Monthly Archives: September 2013

Me the Nutritionist

I am not the wellest 40-year-old around.  In fact, you could argue I am probably the unwellest 40-year-old you know.  If a virus is to be got, I will get it.  Despite dilligent hand washing, shielding my face if someone sneezes in the vicinity and using my knuckle to push lift buttons or opening a door at an unusual point on the handle, I still seem to get all and sundry.

I think my genetic makeup just makes me very susceptible, although my parents weren’t particularly ill.  I also remember reading somewhere that the appendix was thought to be linked to immunity and as I lost that at 11 years old, so that might be my problem.  I know I spent a lot of my 18th, 19th and 20th year with various illnesses until a doctor eventually suggested I should whip out my tonsils to prevent infections. It worked, I didn’t get another ear, nose and throat infection.  Unfortunately I still get cold viruses.

I’m also on a mild immune suppressant for my Ankylosing Spondylitis. This could be lowering my already awful immune system further.  Either way, it’s pretty miserable getting all these illnesses.

Whilst I am considered at risk and can therefore get the flu jab, I was hoping to get on top of it all this year by improving my diet (and inadvertently, that of my family) to see if I can improve it.  I have a friend who is a bit evangelistical about getting enough protein (he’s a meat eater) and he says he has never felt better since he increased his intake and is fairly confident I don’t get enough.  Which is a bit annoying to hear, but for all I knew, he could be right.

Now, I’ve done a lot of research as a vegetarian (and whilst weaning my daughter as a veggie) and I know that us humans often eat too much protein. I did a rough calculation when Pickle was about 3 and discovered she was getting enough, but things have moved on now and we have a much more complicated set up in our house.

Hubby and daughter are NOT veggie. Daughter doesn’t eat red meat.  I’m a veggie and so is The Monster, but he’s also a toddler that doesn’t eat vegetables and only appears to be interested in beige food!  Hubby does the weekly shop and the majority of the cooking, but he’s often in a rush and doesn’t have the same dietary concerns I have.  I’m constantly tired (and ill) and it’s just easier to let him get on with it.  However, I decided I needed to take some action and stop being a passenger, so I asked a friend for details of their nutritionist. Nothing could be simpler, I’ll get someone else to do all the thinking, tell me what I’m lacking, plan my meals.

The trouble was she was bloody expensive!!  The deluxe option was £149 per session. I’m presuming I’d need around 5 sessions.  The basic session was £99 per session.  That’s still £500 pounds for a decent number of sessions and reviews.  I just couldn’t justify that at all!  Bearing in mind that judging by my friend’s diet I was going to have to fork out a tonne of money-making smoothies, sprinkling expensive seeds on things, drinking ten tonne of coconut water and generally smashing our budget, all in the aid of improving my diet.

So I decided to chip away at the problem myself.  Not to focus on the my overall goal (improve my diet immediately), but to break it down slowly.  So I kept a food diary for a week to monitor my protein intake only.  At the same time, I had just started visiting my local health food shop and bought 3 bags of dried fruits and nuts to create little snack pots for work.  Not every day. Just 2 or 3 days a week.  So I used various resources to find out the nutritional content of things. I found this one the best (and I used this a few years back to find foods that were anti inflammatory) but it’s American, so it’s a little hit and miss.  I find just googling the food and putting in the nutrient I want to find and something pops up.

So, I’m just looking at protein and guess what. I’m getting enough. More than enough. I found a site that calculated how much protein I should be having (46g per day) and I’m hitting or exceeding this in general.  There is protein in lots of things and provided it is varied, then as a veggie I’m combining them to create complete proteins all the time.  Also, we have our own chickens so one of my complete proteins is good old eggs. I’m trying to eat a few more of those.

Eggs from our chickens

Eggs from our chickens

This bit of news has made me so much better. I think I’ll keep tracking things, just to keep an eye on it, but I now need to focus on things like iron, zinc and Vit C now.  So that’ll be my task in the next few weeks, no hurry.

I’m also hoping to pick a new recipe for the family to try. The incentive is improving everyone’s diet, but the thing that puts me off is the fact the kids turn their nose up at things they’ve not seen before all the time, so I could spend hours making something that only I eat.  I need to get over that and accept it will happen.  The bottom line is that I can’t move forward with improving things if I don’t take the plunge, so I need to just bloody get on with it.

So there you go. I’m my own nutritionist at the moment. Not trained, not an expert, but I’m fairly comfortable it’s just basics and if I crack this, I may be in a position to improve my immunity without having to fork out £500.

What do you do to keep a track on your diet?  Do you bother?  Are you confident you get everything you need?

PS: Did you know that Pret’s choc bar has 3g of Protein?  Nope, me either. RESULT!

A Frightening Reminder

I put my iPad away and headed upstairs for a shower.  It was 11.30pm and I’d dragged out Sunday night as long as I could.  After my shower, I put on my comfy pyjamas (I never go to bed without wearing something.  I have a fear of having to dash out in a fire and I DEFINITELY can’t do that in the nuddy) and I got into bed to read my book. As did hubby.

About 11.45pm we heard some wailing next door.  Clearly one of the students was having a crisis of some sort.  It didn’t last long and I put my book away and lay down on my comfy pillow and started to drift off to sleep.

Both of us are jolted awake by the doorbell going OVER AND OVER again.  Bloody hell. If that’s another pizza delivery, those girls are going to get there what for!  Hubby dashes downstairs to stop the noise and ensure the children don’t wake up.

It’s a man with a clipboard.

He tells us he’s from the national grid about our gas.

He tells us that 2 out of the 3 girls next door had just been hospitalised with Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Bloody hell!

What then ensued was the man checking our boiler out.  Double checking all the family were ok (I had roused both children just after my shower, sorting out their bedding) and then advising us he was switching the gas off as a precaution.carbon monoxide

That’s pretty scary.  Right there.   Thoughts race through your head about sleeping children not being woken.  Me, snuggling down into that comfy pillow, I could have been oblivious to any carbon monoxide, because, quite frankly, it’s odourless and colourless, the silent killer.

According to statistics from 4000 people are admitted to A&E with carbon monoxide poisoning yearly. 200 of these people are hospitalised and around 50 people die in England and Wales every year.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to those for flu and food poisoning including persistent headaches, sickness and tiredness.

Carbon monoxide is released when a carbon-containing fuel such as gas, oil, coal, coke, petrol or wood, does not burn fully because not enough air is available. The majority of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are due to faulty combustion heating and cooking appliances.

Winter is the season when incidences are at their height, so now is the time to be vigilant.

Unfortunately because it’s very difficult to tell whether there is carbon monoxide in the house.  The most important thing is to keep your gas appliances regularly checked and serviced.  For back up, the safest way to ensure you keep yourself and your family safe is to buy a carbon monoxide alarm.  Before purchasing a CO alarm, always ensure it complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark. CO alarms should be installed, checked and serviced in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.  Most detectors last 5-7 years and won’t necessarily tell you that they are at the end of their life.  So remember to replace them, or buy one like the Kidde 7COC which has a 10 year guarantee.  All of them for around £20.

I bought one about 2 years ago after hearing a similar story to this one.  We tested it today.  The British gas man suggested testing it outside, otherwise if there is already gas in the air you reset it to expect that level of Carbon Monoxide.  He then gave us another one free of charge.  We’ve placed them both near to our boiler and kitchen.

As for the girls next door. They’ve recovered well, British Gas have installed some alarms free of charge and are still trying to find the source of the leak.

A frightening reminder to all of us.

*This is NOT a sponsored post. It was prompted by this event happening on the night of the 22/09/13.  If I manage to get one of you to buy an alarm or service your boiler, then I’ll be a very happy woman.

Choosing a Primary School – A Warning

As October arrives, parents of children who are turning 4 between September 2013 and July 2014 will start thinking about researching, visiting and choosing a school for their child to start in September 2014.

I really wanted to get this post sent out during this critical time, because I need new parents to understand exactly what they need to look out for in a potential primary school and not have a knee jerk reaction to “markers” just because we are led to believe that these are what makes a school good.  Don’t be dazzled by numbers, especially at Primary School and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t discredit a school entirely based on an Ofsted.  This story may explain why.

Much like many of you when we moved house, we considered the schools.  We knew we had a couple of good primary schools very close to us, but when you’ve got a 2-year-old, the thought of doing in-depth research doesn’t cross your mind and you read a report on Ofsted, feel happy that it’s not a demon school, move and then do all the in-depth research when your child is 4. When it really matters.

We had a choice of 2 schools.  Both were given a “good”.  The one closest to us (walking distance) was “good” with “outstanding features”.  The other one looked bigger, but was also in higher demand because it was a feeder school to a much coveted secondary school in the area.  Most people chose that one, just for that reason. I think last year, the “feeder” system was removed, but you’d need to check that yourself.  Anyway, as we thought it was unlikely we would stay in the area long enough to use the secondary, it didn’t sway us.  We saw both schools as potential candidates and went to their open visits to walk around and meet the head and other teachers.

Bollocks, does it.

Bollocks, does it.

Both schools were lovely.  The one further away felt a little impersonal to us (but we visited on a strike day) and we didn’t much like the head.  They didn’t show us any outdoor areas other than that in Reception.  The one closest to us, had a very warm feel about it.  Maybe we were biased because we really wanted to be able to walk to school, who knows, but I did fall in love with the school. It reminded me of my school growing up. The reception classrooms were just lovely, the outdoor space was huge and the head teacher was a great, down to earth kind of guy.  I would have been happy in a school like that.  So, decision made.  We put that down as our first choice and Pickle got in.

Pickle LOVED her school. We loved the school.  On any one day the mix of students was perfect. Every nationality, religion, social demographic was there.  This was what we were looking for and Pickle made great friends with children who’s parent’s I also liked.

Then in April we had a bomb shell.  The school had an Ofsted inspection and went from being “good” with “outstanding features” to “Inadequate”.  That was the old “Special Measures”.  You know, the one where you imagined 12 year olds smoking around the back of the class room and teachers drunk in the staff room.  Where disorder reigns and results fail.  Except that WASN’T our school.  That couldn’t have been further from what our school was like!  The report was patchy about where it failed.  It mumbled on about not allowing students real application of their skills (physical learning).  It talked about children not being asked to come up and participate in learning, about not splitting by ability often enough.  A lack of maths focus.  That was it!  Reception was marked as Good with outstanding features.  Year 1-2 as “needing improvement” and the rest as “Inadequate”.  To us though, it didn’t feel inadequate at all!!

We obviously all got very very upset.  This was around the time new parents had received their notification of which school their 4 year olds would get into and I imagine there was a mass panic by parents at our Local Authority to reject the offer and go to the other school.  We all demanded answers, but we got a new Head in place (our old one, bless  him, had wanted to retire at Christmas but the governors had asked him to stay on. So he left in the wake of this!) and a promise that they’d turn it around.

Then we got the news the school was becoming an Academy.  More worry. More upset. More parents demanding what was going on.  Academies are bad, right?  They are run by owner’s of Carpet shops for money.  They don’t care about the kids?  So we researched into the cows came home. Decided we’d all rebel if the right academy owner wasn’t found.  Recent news, at the end of the summer term, was a well-respected local secondary school which had recently, voluntarily, become an academy was going to be our Sponsor.  We all heaved a sigh of relief.  Fingers crossed it all gets sorted by January as promised and we can get on with the job at hand, teaching our children.

I then stumbled upon this article this week.  Which was EXACTLY what we thought happened with our school but couldn’t prove. I don’t think there is any doubt that the pushing down of our Ofsted was because of the boroughs need to get its first primary school to become an Academy.  There are no outstanding primary school’s in our borough so I imagine they picked on one they thought they could manipulate, one that was due an Ofsted.  Read the article. It’s a real eye opener.

The point is.  Ofsted has changed A LOT in the last 5 years.  Whilst we all look for a way to be able to grade our primary schools and help us make decisions, I think they do us all a disservice by setting a criteria (a moveable criteria) that immediately segregates our local schools based on what the government thinks is flavour of the month.  Yes, we want to make sure the curriculum is stuck to. Yes, we want good marks, but the criteria has become so narrow, our schools have no choice but to teach to the dot….oh no hang on. As long as they appear to teach to the dot on the day of the inspection.  Yes, no guarantee it actually happens every day.  An inspection can be 1-3 days long.  Wonder how many schools have a special “Ofsted Teaching Plan”.  How the hell can that be a sign of a good school?

I guess the big advantage for us, about to become an Academy, is that strict structure gets done away with, but it was still a really rubbish time. A time of uncertainty that made your realise one very important fact when you are choosing a school.  Your school cannot be EXACTLY like the last Ofsted (especially as they are done every 3 years). Things change.  Head teachers move on.  Teachers leave, new ones come.  Standards rise or fall.  It’s a moving organism.  You can NEVER guarantee that the school that is “good” will stay good whilst you are there.  You have to LOVE that school for all of it’s parts and be prepared to stick with it.  If you’re local school doesn’t have a good Ofsted, find out why.  Meet the head. Ask what is being done. That will be the biggest mark of how good your school is.  Drill down.  It probably isn’t a bad school at all.  Things may change. That school may become “good” even “outstanding” at a time your child is in Year 5 or 6 and the school you chose over it, could drop down, right when you need it to be there for you.

All I’m saying, is please don’t judge a school by its Ofsted.  Ofsted can be a load of baloney!



The Students

You will all be very aware of my anxieties. I’ve blogged about them many times before.  My fears, my OCD’s, my panic attacks and my palpitations.

I’m very aware of them and I know the triggers, so I do what I can to prevent them or when in full swing, chat to myself to calm myself down.

So you can imagine my delight when I found out that next door was being rented out to STUDENTS!!

I’ve had untold issues with the people on the other side of me. They are very noisy anyway, playing Pink Floyd loudly and having lots of late night visitors chatting away in their garden just 2 metres from my bedroom window.  Their teenage daughters (Students themselves) have been having parties until 4am when their parent’s are away, often without giving us notice, like we’ve asked politely on sooooo many occasions.  This year was the quietest year since we’ve been here. Only one impromptu party that we weren’t told about, which resulted in us cancelling Easter Sunday at my dad’s house because we were both too tired to hit the M25 safely.

I’ve been counting down the years until their annoying daughters finally hit the road and fend for themselves, but knew I had at least 2 years left.  As they are students they are now away at university, so with the new university year, this is the time I heave a sigh of relief and get on with things without fear of being disturbed day or night.

Not anymore.

I popped over yesterday to introduce myself to the 3 new girls that had moved in next door (attached to our house).  We had been told by our landlord they were student nurses, but they aren’t. Two are studying teaching and one is studying Psychology.  I’m not happy to say the least.  The girls were VERY polite, they looked like really good girls, brought up well, but they definitely had the sparkle in their eyes that indicated that this was the FIRST time they had ever “played house” and just answering their front door had been pretty exciting.  I gave them some eggs from our chickens, asked them how they were settling in and asked that if they are going to have parties, which I don’t mind (that bit was a lie, I do mind, but I can’t tell people that they can’t have parties), then could they give us notice of it.  I told them we have 2 young children that will get up early everyday and that we work.  Both girls nodded and said they were talking about whether they thought they’d ever have a party. They didn’t think they would.  Yeah right!

Anyway, they gave a parting shot about the possibility of babysitting (a silver lining) and I waved to them as I left.

Immediately after meeting them, I felt ok.  I liked them. They’d be good.  However as soon as I got to bed and could hear one of them in the bedroom next door rummaging through her wardrobe which sits against our wall (she is moving in, I do understand why), all sorts of fears starting creeping in.  When it comes to sleeping and my insomnia and my busy mind, night-time really is a rubbish time for me to consolidate my thoughts.

Within an hour, my palpitations were back and I was really quite worried about how this is all going to turn out.  On my walk to school this morning I was turning everything over again.  Worrying about all the possible scenarios.  I do realise that it is not helpful to do that.  No idea how to stop.

So, some of my coping mechanisms are:

  • Start working on that CV, get a job and move – what better incentive
  • If they are really really bad, we can complain to the landlord and the agency. Both of whom we know.
  • We think they are 2nd year students (don’t they have to go into halls of residence 1st year?) so that’s just 2 years until they shove off.
  • Maybe they won’t be terrible and be really hard-working students. (grasping at straws)

Anyone got any good tactics to make me feel better about this?  I’m working myself up into a frenzy.