Monday, 29 February 2016

The wake up call to the work/family life balance

After a busy start to the year with work, we decided to get away for a long weekend at Centre Parcs. Lots of happy memories (and the FitBit went came into its own) as our first get-away as a family of four. Our lodge was booked until Monday morning 10am, but we wanted to keep our eldest in his routine of his new nursery in an attempt to overcome his anxious transition, so we left late Sunday evening to return home. Having booked the Monday off work to do tip runs, and financial stuff that does not usually get a look in, I thought I'd do the nursery run and pick-up as I've not had the opportunity to do so since he started in January. And I'm pleased to say our eldest was delighted with this change to the usual journey, and it gave my wife the chance to have a lay-in (with our youngest).

We set off walking, and talked about what he could tell his teachers and friends about his weekend, and that we'd print some pictures off to stick in his activity book for show-and-tell later in the evening. Before we knew it we were at the gates being welcomed in. He took me into the building showing me where everything was, pictures of his friends and dragged me over to his teacher. To which he then clammed up and hid behind me, eventually coming round when I started talking about his weekend. We had a massive hug, and off he went to find his name on the table. And a morning and afternoon of tedious jobs awaited me.

The pick-up came around all to quick, so I darted across to the nursery walking past parents in parked cars, which as a novice seemed a little odd. But it was not until I got to the playground where I clearly stuck out like a saw thumb as a new-be, as there were groups of parents huddled round, that I realised why the others were in their car's. Thankfully I didn't have to stand around for long, before I was greeted by my son grinning from ear-to-ear, sprinting across the playground. The walk home was just as fun as that of the morning. I must admit it's something I'm envious of that my wife gets to do, and be involved with. Even when getting home and within a space of 30mins all emotions come pouring out due to tiredness. It was nice to be apart of this little world that typically I'm excluded from due to the hours I work midweek.

The moment came just before bedtime when I was hit with how much my eldest enjoyed the change to his routine, but not in a good way on my part:
My eldest: "Daddy, can you take me and pick me up tomorrow, please"
Me: "I'd love to, but I have to work tomorrow, so mummy will take you and pick you up"
My eldest: "Why do you have to work?"
Me: "To buy things like food, clothes and weekends away"
My eldest: "You work too much, and you don't have to go to work tomorrow, because they don't have anymore money".

Whilst his reasoning was funny, this is the first time my eldest has made any comment about the hours I work. I always try to make sure that in the evenings I give him my full attention, even when I've got other things on my mind.  I often bring work home with me, which when things are not running smoothly as part of the bedtime routine, I'm guilty (and I have to admit that I hate this), that in the back of my mind I'm thinking about being delayed in starting. I thought I had masked this from my eldest, but with the conversation from today he's clearly picking up on things quicker than I had given him credit for. So, I may not be able to do anything about the hours I work mid-week, but I'm determined to make sure that I get the work-life balance in order, so my sons don't feel they're second behind work, and the weekend away certainly helped as a starting point.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Cat got your tongue?

Odd saying isn't it 'Cat got your tongue?'. On the surface there's no malice in the statement. However, recently I've had to think about how words/sayings like this are understood by our eldest, and the impact they have on him. 

He's your typical three going on four year old; chatty, playful, imaginative, caring, helpful, funny, stroppy, wingy, and sometimes a little standoffish in some situations. In the last year and a bit he's had a lot to deal with, from the impending and eventual arrival of his little brother, to moving to the nursery that's attached to the school he'll attend later in the year. Plus all the development he's naturally going through as he transitions the terrible two's to becoming a threenager.

During his first six weeks at his new nursery we've been told that despite making friends, and being very chatty with them, that  as soon as he's approached by an adult he clams up. But it's clear he's wanting to talk/engage. This occurs during both group sessions and one-to-one interactions. Once we were told this my wife and I started analysing situations and identified patterns of this type of behaviour outside of the nursery environment. Was it something we'd done or not? Had we answered to much for him? Were we similar at his age? 

When in the day to day,  it's easy to pass this type of behaviour off as 'he's just shy' or 'he's doing it for attention'. However, when taking a step back to reflect, actually there are patterns which have emerged. When he's in the nursery environment I'm reliant on the information provided by the staff. I must admit it's heart breaking to think he's been locked in a state of silence for the best part of six weeks. When we talk to him about his day he's very positive about the children, adults and activities. So on the face of it everything is good, but it does explain some of the meltdowns when he's home. I can only describe it as a bottle of coke, slowly shaken through the day the pressure builds up, until it's opened and explodes everywhere. 

Now, don't get me wrong it could be a host of things from; having a hell of a lot of things to deal with, whether it's his way of getting adults down to his level, to developing and learning social behaviour, through to selective mutism of some degree. The nursery have been excellent. But I guess what I'm worried about is making sure I'm able to support him in the correct way. I'm dyslexic and also suffer colour-blindness. I know an excellent combination. But when I was younger, I remember my dad did not deal with it in the right way as far as I was concerned. Whether it being getting me to write out my spellings dozens of times over, and over again. Or getting frustrated, I ended up feeling anxious and not wanting to talk about my difficulties. I really don't want my son to feel this way. However, I have unfortuantly found myself demonstrating similar behaviour to that of my dad. Using phrases such as 'cat got your tongue' or pushing for him to acknowledge an adult when he's spoken to wont on reflection be helping him. And what I put it down to is a lack of understanding and education of the topic on my part.

So, whatever it turns out to be, once identified, how I approach it and help him become more confident, and less anxious is of the utmost importance. It's not just my son who has to learn to cope, I've got to put aside my previous learnt behaviours for his sake. Clearly different techniques and strategies will be required in making him comfortable in these situations. There's so much information now available on the internet compared to the 1980s, but I owe it to him to do my best for him in these difficult moments. 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Every Bit helps in getting Fit

In my quest to remove the moobs and side handles, other wise known as the 'Dad Bod' I've started running a couple of times a week, and taking more notice of what I eat and drink. I'm not the sort of person that spouts "my body is a temple" rubbish, but after son number two things needed to change. But lets face it, despite the dance of Brad Pitt, I'm certainly never going to look like him. 

For my recent birthday my family gave me a FitBit Surge so I could use it whilst on runs to monitor my performance, as one of my longterm goals is to eventually run a marathon. There, I said it. It's out in the public domain for eternity (well as long as this blog remains live, in any case). 

If your looking into this type of fitness technology, here are some key features you may want to check out:
  • GPS Tracking - See distance, pace and elevation climbed & review routes and split times

  • Long Battery Life
 - Lasts longer than competing trackers with a battery life of 7+ days

  • PurePulse™ Heart Rate
 - Get continuous, automatic, wrist-based heart rate and simplified heart rate zones

  • Notifications + Music
 - See call and text notifications on display and control songs from your mobile playlist

  • All-Day Activity
 - Track steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed and active minutes

  • Auto Sleep + Alarms - Monitor your sleep automatically and set a silent alarm 

  • Multi-Sport + Smart Track™ - 
Track runs, rides and other workouts with multi-sport modes or automatically record them with SmartTrack 

  • Wireless Syncing
 - Sync stats wirelessly and automatically to leading smartphones and computers
All of this hooks up to your own personal dashboard where you can monitor a host of activity, which includes; Steps taken, miles walked, heart rate, calories burned/consumed, floors climbed, and set goals and track general exercise. I'm only a few days in to it, but it looks like the sort of thing that you get out what you put in. You can also sync up to other people you know to create a sense of fitness togetherness. 

I think there's other uses for the FitBit in general life outside of fitness, and into the world of parenting, and here are some possible uses:
  • Every step helps - we've all been there during the day or even in the deepest, darkest, time of night. Pacing up and down the room/hallway/landing with the little one trying to get them back off to sleep. With the steps counter you'll know exactly how far you've walked, and the fewer steps you do each night you'll rest knowing they're getting easier to settle. So far my furthest recently is 1,500 steps. 
  • Not quite sleeping like a baby - you can monitor your sleep patterns automatically through being inactive for a period of time. So whether it's at night or you're grabbing 40 deep winks when the little ones are you can see not only how much sleep you're not having, but also the quality as it monitors the number of times you are woken or disturbed. 
  • Count to 56 BPM - During the sleep mode cycle your heart rate is monitored to record its resting BPM. So when your buttons are being pushed, and you can feel yourself getting hot under the collar simply check the watch for your BPM to calm down. I must admit I don't know if there's an alarm if the BPM get's too high. If not there should be. 
  • Up and down, down and up and back down - you've woken up and gone downstairs to put the bottle on and make a cuppa. You've gone back upstairs to feed the baby and give your partner their cuppa. You've then gone back downstairs to get the biscuits, and then back upstairs. You get the idea. So far today I've been up and down x14. I'd never really counted before, so the learning I'm taking form this is that I need to stop for a few moments to think if I've got everything etc before I go up/down. But now son number one is old enough, I can send him on a mission. Which will inevitably result in me going to help. 
This is not an exhaustive list, as I'm only just starting with it, so if you have any ideas, please feel free to add them as a comment. 

In all seriousness though since starting out on getting fit again I've certainly noticed a change not only  physically, but also in my energy levels, better moods, stress and sleeping patterns. All for the better both for myself and the family, and things like this watch may be a gimmick, but I'm going to use it to continue to change my lifestyle to a more healthier one. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Our 4 stage journey to bottle feed joy

Although there's only three years between our two sons, apparently the world of bottle preparation has evolved with new advice/guidelines. As any parent knows when it comes to feed time, particularly involving bottles there's the potential for hell to be unleashed. The time I'm sure we all dread most is the middle of the night feed. We're fuzzy headed with limited sleep, trying not to wake the other children or if you care enough, the neighbours. So any short cuts that keep the screaming down the better. 

With our first son, once we decided to bottle feed we followed everything to the letter, but it was clear everyone was getting stressed out. In our bottle feeding journey it took four stages before we found what worked best for us:

Stage one - You may think I've left the house, it's taking that long:
I call it this, because that's what it felt like. We'd set our alarm before the two hour mark. That's right we would wake the sleeping beast every two hours (from when the last feed started), as this is what the Health Visitor told us to do. I'd trudge downstairs, blind myself with the kitchen light and boil the kettle, and then wait whilst it cooled in a jug. This took about 20 mins at best. But if our son woke up during this time I think everyone within a 2 mile radius knew about it. Or certainly the old couple down the road would let us know about it. 

Stage two - Chill out:
I'd still trudge down the stairs, but had read somewhere it was possible to store cooled boiled water in the fridge. So that's what we did. We would then spend 10 minutes warming it back up. So revers of phase one, taking half the time, and if I'm honest not much better with keeping the shrill cries to a minimum from upstairs.

Stage three - Lock and load:
It suddenly dawned on us that when we were out and about we'd use cooled boiled water that was good for a few hours. So it was logical that would work at night as well. So we tried it. Powder already measured out, straight into the bottle all before my son's would start making those squeaky noises. Plus we found he was drinking more of it because it was not all 'nice and warm', which meant he slept longer. He was happy, we were happy, and the old couple down the road, well, are never bloody happy.

So, with the impending arrival of son number two, three years later I thought we'd be doing 'Phase three - Lock and load'. How wrong was I. Apparently in that short time, the advice had changed. So my wife not wanting to go back two phases purchased the Tommee Tippee Back to Nature Perfect Prep machine. I was skeptical to say the least. After all it has a filter that could run out any time, it's yet another machine on the kitchen worktop along with the steriliser, it beeps, and above all, phase three worked fine as our first son survived it.  

Stage four - Push of a button:
That said four months on I have changed my mind, because although making the bottle takes around two minutes the whole bottle preparation process is a lot quicker. We're not having to boil the kettle and cool them before using. We simply set the dial to the required amount, place the bottle on the stand and push the button. It puts a shot of hot water in the bottle, you have two minutes to put the formula in before you get a warning beep, give it a quick swill around and put back on the stand and press the button again. Job done. We still measure out the formula as per phase three, take up a couple of bottles with the machine and put it in the corner of the bedroom ready for when he starts stirring naturally. None of that poking the sleeping bear rubbish. The only thing is the filter, I drove round one lunch time trying to find a replacement as the warning light came on. Boots, Toys R Us nor Tesco stocked it. However, I found it on Amazon, with the added bonus of pre ordering automatically. 

So, would I recommend it. You know what, I would. Whether it's for your first, second or fourth child. It's as close to instant as you're likely to get, hassle free with little up-keep required and importantly safe for your little one(s).