On Potty training…..aaarrrgghhh!

This post was originally published in my previous blog in October 2017

Where do we start?…. Well I started looking at Pinterest and found a load of these sort of pages:

The idea that you can potty train your child in three days is bollocks. Of all our friends with children they all have various stories of success; “after a while she didn’t want to wear nappies at night and that was that” for example, but none have said they did it over a long weekend!

We are currently seven weeks down the line and while M will happily take herself off to the potty or toilet when she needs a wee, we are still struggling with poos. Now everyone says that this is a sticking point (forgive the pun) but I really don’t know how to progress on this issue. I guess we can keep on supporting her, give her lots of encouragement and reminders of “where do poos go?” she knows exactly where they need to go but at the moment the closest to success we’ve had was her telling me she needed the toilet just at the moment she was doing it. Oh well, as my wife said “it’s a miracle any of us know how to use the loo, we’re not going to train m, she’s going to be in nappies until she’s 22!”

Also, potty training changes you, myself and my wife have become completely blasé about other people’s sensibilities. When you spend most of your week days going to places and activities where there are other children and parents you’re used to kids having accidents and their general (frankly brilliant) no holds barred, shameless attitude to life. But when you have friends visiting who don’t have children you forget this and while it may be completely normal to you to have your toddler parade around half naked then sit on the potty in the corner of the room, you forget that this is not really a normal occurrence for most people.

So how on earth did we get here?

You have to remember that everything that your child has learned to this point is pretty much instinctive, eating, walking, talking all come naturally and we as parents are there to guide and develop these attributes. But going to the toilet is seems totally unnatural to a toddler and it is the first thing that we as parents actively have to teach and they to learn. So it’s a learning curve for both of us.

We tried the potty when M was 27 months but it was within 2 months of m being born and it was a disaster from beginning to end so we quickly abandoned it. Reading various books tells you that should only attempt potty training at least 2 months before or ideally after the arrival of a new sibling.

So, reset and start again.

Both me and my wife discussed how we should approach potty training M and in the end I drew the short straw. We decided that it would be good if one parent took the lead and as I’m naturally the calmer of the two of us I got the job, ho hum.

As with most things to do with parenting I like to read a bit from several sources, either ignore it or take what I like from each. We went with the approach that we will go with M being out of nappies for most of the day but if there are times when we absolutely need to leave the house then we would put a nappy on her. While some sources say this is confusing for the child most recommend not night potty training them at the same time so they are going into a nappy a night, what’s the difference?

I read a couple of books on the subject:

https://i1.wp.com/www.contentedbaby.com/images/pottytraininginoneweek.jpg?w=525

Typically for Gina she’s a bit hard core and goes with the “once they’re out of nappies, they’re out, no going back!”

Image result for potty training for girls

This book was a bit more of a softly softly approach, suggesting that you start your child on “sessions” of training, you go an hour or two without the nappy and slowly extend this over a period of time until she is out of the nappy for the whole day.

Anyway, we chose a clear couple of weeks at the end of the summer holidays and went for it. The first four days she was wearing her “big girl pants” but consistently kept having accidents, she’d wet herself and then say that she needed the potty. Doing a poo often came more out of luck than judgement, by sitting her on the potty around the time of day she usually went we occasionally got a success but more often than not I was cleaning soiled pants yet again.

We spoke to some friends who were going through the same process with their daughter and they recommended the following book:

Image result for oh crap potty training

I also consulted “Mums mafia”…sorry, mumsnet and this book quite often comes up in their forums as a good one to use for potty training.

It suggests going with the naked from the waist down approach for the first few days until she “gets it” and then progress to going commando, i.e. just wearing leggings or shorts for example and eventually after a few weeks putting the pants on.

The change was remarkable, going naked from the waist down made all the difference. After four days of pretty much one success a day and lots of accidents we immediately went to one or two accidents and lots of successes. After a few days we even managed our first outing, down to the local supermarket without an accident. I made a point every time we went out to take her to whatever public loos were available, firstly to not breed any fear of using a different toilet but also to get her to actually do her business in them. That first outing the supermarket in question has an excellent parent and child facility and I sat her on the loo and after a couple of minutes she did her wee…so proud.

Funny how life has changed for me, being immensely proud when my daughter successfully wees in a public toilet!

We’ll get there.

The Best Pubs in the UK

(In my humble opinion of course but these are all worth a look!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR to my reader. What plans have you made for 2019? Well if you like a staycation (in the UK) and you find yourself anywhere near the establishments below, then you could do a lot worse than visit them!

What makes a great pub? Well, it can be obvious things like great service, good beer, good food, lovely location etc. But there are also other things that I think sway your judgement, it could be who you are with, or the vibe of the evening for example.

I do like a good pub and I’ve visited a few in my time. But there a small number which always stand out in my memory as places that are a cut above the rest. Here they are, in no particular order (except the first is THE best pub in the world):

The Barrels, Hereford, Herefordshire

Now, among my friends this pub is a place of legend. We only went there once, it was one of those nights where the stars seemed to align and everything was magic. Three of us were on a weekend away kayaking down the river Wye. We started the day from Hereford, spent hours kayaking downstream only to discover that our campsite for the night was actually still only a few miles from town!

Off we walked to the nearest pub, which was quiet to say the least. But we were starving so we stopped there for food. And, how’s this for service, the landlord offered to drive us into Hereford where we might find a more lively evening…….Things are different in the country you know.

The Barrels was the second pub we visited and we knew we had struck gold. The pub was the original location for local brewery, Wye Valley. The beers Wye Valley produce are among the best in the country. Plus they were cheap. It was Saturday night and the place was lively, add to that an eclectic mix of locals and to top it off Bez was in the bar!!!

(c) Kevin Cummins/ Getty Images

He was appearing at a local nightclub that night. For a group of blokes who were teenagers in the 80s and fans of the “baggy” Manchester scene, this was a big deal. We offered to buy him a drink which he politely declined, but we did end up in the nightclub and got our pictures taken with him.

To this day we all think The Barrels is the best pub in the world. If you don’t believe me, years later I met a friend’s girlfriend who is from Hereford and said to her;

“Oh, you’re from Hereford, you must know the best pub in the world?”

She replied “Oh The Barrels, yes, love that place”.

’nuff said.

The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset

This pub is unique, it is one of those places that feels like it’s not changed in centuries. Flagged floors, low beams, roaring fire, excellent local beers, the menu is solely pies and pasties, oh and it also boasts a fossil museum!!!

I visited the pub as part of a coastal walk on a weekend away with some of my old uni friends. It was the definite highlight of the weekend, high quality and very welcome beers at the end of an afternoon’s walk. Being an ex-geologist the fossil museum was definitely the icing on the cake!

Worth Matravers is situated on the “Jurassic coast” of Dorset, an area famous for fossils. The village itself is tiny and at the end of a road not far from the coast. It’s not somewhere on the south coast tourist trail like the more popular nearby spots of Swanage and Corfe Castle. But if you’re ever in the area then I highly recommend a detour to visit this unusual and super little pub.

The Britannia Inn, Elterwater, Cumbria

(c) Tripadvisor

Elterwater sits in the stunning Langdale valley in the Lake District. An area that I love and have visited on numerous occasions. Elterwater is a gorgeous tiny village and sits at the start/end of a number of lovely walks. Hence why this pub is so well liked.

I love this place as, for me, it has so many memories of beers with friends after a day hiking in the fells. I think it must be a prerequisite to do some sort of physical exercise prior to visiting otherwise you don’t fully appreciate the excellent beer, hot food and roaring fire. Indeed on other trips to the Lakes I’ve visited this pub without the required hike beforehand and somehow it just doesn’t feel right.

The Golden Rule, Ambleside, Cumbria

(c) Alamy

Another pub in the Lake District, this time in Ambleside. The town is one of the busier ones in the area but I still love staying here. There’s a great mix of pubs and restaurants (Ambleside is the foodie capital of the Lakes) and every other shop here appears to be an outdoor shop, my favourite.

This pub is oft noted as a “hidden gem”. Indeed, it is away from the bustle of the centre of town but is well worth looking out. In my opinion, I’ve not had a proper visit to the Lakes unless I’ve had a beer here. You wouldn’t go here for a meal as the food is limited to excellent pork pies/scotch eggs and the like. But the beer from local brewery Robinsons, is excellent. There is a roaring fire and the atmosphere is friendly and cosy.

The Royal Oak, Ambleside, Cumbria

(c) Tripadvisor

Another Lake District institution, can you tell I love it up there? Despite the pub being tied to brewery giant Greene King, the beer and atmosphere is good. The pub is located centrally in Ambleside so is very popular with locals and tourists alike. Indeed if you find yourself in the public bar you might get a number of frowns from the locals who frequent there almost exclusively.

For me though, this is a favourite not necessarily for the beer but for the memories. It is the first pub I ever visited when I came to the Lakes with friends for the first time. Prior to that my only experience of the area was family holidays when I was a little kid. It is also the pub where I first told my now wife that I loved here.

Special memories. So whatever you do with your free time in 2019, sitting in a pub having a yarn with friends is not a bad place to be. I hope you make many special memories yourself, and if you manage to visit any of the above, do let me know.

Time to make a major career change – teaching

I recently wrote about our plans to relocate to New Zealand. You can see my post about it here.

Things seems to have gathered pace now. It’s funny how just one little moment sparks something in your mind and from that an idea snowballs! Well for me it happened last week.

We’ve been doing the rounds of local school open days recently. Big M starts reception next September so we have to submit our school applications by this coming January. We’ve been really impressed with each school we’ve visited which makes the decision really hard. But I digress.

In each classroom we visited the children seem so lively and engaged. We’ve taken along little m on a couple of these visits. In one reception class in particular, a lovely little girl commented on how nice little m was. It wasn’t that in particular but all these interactions with the children sparked something in me. I thought to myself “you know, I’d quite like to spend my time working in this environment”.

(c) Telegraph.co.uk

So over the weekend I mentioned this to my wife and she was super enthusiastic about it. Over the weekend we discussed it at length and now I’m settled on this being my big career change! I’m really excited about the idea. The thought of going back to work in finance and accountancy did not appeal at all!

This has also crystallized our plans for relocating to NZ. Before, neither of us had an idea of what we would do to earn a living out there. My wife works in the banking industry in the city and is ready to step down from being the breadwinner. Now that I have decided on teaching, that is something I can easily do in NZ and also support the family while doing so.

What happens next. I’ve already started researching post-grad teacher training courses, I’ve registered with UCAS. I just need to work out what area I want to go into. My first thought is Primary but I keep being recommended Secondary. There’s quite a bit of research to do, fortunately there appears to be a lot of helpful advice out there….watch this space.

Have any of you gone through a major career change, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


	

Moving to New Zealand

As regular readers will know, my wife is a kiwi and since we had the children we’ve tried to visit NZ every year. We want them to know and enjoy visiting their family over there.

I was going to write a piece on what we did on our travels over there but have decided to share with you our current thoughts on a much bigger life changing decision.

Holiday blues

After every trip over there we always get a touch of the holiday blues which is particularly hard for my wife as NZ is her home. Ever since we first met she has talked about moving back and I’ve always readily entertained that idea. Now we have children the question of emigrating is becoming more and more important.

When to go?

We need to think about when, the eldest of the nephews and nieces over there is 16. We’d want to go soon so the girls can enjoy spending time with their cousins before they themselves spread their wings and leave the nest. Also, as Galla is now three years old, she will be starting school in 2019 so we’d need to think about timing around her schooling.

Whereabouts?

Oamaru

My wife comes from Oamaru in the South Island, for a provincial NZ town it’s actually pretty cool. It must be, because Lonely Planet said so. Since I met my wife, I’ve visited four times now. I actually stopped there when I was backpacking through NZ in 2004. Little did I know I’d end up getting married there!

Each time we visit I say to my wife “you know, I could live here”. Which is always a surprise to her because, being local, she can remember growing up just wanting to leave. She never thought she’d consider coming back to settle there with a family.

Pros –

  • Family close by,
  • familiarity,
  • friendly locals (like most places in NZ),
  • good schools,
  • lots of outdoor activities to enjoy close by.

Cons –

  • Work; my wife works in banking and my background is finance, there’s not much call for that locally. We’d have to think outside the box. Do something completely different, run a cafe or B&B for example? That will take time to organise and will involve a steep learning curve.

Auckland

Auckland, NZ’s largest city. It’s a lovely city to visit, lots to do and see, some excellent dining and drinking as well.

(c) aucklandtourism.co.nz

Pros –

  • big city amenities in not such a big city,
  • friends close by,
  • Work, Auckland’s economy is booming and it would be one of the easiest places in NZ for my wife and I to find work in our sectors.

Cons –

  • It’s a city; why move to the other side of the world to live in another city?
  • Furthest from family, they would be a plane trip away,
  • Expensive to buy property and like most of NZ, cost of living is high.

Somewhere new?

Somewhere completely different in NZ. It’s a stunning country and there are some truly spectacular places to live.

Pros –

  • We could live somewhere neither of us have been before and really start family life anew

Cons –

  • That’s a bit scary quite frankly!

What happens now?

Are you still here? Thanks for reading this far and letting me download my thoughts on this complicated decision process.

My challenge now is to start putting together a plan on what needs to happen when in order to get us to the other side of the world. I will write more blog posts as I work along this process. Do we sell up here? Do we go with work in familiar areas or do we try something completely different?

Watch this space. If you have any thoughts or tips on moving your family to a different country, I’d love to hear them.

(c) OccasionalBlog.net

Tea Bags and your compost heap.

The research for this post comes from gardening.which.co.uk

Up until recently I had been happily putting all our tea bags on the compost heap. That was until I read an article in the Which? Gardening magazine.

Plastic waste

Plastic pollution is definitely a hot topic these days. I was surprised to read that by composting our tea bags I was inadvertently adding plastic to our heap.  The majority of tea bags use polypropylene to strengthen and seal the bags. This isn’t biodegradable. Considering there are billions of tea bags sold across the UK annually, that’s a lot of plastic being leaked into the earth.

Not all contain plastic

So which brands don’t contain plastic;

What do I do in the meantime? Or I don’t want to change my brand

WRAP maintains that composting or disposing of your teabags in the food recycling bin is still the best way to deal with them. We still have a catering pack of our previous brand of bags so I’ve moved to putting them into the food recycling.

What are you doing to help combat plastic pollution? let me know.

Cooking for kids

Image result for dad cooking

Dad in the kitchen!

It’s still one of the most daunting tasks I find with looking after the girls – cooking for them! We’re fortunate as both the girls are good little eaters (thanks to my amazing wife and all the hard work she put in weaning them) so I don’t often have to deal with any unreasonable toddler/threenager food demands. I put pressure on myself to create different dishes for them to try when all they really want is pasta or chips….or preferably, pasta AND chips.

Fortunately I’m not a bad cook but tend to stick to a few tried and tested classics; my chicken risotto is always a big hit as is my pasta with beef ragu sauce, but I do like to stick to a recipe and don’t feel that comfortable going off piste and being creative with food. My wife on the other hand is a fab cook and likes nothing better than creating something from scratch and playing fast and loose with any recipes. During her maternity leave I had an easy time of it in the kitchen I can tell you…but I digress.

A long time ago….

Way back when I was at work and we had just Big M, we had a nanny, she kept a food diary for us. So I looked at that for inspiration. My wife ensured the nanny try to cook at least one new dish a week while maintaining Big M’s favourites; pasta, fish pie, pasta, risotto, pasta etc. I checked some of the recipe books we had and decided one day to try to make fish cakes from scratch. Fortunately we live in an area where there are excellent butchers and also a great fishmonger. No supermarket vac-packed fish for my little darling, oh no, straight to the fishmonger for the freshest bounty from our shores.

Back home and an afternoon (yes a whole afternoon) spent meticulously preparing and molding four exquisite fish cakes for her….you’re way ahead of me aren’t you…all the while trying to keep half an eye on her as she plays in the playroom and trying to meet various demands for books to be read and mega bloks to be played with. Dinner was finally ready and of course “I want pasta”…..tears and tantrums followed…Big M looked at me bemused as I picked myself off the floor. Fortunately she did eat all her greens and did try a little bit of fish cake.

Don’t sweat it

That incident made me think and realise that at weekends for example, she eats perfectly well with us, so why can’t I just cook what I would for myself or what I know she likes and take it from there. Over a number of weeks I relaxed more into the routine of catering for her. Nowadays I’m putting less pressure on myself, after all why do that when you have the bigger task of looking after two little girls and running the house as well. Having said that as my wife has returned to work this week there is the added pressure of cooking for us as well, fortunately she’s very easy to please as long as it’s not beans on toast. (p.s. baked beans, always a hit with the little ones!)

Here a couple of my tried and tested favourites that are a hit with my girls, toddler and wife alike and still use decent quality ingredients.

Pizza Wraps

Tortilla wraps (we use the good quality seeded ones)

Tomato paste

Cream cheese

Half an onion (red or brown)

Couple of mushrooms

Tomatoes

Ham

Cheese (lots of it)

Take a wrap, smear on some tomato paste mixed with cream cheese, thinly slice some onion and mushroom and scatter over the wrap. Rip up the ham and sprinkle over, slice up a tomato or two then add generous amounts of cheese.

Grill under a medium grill until the cheese has melted. Easy as.

Omelettes

Ok I’m not going to give you a recipe on how to make an omelette but I will add that the girls love it when I fry up some chopped onion, mushrooms, broccoli, courgette and peas in olive oil before adding the eggs. Finished under the grill with lots of cheese on top. It’s a real hit.

 

I still think beans on toast should be a staple though….don’t tell the wife….

Easy to construct raised beds

This summer we had an extended visit from my wife’s parents all the way from NZ. As always I’ve loved having them stay (yes I do mean that). For a start, my father-in-law is a very keen gardener and he has spent almost everyday of their stay in the garden, weeding, planting, maintaining and building. He’s even built a wooden play house for the girls (more on this in another post). My mother-in-law has been a super useful “extra pair of hands”, either taking the kids off my hands or just doing all the little jobs around the place that you don’t realise take up a lot of time.

Raised Beds

This has meant that I’ve had a chance to get into the garden and attack a project that my wife has been keen for me to do for a long while now. Raised beds, turning this:

Into this:

Materials

I did a lot of research online and noticed that you can buy raised beds “kits” from a number of suppliers however these can be quite expensive. So I decided to go my own way. Some kits use garden sleepers, but again these are a bit pricey and difficult to work with. I decided to go with decking boards. They are used for people to walk all over, why not use them to build a raised bed? I measured the space of our veggie patch and worked out how many 2.4m boards and fence posts I needed to make three beds.

Three 2.4m x 1m raised beds require the following items:

18 of 28mm x 140mm x 2.4m pine decking boards

5 of 75mm x 75mm x2.4m timber fence posts

Assorted screws and/or galvanised nails (we already had these in the shed so didn’t buy any more).

I ordered mine from Wickes and the cost came to £135, which came to half of the cost of a “kit”. Not bad really.

 

 

 

Construction

I cut each fence post into three, laid these out and attached two full length decking boards to the posts. Note that I also left space for another decking board at the top. Therefore in the future if I want to raise the bed any further (old age or bad back for example) I can just attach another board all round and fill with soil.

Digging a groove in the soil with deeper holes for the posts I put one side in then attached two decking boards cut to 1m length to make an end. Then add another side and attach two further 1m boards to complete the bed. I left a gap of 45cm between the beds so in the future I can add 45cm square paving slabs. And so on until I had 3 beds constructed. It took me a few days (with many interruptions for children) to complete but I reckon you could do this in a day without interruption.

Treated or untreated?

Most articles you read on building raised beds discuss whether or not you should use treated wood. It is recommended where you are growing vegetables for consumption to not use treated wood. However the caveat is that treated wood is made to be in contact with the ground and therefore lasts longer. I got over this conundrum by lining the beds with polyethylene. I also used old compost bags to line the beds. If you are unsure which type of plastic to use then I found the following article very useful.

Filling

I was very pleased to be able to finally use our own compost we’ve been adding to over the past year or so. This provided a good base layer in the beds then we finished off with numerous bags of general purpose compost from the garden centre.

Irrigation

Now I hadn’t thought much on this but my father-in-law suggested that it was a good idea to irrigate each bed individually and I have to agree. It’s a better use of water and selfishly, I actually really enjoyed the “engineering” of cutting all the hoses and connecting them all up. We used black hose that is made specifically for the purpose of supplying a micro spray system. It’s easy to make holes in to attach various micro nozzles. Our system is made by Gardena, we did end up spending a bit of money getting it right but I think it was definitely worth it.

And Finally

I’m not an expert DIYer or garden constructor but I found this little project immensely satisfying and simple. My wife is very happy that we can now grow veggies that will at least stand a chance of growing properly without being eaten by pests.

Have you completed similar projects, let me know how you got on.

Tinnitus and me

(c) Houseofhearing.co.uk

I suffer from tinnitus and have done, on and off for about 25 years.

What is Tinnitus

The perception of ringing in your ears. It is a fairly common condition affecting about 1 in 10 people in the UK. For some it can be so overwhelming that it affects their quality of life, they find it hard to sleep or concentrate for example. For others, like myself, it is an annoyance that you learn to live with but really wish you didn’t have to. I find it quite distressing that I can never truly enjoy quiet, I always have a ringing in my ears.

It is not a condition in itself but a symptom of an underlying condition such as age-related hearing loss or ear injury.

Tinnitus and me

I think my first memories of it came around the time I was university. I’d go to gigs and find my ears ringing for days afterwards. Since then it is something I have always been aware of but have just got on with. When my children arrived it became a bit more of an issue. I found that my daughter’s cry was at the same frequency as the ringing in my ears. This meant when she was upset and crying hard I actually found it painful to listen to.

Earlier last year I decided to try to investigate it further as it was causing me such discomfort. I went to my local GP and managed to get a referral to a specialist. I had hearing tests and a follow-up discussion with the specialist. As you get older you lose hearing at higher frequencies, this is normal. But for me as these nerves die off it creates “noise” which is interpreted by my brain as ringing. So  the problem is exacerbated as I get older.

What can you do

Nothing unfortunately, well, there is no cure for it. Tinnitus can impact your quality of life and cause problems such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Depression

You can already see if you’re a new parent, these are complications that you definitely don’t need. If you’re able to treat these conditions then while it won’t make your tinnitus go away, it will hopefully make you feel better.

What I was told is that as there is no cure for tinnitus you can find ways of managing the condition. Try and reduce stress factors, attempt to get a good nights sleep, turn down the volume and get some exercise for example. If it is something that does bother you then there are support groups out there that can help. I’ll add some links below.

And for me?

Well as my eldest has got older she understands that Daddy sometimes has sore ears so she needs to be a little bit more quiet. This usually has the desired effect, though during her terrible twos she did once or twice scream at me deliberately. But hey, that’s toddlers for you!

Useful Links

British Tinnitus Association

NHS

Take on Tinnitus