Sunday, 29 May 2011

Silent Sunday - Funny Buggers in the 'Burgh...

Silent Sunday

Car Boot Sale Silliness...

I went to a car boot sale today. Yeah so what? I hear you say, well it was my first one ever! It was held in the bowels of an indoor car park and what an experience that was. My perception of what a car boot sale was is completely ruined by these BBC programmes where treasure hunters go looking for bargains in the glorious English countryside. I expected to be greeted by jolly characters is waistcoats and pocket-watches who would enjoy a bit of haggling banter.

Instead I was greeted by huge swathes of Eastern European people in tracksuits, overweight women snatching back merchandise from prospective punters who dared haggle with them. Instead of shiny antiques and kitsch paraphernalia from days gone by, I was greeted by the sight of rows of XBoxes, PS3's, Prado bags and general tat that most (or I certainly) would put in the bucket. People were clawing to get to the front of the tables filled with absolute rubbish! Connect 3 1/2 with only the red counters, washed out babygros, well worn shoes, used baby bottles.. If I dallied at a table for any longer than one minute I was shouted at by Polish women with ponytails and gold hoops. I was cursed by a gypsy for standing on her toe and I laughed out loud at a transvestite selling bongs and half empty (or half full depending on your own personal philosophy) tins of shoe polish.

                                                   A car boot sale in the Gaza Strip.

I also made the mistake of taking A who found the unusual sensory experience (walking along in single file with strangers farting in front of you) too much to handle. I've had a hankering to make something for the last few weeks and so when I found a Singer sewing machine for £20 (aye, it's totally brand new hen! Still in the plastic and aw' that!) I was incredibly skeptical. I managed to haggle the woman down to £10, telling her that it was all I had. I was momentarily pleased with myself until A had a major strop, taking my little white lie literally and wailing at the top of his voice in the middle of the car park because "his mum had spent every last penny that we had on a sewing machine and he wanted to go for a panini!". I grabbed him and ran and explained at length what I had done over a ham and cheese panini at Costa. I'm still not sure he gets it.

So with potentially faulty and maybe even lethal sewing machine in hand, we set off home to electrocute ourselves. And do you know what, it works! I even Googled it's retail value and it's worth £100! So now I can plan my new and very exciting projects. Wayhey!

Same time next week?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Twitter Ye Not... (NB: this has nothing to do with footballers)

I've trying my hand at technical jiggery pokery when it comes to this blog and have looking for different way in which to promote it seeing as I have decided to embark on product reviews. So I looked to my fellow (and more experienced) bloggers for the answers. As always when I should be researching one particular topic I bugger off on some mad tangent and a daft blog post usually springs forth.

We all know that Twitter has been in the press recently and quite frankly I find the whole subject boring.

Here is my tuppence worth anyway:

Celebrities ( a very dirty word in this house) should just accept that when you offer up your life for the amusement of others, when you look for endorsements and money from you so called skills or your face or your body then ALL is up for grabs. Easy money can be made from seeking publicity from some low rent magazine (I've been to the hairdressers recently and I forgot to take a book or my ipad and was subjected to various issues of Heat magazine and some other mindless nonsense for 2 hours so my fury is baited. All attempts at making small talk were banned as my stylist was concentrating...) and because they are low rent, they do not have barriers to the information and photographs that they peddle. If you want to manipulate public perception by claiming to be a wholesome family orientated character and then are caught doing the nasty then that's just bloody tough. 

Right, now that is off my chest.

The wonderful Nickie at Typecast is a technical savant and so that was my first stop. Very Bored in Catalunya has a bun in the oven and also an excellent post on what tactics  people use when it comes to Twitter. Mediocre Mum also has some fantastic tutorials if you use Wordpress (I was considering changing from Blogger but only for reasons of vanity. I have an ipad now and the Wordpress layout looks super cool on it!). I was looking for ways to increase my traffic, for SEO and to promote my blog without putting any major time into it. I've figured out only this. You need time. Reading the blogs of others, commenting and networking takes a serious amount of time. Time which I could use sleeping or cleaning or having a bath.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated. 

Mad tangent time: While all of this was in my mind, we had some very dear friends over for dinner this week and after a few sips of wine and plenty food the conversation turned to the various social networking sites we do or do not use, why we like them and why we hate them.

We're a strange bunch and although we concluded that we all use them intensively, we don't actually like them. When we all started using them when we were at University they were in their infancy. Facebook for example was only for students. The world of social networking was a nicer place. In no way did it resemble the high school playground that it does now. There was no "she wrote this, she said this, I hate your face and your fat" business. Silly little people shout abuse into thin air hoping that the recipient will pick up on it and be suitably upset when they next log in; "Someone needs to get a life! Someone needs to stop stalking me! Someone needs to take a good look at themselves!" all said in the manner of a 13 year old child. This abusing Somebody reminds me of that Billy Connolly sketch about Woebe.

                                                Caution: Swearing (well he is from Glasgow after all)

Seriously, I see this all of the time. Thank goodness for the hide newsfeed facility.

We particularly don't like the social obligations they bring. Take family for instance, you have to add them, you cannot get away from that obligation (unless you are our very clever friend who uses a pseudonym!). I have one blood relation in particular that every time they update their status, a little piece of me dies inside and I exclaim to the heavens "how the hell can we be related, we were brought up together?!".

I fully admit that as much as I love my kids and although I'm a pretty hardcore parent (everyday is adventure, classes are constant, age appropriate stimulating activities are researched and implemented) I do find being surrounded by kids all day not that mentally taxing! There I said it, so shoot me. So I come on here to get into debates, to research parenting trends, to let off steam to stop me going insane. I use mobile Facebook a lot. A LOT. Because it breaks up the my day or sometimes, I just need a bit of adult banter. My house is always clean, my ironing is (almost) always up to date, the kids are stimulated and often sleeping when I'm on here and dinner is always freshly prepared and cooked from scratch. I don't feel guilty about it. None one is screaming while I sit here, no one is plonked in front of the TV while I sit on the laptop. If I post a few things in a day, it is because I've been working on them for days at night or during nap times.

This activity has it's downsides. I tend not to go out of my way to see certain people now because they're studying and so on FB all the time, taking breaks from thesis writing. I know everything they're doing and it feels like we see each other all the time. The other downside is (and you can shout at me all you want!) since Bebo died a death and Facebook became cooler, you know get a load of arseholes on it. People who should really have stayed on Bebo and not sent me FB friends requests that I begrudgingly have to accept or bear the real life wrath of said person. People who in real life I didn't even know could work a computer.

See I've gone off on a tangent again and I'm none the wiser about how to promote my blog. What are your opinions of social networking sites. Are they like Marmite? Do you love them or hate them?

Postcript: since writing this I have heard the terrible news that Marmite could possibly be banned from Denmark!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Things I have said to my offspring recently...

This is not an original idea but a third hand idea. I stole it from Rosie at Rosie Scribbles who stole it from NotsoSupermum.

I vaguely remember doing something like this before here and here so do check these out for a real flavour of my general incompetence as a parent. I've always like to share so because we've had a particularly action packed and fun filled few weeks, I have plenty to add to this:

Stop licking the television. (B not A! I had just cleaned it after all)

Please stop wiping your bogies on me! (B has discovered things come out if you stick your finger up your nose during a cold.)

No love, that's a piece of fluff not a pubic hair. (Having completed Sex ed, A is now on pube watch)

Please get off of my head. (B trying to get comfortable for storytime.)

Stop telling everyone we have had rats! It was just a little mouse! (A at school.)

I've no idea how that homeless woman became pregnant. You don't necessarily need to have a house to have sex...bugger! Forget I said that! Do you want to go to Costa for a hot chocolate? How about a muffin too? (More sex ed fallout!)

Yes...bye bye poo bag. (B still likes to wave farewell to her nappy bag of poo.)

Come and smell your sister's bum, I think she might have done a poo. Because I can't bend down today and need confirmation. Thanks buddy! (Bad Mum moment #39834598!)

I have no idea why that man is peeing in the street. No you can't pee too! (The joys of city living.)

I'm still peeing, don't open the door! No, it doesn't take me a long time because I'm old! (A has no patience or tact.)

(.) (.) BOOBIES!

Did that get your attention? Good.
It would seem this week that as much as men obsess about breasts so do women. Breastfeeding has been in the news again for good and bad reasons. It's a bit late in the day to be getting in on the debate but I've been a staunch advocate of breastfeeding for the last twelve years and have had my fair share of ups and downs both with the little ones I was feeding and with the general populace. My knowledge and lecturing has fallen on deaf ears family and friends who thought that I was a weirdo for doing it.

The recent news that the funding for Breastfeeding Awareness Week has been withdrawn is terribly sad but still a sign of the times we live in.
National Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2011, which was due to run from 19 – 25th June, has had its government funding withdrawn. This announcement was made on 7th April on the NHS Local website and the papers have yet to pick it up with any real zeal. Watching my local area where it is de rigueur to breast feed I have seen that over the last few months funding being withdrawn from out local breastfeeding cafe, a place where mothers could go and feed in peace, grab a cuppa and have a chat to other mothers. It is such a shame that I found this place after Miss B's problems had been resolved because when I did go, the place was full of frazzled mothers who were skeptical about the advice given by their professionals. A problem shared as they say. Now they are taking away the funding that promotes breastfeeding nationally as well.

The World Health Organisation have this to say about Breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. 

Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

For me, breastfeeding was the only choice but then I have a rather black and white view of the world. Having read of all of the literature when pregnant with A, I am of the opinion that a plastic teet is manufactured to replace the breast and only in exceptional circumstances. I struggle to understanding how these days the general consensus is the media is that the breast now replaces the plastic teet.

I BF both of my kids with varying degrees of success. A being hard to wean off at 2 years old and B being slow to start and having a few complications along the way and stopping by herself at 16 months. Determined to succeed both times I sought various sorts of help along the way. The first time, I received some fantastic albeit strange support and I felt confident in what I was doing. Because I had done it before, I was offered no help at first with B. I was accused of not watching her latch on properly, not eating enough to nourish her and for weeks despite B clearly not thriving I was told simply to just persevere. I pushed the hospital to investigate a suspected tongue tie and although they were not of the opinion that it would make the slightest bit of difference, they snipped it and B started gaining straight away. It would've been easy to bung a bottle in and watch her chub up like the rest of her bottlefed counterparts but I suspected a cow's milk allergy as it runs in the family. Once B was feeding better and taking more milk, we then discovered that she had relfux! We went to a reflux clinic to investigate different strategies to use to counteract all of her feed coming up and boy, weren't we glad we didn't bottlefeed! We sat there and watched as pairs of parents were subjected to exorcist like explosions after every feed. Because breastmilk is digested easier, the amount she was bringing up was nowhere like that of her bottlefed counterparts.

My experience with B has been on my mind recently as I was contacted by a mother that I had given advice to during the first weeks of her first BF experience with her son who recommended that I take a counselor course. She has said that of all of the professionals who had offered her support and advice, it wasn't until she spoke to me, having BF two kids of my own that she was reassured and felt confident to keep to her path of feeding on demand. Like me, she was wary of the professional advice given and wondered how you could take advice from a woman who hadn't breastfed before. I have no idea what the future of breastfeeding support will look like here in the City but I suspect rates will plummet soon. I can't offer full time support in my area an so that precludes me from joining a counselling course! I can offer some links and information here though.

There is a wonderful website called The Lactivist that specialises in selling promotional merchandise and it has it's own blog where mothers can post queries and problems are tackled by an extensive crowd of women with all sorts of breastfeeding experiences, good and bad.

There are some really great sites offering support and it's a good idea to trawl through them until you find something that satisfies.

La Leche League

Mum 2 Mum Support

Barefoot Mother

Maternity Matters

What is a tongue tie?

A tongue tie is a membrane that extends from the underside of the tongue, in the middle, to the bottom of the inside of the mouth. The pictures at the top of this page show the membrane under the tongue, with a cotton bud used to gently lift the baby's tongue upwards.

How common is it? Estimates vary, but a commonly quoted figure is that 1 in 20 babies has some sort of tongue tie. It's commoner in boys and there may be other members of the family who have also had a tongue tie. Many tongue ties are minor and do not require treatment. However a tongue tie that is interfering with breast feeding may require assessment with a view to possible treatment (frenotomy). Some bottle fed babies will also benefit from tongue tie release. The assessment should be carried out by someone with experience in this field.

Can my baby breast feed with a tongue tie? Some can, some manage OK, some find it difficult, and some can't. Some babies also have trouble bottle feeding and may dribble excessively, or swallow too much wind. The difficulties a baby is having do not always depend on the visual appearance of the tongue tie.

What are the symptoms of a tongue tied baby? Sometimes mothers will experience painful feeding, grazing or damage to the areola or nipple, or even mastitis. Babies may latch on poorly, require several attempts to latch and become frustrated. They may make a clicking noise when feeding. Feeding may be prolonged, and the baby may still be hungry and be irritable, or be ready to feed again within an hour or two. Some babies have problems with excessive wind and may be in pain or suffer from vomiting as a result of swallowing wind. These are some of the more common symptoms of a tongue tie causing problems with breast feeding.

Why do some doctors and midwives think tongue ties are not important? Nowadays we aim to promote breastfeeding much more strongly than in the past, because of the health benefits to the baby and to the mother. Our knowledge on what makes babies breastfeed successfully has also increased. As a result there is more evidence that the presence of a tongue tie can interfere with feeding. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence have stated that division of tongue tie may be beneficial, and there is a parent information sheet to read. **

How is it treated? Tongue tie release is carried out by carefully cutting the tongue tie under the tongue. It is a quick procedure and your baby will be able to feed afterwards. Sometimes there may be a small amount of bleeding, but this stops after a minute or so in most cases. Babies can be fed straight afterwards, and there is no special after-care needed.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Uh oh! And so it begins...

My eleven year old son who happens to be autistic has just finished a course in sex education at school. Now I've tried to be supportive and answer any questions he might have had and have looked into how to approach this sort of thing when you have a kid on the spectrum. I could've let his Dad handle this but decided to wade in myself to see what happened.

Two things have happened since, all of which are great but they are testing me! One of them is whilst on the way to have dinner he approached me and squeezed my arm. After the squeeze he said "I love you Mum and I love the way I can talk to you about anything. We are really close and none of friends have this sort of relationship with their Mums." I tried my hardest not to cry into my Thai tom yum chicken afterwards. I was first and foremost proud of how he had articulated himself and just a little bit pleased at having succeeded so far at fostering this dynamic. I fully expect things to be very different in a few years time when he wants to have something pierced and paint his room black!

The other is that given the nature of our relationship he felt he could come to me with the news that he has a crush on a girl in his class. Wobble wobble. If anyone asked me whether I wanted a relationship where my child shared everything with me or one where they withheld everything, of course I would pick the former. It still doesn't make revelations like this any easier to hear! I swallowed my discomfort while he told me that his classroom had been moved around and that his teacher had put the girl in the seat next to him. I asked if this was making him nervous or uncomfortable but he said he was fine with it.

While we were having dinner last night, his mobile phone kept ringing. When I asked who it was he said it was a few girls in his class pretending to be this girl he likes to play a joke on him!

Uh oh...and so it begins!

The Tweens are here!

Monday, 23 May 2011

PRODUCT REVIEW: The Axil Coolfan.

This is my first product review here on this blog and would like to introduce you to this little guy who was delivered a few weeks ago. His name is Axil and he's become indispensable in this house!

The Axil Coofan is part of the brand new innovative range of cooling fans that cools down children's food hygienically and quickly. 

If like me, you love to cook from scratch, I find that Miss B's portion is always far too hot when it comes to the table. Even if I take out her portion to add seasoning to the adults food, in the hot environment of the kitchen her offerings are still not at the right temperature. So when I heard about this product, I had to try it out. We have been using the Coolfan now for a few weeks now and it has been a delight to use. I was a little apprehensive when I saw the design, wondering if Miss B would rather play with the fan than watch it cool her food. My worries disappeared when B handed me back her plate of food to be put underneath the fan to cool from it's first use. This fantastic contraption was thought up by Mark Mainey, a father who got fed up blowing on his daughters food several times a day. 

The fan is a simple concept and one that I'm kicking myself over for not having thought of it first! The fan is mounted over a circular stand to allow either a plate or a bowl to be placed under it. There is plenty of room for a deep bowl to be accommodated. The stand makes it very stable and the fan piece itself is made of foam to protect any wandering fingers that might come near it. The accompanying instructions were easy to read and follow, plainly laid out. The fan is very easy to use and to clean.  Food normally cools down very quickly. Obviously it depends what is on the plate or how much of it there is. If its one level then quickly but if there's food underneath then you have to move it or stir it as its cooling.

The Coolfan takes 2 AA batteries (supplied) and to change the batteries you just undo the screw in the cap on the top and replace. Easy peasy. The only niggle with the product that we experienced was the amount of batteries we went through. I cook several times a day and seeing as is going through a porridge phase we used it at least three times a day. So my advice would be to buy or use rechargeable batteries.

The Coolfan comes in 4 different colours…
And Black…
At an RRP of £9.99, I think this product is value for money and would heartily recommend it to parents everywhere. If are not entirely satisfied with this product, the company offers a 100% moneyback guarantee. 
To find out more about Coolfans visit their website at , check out their Facebook page or email

Why do we worry so much when it comes to how we raise our kids?

I have pondering this question recently.

Since joining the community of parent bloggers I have recognized that I am the type of parent who takes time over every decision, big and small I make regarding the kids. I discuss things with Oh Daddy so we are on the same page regarding how we are raising the kids. Every new policy that is created, whether it is on fizzy drinks, sinful sweets, or others is agreed upon so that we know that we are raising our kids in a certain way. Raising a child with ASD, where there can be no grey areas has also helped shape our style. Things have to be discussed out of earshot and a united front must be presented. There can be no bickering in front of him, no inkling that there is room for leeway when one parent feels more strongly about a certain issue than the other. This style of parenting suits our respective personalities. Having had such an intensive research experience in study and in work, parenting in this way suits our way of thinking.

This same way of thinking is prevalent in the community of parent bloggers, why else would someone write a blog. I've yet to read a post that said "came home, fed the toddler Supernoodles whilst it watched Family Guy".

Parenting in this style sits well with us but recently I have been questioning this. I have always felt that this was the best way to approach the task of raising our kids. We sweat the small stuff as well as the big. Recently I've been looking at the examples of others around me and perhaps it is different living in a middle class area. There exists a certain amount of peer pressure to have kids in clubs, to have academically good kids and a fair amount of mothers I meet have had careers first and then kids, so the drive and ambition used in their careers becomes channeled into raising their kids. This is completely different from my upbringing. Coming from a council estate outside of Edinburgh where the majority don't appear to sweat this sort of stuff at all.

So it makes me wonder whether we are over thinking something that is essentially very simple? 

Growing up I was surrounded by families who 'made do'. Families who had too many kids for the size of their house, their wage, their nerves. Families who made sure that there kids were clean, out of the door on time, attending school and keeping out of trouble. Kids amused themselves and didn't rely on their parents to provide stimulating activities, resources or exotic experiences. There never seemed to be much thought given to which school the kids would attend, if it was a good school, how many vegetables they would eat, what after school activities they were involved in, whether or not they would go to university. This laid back approach to parenting was the norm. I know families who still live like this and think like this and their kids all seem to be turning out normal and well adjusted, if a little unambitious for my liking.  Is this enough? Is it really that simple?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday Sayings

It's been a bit of a week here.

Not at all bad but stressful and I've been preoccupied with A's high school transition. At the week's tension was coming to a head, I remembered something that Einstein said:

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity".

Let's hope that this comes true.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A Magic Pill?

We've reached a point where A is changing again. All kids go through these phases, where they are physically, mentally, socially stretching. Outgrowing toys past and developing their sense of self and of others around them. I see it in the children of my friends and I read about it online when other bloggers ponder these changes.

Perhaps I note these changes more perceptibly than my friends because when you have a child with ASD, these changes bring with them new obstacles. My experience of what little support parents are given post-diagnosis is that you can access a bit of help, support and counselling during that interim period but then you're on your own. I didn't find the post-diagnosis period as stressful as I do now. This might sound odd to any parent who is in that post diagnosis period but compared to the stage A is at now, there is a wealth of information, support groups, resources to tap into at that stage. For where he is now, there really isn't a lot out there to help you through the period of 8-12 years. Educationally, this is a crucial period and it is particularly challenging or ASD kids. It's a point where other kids are maturing at an advanced rate, readying themselves for high school and for the increased contact with the outside world that they will experience during high school. These points of change make A's differences more perceivable. It reminds you that he will always lag behind his peers in every aspect. As a parent this lag isn't really that worrying at five where kids are maturing at different rates anyway. At eight, it's not a big deal as you are there to support and assist them at every turn. At 10, when they are not yet ready to be given a huge amount of independence, it's not that worrying yet. At 12 however, their peers are travelling at times by themselves, being allowed to visit friends by themselves. This leads to a progression that culminates in them, at 18 being able to come and go as they please. This natural progression happens unthinkingly most of the time and sometimes even unnoticed by parents until a few years later when you realise that your kids don't need you anymore. I've been wondering how to approach this stage when you are raising a kid whose independence will come much later than his peers, if at all. Within our family, it really is only myself and Oh Daddy who know how much we support A through his daily life.

We adopted this parenting policy unconsciously and I am wondering if we have done the right thing. We cover up the things he cannot do and emphasise the wonderful things he does and can do. At the same time we are strict with him and check that he isn't becoming lazy or neglectful of himself. We secretly push him to be like his peers but out with the house, make very little of those things that he is yet to achieve. We cover up the fact that although his 12th birthday is imminent, he cannot tie his shoelaces. He cannot ride a bike. He cannot dress himself appropriately. He doesn't understand money. He can't remember to remove his underwear before putting a new set on. There are tonnes of little things that we compensate for and we're now at a junction were these little things will become obvious to others. The move from a small class in primary school to s huge year full of kids at high school will throw up and reveal these things. We are still waiting to hear what support he has been given for S1 and so this all looks a bit daunting at the minute. Things like getting changed for PE are a nightmare, he cannot organise himself properly and will do things like wear his school shoes because he has forgotten that for the last seven years his gym shoes are in his gym bag, where they have always been. I'm hoping that we can tackle some of these things in the run up to high school but am slightly pessimistic about him achieving these things in time.

So I thought I would try reaching out to online ASD communities for parents of kids on the spectrum who might have already gone through this. I haven't fully competed my search for advice because during my first experience of dipping my toe into the pool of ASD forums I found an interesting question that stopped me in my tracks. A question that divides the community of ASD parents down the middle, evoking passionate responses from both sides. Now, given my capacity for over thinking every element of parenting, can you imagine what this has done to my head?

The question is this: if you could give your child a pill that would make their autism disappear, would you?

The split in the community is due to in part how parents view their child's disability and to how severe the kids are. I wasn't surprised to find that the majority of parents who said no were parents of aspergers kids. In my experience with aspies kids and please feel free to correct me if you disagree, aspergers is a huge part of their personality. Aspergers brings with it lots of little facets that contribute to the whole person. That without this the kids would be someone completely different. I feel that with kids with AS, this isn't the case and I don't view AS as a part of A's personality. Perhaps this is why I am so stressed and wound up by it. I've really thought hard about how I view AS in conjunction with A's development over the year and A's personality and it seems to me that the two are at odds. The only time we have cause to raise his AS is when it prevents him doing something, when it holds him back from living a NT life. It is not who he is. So I would give him this. The hardest part of being his Mum is watching as other kids pass him by, as opportunities pass him by because his autism holds him back. You want your kids to live a life without obstacles, without pain or suffering and our reality is that this is what AS brings him.

Monday, 16 May 2011

You'll have had your tea?

I haven't posted about food for a while. I've still been cooking as much and we have moved next to an organic food market so there's been plenty of experimentation. I've been lucky enough to meet some amazing Scottish producers and will be writing about their wonderful products in the weeks to come. I've decided to start fresh with writing about what food and cooking means to me.

For me being a Scot, this phrase sums up how I feel about food: put another tattie in the pot!

This phrase if you are unfamiliar with it used to be used by my grandmother. If someone popped in for a blether or were visiting the house this would be shouted through to the kitchen. The visitor would then be ushered to the table and a bowl of something would appear, piping hot. I think that with my mothers generation busier schedule this saying died out a bit but it's something that I've always lived by. I like feeding people and welcoming them into my home with something hearty.

Scottish produce has had a simple history and before the hardcore influx of international cuisine, peoples palates were simple. Even though I'm only in my 30's my parents generation were brought up on mince and tatties, stews, soups with very little variation. We lived outside Edinburgh and for them going into the city for a meal was a rare treat. My Grandfather grew vegetables and my Uncles still do. These would be pickled to preserve those that weren't needed for soups and stews or simply given away to neighbours and passers by. During visits, I would be sent out to the potting shed or the green houses to collect fresh tomatoes for lunch or strings of onions that had been drying out for soup. The working class diet was simple but they did not complain for it was good and wholesome. Fancy food - cloutie dumpling or black bun - was for special occasions, and haggis, neeps and tatties were for Burns Night (January 25).

There is a very interesting history attached to Scottish produce. Martin Martin (yes, that really was his name), writing in 1703 in A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, tells of the ordinary diet of the people of Skye: there was butter, milk, cheese, potatoes and brochan (oatmeal boiled with water). For poor highlanders and lowlanders, meat was a luxury that was seldom enjoyed except at festivities. However, if there were casualties among the cows, sheep or goats, people would use the entire animal for black puddings, white puddings, sheep's head broth, goat hams and pickled mutton, which would last for months.

Poorer people who lived near the sea would eat shellfish. Oysters, crabs and lobsters were everyday fare. Salmon used to be so plentiful that farm workers would stipulate that they did not want to eat it more than twice a week. There is a lovely tale of a highlander (I can't remember where from, I'll add a link later) visiting London in the early 1800s and ordering beef steak for himself and salmon for his servant. Naturally because the fish was so cheap in Scotland, the underling would dine on this. The man was surprised to discover that his own meal cost only a few pence but his servant's was several shillings. In all the references to meals and food throughout literature - whether it is the critical Samuel Johnson writing about the pre-breakfast dram in 1773, Dorothy Wordsworth writing in 1803 about oat-bread and blue-milk cheese for breakfast or Tom Steel writing about the St Kildans' fulmar brose and puffin-flavoured porridge - there is one overriding sentiment noted by all visitors. And that is hospitality. Given my love of ancient history and my experience in studying the Ancient Greeks, I think there is a link in my mind between them and the Scots. There existed in Ancient Greece, the concept of xenia. This was a particular type of hospitality shown to those who were far from home, manifest in a ritual. Xenia consists of three basic rules:
  • The respect from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide them with food and drink and a bath, if required. It is not polite to ask questions until the guest has stated their needs.
  • The respect from guest to host. The guest must be courteous to their host and not be a burden.
  • The parting gift (xenion, ξεινήιον) from host to guest. The parting gift is to show the host's honour at receiving the guest.
Short of giving people a bath (!), I adore this concept albeit in a much more simplistic and informal form. People are so busy these days that we forget to appreciate those around us. Although we lived less than an hour away from Edinburgh, as a child I would hear my grandparents mocking the people of Edinburgh for their lack of hospitality  There exists a famous phrase: you'll have had your tea. Unwelcome visitors who drop in unannounced around teatime (Scotland: tea = dinner) would be greeted with this idiom. Because Scots are notoriously tight with money, this would be said to deter or embarrass scroungers (I would argue this but I can't really).

Even non-Scots can understand the sentiment, if not all the words, in this verse from Burns's famous poem about egalitarianism, A Man's a Man for a' That, written shortly after the French Revolution (with which Burns sympathised), in 1795.

What though on hamely fare we dine
Wear hoddin grey and a' that
Gie fools their skills and knaves their wine
A Man's a Man for a' that.

There has never been anything wrong with homely fare. Let us revisit our roots, return to natural ingredients, eschew processed foods, and remember that Scots cooking means honest and - most importantly - good food. The food scene in Scotland is thriving and has gone from strength to strength in the last few decades. I'm hoping that by introducing you guys to new Scottish products that you can share some of this sentiment with me.

Slange Var!

 Slange Var

 Pronounced [Slan je varr]. This is the Scottish for cheers (santé). "Slainte Mhath" in Gaelic.

Group Strep B (GSB): the story of Miss B's birth.

I had a relatively easy time during my labour with Miss B. It was much longer than expected with a bit of a frantic ending. With A, it was fast, over before I could blink or ask for drugs or unpack my hospital bag!

I won't go into the gory details because it is gory and I find that sharing birth stories compels people to share their own tale. If you tell everyone that you had a wonderful, peaceful birth then the next becomes increasingly serene until you end up with the Virgin birth, all bathed in light from the Star and three wise men offering you expensive postnatal gifts. If you are recounting a gruesome tale then it starts some kind of war story sharing competition. The tales become darker, bloodier, entire wards were taken out with you, your husband suffered shrapnel wounds (crushed fingers and the loss of his ability to play Rachmaninov's concertos forever). I'm being flippant of course but I'm sure you ladies can relate.

The only bit I would want to share is far more serious. Six weeks into my pregnancy I was admitted into hospital for bleeding. It was then that they discovered that I had a particular type of infection that may cause problems during labour and possibly beyond. I tried at the time to find out as much as possible about the infection, called Group Strep B and what could possibly happen. There really wasn't  that much information out there. I was an information pack from the hospital to warn us of the dangers and how it would add some complications to labour. I wouldn't be allowed a home birth as I would need several courses of antibiotics during labour and I wouldn't receive any internal examinations for fear of spreading the infection. I hadn't wanted a home birth anyway so that didn't bother me. My forewaters broke and they admitted me into hospital to prevent infection. Because I couldn't be examined, no one knew how dilated I was or how long it would take. Given my rapid birth with A, everyone expected it to be over in a matter of hours but I was still there 36 hours later! Everything went well and I was given another course of antibiotics and kept in another day as I had a temperature.

That's my story in short but wanted to post about GBS as now, doing some proper research into it, I've realised how dangerous it is. It is one of these things were lack of awareness is dangerous. In the UK, we do not routinely screen for it although they do in countries like Kenya. Specialists now are estimating that 1 in every 2000 babies contract GBS from it's mother during labour and sadly, 1 in 10 of these babies die. These women do not know that they are carrying the infection.

Here is some information on it and the link to the support group is here.

What is Group B streptococcus?

Group B streptococcus, or GBS, also known as group B strep, is one of many different bacteria that normally live in our bodies. Approximately one third of us "carry" GBS in our intestines without knowing.

About a quarter of women also have it in their vagina. Most don't know it's there, as it doesn't usually cause problems or symptoms.

However, in rare cases GBS can cause serious illness and even death in newborn babies. Although these cases are unusual, GBS is the most common cause of severe infection in newborns, particularly in the first week after birth (known as an early onset infection). In the UK, about 340 babies a year develop a GBS infection.

How do I know if I carry GBS?

If you do carry GBS, you won't necessarily know as there aren't usually any ill effects. There is a test available for GBS, but this isn't done routinely in pregnancy (see Why isn't there a national screening programme for GBS? below).

Pregnant women often find out that they have GBS by chance, when they have a vaginal swab taken to check for something else. Also, GBS can come and go, so even if you've had a positive test earlier in pregnancy, you may not have GBS as you approach delivery.

It's important for pregnant women and their carers to know when babies are most likely to develop a GBS infection and what the signs of GBS infection in babies are.

Now I'm pregnant, what should I know about GBS?

Most babies exposed to GBS before or during birth suffer no ill effects. However, around one in 2000 babies in the UK develops a GBS infection. Sadly, about one in 10 of these babies die.

It isn't clear why some babies develop an infection while others don't. What is clear is that most GBS infection in newborn babies can be prevented.

Women in higher-risk situations can be given intravenous antibiotics either from the start of labour or from when their waters break (whichever comes first) until their baby is born.

Caesareans are not recommended to prevent GBS infection in babies as they don't eliminate the risk of GBS to the baby.

Very occasionally GBS causes infection of the uterus or urinary tract in new mothers.

Is my baby at risk of developing GBS infection?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has identified a number of factors that help to predict whether your baby is more likely to develop a GBS infection.

These include, if:
• you go into labour prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)

• your waters break 18 hours or more before you have your baby

• you have a raised temperature (38 degrees C / 100 degrees F or higher) during labour

• you have previously had a baby infected with GBS

• you have been found to carry GBS in your vagina and/or rectum during your current pregnancy

• GBS has been found in your urine during this pregnancy (this should be treated when diagnosed, but even if you have been treated, extra precautions should still be considered during labour - see How should my labour and delivery be managed?, below).

How should my labour and delivery be managed?

If you don't fall into one of the higher-risk groups, above, your baby is very unlikely to develop a GBS infection.

If you are higher-risk, research shows that having intravenous antibiotics from the start of your labour or from when your waters break until your baby is born can prevent most GBS infections in newborn babies.

Ideally, you should have intravenous antibiotics for at least two hours before your baby is born and every four hours during labour. There are some risks with taking antibiotics for you and your baby so your doctor will discuss your particular case with you to see whether treatment is the best option for you.

If you have two or more of the above risk factors then your doctor is much more likely to recommend treatment during labour to reduce the risk of your baby developing an infection.

If you are having a planned caesarean there is no need for intravenous antibiotics unless your waters have broken or labour has already started.

If your baby is at higher risk of developing a GBS infection, once he is born:

• he should be examined by a paediatrician immediately

• if both you and he are completely healthy, and you had full treatment with intravenous antibiotics during labour, he may be given intravenous antibiotics

• if both you and he are healthy, but you have not received full treatment with intravenous antibiotics during labour, he may be started on intravenous antibiotics until he's given the all clear

• if you or he shows signs of GBS infection, he should be started on intravenous antibiotics immediately

The best way to treat newborns at risk of GBS infection is an area that doctors are still researching, which is why in some cases your baby may or may not be given antibiotics.

What are the risks of treatment?

Most women and babies can safely be given penicillin as the antibiotic treatment for GBS without any ill-effects. However, a small number of people are allergic to penicillin and could have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be fatal.

Women who are known to be allergic to penicillin can be given another antibiotic instead.

Other less severe side-effects of antibiotic treatment include diarrhoea and nausea. However, there are concerns that antibiotics may affect the balance of a baby's bacterial flora in the gut.

These adverse effects make some doctors more cautious about using antibiotics if there is not a clear need to do so, particularly for newborns. Some prefer a "watch and wait" approach for the first 12 hours after birth before starting a course of antibiotics that may not be needed.

What are the signs of GBS infection in a baby?

GBS infections in babies are usually "early-onset" (within seven days of birth), with 90 per cent occurring within 12 hours of birth.

In many cases, symptoms of GBS infection in babies can be recognised at or soon after birth.

Typical signs of early-onset GBS infection include:
• grunting
• poor feeding
• lethargy
• irritability
• low blood pressure
• abnormally high or low temperature, heart rate and/or breathing rate

Although more unusual, GBS infections can also develop when the baby is seven or more days old ("late-onset" GBS), usually as meningitis with septicaemia.

Some warning signs of late-onset GBS infection may include:
• fever
• poor feeding and/or vomiting
• drowsiness

Signs of meningitis in babies may include, as well as any of the signs listed above:
• shrill or moaning cry or whimpering
• dislike of being handled, fretful or irritable
• tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot on head)
• floppy and listless or stiff with jerky movements
• blank, staring or trance-like expression
• being difficult to wake
• low or high breathing rate
• turns away from bright lights
• skin that is pale, blotchy or turning blue

Red or purple spots that do not fade under pressure (such as when pressed firmly with the side of a glass) are a sign of septicaemia.

Early diagnosis and treatment are vital in late-onset GBS infection or meningitis. If your baby shows any of the signs above, call your GP immediately.

If your GP isn't available, go straight to your nearest accident and emergency department. The risk of your baby developing GBS decreases with age; GBS infections in babies are rare after one month of age and virtually unknown after three months.

Most babies survive with treatment, but meningitis can leave some babies with long term problems - visit The Meningitis Trust for more information.

Why isn't there a national screening programme for GBS?

There are strict criteria that have to be met before a national screening programme for any disease can be introduced. These include weighing up factors such as the accuracy of a screening test and the risks versus benefits of treatment.

In the case of GBS, experts are not convinced that a lab test screening programme would do more good than harm. Reasons for this include:

• current lab testing through the NHS in the UK is not reliable enough to recommend that all pregnant women be swabbed and tested during late pregnancy

• there are concerns that the widespread use of antibiotics during labour could increase the risks of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) and make the labour and newborn period too medicalised

• the rates of bacteria resistant to antibiotics could increase

• newborns affected by antibiotics during labour may possibly be more likely to develop allergies and have poor immune systems

I'm carrying GBS - what now?

If you have been affected by GBS in a previous pregnancy, or you are found to be carrying it in your current pregnancy, talk to your midwife or obstetrician and agree a pregnancy and birth plan that will protect your baby from the infection.

In the vast majority of cases your pregnancy can be managed so your baby is protected and born healthy and free from GBS.

Your baby is not at risk of catching GBS from breastfeeding so there is no need to change your plans if you intend to breastfeed your baby.

For more information about GBS, talk to your midwife or doctor or contact Group B Strep Support

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Good God, I hope they didn't mention the rhythm method!

Tonight I was supposed to be sitting in the pub celebrating a dear friends birthday. Tonight I was supposed to be supping the guest ale that the birthday boy had requested be on tap for tonights soiree. Tonight I was supposed to be out of the house, free of parental responsibility.

Tonight I stayed in the house giving my eldest child THE talk. A bounced in from school and announced that today had been sex education day at school. Le sigh...

I asked him what had happened, what had been discussed to which he replied I had to say penis in front of everyone, we had to fill in a worksheet labelling both male and female genitalia (or boy bits and lady parts as he said) and watch a video on how babies are made.

Oh shit! What was I going to do about this? What if he actually wanted to talk about this? What if he had questions? Holy crap I am completely unprepared for this. Bugger, his Dad isn't due home for another three hours! Could I trust him to handle this? Could i leave him to discuss this without him being all blokey about it? Or would I have to do it on my own?

Suffice to say I didn't answer a single one of these questions as I asked him if he wanted biscuits and juice and he disappeared off to his room with his stash.

Phew... I could compose myself and deal with this in my own time. Off he went to drama and that bought me a few hours before I would have to sit him down. I busied myself with dinner and Goggled a few resources. I knew that there was separate resources available on line for kids with ASD to help them understand or at least relay the information given today in a way that the autistic mind could process. I ordered a book from Amazon (my answer for everything! read a book!). I read a few articles and felt sufficiently equipped to tackle the subject when he got home.

As I digested my dinner I was filled with dread again as my mind flashed back to the day that MY mother sat me down to tell me about the birds and the bees...

Yuck! That was my first reaction. I remember that day well. My mother decided one day to enter the living room, turn off the TV, send my little sister out to play and announced that we were going to have a talk. I couldn't remember if I had done something that I was about to get in trouble for so wondered what she was doing. She began "now you're getting older and your body is changing..." she offered. Oh. My. God. She was about to talk to me about sex! Aargh!!!

I wanted the ground to swallow my up so I could disappear and not have to sit there watching as my mother desperately tried to turn this into a mother-daughter bonding moment, that we were two women discussing adult topics in a civilised manner. In reality I was picking at my trainers staring just slightly to the right of my Mother's head and she was doing her best not to look as uncomfortable as she felt. We managed to get through about two paragraphs of details before she said that sex was a beautiful thing between two loving consenting adults. She followed this sage wisdom with the revelation that she and my Father still enjoyed a healthy sex life. Well, that was the icing on the cake, the tip of the iceberg, the last straw. I stood up, said thanks for the talk and ran out the door.

Eurgh, that was the last thing I wanted to hear! As I relived this traumatic event tonight, I resolved not to make the same mistake as my mother did and not over-share with my eleven year old son!

All the while I have to admit that I had to fight my good and bad angels on my shoulder. The good one reminding me that this talk was important and that this would shape his perception for years to come. Reminding me that I had to reinforce that he was safe here, that he could come to me anytime with his questions and that we must have an open and honest relationship. The bad one cashing in on how serious the topic was an how frightened I am of it when it comes to A. I felt the urge to say things like "if you touch it you'll go blind!" and "the legal age limit for someone to have sex is 29!".

I knew that there is no room for grey areas and that I had to be frank, very black and white. I would have to be very careful with his understanding as he attends a Catholic school and a bit of an old fashioned one at that. They have strict views on pro-life or at any road, their church has and so the mind boggles as to what is glossed over and what is accentuated.

So when he eventually came home I was ready or least as ready as I would ever be. I had cleary forgotten to suspend my expectations of what he would come out with. I didn't know and couldn't guess how his brain would process this information from today.

The first thing he said was "Aw Mum, it was really disgusting but I guess you get used to it, don't you! Just like you and Dad..."

WOBBLE... Shit, this was to be harder than I thought. We talked briefly about what had been discussed and he assured me that he had no questions today but would have some tomorrow after they had watched the rest of the video. I'm biding my time until then...

Oh joy!

What would you say?

I don't know about you but...

I don't know about you but... sometimes I cannot believe how beautiful my daughter is!

While this is turning the meme on it's head slightly and I'm sure I'll have a cracking grumpy one by the end of week, I still had to share this with you guys.

Now everyone thinks their kids are amazing and beautiful and special but I took a photo of Miss B the other day and when I looked back at the photo, I cried.

I cried because it's such a beautiful picture and I was genuinely taken a back by the photo as it was a momentary snap on the instant camera. I know she's gorgeous but sometimes I am bowled over by her simple beauty.

We all have had this moment, a moment where we catch them unawares and really look at them. A moment where all of our bottled up parenting pride comes flooding through and catches our breath. I remember having had quite a few with A.

So I wanted to share this post and this photo, celebrating that moment that all parents have, the moment when we realise that they are our world and how much we love them.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

NEW MEME - I Don't Know About You But...

Hi guys. I thought I'd punt this out again and refresh the linky. Please spread the word through your various sites if you've already taken part.

I love a good meme, I do. If I'm stuck for inspiration or simply want to dust off the cobwebs that accumulate when you spend your entire day with lovely little people I indulge myself in a few memes.

I'm so lucky to have found so many great ones. To indulge my orderly compulsive behaviours I take part in the beautiful KareTakes5's Listography most weeks. To make me feel great and for a little bit of self reflection I do Michelle's Reasons to be Cheerful meme. Michelle writes the Mummy from the Heart blog, has the most adorable set of twins and is such a positive soul. I'm yet to take part in Metal Mummy Hannah's Movie Meme. A woman after my own heart, our shared passions mean that I have to think long and hard about my picks as she always picks them first! So whatever your mood you are always guaranteed to find a theme to suit. Well, not every mood...

These memes are fun and now I propose another. Some of these memes are short lived and some don't take off at all. This could be one of those or it could tap into a feeling that we all experience most weeks. I am prone to grumpy moments (really? quelle surprise!) and one of the ways in which I use my blog is to get these things off my chest sometimes.

So my meme is thus: a little meme for everyone to link up to to express those little niggles that life or people in your life put in your way. It's called I don't know about you but I...

Now the rules are simple. Take five minutes to write a little post detailing a little niggle or opinion that you have. It could be something that secretly bugs you about people, society, life. Or if you're not a fan of moaning you could turn it on it's head and mention something that is wonderous like I did this week!

So it can be something as banal as I don't know about you but I...hate shaving my legs!

You can elaborate this with a little ditty relating to this pet hate or muttering. Some thing like: I hate shaving my legs so much that I leave it weeks between doing it. Sometimes I even wear pyjama bottoms in bed so that Oh Daddy doesn't rub his feet over my fortnightly
growth and catch me out!

Or it could be something along the lines of I don't know about you but I... don't take criticism well.

Or I don't know about you but I... cry at the beginning of Disney's Tarzan.

Or I don't know about you but I... get pissed off by teenagers playing crappy techno music from their phones on public transport.

Or I don't know about you but I... wonder how that mother standing across from me at the school gate manages to wear a full face of make up at that time in the morning.

What I'm looking to generate is just general mutterings about life and to make us feel better by either getting something off your chest or just by laughing when the comments flood in detailing the experiences of others. 

Once you have written your post please add it to the linky list below and please mention my blog along with a link to this post in your own post, thanks. Please feel feel to grab my new button.

Previous entries have been amazing:

In week one, Hannah over at Metal Mummy told us how she hates toast crumbs left in the butter! Then she admits to losing her car in car parks on occasion!

JoJo was getting a bit pissed off with all of the meme's floating around the internet these days. Ahem... This week the Royal Family gets it!

EmVi is sick of football in her house!

Anna at Dummy Mummy despairs at people's inability to read signs.

Steph wonders why man can walk on the moon but ignore huge piles of crap lying about the floor.

Jules who needs curtains for the windows in her head also needs some personal space.

hates being kept waiting.

HerdingCats wanders about aimlessly.
AspieintheFamily really let's loose regarding her teenage daughter being a teenager!

ScrummyMummy thinks we should all let our kids be messy.

DummyMummy heard one Mum asking her little one to do "a sexy bum dance" Honestly!

I get a bit exasperated at other parents. 

QWERTYMum really needs some chocolate!

The ever wonderful Pooky at PoorParenting despairs at other parent's name choices. 

So I don't know about you but this might actually work...