How to have a bath

If you have children it can be difficult to get half an hour of alone time. Having a bath is a great way of relaxing, enjoying some quiet time and having a good wash. Here are my top tips for having a bath during half term.

How NOT to have a bath

Picture the scene, it’s half term, you have a lively three year old and two small dogs, you fancy a quick bath, because you’re worth it.

1. Run the bath, add your favourite bath oil or bubble bath, create a relaxing bathing ambience.
2. Put the TV on in the bedroom, supply the small boy with juice and a snack, all seems well so leave them to it.
3. Get into bath and allow the warm water to lap over you, breathe in the aromas from your expensive bath oil, relax.
4. Realise that you’ve forgotten to shut the door.
5. Moments later the small boy and two small dogs wander in. Chaos ensues.
6. Forget how to relax as the small boy bellows “CAN I HELP WASH YOUR BOOBS PLEASE”. Die a little inside as you explain that your boobs don’t need cleaning.
7. Repeat the phrase “no you can’t get in the bath with me” seven times before he just climbs in the bath with you. Die a little more inside.
8. Give up trying to shave your legs and resign yourself to being half smooth goddess and half yeti.
9. Give up on your half an hour of me time. Get out and leave the small boy to enjoy your delicious bath with expensive bath oils.
10. Finish washing your hair in the sink. Voila!

How to have a bath

1. Run the bath, add your favourite bath oil or bubble bath, create a relaxing bathing ambience.
2. Put the TV on in the bedroom, supply the small boy with juice and a snack, all seems well so leave them to it.
3. Firmly shut the bathroom door, locking it if possible.
4. Get into bath and allow the warm water to lap over you, breathe in the aromas from your expensive bath oil, relax.
5. Emerge from the bath scrubbed, shaved, invigorated and beautiful.

Guess which kind of bath I’ve just had.

How to have a bath

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer

There have been a number of quite horrifying news stories in recent years about deaths related to carbon monoxide poisoning. Each year more than 200 people are hospitalised with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning and around 40 people die.

Carbon monoxide leaks are commonly found in incorrectly installed or poorly maintained household appliances such as cookers, heaters and central heating boilers. A blocked flue or chimney can also cause carbon monoxide levels to rise to lethal levels in an enclosed space. When we had our chimney opened up so we could have a real fire, we had an extra air vent fitted for this very reason.

Carbon monoxide

The problem with carbon monoxide is that it’s a colourless, odourless gas. You can’t taste it, see it or smell it, which is why it’s known as the silent killer and why it kills so many people each year. It’s something I’m frankly terrified of, so I make sure our boiler and appliances are checked out annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer and that our chimney is swept regularly too.

It’s also a really good idea to get a carbon monoxide detector which work in a similar way to smoke detectors, these are relatively inexpensive and could save your life. They’re also really useful to have if you go camping or boating, as a number of deaths occur each year in caravans and boats due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you suspect you have a carbon monoxide leak (or any gas leak) then turn off all of your appliances including the boiler, make sure your house is well ventilated by opening doors and windows, if you can access your gas isolation valve, turn it a quarter turn so the lever is at 90 degrees to the upright gas pipe, then ring the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 11 999.

Corgi Homeplan are currently campaigning for every home to have their own CO detector and they’ve launched a new website to help people be aware of the dangers of gas appliances in their own home. The website has lots of easy to follow advice as well as information about the warning signs to look out for. The Corgi Homeplan website is a great resource for homeowners unsure about how to protect themselves and what to do when things go wrong at home.

In association with Corgi Homeplan.

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, Widnes

During half term week it’s hard to find interesting, entertaining things to do for all the family. Something that isn’t all about sitting in front of a screen for hours, perhaps something secretly educational would be good too. The Catalyst Science Discovery Centre in Widnes is both interesting and entertaining as well as being educational. It’s also good value with a family ticket (2 adults, 3 children) costing just £19.95 for the day.

During half term (and all school holidays), the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre have a programme of events designed to attract families. This half term there are two workshops, the first “Energy from Waste” which is a fascinating look at what happens with our waste, for example all Manchester’s waste goes to a processing plant in Runcorn and the fun workshop will look at how waste is turned into energy.

The second workshop is “Ludicrous liquids” and you can discover amazing liquids that act like solids, liquids that change colour on their own, liquids which act like magnets and you can even have a go at creating your own lava lamp.

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre

During school holidays the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre is open 10am-5pm (last entrance 4pm). Car parking is free and you can grab lunch or a snack at the Elements Cafe’. It’s a lovely day out and a great way to introduce children to the exciting world of science and give them the opportunity to explore and discover new things.

If you’d like to visit The Catalyst Science Discovery Centre this half term please do visit their website for more information.

Autumn Leaf Crafts

I hold my hands up, I’m not by any stretch of the imagination particularly good at crafting with my son. I’ll give it a go because it’s important for him to know that you don’t have to be any good at something to enjoy it. Having fun is the most important lesson, so this week we turned our hands to some autumn leaf crafts and had lots of fun.

One dry afternoon we went to our local park for a picnic, afterwards we had a little walk and collected a bag of leaves, pine cones, pine needles, bark, sycamore seeds and anything else we could find. This was itself a fun and learning activity, we talked about why leaves turn brown, the different colours and shapes, how leaves feel, what seeds and pine cones are and what happens to seeds when you plant them.

Autumn Leaf Crafts

We loved our trip to the park and it was the perfect excuse to warm up with a mug of hot chocolate when we got home. We left the leaves to dry for a bit and then got to work.

1. Put a nice veiny leaf under a piece of paper and rub over it with a crayon, this will give a relief of the leaf. Try it with different kinds of leaves.

2. We did some nice sticking and gluing. We glued some leaves to some paper and drew pictures around them. He liked this because he liked painting the glue on the leaves and being quite precise with it. This was great for his fine motor skills.

Autumn Leaf Crafts

3. We held a leaf on a piece of paper and dabbed round it with some paint on a sponge. This is quite a pretty effect and it helped him think about the shape of the leaf and its outline.

4. The small boy had his cousin round to play, we decided to make a big tree. We taped a long roll of paper to the side of the kitchen cupboard (which meant it was easy to wipe drips where they’d missed the paper), we painted a large tree and some grass and we stuck a variety of leaves to the branches of the tree and also in the grass. This was a lovely activity, the boys got involved in some team work and alternated jobs.

Autumn Leaf Crafts

We’ve had some messy-ish fun and we learnt a lot about autumn. We’ve had a great few days playing with and crafting with the bag of leaves we picked up from the park. It’s been pretty cheap entertainment too, for the small cost of some paper, paint and glue we’ve done a small stack of autumnal activities.

GoGlow Thomas & Friends Night-light Review

The small boy has always been a sound sleeper, he’d nod off with no problems until we went on holiday in September. Since then he’s been unable to sleep in the dark, this has made bedtimes quite stressful. We didn’t know why his bedtime behaviour has suddenly changed, so we’ve gone along with his fully illuminated at all times request.

We’d seen and heard good things about the GoGlow Thomas & Friends Night-light. It’s a torch and night-light which is bright enough to subtly light the room but not bright enough to dazzle.

GoGlow Thomas & Friends Night-light

The night-light is mains powered which charges the torch, you can lift off the torch and take it to bed with you, or explore the house. Small children are quite obsessed with torches, so this initially was the most fascinating feature. Once he’d got used to the torch and night-light he loved having Thomas & Friends watch over him at night.

The GoGlow Thomas & Friends Night-light is suitable for children aged 12 months and over and has an easy tap on and off function. It’s solidly made and looks able to withstand the rigours of being owned and used by a child, but with most things like this it’s wise to tuck the cabling away and make sure they can’t play with the plug socket and so fourth.

The night-light is lit at the front so Thomas is illuminated, there are a few star cut outs where the light shines more brightly out. It’s bright enough for us to creep into his room to check on him without putting any other lights on, but not bright enough to keep the whole house awake at night. It’s a good solution to the sleep in the dark problem, especially for a Thomas fan.

GoGlow Thomas & Friends Night-light

The GoGlow nightlight is available in a pretty large range of popular characters including Peppa Pig, Spider-Man, In The Night Garden and My Little Pony. We chose Thomas because he’s pretty obsessed with trains. The night-light costs around £20 (currently available from ASDA, Argos, Smyths Toys, Homebase etc) which I think is a good price considering it’s both a torch and a night-light and it’s fully Thomas & Friends branded. The full range is on the Worlds Apart website.

GoGlow have recently surveyed 1000 parents of children under the age of five, 67% of children were afraid of the dark, with their fears increasing when the clocks change in October and it goes darker earlier.

Seven out of ten parents make a special effort to walk around their child’s bedroom to prove there are no monsters hiding.  With three quarters of children getting out of bed to seek reassurance from their parents, the survey went on to find that children felt that night-lights were the most reassuring solution that helped stop scary shadows.

I know having a night-light has helped the small boy sleep better at night. We really do recommend GoGlow night-lights if your child is afraid of the dark. It really has made a big difference to our bedtime routine and he’s back to sleeping through again.

Note: We were sent the Thomas & Friends Night-light free of charge from Worlds Apart for review purposes. All imaged and opinions expressed are our own.

Diggin Active Thomas the Tank Engine GoGlow Light

My Sunday Photo 26/10/14

Silent sunday

Sexual Health & Education for Teenagers

When this story broke on Twitter I got involved in a bit of a Twitter debate about it. Schools in Brighton are offering their year 11 and 12 students (aged 15 and 16) chlamydia tests. Chlamydia is the most common STD in the UK, can easily be treated with antibiotics and if left untreated can cause serious long term reproductive health problems.

The testing in Brighton schools is part of The National Chlamydia Screening Programme which is offered to people under the age of 25.

There was some surprise on Twitter that 15 and 16 year olds were having sex, a few people got the wrong end of the stick and read that 11 and 12 year olds were being offered the tests, for that there was outrage. To clarify the report, 11 and 12 year olds are not being offered STD tests routinely in school. But maybe they should. Maybe.

A report by Marie Stopes International in 2003 showed that a quarter of 11 year olds knew someone their own age who was sexually active. As a parent this makes horrifying reading. I was 9 when I started my periods, it was a horrible time for me, my hormones were raging, I was physically sexually mature, but not emotionally mature enough to handle that kind of relationship. Thankfully I hung on to my virginity until I was 16, but it could’ve been a different story.

If in 2003 a quarter of the nations 11 year olds were having sex, that’s an issue that needs addressing on a number of fronts. Sex education for a start, you can talk some kids into waiting until they’re married, some into hanging on until they’re 16, but some will do what their hormones are telling them to do and do it anyway, so they need support. They need sex education, contraceptive advice, access to sexual health screening, someone to talk to, ideally an understanding and supportive parent or guardian. Supportive not of their desire to have underage sex, but someone who will listen and offer guidance without judging, shouting and making them run for the hills.

I absolutely do not condone being sexually active at a young age. Just because you’re physically ready, it doesn’t make you actually ready. But if teenagers are going to do it, then they should have access to the same sexual health support that is available for anyone else.

Of course if an 11 year old is displaying sexual behaviour, then there could be an issue elsewhere in their lives which needs official intervention. I don’t think we should be blindly nodding and saying it’s ok to be sexually active to young teenager, that’s where someone supportive comes in.

When I was 13 I met a boy I liked and I wanted to do the right thing, so I went to the sexual health clinic. I was lucky enough (though I didn’t know it at the time) to meet a nurse in the clinic, she was lovely and talked to me about why I wanted to have sex with him. She spent ages with me, giving me exactly the kind of sex education I needed at the time, she was brilliant. She sent me away with some condoms and lots to think about. I didn’t have sex with the boy, I waited three more years and those condoms ended up in the bin. But without her supportive, informative, caring intervention I would’ve been sexually active at 13.

I don’t believe that offering sexual health services to underage people sends the message that as a nation we approve of or condone their behaviour. Anyone who had ever visited a sexual health clinic will know that although mostly it’s not unpleasant, it’s not ever going to be the highlight of your week.

As a parent I can’t help but think how I will broach the subject with my son. Part of me is insistent that there is no way ever that boy is going to have sex, and then only to produce much adored grandchildren for me. But part of me knows that I’m going to have to have a number of open, honest and informative conversations with him when he gets older. He’s going to do it, because most people do eventually, but I want him to be safe, respectful, mature enough to deal with the repercussions and the emotions involved.

The issue of sexual health will always be an emotive one. We are all made differently. We don’t all wait until our wedding night, we don’t all have sex with someone of the opposite gender, we don’t all have one or two sexual partners in our entire lives, we don’t all do it with the lights off. We’re all different, with different things floating our different boats. And that’s how humans are.

Sex education is so incredibly important. I’m 38 and my sex education was poor, I think schools often provide quite patchy sex education, but it’s such a personal subject that parents have a responsibility to talk to their children about sex. Sex isn’t dirty, it isn’t taboo. It can only take one conversation, like the one I had with the sexual health nurse to change a path. Don’t be afraid, don’t be embarrassed. It’s time to have that conversation with our kids.

A Day Out with Thomas – East Lancashire Railway

On Sunday 5th October we took the small boy and his cousin to East Lancashire Railway for a day out with Thomas the Tank Engine and friends. We arrived bright and early in Bury, Greater Manchester, in time for the Fat Controller (or Sir Topham Hat if you like) to open up proceedings. The boys were a bit overwhelmed by their surroundings, so we took them for a fortifying hot chocolate and watched Thomas pull into the station and pick up his first load of passengers, much to their delighted amazement.

A Day Out with Thomas

Once the boys had settled we managed to grab some seats on James and have a ride up to Ramsbottom. Ramsbottom was a much smaller station than Bury and we’d heard that the troublesome trucks would be passing through, we didn’t have to wait long until Diesel pulled the trucks in, they were indeed troublesome. The boys enjoyed climbing in Diesel and having a good look at the trucks.

We had a quick picnic lunch and we heard that Percy would be coming in shortly to have a drink (see picture below), the boys were fascinated with this process and we talked about why steam engines needed lots of big drinks of water. Picnic over we clambered aboard Mavis and chugged back to Bury.

A Day Out with Thomas

In Bury we decided to get some (temporary) tattoos of Thomas to remind us of the day, then we joined the (long-ish) queue to catch a ride on Thomas. We queued for around half an hour but took turns to take the boys into the gift shop and buy them a reminder of their day out with Thomas, so it didn’t feel like a horribly long wait.

Thomas once again pulled into the station and we found somewhere to stand in the carriages, it was a short journey, but it was long enough for the boys to have a memory they can enjoy for a long time to come and they also got certificates to show they’d been on Thomas the Tank Engine. They were delighted.

We took one last steam train ride up through Ramsbottom to Rawtenstall and back. We finished off our picnic, watched the world go by and talked about our fabulous day out with Thomas.

A Day Out with Thomas

We bought a family ticket and it cost £44 which was we felt good value for a family day out, that’s just £11 per person and you can have as many train journeys as you want. They also have various Thomas themed free activities you can partake in on the day, including the temporary tattoos and free access to the Bury Transport Museum.

We would definitely have another day out with Thomas at East Lancashire Railway.

Note: We paid for our tickets ourselves.

How I Minimised My Cigarette Burn Scars

During the depths of my depression last year I self harmed, I’ve always found ways to hurt myself, but these were probably my first acts of visible violence against myself. I’m not proud of my actions, but I’m not ashamed of my scars either, they tell a story about me.

When you have a blog you can see what search terms people use to find it, most days someone somewhere taps “cigarette burn scars” into Google and lands up on my blog. Hi there if that’s you, welcome, you’re not alone, I’ve burnt and cut myself, the scars will never disappear, but they have faded. I suspect that’s what you want to know, I burnt myself and am I scarred forever. Yes, probably, sort of, read on.

It depends entirely on how you burnt yourself in the first place. I used to rest a lit fag on my arm until it bubbled up, I never ground it into my flesh, I guess if you’ve done that your scars will be worse.

My scars (pictured below) are about a year old now, I can still see them, I know what they are, I know what they represent. I have very mixed feelings about them. It’s worse for me in the summer when I’m wearing t-shirts and my scars are always on display, not that they’re that obvious now, they probably look a bit like blemishes. Winter and long sleeves are easier, the reminders of my depression and anxiety are less evident.

Cigarette burn scars

If you’ve burnt yourself with a cigarette then it can take up to two years for the scar to fade as much as it ever will. If you’ve just burnt yourself then it’s advisable to treat it immediately as you would with any burn, which is apply ice or run under cold water for at least 15 minutes. If it looks bad or infected then please see a Doctor.

Once you’ve burnt yourself there are a few things you can do to help the healing process, though what you use depends on your skin type, some products will work better than others for you. Vitamin E oils and capsules applied to the scar regularly can help reduce the scarring, Bio Oil can help too and Aloe Vera is renowned for its healing properties. If the scarring is bad then microdermabrasion could be an option, but you’ll probably have to pay for that yourself.

I doubt my scars will fade any more than they have done, so I need to learn to live with them, they’ll serve as a reminder to me of how far I’ve come. Your scars are your own, like me you might have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them, but they do tell the story of you, of your pain and how you’ve survived and continue to survive.

Note: I am not a doctor, this doesn’t constitute medical advice, this is just my experience of having and trying to minimise scarring from cigarette burns.

Marmalade on Toast? Personality Test

I’m frankly terrified of Facebook, I can’t log in without falling down a personality test quiz wormhole and losing three hours. It’s not the worst thing in the world, if I’m honest there’s a secret part of me which loves finding out which Greek God I should be, which character from Friends I am, or how evil I actually am (I’m not completely evil, rest easy).

So when I was sent this cute quiz from jam makers Duerr’s and Roberts Bakery I had to have a little go. It’s been devised to uncover our true personality type, devised with the help of (friend of this blog) Senior Psychology Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, Dr Sandi Mann, she and her team have identified 15 personality types. Apparently factors like the thickness of your bread and what jam you prefer can indicate what kind of person you are. Who knew?

We’ve previously established that I’m fairly evil (and Aphrodite and Chandler by the way) but what does my breakfast say about me? Apparently I’m a “protector” always looking after people and keeping an eye on things, that seems about right, I’m a busy Mum and forever battling to keep my boys out of trouble.

You can take the quiz here, what’s your personality type?

Personality test

Written in collaboration with Duerrs & Roberts Bakery.