Archive for May 2015

When you become a mother for the first time it is really quite amazing the changes you have to make to accommodate the little bundle of joy, who is tiny but requires the same amount of luggage as a Hollywood Diva.   The one thing I noticed that was affected by having a baby was the type of handbag that was most practical to use when being responsible for prams, car seats, changing bags and bags with toys in them.

Before I met my husband I was very much a bum bag type of person, which made look pretty nerdy and far to practical for my own good.  In the time between meeting my husband and having my son I had started to use proper girly handbags and filled them up with essential items that I thought I may need but in reality never used.  A few days into my new role as, Mummy’, I soon discovered that a handbag you held in your hands was completely impractical, partly because you need all of your hands to do the job and also I just kept forgetting to pick it up when we went anywhere.  Another thing was that I never managed to brush my hair or put any make up on so a traditional handbag was pretty redundant.

I forgot about a bum bag being a fantastic alternative (baby brain) and went in pursuit of the perfect bag for me.  Initially I just stuffed my few essential items like a phone or purse in the baby changing bag because that was easiest.  My baby changing bag was not as glamorous as some you can buy but it did the job.  We used to joke that a large laptop bag would be perfectly adequate for carrying baby things.  I tried a smallish cross over bag, which carried hardly anything but was useful  and I rarely forgot it.  After that I settled upon a leather back pack, which did the job and carried almost everything I needed.

Now my son is 6 years old and can carry toys and blankets in his own bag I use a very simple flight bag with just my phone, purse and camera in it.


I have never really gone back to using girly handbags simply because I dislike carrying too many possessions around.  A small bag is liberating and like a medal saying, ‘Congratulations you have survived the baby stage – now get your life back!’


I really truly thought that I had managed to bring up a child who like the simple pleasures of sticks, stones and mud as opposed to wanting to blow copious amounts of cash going to places where he will end up finding sticks, stones and mud to play with.  Alas I have been virtually unsuccessful in this attempt – I give my son pocket money so he can have a bit of financial freedom.  My crafty boy hides his cash and still expects me to pay because he wants to save his money and it is not fair that I expect him to spend his.  One thing I have discovered is that if you don’t expose children to places that are screaming out for cash they are no longer distracted by the need to spend and they settle to play with what they have around them.  Bearing this in mind I have thought of five activities that won’t cost you a penny – unless you buy sweets and ice cream of course.

Make A Mud Kitchen

Creative Digital Camera

This is definitely not for the feint hearted and those who cannot abide dirt but it will keep them entertained for hours.  Choose a corner of the garden where there is mud that is easy to access, bring out the pots and pans, add water and let your child have fun.  Put old clothes on them and it won’t matter how dirty they get.  I remember spending the whole summer holidays playing in the coal bunker – I got so filthy and looked as if I had been down a mine but I can’t remember the paid activities I did that year.

Make Natural Sculptures


I always mention this one and talk about Andy Goldsworthy as an example.  Basically all it involves is collecting any bits of nature or rubbish (as long as it is safe) lying around and making a picture out of it.  We live right by an estuary and there is often loads of treasure lying around for us to use; drift wood, plastic bottles, old shoes, bits of plastic, straw and stones.  You will be surprised at how creative your child an be and how explaining what they have made can improve their language and imagination skills.

Visit The Local Playground

allithwaite playground

This activity does sometimes coincide with a visit to the sweetshop but often allows you to relax and chat to other parents while your child is completely occupied by other children in the playground.  Visiting a playground regularly means that you don’t have worry about having playground equipment in the garden at home.  In my experience children tend to look for the mud and stones in every playground they go in so don’t put them in their best togs – it will only drive you mad.

Make A Picnic And Go To The Beach


If anything was invented for children to run free and parents to relax a little – it was the beach.  make sure you set ground rules like; don’t go into the sea without supervision, stay within sight, Keep off the road and by no account go home with anyone else you should be able to let your little monsters run free.  You will find yourself making sandcastles and digging moats, so cast off your inhibitions and dig down and get sandy.

Go Round To Grandma’s 

If Grandma lives too far away go and visit friends and relatives instead. Grand parents are generally so excited to see their grand children that they will quite happily entertain them for the whole afternoon – giving you the chance to relax with a cup of coffee, home made cake and a bit of peace and quiet.

These are very simple suggestions but they are surprisingly very time consuming and once you ignite your child’s imagination they develop momentum and can enjoy playing for hours and hours.  Whatever you do – enjoy them while they are young! As for my son being very money minded he informed me yesterday that money was not important,  life was and he knew that just because he knew.


The year seems to go so very quickly and it seems that once we have settled back into a routine after one set of school holidays we are preparing for another.  It is the final half term before the big summer holidays and quite frankly my son is ready for a break from the school system.  My son has a decidedly laid back approach to writing, which I am sure will be an issue at parent’s evening tonight, it is not that he hasn’t got the ability or the content – he just wants to be able to take longer than the restricted time allocated to writing.  As a writer myself I can see where he is coming because deciding what to write about and making sure that it is something that is worth reading can often involve a lot of thinking, correcting and changing the title until it sounds just right.  The pressure to write has increased in intensity as the year has gone on and my son has revolted against it by writing coded letters to the fairies requesting that the teachers are turned into bubbles and blown away so he doesn’t have to write any more.

Before he went to school, my son told stories all of the time and tales of Mr Spider and Pimpa Pimpa were shared between him and his granddad.  He enjoys every other aspect of school and is very capable at maths, reading, comprehension, listening and speaking and spelling but writing is his bugbear.  The last parents evening I attended involved a lot of discussion about SATs and I felt a wave of stress come over me, until I remembered that he was only in year one and he wasn’t going to do SATs until next year and the big ones for another five years.  It is such a great shame that even in a school that values play the pressure to teach to the test always wins out in the end. This is most definitely related to the impact low SATs results has on a school’s OFSTED grading, the ironic part of all this is that secondary schools only use Key Stage SATs results as a weak guide to the groups they should be in.

It really makes you wonder why the Government has harped on about the importance of play in the early years only to begin hot housing them when they start school.  The pressure to compete with other countries has meant that passing tests and ticking boxes has become the sole purpose of teaching and learning.  When you read articles about how play can incorporate all aspects of learning such as this one by Playdale Playgrounds celebrating the learning potential of sand and water.  I am afraid that this need to test all of the time is going to take away the excitement of learning and gradually switch children off.

I guess I am just going to have to start installing an enthusiasm for writing in my son and hopefully this will be just a phase he is going through.


It never ceases to amaze me how acronyms can shrink major things into a small simple word.  Often we forget what the letters stand for and only know what they mean.  MLD is tiny little acronym, that I have become very familiar with over the past few months, in fact I had never heard of it before.  Now I know that it stands for metachromatic leukodystrophy and its effects are far from tiny.

In a nutshell MLD is a genetic disease where the sufferer lacks an enzyme, that is also known as (ARSA), which breaks down the build up of sulfatides in the central nervous system.  The build up of sulfatides results in damage to white brain matter and the destruction of the myelin sheath, preventing the brain from communicating with the rest of the body. The disease progresses like a thief in the night, stealing away movement, speech, sight, hearing and eventually leading to total paralysis and premature death.

There you have it – the scientific explanation of MLD, but what does it mean if your child is diagnosed with this rare condition? I should imagine that it is a little bit like being stomped on by a herd of wooly mammoths, then feeling like a petrified rabbit staring at a huge articulated lorry coming towards you – and that is just the start.  Parents whose children are diagnosed with MLD are caught in a whirl wind of shock and disbelief and are so busy trying to come to terms with the disease and the emotional turmoil that by the time they feel ready to talk about it, their child has already been taken away from them and all they feel is shock and grief. By using all of the empathy I possess – I could never truly understand what it is like to watch your child disappear before your eyes.

I am not exactly sure if the disease progresses at the same rate for everyone who suffers it, but from what I have witnessed it doesn’t mess about and can paralyze a child in less than a year, after they show the initial symptoms of the disease.   Diagnosing the disease early is difficult because the sufferer tends to develop behavior traits that are similar to ADHD and their naughtiness causes health professionals to look in the wrong direction to find out what is wrong with them.  Children are not routinely tested for MLD so early diagnosis tends to only occur if a sibling has already been affected.

Remember the science lessons where you learned about genetics in terms of eye colour and peas with a funny mark on it?  Well getting MLD is exactly the same as that – it is determined by two parents carrying the faulty gene and literally throwing the wrong dice.  If the odds are against you – your child will get MLD but if you have a lucky strike then your child may just be a carrier.  There is nothing that parents can do at the moment to check if they are at risk of having a child who will inherit MLD.  Support in the UK is very small and the profile of MLD needs to be raised and government agencies pestered so that something can be done about it.

If your child is diagnosed before the onset of the disease there is the possibility of gene therapy, which is quite experimental but fingers crossed it does the trick.  However this ground breaking treatment is not available on the NHS and costs a packet – far more than any family can afford.  The only way we can raise funds for this type of treatment is by raising awareness of MLD, this is a job that cannot be left to parents of children with MLD because they are too busy dealing with the disease and spending as much time with their children that they can.

If you have been affected by MLD and are interested in helping to raise its profile please feel free to leave a comment or visit these site dedicated to MLD.

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May 2015

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