The, “Do It Yourself”, 2.5-3 Year Development Assessment. Seriously??

I recently received a sheet full of Parental Prompt Questions, regarding the development of my three year old. I was expecting a letter from my health visitor asking me to make an appointment so my child’s development could be assessed by a PROFESSIONAL. I was NOT expecting a DIY questionnaire that doesn’t even have to be sent back.

One of the reasons these developmental assessments have always been so important for our children is because they are a great opportunity for a health professional to check our little ones are safe and thriving. A health visitor can subtlety check for inappropriate bruising, see if they look afraid or malnourished, check the home environment and also get a visual on whether or not their carer is coping. If Mum, Dad or Carer is suffering with depression or even being abused at home then the assessment is an amazing opportunity to identify a problem and offer a lifeline.

When I first saw the letter I was outraged and assumed that the form was a cost cutting excercise. So what on earth is going on? Well, I spoke to my local Health Visitor who explained the situation to me. It turns out it’s a way of coping with a backlog of over a thousand visits that have to be made by 2, part-time health visitors. Apparently, the times when your child is visited by a health visitor have changed. Any babies born now will be seen when they are, 10-14 days old, 6 weeks and 2 years old. The reason we got a form rather than a visit is that Izzy’s birthdate got caught up with a bunch of others who fell between the cracks when the new visiting ages were created. My family was deemed to be fairly safe so a questionnaire was sent instead of an appointment to try and ease the backlog.

The woman I spoke to obviously loves her job, but apparently lots of Health Visitors based in cities burn out from the overwhelming nature of what they come across in their job. Simply put, recruiting and keeping Health Visitors is very difficult and there is a huge shortage of them. So what does this mean? Unfortunately because there aren’t enough health visitors in Cambridgeshire, there will be kids that slip through the net. Kids who were fine at their last check may now have had a change in their family circumstance meaning their “safe” family dynamic has changed unnoticed.

The thing that infuriates me the most about this form is that you don’t even need to send it back if, “…you are happy with your child’s development.” From receiving the letter, it took me 10 days to read it properly and fill it out and I’m a fairly functional mum. If a parent who is barely coping or even abusing their child gets that letter, what are the chances they’re going to take the time to carefully fill it out and send it back with their concerns? Would someone who isn’t coping be in the right frame of mind to use this form to reach out? Would an abuser want to highlight any problems the child might have so attention would be drawn to the family? There isn’t even a number to call or an email address to use, the entire thing is completely reliant on snail mail, not ideal if your desperate.

The form is meant to give parents the chance to assess their kids themselves and get in contact if they feel anything is wrong. In theory this is fine but there are also plenty of children in “safe” homes where the parents have simply put their heads in the sand. We don’t always want to face the fact something might be wrong with our kids and sometimes it takes an outsider to state the obvious. Because of a manpower shortage, it could be years before these kids get identified.

This is not meant to be a rant about my local Health visitors, they have always been fantastic, the problem is there just aren’t enough of them, they’re not valued enough and they have much too much to do with the time that they have. But isn’t it sad that such an important job, one that is designed to protect us and our children is so undermanned? There have been so many cuts to health visiting services and unfortunately the people doing the job have so many targets and so many budget restrictions that I’m not sure how they’re ever going to be able to do everything they need to do. Come on Dave, spare a thought for our health visitors, they may not bring millions into the budget but they can save our families a fortune in health and safety.

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A Progress Report on My Gym Gerbil Antics and an Incidental Review of my new Super Ozeri Precision II Bathroom Scales

So, as some of you will know, (as I rock up to the school gates, clad head to toe in Lycra…) since June I’ve started going to the gym. Not once or twice a week, but up to 4 times a week. Even to me this seems a little extreme but I’m really enjoying it, going to classes like Body Attack, Body Pump and Body Combat which are all part of the Les Mills fitness programme.

So far, I’ve lost about 10 lbs which I’m pretty pleased about, especially considering I haven’t been following a specific diet! One of the surprise upsides to this, other than having a bit less junk in my trunk of course, is that my knees are less creaky and painful than they used to be. Apparently, according to a family friend who’s a physio, every 7 lbs of extra weight you carry is the equivalent of having an extra 3 stone for your knees. If you think about it that means I’ve actually lost about 5 stone! Ha, ok wishful thinking, but it’s made a noticeable difference to how my knees feel physically.

Despite all that, I do feel like I’ve hit a bit of a weight wall, I want to lose another 7lbs but am struggling. Izzy’s sleeping has been a bit off again recently so I’m really tired which makes getting up to do Body Bitch Slap of a morning a fairly dismal prospect. But I’m gonna grit my teeth and press on. They say (not sure who “they” are but “they” are probably very slim) that when you feel like you’ve hit a wall, the best thing to do is just keep going, otherwise, if you stop going at that point you’re much less likely to get back into the rhythm of regular excersize again. This rings true to me, so I’m going to pray for more sleep and press on. It would be so easy to give up now but realistically I think it’s going to take about a year in all to get to where I want to be in a healthy and steady way.

When I started this whole process I didn’t own any scales, I just used to weigh myself at my mum’s house every Friday. That’s probably the right way to do it, but as I’ve become a little more obsessive I caved and got some. They had to be digital, slim and easy to use so I opted for the Ozeri Precision II Digital Bathroom Scales which tick all those boxes and are currently only £17.95 (£28.07 when you include postage) on Amazon.

Here’s what I like about these scales;
1) They’re slim enough to tuck under my bedroom drawers which is important to me as I didn’t want them to clutter up the bathroom floor.
2) They’re really easy to use. Literally all you do is step straight onto them and your correct weight comes up. With my previous set of electronic scales you had to tap and wait for them to get ready, quite often an error message would appear and you’d have to start all over again. Not these baby’s. One step and you’re off!
3) They look pretty cool!
4) You get a consistent weight. Sometimes with my old scales you’d get on and they’d say one weight, but if you weighed yourself again a second later (don’t ask me why I did that…) a different weight would come up.
5) It’s really easy to change from stone to pounds only to kilos, you just press a little button at the bottom. No fancy press and hold, then release then do a jig whilst holding your breath etc etc, easy von peasy.
6) It weighs you in quarters of pounds too so you can tell if weight is creeping up to the next pound and do something about it!

Although getting scales hasn’t made me lose any more weight, it’s great to be able to weigh first thing, last thing, with clothes and without whenever I like. So overall I’d say that these scales are fantastic and I would thoroughly recommend them. Good times!

Please note, this is neither my current nor target weight. It’s how much I weigh when hanging onto the sink.

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I’ve broken my baby.

It’s official, I’ve broken Isabelle and not in an emotional/helpful/will now sleep through the night kind of way. A few months ago, in an attempt to sort her, “won’t sleep through the night” habit, we decided to just let her scream when she woke up at night. We’d go in once so she knew we were there and then tell her we wouldn’t come in again even if she kept on crying. It was horrific. For the first 2 nights she screamed for about 2 hours non stop and then after a few more days of crying between 1.5 hours and half an hour, it worked. The trouble though, is that 2 hours of full-on screaming is not good for a baby’s vocal chords and her voice, although always pretty deep, took on a new, sort of 60-Bensons-a-day croak.

On top of the scream induced ruination, there was also the incident with the dishwasher tab she sucked (have you called the social yet?) My Mum’s terrified that the tab has completely dissolved her throat and ruined her forever. So, in an attempt to appease Mum who has basically convinced me that Isabelle’s beyond repair, I took her to the doctors.

Now when you’re a new mother, it’s essential to visit A&E at least once a month for the first few months and thereafter the doctors for every sniffle and sneeze. When you’re a mother of three, your children have to be either unconscious or bleeding uncontrollably to warrant any medical attention. I think this, “pah, she’s fine” attitude is great most of the time as kids get ill and kids get better, but sometimes it takes someone who doesn’t see your child every day to see that medical attention might be a good idea.

Anyway, we’ve been advised not to let her scream at all if possible (er… ok). She currently has swollen tonsils and a fever, so we’re going back to see the doc in 3 weeks time when we’ll be able to see if there is still a problem with her tonsils when her illness has passed. If they’re still swollen then then we’ll take her to see a throat specialist. Poor little thing. I’ve given her a dummy which helps to stop her crying (just call me parent of the year) and some baby Nurofen to accompany the antibiotics. Now we just have to play the waiting game and hope she’s not destined for a life-time of Darth Vader voice over jobs. Ah guilt, my constant companion, come and give me a cuddle.

By the way, she has stopped sleeping through the night.

Again.

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Hi. My name is Emma and I’m a gym-a-holic.

I’m currently sitting in the café of David Lloyd Gym, Cambridge. The kids are playing in the mini play-barn after a busy morning in the crèche for the girls and a swimming lesson for Sam. Sam also had the pleasure of watching me do a Zumba class whilst also playing on my iPad – he had a lovely time. Half way through the class he whispered for me to come over and said in his most earnest voice, “good work mum.” Bless.

So what’s happened to me? Why this sudden burst of activity? Well, it all started at the school gates when I got chatting to a mum who was looking fantastic. She’d joined the gym and was getting visible results. To be honest, I’ve always hated going to the gym but was getting to the point where I was really fed up with being wobbly. I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 7 years and after nearly 2 years of Izzy not sleeping properly I felt like it was time to start feeling alive again, not just existing through days of exhaustion. I also wanted to feel good about my body again, simple really. I’m not sure why this time the decision to get fit has stuck, but I’m feeling good and slowly losing inches.

For me the most rewarding thing has been the sense of well-being I feel. Excercise really is making me feel better. I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve been in years and even though I’ve still got lots of weight to lose, I feel in control because I know I’m actually doing something about it.

There are loads of classes here and my favorite class is Body Attack. Believe me, you really do feel like you’ve been attacked after it, but it’s high energy and great for fitness and weight loss. The best bit about this gym though is that there’s a crèche so I don’t have to go out in the evenings when I’m knackered but can go in the mornings instead when I have the most energy. I also got a 3 month membership for the kids over the summer so we can all come here loads during the holidays, to swim mostly, as they have an outside pool which has been fantastic with the good weather.

So, I’ve become a gym bunny, well perhaps that’s slightly over-ambitious, I’m probably more of a gym gerbil, but you get the idea. I’m doing something rather than feeling rubbish about myself and it feels great.

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Mum’s Op and an Unexpected Review of the Nuby, Breast Express Breast Pump

I’m currently staying in a hotel in Sheffield as my Mum has just had an operation to repair her (recreated) bladder. The operation is over and thank God it went well, although she’s still in lots of pain. Honestly, it seems rather ridiculous to me that they (you know, those medical people) can clone a sheep but can’t create decent post-operative pain relief. My poor mum’s had 3 big operations in as many years and it’s been the same for all of them. Para-bloody-cetamol they offer her! She hasn’t got a hangover, she’s recovering from major surgery for crying out loud!

Sorry, I’m ranting. I’m here alone, Ferg’s at home taking care of all the kids as children under 12 aren’t allowed on the wards. I wanted to be free to see Mum whenever I could as she’s miles from home (Cambridge) and miles away from her army of wonderful friends. At least I can be her familiar face for a few days even though I just feel helpless and powerless to do anything that makes this any easier for her.

I’ve never been away from my babies for this long and it feels particularly strange as I’m still breastfeeding Izzy. I’m not sure I realised how much she feeds, as one major and hugely underestimated by-product of being away is that my boobs are continuing to produce lots and lots and LOTS of milk. I woke up this morning with boobs the size and consistency of unripe melons and two massive wet patches on my pyjama top. They were so sore, that I felt like running out into the street, grabbing the first baby I saw and forcibly offering my services as a wet-nurse. I’d forgotten how painful it is having engorged breasts and although I tried expressing by hand I only got three drops out which, believe me was NOT worth the agony.

So what to do? Buy a breast pump that I would never use again or or, or what? Well, I called the maternity unit at Sheffield Hallam Hospital and asked if it’s possible to donate breast milk and it turns out that it is! Unfortunately though you have to register and have your milk tested which would take quite a while. This was not going to be a good solution, especially as I’d had a large GnT and a pint of cider last night (apparently it’s dangerous for babies to mix their booze). I then asked if they could lend me one but apparently they don’t randomly offer out breast pumps to passing strangers which I thought was rather rude.

Anyway I reluctantly found the breast pump section in Boots and discovered a little beauty of a pump. It was only about £11 and teeny. Most importantly it’s very, very simple with only two bits to deal with, a pump and a bottle, super diddly ooper.

I can’t really give you much more info about this breast-pump other than the fact that it successfully gets milk out of my boobs and doesn’t have a million pieces to put together. Therefore, as far as I’m concerned it’s brilliant. It’s small, the little container it comes with is nicely squishy and and er that’s it really. In my experiences all breast pumps kind of hurt. It’s not a fun experience expressing milk, but when your breasts are so full of milk that your nipples go completely flat, then breast pumps are very useful. Don’t bother with more expensive ones that will hurt just as much, get this one which does the job at minimum cost and with minimum equipment.

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Balance bike review and comparison list.

There are loads of balance bikes on the market, but this is a list of the ones I liked the most. In the end I chose a Ridgeback Scoot for Sam and a Bikestar for Maisie and I was really pleased with both of them. I haven’t listed any wooden bikes as I didn’t think they’d last as well as a hand me down, but two good friends have a wooden likeAbike and swear by them so if you’re looking for a wooden balance bike, that’s the one I’d recommend.

Islabike Rothan

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Frame – Aluminim
Weight – 3.6kg
My impressions – If this bike came in pink then I’d have bought one second hand from eBay, as it’s a lovely piece of kit. It’s designed for children rather than using parts designed for adults so it rides really nicely for kids. It’s a quality product and so pretty expensive, but if you love cycling and bikes then you might not be able to resist this! Loads of kids here in Cambridge have them and the parents I speak to about them think they’re fantastic. I chose not to spend so much on a balance bike as they all pretty much do the same thing, but many people I’ve spoken to think they’re worth every penny. At the end of the day, the more expensive they are, the lighter they are and the longer they’ll last. Resale on these is excellent.
Price – £120 from Islabike. Secondhand you can pick them up for around the £70 mark on eBay.

Ridgeback Scoot

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Frame – Aluminium
Weight – 12.1bs, 5.49kg
My Impressions – It seems long and was harder for my petite little girl to get to grips with when she tried to ride her brother’s one. My son loved it though and he only started using a balance bike when he was 4 and quite big. This is a fabulous bike but definitely not the lightest out there. It’s great for bigger kids who aren’t going to struggle with the extra weight. The rear break is pointless but the kids like the look of it. New models have a carry handle on the seat which is a brilliant feature for those frequent meltdowns!
Price – £99 at most places where it’s sold, but I bought my son’s one 2nd hand from eBay for £52.

Strider

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Frame – light gauge steel tubing
Weight – ST3 (old model) 2.9kg. ST4 3kg.
My impression – This is a fun little bike and it’s the lightest on the market. it’s a great choice for small kids as the seat height starts at 28cm and goes up to 40cm. My hesitation was that after reading reviews it seems as though the EVA polymer, foam-like tyres, tend to wear down so are not ideal if you want to hand them down to a sibling. They have also just launched Super Strider which has 16″ wheels for older or bigger kids. If this had existed when I bought my son’s balance bike then I’d probably have bought it as his Scoot was always a bit small for him.
Price – ST 3 currently being sold for £69. 99. The ST 4 is £84.99, from
Balance1st.

Puky LR1

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Frame – Steel.
Weight – 4kg
My impressions – This is a good solid bike with a great reputation. It’s heavier than other comparable products but it’s also cheaper than the lighter bikes. You’re unlikely to go wrong with a Puky, but my daughter found it awkward which is why we didn’t go for it. I like the footrest and the kick-stand which is really useful and you can also get a strap to carry it when your child suddenly refuses to go any further. This bike also has pneumatic EVA tyres which don’t puncture, but loads of kids around us have these bikes and they don’t seem to wear down much. Puky also do a smaller balance bike called the LRM which is more suitable for tiny ones, the seat height on these is 28cm.
Price – £65.99 on Amazon. You can also pick these up on eBay for around £40.

Likeabike Rosalie

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Frame – Aluminium
Weight – 3.8kg
My Impressions – This bike wasn’t around when I was looking for a balance bike for Maisie, I’ve just discovered it tonight! I’d have bought this if it had been available, it’s, light, it’s pink (the Kokua was the only one available when I was looking and it didn’t come in pink!) and It’s not outrageously expensive. Gutted.com – I love this bike! They also do a red version called the Likeabike Hardy.
price – £99.95 from Likeabike.

Specialized Hotwalk

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Frame – Aluminium
Weight – Approx. 8.63lbs (3.91kg)
My Impressions – This is a really good bike, it’s light and (crucially for us) comes in pink. I didn’t buy it because the Bikestar balance bike was half the price and had similar features, but if I wasn’t trying to save a bit then this is the bike I’d have bought. The Hotwalk is one of the lightest bikes on the market, it also has a footrest to encourage balancing.
Price – 2012 model currently on sale for £89.99 from Freeborn The 2013 model seems to be £100 in most online shops.

Ketler Speedy
imageBalance bike comparisons
Frame Steel Tubing
Weight 4.1kg
My impressions One of Maisie’s friends from Pre-school has one of these bikes so I asked her dad what he thought of it. He said he was pleased with it, it seemed easy enough for his daughter to ride but his only issue was that the wheels (made of a tough synthetic foam), sometimes “chip”, i.e. a little chunk sometimes comes of when she rides over rough ground. That said, his daughter likes riding it and it’s pretty light so what’s not to like? It has a padded seat which is adjustable – 33-43cm, so it’s not really small enough for tiny ones but still a good size for your average two year old. This is a good little bike, it’s not expensive, it’s not too heavy for little ones to maneuver and it comes in both blue and pink!
Price £44.99 from Amazon

Bikestar

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Frame – Steel tube.
Weight – 4.8kg
My impressions – This is the bike I chose for my daughter for Christmas when she was 3 1/2. She’s small for her age so the bike had to be fairly light but more importantly it had to be mostly pink. This bike is really pretty and nicely made. I’m really pleased with the quality of it and Maisie loves it. The wheels seem really wide but this doesn’t seem to make a difference to how it rides. The Bikestar has a kick stand which I find is a really useful feature as it just means the bikes isn’t always just lying around. This brand, like Puky, offers a smaller version with 10″ wheels for tiny ones. The price is excellent and Maisie picked up the technique after a few tries. It must be said that this does feel quite heavy to carry home, but she’s only given up once which is a credit to the bike (and her!) in itself.
Price – Currently £49.99 on Amazon.

5 Days after The extraction of my impacted wisdom tooth…

Wow, what a thrilling title! But there is good news afoot. Last night (Day 4), after Hubby and I decided my face was even bigger than Day 3 and I noticed pus oozing from a hole in my cheek, I decided a call to the emergency dentist and was told to go to an out of hours doctor clinic. After giving me a thorough gob check, the Doctor told me that I had an infection and even gave me some stronger pain killers to treat the now, almost unbearable pain. At this point I could barely talk or open my mouth so I felt incredibly blessed to live somewhere where I could get treatment at any time night or day. You’re awesome NHS.

So, I took all my new pills and woke this morning without much pain. The swelling still looks about the same but I can deal with a face like Desperate Dan when I don’t also have to contend with excruciating pain. So I’m guessing that this is how I’m supposed to be feeling, a bit of an achey gum and cheek but no intense pain. There is still some pus, but I’m hoping the lack of pain means less infection. Hooray!

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Bit less massive? Certainly still odd looking.

The Results of the Sleep Consultant Visit

Well, Tina Southwood from Sleep Baby Sleep visited me last week to talk about Isabelle’s sleep or rather lack of sleep. At this point Izzy had already started sleeping better with only one wake and feed in the night and I really do think this was because her teeth had all come through.

Anyway, after talking to Tina (Who is absolutely lovely btw) it became apparent that Isabelle hasn’t been getting enough daytime sleep, which means that tackling night-time problems with controlled crying was basically just counter-productive. This made perfect sense to me, so we’ve been trying to get her to have 2 naps a day, ideally a short one in the morning and a longer one in the afternoon. In theory this is brilliant, in practise however it’s virtually impossible. Sometimes, Isabelle will have a nap in the afternoon, sometimes she won’t. Add to this the unfortunate fact that life with 2 elder kids means every day and circumstance is different means that she doesn’t always get that 2nd essential sleep.

Ho Hum, I think essentially the sleep consultant felt like a lifeline and getting to the point where I actually admitted that I needed help, meant that I had time to recuperate and recover from being fundamentally sleep deprived. What she said made sense and I would definitely recommend her if you are local and need help with a bad sleeper, or a newborn or twins! At the moment Isabelle’s sleep patterns mean I’m getting enough sleep to be able to function like a normal person again and I think that as soon as she can do without that 2nd sleep during the day, we’ll be fine. Well that’s the theory anyway!

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You may have guessed this isn’t a current picture of Izzy sleeping, it’s actually of a baby Maisie! You get the idea though!

Babies Who Nap Outside…

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Claire, my lovely friend and Mumtrepreneur , forwarded me this article on babies having their naps outside, from BBC Magazine . I have always let Izzy sleep in the garden for her daytime nap, even when it was -3 degrees outside and we had to wipe away the snow from her buggy cover to get her out. This wasn’t something I did with my other 2 as babies, but it’s always worked for Izzy and she always sleeps very well and for a very long time outside.

You know what it’s like, you’re out with your little one and they fall asleep in the buggy, then you get them home, walk through the front door and “Waaaahhhh”, they wake up. I think one day, instead of trying to keep the nap going inside, I just pushed the buggy into the back (very secure) garden and let her continue to sleep in the same environment she fell asleep in. Low and behold, she didn’t wake up, she slept for another 2 hours, peacefully and cosily.

When it’s cold, I put the raincover on to protect her from the wind and when it’s super-cold, just make sure she’s wearing lots of layers and has an extra blanket on top of her cosytoes. When it snowed recently we had to wipe away the snow from the buggy cover to get her. She never feels cold to the touch when I take her out (except her cheeky hands if they stray from the warmth of the cosytoes!!), but she does always seem rested and happy. In fact, when I know she’s tired, she gets quite excited when I pop her in the buggy and give her teddy to cuddle. But what’s not to like? My garden backs onto my son’s school, so at playtime she can hear the kids playing which, for my noise-loving babe is like a lullaby. She can also hear the wind, the rain and the birds – it must be lovely!

The article talks about how parents in the Nordic countries believe that it keeps babies healthier letting them take their naps outside and I have to admit, Izzy is a very healthy baby, but that could also be because I’m still breastfeeding her a zillion times a day!

I dunno, it works for Izzy and it works for me. Considering she’s such an appalling sleeper at night, I just thank God I get 2 hours to myself during the day. Maybe I should put her out in the garden to sleep at night? She might even sleep through!…. JOKE!!! Of course she wouldn’t sleep through! Ha Ha Ha! *laughs maniacally and collapses in exhaustion*