A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Toothy Tales Of Sugar From The Vale

Well, thank the Lord!  After today's rather belated dental check-up I am happy to report that the kids have clean, healthy teeth.  

We are blessed with a very child friendly dental practice just around the corner so off we duly trotted after school.

Caitlin cleaning her teeth - dental health - motherdistracted.co.uk

The lady dentist allowed the kids to play with the chair's mechanics and even with the water gun.  I don't remember being allowed to enjoy myself to that extent when I was their age.  

Both dutifully lay in the chair for their examination whilst grim articles from the learned tome, The Daily Mail, on the dangers of sugar laden drinks and snacks played through my mind.

The Media has made much, lately, of the dangers of sugar which seems to be the new enemy. I bought a copy of Sarah Wilson's much vaunted "I Quit Sugar" at the weekend and although she makes it seem easy, in reality the prospect of a sugar free life doesn't seem appealing - even when you know that current research shows sugar to be implicated in liver disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia (to name a few).  

It is also said to be a major factor in premature ageing (and I though that was having kids!). I'm not sure I can see myself blending pumpkins (a key ingredient in many of her recipes) or replacing biscuits with nuts.

Child's toothbrush and toothpaste - dental health - motherdistracted.co.uk

Recently two of the companies in Rosemary Conley's Diet Empire went into administration which, I suppose, with hindsight isn't too much of a surprise.  I have been a great advocate of Rosemary's Hip & Thigh diet, having lost 2 stone on it to shift the baby weight but recently the weight has been reappearing (well 7lbs but that's enough to depress me) and I suspect it's because some of the 'treats' and 'power snacks' you can choose are extremely high in sugar. 

Low Fat is now no longer being seen as the automatic diet of choice. I know that the 5:2 diet is popular but the idea of spending two days just eating 500 calories seems onerous and, when you have kids, rather impractical.

I have been tempted by the Weight Watchers Simple Start Diet but I wish you could find out more about it without having to sign up. The Weight Watchers products I have tried recently (wraps and soups) have been rather tasteless and their Jaffa rolls, although only 77 calories each, are really high in sugar.

I'm wondering if Rosemary wrongly attributed her weight loss to removal of high fat foods from her diet when it was actually reducing her sugar intake that did the trick?  Very difficult to say.

Anyway I am redoubling my efforts to reduce the level of sugar in the kids' diets (did you know Frosties are 37% sugar and don't even think about Nesquik) and that of mine and the hubby. 

Eating good food is such a joyful experience - preserving that and reducing the sugar is going to be a challenge. It'll be worth it if we keep the weight off and stay filling free though.

What do you think?  Are you reducing the sugar in your diet?

Monday, 17 February 2014

We'll All Be Poorer If We Ban Teaching Shakespeare's Works In Schools

Watching Dame Helen Mirren's acceptance speech for her BAFTA Fellowship in 2014 was memorable not only for the class and elegance Mirren always exudes but for her recognition of the importance of teachers in our lives and also, tacitly, the importance of our great works of literature. Mirren ended by quoting Prospero in William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Statue of William Shakespeare
Image credit:  Pexels - William Shakespeare
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep" (The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1)

There has been much rumbling over the years about whether Shakespeare should still be taught to our children. Worse still, there have been cartoon and other dumbed down versions in a misguided (in my view) attempt to interest children in the Bard's works.

Before I had my children, I used to work as a part time English tutor and one year the 'O' level text was probably my favourite Shakespeare play - "Macbeth". My pupil was a 15 year old boy whose predicted grade was 'D'. 

Upon querying what teaching methods were being used, my eyes were swiftly opened to the rather ramshackle and disinterested way I suspect literature may be being taught.

"Have you actually read the play" I asked. "No". "Does your teacher read the play out loud in class?" "No". "Does your teacher get you to read out loud in class?" "No".
When I was learning Shakespeare in school, everyone had a copy of the text and we read the entire play, line by line through the class. 

It's only when you read Shakespeare's (or indeed any other poet's) works out loud that you get a sense of the true meaning of the language and the implications behind the rhythms. 

It gives the teacher a chance to explain idioms and how the meanings of words and even the interpretation of the whole play can change over the centuries. 

Call me old fashioned, but I'm not sure the subtle nuances and beauty of our language are ever all that apparent either by re-writing Shakespeare in text speak, Cockney rhyming slang or "gangsta" rap. You get me?

I also hate modern reworkings of the play where the director has had a "vision" and decided to portray Henry II as Robocop and dress everyone up like extras from The Matrix. 

Yes the themes and meanings of Shakespeare's works are universal - that's why they stand the test of time, but when you are learning them, you have an opportunity to better understand the history and social mores of that period. 

For example, I always remember being taken aback by my lecturer's assertion that the central theme of "Romeo & Juliet" was not, for an Elizabethan audience that of "star crossed lovers" but instead of parental disobedience.

I really hope that, when Caitlin and Ieuan start to study English literature, the works of our greatest authors are requisite reading. We need to preserve these works, not least to help maintain the ever denuded English language as it seems to sink beneath text speak, business jargon and lazy spelling. 

I cringe at the number of tweets from businesses where the writer doesn't know the difference between "there are" and "they are", "you're" and "your". This is basic stuff, surely?

So I applaud Dame Helen for reminding us that the great actors and actresses of our time still owe a debt to one of our greatest writers, William Shakespeare.

And by the way, after re-enacting "Macbeth" (which is mighty tricky when there are only 2 of you - we spent lots of time laughing), and trying to explain how the play's themes are still relevant today, my pupil got an A.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Silent Sunday - 16/02/2014

Caitlin and Ieuan playing Hungry Hippos game
The terrible twosome playing Hungry Hippos


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Micro-managing the Kids Playtime? I've Joined The Fun Police!

It appears that I have accidentally joined the Fun Police.

Every time the kids play lately I find myself like the harbinger of doom... on a bad day. "Don't touch that"; "Don't eat like that, you'll choke". "Don't put your fingers in that socket you'll blow yourself up" and on and on and on....

Ieuan rather enjoys the idea of being blown up and is going through a phase of identifying (correctly as it happens) every "Danger of Death" sign on every generator / electrical gadget / lamp post with the Vale of Glamorgan. 

Caitlin, enjoying an afternoon of micro-managed playtime with her mother 
Since I did a mime of what it's like to be electrocuted (no personal experience so I might have exaggerated a bit), Ieuan loves to state that smoke will come out of his ears and his "todge" will fall off. I'm not sure I've succeeded in putting him off since the mime was based on the original film "The Taking of the Pelham 125" where the baddy dies by touching the electrified train line in the New York underground.

Every game carries with it the possibility of injury, whether physical or psychological. Every bike ride requires a paramedic on standby. I see danger and villainy in each and every corner of the Vale.

Now I know that part of being a parent is really empowering your children to explore their physicality and learn about risk and boundaries through play and exploration but it's really difficult, isn't it, to stand back sometimes and let them go.

The latest bruise or scratch usually produces the sage pronouncement from the hubby - "you wait till we take the stabilisers off their bikes" as if this is akin to taking up sky diving or some other generally sponsored way of trying to meet your maker a bit earlier than planned.

Alright, I admit it - I'm am a little risk averse. And I'm going to have to get braver or I'm going to be duller than a wet weekend in, well anywhere in Britain at the moment. At least the kids are having swimming lessons now so walking by large puddles is less heart stopping (you can drown in just a few inches of water, you know).

Surfing (like the gear rather than the water), bungee jumping (prefer making one of those large bouncy balls out of rubber bands), skiing (once went down our local hill on a roasting tray during a snowy spell) and skydiving (you are joking, aren't you?) are not activities that grab me. Paintballing looks like it hurts and those "Go Ape" type adventure centres are my idea of hell. I do go swimming although when I take my glasses off it tends to be a while before I find the pool.

Ieuan looking very cross

Ieuan, overwhelmed with glee at the prospect of an afternoon out with The Fun Police
I'm going to have to develop a 'fun persona'. Now who shall I base it on? Most of the Milkshake presenters are so jolly they set my teeth on edge. Justin is a 'lege' it's impossible to beat. 

Nope. I'll stick with my usual fun inspiration. 

Jo Brand.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Emetophobia - Doesn't It Make You Sick?

A chance conversation on Twitter reminded me of a phobia I used to have - emetophobia - a fear of being sick or of seeing someone being sick. 

In my case, I used to be absolutely terrified of being within earshot of anyone I thought was about to be sick.  

Woman lying on the floor

I'm writing this because it strikes me that this phobia might be more common than I had expected.  

I was always slightly embarrassed by my aversion to all things pukey.

There were a couple of events which triggered it.  

The first was witnessing my grandmother, Phyllis, being ill when she had the early stages of bowel cancer. 

As a child, it was hard to understand how someone could be in so much pain. 

The noise was terrible. 

The other event that triggered it was my dear sister's constant car sickness.  

To this day I swear she can be sick at the drop of a hat.  

Car journeys were an absolute nightmare because before we had driven even two miles, Sarah would have her head hanging out of the window and would have gone green.  

Family holidays were nerve wracking, especially since my father developed an (in my view) irrational hatred of motorway driving and made it his mission to avoid them by taking arduous (and generally fruitless) shortcuts he'd devise whilst smoking his pipe at service stations using a succession of battered ordinance survey maps.  

Mum and us girls would return from the ladies to find him with an excited glint in his eye which meant usually i) getting lost and ii) my sister feeling sick.

This led to me having a phase of having to sit on the end of rows in churches, cinemas and theatres, terrified I might not be able to get out if someone was taken ill.  

I also found myself unable to eat in restaurants for the same reason. 

On a family holiday to the Loire Valley via the Roscoff Ferry (a vessel designed to make people sick as far as I could see), I took a travel pill so strong I practically tranquillised myself. 

Just as well given that it was a rough crossing. 

On buses and trains, I'd survey the passengers as they got on to assess who might fall prey to travel sickness.  

The fact that the journey into town must be no more than 7 miles made no difference.

The thing about having a phobia is that, at a logical level, you know you are being irrational but you are unable to do anything about it. 

My phobia used to give me panic attacks and, if you've never had one, the heart pounding breathlessness and the urge to run to the toilet are quite frightening.

Today of course, I know that I should have talked to a GP who would have suggested counselling, perhaps some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to explore the triggers for this phobia and to help quash them when they arose.  

Actually, I consider myself really lucky because I found the cure was actually my earlier nightmare - having to deal with it.

Every parent knows that the first few days of a new school term are likely to introduce some new virus - either cold-like or, more usually, involving preparing the guest room for Messrs Puke and Squit. 

I very quickly found that when faced with two ill children, hiding at the bottom of the garden was not an option.  

I just had to roll up my sleeves and get the disinfectant out - at least once or twice per school year.

And worse still, generally I managed to get every bug the kids brought home

The husband, with his annoying tendency to think positively at all times has only ever succumbed once in the past six years using a mind over matter approach.

I have never been sick as much as I have since I had kids! 

I knew I was over the worst the other week whilst in the doctor's surgery with Ieuan. 

He managed to throw up in one of those horrid kidney shaped bowls whilst I continued to discuss his symptoms with the doctors.  

A few years ago, I'd have had to run out of the room.

If you do suffer from emetophobia, I just want to say that there are probably more of us sufferers out there than you might imagine. 

And please go to your GP or confide in someone to get some help dealing with it.  

It can colour your entire life if you don't take steps to deal with it - with socially, travelling or even at work.  

I'd never volunteer to be the First Aider in work in case I had to treat someone being sick.

And if the worst happens, you may just find you're cured, like me.
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