Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Brush with Meningitis

When Destructo-Girl was 5 weeks old, she had a slight fever. Just a little over 38C and if she’d been over 2 months old I’d have just given her a bit of Calpol. But she wasn’t, and I didn’t like to break the rules with a teeny baby so I phoned the out of hours GP service.

They asked if there looked like there was any reason for the fever, for which I said no, there wasn’t. How long? About four or five hours (I wasn’t even sure if I was wasting their time at this point because the high temperature was low really…) They said to come in so they could look at her, but with no obvious sign there was probably nothing they could do.

I misunderstood that, I thought they meant that she was fine and we’d be sent home again. But, no, we were sent off to A&E with a letter to get us seen by the paediatricians straight away. I was still thinking that it was just so a specialist could prescribe Calpol!

Fortunately, I have lovely in-laws so not only was my mother-in-law at our house with a sleeping MG, but father-in-law was driving me, DH and baby DG around (it was a Friday night and not only could I not drive but DH had drunk a pint or two after work so was over the limit.)

We were seen immediately and they took her temperature, kept pressing on her skin, tried to get a urine sample to test for infection (5 week olds don’t wee on demand!), and even as they were taking a lumber puncture (a needle in the spine of my teeny 5 week old :cry:) I still thought we were going to be sent home…

It was at the point where we were taken to a ward in the Children’s Hospital that I asked “Is she being admitted?” It all seemed to happen so quickly that I was being dense, I didn’t even twig when they kept putting pressure on her skin to check for the rash. It was about 1am at this point and DH was told to go home with FIL while I stayed with DG. At some point the word meningitis was mentioned, but I didn’t even realise it was serious until I looked it up.

We were lucky. DG had a type of viral meningitis. In fact, she didn’t need any of the antibiotics or antivirals that she was pumped with for 5 days; or to be used as a pin-cushion as her tiny veins failed on five ocassions and it took an hour of trying and re-trying each time to get a new canula in. On the fourth attempt I couldn’t bear to watch any more, but as I sat in the ward I could still hear the screams so I had to go to her and hold her again. I shouldn’t have left her at all 😦

A break between drugs. My teeny pin-cushion (canula had been on arms then feet...)

But I cannot regret a moment of how she was treated because until the detailed results of the lumbar puncture came back (which is what took 5 days) the type of meningitis was unknown and if it had been bacterial and untreated she could have had severe brain damage or died.

We were lucky. DG probably would have been fine even if we hadn’t gone to the doctor, although she did need something to take the fever down. But I learnt something that new parents don’t seem to be told. Newborn babies (under 8-12 weeks) should never have a fever. If they do, take them straight to a GP.

For decent advice about meningitis, go to the Meningitis Trust website. My family’s brush with meningitis was fortunately minor but that isn’t always the case and I now tell all of my new-parent-to-be friends to be alert for fever in newborns. Destructo-Girl had no other symptoms, but she still had meningitis. Please pass the word to all parents of newborns you know too. Thank-you.

Fiction Fridays #12: The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

FF#12
The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man: Michael Chabon & Jake Parker (2011)

Hi! I’m a superhero. My name is Awesome Man.

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The first part of this book that I fell in love with was the art. It is so reminiscent of old comics, down to the ‘dotty’ print look (it probably has a proper name, I’m a lay fan of comics rather than an aficionado…) It took me a second reading to get the “voice” right and appreciate the awesomeness of the story too.

This is a book probably aimed at boys, but I don’t believe in gender stereotypes and my girls like superheroes too. But I can see it really working for boys especially because much as my girls do climb trees, and run everywhere, and play-fight constantly; I have seen a difference with friends who have boys in that we can stay indoors all day in bad weather without things deteriorating too badly for lack of outside space, for instance…

With my “parent” hat on, something I love in this book is: Awesome Man gets mad, but he knows he can’t go hitting things because he’s super strong and people will get hurt so he takes some time out to calm down, realises that he’s running low on energy and needs a snack. This is a fantastic message for children who don’t know how to deal with their strong emotions all the time.

With my comicbookfan hat on: Jake Parker’s images are spot-on and there are plenty of gorgeous double-page spreads to drool over. I want to hear more about the bad guys: Professor Von Evil, The Flaming Eyeball, Sister Sinister and The Red Shark – how cool do they sound?!

With my child hat on: Can you spot awesome man’s secret identity? Giant killer robots! Mutant talking jelly! Also, he says “pooped”!

This is a book for older-younger children, and up. It has a suggested age range of 4-8 which sounds reasonable, although I don’t see why over-eights can’t enjoy it too! It’s a fantastic book for any mini superheroes in the making, boy or girl, and a good one for comic book loving mums or dads to read to their children. I hope there will be more stories about Awesome Man in the future, I want to know more about those bad guys for a start…

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by HarperCollins for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Favourite Author/Illustrator: Pat Hutchins

I’ve only just realised that DG likes books by Pat Hutchins, mainly because I didn’t realise that all the books were by her! We have four of her books and I’m often asked to read them over (and over) again…

Titch
This is one of the books I remember from my childhood and bought for DG because she is a Titch 🙂 I am the youngest of five children so I liked this book when I was younger because I could relate. It’s true for poor DG too – MG has the bigger bike, the more complex toys and is told all the time “You’re too small for that”; “Wait until you’re bigger”. She is on the small side and we may have babied her a touch. But she lets us know that she’s having none of it anymore, and I think this book appeals to her because she can relate to Titch. There are several other Titch books, and apparently there was a TV show too which I’ve never seen and am now wondering if it’s worth looking for!

Rosie’s Walk
We have the mini book version of this and I must invest in a full size copy at some point in order to see the artwork more. This is possibly the most well known of Pat Hutchins’ books. This is a book where the pictures are the biggest part of the story (another reason it needs a bigger version :lol:) as the text tells a very simple tale, but the pictures tell far more. There is a lot of humour in this story so it appeals to DG and she likes to point out what’s happening to the poor fox while Rosie the hen takes her walk round the farm.

One-eyed Jake
This is another charity shop find and it called to my subconcious because I’m sure I must have read it as a child but can’t quite remember. DG seems to love stories of pirates so this one gets requested often “Pirates!” This is a more complex story probably aimed at older children (older than 2.5 that is) about a mean old pirate. The pictures are packed with lots of detail which is what I think appeals most to DG. That and the fact it’s pirates! What is it with small children and pirates?!

We’re Going On A Picnic
This is the most recent addition to our Pat Hutchins collection, and the point when I realised we had four of them! This is another tale where the pictures tell more of the story. Hen, Duck and Goose are searching for the perfect place for a picnic – but what are Mouse, Squirrel and Rabbit up to, and where has all the picnic food gone? This has some wonderful repetition (“Hen picked some berries (because Hen liked berries best)…” which is great for toddlers and there is the story to be noticed in the pictures and discussion wondering what will happen at the end of the story. I think this one is my favourite, it’s a lovely one to read aloud because of the repetition and the pictures are wonderful.

Since writing this post (and not actually posting it…), I bought Don’t Forget The Bacon, which I found on searching for Pat Hutchins online and remembering it from my childhood. It’s my Fiction Fridays choice for week 11, but any of these books could have been chosen.

Fiction Fridays #11: Don’t Forget The Bacon!

FF#11
Don’t Forget The Bacon!: Pat Hutchins (1976)

“Six farm eggs, a cake for tea, a pound of pears, and don’t forget the bacon.”

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Whilst writing the post on Pat Hutchins, I searched online and was reminded of this book which I read when I was a child. So I just had to get it, especially as DG was showing a liking for her books in the first place…

The story starts with a mother sending her child to buy simple shopping list, which gets convoluted on the walk to the shops by the child as he gets distracted by things he sees on the way – “Six farm eggs” becomes “Six fat legs” becomes “Six clothes pegs” for example. The text is basically the list repeated and changed, so lots of repetition for easy remembering. The pictures really tell the story of how the boy is distracted trying to remember the list.

I remember finding the subsitutions funny when I was younger, and love getting to share this book with my daughters 🙂

Vote Douglas! (Or not…)

It’s the final week of voting for the Red House Children’s Book Awards and one of my favourite author/illustrators, David Melling, is up for the younger children’s award. What sort of a rabid fan would I be without trying to influence your (child’s) vote? 😆

Don’t Worry Douglas (Hodder, 2011) is a gentle tale of the very huggable bear who makes a mistake and is scared to tell his dad. Of course it all ends well when he does tell the truth. A lovely story to read to young children to show that parents understand accidents and will love them just the same. This is a sequel to Hugless Douglas (2010); there’s a third in the series out this year (Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep); and Mr Melling is working on a fourth one – hurray! 🙂

I have a soft spot for Douglas for several reasons:

1) My father-in-law and my youngest nephew both have Douglas as one of their first names!

2) There is a double page spread at the end of each of these books of ‘hugs’ and ‘hats’ which is like seeing into an artist’s ideas book.

3) I took Mighty Girl to a ‘How to Draw a Hug’ event at Mostly Books bookshop in 2010 and I was so proud of how my only-just-three year old concentrated so hard and really enjoyed the drawing tutorial (and I was star-struck and didn’t say much but all (two of, outside Twitter) the children’s writers and illustrators I’ve met have been lovely and very approachable, they’re a fantastic bunch!)

4) Who couldn’t love this bear:
(Picture credit: Mostly Books)

I haven’t read any of the other books in the Younger Children shortlist but Mick Inkpen is always worth a look; we’ve enjoyed One Smart Fish by Chris Wormell and like his art; and I really love the front cover of Peely Wally and definitely want to read it to my girls at some point. You can vote for your favourite at the Red House Children’s Book Award website. Last day to vote is Friday 20th January.
There are also Younger Readers and Older Readers categories but they’re not applicable to my daughters yet and we’ve not read any of the entries so I’ll not be writing about them but if you have the right aged children, they might like to vote on their favourite.

Fiction Fridays #10: The Tough Princess

FF#10
The Tough Princess: Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson (1986)

Once upon a time there lived a King and a Queen who weren’t very good at it.

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I found this book in a charity shop and fell in love with it instantly after a quick flick through. It’s an alternate fairytale by the team who created Owl Babies. Princess Rosamund is not what her parents expected. She’s a girl for a start. She also absolutely refuses to follow fairytale conventions, have a spell cast on her and be rescued by a prince. Off she goes to slay dragons and rescue princes, but none of them are good enough until… Well, you’ll just have to read the book!

I’m quite happy to read this to my two young daughters, but some people might prefer to leave it for older primary aged children – there is a lot of biffing and bashing, but sensible children (and most of them are) will understand this is a story. I think it’s fantastic, and is just the kind of fairytale I want my girls to have: “I’m not going to marry a ninny!” says Rosamund. Good for her.

I also have an extra soft spot for this book because Destructo-Girl’s real name is Rosamund, and it’s always nice to read a book with your name in it – although apparently not at two and a half: “Not Rosamund!” 😆

#3Books

Emily from A Mummy Too has set somewhat of an impossible challenge – choose three books you love most: one from childhood, one from adulthood, one as a parent.

Childhood
I stumble at the first hurdle: which part of childhood? How do you define “childhood”? I was reading adult novels as a pre-teen, but was a child until my twenties in other ways (not that I’ve ever truly grown up). In a quick burst of conciousness I could include: picture books listed here (and more besides); A Child’s Garden of Verses; The Hobbit; A Wizard of Earthsea; The Hounds of the Morrigan; The Wind on the Moon; The Ordinary Princess; Narnia; Enid Blyton; The Starlight Barking; Wolves of Willoughby Chase; The Snow Kitten; Asimov; Douglas Adams; Harry Harrison… and I’ve missed out so many.

I’m going to chose Dragons’s Blood (trilogy) by Jane Yolen. I borrowed it from the library when I was around 10 and it always stuck with me, to the extent I managed to track the trilogy down again to re-read in my early 20’s even though I couldn’t remember the author at the time. It’s set in a world where dragons exist and are bred for fighting, where there are two classes of people: free and bonded and it tells the story of how a bonded boy manages to raise his own dragon in secrecy. It’s a fully realised world containing politics, emotions and characters that stay with you forever. Now I’ve written this, I want to re-read them again (and get the fourth book which I’ve never read…)

Adulthood
Here I have the opposite problem to childhood: I read a lot of so-called children’s novels and then there’s my soft spot for vampire ‘young adult’ fiction 😆 I used to read at least one or two books a week but sadly those days seem long gone, maybe one day I’ll get back into reading as much as I used to…

My favourite authors for the bulk of my adulthood have been Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Other authors who have wowed me include Iain (M) Banks; Philip Pullman; Garth Nix… Far too many others, including non- SF/fantasy/horror books if you were wondering…

I’m going to chose Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A book by both my favourite authors, well it’s a no-brainer. It’s funny, intelligent, and… Oh, it’s just brilliant.

Parenthood
I’m avoiding choosing a children’s / picture book as I really can’t choose just one and I get to talk about those lots on this blog anyhow.

I’m going to choose How Children Learn by John Holt. It’s a very readable book based around a series of memos Holt wrote whilst he was working as a teacher. It not only gives a view on how education should (or shouldn’t) be but also lots to think about in how to parent too. John Holt obviously loved and respected children and is essential reading if you have anything to do with children in my opinion.

That was hard! Thank-you, A Mummy Too, I really enjoyed thinking about what to choose.

#3Books

Introversion

I am extremely introverted.

I’m also shy and socially anxious, but that’s a separate issue. It’s possible to be extroverted and shy; or introverted and a social hub. Introversion is about drawing energy from yourself, rather than from others.

In population terms 75% of the world’s population are extroverted and 25% are introverted. This means that pretty much everything is designed with extroversion in mind. This is probably one of the reasons I have a non-mainstream view of education: everyone is different, one size does not fit all, personality types are important.

Being extremely introverted, one of the things I need most of all is to be able to recharge after social contact. Any social contact. This makes being a parent of small children very hard. Sometimes I have a deep almost-physical need to be entirely alone. Sleeping doesn’t count. Small children have a deep almost-physical need to climb all over their parents and be hugged and near someone 24/7.

I love my children. I adore my children. I think they are amazing and interesting people. But I need that time. Alone. Away from all people. Just me, myself and I alone (actually that’s a bit crowded too…) Shut up with a book or computer. Just time to recharge, draw my internal energy and be able to get on with life again.

What personality type are you? There are online tests (google for Myers-Briggs), and the result might be surprising. Be kind to yourself, if you need that time to recharge, try to take it.

Fiction Fridays #9: The Bear with Sticky Paws

FF#9
The Bear with Sticky Paws: Clara Vulliamy (2007)

There’s a girl called Pearl and she’s being very grumpy, stamping her little feet and slamming the door.

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For a lover of picture books, I can’t believe we hadn’t read any books by Clara Vulliamy before now. This has now been rectified and The Bear with Sticky Paws is a big hit in this household, especially with DG. With two daughters, I can definitely relate to having a grumpy girl (I’m sure it applies to sons just as much but I don’t have that experience) and I think for DG the story is really resonating with her burdgeoning independence so it’s a “read dat!” choice over and over (it’s not midday and I think I’ve read it six times today – toddlers :lol:)


I adore the art, my mummy heart is completely touched with Pearl’s grumpy face and I love that it ends with a hug and a kiss (especially as I get one from DG as we read that bit 🙂 ) DG loves the repetition: And – oh No! and MG likes counting all the different things that the bear eats (proving to me that there were not, in fact, too many ice creams to count :lol:)

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone with toddlers, anyone with daughters (or sons!), anyone who has been a daughter, anyone who likes cute bears, anyone who loves picture books..

Making Paint

Both MG and DG love painting. I’m not a huge fan of clearing up the mess, and it’s never really possible for them to fully clean the mess on their own, especially as it usually descends into an emergency bath moment…

Today while MG was at school I realised that I had a perfect activity for DG (now 2 years 7 months). I’d been letting the readymix paint get used up in order to replace the bottles with mixed powder paint that I’d bought “to save money” and we now had 5 empty bottles to fill. This is an excellent activity, and if properly planned (which of course I didn’t!) covers spooning, measuring, counting, pouring, funnelling, shaking – lots of motor skills for small children plus maths and science activities for older children. In Chez Chaos, what you usually end up with is mess!

In theory the process involves:

  • Unscrewing lid of powder paint jar (depending on age of child – I did this with DG because of the mess aspect)
  • Spooning powder into measuring cup (pouring from the powder jar was far too messy)
  • Pouring powder from measuring cup into funnel
  • Shaking or stirring to get powder from funnel into paint bottle
  • Counting number of measuring cups of powder required (our instructions said 2 parts powder to 1 part water but 3 parts powder to 1 part water made a better thickness for our use – with older children experimenting with consistancies would be great fun)
  • Measuring water and pouring into funnel
  • Screwing top onto paint bottle and shaking to mix the paint
  • Admire your work 🙂

Did I mention the mess? Whilst I was taking a picture of DG spooning, she accidentally knocked the bottle and funnel over (we should have got the powder in the bottle before measuring the next cupful) and the powder went everywhere…

An emergency bath was in order, but DG loves baths so was quite happy with that.

I’m linking this up with Montessori Monday – Yes, it’s Thursday but we’re chaotic 😆
Montessori Monday