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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

When Should You Keep Your Child Off School?

Every parent dreads those 4 little words - "I don't feel well" or the telephone call from the school requesting that your little one be picked up due to illness. We know that we are not supposed to take them back, at least in the case of sickness, for 48 hours.

Parenting ill children -
Poorly Ieuan
We also know that many parents don't stick to that rule, much to the annoyance of teaching staff and those parents who fear their kids may now go down with the latest bug.

It's easy to be judgmental but, if parents work, it may come down to a straight choice between the health of their child and keeping their job.

Part time jobs, in particular, are difficult to come by and I know from my experience in the Legal Sector that part time positions are often created simply to be seen as adhering to "good" HR practice and in order to create roles for female employees returning from maternity leave!

The job may be part time, but the workload certainly isn't.  5 days work is cantilevered into 3 and woe betide you if you have to leave early to pick up a poorly child. You'll be equally unpopular with your bosses and the employees who have to pick up the slack in your absence.  

If there is a tender document to submit or a presentation to give, you'd have to be very brave indeed to miss it. Come appraisal and pay-review time, the discussion will be about whether you are a 'team player'.  Law firms are very fond of 'team players', despite having a hierarchy which is anything but flat.

This is without taking into account the cost and scarcity of good childcare.  Our local childminders all seem to be oversubscribed and are followed into the playground by ever increasing numbers of children.

Breakfast clubs and after school clubs are thriving.  In fact, so popular are they in Caitlin and Ieuan's school that the playground is often comparatively deserted in the mornings, with the children outside looking enviously at the children safe and warm within.

So when should you keep your child off school?  If they are exhibiting clear symptoms then it's a no-brainer but what do you do if they are a bit 'under the weather'?  What do you do when they have had a rotten night's sleep?  Ieuan, for example is suffering from growing pains at the moment and often wakes up in the early hours clutching his legs.  But he's not ill.

As adults when we get colds we know we just have to carry on and dose ourselves up with Lemsip. We don't have the luxury of a duvet day.  Despite the fact that we are likely to infect our colleagues and our performance will be under par, many of us trudge unwillingly into work to hack and cough through the day.

If we let our children stay home for every cough and sniffle, what will happen when they really have to turn up and perform?

But when your kids awake bleary eyed, tired and weepy, complaining of head, ear or tummy aches, it takes a very hard mother not to want to scoop them up and put them back in bed.

Some of my fondest memories when ill are of being tucked up in bed by my mum, being fed tea and hot buttered toast, and listening to the radio.  There is nothing like a bit of parental attention and love to aid a speedy recovery.

As a stay at home mum,  that is a luxury I can offer my kids.  But I think it's a shame that, as a society, we have got ourselves into a position where poorly kids have to be sent to school so that parents can keep a roof over their head.

I guess all we can do is make sure we practise good nutrition and take care of the family's health in order to stave off as many of these horrid bugs as possible.


Saturday, 21 November 2015

Christmas 2015 - When Kids' Games Got Tasteless?

The toy industry is worth millions.  And, you'd think like any industry which rakes in the profits, it must be a magnet for the most creative brains in the land.

Ideas must be bouncing off white-boards.  Focus groups must be throbbing hubs of fun and gales of laughter as educationally and psychologically brilliant toys and games are pitched to parents and offspring just ready for consumers across the land to queue up and fight over.

Og On The Bog - Smyths - £17.99

You'd think.

It seems, though, as though the bank of ideas is running woefully dry and, worse, exploiting that basic child-like (childish?) need we all have to poke fun and titter about the baser aspects of life.

For example, we have "Og On The Bog" - "Stand by for disgusting farts and gruesome grunts! The ogre has retired to his outhouse loo and you must collect three of his loo rolls to win! Trigger a noise and if he farts you lift a loo roll from the gnarled stick outside. If he shouts out, your turn is over. But if the bog explodes you lose all your loo rolls and have to start again!"

The long winter evenings, to quote Blackadder, must just fly by.

Or how about this gem - the "Doggie Doo Game" - "The hilarious Doggie Doo action game! Feed the dog, throw the dice and take turns to pump the lead. If he poops on your turn, scoop the poop and it's the first to three poops wins!"

Doggie Doo Game - Argos - £17.25


Or then there's Gooey Louie - "this gruesome Gooey Louie Game will have you laughing for hours. Take it in turns to stick your finger up poor Louie's nose and pull out many stretch gooeys, eurgh! Be careful if you pull out the wrong gooey then his eyes will bulge and his brain will explode!"

Gooey Louie - Argos - £16
If you told me that these three games were the brain child (and I use the term very loosely) of the Apprentice candidates, I wouldn't be remotely surprised.

Watching the toy adverts on CITV is a sobering experience.  If it's not tasteless games, it's a plethora of kits for temporary tattoos, nail art and plastic jewellery.  That, of course, and the relentless marketing of Star Wars merchandise.

It's no wonder so many parents are turning to tablets and gadgets as Christmas presents.

But I increasingly find myself wondering at the lack of inspiring toys on the market.  There must be many parents currently scratching their heads and wondering which toys to buy that won't be a two minute wonder and won't cost a small fortune for what basically amounts to 40% packaging and a bad tempered hunt for the right batteries.

The games we had as children were fun without being crass - Buckeroo, Operation, Mouse Trap and Kerplunk.  Then there were the educational toys like Mechano, or dolls like Sindy who didn't dress like one of the Kardashians.

Make-up for the under 14's was usually some scented bubble bath and a tinted lipbalm from Avon or those rock solid bath cubes which took about three days to dissolve. Glitter was something that came in plastic tubes and was rationed for Christmas pictures in school.

I think toy manufacturers need to wise up and find a way to make toys as exciting as the online games and apps for kids.  And that also means pricing toys within the means of the average family rather than just churning out yet another robotic cat / dog which costs well over £100.

Of course we parents are in control.  We don't have to let our kids play with tablets or PCs but when these are used in schools these days to teach the main curriculum, in many respects that choice has been taken out of our hands.

We can, however, exercise our choice when it comes to the toys we buy - and games about toilets, snot and poo won't be appearing in this house anytime soon.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Christmas Shopping? 8 Ways To Keep Your Cool.

There are times when those of us prone to getting a little 'tired and emotional' need to treat ourselves with a little more care than usual.  And Christmas shopping is definitely one of those times.

If, like me, you find yourself getting too hot, too tired and decidedly cranky with kids in tow, here are eight ways you can mitigate the damage before you either blow your top or end up spending far too much money because you just want to go home!

Decide how much you are going to spend on presents

This is THE most difficult aspect of all but you really need to be clear about your budget and how much you can afford to spend on each present.  It's so easy to feel pressured into spending too much but we all know that after the kids have the thrill of ripping the wrapping paper off, so many toys languish ignored after a day or so.

Make a list of what you're going to buy.

An oldie but a goodie.  Make a list of what you're planning to buy for everyone and stick to it.  The list should include stocking fillers as well as main presents. It is amazing how bits and pieces such as novelty chocolates and tiny games can add up.

Research prices online before you go.

For bigger ticket items, it makes sense to at least have an idea of what the big retailers are offering and most of them will price-match (John Lewis, for example).

If you're shopping for gadgets, make sure you are comparing the like for like technical specification and check what extras are included.

You might also want to check any consumer reviews you can find in magazines like Which? or on Amazon. Whilst you need to be able to read between the lines when looking at reviews, generally you will get a sense of whether a product is OK or a complete dud not worth your precious cash.

Check sites like Topcashback, Quidco, and Vouchercloud to see whether there are better online deals for your gifts.  Sites like these also have mobile apps you can use to check prices and earn cashback on the go.

There are numerous other price-checking apps for your smartphone that you can use in store such as Red Laser or Price Grabber.

Plan Your Route

Once you know what you want to buy and where the best deals are likely to be, it's easier to plan your route.  Make allowances for the day and time you go shopping.  If you hate crowds, first thing on a Sunday morning will be a nicer experience than mid afternoon on a Saturday!

Dress Appropriately

I like to wear warm, casual clothes in layers with a stylish but comfy pair of boots that I can walk for miles in. You can find a great selection at Esprit.

Comfortable Boots-Christmas
Wear stylish boots you can walk miles in

If you've got kids, make sure they don't get overheated in all in one bodysuits and that their clothing is easily removable for dashes to the toilet!

Plan A Break

Particularly if you have kids, you'll need to schedule a toilet / drink break.  We like John Lewis as there is a good choice of food and snacks for kids, plenty of room, clean toilets and a welcoming environment for families.  Trying to cram into a tiny coffee bar with a pushchair and umbrellas is never a nice experience!

Make sure you have some bottled water and some healthy snacks (mini boxes of raisins or bananas) to stave off hunger pains.  If you're on a diet, a little snack pot with some fruit and nuts and perhaps a few cubes of cheese may help you avoid an enormous slice of fudge cake and a calorie laden festive coffee.

Keep Receipts

Why not start a folder specially for Christmas present receipts?  Just pop them straight in when you get home and you'll know when to find them should anything need to be taken back after Christmas.

Do It All Online Instead!

If you can't face the crowds, online shopping is the answer.  Just make sure that you take into account any delivery charges, last order dates and returns policies.  Not all online retailers offer to cover the postage costs of returning item.  If you're ordering a perishable gift, such as a cream tea hamper,make sure the recipient will be in to receive it.

It also helps to sort out a safe place for delivery as there is nothing more annoying than coming home to a missed delivery card.

With a bit of planning before your shopping trip you can minimise the stress and hopefully save yourself some cash into the bargain.

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