 13. You'll probably explode. Who hit who first? You can't both have done it at the same time exactly. Right. Right. Off to bed now. NOW! No, we don't have red toothpaste. It's blue. Just BRUSH YOUR TEETH. I will read both of you the same story in separate rooms. I promise. Christ, this story sucks. Yes, I am still upstairs. Yes. Go to sleep. You've already had some water. Oh. Go and wee then. No, a tiny dribble does not constitute an entire outfit change. The Toy Story ones are in the wash. Yes, they are. No, you are wearing a bedtime nappy. You are. Go to sleep. Sleep.

glug, glug, glug. Ahhhhhh. Now, go back upstairs, and watch them sleeping. Go on. It's designed that they look cute, you refill your love tanks, and they can go on being 3 or whatever tommorrow. A survival tactic. for them and you. Sneak up now.
The picture shows son passed out on the Naughty Step. Sheer exhaustion. And daughter whacked out in the buggy.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Kids need quiet, and aloneness.

The value of quiet for children is something I have been pondering lately, and lo, in the Guardian the other day, Friday I think, Libby Brookes mentioned that there has been little research into thevlaue of being alone and quiet in children, as opposed to the mountains of research about kids and socialisation. Nobody ever talks about how, sometimes, kids like being quiet, and alone.

I've been thinking about it because son is due to go to school in Spetember next year, and I'm wondering how he will cope. He doesn't mind playgroup (3 mornings a week) but "It's very busy and I just like to be quiet sometimes". I fret about how he will do in a class of 30, full on, all day. I know him. He goes to his room / the garden/ the shed and just natters on to himself, making little bubbles of worlds and arranging things to his pleasure, if you poke you head in he says "not yet", he LIKES aloneness, it's his time to play with his imagination. He dislikes playgroup by the end of the week for the noise, the hustle, the "Now we will do painting". Often, on a Friday, he will say "Is it the weekend? Can I be quiet now?". i worry about how he will be in a big class. He does not speak up, not because he is shy, but because it overwhelms him. It is pointless to him. Waiting for a question to be answered in a room of 30, he may as well dream the answer himself. And it would be better.

Thinking of my own temperment and childhood, I was similar. I took myself off to the shed, to the swing, anywhere, and later, with a book. I disliked the enforced jollity of activities at playgroup, and later, school. Daughter, I worry less about. She does not fret. She smites. Go her. At toddler group, she merely said "I don't like it, they don't play properly, let's have a snack and go". She too, will happily go off and doodle away the while rearranging her dolls house into some sort of bordello with her brothers army men, or "reading" the books to make the endings better. For one, Cinderella gets a motorbike.

I think that the school day for a four year old must seem endless. I am told, often, that I should send mine to playgroup more, to ready them for school. What? They have 18 years of it! Let them while away the hours chasing chickens, building grass cutting dens. Let them go off to the bottom of the garden and transform the tree into a motorbike. A Kawasaki Ninja, to be precise. Let them lay on the (damp) grass for 30 minutes and come in and say "I saw a giant, but he was ok, but the clouds were mostly animals today". Playgroup does not do this. Nor does school. Children do this, alone, and themselves, because they are.

You know, i'm edging towards home schooling. More fun. More play. More time to be themselves. I know from experience that a lesson is that long because there are 30 kids there. one on one, I could teach it in 15 minutes. We could have a morning of school, and an afternoon of play, of being alone, of doing nothin, or judo, or swimming, but nothing is sometimes the best of all. Because when my kids are doing nothing, they are always doing something more imaginative and hilarious than I could have dreamed up.

Friday, 12 November 2010

What are the poppies for, Mum?

Son, 3, asked me this yesterday, as we walked past the memorial in my home village. It has flags flapping around the cross, in readiness for Sunday. Some of them are Polish, one is American (I live in the land of the airbase). A whole Scheme of Work flashed through my head, from the days when I was teaching the answer to this question to year 9 students. Them, I could stun into immediate submission by showing them, in lesson one, a full 20 minutes of pictures, film and reportage from the Front. That is why. But I can't show a 3 year old that. So what do I say?

That rememberance is about the people, not the war. So when we got home, the photo album came out and I showed him the pictures of my great grans' family, all of them lined up for a group shot. Then the pictures of her brothers, in Uniform, raring to go away,leave that life of shepherding and farm work, get a suit (a free one!) and see the foreign shores. Only one, of 7, came back, 2 boys in one battle. Leaving a depopulated village, women without husbands, brothers, fiancees, or any prospect of one. "They left to fight a war with another country" I said. "It wasn't their war, but they went to help, but they got killed".
Deflecting questions about how, exactly, (mud, guns, drowning, who knows? Only that it was at Mons, and Ypres). I used an analogy about how sometimes, if people are fighting, they sometimes ask for help. If you believe that the person needs help, you help them, and soldiers do it because it is their job. I didn't mention conscription. I mentioned how, when my nan died, we lit candles for her, to remember, and that poppies helped people to remember soldiers who have died. Who are brothers, and daddies. I didn't mention how some wars are not virtuous, how men died for little pay and no reason. I mentioned only that we should remember them, so we don't fight again. I didn't mention how it hasn't worked yet, but only that we should do it, in the hope that it does work.
I will take them to the ceremony on Sunday. They don't, thankfully, have anyone specific to remember in their living memory, as my Brother-in-law came out of Afghanistan alive. But they can think about my great grans brothers, who left a life of shepherding, and farming, and did not come back. And, as every year I taught it, I was moved by the sudden anger and disbelief of my year 9's, who usually didn't care about anything much more than their XBox, I hope that my two will grow up utterly indignant about the wars fought in our name and the losses they resulted in.

In my nans photo albums there are 6 photos of war graves, in France. They are my Great Grans brothers. She never made it to France, but my grandad went and took the photos for her. They are what she had, a known resting place. So many did not. In my pre-kids days, husband and I took our holidays in Belgium and France, trudging the cemetaries, walking the Menin ridge, marking the front lines as we went, noting the piles of shells French and Belgian farmers left by the roadside for collection, even now. The large cemetaries are too huge to contemplate, your eye is stunned by the mass of white rectangles. And then you realise that some rectangles name 2, 3 even more, and the walls behind note even more. Imagine them all standing. And then the next cemetary, and the next. Chinese workers are shoved to the side, Indian soldiers given side rooms. And still, still, many more lie lost and unidentified. Someones son, brother, lover, husband.

In Britain, we are privilged, in one way, not to have these markers on our landscape. But, we have no daily reminder of the loss. In Arnhem, husband and I spent a day walking the route of the Market Garden assault, eventually fetching up at the cemetary. All the way there, there are markers of which soldier held the front, which soldiers were valiant, but fell. It's pitted into the pavement, in metal. Schoolchildren are given dedicated graves to tend, and hold a yearly service of thanks. In France, schools have a gravesite each to tend and look after. It was fought on their soil, they see. We do not. We have the odd white rectangle sent home to country churchyards. We forget, and we should not.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Give your kid a camera, a real one.

I walk about with my camera all the time, it's my third eye. I sometimes think my own eyes see things through a square. For me, it's a way of seeing the little things that are beautiful or moving, seeing the small picture helps me to see the big one. When i've had a day of being moaned at ("NOT THOSE FISHFINGERS! The OTHER ONES!" "Oh, you mean the fish cakes." "I just cut a little bit of hair off!" Daughter sobbing, holding clump, says otherwise, you know the drill), and it's hard to see the wood for the screaming, I like to take a minute and look through a lens. So son and daughter are used to being snapped (although, if I get his "photo face" one more time I will scream), and son kept agitating for a camera. I looked at those big kiddy style ones that add cartoons and so on, but frankly, the picture quality is beyond dreadful. And why should kids have a "kid" version of everything? It's like saying "you are small and wouldn't be able to use a real one", when in fact, they can. Why should something have to be big and unbreakable, and have "fun" elements? Kids, given half the chance, will look after things that are delicate with care 95% of the time, and the other 5% of the time, they're just doing it on purpose. Why should a kid need "amusing" elements to a camera, when a camera is already fun enough, if the person looking through the lens is fun?

As I proved by digging out my old digital camera, an old kodak Easyshare model. It's small enough for his hands, it's a point and click, and away we went.He was careful, carrying it with the wrist strap. He took to it quickly. After asking "What should I photo, Mummy?" and receiving the reply "Anything that you think is beautiful, interesting, or silly! Anything you like!", we went for a walk. I now have snaps of the following, a window into the mind of a 3 year old boy. The tally is: 3 dead worm photos, 1 photo of dog poo, 4 trucks, 3 lamposts, 4 patches of nettles, 1 berberis berry, 1 of his sister (note she is less interesting than dead worms), 1 bike, 1 of a brick wall for "it is patterny", 1 of his new snowboots, and a staged shot of his sisters toy dog about to fall off a cliff. As well as being fun, and educational, it was really lovely to see him so engaged in his surroundings, and he has claimed the camera as his now. Interestingly, he clicked onto the zoom without being told, and preferred the viewfinder to liveshoot, so I am hopeful I may have a David Bailey who can support me in my old age.

So don't buy an expensive kid camera. Buy a real, cheap one, and let them click away. Look at life through your kids' lens.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

I wish there was grey hair dye.

I am going grey. What little hair I have, where it has grown in again, has grown in grey. I am salt and pepper. I have more grey than my mum. But it is not grey ENOUGH. I want more grey. Total grey. I don't want to dye what I have left to my natural brown. I daren't, in case it falls out more, for one, and also because, dammit, grey is what happens and I don't want to be dying it forever in an effort to look younger than my 38 years. Just as I accept my lack of hair and what is left of my boobs after feeding two kids, I want to accept grey. But I want it to hurry up. Half measures look rubbish. And grey can look cool. (Pus, my grey hair is thicker than my brown, and I need all the help I can get).

Grey is old. My great gran and my nan had fabulous pearly white hair. But grey can be young too. Women with autoimmune conditions, like myself, often go grey earlier. Regrown hair from hair loss is often grey. But where are the grey, younger women? Do they all dye? Do they all hide? I can only remember one example, a teacher at the school where I last worked, who had that steely grey hair you sometimes get, cut snappyand short, and my, it was hot. But, aside from Judy Dench and Helen Mirren, where are the women who are grey in media? And where are the young ones? Google grey hair and you get loads of stuff to cover it, prevent it, deal with the agony of it, but NOTHING about how to just go grey and say "stuff it". George Clooney can be grey and sexy, but Nicole Kidman goes out with a bit of grey showing and she gets slaughtered. Whole blogs about how dreadful she looks. Dreadful? She's NICOLE KIDMAN! Hello! What a slut, hey?
So, just like my trouble finding women with balding bits and bald heads, or really short hair (you may recall, Servalan from Blakes 7 was just about the only one I found....), now I am also another taboo on top of looking a bit like a lesbian. I'm an OLD looking one.

Oh, no wait, I just found this one of Jamie Lee Curtis. She looks great. Now all I have to do is get her body and i'll be fine. And for those who say, "Where's the political sniping this post?" I say to you: Alistair Darling. As long as my eyebrows go grey too.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Sod politics, i'm lovin' the eggs!

I just can't bring myself to blog about politics at the mo, although it has been comsuming me, in a bad way, so much so that I cannot watch the news in case one of THEMcomes on. So before I start on my true, egg blog, here is a task for my 2 readers for next week. Bear with me. I have set myself the task of writing one outraged letter a week to my local MP, the Conservative Stephen Barclay, whose blondish, young-ish, Tory mug can be seen every week in our local rag, grinning as he watches the scythe of cuts ruin the Fens (further), pretending to care. It is my intention to gather as many of his asinine replies on House of Commons paper ("I share with you some concerns, but policy....all in this together.... a council matter.....central office....blah blah blah")as possible, and then with a final flourish, use them all to bed down the hens so they can shit all over him. Maybe he'd like to come to a photo shoot for that. So, pick an issue, any issue, and i'll do it in next weeks letter. Challenge!
So, with the politics/chicken poop link nicely done, I can get down to the egg lovin'.
It is now about 2 months since the 3 brown hens came into our garden (and dug most of it up). I am SO CONVERTED. I will never eat an egg that's not from a free range happy hen ever again. I get 3 , super huge, super tasty, super yellow yolked eggs per day. And they ask for so little in return. A scoop of pellets, a clean out once a week, and whatever scraps you have left over. Mine are in their nice run for the mornings, and out all afternoon. I do this because I'm out in the mornings with playgroup, and I fear for predators, but in the afternoons, they charge about the garden with the kids. They peck at the grass, eat all the weeds (goosegarass, dandelion, all gone!), eat all the pests (slug eggs, grubs, leatherjackets), try to get in to watch tv, and make themselves little dustbaths everywhere. They rummage through the gravel, chase flies, and play football with tomatoes. One is so placid she sits on the trampoline with son and allows herself to be carted around. They all nestle together under the Canna lillies and cluck. And then trot merrily back into the coop all by themselves when the dusk draws in. At which point I don the rubber gloves, pick up the poo, and say goodnight to them, knowing that in the morning, the kids will charge down to the coop with breakfast for the hens (leftover cereal is OBSESSING them), and come back with 3 warm eggs.

They are utterly charming. Everyone who has met them has gone, "Oh! Funny!" and then said "They're big, aren't they?" and that's the thing. When you buy eggs, or think of battery hens, you don't think of how big a hen actually is, or what a hen likes doing. You don't have a picture in your mind of how a hen lays. You don't know what a hen eats. The eggs from batteries are from hens who cannot run, or even stand up. They have yellow yolks because of colouring in pellets, not because of the greens and insects they've eaten. They're not sometimes ovoid rather than oval, or speckley or not, with SUPER STRONG shells, like mine are, because those chickens lead an unhappy, uniform existance, with no joy whatsoever. Find someone with hens, eat a fresh that day egg from a happy hen, and then watch the hen for a bit. Scratching about. Doing a happy triumphant cluck that that huge egg is finally out. Watch them queue to use the nesting box in the mornings (that cracks me up). Watch as one of them finds a juicy leatherjacker grub from underneath what was your bulb patch, and run off with it with others in pursuit. Realise that they are funny, bright creatures, and need a bit more than a box to live in, if they're to produce eggs for your box. Respect to the hen.

A few things i've discovered if you're thinking about hens in your garden.
  • Cheap! After the initial cost of coop, woodshavings are cheap, a sack of pellets lasts ages, and if they free range, they don't eat that much anyway, as they're filling up on grubs and weeds.
  • They don't wreck the garden that much. They eat weeds, pests. They WILL scratch up seedlings, and they WILL strip a bush of berries, so protect seedlings and any berries you want to eat. If it's muddy, you might want to keep them off the lawn. But they'll be great for clearing ground and veg patches before the Spring.
  • They actually do make clucking noises when laying.
  • Chicken poo picking up isn't as bad as nappies was.
  • Don't panic about kids and chickens. A few simple rules: wash hands afterwards, don't chase, don't pick up if they don't want it will suffice. I researched hygiene, kids anc chickens online beforehand, and really, if you wash hands, and don't actually smear the poo over stuff you're fine. More danger of getting something from the dog poo on paths.
  • Get some hens! And write cross letters to your MP!

Friday, 22 October 2010

A freezer week: use up those unidentifiables!

Now we have been earmarked to be poor for the rest of our lives, by dint of not being born a Tory grandee landowning family, I have been thinking of ways to minimise our weekly shop and cut, cut, cut. I've been tight as Osbourne on Xmas presents, ebaying like mad and carbooting to raise funds, which are strictly controlled this year. If I was any good at it, i'd be making presents, not buying. As it is, there is a cap on spending in this house.

I already meal plan like a modern day Beeton, only without all the 5 course meals and servants. I make a weekly plan and do not deviate from it. We are a snack free, treat free house. We splurge on fruit. We buy seasonally from the old geezer down the road, who grows it himself. The chooks provide 3 eggs a day, we eat a LOT of eggs. They eat the scraps. But still, I feel, we eat too much meat. So i've cut down on the expensive cuts, and buy the cheaper stew friendly ones. I eke out a chicken to 3 or 4 meals, and I make stock. At the end of every week, husband gets a curry made from any veg that are looking sad. But I still overcook. I still make too many portions. For example, we had cauliflower cheese as a side last week. Nobody in my family loves it so much that they'll eat a whole cauli. So half gets frozen. In an attempt to cut right back and empty that freezer, last week I took a good hard look inside that chest freezer and was amazed.

Meat: mince, 1/2 pork loin, 2 chicken breasts, bacon.
Cooked meals: 1 portion chilli, 1 bolognaise, 1 chicken stew, 1 cauliflower cheese, 4 homemade fishcakes, 10 homemade chicken nuggets, 2 portions lamb curry, 4 portions marinanded ribs.
Veg: frozen sweetcorn, bananas, blackberries x 1 million, peas, lemongrass, chillis, chopped leeks
sundries: enough ends of loaves of bread to feed an army.
That is more than enough, I saw, to feed us this week. So all I bought this week were fresh veg from the market, and tinned tomatoes and dried chickpeas/ lentils. And this is what we had.
Monday: minced beef pasties with leeks and sweetcorn and chickpea relish.
Tuesday: Fishcakes and cauli cheese with broccoli.
Weds: kids had nuggets, we had the curry.
Thursday: Kids had bolognaise, we had chilli.
Friday: Kids had chicken stew, we will have ribs and salad. And wine. A lot of it. I've been inside a lot this week.
Also managed a bread pudding using chooks eggs and the arse ends of bread from the freezer. Total expense on shopping this week was probably less than a tenner. Plus, I didn't have to cook per se, I only microwaved and defrosted, and it was LOVELY. Instead, I stood in the kitchen pretending to cook, standing by the microwave and reading while the kids waited. Ha!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Theme your weeks with toddlers and stay sane(r).

I regularly post on Netmums, and other "mummy" sites, I use it as a way to connect with other Stay at Home Mums (we deserve capital letters! And a pay packet, come to it. ) Recently, i've mentioned how I approach a week with my two, who are 3 and 2, and had lovely positive feedback, so I thought i'd blog it. One of the most difficult transisitions from working to staying at home was the lack of structure. I found that, at work, teaching, i'd measure my success through results, lesson attention or any number of other measurable outcomes. At home, what do you get? Nobody says "Yes, you met that outcome!", there is nothing to give structure to your week unless you make it. To keep me sane, I decided to approach my week with son and daughter in a more structured way.

I get a theme. Sometimes they are suggested by son or daughter, sometimes externally. In the past we have had boat, dinosaur, baby, flower and vegetable weeks. Every Sunday, we think of a theme. Last Sunday was "Autumn". So this week, we gathered leaves of different colours, and used them to make collages of bonfires and leaf prints. We walked the footpaths and took photos of the walk, and compared them with Summer photos. We gathered conkers, and sloes. We made autum and halloween masks from papier mache. We read books on Autumn from the library, spotted evergreen and decidouous trees, and gathered beech nuts. In our discussions, questions came up I had to research: Why do some trees lose leaves not others? Why is it darker at bedtime now? and so on. It makes me plan the way I used to plan lessons.

This weeks theme, decided by daughter, is HAIR. Unpreposessing, at first. But she's really aware at the mo of hair. Readers will be aware that I am almsot bald due to medical complaints. Daughter has the only flowing locks in the house. She spent Saturday with family friends with hair, the Mummy had hair,the daughter had hair, I do not have hair. So, hair it is. So, it's Rapunzel, Micheal Finnegan, animals that moult, and the various uses of hair through history, as walling, bedding and quilt stuffing. Animals that grow and lose hair, animals without hair, porcupines: are quills hair? Why is some short, some long, men have short hair, ladies do not, and why some ladies have it or not. And why, what I have, is growing in grey. Amd what is it anyway? I wish I had a microscope. I think we'll use soem chicken feathers to make prints and collages, we'll take a trip to the barbers and have a haircut, and we'll see what happens when we plait Stellas hair wet and leave it overnight.

If you are bored of your routine with your under 4, I urge you to think of a theme, or get them to, and see what a week you have. My whole working life, i've never answered as many questions as now. When you focus and choose to direct the questions of your children as a SAHM, you are not making an easy life for yourself. Tonight, I looked up why the moon controls tides. This for a 3 year old who wanted to know why little magnets made no difference. "What if there were more magnets and the moon moved away a bit on its' line?" Er, hang on a minute. This weekly focus is less about them, and more about me. Kids are sponges, brain sponges. All we do is wet the sponge.

And the quilt? Yep, still going. It's too BIG (single bed size), I sew so slow, and I am positively , never, ever sewing another one by hand ever again. I do not think it will be finished for Xmas, even if i do finish the quilting, the binding will drive me spare. Sons' birthday is in January, and so maybe by then.....

Saturday, 16 October 2010

It's that time of year again: indoor games for 3's and under

The weather is against us once more. When it's not pelting down, we still go outside and ramble. It's still good for foraging (sloes and crabapples, rosehips and mushrooms), but i'm gearing up for the Winter. Being inside with a 2 year old and a 3 year old can be akin to being in a state penitentiary with no time off for good behaviour, and the days can be long, long, long. So how to get through? Standard mothers helps during this long period of drabness obviously include the useful playdough and craft buckets, but boy, playdough does my HEAD IN after about 10 minutes. (The picture to left is son, at about 18 months, INSIDE when I was also INSIDE with a 4 month old. How fun is that? Not much. Look at how gross his nose is.) And really, it's not all that much fun, for 5 months of the year. Sure, you can buy Moon Sand and board games, but Moon Sand gets everywhere and board games just don't do it for my 3 year old. "MUUUUM! Stella is hiding the dice again!" Now son is getting a tad older, he can play imaginative role playing games or playmobil, and will, for hours, play at being a shopkeeper or librarian, but after 60 minutes this palls with me and daughter generally resorts to trashing the aforementioned shop/library. So for those times when role playing and playmobil are just too much, try these.
  • Baking: Muffins and biscuits. In the next few weeks, i'll be posting my gingerbread recipes, useful for tree decorations and stuffing your face. Baking makes a mess, sure, but you do get to watch them lick the bowl.
  • Painting: Yes, painting is icky and you clean up a lot after. But try this: get a wee bouncy ball, roll it in paint, and then stick a sheet of paper inside a biscuit tin and let them go hell for leather banging the ball around (lid on!) and see the patterns it makes. Or paint on mirrors, patio doors, or, even, the bath. Then wash it all off afterwards.
  • Dressing up: You don't need special outfits. Mum and Dad clothes are fine. Get them all in a heap and demand outfits of a certain colour or style. Let them be "Mum" or "Dad" and listen as they parrot back your catchphrases to you.
  • Assault courses: Take all the cushions off the seetee, the matresses off the beds. Use the whole lounge floor. It's not a lounge, it's an ASSAULT COURSE!Plus, you can see all the crap under the cushions, ignore it, and then put them back again. It feels great.
  • Dens: the best way not to see your kids for at least an hour. Pull out the seetee, get that sheet attached, and give them lunch in the den.
  • Hunt the object/Colour/Shape: Get yourself a prize bag of biscuits or something. Dole out prizes for the first one to find something ....BLUE! Then.......ROUND! and after a few minutes send them to find something very hard to find and eat some biscuits yourself.
  • Memory testing: Remember that bit in the Krypton Factor where contestants would watch a video clip and then answer questions on it? (No? You are TOO young.) Well, now do it to your kids. Watch a bit of Dumbo or whatever, and ask memory questions about it, rewinding to check the answers. What colour hat is Mrs Dumbo wearing.......
  • Get yourself a roll of plain wallpaper, get a kid to lie on it, draw round them, and then spend a few minutes drawing on features before "dressing it". Always goes down a storm with my two, particularly if the person is drawn in an anatomically correct style.
  • Pretend cleaning: for some reason my two are kept amused for up to 30 minutes by being given a sprayer full of water and a cloth. Result: damp, slightly cleaner house, and a chance to have a cuppa.
  • Being sick: they are the doctors, the stuffed toys the patients, and you are really, really ill and can do nothing except lie down and direct things from the sofa. Remarkably, this often means a lie down for me for up to 20 minutes. Result! If you really want to get gruesome, you can cut a hole in the most knackered and loathed cuddly toy and tell them to dissect it and have an operation. Trust me, they will LOVE this.
  • Hide and Seek: pushing the limits with this one, I can hide in some places for 20 minutes with a book. They never, ever, look in the bath. Not even when i've hidden there for the 20 minutes beforehand. There will be a place with the properties of a cloaking device in your house too, and you must find it.
  • Stair death toll: there is endless, and I mean endless fun to be had from flinging toys down the stairs. Hear my daughter as she "does" Baby Boo Boo Puppy the raggy dogs' voice as he plummets down the stairs. Followed by son mouthing "Heeeeelp Meee" as he flings poor Makka Pakka down. Also useful to re-enact the physics test of "What is heavier: a pound of feathers or pound of something else?".In other words, what flings down fastest. Trust me, they love this, and all you have to do is provide a lot of flinging stuff and sit and drink tea. And pick it all up afterwards.

Oh, there are more, but you get my drift. This is all about minimizing the time spent going "ARRRGGGH! When is it Spring?" and instead buying you time to have a cuppa/snifter. Being in with kids doesn't have to be terrible, it can be fun. You just have to allow them to mess up things a little, and really, it's fun to mess things up. Bet you, if you start off stair flinging, you'll get into it. There ARE things you want to fling. Just like a 3 year old. And how they LOVE seeing you do it.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

When mummies shout.

Most days, even the 5am start days, I am pretty calm. For a mum of a 2 and 3 year old. I do my fair share of semi-yelling "Come on! Come ON!" when i'm flapping out the house to playgroup. I do a lot of deep breathing. But usually, I use the "1,2,3" method, and it works. I say "That is the first time i'm warning you, that's 1". "Now, that's 2" and on "3" it's off to their thinking spot (usually their rooms) for 5 minutes or until they are ready to talk, usually quicker than that, sometimes longer. Most days, for most things, I don't have to go beyond "2" until the afternoon grumps arrive.

But something bad has been going down in our house. I feel poorly. Daughter has the night terrors, so I am up between 4 and 10 times a night. Son is sniffly and needs tissues all night. Daughter has reached the contrary "no!" stage, son has his first testosterone surges and / or behaviour picked up from playgroup. Suddenly, I have two boundary testers, 2 and 3 going on 13. And i'm tired. My mum is having a heart bypass, I'm hating my new medication, and I am this far from constantly vibrating with tension. So, I managed to get them out of the house, and son to playgroup with no major trauma. I managed to sit through toddler group with contrary daughter ("do you want to go on the rocker?" "No". "Do you want to try the slide?" "No." "Do you want to do some painting?" "No". You get the gist), without throttling anyone. We all got back home without being too damp and only one collywobble on the way. But lunch was the straw. The last one. Alright, I know I make food and the chickens eat most of it. I know kids are fussy. I know son in particular is antsy about "wet" food and wants it all "dry". But today, the sandwiches were wrong, oh so wrong, with a tiny smidgeon of mayonnaise on. Cue squalling and weeping worthy of Bernhardt at her best, and then copycat wailing from daughter "And my yoghurt has BITS in!". Did I do "1,2,3"? No. I YELLED. I WAILED. I actually threw the sandwiches away with a flourish, and screaming "DON'T EAT IT THEN!" waltzed upstairs and sat on the loo. I could hear them both, being silent. Then they cried. Then they remonstrated with each other. "Mummy is cross because you didn't eat your yoghurt!" "No, it was your sandwiches!" etc etc. Then they crept, actually crept upstairs and said sorry meekly. Unprompted (thud as I hit the carpet in amazement). They still didn't eat the sandwiches, mind. We all ate crisps instead and felt better.

Do I feel bad about it?Should I be weeping? Kids are little, we shouldn't yell. An adult yelling is probably pretty scary. But I think that once in a while, it does no harm to lose it in a mild way. They should see that adults can have bad days too, and be upset and angry. They should see that the constant carping can whittle away my sanity. And decide which damn sandwiches they want before getting me to make them. They should see, also, that adults can be cross and say sorry. I apologised for shouting, I explained I was tired and in a bad mood. I then used it as a way of pointing out to them why I don't like it when they yell at each other / me/ the world. And then they forgot it and started to argue about who had the Ducati model and who got the Cagiva, before settling it with violence. 1, 2...........

The brand before the brain

On Friday, son (3) came home from playgroup saying Ben 10 was "coolio" and he wanted Ben 10 for Christmas. He has never seen Ben 10, and only glancingly seen some adverts that haven't been whipped away quick enough after Humpf or something equally innocuous has finished. "I think you'll like something else better" I said. "Maybe a 2 wheeler scooter?" "YEAH! The sparks one!" What sparks one? Oh, that sparks one. How long does it take a brand to be recognised by a 3 year old? About 20 seconds, apparently. And i'm a mean mummy TV policer. I don't buy branded clothing for myself, I don't buy branded food, I am mean all round. So it has intrigued me that, since starting playgroup, son has become brand aware.

How? Kids go into playgroup with branded lunchboxes, Timmy, Thomas, Roary, Ben 10. They wear branded t-shirts,(all the above plus Disney). The girls sport hideous, hideous, pink Disney Princess outfits. (Take note daughter: this will not be you. Thankfully, she has already shorn the hair and disfigured the Snow White doll, so there's hope). A lot of marketing goes on directly targeted at kids. Read this article to recognise the full horror. Research shows that young pre-schoolers cannot tell the difference between adverts and reality, and are especially open to brand suggestion. So, short of no tv at all, what can you do? I believe that, as we are in a media world, kids need to learn how to manage their tv and PC viewing and learn what is real, what is selling, and what is entertainment. I can cope with "pester power", but I don't want my kids branded. I don't want them to be able to recognise brands even I don't. But already, a quick recce of my kids rooms and the house, apart from the toys, shows a brand awareness. When shopping, the kids clamour for the cereal with the charcaters on. Daughter wanted the Princess pants for her first set of pants. She's never seen a Disney Princess movie, but her older friend has. When teaching, I saw young girls with playboy pencil cases. Toddlers wear Tommy Hilfinger tops. It's everywhere, and it's damaging, I think. This may well be our last "brand free" year or two in our house.

What can you do? I'd like suggestions. Here's what I do so far.

  • I buy second hand, brand free kids clothes.

  • I don't wear brands myself

  • I buy generic food, and grow my own. "Finest" is just a fine package.

  • I explain the cost of something, and that the drawing and branding just mean it's "more pennies".

  • I explain that brands are "all the same" and that YOU are different, individual, wouldn't you rather be you? So we decorate our lunchboxes etc.

  • I say people like individual gifts, not "everyone" gifts. Let's make our own.

  • I encourage individuality in clothing. As an ex indie chick, I love it! It means that son has gone out wearing his superhero cape, wellies, and long johns, but hey! Daughter loves leggings and legwarmers and nighties.

  • We thrift. We make an outfit. I show how you can get more for your pennies.
But they are 2 and 3. When they are 6 and 7, it will be harder. This year, their stocking fillers are all ebay second handers. When they are older, will this still be possible? It worries me. My kids are MY kids, but also their own people. I want them to have a strong sense of what a brand is, and why they don't need them, before they reach school, so that they are more able to withstand the peer pressure and must-haves. ( At some point I will blog on just how worried I am about "Free schools" and the possibility for branding there. In the USA, schools are affiliated to Pepsi, or Coke. Really.) Of course, it has ever been thus, but back when I was a nipper, my yearnings were for slip on shoes and pedal pushers in maroon burgundy, not fly trainers and Ipods. Girls wore orange, red and the aforementiond burgundy, not just pink. Lego was for both sexes. Things are different now. The ELC does everything in blue and pink. Brands are everywhere. Kids of 8 have Facebooks pages, and can see all the ads. Of course parents have a responsibility, but even the meanest parent (me: no tv apart from 1.5 policed hours, no PC apart from the ever excellent Boowa and Kwala, and that is in the lounge, and will be for EVERMORE. You hear me, one day teen kids? It's never going to happen, that PC and TV in your room!) Navigating this branded world is so confusing for a toddler preschooler. How can we ensure that we teach that branded is not best? Please do comment.


Eric Schlosser: "Fast Food Nation"

Naomi Klein: "No Logo"


Saturday, 2 October 2010

Thyroid disease: the silent majority.

Because I am a woman with thyroid disease, I am not necessarily crazy. Because I am a woman with thryoid disease, I am still capable of holding a job, or staying at home, without being driven crazy. Because I am a woman with thyroid disease, I am not necessarily over or under eating. I am normal, I am just ILL DAMN YOU. Look, the woman on the right is happy, because back then, you just got a pig thyroid and it worked.

Yes, it's a visit to those crazy endocrinologists. Hey, how about this, you endo guys. (They say, in their big swanky offices). Why don't we, just for a laugh, get ourselves put in charge of an almost wholly female disease, and be mostly male ourselves. Then let's hone our patronising gland till it is as big as an airship. Then, after our patients, driven to us by misery, aftera torturous referral "service", turn up, let's discount everything they read, know, and feel, in favour of a sodding blood test. And oh, let's make the test we pick the most useless, generally unhappy making one. And when they visit, we can point to the test and say "We know best. We are men, we have never had this disease, but we went to medical school. We recieve visits from drug companies that give us golfing weekends, and this dictates our drug preference. We will not allow any other drug, because then people might start thinking we are soft. We are the endocrinologists, men who really don't like women that much".

How long did it take to get diagnosed? 10 years. How ill was I to get taken seriously? Nearly dead. How ill am I now? I am ok, but I have niggles that are not taken care of by my one and only choice of prescriptive drug. I thought i'd see if I could have another. Bad idea. Your (healthy) thyroid gives out hormones called T1, 2, 3, and 4. When your thyroid has gone kaput, you get given replacement hormone. But only 1, T4. The others can go hang. According to the British Thyroid Association (men), this is just dandy and fine. (So what were the other 3 horones for then, exactly? Window dressing? A trick of biology?). So, here I am facing a life with only 1 hormone out of 4 replaced on a daily basis until I DIE. You know, it doesn't work for me. I don't absorb it. I'm on a MEGA dose. And yes, dumb endo, I do take the tablets "properly" (did he think I didn't know how to take them? Gave them to the cat instead?) I still have thyroid symptoms. But, the designated test shows i'm hyper, not hypo, according to the dumbfuck endo. My TSH is 0.02, my T4 is 16. It took me years on a mega dose to reach a T4 that good. Good is 18-24. So, I say, "I've been hyper. I was skinny, eating for England, panicky, not sleeping, pooing 7 times a day and manic. Now, i'm not eating, gaining, backed up, my hair is falling out, i'm practically dead in the water, i'm NOT hyper." I point this out. Endo says, I quote "But you wouldn't know if you were hyper". I say "I would, I just told you". "But he moved on. "Having a surpressed TSH will kill your heart" "Only if I have symptoms, I don't". "It will ruin your bones" "Research says not" "Have you been reading on the internet?" "Well, yes. I have a lifelong condition that i'd like to know about. I'm not an idiot. I can read abstracts and articles from Medline as well as you do (or don't). I know there are alternatives. I know I can have a dessicated thyroid as treatment instead of T4 only. It will give me T1,2, 3 and 4, and might just make me able to function again. How about it?" "Well, it's unstable". "Well, my generic T4 is unstable. You just told me I could have a named brand on prescription, because some generics are unstable. What's the difference?" (silence). Result, a reduced dose, no hope of a new medication, and an anger that makes me boil. My last chance is my GP who may, just may, agree to do a "named person" prescription for the terrible substance that is not golf-weekend giving pharmaceutical thyroxine but natural. What are the chances of that happening? Nil. Excuse me while I venture out into the online world of prescription free pharmacies. I am 38. I am not prepared to stick with one medication, that does not work, for the rest of my life because the NHS says so. Think of any other illness that has no choice of treatment.Find me just one.

Why does this happen? Because 99.9 % of people affected by thryoid disease are women. Because there's no money in providing another option. Because generic thyroxine is cheaper than natural, and it's the only one they're prepared to give out free. Because sadly, it's seen as ok for women to remain at a below par level of wellness,because it's "as good as we can get you" (yes, really, I was told that). Or because it's easy to say "Well, it's your age" (I'm 38!) or "having children takes it out of you" (so that's 50% of the population written off, is it? There was me thinking it was my THYROID). And the one female endo, who you might have expected to be a little better, also diagnosed me as being hyper. She has super powers, because she did this through the wall without even seeing me. Wow! Women unite. So I will see my Gp on Monday, to persuade him to allow a trial of dessicated thryoid, which I will have to pay for, and source, and that's IF he says yes to my trying. If he doesn't, i'll be buying it without a prescription, and dosing myself. I won't be alone. There is a whole subculture of women, tired with being fobbed off doing it, at their own expense, because they couldn't face another 20 years ona drug that doesn't make you better than "i'm coping, just". How wrong is that?

It makes me angry. 1 in 50 women has this disease, yet there's no publicity, getting diagnosed is a nightmare, it affects fertility, pregnancy, menopause. It accounts for depression, Post-natal depression, and myriad health related problems. Yet it is consistantly undertreated, women are not, for the most part even given their results properly, if the correct tests are taken (I was told "who's the doctor, you or me?" and "you don't need to know the numbers, that's for me". "Have you been reading?" "You're within range, that's all you need to know" Except I wasn't. For 10 years. ). The NHS would rather fund anti-depressants, and weight clinics, when a little extra throught to the cause of the problem would eradicate the problems for many many women. could this be something to do with the way drug companies work with the NHS? Possibly. Definately something to do with the fact that it's women affected, and sadly, when you're feeling unwell, you are very unlikely to confront the doctor, and they know it. Women: get your angry pants on. If you have thyroid disease, here are a few pointers to getting treated properly.

1. Get the results. Get TSH, T4, T3, and TPO antibodies tested. Get the numbers. If they won't give them, say you'll go to Data Protection. They're yours. You own that data. Then get the ranges for the numbers.

2. Find someone to help you interpret them. Me, i'll do it. Or the thyroid mums thread on Netmums, or the Thyroid UK website will help.

3. Go in armed and dangerous. Insist on taking the meds and upping them until you are at TSH of around 1 and T4 of around 18-22, and feel well.

4. Take selenium, for antibodies.

5. If you are trying for a baby, tell your GP. Your TSH needs to be at around 1, or the change of miscarriage is MUCH higher.

6. If you are pregnant, likewise. You will need to increase meds whenever, GPs will say by 25%, rubbish, less for some, more for others. Test every 4-6 weeks.

7. After a while, they will say "it's a yearly test for you". Ok, but if you feel crook, GO BACK.

8. Menopause will most likely come earlier, be nastier, and will need dose adjustment. Get your angry pants back on, now you are not only an annoying sick woman, but you're old, and will be treated even worse.

9. Safety in numbers. If you can't get heard, take a friend or partner. And if you still can't get heard, change Gp's. I've been through 10. In 4 years.

10. Read. Learn. I can guarentee that by reading one book, you'll know more than your GP does. He learnt it all in 10 minutes at med school. And then forgot it.


Mary Shomon: Living Well with Hypothyroidism. A fab book.

B Peatfield: Your thyroid and how to keep it healthy, the great thryoid scandal. This is by a guy who was actually done by the BMA for daring to suggest that dessicated thyroid might be ok for some people.


Netmums thryoid mums club: a support thread I started and which is now HUGE, very supportive.

Stop the Thyroid Madness: fab stuff on why single T4 is so bad, and what to do to get dessicated.

Thyroid UK: a patient advocacy support group and charity with some excellent advice pages.

Thyroid disease .org: a wide ranging support board.

There are many more, but these represent a good uk selection. Mary Shomon runs a great "About" site on the thyroid, which is very informative, but it is best to start on the UK sites, as the test ranges in the USa are better. Here, you have to be practically dead to be diagnosed. In the USA, they are more sympathetic and dessicated is diagnosed regularly, also T4/T3 combination therapy. I want to move!

Wikipedia: on Dessicated hormone.