Thursday, November 21, 2013

Playing LeapFrog: Snap Happy

Following on from here and the fabulous opportunity that presented itself for me to review products by LeapFrog, the children’s educational entertainment brand, comes another app toy, this time something a little more creative and well, arty to say the least.
Designed again for 3-6 year olds, the Creativity Camera Protective Case and App combine the camera power of iPhone or iPod touch with creative learning fun!   After another rather slow download of the free app, the Creativity Camera was ready to go and not a moment too soon as it was promptly dropped by the toddler in our midst!  It's great that this product doubles as a protective case, not just from bumps and scratches, but from grubby, sticky fingers too.  Moments after the camera was picked up from the floor, it was taken by N, E and 3 of our neighbours, all off to explore its potential.
Very quickly there were lots of giggles coming from the bedroom; they had found the menu easy to navigate and were already adding funny graphics to their silly faces - which were now even more silly!  The graphics were easy to move around the screen and could be enlarged by expanding the graphic on the screen.  The giggles continued but then they started to argue - "it's my turn!", "NO! It's MY turn!" - as children tend to do.


Check out these silly faces; now I can see why there was so much hilarity!

The app toy kept them amused for hours that afternoon, allowing my neighbour and I to have a cuppa and a good old catch up.  They were able to find their way around the menu, exploring the six learning modes offered: they made silly faces, changed the colours of their photos and even caught images of magical flying creatures. 
The Creativity Camera may not have made Lord Lichfield's out of them, but the crazy 5 (aged between 18 months and soon to be 10) had a fab afternoon and were begging for more time to play.  In true N and E style they rated the app toy for me,
"It's GREAT! Definitely a ten out of ten, mum!"

Two little things I'd like to add, however - and I'm just being pedantic - firstly, the camera lens is very easily obscured by little hands grasping the case and secondly (and most importantly!) us adults couldn't find the final images easily to allow me to download them - but as my neighbour said "we should have just got the kids to do it!".
At a very reasonable £14.99 I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this as an affordable and safe way for children to explore photography, while having the chance to create individual pieces of art and have fun along the way: the fact that the case also adds protection is a huge added bonus too.
Disclaimer - I have been asked to review this through my role as a BRITAX Mumbassador - a unique and exciting community of parenting bloggers who work closely with BRITAX to review their products, discuss topical parenting issues and to share fun family experiences with!  I have received no fees for this post - but instead benefited from being able to keep the Creativity Camera - but instead have written it because I believe that it's important for our little ones to express their individuality and be creative.

Hospital: 5 nights

Oral antibiotics weren't enough:
bilateral patchy changes on x-ray,
oxygen saturations too low.

A consultant and a friend,
"You know where this is going?"
and the tears fell.
An admission to hospital.
places to recuperate,
to rest,
to mend
and sleep?
Hell no!
A 6-bedded bay,
acute receiving:
2nd in,
4 to follow.
A constant busyness
and noise.
The bubble of humidified oxygen;
the hiss of the nebuliser;
the hum of the air conditioning;
the beep beep beep of the sats monitor;
the alarm of Alaris.
Irritable, unwell children;
screaming, shrieking infants;
tired, tired parents,
soothing, reassuring;
nurses chattering and checking.
The squeak of the bed;
the rattle of cot sides;
telephones ringing,
heralding admissions;.
lights dimmed, always on;
curtains drawn, never closed;
Every hour,
every single hour,
and the minutes between,
And then
the ward awakens.
Lights on,
beds away,
linen changed,
cleaners sweeping,
hoovers on,
obs done,
antibiotics administered,
time for breakfast now.
teams of doctors;
the ward round begins.
Will we see sleep tonight?
no sleep to be had;
not tonight
or tomorrow
but maybe by the weekend.
let sleep rest its gentle head upon us,
bless us,
heal her,
save us from our nightly torment:
there is no sleep to be had here
in this house of healing.
let us go home.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Playing LeapFrog: Mr Pencil


You'll be aware that E started school in August - now this is challenge enough for any child, but more so when you are 4 and a half and have weak muscles.  Muscles are required to write and you might not think that you need much strength to write but you need a certain amount and E needs to use soft pencils to help her make her mark using the strength that she has.  E is falling behind on her writing so I was ecstatic when, through my association with the Britax Mumbassador Program I was given the opportunity to review products by LeapFrog, the children’s educational entertainment brand, especially as the first product was a learning to write app learning toy.  Learning needs to be fun, doesn't it?

The Learn to Write with Mr. Pencil  app toy helps turn your current iPhone, iPod touch or iPad into a learning adventure and priced at £14.99 is an affordable way for children aged between 3 and 6 to learn and be entertained.

The app was easy - if a little slow - to download from the App Store and Mr Pencil helped unlock the door to Doodleburg.  Mr Pencil is a chunky, funky stylus more suited to little chunky fingers; both E and N (who is 6) found the stylus to be awkward and a tad cumbersome: perhaps a slightly slimmer Mr Pencil could be used, enabling the child to develop a normal pencil grip which proved difficult in this instance for both the girls.
E was introduced to Dot and Dash who guided her through the activities, writing letters (both lower and upper case) and numbers (1-20) and drawing shapes.  By completing the levels she decorated the buildings, playgrounds and fountains of town Doodleburg in rainbow colours in time for a celebratory parade.  The animation is simple but cute and engaging; E's favourite piece of animation was the tiny paper aeroplanes which took to the sky with sound effects that made her smile.
E found the drawing and writing to be a little frustrating - the iPad is very sensitive and it's important that nothing else is touching the screen bar the stylus; E often had a finger or wrist in contact too so I would definitely recommend using the iPad and Mr Pencil at a table in a good sitting position.  She also found that she couldn't stray far off the guide without a resounding "Good try!" or "You can do better!" and her quickly replying "You're so annoying!": a little bit of inaccuracy should perhaps be allowed, especially if the app toy is aimed at younger children who might lose their patience easily.
Overall E and N loved the app; although finding it frustrating at times, the animation and sense of fun they got from playing - and learning - made Mr Pencil a hit, with them enjoying plenty of time in Doodleburg.  E even let her friends "have a go" and play with it when round for a play date; if that isn't recommendation enough, I don't know what is!
Finally - because we often rate our days at school out of ten - E and N sum up this review:
"Mr Pencil?  He's a 9/10!"


Disclaimer - I have been asked to review this through my role as a BRITAX Mumbassador - a unique and exciting community of parenting bloggers who work closely with BRITAX to review their products, discuss topical parenting issues and to share fun family experiences with!  I have received no fees for this post - but instead benefited from being able to keep Mr Pencil - but instead have written it because I believe that learning should be fun.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mince & Tatties

When the nights fair draw in,  
sometimes your heart craves simple, home-cooked fayre...

(and then you need to blog about it to get back into the swing of blogging!)

Mince and Tatties

I dinna like hail tatties
Pit on my plate o mince
For when I tak my denner
I eat them baith at yince.

Sae mash and mix the tatties
Wi mince into the mashin,
And sic a tasty denner
Will aye be voted ‘Smashin!

Poem by J.K. Annand

The question is though, sauce or nae sauce?

Disclaimer: I feel that I do have to point out that I make mince and tatties once in a blue moon - good Scottish fayre is truly an exception to the rule in this house!

Friday, November 08, 2013

No need for hand cream today

Many of you may not know that I work as a doctor in palliative care, a specialty renowned for our hand holding..  I stumbled across this piece by Dr Derek Doyle today and it confirms for me how important physical contact is, not only in my role as doctor but also as a human being.  A visiting anaesthetist at work recently remarked on the number of hugs he saw us have on a daily basis: wouldn't it be great if I could write a prescription for physical contact - a hand held, a hug, a kiss?  The world would surely be a happier place...

"Forgive me if you have heard my story before. Old men tend to be anecdotal. 
It concerns an old lady newly admitted to a hospice where I worked. As I did with all patients, I asked how she thought I might be able to help her on what she knew was her final journey.
"What do you expect of me?” I asked.
“If you had asked me that a year or more ago I would have said ‘Use some of those letters after your name. They tell me you are clever, well trained and well travelled and that your peers have honoured you.' But things are different now! What I want from you in the time that is left is….what shall I call it? Hand care.”
“Do you mean manicure?” I asked.
"Oh dear me no! I mean that when you come to see me I may hold your hand to feel safe, and when you come to me and find me asleep you will still touch my hand, and when my time comes one of these lovely nurses or you will hold it as I slip away. You see, dear, there comes a time when a loving hand is more useful than all those letters after your name!"
Busy we certainly are but never too busy to give a moment’s hand care"

Dr Derek Doyle OBE is recognised worldwide for the contributions he has made to palliative care

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Neck, Tummy, Hat

"Neck, tummy, hat" said Eilidh

Neck, tummy, hat?

and then she shouts, "NECKTUMMYHAT!"

Neck, tummy, what?

This is how E sees the number 5.

This is how the number 5 is taught.

When she sees the number 5, she says "neck, tummy, hat"; she remembers the process of drawing the number but not the number itself.

"1, 2, 3, 4, neck-tummy-hat, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10"

Or is she pulling the wool over our eyes?

I don't know...

And neither does her teacher!

After the debacle that was E's registration at school, the worry regarding her starting school at the tender age of 4 (and 6 months!), and the reassurance that we got from her nursery teachers and educational psychologist, it proves that a mummy does know best; I should have listened to my heart, I should have deferred her starting school.

School have a number of concerns - 
her pencil skills
her concentration
her understanding
her phonics 
her numeracy

None of these were concerns a year ago at her at her co-ordinated support plan (CSP), nor at her last Staged Intervention (STINT): yet now she sits with seven other little primary 1s in a NetStart group going over the basic sounds and pencil skills, and she's not progressing onto subtraction because they feel her numeracy is so poor that she would get lost.  So who got it so wrong?  

I am angry and disappointed with her nursery - they had my trust to support, care and educate E - because I feel that they have failed my daughter.  I am angry at myself and disappointed for not listening to my mother's instinct that shouted out to me, "keep at her home, she's only little, she's not ready...".  And I will also admit that I am angry at myself because I feel that I am letting E down too because I cannot spend more time with her amidst this discombobulated life I lead, because I lose my patience with her at homework time...

But I should remember that E is not 5 until January; that her psychosocial development was hampered by her lack of early mobility; that children with SMA typically have a higher than average IQ; that she is finding her own way in life, her life, her way and in her own time.  Children develop naturally and I cannot assume that this is not the case for E.  We have placed her in a high achieving primary:

"OLM fosters tolerance, care, concern and respect for ourselves and others. The learning and achievement of all children is valued and high aspirations and ambitions are actively promoted. All children are enabled to develop strong foundations of knowledge and understanding and become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens"

because we hope for the best for E; we hope that she will be gifted intellectually - as if this will compensate in some way for her physical disability - and as a result that the world will be her oyster. However, I must remember this; there is nothing wrong with seeking high educational standards and accountability, but there is surely something very wrong indeed if this comes at the cost of natural development. Eilidh will find her way, she will... my mother's instinct tells me so.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sharmanka - where did all the Singers go?

My late grannie had a Singer sewing machine and I remember learning to sew on what I have always thought of as a truly beautiful piece of engineering: it was, however, unceremoniously dumped in the skip without a second thought sometime after my grannie's death.  Little did I know then that, although originating from America, the largest Singer factory was in Glasgow - the place I now call home - and that one day I would come to see a whole different side to the humble Singer.

I always wondered what happens to discarded Singers, carelessly abandoned, wistfully forgotten; recently I found out - they find a home at the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre @ Trongate 103!

"What has been is what will be,
 and what has been done is what will be done 
and there is nothing new under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 1: 9 (NIV)

The Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, featuring the work of Eduard Bersudsky, is a hidden gem of a place.  Not knowing what to expect, I took D on our "date night".  The lights went down, the dream-like scene was theatrically lit and there in front of me were the "Wheels of Life", the "Tower of Babel" and "The Clock of Life".  I sat in awe as the music started far back in the corner, coming from a little (hidden to my eyes) barrel organ, hurdy gurdy or Sharmanka.  I now know that this was rather apt as in Russia the Sharmanka is associated with the repeating circle of life - as sure as the sun will rise, it will set; the sun was rising on this feast for the eyes, ears and soul and I was mesmerised from start to finish. 

I can not go into detail for there was too much going on to see everything: the kinemats would come to life and something would catch my eye for a moment or two before I would be distracted; then I would flit to some other turning, moving, chiming object; and then become absorbed in the music of a Russian Troika or a piece composed by Brian Irvine.

The show was mesmerising and magical and eccentric but equally so - if not more so perhaps - weird, grotesque, haunting, kooky and even kinky, too.  It has to be experienced to be, well experienced!  Trust me... and get yourself a ticket...

So where did all the Singers go?  They were incorporated in to the mechanics of these amazing - and alive - pieces of art and engineering.  I have never seen such a choir of Singers under one roof and I will remember - always - my grannie's Singer in a new and very different light.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Fiddler's Lament

A funeral: blue skies, green hills and autumnal trees.  A small church at the heart of a thriving and connected community; a community mourning a loved one and friend.  Fiddle music echoed mournful laments to a woman I respected and liked.  A sad goodbye, but it was time, it was time.  I knew no one bar the woman lying peacefully - at last - in the coffin, her beautiful daughter sitting nearby and the nurse to my left who had cared for her.

I was once asked by a chaplain, "what makes a person more than just a patient?".  I form a relationship with all my patients, underpinned by empathy and compassionate care, often with unbidden acts of kindness too.  On occasion there is a shared kindredness and they see all that I am and the many hats that I wear.  We give to each other and, over time a mutually beneficial relationship forms: that is when a person becomes more than just a patient and I become more than just a doctor.

This woman was more than just a person, more than just a patient, and I was more than just a doctor.

Monday, September 23, 2013

In Control: at Featherdown Farm

August 2013 - School Holidays and Glamping...

Glamping with Featherdown FarmsTracey, Steve and their adorable boys at Lipley Farm proved to be a real hit with our family; they very much welcomed us on to their farm and we enjoyed every minute.
The five pitches stand sheltered by Rushymoss Wood and face into the fire pit - which would prove very popular for marshmallow toasting - and the clay oven (for pizza night!) opposite.  The girls raced in - E being carried - to explore the cupboard bed, the bunkbeds and the toilet - yes! in that order! - already bickering about where to sleep.  We lit the wood burner outside, warmed through our soup and dined alfresco, all the time feeling relaxed and nurtured by the surrounding countryside.  The girls quickly befriended the family next door - "she's my best friend ever!" - and ran amok through the grass, racing wheelbarrows, chasing chickens and swinging on swings.  As dusk fell, the campfire was lit and marshmallows made for happy children (and adults too!).  The sky darkened and the girls quietened, bed and gentle slumber calling to them: it was my turn to read and, for the first time in a long while, with candles burning bright, The Velveteen Rabbit as our companion, I felt real peace - the countryside does me wonders... 
The next day... Day trips and tantrums turned themselves around and with the farmer's stew on the campfire, we walked up to the farm for our farm tour.  Tracey and Steve are so obviously passionate about the farm and their livestock - Steve even knows each cow by it's freeze brand! - and it was great to see them enjoying the tour too.  We met all the animals that afternoon and N got up close and personal with some of the herd when she went milking.  The farmer's stew - which we had ordered at the time of booking and had come with meat from a local supplier, vegetables, wine and everything we would need to cook it slowly over the camp fire - was DELICIOUS!  all be it a little over cooked as we had left the pot too low over the fire while away on the farm walk, but it was our first attempt at open fire cooking...
Another restful sleep and time to pack up - a day early as we needed to get back up the road to get the girls back into some resemblance of a routine for school starting just three days later.  The girls had had a blast - and yet were quick to tell me that it wasn't proper camping as they hadn't slept in sleeping bags on the ground! - D had fought his fear of flying beasties and bugs and lost not so very admirably and me?  I had refound my love of the great outdoors, found true peace for the first time in what seemed like ages and had a wonderful (accessible-ish) family holiday.
So a big thanks to Tracey, Steve and Featherdown Farms for our holiday - thank you for making us feel welcome, for sharing a snippet of farming life with my city girls (because you can take the girls out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girls!), and for looking after Snappie overnight as she slept and recharged for the day ahead - we had a brilliant adventure and hope to be back!

 our view

our "home"

dining alfresco
marshmallows on an open fire
more marshmallows...

the infamous cupboard bed or hidey-hole

campfire farmer's stew - yummy!

off for a farm walk
 which came first, the chicken or the egg?

oink, oink, oink!

cute little calves

I wonder what her name is?
milking with steve

E's new mode of transport - who needs Snappie!

craft time

relaxing after a hard day's play

homeward bound

Thank you also to In Control and East Renfrewshire Local Authority who made this holiday a possibility.
See the links to the other In Control Pilot posts:

In Control - taking the first steps

In Control: at Featherdown Farm
In Control: the experience overall - the good, the bad and the ugly

Giveaway! The Baby Show

With friends having babies and family getting engaged and married (and having babies in the future!), the circle of life continues and so does the need for top tips for parents new and old and the quest for equipment - breast pumps, bottles, buggies, cots, - and .  With N and E, I didn't make it along to a baby show, but I would always recommend a day out and a nosey at all things baby to pick up ideas and go all gooey and clucky. 
Today, as part of the BRITAX Mumbassador programme, I am excited to announce a Giveaway! for two tickets to The Baby Show:

"Taking place from the 25th -27th October at Kensington Olympia, The Baby Show is the UK’s leading pregnancy and parenting event. There will be hundreds of stands, which will feature anything and everything baby and toddler-focused – from quirky new inventions to showcases from all your favourite nursery brands.
There will also be hourly guest speakers including sleep expert Jo Tantum, feeding and nutrition expert Annabel Karmel, and parenting guru Sir Robert Winston. With giveaways and special offers galore, make sure you don’t miss out!
To celebrate BRITAX’s continued involvement with the Baby Show, I’m really excited to be able to give away a pair of tickets to the next Baby Show in October! BRITAX’s stall will be stocked with all the latest BRITAX and BOB products including DUALFIX, XTENSAFIX, KIDFIX XP SICT and the B-MOTION 4, with experts on hand to explain the latest technology and take you through all the car seats and strollers on offer.
The tickets entitle you and a friend to full access at the Kensington Olympia Baby Show on a day of your choice. Little ones get free entry so they’re more than welcome to come along too!"
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter and answer one simple question to be in for a chance of winning 2 ticket to the baby event of the year. 
Entries will close at 12pm on Friday 11th October.
The prize is non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"I'm here to keep you floating"

Sometimes I hear lyrics which stay with me, replaying on loop, with me wondering why?   This song, to me, is about friendship and what we can offer those around us, those we love. We would do anything for them: "move the mountains for you", "keep you floating", through the good times and the bad times, through laughter and delight to heartbreak and tears. That's what friendship is about, isn't it?  The last three years have been tough (and that's a blooming understatement really!): I have seen friends come and go, I have not always been their for my friend when they have needed me, but I appreciate the friends I have in my life at this present moment and those friendships are about giving and receiving.  We are all floating along, part of something much bigger than ourselves, and it's not so daunting knowing (and hoping) that our friends are right by our side.

"Wherever you're standing, I will be by your side
Through the good, through the bad, I'll never be hard to find.
So wherever you're standing, I will be by your side
Through the good, through the bad, I'll never be hard to find"

Monday, September 09, 2013

Inner Strength


A colleague approached me last week and asked how E was.  
She went on to say,
"I don't know where you get your strength..."
My inner voice answered
"I don't.
I can't."
but I heard myself reply,
Coffee and cake."
Definitely, but I needed to lighten the mood;
I wanted to keep the doors to my heart closed
and the truth unspoken.
Because it's not always necessary to share your burden;
sometimes there is nothing else for it but to 
keep moving forward,
one conversation at a time.