Sunday, October 14, 2012

Our 'Gallery' - Pics

I'm aware that this blog has never had so much as a single picture on it.  This is because I am not allowed to post pictures of the boys on the internet in order to preserve their anonymity.

So, I thought I'd liven the place up with a few shots of the boys' "art"!

This mixed media work is entitled "Out From The Crowd" and is by NB.  Notice how all the fish line up obediently except for the one pink sparkly fish above the others?  A moving comment on 21st century childhood I think :)

This is OB's work on the same theme.  We call it "Maelstrom"!

This final piece in today's gallery is by NB and is, as yet, untitled.  We would welcome your suggestions!

The Baby Whisperer and I

I have only bought one book on toilet training.  I bought it because it was the shortest and the cheapest - possibly not the best way to make these decisions, but there you go!

I have also read quite a few blogs and articles online and I've discovered a common theme.  Most of these writers (The Baby Whisperer included) not only believe that they have discovered a great way to toilet train toddlers, but believe that they have discovered the ONLY WAY.

I'll admit that I quite like The Baby Whisperer's basic premise: that toilet training is just another milestone that you can work towards with your child, just like sitting, walking and talking.  If you start preparing your child early enough (she suggests at around 9 months) it should be more of a natural transition that happens when a child is ready, rather than a massive hurdle to be overcome.

I say I like the premise.  I'm less certain about how well I'd like the practice!  Not sure if I've really got the time, patience or, and let's be honest here, diligence, to take a 9-month-old to the toilet several times a day in preparation for a far distant event.

Anyway, it doesn't matter, because both of mine are well past that magic age.  So, while storing up the 9-month-old idea for any future children, I have to work out what to do with mine now that I have missed that starting point.  I needn't worry though, because The Baby Whisperer is there to reassure me that "even at this age, your child will learn to use the toilet."  Even at this age?  I didn't actually have any doubt that both the boys would eventually be able to use the toilet, but now I'm worried that they're at a near-impossible age!

Anyway, her method is pretty simple.  Prepare the child in advance by changing nappies frequently so they get used to feeling dry, a special trip to buy underpants or knickers, and teaching them the words they will need, e.g. poo, wee wee, toilet.  I also taught 'wet' and 'dry' with demonstrations.  She doesn't recommend using a potty, but with our household going upstairs to the toilet so frequently really would be a major upheaval in our day, so potty it is, with toilet training seat after naps and in the mornings.

Then you start paying taking note of they fill their nappies.  Apparently, if you've been paying attention to your child all along, you'll already know their nappy-filling behaviours.  Big fail there then!

And then one morning, you get them up, put them on the toilet, and then put them in underwear instead of a nappy.

That was a terrifying day!  For me, not for him!

At this stage, the adult takes responsibility for ensuring that the child is taken to the toilet regularly.  She suggests around 40 minutes after eating/drinking, and straight after waking.  I also take him at 'junctions' (as we're going out, when we arrive somewhere, etc.).  Wait on the toilet no longer than a few minutes to see if something happens, and if it does (and the child responds to rewards) give rewards.  If there is an accident, get the child to co-operate in removing their own clothes and helping to clean up - taking responsibility is all part of growing up.

Well, we started about a week ago, and it was horrendous!  There was crying, tantrums and lots and lots of clothes changes.  There were several occasions when a clearly desperate boy sat on the potty for several minutes and then wet himself immediately upon being allowed off.  I'm not saying we had no successes, but it was hit and miss enough that I sent him to Playgroup in pull-ups (a big no-no!) because I was certain of not one but many accidents.

But then I introduced a new factor - CHOCOLATE!

If I'm honest, giving food as a reward goes against a dearly-held principle of mine.  I have enough food-related issues of my own without passing them on to the kids I care for, but it became clear after a few days that the stickers (shiny and star-shaped though they were) just weren't cutting it in terms of motivational reward.  He liked them, but he didn't like them enough.

So, two days ago I went out and bought 16 mini Kinder bars.  They are tiny, with 5 minuscule chocolate pieces on each bar - one piece per potty success, so probably about one bar per day, I reckon.  I tempted him with them yesterday and we suddenly had willingness . . . nay eagerness! . . . to use the potty.  We did have a couple of accidents, but last night he voluntarily went to the potty twice to do a poo!  It is currently 2.45pm, he is sleeping, and he has been dry all day!

When the bars are finished, the chocolate reward will be finished.  I'm hoping that by then he won't need that sort of motivation, or perhaps we'll change to a sticker chart with a chocolate reward for every 5 stickers.  I'm optimistic :)

So, on the whole, I'm pretty happy with The Baby Whisperer's approach.  I can definitely understand why many parents would prefer to wait longer until their children are ready on their own, and if I was dealing with my own children, I may well do that, but as these are looked-after children, I have to balance my personal preferences with the realities of the 'adoption market' - it might be mercenary, but it's probably true that a toilet-trained 3-year-old is a more attractive proposition than a nappy-wearing one.

What I am uncomfortable about is the insinuation, as I said earlier, that this really is the only method worth trying and if it doesn't work it's because you're not doing it right.

"I've found that toilet troubles are caused, at least in part, by parents' lack of follow-through."

"When problems persist, it's usually because of something the parents have done, or their attitude."

So, there you have it, a decent helping of toilet-training advice, with a hefty side dish of patronising put-down!

I'll keep you all updated - I'm sure you're dying to hear more toilet-related details!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Recipe: Pizza Rolls

Far be it from me to advertise myself as a culinary genius - a surprising amount of my cooking turns out burnt or inedible!  So I have my friend Amanda to thank for this simple recipe that the boys love and even I couldn't ruin!

Pizza Rolls

300g self-raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
30g butter
180ml milk

Plus passata/tomato puree and a small amount of grated cheese (about 50-60g) for the topping

Mix flour, butter and sugar in bowl, and rub together thoroughly
Add milk, mix and knead to a smooth dough
Roll dough out to a roughly rectangular shape
Top with tomato puree/passata and cheese - at this point you can add other topping (like 'hidden' vegetables!) - as if you were making a regular pizza
Roll the dough up into a sausage shape (it helps to cut it in half first) and cut into evenly size pieces (I made 18 from this recipe but expert bakers might make more)
Place the rolls on a baking tray on their sides (so that you're looking at the roll pattern from above)

Bake in the oven on a medium heat for around 15 mins or until it looks done - watch it for catching on the bottom.



Sunday, October 7, 2012

Speech Therapy, or Homework for Parents!

NB has been seeing the Speech Therapist.  This has led to several people (including professionals involved with his case) asking me how the sessions are going, or when he's having some more sessions.  They obviously don't know, as I didn't, that speech therapy is basically about having an assessment and then giving the parent/carer a load of homework!

I'm not trying to criticise the Speech Therapist - she was excellent.  She had a wonderful rapport with NB and, during our three assessment sessions, gave him her full attention and really took the time to find out what he can do.

Unfortunately for me, it seems that after the assessment takes place, goals are set, a massive pile of leaflets is given to the parent/carer, and then you are basically sent away to do your homework for three months!

The purpose of the homework seems to be to completely transform the way we speak in the home.  For instance, I've been told that I ask NB too many questions.  Apparently this is A Bad Thing because it makes him feel like he's being tested and might put him under pressure to say things which could cause him to feel uncomfortable about speaking.  I should only ask questions that I genuinely want to know the answer to, and give him plenty of time to respond.

She was right about the questions.  In fact, when I stopped and thought about it, I realised that practically everything I say to NB takes the form of a question.

"Where's your train?  Is it on the table?  Do you want it?  Are you playing with your train?"  And so on, and so on.  And not only would I construct entire conversations out of questions, I would ask the questions with little or no expectation of a response, so our conversations were completely one-sided.

I'm going to blame my habit of asking questions on too long spent as a teacher.  In the classroom you're perpetually asking questions, and you hardly ever really need to know the answer.  In fact, you almost always already know the answer to the questions you're asking.  If you don't you probably haven't prepared your lesson properly!  Of course, even in the classroom, it's better to ask questions for other reasons than just getting students to demonstrate their grasp of basic facts - to encourage higher order thinking skills, debate, investigation, for instance - but all too often, we resort to a barrage of questions as our main attempt at 'interactivity'!

Of course, once you are told you have a bad habit that you didn't know about before, it is suddenly all you can think about!  For a couple of weeks I became completely unable to speak like a normal person.  I would start saying something, realise it was a question and then try to change it half-way through.  This sort of thing doesn't lead to natural conversation!

And adapting to the way I am supposed to speak to encourage NB's language development has been even more tricky.  Instead of asking questions, I am supposed to offer commentary on what he is doing.  For instance,  "Your train is on the table.  You're pushing the train. Push!  Push!  Push the train!"

Yeah, you're right, it makes me sound like an idiot!

But, it takes the pressure off him, allows him to hear short conversational phrases and individual words repeatedly (repetition is the key!) and, most importantly, it appears to be working!

We are due for review in about seven weeks, and I'm under pressure.  Since it's up to me to do the homework, then it really does feel as though I'll be the one under scrutiny at our next session.  I'd better get those leaflets memorised!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Toilet Training - not our favourite activity!

Right, so, with NB now almost certain to be put up for adoption I have decided that it really is time to start toilet training in earnest, on the grounds that it will make him more adoptable.

I know that sounds awful, but that's how it is.

At his age, not being toilet trained would be a bit of a red flag to prospective adopters.  I know that NB is a wonderful, loving child with many positive qualities, but I also know that you'd have to meet him to appreciate all of these qualities, and prospective adopters don't really get that opportunity.  Instead they get a load of paperwork that, with the best will in the world, hardly presents a three-dimensional picture of a young child.

So, toilet training it is then!

So far, I'd say it's going quite badly!

Having read a couple of books and talked to a lot of different people I've noticed that there are very strong opinions on the single best way to approach toilet training.  Unfortunately there seem to be as many 'single best ways' as there are people with opinions!

So, bearing in mind that NB has toddlers diarrhoea that would make a grown man weep, I've opted for a mix of big boy underpants and pull-ups.  I don't mind dealing with wet pants at home or out and about, but I don't want to deal with poo running down his legs while we're out shopping, and I don't want him to have to deal with that either.  The kids at Playgroup might only be little, but they're not blind, and their noses work just fine!

So far, I'd say it hasn't been a roaring success.  NB is completely happy to sit on the special big-boy toilet seat, or the potty (he's sitting on there now, reading a book!) but he isn't so happy to actually do a wee wee in either of those places.

In preparation for toilet training I made sure he could say and understand 'wee wee' and 'poo', 'wet' and 'dry'.  I'm so glad I did that.  Because now, after a massive cup of juice and ten minutes on the potty refusing to wee, he can quite confidently inform me that his pants are 'wet, wet' when he wees all over himself 30 seconds after getting up off the potty!

So clever!!


Yesterday he stored up his drinks like a camel from 9.30 until 3pm, despite repeated trips to the potty and toilet.  And then he let them out all over my friend's kitchen floor.  

It's day three and I'm already thinking I might not have the patience to stay the course!