The Gallery: Spring

In our house, spring usually means two things. Cherry tree blossoms and opening our swimming pool.

Sadly, neither of these things has happened this year. Yet.

There are blossoms on some of the trees down our street, but the trees with the really big flowers that rain down petals on you when you shake the branches, are not yet at the blossom snow stage.

Blossom snow

We walked past the tree in the photo above today and found only buds. But give it a week or two and it’ll be ripe for shaking.

If this current spell of niceish weather persists we’ll also have our pool open at about the same time.

Swimming Pool

Yes, we live in the UK and have an outdoor pool in our garden. It’s quite old and we’ve had to replace and repair quite a few bits since we bought it along with the house. We have an automatic safety cover on it so we don’t have to worry about anyone falling in accidentally, and the cover keeps the water clean as well.

We keep the water temperature quite warm and usually swim from Easter to October. We keep saying that one winter we are going to heat it up for Christmas Day and take a dip.

This Easter, we’ve been waiting for some work to be done on the boiler. It turns out that it’s more complicated than the pool boiler repair guys initially thought but it’s almost sorted now.

And once it’s done, there will be no keeping the kids out.

Spring will have really arrived.

This post was written in response to this week’s Gallery theme over at Sticky Fingers.



The Gallery: Girls

4 girls on a climbing frame

Here are my kids, dressed as ‘fairies and dancers’ about 6 years ago.

In this photo my eldest is 7, the same age as my youngest is now. My youngest is only about 18 months old, and yes, he’s a boy. This is what happens when you are too young to know any better and you have three older sisters who regard you as a life sized doll.

They all loved these outfits and spent hours running around the garden in them. Sometimes I even took them out of the house like this, when I couldn’t be bothered getting them to change. Yes, even DS. People used to tell me how cute they were and he used to dimple happily at them.

These days you couldn’t pay DS to get dressed up as a fairy, and you’d have a hard job persuading any of the girls to do so either. DD1 quite likes skirts and dresses but doesn’t do flounces, and DD2 and DD3 much prefer trousers. DS  just wants to wear shorts. None of them like pink.

Having three girls  and a boy has been interesting but I really haven’t seen that much difference between them as they are growing up. I’m told the teenage years will be the definitive ones as girls are stroppy and boys just withdraw and grunt. We’ve had plenty of the former already and it makes for a very noisy house, so I await the latter  state of affairs with eager anticipation.


Brace Watch Month 26/ Month 2

That’s right.

a/ I haven’t updated Brace Watch for almost a year, and
b/ I now have two daughters wearing braces.

First up, DD1. She’s now 13.

She was only supposed to have braces on for 2 years , but she’s probably got another 12-18 months to go thanks to a disinterested NHS orthodontist who left her without a wire on for about 4 months, and basically pissed around with her teeth.

Our new orthodontist has achieved more in the last 8 months than the previous one did in 16. Unfortunately, at our last appointment yesterday, she told us that she too is leaving. Who knows what the next one will be like?

This was DD1′s mouth after her last treatment with the old orthodontist last May.

Wire on braces 16 months

And this was her upper jaw yesterday, before she had her appointment.

Braces retain canines 26 months

Such a difference! Finally her canines have come down.

Also, in January DD2 , who is 11, had braces fitted for the same reason as her older sister. Dodgy canine teeth seem to run in our family.

DD2 has a couple of issues that make the fitting of braces a little tricky .

Firstly, she has ASD and some sensory issues, so I was worried how she was going to cope with the feel of braces on her teeth and in her mouth. I thought there was a possibility of her having to have them removed early, but figured it was probably worth a crack.

Secondly, she plays the trombone and braces can really interfere with a brass player’s technique.

The first week of her wearing braces was quite difficult for everyone but she did get used to them, and made no fuss at all about yesterday’s adjustments.

I forgot to get a photo specifically of her teeth before she had them fitted, but this close up gives you a good idea.

Retained canine smile


This is her bite after two months of treatment.

retained canines after two months of braces

retained canines braces 2 months

As her canines have moved down, her front tooth gap has closed too.

It’s so far, so good for us as far as braces are concerned and our next appointment isn’t until June. Fingers crossed that the surgery has a replacement orthodontist by then!




Am I Being Unreasonable About Mother’s Day?

special mum
I expect to be spoilt on Mother’s Day. Am I alone?

Yes, I know it’s yet another day for the shops to rub their hands together in anticipation, but I don’t mind home made anything. Is it too much to expect my offspring to pull it together for one day in 365 and think about me for a change? I seem to spend the rest of the year running around after them, after all!

I’m not talking head to toe spa treatments and 5* dining ( although I wouldn’t say no to a massage), but I do want the kids to make a fuss of me for the day. I want  flowers, cards, maybe some chocolates and little presents. I’d like to not have to do any housework or dog walking. I’d love to go out for a nice family meal and most of all I’d like the kids to behave.

You may be able to tell from the tone of this post that I did not get the Mother’s Day of my dreams yesterday.

Let’s get one thing straight. This is not a moan about my husband. He is very good at facilitating MD but it’s not all down to him, as I am not his mother. He does far more that he should for MD and I take it as a sign that he appreciates my efforts as the mother of his children.

Which is a damn sight more than the children themselves seem too.

The younger ones aren’t too bad. They made cards at Beavers and Brownies and school and bought me a small gift each ( paid for by DH of course). And they were pretty well behaved.

But the older two! OMG! They are 11 and 13 and did their best to ruin the day. They squabbled and fought, then refused to go out for a family meal at the restaurant DH had booked. We had to cancel and went out to the local farmer’s market instead, where they actually managed not to batter each other in public.

But I was still hurt and disappointed by their earlier behaviour and found a sausage sandwich a poor substitute for the lamb roast I had been anticipating. The Teen and Tween were suitably miffed when I told them about the dessert menu they had missed out on and pointed out they would have to make do with yogurt or fruit for pudding, instead.

It is also some small comfort that a few of my friends with children of this age have reported a general ‘can’t be arsededness’ in their offspring with regards to Mother’s Day.

Yesterday has made me re evaluate the amount of running around I do for my children, and I have the strange feeling that their attitude may be contagious.

For example, next year I’m going to issue a domestic press release detailing exactly what I expect, and when. And I will not be getting out of bed to take DD1 to her riding lesson first!

I hope everyone else had a lovely Mother’s Day though.

We all deserved it.

Book Review: Screen-Smart Parenting

smart screen parenting

I consider myself to be quite tech savvy.

I use and enjoy social media, understand the etiquette of posting on internet forums and can decipher most text-speak acronyms. I think the internet is a good thing, even for children, but I was born in 1970 and so am a ‘digital immigrant’.

My children, on the other hand, are digital natives and have never known a world without the web. They take apps, tablets and smartphones for granted in the same way that people born in the 70′s and 80′s did tape recorders, television and digital watches. We can only imagine what their children will consider normal.

There is no doubt in my mind that technology has a lot to offer today’s youngsters, but I’m also aware that the internet contains things unsuitable for children’s eyes and minds. Like most parents, I want my children to be able to experience the web appropriately, have fun and be educated while staying safe.

I’ve run the gauntlet of opinions when it comes to children’s access to technology. I’ve flipped from thinking that a child under the age of 13 simply doesn’t need internet access on their phone, to wondering if it’s all too much hard work and maybe we should just let them free range online and trust them to come to us if they encounter a problem, then back the other way again. I worry that my kids are spending too much time staring at screens but don’t know where and how to draw the line. It seems that everyone has an opinion on the best way to  approach this issue and  Jodi Gold is no exception.

Except that Jodi Gold, MD is not just anyone. She is a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist in private practice and Clinical Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, in New York City. And she’s written a book that will help you work out the best way to manage your child’s access to technology.

This is a book for the parents of all ages, from newborns to teens to almost grown ups. It’s full of sensible, practical advice and explains how to supervise your child’s digital footprint without stifling their online experiences. It is non judgmental, but explains the digital world our children live in, in a way that will leave you feeling relatively calm and in control of the situation.

I do wish I had read this book a few years ago, as my eldest two are now at secondary school and are well into their digital journeys. It’s more difficult to set down new rules for tweens and teens who have already had an element of internet freedom, than talk about boundaries and expectations to younger children who have yet to be unleashed on the world wide web.

Still it’s good to see that a lot of our house rules around technology are reflected in the pages of  Screen-Smart Parenting. This is a book I will keep close and dip into often, and I would urge all parents to read it at least before their children start school. The earlier the better, really.

But even if your children are older and already set in their digital ways, this is a book that still has much to offer and will give you a frame work to help you guide your children develop the tech savvy they need to become good digital citizens.

I was sent a copy of  ‘Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices‘ to review but the opinions given above are wholly my own.

On Grieving For A Dog

Grief is a bastard, isn’t it?

Ten days on from the unexpected loss of one of our family dogs, it’s still hiding in unexpected places and jumping out and slapping me around the face quite regularly.

Happy  Willow

First, let me reassure those of you who have lost humans that you care about, that I’m not complaining our loss is as big as say, the loss of a child or parent or friend. Our dogs are not child substitutes.

They are pets. But they are also family members. I feel like our family is now incomplete and will make no apologies for using the word ‘Grief’ when talking about what I am feeling at the moment. I am crying, I feel sad, it bloody hurts inside. This is what I am feeling and I will not downplay it by saying ‘She was only a dog.’

I have no doubt at all that I am grieving for our lost pet, just the same as I grieved when my father died 20-odd years ago.

For the first 24 hours I pretty much cried at the drop of a hat. I couldn’t stop, my eyes just kept leaking.

Then I teared up regularly for the next 48 hours. Mainly when talking about Willow. That was The Lurcher’s name- there is no point in not using it anymore, is there?

I keep thinking I hear  her or catch glimpses of her from the corner of my eye. I still expect her to be sleeping beside my bed when I get up in the morning.

Last Monday  was the worst. People at school knew she was having her surgery on Friday so I had people asking after her, and had to explain. Everyone was sympathetic but you could tell the dog/ pet owners. A couple of them were in tears too which I weirdly felt guilty about.

And then I took our other dog to agility where I managed not to completely fall to pieces, and everyone has dogs so they all ‘got it’.

Social media has been a great help in telling people what happened as I could tell a lot of people all at once, but just when I think I’ve finally told everyone, someone else  turns up. Today it was the gardeners, asking where ‘the grey dog’ was.

And our remaining dog breaks my heart, because you can’t explain to a dog that his friend has gone.

In the house he likes to sleep on her bed, and keeps rushing in the door each time he comes back from a walk, just in case she has come home. And on walks he is no longer running through the woods, exploring and chasing squirrels. Instead he sticks close to me and waits and watches for her to coming running over to him for a game.

waiting, watching

Every day I find myself thinking how long it’s been since I’ve seen her. Already ten days has passed, soon it will be two weeks, then a month. But life has to goes on, doesn’t it?