Thursday, 9 October 2014

Can you remember every book you've ever read?

When I was about 17 and studying English Literature at A-Level I remember thinking that it would be amazing if I had some sort of record of every book I'd ever read.

As a teenager, I remember being bitterly disappointed when I'd take a book out of the library and eagerly start reading it when I got home, only to realise by about page 5 that I'd read it before.

Over the summer, my biggest boy, E, who recently turned seven, suddenly 'discovered' reading. We had been reading Roald Dahl's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and when we went to the library I pointed out 'James and the Giant Peach' and explained it was by the same author. After we got home, he disappeared for hours and I found him, deeply engrossed, actually reading on his own.

So, with thoughts of how wonderful it would be to have a record of all the books we'd read, we bought a special reading record notebook. It's just a regular, hardback notebook and I have drawn in columns in which E can write the date, the title of the book, the author and what he thought of it.

In years to come, it will be amazing to see, not only what he's read, but also how his handwriting and tastes change and develop over the years. I'm hoping to keep all the notebooks we fill and present them to him on his 18th birthday.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Easy carrot and coriander soup

One of my favourite things about autumn is soup.

There's little better in life than cosying up in the afternoon with a big hearty bowl of wholesome soup while the cold wind blows outside.

Autumn is the season of plentiful vegetables, particularly of the root variety, which means making soup is cheap and easy.

Plus, my children absolutely love dipping their freshly baked bread rolls into their bowls of soup, so it makes the usually challenging task of getting vegetables inside them as easy as child's play.

This week I made a simple carrot and coriander soup.

4 finely chopped carrots
1 finely chopped potato
1 finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds
1.5 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of raw virgin coconut oil (optional)
3 tablespoons of single or double cream
1 handful of chopped coriander leaves (optional)

1. Gently soften the carrots, potato, onion and coriander seeds in the melted butter.
2. Add the chicken stock and simmer until all the vegetables are completely soft.
3. I added a teaspoon of coconut oil to give the soup a smoother finish and also because I recently bought a jar after reading about the health benefits and now keep trying to add a little to lots of foods.
4. Blend the soup until it is smooth (one of my children doesn't like lumpy soup at the moment).
5. Stir in the cream and add the chopped coriander leaves and season with ground pepper according to taste.

Serve with hot crusty rolls.

I can't wait to try some more soup recipes - if you have a favourite, please do share it with me.

Monday, 6 October 2014

How to treat a child's earache

My eldest is unfortunately susceptible to ear infections. And in the early hours of Saturday morning, I was awoken by the sound of his moaning 'Ow, ow, ow, my ear!'

I checked that he was otherwise in good health - temperature was OK, he wasn't in pain anywhere else, and gave him a small hot water bottle to hold against his ear and some paracetamol suspension. Once he was wrapped up in bed, he was OK until the morning.

We have a special, small hot water bottle, which is a perfect size for holding against a poorly ear.

On saturday, we ditched our plans to go out - to football practice and on to a good friend's party - and opted to stay in the warm and rest up.

Earaches are common in children because the distance between the ears, nose and throat is much smaller than in an adult, which makes them more prone to ear infections than adults.

The general advice is to:

  • dose them up with pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. While paracetamol is great for reducing a fever, ibuprofen's strength is that it is an anti-inflammatory, so if there is any swelling in the ear, it's great for reducing it down.
  • apply warmth to the affected ear - hence the hot water bottle
If there is no improvement in the earache after 48 hours or if the earache is accompanied by a high temperature or symptoms such as dizziness, severe headache or swelling around the ear, then you should call your GP or the local NHS out-of-hours provision.

By Sunday, E was greatly improved. I had been worried that he may not be up for playing in his football match and was even contemplating putting a drop of olive oil on a piece of cotton wool and putting it in his ear while he played. A word of caution though - you should not put anything in a child's ear if you suspect that the ear drum may have perforated or burst, which can happen as part of the natural cycle of an ear infection. However, although he was intermittently complaining of pain, he was lively enough to manage to play in the match and score a goal.

It's a good job he wasn't supposed to be swimming this weekend as getting an ear affected with infection wet is not advised.

When we got home, I gave him a little more pain relief and sat him on the sofa to rest with another hot water bottle and by that night he was right as rain and ready for school this morning.

I must remind him to be ill on the weekend again, so he doesn't miss any school!

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional and this information is based purely on my personal experience. If you have any health concerns at all, please contact a qualified medical practitioner. 

Further information about earache can be found on the NHS Choices website.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Today we went to...the optician

Today we visited the optician for an eye test.

B is 4 and it was her first time at the optician, but 7 year old E has been for two annual check ups since he started school.

In hindsight, a Friday afternoon after a busy week of school was not the best time to visit. Both children were tired and I could see E's eyes blinking a lot when we arrived, which made me think that maybe he did have a problem. However, my anxiety was misdirected and the excitement of the trip meant that both were alert and happy to try something new and different.

E went first, so B could see what would happen. He climbed into the chair and was very excited when the optician pressed a button and made it go up in the air. After chatting about school and whether he could see the whiteboard well and whether he had any problems watching TV, his first job was to look at several lines of letters, which he correctly identified, even as they got smaller and smaller. Things got a little more difficult when the optician covered one of his eyes, and then the other, and asked him to read out the letters, but he still got them right.

The next image on the monitor in the mirror was a pair of magic scissors, which suddenly turned into a duck. E shouted with joy when he spotted the change. He was then asked to wear a special pair of 3-D glasses and try to touch the wings of a fly, which he thought was great fun.

The colour test was next when E was shown a special book of numbers hidden in coloured dots and he had to say which numbers he saw. Next, he was asked to follow the optician's pen with just his eyes, not his whole head. Then he had to watch a picture of a clown on the wall while the optician used various lights to look inside his eye. Finally, all the lights went out as the optician took a closer look inside his eye with his special torch. He did so well at all the tasks, he was given a special shiny sticker.

Then it was B's turn. B is not yet reading, so she was given a special card with the letters on and asked to match a single letter on the monitor in the mirror to one of the letters on her card, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She then had a go at most of the exercises her big brother had done and as the test continued she grew in confidence and got quite chatty with the optician. He was very impressed with her number recognition. At the end, she even took the sticker - not something she would normally do, even at the dentist or at the doctor's surgery after her immunisations.

Both children have great eyesight, with a slight tendency to longsightedness, which is normal at this age. They will go back again in a year. If E is still good, he will then only have to go every two years as the longsightedness tends to correct itself by the age of eight as it's just the normal development and growth of the eye, rather than a problem.

Eye tests for children are free on the NHS and the earlier any problems are spotted, the better the outcome. It's particularly important to get your child's eyes tested when they start school because it can be difficult for them to learn if they can't see the whiteboard. Also, if they are struggling to see the words in a book, it can impact on their ability to read and learn, which can lead to behaviour issues.

We visited Bill and Taylor on Station Road in Teignmouth. I had previously taken Elliot to a high street chain, which was great. But I am going through a phase of trying to shop locally at the moment, so I decided to try a local, independent optician instead. The optician was brilliant with the children and explained what he was doing throughout, reassuring them, chatting to them and making it a really fun experience. In fact, I was so impressed, I think I might book an eye test for myself with them in the very near future. Apparently, your eye sight can start to deteriorate from around the age of 40 and I'm rapidly approaching that age now!