Screen Time, Scream Time

In our house we have too many screens.

We have too many Nintendo DSs, 3 smart phones, 5 tablets, 3 desk tops, a WiiU, an Xbox360, two TVs and a couple of laptops. Our children have plenty of screens and games to chose from and our challenge is usually, not to keep them entertained, but to limit their screen time.

Usually we say no games or Youtube during the school week; we save these for for Friday nights and weekends. And then we try and limit their time for a couple of hours at a time. But it can be hard work keeping them to these limits; they always want ’5 more minutes’ and getting them to put the screens away can often feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

But every now and again, usually during the school holidays, we throw caution to the wind and declare it a screen-time pyjama day.  The rule is that as long as they behave themselves, don’t argue or upset anyone else, they can play on whatever screen they desire, for as long as they want to.

You would think the kids would be ecstatic about this, wouldn’t you? You’d think they would be eternally grateful, plug themselves into their chosen device, and lose themselves in the digital world for the rest of the day.

But no. In our house, we have peace and quiet for a couple of hours max. Then they inevitably  stop for a snack and a run around outside, and when they come back to their screens they start fighting.

‘It’s my turn on the Xbox’, ‘ I want to be controller number one’, ‘I want to play something else’, ‘She’s killing all my cats’.

At which point I get cross and turn off all the screens and all hell breaks loose.

Screen days in this house often end with four grumpy, disillusioned children who are too under exercised and too over stimulated to go to bed nicely.

I need to remember this next time I suggest a ‘Screen Day’. It’s a bit like childbirth, and I keep forgetting the pain involved.

Kids on screens


Brace Watch; 12/14 Months On

Another late one, which means there will be another update along very soon.

DD1 went back to the Orthodontist at the beginning of February; a year after her braces first went on. The Orthodontist felt that her canines weren’t coming down the way they should, so she removed DD’s wire completely, and left her with just the brackets.

This is what her teeth looked like before treatment started in January 2013.

impacted canine teeth upper jaw
And this  is her mouth now, at the beginning of April 2014.

retained canines. 12 months of braces

You can see that DD’s canines have come right down now after a couple of months of no wire attached to the brackets. Hopefully the wire will go back on to start the job of straightening again, at her next appointment which is…well, who knows?

We had an appointment for last week which we had to cancel, so are now on the ‘waiting list’ for an appointment. Last time this happened DD didn’t get seen for 4 months. The joys of NHS treatment, eh?

The possible good news is that our Orthodontist is leaving and we are getting a new one. She’s supposed to be very nice, which will make a change as the one we have at the moment is very brusque and not at all empathetic when DD gets worried about some aspect of her treatment.

But we’ll see. Right now, we are just holding out for another appointment with whoever we can get, after which I will update ‘Brace Watch’ promptly for a change.

Exam Nerves

There is only one thing more terrifying than having to sit an exam yourself. And that is to have your child take a test or an exam.

All that practice, all that revising, all that time and money spent on the subject and they only get one chance. It’s only 1 small fraction of a day for your offspring to demonstrate all they know. Will they bomb? Will they sail through? Only time will tell.

Lots of  careful preparation may increase the odds but it’s no guarantee of a good end result. Too much work may put them off the subject for life. And in the end it’s completely out of your hands and everything is up to your child. You have to trust them to keep a clear head and do their best. It’s scary.

On Monday DD3 sat her Grade 1 piano exam. She’s eight, so has been learning for a couple of years and there is no doubt she is musical, but her learning curve has flattened out over the last few months. Learning three relatively complex pieces, a handful of scales/broken chords, practicing sight reading and aural tests is a far cry from trotting out a couple of John Thompson tunes a week.

DD3 is a bright girl, who has managed to get through school so far without having to try very hard at all. This is why learning a musical instrument is so good for her. She has had to discipline herself to practice and get everything ready for that 12 minute slot a couple of days ago. She has struggled a bit; one of her pieces is quite weak, but she plays the other two nicely, knows all her scales and chords, is an excellent sight reader and her aural tests come naturally to her, so we are fairly sure she will pass.

She was very anxious but I took her out of school early for a quick practice and a snack, then got to the exam centre in plenty of time. We sat out in the car for a bit, listening to some of her favourite songs and chatting and didn’t head into wait until the very last minute. She seemed fine when she went in and did okay.

I think. I don’t know for sure as the room the exam was in is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the waiting area and I could hear everything! I couldn’t stand it and went back outside to the car. One of her friends was sitting as well, and her mum said DD sounded fine so fingers crossed. DD keeps talking about the possibility of a distinction but I don’t think so;  going by how she was playing at home she’s more likely to end up with a good pass, or possibly a low merit.

Whatever happens, she’s got her first formal exam under her belt and next time should be easier for her.

I’m a different story, I think my nerves get worse each time!

supervising kitten


The Gallery: Sport

Unless you count DH’s love of watching Football or F1 racing, we are not a sporty family.

We are a pretty active family; the kids do swimming, riding and school sports, we go for weekend family walks, DH takes the kids out on their bikes and our holidays are always pretty active but we just don’t seem to go for organised sports.

So I was scratching my head a little about how to approach this week’s theme. I wasn’t sure I had any photos of sport.

But I do! We have two dogs and on Monday afternoons I drive them out to a village about half an hour away and do agility with them.

In case you don’t know what agility is , it’s kind of like show jumping for dogs. It’s great fun for both dogs and owners, as well as teaching obedience and encouraging a stronger dog-owner bond.

I am hopeless as I can’t run, so the dogs are much faster than me. The Lurcher is pretty useless too, unless I do the entire course with a treat dangled in front of her nose. This is a sport for working dogs; the lurcher often takes a break between obstacles and does a few high-speed laps of the field before returning to me.

But the Puppy ( who is no longer a puppy at 18 months of age and will be referred to as the Dog from now on) is half German Shepherd, with a bit of a collie, so it’s right up his alley. He learns quickly and could actually do quite well, if he didn’t have me for a handler.

The woman who runs our classes doesn’t have kids, so school holiday mean nothing to her. So last half term, the classes were still running and I dragged the kids along. They loved it and DD1 and DD3  wanted to work the dogs instead of me. I was only too happy to hand them over.

And because I wasn’t out of breath trying to keep up with the dogs, I was able to get some photos instead.

DD1 was a bit nervous; she doesn’t like to get things wrong and agility is a steep learning curve.

dog agility beginners

Luckily The Dog  knew what to do and he behaved really well for her. Apart from trying to eat the lead and jump at the same time.

agility jump
He really enjoyed the faster pace.

agility tunnel
I’m going to get her to run him again over Easter, and she’s going to do a session with the trainers own dogs as well so she can practice some of the moves without having to worry about what the Dog is doing. I’m thinking that come next winter she might want to give up horse riding and take up agility instead but we’ll see.

Meanwhile DD3 got stuck with the Dud Dog, aka the Lurcher. She didn’t mind.

agility jump dodge
They both had fun, but the Lurcher went around  and through more jumps than she went over, while on the lead.

And as soon as DD3 let the Lurcher off the lead she’d take off and come and sit next to me. She knows which side her bread is buttered on!

For more Sporty pictures , check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.






The Battle Of The Bathroom

We have two bathrooms and six people living in this house. We also have an extra toilet downstairs.

Most of the time this is fine.

There is always a bit of a rush for the loos when everyone gets back from school but up until now all the kids have bathed/ showered at night, while DH and I shower in the morning. We get up early enough to do this before the kids get up, so both bathrooms are free while they are getting ready for school.

The trouble is that things are starting to deviate from this pattern. DD1 has started secondary school and is having to get up earlier than the others, so is competing with DH and I for the bathrooms. This means that often there is only one bathroom free for three children who want a morning wee, and to brush their teeth.

The older two are now at that age where they want a little privacy for their morning ablutions. If they are using the bathroom, they will no longer let their younger siblings in to grab their tooth brushes as they did a few months ago.

Fair enough,  they are growing up but the result of this is rather a lot of squabbling over bathroom use in the mornings.

What are our choices?

We’ve made it a rule that if anyone want to have ‘a sit’ in the morning, once everyone is up, that they need to go and use the downstairs toilet.

DH and I make sure we are both done before the younger children wake up and DD has to get up early enough to do the same.

And if someone is simply brushing their teeth, then they need to be prepared to share the bathroom with another toothbrusher. There is no need for privacy for that.

Perhaps we need another bathroom before the teenage years are upon us?

There was a house that popped up for sale around the corner with ’5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms’. How lovely I thought, problem solved. So I looked up the prices and at almost £1.1 million, I think we are just going to have to live with it.

Would setting up a bathroom roster be a step too far?

toothbrush and bathroom


10 Things I Will Say Too Many Times This Week

It’s Tuesday again. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’ have a starring role in the movie Groundhog Day.

Same old house to tidy, same kids to herd from place to place, same dogs to walk, same dishes to wash, same washing to hang out and most of all, I feel like I use the same phrases day after day.

Surely it would be more efficient to have a recording made that was set for various times of the day; no one would notice I was missing.

But then there are the things I get to say randomly as well. So maybe I am handy to have around after all.

1/’ Turn The TV/ iPad/ Xbox/Wii ( Screens) Off and Get your Shoes on‘.
This is my stock phrase in the morning before we leave on the school run, and before I drag everyone out in the car for someone’s activity. They have heard it so many times that it’s generally completely ignored unless I physically get between them and the relevant screen. Then they listen.

2/’I Don’t Know Where Your Shoes/Coat/ Bag/ Clothes/ PE Kit Are. You Will Just Have  To Look For Them.’

I seem to be the goto person if anyone ( even DH) is looking for something in this house. Most of the time they don’t even bother looking first, they just ask. Of course, often I do know where the ‘thing’ is but I resent having to use my precious brain cells in this way because the rest of my family are too lazy to look themselves.

3/ ‘Have You Looked Properly? You Might Need To Lift Something Up.’
This is Stage Two of the question above and is usually uttered because the seeker’s idea of looking for something seems to involve no co-ordinated movement of their peripheral limbs, despite their helpless surveying of a pile of other things. Again, this phrase is often used on DH , as well as the children. He hates it.


4/ ‘ Where Did You See Your Shoes/Coat/ Bag/ Clothes/ PE Kit Last?’
Stage Three of an answer to Question Two. Used mainly when I suspect the kids have left something behind at school, but also useful to ascertain whether they are lining up to blame someone for the disappearance of a thing.

5/’ Go And Look Properly Again. Use Your Eyes This Time.’
Stage Four. I use this only when I know for sure that the thing is there. Otherwise by this time, it’s probably easier for me to just go and look myself.

6/‘Can Someone Please Feed The Dogs/Cats/ Hamster/Rats?’
The pets in our house aren’t stupid. One of the kids’ jobs is to feed the animals before they sit down in front of a screen, but if the pets feel they have missed a mealtime they don’t bother trying to tell our children they are hungry. Instead they come and sit down in front of me and stare.

7/ ‘Can Someone Let The Dogs in. Wipe Their Feet First.’
In our house it seems that no one, except for DH and I, can hear the dogs barking to be let in. This is probably because the kids are all hooked up to screens and wearing earphones. The neighbours must hate us.

8/’Please Pick Up The Towels In The Bathroom’
OMG, this is something that makes me see red. My children love to leave piles of (wet) towels on the floor and I am forever interrupting their screen time and asking them to go and hang them up. I am not confident that I’ll ever be able to teach them to do this with me having to ask.

9/ ‘Please Don’t Hang Your Coats Up On The Floor.’
You wouldn’t believe it but we do have plenty of coat racks in our house. I even got some moved down so the kids could reach them. Did it help? What do you think?

10/ ‘Please Just Hurry UP!’
I think this one will go on my gravestone. I seem to spend my life pleading with children who seem to be incapable of completing a simple task without being distracted by something much more exciting, like a blank wall or a speck of dust in the sunshine. They seem to truly believe that time slows down to keep them company. The more I plead, the slower they go and I have no idea how to teach them otherwise.

It’s not just me that finds myself repeating the same thing day after day, is it?

muddy paws

Not A Silent Sunday: It Wasn’t Me!

cat and loo roll
There is no Silent Sunday this week but I’m going to post a Sunday Photo anyhow,and take the opportunity to put a few words to the photo for a change.

In our house, we’ve had a lot of shedded loo rolls lately and I haven’t known who to blame; dog or cat. For once, I don’t suspect the kids.

The other day, we were out of toilet paper down the stairs, so I threw a couple of rolls down the stairs so I would remember to put them in the guest loo later on.

But by the time I got to them , it was too late. There was a feline attached to one of them, raking away with his back legs and clearly enjoying himself. By the time I’d got a camera, he’d released his prey and was sitting beside it instead, looking as if he had nothing to do with anything.

I took the photo anyhow, at which point one of the dogs cruised past, grabbed the mutilated toilet roll and took it out into the garden to finish it off.

Clearly a collaborative effort, then?


The Gallery: Morning


Mornings are often chaos in our house with 4 children to get up, dressed, fed and on the way to school.

We run on a fairly tight schedule because we have to. If one thing goes wrong, and one part of our routine is delayed, then the next thing gets held up and so on, and so on. The end result is usually something important gets forgotten (lunch, PE kit, homework, musical instrument) and ends up with me being very grumpy.

The major change to our routine this school year has been DD1 starting Secondary School.  She needs to catch a bus to the train station, then get the train to school but doesn’t like walking to the bus stop when it is dark and raining. It’s only a 10 minute walk, but I have taken pity on her this winter, and provided she is quick and helpful in the mornings , I have been running her down to the bus stop in the car.

Of course, this takes time and has necessitated some changes in our original schedule. The other children have to get up a bit earlier and move a bit faster to get their bits done before we go. But we’ve all adjusted and now have the new routine down pat. Except when it’s been cold enough over night for things to freeze.

It’s happened so infrequently this year that I always get caught on the hop when it happens. We come charging out the door, bundle into the car ready to race for bus and are presented with a windscreen thick with frost. Bummer.

So we sit there for 5 minutes with the defrosting program on high and the wipers going, until we have enough vision to make it safe to drive. All the while hoping we don’t miss the bus and have to chase it down. This hasn’t happened yet.

Roll on Spring proper and mornings light enough so that DD1 can make her own way to the bus stop again.

Frost 2
For more Morning inspired photos, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.