An Occasional Post

It’s been a while, when I changed the blog’s name to the “Occasional Blog” I really wasn’t fibbing was I. So here is an occasional post, what have I been up to?

Well it’s been a busy few months at the Occasional blog HQ (when is it not?). Once again i’m in awe of the bloggers who manage to get content out there regularly while still looking after a family! The girls have been keeping me busy as usual. Little m has been growing up rapidly and recently celebrated her 2nd birthday. She’s spending a lot of time copying her big sister as well as practicing her “terrible twos”. There have been a few tantrums but nothing out of the ordinary, thankfully. She recently started doing 3 days at week at the same nursery school as big M. Which is great as the school is on a farm and incorporates a Forest School, both girls love going there.

It’s also great from my perspective as I get two days a week now where both girls are at school. Can I finally address my expanding waistline and get fit again on the bike? No, there’s housework to do. To be fair I have still managed to get on the road and do some training as well as get the housework done. And look, today I’ve even enough time to write a blog post! Go me.

We also recently found out where M is going to go to “big school” in September. School places are allocated by the county council, you can request up to four schools in order of preference. We got our first choice which is great as we had heard of some parents not getting any of their choices. It appears in some areas where there are a high density of children all vying for one or two good local schools, people will lose out.

Now we have to start the marketing campaign to get her used to the idea of the change to big school. M really doesn’t like change and is so settled at her nursery we’re worried she will struggle going to a new setting. Especially as we seem to have picked a school where none of her friends are going. But let’s face it, you remember your primary school days and the friends you make there very fondly. At least that’s what we’re telling ourselves!

It was quite emotional for me and my wife, the realisation that our little girl is growing up and starting school. That’s one inevitability I’ve recognised since being a parent; however long you feel certain stages of their lives are going, before you know it, time flies by and you’re left wondering “how did that happen?”

Talking of which….time has flown and it’s almost time to go and pick them up from nursery. Back to the grindstone!

My first Zwift experience

Zwift workout mode

Zwhat you may ask? As indoor trainers have gotten smarter, you can now access apps or training programs that add a bit of variety to your workout. You can ride a structured workout to actual video of professional cycle races (thesufferfest.com). Or you can join a virtual world and ride with other cyclists from around the world, Zwift. Your smart trainer will adjust the resistance according to the profile of the route in front of you. Certainly makes a change from sitting in the shed churning out the Watts to your favourite tunes.

Wahoo KICKR Core Smart trainer

I thought I’d have a go, I don’t get many chances to do much cycling these days. But I do have evenings where I can get on the rollers and do some exercise.

Getting Set up

Now to get the most from Zwift, you need the aforementioned smart trainer. The trainer links to the app and the resistance is adjusted to the profile of the course you’re riding. A smart trainer will also give an accurate Watts reading (the power you produce cycling) enabling you to race accurately against the other riders using the app.

However at the very basic level, i.e. my level, you just need an indoor trainer an ANT+/Bluetooth device, such as a speed sensor and a laptop. I have rollers, and my Garmin speed and Cadence sensor. I needed to get an ANT+ dongle which I could plug into my laptop so it could read the sensor and I was set to go.

Bike rollers

I signed up for the 7 day free trial and off I went.

The ride

WOW! you can certainly see why these online apps are so popular! I decided to join an event around the 2018 Worlds Road Race course in Innsbruck, Austria. Riding on rollers there’s no resistance so when the course goes uphill it adjusts your speed in the app accordingly. In the shed I was riding full gas, 40km/hr on the rollers but uphill in the app my avatar was barely making 12km/hr. So actually my heart rate was probably what it would have been riding uphill on that course!

It was addictive, I found I was riding hard to overtake riders in front of me. I was then drafting others and pacing alongside them. I managed to complete a lap of the circuit and realised I had been riding for 40mins on the rollers averaging 40km/hr for a good chunk of it. I’d never be able to do that normally! I was so motivated I’m desperate to get back into the shed to do another ride. I was buzzing when I came back from the shed.

Change the way you train indoors

You can also do structured workouts and join group rides. By using the mobile app as well, you can give kudos to fellow riders and also instant message them.

Conclusion

I can definitely see why these sort of training apps are so popular. After the free trial is up, Zwift costs £12.99 a month. Now that’s cheaper than a gym membership and I would definitely get a LOT more exercise using Zwift that’s for sure. Having said that I will probably wait until after the summer as I will save up for a smart trainer and then start back on Zwift. Riding rollers is hard work as you can’t change your position on the bike that easily. A trainer will enable me to sit up and ease my back for example.

Obviously nothing beats getting out on the open road and the benefits of training thereof. However if the weather is rubbish or, like me, you don’t have the time to get out there then it’s certainly worth the extra motivation to get on an indoor trainer.


Dealing with morning meltdown

I’m sure we’ve all been there. Trying to get the kids ready for school, be it nursery or reception class. I’ve got m ready, she’s not yet two so is still relatively easy to get into clothes whether she likes it or not. But M who’s recently turned four is a different prospect and sometimes it ends in a meltdown (for both of you).

You start telling her it’s time to get dressed. She comes in from playing with her toys, takes off her PJ bottoms, puts pants on then spends the next 20mins running around carrying her vest not making any actual progress in getting dressed. In the meantime I’ve got the bags ready, m is ready, we’re all ready to go:

“Will you please put your clothes on!”

“But I need heeeellpppp”

“Ok, here, I’ll help”

“NO, I can do it myself!”

“Will you please get dressed!!, Ok we’ll see you in the car”

“NOOOO DADDY STAY HERE”

“Will you please get dressed!”

And so on, until one of you (usually me) loses the plot.

So how do you avoid this escalation?

Well I borrowed the following from this book “Divas & Dictators, the secrets to having a much better behaved child“, it has proven itself on a number of occasions.

So how could I have avoided the confrontation around the morning routine:

Make a plan

Sit down the night before or when you finally have a moment and think about the problem. Think about the following things:

  • What is the behaviour I want to stop? – Be specific, if there are lots of things, start with the one you think is easiest to change.
  • How much of the behaviour can I safely ignore? – Often simply ignoring the behaviour will make it disappear.
  • What would I like to see instead? – Be precise and more importantly, realistic.
  • Look at other factors that might be contributing to the problem? – Are they tired, hungry or thirsty?
  • What reward could I use when I see the right behaviour? – don’t confuse a bribe with a reward (for clarity a reward is something that is given when the child does something positive that was agreed on in advance).
  • What sanction could I use if things go wrong?

So I took some time to think about the above and how I could get M dressed so we can get out the door on time. Then when I had made my plan it was time to teach it to M.

The following morning after we had got up and I had given the girls their breakfast. I got down to M’s level and asked her to listen to me. I told her calmly and carefully:

“Ok darling, we don’t want to have another morning like yesterday when Daddy got angry”

“No Daddy”

“So while I get yours and m’s things ready, you can play but as soon as I say it’s time to get dressed, you must come to me start getting dressed”

“Yes Daddy”

“If you get dressed on time and we are ready before 8:15” (this is my notional cut off point for both girls to be dressed and ready) “you’ll get lots of ticks on the reward chart, and there will be more pocket money at the end of the week. But if you mess around and are not ready on time, no ticks, no pocket money”

“Yes Daddy, I want to get lots of ticks”

“Great, now off you go”

It worked. I was calm and when I had all their things ready, I asked M to come and get dressed and she did. I praised her along the way (this is important) that she was getting ready really well and helping Daddy lots while he gets m ready.

Then she came with me to the kitchen while I put lots of ticks on her reward chart. PHEW!

I’m certain we shall no doubt have more days when things go wrong, but hey, that’s parenting.

How do you manage bad behaviour/achieve your desired result with your children? I’d love to hear.

UPDATE

Since writing this post I’ve tried a different approach to the morning routine. We spoke to M and suggested that we get her dressed after she gets up and before breakfast. This gave her responsibility for the decision and she was up for it.

Four days into the new routine and mornings have transformed. With M already dressed before breakfast then there’s less stress for me to get her in her clothes and off to nursery. She now has time to have a little play after breakfast while I finish getting things ready, all of us are happy. In fact, this week we have consistently got out of the house at least 10-15 mins earlier than normal. Result!

The downside is the risk of getting porridge on her clothes, but it’s a small price to pay for my sanity and no meltdowns.

My Dad and Dementia

(c) OccasionalBlog.net

Just recently my Dad went for a MRI scan. It was two years since his last one and it showed significant deterioration in his brain function. It confirmed that he is suffering from Alzheimers disease.

We all suffer with memory loss as we get older but for some, it’s a little more serious than that.  For my Dad it’s slowly been creeping up on him over a number of years.

Early Signs

At first he would be aware that his memory wasn’t the best. He would always start conversations “You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t remember you too well, my memory is crap nowadays”. It was all a bit lighthearted to begin with but then it started to affect his moods.

He would get really angry with himself if he forgot the simplest thing, like a pint of milk he’d asked to pick up as he was passing the corner shop. I think he was scared that he would end up like his own mother who suffered with Dementia and passed away not recognising any of her children.

To begin with my Mum also found it frustrating, they would visit places they’d been to before and he would say how he’d never been there.  Mum would tell him, exasperatedly, that they had. My parents like going on cruises. After their 4th or 5th cruise holiday, Dad told me what a fantastic holiday it was, he’d never been on a cruise before. He would meet acquaintances who would greet him warmly and he’d have no idea of who they were.

Acceptance

Gradually they started to accept that this was becoming the new normal and Mum would devise ways to help him deal with it. They began to keep photo diaries of their holidays so she could show Dad the places they’d been and remind him of what happened.

Dad has also slowly accepted his failing memory and tries to not get angry about forgetting things. However this has also been helped by the antidepressants that are now part of his daily pill intake. My sister, who is a doctor and lives close to them, has been a great help and support (to my mum in particular). Providing sound advice and making sure when they go to their memory consultations that they know what’s happening.

However he has his good days and bad days. He still gets very confused, for example he recently tried to use a loyalty card instead of his debit card in a shop. He was convinced it was his debit card and got very agitated when Mum tried to explain that it wasn’t.

How do I feel?

While we all knew that some form of Dementia was going to be the diagnosis, to have it confirmed was a hammer blow. I’ve found it really hard, a bit of research online tells you that Alzheimers is a life limiting condition. My sister thinks we have about 5 years until he’s a shell of his former self.

As you can see from the picture at the beginning of this post, me and my Dad are (were) keen cyclists.  We enjoyed a number of cycling holidays together to Mallorca. Of course, he doesn’t really remember them. I’m beginning to feel I’m beginning to lose the Dad I used to ride with around those stunning mountain roads.

We live near London, a three and half hour (minimum) drive from them. It is so difficult as you get older and you realise that your parents are beginning to increasingly need your support. This is made doubly difficult when you have a young family who equally require 100% of your attention.

So what next?

We’ll be making sure we go and visit as often as we can. I want my girls to spend as much time as they can with their Grandpa which will hopefully help him as well. Now we have a formal diagnosis, my parents can get the support they require. This will be doubly important for my Mum who will also get the support she needs, Dad is ok at the moment but I can see the day when he will need more and more care.

Has someone in your family been affected by Dementia?

Useful Links

DementiaUK

Alzheimer’s Research UK

Alzheimer’s Society

NHS

Mental Health Foundation

What’s planned for the vegetable patch in 2019

I was very pleased to finally get round to make raised beds in our vegetable patch last year. You can read about my project here. I managed to get them finished in early summer and we got some vegetables in there. We had some limited success. The plants grew like wildfire but this is not ideal for veg as they put all their energy into growing leaves and not enough into growing the actual vegetable. We put this down to the soil being too rich in nitrogen due to mainly being compost.

So to combat this I’m topping up the beds with some plain topsoil which will hopefully tone down the nitrogen. We can only hope.

This is my wife’s plan for the beds,

You’ve got 3 raised beds from left to right and a section of old vegetable patch at the end. We’ve got some crop rotation going on…the carrots for example were in the 1st bed last year.

What’s changed this year is that we’ve actually got some of the seeds planted early and slowly germinating in the loft in the house:

We are also taking the advice of my wife’s father who recommends that root vegetable should be sown directly into the patch…i.e. carrots for example should be sown as seed directly into the patch. We’ve not done this the last couple of years having bought tiny seedlings from the garden centre and transplanting them. We’ve yet to get a successful crop.

What did do well were the courgettes and potatoes. Looking forward to some more of the same this year.

So fingers crossed for the 2019 vegetable patch.

How’s your planning for 2019’s growing season going?

A Day in the Life by Mumma in Training

I recently had the honour and pleasure to be asked to do a “day in the life” Q&A by Steph at Mumma in Training. Steph writes and excellent blog about her experiences as a mum. There are some really useful tips, hacks and observations on the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

You can read my interview here.

Party Politics

No, not of the Brexit variety. I’m talking about the minefield that can be 4yr old birthday parties.

This was brought home to me at earlier this week when I picked up a little envelope from my daughter’s drawer at pre-school. This was at picking up time and there followed an embarrassing situation.

We opened the envelope and I read the contents to her, it was a birthday party invite from one of the other girls in the class. M was so overexcited she skipped out and off to the car we went. We were leaving at the same time as one of her little friends.

She excitedly asked her “are you coming to the party?”

Little friend; “Yes”

Little friend’s mother; “NO, you’ve not been invited!”

I was silently chastising myself for mentioning the envelope, I should have waited until we were in the car before we opened it.

We have got to know each other through our girls friendship at pre-school and I felt immediately embarrassed. It’s quite something isn’t it when you worry about mentioning if your child has got an invite to so-and-so’s party in case the child of the person you’re talking to hasn’t. Not everyone decides to hire a space that can cope with the 30+ children in M’s room at pre-school.

Worrying about party invites when your child is only 4yrs old! I fear there is more of this to come! But that is what happens isn’t it, despite your best intentions, you worry if your child is going to be well liked among their peers.

I try not to worry, after experiencing the chaos that is a party in a soft play last weekend I can happily never experience that again. But you want the best for your children and if going to a birthday party is what they want then along you go!

However another dilemma is soon to raise its head. It’s M’s birthday next month and we are organising a party for her (it’s all a 4yr old wants afterall) in the local village hall. We’ve booked an “ice-princess” entertainer (you can guess who). They are expensive and as soon as you have more than 25 kids you need to pay for another entertainer to support them. So now we have to decide who gets invited and who doesn’t from her pre-school. M doesn’t care as long as Elsa is at her party so as ever it’s left to us parents to navigate the minefield that is children’s birthday parties.

Help!

Potty Training – The Saga Continues

This post was originally published in my previous blog in April 2018

Long ago in a galaxy far far away…..

There was a little girl who knew when to go to the toilet and took herself off there without any problems at all.

And the link between those two sentences, one is science fiction, the other is just pure fiction.

The story so far

(c) popsugar.com

As regular readers will know we’ve had our fair share of issues potty training M. We started this latest session of training just after Christmas, M also turned three recently so this is it, there’s definitely no going back. She has been doing really well. She prefers to use the toilet and can normally get herself there to do a wee. It’s the poos that are the issue. Everyone says “she’ll get there” which is great, but when you’ve been trying to potty train for almost a year, it’s not much consolation.

The lowest ebb

The thing is, there really is no rhyme or reason to when they will get it. We encourage her, we act disappointed when appropriate, we praise exuberantly when needed. You feel like you’re just not getting through sometimes. This all came to a head the other week at nursery school.

I got a call from the room leader explaining that M had had a big poo accident. She’d cleaned her up as best she could but perhaps I should come and pick her up in case she does it again. Now, to be fair to nursery, the accident was quite (hope you’re not eating) “liquid” and they were concerned that she was unwell. When I came to pick her up I had a long conversation with the room leader about “what can I do”. She suggested that we don’t make a big fuss and just keep on as we were, perhaps use marbles in a jar as an incentive for example. Excuse me, “don’t make a big fuss”?! How is calling her Dad to pick her up early when she soils herself, not making a fuss???

When we thought about it, both me and my wife were quite annoyed. Especially as the next day at nursery, M refused to eat her lunch. She knows that food leads to poos, perhaps she didn’t want to eat in case she had a poo and I was called to bring her home early?

The only way is up

Moving on from that incident I feel she’s definitely become more aware of going to the toilet. Also an upside is there is more focus from her key worker and room leader at nursery on supporting her with her toilet training. It’s about time!

A breakthrough?

This last week we’ve had a couple of amazing breakthroughs. On one day she managed to go to the loo to do a wee and at the same time did a poo, this happened twice in one day! Then a day later she came into kitchen in the morning and said “I think I need a poo”, took herself off and did it on the loo!! AMAZING! Me and my wife were so giddy with success, we even opened a bottle of bubbles at the end of the day.

Of course that was four days ago and since then she’s reverted and hasn’t managed to make it to the loo for a no.2. Sigh, kids giveth then taketh away!

I am taking the two glorious days we had of success. Hope it’ll happen again soon.

Sorry about all the toilet talk but as a parent I never thought I’d become quite so obsessed with my daughter’s bodily functions. What do you think?

Potty training reset the reset

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

Oh what’s a Dad to do? You may remember my struggles with potty training Big M here and here. Well after 3 months of trying i’m giving up! Ok, that’s a bit dramatic and to be fair to M, she is doing really well with the weeing side of things. She will even get up in the night and sit on the potty to do one.

It’s just the No.2’s.

Oh crap

In doing a bit of research on potty training I found the following book most helpful: “Oh crap potty training” . Part of Jamie’s method is the “going commando ” approach. I.e. in the early stages, letting your toddler run around naked from the waist down and then going to wearing leggings etc without underwear. This really worked for M and we found, even recently, that if she was naked from the waist down she would manage to get to the potty for her poo.

However she consistently has accidents when wearing her underwear. This came to a head yesterday. Our morning routine is that she gets up, takes off her overnight nappy, does a wee on the potty then puts her “big girl pants” on and we head downstairs for breakfast. Yesterday in the midst of making hers and little m’s porridge she came in with a tell tale little cramped look as if she was about to go so I told her to get on the potty right away but she said “no, I don’t need to” and left the room. Minutes later she came back in on all fours having soiled her pants. I was so annoyed, probably more so with myself for not stopping what I was doing and just putting her on the potty. As Jamie says, you have to facilitate their successes.

I just don’t understand why the addition of underwear has this affect on her when she clearly gets it with her wee. Anyway, we took the decision today to keep her in her pull up nappy’s, so far we’ve done everything the books tell you not to; use pull ups, rewards, no praise, too much praise, punishment (removing stickers from her chart). I can see where we’ve gone wrong, she’s confused the poor thing.

So she was initially quite upset by the idea of not wearing her big girl pants, but after I clearly explained that once she’s able to do a poo on the potty she can go back to wearing them, she was a lot happier.

It feels like a long and bumpy road, i’m just hoping that by not making a big deal of this change she can “get it”, oh please god before she turns three next Feb!

Potty training – reset

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

So I have previously posted on our experiences with potty training and how it’s been a long and tortuous road. We are still on that road and recently had to “reset”.

The reset

I wrote that just before my wife returned to work from maternity leave. People say that children cope well with change, well I know one little girl who doesn’t. Poor Galla was quite upset that mummy wasn’t at home on the Monday morning when we left for nursery school. When I picked her up that afternoon she was in a pair of “loaner” shorts from the nursery, she’d managed to go through the four changes of clothes I’d packed in her school bag. Oh dear….

Well all the literature says that you could go backwards with potty training if the child feels unsettled. For the rest of that week it didn’t get much better, in fact it got down right frustrating, she would do her little “wee dance” and I’d ask her to go to the potty and she’d refuse saying she didn’t need a wee. Then of course within seconds she’d wet herself. It wasn’t much better if I just picked her up and put her on it, there were tantrums, it got the point where she was almost going rigid and screaming when I tried to get her on the potty….one thing we didn’t want to breed was a fear of going to the toilet.

Anyway, we went on a trip at the end of the week to visit to Grandma and Grandpa for the weekend. Galla loves seeing them, but there were still accidents and she was still getting very upset about using the potty or toilet. So finally on Sunday morning we asked her if she wanted to use nappies again, she meekly said that she would. We put her in nappies all day and the change was remarkable, we had our happy little girl back again! Funnily enough she still treated the nappy as if she was wearing pants, she’d do a wee and act like she’d wet herself and ask to be changed.

The next day was Monday and I asked her as I was getting her dressed if she wanted to wear pants or nappies today and she said pants. I made it clear that if she wears pants she has to use the potty and toilet and did she understand that, she nodded. That was last week and so far we are back to normal, well still not getting the number twos but at least back to being happy to go on the potty/toilet and taking herself off there with no problems.

I just wanted to share this as some of the books you read appear to be real doomsayers about “never go back to nappies”, “it’ll confuse them”, “create problems” etc. It doesn’t really, we gave our little girl some control back again which in turn appeared to fix the uncontrollable spiral we were finding ourselves in.

I really hope I don’t have to write another piece on potty training…..