Living Arrows 4/52

This is now week four in the I Heart Snapping Living Arrows project – I can’t believe how fast time is going at the moment!

This week I decided to post two pictures. In both pictures I have chosen Toby isn’t looking at the camera and I love the serious expressions he has. I’ve also done a bit of editing on both photos to make them almost black and white. My husband has Photoshop but seeing as I have to borrow his laptop to use it I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting with picmonkey.com. It seems pretty good for what I need it for, for the moment anyway.

Here’s the shots. I’m really pleased with them but please let me know what you think.

Serious baby

Baby in a bear suit

living arrows

Bath time (The Ordinary Moments #11)

I’m linking up with Katie at Mummy Daddy Me again this week for some more ‘Ordinary Moments’.

Baby bath time

Toby usually gets a bath about three times a week. Bath time is very much daddy’s domain and up until now we’ve been using a lie-back bath support but Toby has started to get very wriggly (both in and out of the bath!) lately. We decided that a bath seat might help and got this one in the Kiddicare sale. It has suckers to stick it to the bottom of the bath but also swivels on its base to make it easy to get your baby in and out. Toby seems to quite like it so far although daddy reckons it’s harder to wash him in it.

Toby doesn’t mind the bath at the moment but I wouldn’t really say he enjoys it. He got some bath toys for Christmas but isn’t too interested in them yet. I’m really looking forward to the days when bath time becomes a fun end to the day…and we can make soap sud mohicans!

mummy daddy me

Knitting Friday #6

It’s taken two weeks but I have finally finished sewing all the bits of Toby’s bear suit together. It was fairly straight forward apart from the feet (which I’m still not sure I got right!) although I did realise it’s much harder to sew up knitting when you didn’t do the original knitting yourself.

Anyway, here’s Toby modelling the finished product. Isn’t he just too cute?!

Baby in a bear suit

[The Prompt: Week 2] The state of education

mumturnedmom

I’m linking up with the lovely Sara at mumturnedmom again this week for her new linky ‘The Prompt’. I really enjoyed reading all the other posts that linked up last week. It’s interesting to see everyone’s different takes on the same prompt.

And so, to this weeks prompt…

I was saddened by………….

I was saddened by a tweet I read this week in which someone said the TV documentary Educating Yorkshire, which this week won a National Television Award for Best Documentary Series,  made them “despair for our education in this country”. As a secondary school teacher myself it made me think about the impression those with no experience of secondary education, other than their own, have of our schools today.

I live in Fife, in the east of Scotland and in my four years of teaching I have taught in four different schools. Three of those schools have a high proportion of pupils from low income families. The school I taught in most recently over 40% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. The pupils I deal with every day (when I’m not on maternity leave that is) are not dissimilar to those kids you see on programmes like Educating Yorkshire, or Educating Essex which came before it.

A lot of the kids I teach are often labelled as ‘challenging’. It’s been in the news recently that two-fifths of newly qualified teachers leave the profession within five years. To me this is a shocking, but not surprising statistic. According to the Ofsted Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw – “Many new recruits are quitting the classroom because they are inadequately prepared for dealing with unruly pupils”. And I can believe it; behaviour of some pupils in some schools is appalling. If you’ve seen Educating Yorkshire you might have an idea of the kind of things pupils get up to – if you haven’t let me give you a few examples of the kind of behaviour that I have had to deal with in my four short years as a teacher:

  • I have been sworn at more times than I care to remember
  • I have kids flatly refusing to follow any instructions they are given
  • I rarely get through a lesson without having to send someone out of the room for causing a disruption
  • I have, on two separate occasions, had pupils overturn their desks in anger
  • I have waited more than 15 minutes for a class to stop talking so I could start the lesson. (I tried every tactic I could think of to get them to be quiet – in the end, waiting it out seemed the best option)
  • I have kids pushing or hitting each other almost daily
  • I have had two 14 year old boys have a fight in my classroom, with chairs, when I was about 5 months pregnant!
  • And that’s not to mention the general chatter, answering back and disrespect that happens in every lesson.

I can understand why some new teachers can’t cope with the behaviour they have to deal with. I’ve been lucky that in every school I have worked in there has been a decent behaviour policy in place which is backed up by support from senior members of staff. And there are always some kids who are well behaved, who do want to work and to learn. I’m sure there are schools where the general standard of behaviour is better, but to some degree or another wherever you find kids, you will find badly behaved kids. There have been many times over the last four years where I’ve thought I couldn’t cope, that I had made the wrong decision by going into teaching and if you look at the way teaching is portrayed in the media then you would wonder why anyone would do it.

But this is what makes me sad; we shouldn’t despair over the state of education in this country, although I’ll be the first to admit I’m glad I teach in Scotland, out of the reach of Michael Gove and all the terrible decisions he keeps making about education in England. Because, these kids don’t need despairing over, they need help to overcome whatever it is that makes them behave the way they do. They need some hope, that if they work hard at school then they can achieve, that they can make something of themselves. My main role, as a teacher, is not to teach these kids French or Spanish. It’s to teach them how to respect one another, how to work with other people, how to communicate, how to trust that there are adults who will do their best for them, how to ask for help, how to become responsible members of society.

There are no excuses for bad behaviour, but there are often reasons behind it. Some of the kids I teach just don’t know any better. Maybe, the kid who is falling asleep at his desk, or staring out of the window in a daze didn’t go to bed until 1am last night because he had to stay up and look after his little sister while his mum was working the night shift at the 24 hour supermarket because that’s the only job she can get. Maybe the kid who shouts and swears is just following the example of his dad, because that’s what he does when he wants something. Maybe the boy who is having a fight is so angry with everyone because he lives in a children’s home and when he sees his mum every third month she makes him promises she can’t keep and it takes the next month for his teachers and support workers to get him back on track. Maybe the boy who can’t sit still in his seat and keeps shouting out the answers is really trying his best to keep his ADHD under control but sometimes his impulses are stronger than he can manage.

So I try to understand why these kids are acting the way they are (and believe me, their stories make me feel sad every day), and I do what I can to show them the right way to act, the right way to behave, and therefore, hopefully, the right way to learn. I set consistent boundaries and I stick to them. I don’t let them get away with poor behaviour but nor do I just shout at them, because sometimes they spend their time at home being shouted at, adding my voice to the mix isn’t going to get them to do what I need them to do. So I talk to them, I reason with them and I get them to do what I need them to do but I make them think that it was their idea. And I know that there are thousands of teachers out there who are working their asses off to do the very best they can for all the kids that they teach. So don’t despair for the state of education in our country. There’s really no need.

State of Education

Review: Splash About Après Splash All-in-One

Splash About Après Splash All-in-One

If you read my post about Toby’s swimming lessons you’ll already know we’re big fans of Splash About. I first came across them because our swim school, Turtle Tots, insist that all babies wear a Splash About Happy Nappy. As Toby was quite young when we started swimming (about 3 months) and he’s so skinny (so no fat on him to keep him warm!) we also bought a BabyWrap. Since then we have added to our Splash About collection with a hooded towel, a change mat (which the Splashers kindly sent us because they liked seeing Toby’s cheery pictures in his swimming gear on Twitter), and now our latest addition is the Après Splash All-in-One, which was a Christmas present from Grandma!

The Details

The Après Splash All-in-One is made from the same cotton bamboo charcoal towelling as the Splash About hooded towel. There a poppers all down the front and legs, so the whole thing (apart from the arms) opens out flat for easy dressing. It comes in four sizes – 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months and 12-18 months, with either turquoise or pink trim.

The Pros

    • It’s very practical – the Après Splash All-in-One makes getting dressed after swimming an absolute doddle! I just dry Toby off, put his nappy on then lie him on top of the all-in-one and do up the poppers. It’s so much easier than trying to wrestle a tired and slightly cranky post-swim baby into everyday clothes.
    • Because it’s towelling it doesn’t matter if Toby is still a bit damp when I put it on. The suit dries him off then keeps him nice and cosy for the journey home.
    • It’s nice and roomy so great for wriggling in (as ably demonstrated by Toby in the photo below).
    • It’s very easy to take off again – as we discovered when it got covered in porridge last week! I just undid the poppers while Toby was still in his highchair then lifted him out leaving the porridge covered all-in-one behind.

Apres Splash All-in-One

The Cons

  • The only minor niggle for me is the sizing. I know Toby is very long but even so he is only 6 months old and the 6-12 month size there isn’t much length in the arms and legs for him to grow into as you can see from the photos.

The Verdict

We love the Splash About Après Splash All-in-One. It has made our post-swimming experience much less hassle. I can imagine it would also be fantastic to use on holiday as it would be so easy to pop on your little one after they had been in the pool or the sea. You could even use it at home instead of a bath robe.

**Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are my own.

We're going on an adventure

Choosing childcare

Choosing childcare

I’ve mentioned before that my work situation is a bit complicated. This is because I was on a temporary contract before maternity leave so I don’t have a job of my own to go back to. I will be given another post (teaching posts are allocated by the council here rather than schools recruiting their own teachers) but as yet I don’t know where or on what terms. I’m hoping to back to the school I was at before having Toby but that isn’t guaranteed. I am planning on going back to work in August (the start of the school year in Scotland) but I probably won’t find out anything about where I’ll be working until June. There is also a slight possibility that I could go back before the summer holidays and also a chance I might go back part-time instead of full time. Whenever I go back to work it’s getting to the time that we really need to start choosing childcare for Toby.

All this uncertainty makes arranging childcare a little tricky. We have had to make a start though because I don’t want to risk leaving it too late to get a place anywhere. So just before Christmas I started looking at local nurseries. I had considered a childminder but to be honest without any personal recommendations I didn’t really know how to go about finding one. And on reflection I think nursery will be good to help Toby’s social development and give him access to lots of different activities.

I asked some of my friends for recommendations of nurseries (and lots of them have kids who all went to the same one) and also looked at some other local options. Location is important as it need to be somewhere I can drop the hubby off at the train station, drop Toby off at nursery and then make my own way to work. I narrowed it down to a few options and arranged some visits. I liked the fact that most of the nurseries said I could visit without an appointment, that way you know you are seeing a true reflection of the place.

So off we went on our visits. To be honest I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Obviously somewhere, clean, with friendly staff, with plenty of resources, with happy, engaged children. I wanted somewhere where food was provided and cooked on the premises and very importantly, somewhere that would be happy to deal with Toby’s cloth nappies!

The first nursery we visited was the one recommended by lots of my friends. It is in a converted Victorian house so I felt that some of the rooms were quite small, but it was well-equipped and the staff were all very happy and friendly. I liked the fact they had a separate cot room for the younger children to have their naps and it met all my other criteria. My only slight reservation was that I saw two children playing in just their vests and nappies – I don’t know why it bothered me but it just seemed a bit odd that they didn’t have any other clothes on. So far so good, in fact the main drawback with this nursery is that it is very popular and they don’t know their availability for August yet, meaning we would have to go on a waiting list with no guarantee of a place.

The second nursery we went to look at was purpose built so it seemed to have more space. However, we went on Christmas Eve so the hubby could come too and so they only had 18 children in when usually they can have up to 89. I’m sure if we went back when it was full it wouldn’t seem so spacious! Again this one seemed fine but it hasn’t had great inspection reports in the past. Although the most recent report showed they had made improvements it still makes me a bit wary. I also didn’t like the fact that at this one there was no separate area for the children to sleep. If Toby’s current behaviour is anything to go by he needs his naps and I can’t imagine that he would sleep in a room with half the children still playing. So this one was pretty much crossed off the list.

The third and final nursery we visited (there was another one which had been recommended to me but they don’t have any spaces) I think is going to be the one we go for. It’s fairly new, having only been open a year or so and again is in a converted Victorian house. One of our NCT class babies has just started going there one day a week and he seems to be getting on fine so far. Again the staff were very friendly; the manager is a scout leader and as all my family are involved in scouting I always take this as a good sign! Food is prepared on the premises which is great, there is plenty of space (including a garden) and again they are happy to deal with the cloth nappies. I do want to go and have another look round before we commit to anything, this time really just focusing on the room Toby would go into. With all the nursery visits I found that there was a lot to take in, and although it’s important to look at the whole place, I’m not too concerned at the moment with what the older children are doing. The other benefit of this nursery (although not the deciding factor) is that it is £6 a day cheaper than the other one. I know I shouldn’t put a price on my child’s care, but over the year that is an awful lot of money. And it’s money that we can then use for things like days out and family holidays that we may not otherwise be able to afford.

It’s hard to imagine what my six month old baby will be like when he goes to nursery. He’ll have just turned one. Will he be walking by then? Maybe. Actually, that is quite important because it might affect which room he goes into. Most children move from the babies room to the toddlers at somewhere between 12 and 15 months, but it really depends when they are walking confidently. In a way I think it would be easier for Toby to go straight into the toddlers room to avoid to much changing about, but then I don’t want him to be intimidated by all the bigger kids. Anyway, I suppose that’s all stuff we can worry about nearer the time. For now I can’t imagine my little boy going to nursery at all. Let alone to have someone else looking after him for more of the week than I am. I would love to go back to work part time but full time just makes more sense at the moment. For one, it makes it more likely I will get my old job back, and secondly we are planning another baby quite soon (I know!!) so if I go back to work full time I’ll get full maternity pay.

So there we are. I think we’ve made our choice. How did you choose on childcare for your children? Is there anything I should have considered that I’ve forgotten about? Help me out, I’m new at this!

Living Arrows 3/52

So we’re into week three in the I Heart Snapping Living Arrows project. Toby was sat in his highchair in the kitchen while I did the washing up. He was very happy playing with his new toy that he got for Christmas. I really like this toy because not only is it wooden and really well made instead of being plastic and noisy and liable to break, it also has suckers on the bottom so I can stick it to his highchair tray and he can’t throw it on the floor! So while we were in the kitchen I noticed the light was pretty good so I decided to grab the camera and see what we could get. And this is the result…

Living Arrows 3_52

living arrows

Review: Exante Diet

UPDATE: I wrote this post back in 2014 – you’ll still find it useful if you are considering following the Exante Diet Total Solution. But, you can also pop over to my latest post to find out about the Flexi Solution AND get a discount code for 30% off the whole of the Exante range.

I was given the chance to try Exante Diet for a week and it seemed like a good opportunity to give my weight loss a boost, especially after the excesses of Christmas! Exante Diet is a meal replacement diet (also known as a VLCD or very low calorie diet). All conventional food is replaced by three food packs per day (if you are following the Total Solution) – giving you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals in only 600 calories. Now I know a lot of people don’t agree with meal replacement diets and to be honest although I have used them before successfully I don’t think I would do one again long term as I am trying to establish a healthy, mindful attitude to food. That said, they do work if followed correctly so I am writing this review assuming you have already chosen to do a meal replacement diet and are just looking at the options available.

Exante diet

The Details

Exante DietExante Diet is a purely online product. That means there are no weekly weigh ins and no counselling sessions to attend (unlike some other VLCDs). I suppose it depends on you whether you think that is a good thing or not! They also claim to be the cheapest meal replacement diet in the UK. Individual food packs retail at £2.58 but there are big discounts when you buy in bulk. There is quite a variety of food packs available; Shakes come in six flavours, there are four different soups, seven ready meals (including porridge) and four different bars. You can have any combination of these each day. There are also flavourings that you can add to water available.

>There are then three different diet plans to choose from; Total Solution (three food packs a day), Working Solution (three food packs plus 400 calorie low carbohydrate, high protein meal a day) or Simple Solution (three food packs plus 600 calorie meal). The plan you choose depends on your BMI and any pre-existing medical conditions. There is plenty of advice on the website to help you decide which plan is right for you.

The Pros

  • It works! If you follow any VLCD without cheating it will work and you will lose weight, probably more quickly than you would following any other diet. Also, because the diet puts you into a state of ketosis (where the body starts using its fat stores for energy) you won’t feel hungry.
  • It’s simple. There’s no need to count calories or points. If you are following the total solution then there’s no need to make any choices about food other than which food pack to have. Once you have tried the different products you can choose the ones you like and stick with those.
  • It’s cheap. If you choose the bumper 4 week pack it works out at £27.09 a week. I don’t know about you but I definitely spend more than that on my usual weekly shop.
  • It’s convenient. You can order all your food packs from the comfort of your sofa and have them delivered to your door.
  • There is quite a lot of variety in the different food packs. I liked all the shake flavours (I definitely recommend using a hand blender to mix them though), the vegetable and mushroom soups were also quite nice and didn’t really taste like a diet product, and the chocolate bar was very chocolately and almost fudgy, again not something you would expect from a diet product.
  • With Exante Diet there are no weekly weigh ins or group sessions to attend (if you consider this a plus point).
  • There is lots of information on the website – details about how the diet works, tips for weight loss and keeping the weight off, success stories, recipes (if you are following the Working or Simple Solution), and also a forum to speak to others following the diet.
  • It works! Seriously, if you follow the diet to the letter it is foolproof and that has to be the biggest positive about it.

The Cons

  • It’s boring. Although with Exante Diet there are quite a variety of products, in my experience, you will find a few that you like and stick with those. If you have a lot of weight to lose you will need to follow the diet for a while and lack of ‘proper’ food can get boring after a while.
  • It doesn’t really encourage you to change your eating habits in the long term and so there is a danger that you will put the weight back on when you return to conventional food. A programme such as Lighter Life (which I also have experience of) includes counselling sessions which aim to help you work out why you have put on weight in the first place and help you to keep it off in future. There is no such support from Exante Diet.
  • I found most of the ready meals rather unpalatable! They all smell quite nice, and the first few fork fulls are OK but then they just…aren’t very pleasant. I think it’s the texture more than the taste – all the ready meals are made with soya protein and it just feels a bit spongey in your mouth. The spaghetti bolognese was OK and the mushroom risotto looked worse than in tasted but I really didn’t like the curry and ended up not eating it. The red berry bar had to be the worst of everything I tried though. I actually ended up throwing some of it away!

The Verdict

If you just want to follow a meal replacement diet and don’t want to attend weekly weigh ins or group sessions then it seems to me that Exante Diet is as good a choice as any. Personally, I didn’t like some of the products, but I’ve read opinions of others on the Exante forum saying they like them so maybe it’s just down to individual taste. I did like the shakes, and if I was choosing this sort of diet in the longer term I would stick with shakes anyway. I find it easier to avoid food altogether on this kind of diet rather than eat something vaguely reminiscent of a ‘proper’ meal but nowhere near as nice!

Despite any reservations I had about the diet, most importantly I lost weight. So lastly, here are the all important figures, I’ll let them speak for themselves…

BeforeAfterLoss

Weight 13st 2.4lb 12st 10.4lb 6lb
Waist 34.5 inches 33 inches 1.5 inches
Hips 43 inches 42 inches 1 inch
Bust 40 inches 39.5 inches 0.5 inch

 

March 2016

Since writing this review Exante now have lots more products and different plans available. I recently tried the Complete 5:2 Diet Plan for two weeks and you can read about it here.

 

**Disclaimer: I was sent one week’s supply of Exante diet products in order to write this review. However, all opinions are my own.

**This post contains an affiliate link – I will receive a small commission on any purchases you make after clicking on this link but you will not be charged any more.

 

First food (The Ordinary Moments #10)

I’m linking up with Katie at Mummy Daddy Me again this week for some more ‘Ordinary Moments’.

At Christmas we gave Toby his first food to play with. He has eaten a few things since then but he doesn’t really seem that interested at the moment. Still, I’m trying to give him the opportunity to eat at least once a day and this week he tried porridge for the first time!

Baby eating porridge - first food

I wasn’t sure if he had actually eaten any or not, he seemed to spit most of it out. That was until the next day’s nappy – then I was sure he had definitely eaten some! And I will leave you with that image….it is after all a very ordinary moment for all parents of young children!

mummy daddy me