Friday, 23 December 2011

Wake me when it's over, but record the good bits for me.

Well, the good things thus far about the festive season are these:
  1. The kids and I can stay in pj's till noon and eat our breakfast at 10am. This suits all of us so much more than having to shovel down cereal at 7am and be out of the house by 8 with me shouting "Come ON! Eat the toast on the way! What do you mean? Bike one handed!"
  2. I reckon i've done the whole gift giving shebang for pretty much under 150 quid for everyone, which is 2 kids, husband, my mum and dad, in(out)laws, and various odd friends. This is because I am a cheapskate that refuses to buy her kids anything at all labelly or expensive until they are puce with the lack of it at 13 years. I've done it all at charity shops, carboots, Boyes,or in my kitchen. 
  3. It's not as bad as it sounds, really. Best buys were a vintage Silvercross pram for dolls for £1.50, A scooter for a quid, and a completely unused, still sealed Science Museum Microscope with slides for £1.50. Trust me, the kids are getting 30 plus presents each this year. Husband has a fetching Lumberjack shirt, lots of CD's and DVD's, and the obligatory socks and pants, the only things i've actually purchased new. For obvious reasons. Both sets of grandparents are getting 10 prints of the kids, and a box full of piccallili, chutney, lemon curd, walnuts, pickled onions, and homebrew wine. Friends have wine or chutney.  Cost is negligible, most of the fruit and veg is either homegrown or foraged. Biggest cost is time and vinegar. 
  4. Existential conversations about why Santa / Father Christmas has two names. Is it, as son posits, because he has to split himself in two for the different hemispheres? I must stop letting him look at atlases. 
  5. The fact that I actually made the nativity play this year. Even though, really, it wasn't very good. 
  6. The fact that daughter nabbed the part of Mary for her pre-school production because "real" Mary was ill. Her every step across the stage was filled with triumph and spite and made me search her room for little voodoo Christy-Lees'  (the "real" Mary). 
And then there's the shit. There's more of the shit.
  1. Yes, we were having a family Xmas. Yes, for the first time we'd said it was at OUR house, so we wouldn't have to drive, LIKE THE LAST 3 YEARS. Because, you know, the kids like to play with their toys and not be wrenched from them to drive cross country, and I like to have a drink, goddamit. But then it appeared that nobody wanted to drive. I gave a silent joyous "hallejuyah" and prepared to enjoy my day in pajamas with me, mine. Until the in-laws said they were coming. Let me just say that they turned up at 8 AM last time and stayed till 9PM. This made me a bit cross, because I like to be dressed to greet guests, and more than that, Xmas morning present opening and brief fleeting gratitude from the kids is MY PRESERVE: having been the one who wiped their arses all year. Back off, Out-Law. Not this time. I'm locking the door till noon, and i'm only opening it when i've had a pint of sloe gin and am teetering on the edge of ignoring / attacking any stupid right wing ideas that might / inevitably emerge over lunch. You can see where this will end up.
  2. They've already started comparing present sizes. It does not matter that I explain that worth is not related to size. No. The Biggest is the best. There will be tears, rows, weeping. 
  3. GO TO BED. YES. NOW. Jesus Christ, if threats and texts to Santa don't work now, they won't tommorrow. And they will wake up at 4, be grumpy by noon, just as the outlaws arrive and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 
  4. Stop saying "I want". No, really. 
  5. I know what i'm getting. My kids told me because they are pathologically unable to keep a secret. And whilst I do need new slippers, my world is not on fire. A tiny bit of me wanted to say "And you're getting......."
  6. Cheese. I'll eat it. All. My arse will be big(ger) and it will be my own fault for watching the Dr Who Special on repeat with a WHOLE blue goats cheese, whilst kids sleep, husband has passed out through a combination of drunkeness and food.
Oh, and I forgot to by Paracetomol. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Buy the teacher booze.

This year is the first year i've been on the parental end of teacher present buying. I know it is traditional to moan and whine about how you never did it, what's the world coming to and so on, but there is actually no law that says your 4 year old can't like and appreciate his teacher, and in fact, I loved every, single, crappy, or boozy gift I was ever given.
Of course, as a secondary teacher, mine were often less handmade, and more boozy, which helped, but I can honestly say that everything was appreciated. Here are some tips and hints on teacher present buying, from the perspective of a teacher. I'll start with some of the best gifts ever, that I got. You'll note that none of them cost much.
Top Ten gifts received by me, as teacher.
  1. Absolutely best ever gift: a letter from a student thanking me and saying how i'd helped. Also copied to the Head. Thankyou X. 
  2. A huge hunk of cheddar. Probably shoplifted from Morrisons on the way in, and lobbed over with a "Ere you are Miss". Much appreciated by me and the staff party, and a lovely thought from a pupil not much taken with thought for anyone. 
  3. A fridge magnet made by a Year 7 student, consisting of a slab of plastic stuck onto a magnet with "You are my best teacher" written on it in Tippex. I kept this for years until it fell apart. 
  4. Some really large pajamas (my maternity leave co-incided with Xmas) from my form group, along with a note that said "My mum says these will be handy even after pregnancy, because you stay fat and the weight never comes off". 
  5. A sparkly, really, really sparkly pink fake cubic zircona keyring in the shape of a letter "M". Because my name was "Miss". 
  6. Any wine. Really. 
  7. Home made biscuits  wrapped up in paper which had a picture of me on it. Year 7's can be cruel. Yes, my heels were high and my suits severe, but I really didn't think my butt was that big. Biscuits were lovely, I ate them anyway, despite the pictoral evidence,  picture stayed on my wall in class for years. 
  8. Pens. Especially red ones. 
  9. Bath stuff. Yes, I know it's a cliche, but I could keep my bath going for half the year on my Xmas booty and I really appreciated each and every smelly. Although I admit the luminescent ones with no ingredient list went to the PTA raffle. Buy small, cheap, but good and hypo allergenic.
  10. A set of socks to be kept in my drawer because one very observant tutee noticed I always forgot to have spares, and after walking to school from the train station I often had wet feet till break.  Ditto tights.
So, you see, nowt over a fiver, and the top gift was free. I still have the card my form gave me as I left the school.

So, a few tips.
  • Cheap. 
  • Personal. Yes, let them draw the card / gift. This year we made the cards and let son (4) write in them. I've seen some lovely plain baubles that would be great decorated by your kid.  Letters are fab. Something the kid has made is NOT second best, it's the tops! 
  • Useful.  I say to you again: Pens. You have no idea how many pens teachers get through. And how tight the person with the key to the stationary cupboard is. 
  • Self pleasuring. Your teacher is knackered. Anything that involves a small bit of joy for them is heaven. So yes, bubble bath, scented candles, food, wine, chocolate.
  • Genuine. Don't fake it. Don't feel you have to. I never ever expected anything from any of the kids, and every gift was a bonus. I do not subscribe to PTA's that ask for donations for presents. I don't think every teacher deserves one, I know not every parent can afford it. Think simple. Free, cheap, personal, if the kid themself wants to. 
So, what has sons teacher got? A small scented candle, a homemade card, and some hair bobbles "because she has really long hair". She'll use the gifts, but the real gift is the fact that son wanted to get her something, and was desperate to write in her card all by himself. I'll tell her that, and that's the present, really. He likes her. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Leave God out of it please! He's 4!

I am a devout atheist. I don't believe in a higher power and I don't believe that morality is exclusively the preserve of the religious. I would vastly prefer not to be having conversations like this with my 4 year old.
"Why don't we go to the church and see Jesus?"
"Jesus isn't in the church. He's just a man who died a long long time ago that some people think was magical. We don't go because I don't believe that a magical man made the world. We have visited churches, because they are beautiful, but I don't want to go to listen to the vicar talk."
"But the baby was magic and they all worship him. Mrs (blank ) said."
"Well, the baby probably did actually exist, and some people might have worshipped him, but most probably he was just ordinary and then people just started to believe he was magic, and that's why they built the churches."
"What will happen if we can't go to the church?"
"But everyone else is! I'll be the only one!"
"No, you won't"
"Yes, it's on Friday!"

And lo, I had not read the letter in the bottom of the book bag which informed me that the whole class is attending church on Friday. Just an assumption there, that we all won't mind. Well, I do mind, I mind a fair bit. I mind enormously that the story of Christmas is taught as real, to a bunch of 4 year olds who don't have the ability to understand metaphor. I mind enormously that they'll be taken to church, which will also tell them it's real and really happened, and that a baby is the only thing that can "save" you from an unspecified state. I mind enormously that the link between church and state is such that schools are still obliged to peddle religion. I mind that schooling is not secular, as it is in France. I mind that we still have unelected Lords in the House just because they are Bishops. I mind that these people can pass or deny laws that might affect me on the basis of a faith that now only a small percent of the population actually adheres to. I mind that i'll look mean and he'll stand out of I choose to withdraw him. So he'll have to go and i'll have to spend weeks answering questions about a largely imagined God dreamt up by Church, and end up drawing a diagram of the Big Bang and having to read the bit of the Bill Bryson book that explains it to me in response.4 is, I think, a little young for me to be explaining that Christmas is a midwinter celebration, that we celebrate it for other reasons too, and that the church merely hijacked it at this point to stamp out any last remaining vestiges of paganism and con people into going to church instead, in much the same way they allowed Sheela-Na-Gigs and Green Men to be carved into roof beams. I've just told him that it's a story, just a story. And now both kids are playing their own version, in which Mary has a lot of Disney Princess dress up shoes and Jesus is a sort of super baby that can fly. Mixed in with a reprise of his performance as an Innkeeper, which was Niro-esque in brevity and scowling. To me, this isn't a lot more far fetched that telling children that they are born in sin and need to be saved. School, butt out of my (non) religious life.

Friday, 9 December 2011

SAD and Mad

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But really, the reason i've been away for a while isn't just because i'm a lazy arse, it's because I'm SAD. Seasonally Affectively Dumb. I won't say Depressed, because i'm not, but I am dumb.
For those of us with a dodgy thyroid, or those of us without one, the months hugging either side of the shortest day can seem like one big, dreary Wednesday, with added dumbness thrown in. Even those of you with perfectly functioning butterfly glands may find yourself being weary and teary this time of year, and considering buying one of those SAD lamps that purport to sort you right out. The reason is that your thyroid, even your healthy one,slows down in the Winter months, and for most people, this will mean that your TSH (thyroid Stimulating Hormone) will kick in, and tell your thyroid to produce more of T4 and T3 to make you feel better. For most people this works. If your thyroid has packed up, it won't. You'll be stuck with your replacement dose of artificial T4 (and if you are lucky, like me, T3), and you'll be on a hiding to nothing to get the GP to up it for the Winter, leaving you with a grotty few months ahead.

How does this affect me? Well, round about end of October, I started to feel sluggish. Then came the jerking limbs, dropping things (7 mugs in one week, almost one child), joint pain. The random forgetting. And I do mean forgetting. Like having my 4 year old point out it was a school day (and bless him for it). Bad circulation, Reynauds syndrome in hands and feet (believe me, this is not fun. Your fingers and Toes go blue, then white, then hurt LIKE FUCK when they get blood back in them again), and  feeling cold, cold cold. As the thyroid person feels the cold more than most, Winter is not a nice time. I'm the one with 4 quilts and ten jumpers on. In the lounge. When, by November, I was starting to go to bed at 8pm again, I decided to be naughty. I upped my dose without asking the GP or having a blood test. And lo! 3 weeks in, I feel "normal" again (or what passes for it here).  There are lots of scholarly papers with titles like "Thyroid hormone fluctation in Male Sea Bass during Di-urnal Blah..." and a few papers from GP's saying they have found that their patients benefit from a dose increase, but most of the evidence is basically anecdotal. Because thyroid disease isn't really money-making, it attracts no big funding, it's not glamourous ( basic premise is that women get fat, hairless, moan a lot and feel crappy: no big dying gracefully, no big showbiz names with it, unless you count Davina Macall, which I don't, and it only happens to women anyway, so sod it).

So if you have a SAD feeling, my advice is to get your thyroid checked out. And if you already have a dodgy thyroid and feel worse, take a sneaky bit more. I can do this easily because my dosage allows me half a pack extra every month, but if you don't have this leeway, please do pop along to your GP and mention it. But for those of you with thyroid issues, crappy GP's and no sympathetic ear (which is a lot of us), here are some tips for getting through the Winter.

  • Eat small, often. Keep portions low on sugar but with energy giving properties. Porridge is great. You're aiming for a stove effect in your tum. 
  • See some sunshine. Any sun, even that piss-poor grey thing peeking through the cloud, helps your thyroid produce stuff. 
  • Keep extremties covered. I cannot explain how painful Reynauds' is to a non sufferer. When my fingers and toes have "gone" I can take a hammer to them and not feel it. But when the blood comes back, trust me, if the Inquisistion could have tapped that feeling, they would. I have thermal gloves covered by woollen gloves, and handwarmers (99p from Boyes!). Alongside snow boots and thermal socks. This does not make me the most glam mum on the school run, especially when combined with my fluffy old lady hat (also 99p from Boyes!) but hey, I can feel me toes and walk! A mum who cannot feel her toes is liable to criminally embaress her child. 
  • Flu jab! If, like me, you have autoimmune thyroid disease, your immune system is shot and a big dose of flu will just increase thryoid antibody activity. If they offer it, take it. 
  • Selenium. Helps decrease antibody activity and it's worth it. 
  • Take your medication at night. Bit controversial this one. Standard advice is to take meds first thing, and then leave 45 mins before drinking or eating. For me this is hard anyway (picture me, rising at 6am, policing the cereal arguments, forcing recalcitrant children into clothing, all WITHOUT FOOD OR COFFEE, nope, doesn't work), but I have found that taking it at night helps enormously with the morning "fug" before the meds kick in, and that fug is always worse in the Winter. I concede though, that as I eat my tea at 4.30 with the kids, I can go to bed on an empty tum and absorb the meds effectively. If you go to bed having eaten at 8 or 9pm, this is not for you. 
  • Get a big calendar, and round about September write on it in big letters IT'S YOUR THYROID, YOU'RE NOT JUST GETTING OLDER. Which is what I thought, because i'm nearly 40.
Normal service has been resumed, back to rants about dog poo and MP's later on this week.