How To Stay Cool In A Heatwave

Apparently it’s going to be hot this week. The papers say so (apparently our roads are in danger of melting!), and more importantly,  the weather experts agree.

My preferred weather site is Netweather.tv but everyone has their favorite. Sometimes they all say different things, but this week they all agree that we have some hot weather coming our way. There’s talk of a ‘heatwave’ but we’ll see.

It’s only really an official Heatwave when the temperature exceeds the average maximum for the time of year by at least 5C, for 5 days or more. In England, this means temperatures need to hit 26C for 5 days running, and in Greater London it looks like  this might actually happen. In other areas Heatwave temperatures may only be reached for 2-3 days , but it can still make things very uncomfortable, especially at night.

In Britain it’s very unusual to have air conditioning at home. It’s needed so rarely that it doesn’t make sense to have it installed, so what can you do to cool down when the temperatures rise?

Cool Down The House

Shut all the curtains, blinds and windows on the sunny side of the house in the morning and only open them when the outside temperature is cooler than the inside temperature. If it’s hotter outside, you are just heating up the house. Once it’s cooler outside, open the windows downstairs on the shady side and upstairs on the sunny side.

Awnings can be helpful to stop south-facing rooms heating up

As a rule, if you live in the UK, don’t open the loft  hatch. Most loft spaces are insulated  but not well ventilated so the air in the loft is much hotter than the rooms below and just spills out into the house from an open hatch.

Once the outside temperature drops, set up fans to create an air flow than brings cooler air in an open door on the ground floor, pushes hot air up the stairs towards the upper floors and out a window.

Use lights and appliances as little as possible during the day. Oven, computers, TV and washing machine all play their part in heating up your house.

Hanging wet sheets and towels in front of windows or fans will increase the effect of a cool breeze.

Keep Your Family Cool

Drink enough water! At least 6  glasses of water a day. It’s important not to get dehydrated.

Fans are useful to keep the air moving, even when the air is hot. In our house we have many different fans and they all play a role in cooling us down when the heat strikes. My favourite fan is my little USB fan that blows a breeze towards me while I’m at my computer, but we have just bought this high velocity fan which we point at the ceiling in the hallway to get an air flow going. It’s loud though, so not great for bedrooms so every bedroom also has a fan in it in this house!

Sitting in front of a fan pointed at a bowl of ice creates a lovely cool breeze.

Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes made of natural fibres. Wear a hat if you have to go outside but if you can, avoid going out during hottest time of the day.

Get wet! Have a cool shower, put on some wet clothes or even just wet your hair. Get a paddling pool for the kids, or even for just for yourself.  Immersing your hands and feet into cool water will cool you down, as will running your wrists under cold water for 30 seconds. Iced water and ice lollies also help.

When it’s time for bed, cotton sheets are the coolest. Put your pillow in the fridge before going to bed or put a filled hot water bottle in the fridge or freezer.

Ditch the duvet and use the cover only if you feel the need to sleep covered up.

And make sure you always have drinkable water beside the bed. There is nothing worse than waking up and needing a drink but not wanting to go downstairs and get one.

Don’t Forget Your Pets

Make sure all pets have multiple source of water available at all times.

Never leave a pet (or a baby!) in the car  in this weather. Even with the windows down a little and parked in the shade , the temperature can rise  enough in 20 minutes to kill a dog. If it’s 23C outside, the temperature in a car can reach 40C within 10 minutes and for a non- sweating hairy animal, that’s enough to do physiological damage.

Walk your dogs in the morning or evening, avoid the middle of the day.

Make sure your pets have somewhere cool to go, especially if you go out and leave them all day. Cooling mats are available in different sizes. A dog locked outside without shelter may succumb to heat stroke in the garden in hot weather, so make sure they have water and shelter .

Some dogs enjoy being hosed down in the summer, others will wallow in a paddling pool and you can make ‘dog lollies’ by freezing treats in a cup of water. Cats will naturally seek out some where cool if they are able to do so, but it’s important to keep an eye on the temperature and water bottles of the cages of any small furries or reptiles.

If your dog has a finds summer difficult and has a fluffy or hair coat, you can get them clipped for summer. We always used to do this with out old Goldie X and he was like a puppy again after his hair cut.

Try to enjoy the nice weather while it lasts, because one thing is certain; it won’t last forever and soon everyone will be complaining about the rain.

paddling pool

 

My Daughter Wears Glasses Too.

DD2 is almost 12 and has just about finished her first year of secondary school.

It’s been a bit of a rough year for her. DD was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder at the beginning of the academic year, when we were told she ‘probably’ had dyspraxia, hypermobility, hypotonia and some sensory processing difficulties as well.  We are still waiting on a report from the Occupational Therapist regarding her physical profile, but we have no reason to believe that these suspicions won’t be confirmed.

None of these diagnoses have come as a surprise to DH or I, although DD hasn’t enjoyed being labelled as ‘different’. When you are approaching your teenage years, you basically just want to be the same as everyone else.

And now, she needs glasses too.

For the last couple of months DD has occasionally mentioned that she hasn’t been able to see things properly. When I have gone to question her more closely, she has been characteristically vague. I always get the kids’ sight checked every year, so I wasn’t too worried as she’d had 20:20 vision last August. Then in the week before half term she mentioned she had a headache from squinting at the board at school, and muttered something about double vision.

I know you don’t muck around with eyes, so rang the optician and made an appointment for half term. I watched DD very closely for the next few days, but didn’t see anything that made me think that she was having trouble with her sight.

However, DD has form for not sending out clear signs that something is wrong with her senses. When she was in year 1 we discovered she had significant hearing loss in both ears as a result of severe glue ear. She’d never had an ear infection in her life , as far as we knew, and I do have some medical knowledge. Although I can remember being convinced she was deaf at about 9 months of age as loud noises just didn’t bother her. But she started to talk at the usual sort of age, and grommets and an adenoidectomy sorted out her later problems. The only thing that made me take her to get her hearing checked was her insistence on turning the TV volume up all the time.

By the time we got to the optician’s last week, I had convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with DD’s sight. So I was horrified when she couldn’t read any of the the lines in the first chart the optician put up, and got most of the bigger letters on the second chart wrong too. It was only when he put up a third, even larger-lettered chart that she could read the letters accurately.

It turns out DD is moderately short-sighted and even though she sits at the front of the class, she’s probably been having to work really hard to read what’s on the board. That won’t be helping her already limited powers of concentration and organisation.

She is so happy to be able to see again that she doesn’t mind wearing her glasses at all. She’s constantly amazed at the difference they have made and went  into school happily today, wanting to show them off. DD is a Dr Who fan and she thinks her glasses make her look like a proper Whovian.

New glasses
I hope she continues to be enthusiastic about wearing them and I do think they really suit her. But I know that at some point she will probably want to try contacts, so we are looking at night time lenses. This means she could take them out in the morning and would not need to wear anything during the day. Or she could opt for normal day time lenses. There are lots of options for the short-sighted these days!

So if you have a child that is doing or saying anything that makes you wonder if their sight is okay, even if it was checked quite recently, then please take them to get their vision tested sooner rather than later.

Part of me was very tempted to leave her until her annual eye test, as what she was describing was so vague, but now she has her glasses she talks about the difference in her sight all the time. She tells me she thought the blurriness was normal and was just part of growing up.

 

It’s Tomorrow

It’s half term and the kids get a week off for good behaviour, while I get a week’s hard labour for my sins.

Because keeping four children, aged 7-13, fed, watered and alive for a week can be challenging. I’m not the sort of mum who lays on entertainment 24/7 ; I get them out of the house to walk the dogs for at least an hour a day, we have screen breaks and take time to do music practice and homework. We  do some reading and the pool’s now working, so they will spend time in that. But basically I leave them to do what they want, as long as no one is bleeding or crying too loudly.

With four children, someone always want feeding and our food bill increases when they aren’t at school. I will be doing a lot of refereeing. By the end of next week I will be gasping for some ‘me’ time.

I know these things from experience, but this half term will be different. This coming week I will only have three children to wrangle. Sometimes three is easier than four, sometimes it’s harder.

DD1 is off to France to go sailing for a week. My baby is going overseas without me. Of course, she’s 13 now, so not technically a baby. But if you are a mum reading this you’ll know what I mean; they will be always our babies, won’t they?

This activity week has been looming on the horizon for months, then weeks , then days and suddenly it’s tomorrow! Tomorrow she’s going to be getting on a coach with about 60 other boys and girls and heading across the channel for a week on the water and sleeping in tents.

She’s off for 8 days- Saturday to Saturday. 7 nights! She’ll ‘sleep’ two of those nights on the coach. I guess it’s good practice for those inevitable  18-30 coach tours to Europe but they are expected to be up for a full days sailing when they arrive at the campsite 18 hours after they leave. I guess the teachers want them to sleep well the next night.

DD is a bit nervous, but she has a friend with her for company. I know she’ll have a fabulous time and will come home just that little bit more independent.

And I am pleased she has the gumption to learn a new skill and do something like this, but I’m going to miss her. When I get a moment to remember I’m missing one, I’ll be thinking of her a lot.

I also know from experience that when DD gets back home, she’ll be so tired that we’ll be lucky to see her for the next day or two. If we are unlucky, she will make her presence felt by squeezing a week’s worth of arguments into 36 hours.

But before we know it, she’ll be back at school and half term will be over.

I’ll have the house to myself again, along with an empty fridge and a lot of washing. And there will be only 7 weeks to go until Summer.

Sailing picos

The Gallery: Animals

When I say our house is a bit of a zoo, people immediately assume I’m referring to our children’s behaviour.

They may have a point, but usually I’m talking about the number of pets we have. At the moment the number stands at 8; 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 rats, a hamster and a snake. Yes, they do require a fair bit of  feeding, exercise, cleaning out and playing with but as a rule the animals are much less trouble than the kids.

On Tuesday, we almost added another to that number. I was out walking the dogs in the local woods, when the New Dog put his head  into  the grass at the side of the path and pulled out this little fellow.

duckymomo
Thank goodness it was him and not our other dog, as when the duckling wriggled and peeped in alarm, he simply dropped it. Our older dog would have gone ‘Chomp’ and that would have been that.

I managed to grab the poor baby before either of the now excited dogs went in for a second attempt. The duckling didn’t seem to be broken at all, but it was shivering and calling for its mum, so I put the dogs on leads and we waited to see if  Mother duck would show up.

As a rule Mother Ducks do tend to come running if they are in earshot of one of their babies calling for them, but they are not the best mothers and it’s not unusual for them to leave a duckling or two behind as they take their family cross country between bodies of water. After about 10 minutes of frantic peeping from the duckling, it was obvious he had been left behind and was now my problem.

If you find a duckling out and about without its mother and just leave it, it is unlikely to survive. If you leave it where it is, it will probably get eaten by something, attacked by another mother duck or even drown if left in water. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon this one, so I did the only thing I could think of and popped it in my jacket pocket while I headed home. It immediately went quiet and I was able to get it home safely, where I popped it in a cat carrier and decided what to do with it.

I did think briefly about keeping it as I have some experience with domestic ducks, but we live in a London suburb, not a farm and the dogs and cats were far too interested. Plus it was a wild animal and needed to be with other ducklings. Ducks are social and very messy.

Google provided me with the number for St Tiggywinkles, and the lady I spoke to confirmed that we could bring it up to them any time of the night or day. The wildlife hospital was about an hour away, so I was going to have to drive up in the evening, once my husband got home to stay with the kids.

In the meantime, I gave the duckling something to eat ( a finely chopped mini scotch egg!), a little dish of water to dabble in and put him in the kitchen where the dogs couldn’t get him. The kids came home and were enamored. All of them cried when I said we couldn’t keep him and DD1 insisted on coming with me to drop him off.

St Tiggywinkles is in the middle of nowhere, but the people were lovely and told us that ‘Alex’, the duck, would stay with them in a group of similarly aged ducklings until they were adults. At that point the whole group would be released back into the wild. DD sobbed when we left him; she is 13 and very susceptible to any kind of cuteness.

We plan to go and ‘visit’ Alex over half term. Of course we won’t be able to tell which one he is, but  I’m sure it won’t stop us trying.

This post was written as part of the theme over at Sticky Fingers this week. If you want to check out photos of other animals, then head on over.

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Review: Flair Plasticine

When you have kids of a certain age, there are a number of arts and crafts materials that you learn to keep in the cupboard for a rainy day.

Pens and paper, sticker books, coloured card, googly eyes, foam shapes and plasticine live in ours. These items have been incorporated into many a school project and craft session, but to be honest our plasticine had seen better days.

We no longer had blocks of different coloured modelling clay, instead we had a rather hairy lump of grey green stuff that lived in a plastic container at the back of our craft cupboard. I didn’t blame the kids for not wanting to play with it and when we were offered a selection of bright and colourful plasticine sets from Flair I  accepted gratefully on their behalf.

Plasticine by Flair
DD3 and DS were pretty happy to see these packs; I think they’d forgotten that plasticine actually came in different colours!

My two youngest had a day off school on Election Day, and spent a happy hour at our kitchen table making different models. DS has hypermobility in his hands so playing with modelling clay is especially good for the muscles around his fingers.

This was his creation. It’s a Minecraft inspired farm block- or something. DS is 7, so I’m just happy to see him away from a screen. But maybe someone needs to bring out a Minecraft themed plasticine pack to inspire him further?

Plasticine Minecraft
DD3 is 9 and she loves animals. She made these two little creatures by herself. I especially like the Penguin.

Penguin and tiger plasticine

Since these packs were opened, they have been played with pretty much every day. The two older girls have had a go too, although they wouldn’t let me photograph them or their creations, and even I have sat down and had a quick creative moment.

Flair’s packs of plasticine range in price from RRP £1.46-£6.99 and are suitable for children ( and adults) from age 3+

Flair sent us some Plasticine pack s in return for this post, but all thoughts above are my own. The models are my children’s.

The Curse Of The Three Week Long Easter Holiday

We have two children in primary school and two in secondary school at the moment. The two schools are in different counties but usually this doesn’t cause a problem when it comes to holidays.

However this year, and next, our schools’ Easter holidays overlap. So DD3 and DS finished school a week ago and the older two finished school on this Thursday just gone.

This means that this year ( and next) I have three weeks of school holidays to contend with.

At first, this may sound like a good thing. It’s tricky trying to find activities that will suit a teen, a tween and a couple of under tens. So surely it’s a positive thing to only have one week to take all the different ages into account. And surely  fewer children means less squabbling?

Hmm, not in this house, no. I find the house is calmest with all four children around, as they can go and bother someone else if things get fraught between two individuals. If there are only two at home, there is no chance of a change of sibling to quieten things down.

We’ve also found that the children off school still get up at the same time as the ones that need to go to school. This has made for some very long days, and because the school run to both schools requires some input from me, I only get a week where I’m not having to drive/escort kids too/from school.

In the two weeks either end of our three week Easter break, I can’t even take the kids out for a long day anywhere as I have to be back in time to do the school pick up.

I’ll concede that there is a small advantage in only having two children to wrangle though, and it’s cheaper if I want to take them anywhere that charges a fee.

But despite this, I prefer it when the school holidays are in sync. Thank goodness it’s only the Easter holidays that overlap.

easter

 

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.

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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.