The Boo Blogs: Day 3 – Otters Don’t Lay Eggs

Mr Geek & I have taken today and the bank holiday off work to spend a bit more pre-GCSE quality time with the kids.

Denial is the order of the day as we ended yesterday sourcing a new boiler & washing hair in bowls of kettle water. So instead of being adults, we headed up to London & went to the zoo!

Despite leaving first thing, we didn’t arrive until nearly midday, which meant that the goats (my favourite gender neutral term for my family, which frankly suits them) were starving. Lunch was duly unpacked & devoured.

Just look at the beautiful table manners we’ve taught them…

Rather than have the tired talk at the end of the day about bankrupting me in the shop, we opted for water bottles all round at the start of the day. This turned out to be a good choice as the weather was incredible! London Zoo has water fountains all over which meant that we could stay hydrated, and if you want to “upgrade” to 500ml of cold filtered water it’s 25p (bargain!).

Mr Geek & I are thoroughly enjoying spending another weekend just chilling together as evidenced by an array of weird selfies as we watched the penguins 🐧 (bangwangs).

After the penguins we did what all self-respecting cat people did and visited the lions. These guys (and gals) are part of an international breeding program and were happily chilling out & washing their toes. Once we’d wandered around the lions, we decided to watch the talk on the work they do with various animals. Unfortunately, the wheelchair accessible area had no shade, so I sent the rest of them the other side of the field to stay cooler. I texted them “Send me a selfie”… And got this:

After seeing cool birds, and meerkats, and more birds, the highlight of my day happened. Out came a serval. Happily following the guy around in order to get a handful of treats. Because she’d been rescued from the illegal pet trade, she was super calm around people and had no issue showing off her moves, although they were quick to warn us that she still thinks like a wild cat and would merrily chew your face if hungry. The way she followed him around chirping for attention & treats reminded me so much of Captain Jack & Leeroy Jenkins.

Oh my word, she was incredible. And this guy has the best job on the planet!

Alongside the tiger (who was resolutely chilling in his wood area) were two very handsome gibbons. But a clear highlight was finding Tad Cooper & singing My Dragon Pal & Me… With hindsight, it might not have been a great idea insinuating that the Komodo dragon could breathe fire with small kids around.

Still, we super believe in you Tad Cooper!

By now, we were pretty shattered, but no trip to London Zoo is ever going to be complete unless I see a sloth. This two toed sloth was not only chilling happily in the trees, but had a tiny two toed sloth baby!!

And with that, I’ll leave you with some final photos from today. Context free – fill in your own backstory!

Advertisements

The Boo Blog – Part 1 : Heading Home

After an awesome fortnight in Northern Ireland, we borrowed our eldest god-daughter (Boo) to come back for an extra holiday.

As a fitting end to our time here it rained all the way to the ferry terminal! So with the car packed with three teenagers & our things, off we went!

These weeks here are a weird reminder of quite how little has changed, despite other massive life events & an extra 600 miles between us. We played games, wandered around National Trust properties, and reinstated Mrs B’s dreadlocks. And as always, I’ve ended the time reigniting our search for a property here (even if this is the wettest place on the planet… I mean, seriously, it’s August!!).

Getting on the ferry was a new one for us as we’ve only ever taken day crossings. It may have been a tiny bit more stressful than expected after being assigned a cabin on a deck that isn’t wheelchair accessible. It was rectified on the boat, but only after being told we should’ve paid extra to select our cabin.

This isn’t going to turn into an accessibility rant…

Once on the boat, hot chocolates were the priority and totally required!

The crossing was super clam and we all got a surprising amount of sleep! After that it was plain sailing all the way back to the house.

Day 1 at the house was a down day as I had to work. Leaving me to hide out in my office, the kids headed off to the park and used their sider senses to locate & purchase ice cream!

After a well deserved rest (is it a rest if you pull 11 hours in the office?!), day 2 is a visit to London Zoo! Watch this space.

What I’m Doing With My “6 weeks off”

I think we can all agree that I’m not great at winding down. So if anything I’ve geared up this summer with some exciting stuff.

I’m rebuilding my website & moving the whole thing to WordPress which is a whole learning curve in itself (you can check out it’s progress at www.TeachAllAboutIT.school).

I’ve been interviewing people for a blog series that has now launched on the site called Paths To Success. It’s been really fun recording a tonne of interviews & developing them as blog / podcast episodes. If you have a career story you’d like featured get in touch!! Seriously – this series is just fascinating & I’d love to hear from you 🙂

I’ve been recording more of the awesome audio series Dark Dice with Fool & Scholar Productions. It’s an absolute honour to be working with these absolute dudes (even if the time difference does mean I end up with Jet Lag without leaving home!). If you haven’t listened to their current stuff, I can’t recommend it enough!

And to top it all off I got a message out of the blue last week from a producer at the BBC asking of I’d write some sections for the Computer Science Bitesize section… Two days & one interview later and I’m writig the whole AQA section! For the flipping BBC!!

We’re only a week in… So next time someone asks what teachers do with their holidays, here’s a list 😉

Why I Let My Daughter Dye Her Hair Pink (and blue and purple)

I’m riding the “bad parent” wave each time we go out this summer. TinyPants starts high school in September and at age 11 has asked for a number of things that I’ve agreed to despite parental tutting. Here’s why:

She’s always had a strong sense of identity and year 6 has contained some big knocks for her. Instead of the last year of primary school being a fanfare of goodbyes, she counted down the days until she could be rid of bitchy cliques & a head teacher that she openly hated (strong words, but she had big boots to fill & did little to endear herself), and then there were SATS.

Since September, everything was building up to these bloody exams. Art, music, creative writing, science – all the things that made TinyPants love school went by the wayside. Maths drills, spellings, & exam papers were the daily grind – after which there were hours of tearful homework.

“Do your best & we’ll be as proud as always” we kept telling her. In the end, she sat in pain for 4 solid days doing her best (she was allowed to get up frequently, but allowed no extra time. Fearful that she wouldn’t finish, she didn’t take breaks. By day 4, she had a roll of physio tape strapped to her). Previous end of year reports have been a joy to read with comments given across the curriculum; this year one page was given with a table highlighted in red for each of the maths & english exams – “did not achieve”. The pass mark is 100, in most she scored 98 & in one 94. No “how I enjoyed my year” comment, but a “how could I have improved in my exams”. In contrast, her sister has a high school report with gold stars for effort & all subjects treated equally.

I was furious. My baby has fought past being born so tiny that she lived in an incubator; she fought apnea; she worked so hard to read (something that didn’t come naturally); she has emotional intelligence to rival most adults; she is a young carer; she has mentally prepared herself to be in daily physical pain & smiles through it; she worked like stink to pass those exams and yet she was deemed insufficient by a margin of 2 marks. She didn’t see how close she was – she saw “failure”. The piece of my mind that I’d like to give Gove, Morgan, & Greening may leave me without a mind. This narrowing of the curriculum and constant testing is stamping out the creative sparks that we’ll need in years to come.

So she asked to rebel, much like getting a statement haircut after a big break up. Step 1 was pink hair and I agreed to dye it for the final day. Step 2 was leaving primary behind – I genuinely feared her going out in a blaze of verbal glory, but she took the high ground and walked out with her head high (mentally flipping the bird as she left). And that was that.

She’s using the summer to find herself & that includes strange hair colours. We’re watching a pre-highschool reinvention of herself & it’s fascinating. She’s ditched the little kid clothes for older, but sensible shirts & jeans. I’m watching me grow up from a distance, but with a lot more self-esteem! Yes, we’ll have to get busy with the Head & Shoulders to remove the colour before school starts (eye roll), but for these 6 weeks the girls are allowed to be their genuine selves, whoever that may be.

We’ve just got back from a week at Disneyland where she asked to ride ALL of the rollercoasters on hoiday. I feel sick letting her put her body through that kind of strain – she’s already in pain most days & her back is a big culprit. Ibuprofen, TENS, & physio tape already feature quite regularly. Now, I could insist that she protect her joints at all costs, but shit, what right do I have to sap the joy from her life? She knows that adult life is going to hurt, but the pair of us are adrenalin junkies. At her age & into my teens I rode the coasters, I rode horses, I cornered so hard on my motorbike I could pick daisies with my teeth. So each time she wanted to go on a gut wrenching ride off Mr Geek went & rode with her.

Did it kill her? No. Ok, near the end of the holiday Mr Geek had to carry her out of bed & she gained wheels just like mum for part of the day as she couldn’t stand. Most days we paced quite well, the day before we’d thrown caution to the wind, but had the “best day evaar”.

Hell, even I rode a coaster – Mr Geek scoped it out and made sure it had head & back supports, I spent the previous day resting, he lifted me in – I screamed for the entire ride (on which my kneecap moved completely out & I pulled out both shoulders) – he lifted me back out & helped me pop things back, soothed the muscle spasms, then I rested for two days. All that pain for just 5 minutes? Yes. Totally worth it for feeling alive for just a while.

TinyPants looks at me and knows what’s coming – right now she wants to live as much life as possible instead of snatching 5 minutes of flying.

So, yes I’m letting her dye her hair far earlier than I ever thought I would, but it’s a small price to pay for the catharsis that its brought her. And as for Beanpole, well there’s no hair dye there – her genuie self blossomed at high school and my meganerd is blossoming into the intellectual fangirl that I expected, but she deserves a post all of her own.

Note: I’ve spoken a lot about pain here – for more info on Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, please read this post.

My Ruby Slippers Are Defective

Today 

  • I didn’t want to move when I woke up in Dante’s 7th circle of joint pain hell.
  • I didn’t want to keep down breakfast
  • I didn’t want to sit in the car for 3 1/2 hours to Calais
  • I didn’t want to wake up regularly gasping as we braked & my back flew into spasm
  • I objected to paying extortionate prices for toll roads that had appalling service stops 
  • I didn’t want to lay curved into a contorted angle on the train whilst it rocked me side to side & scattered my ribs
  • I didn’t want to remain in the car for a further 2 hours to drive home (see waking up above)

I didn’t want to travel on a flare day. But I did. And now I’m home in our bed set up just for us having had a bath in my lovely accessible bathroom and a cuddle with the cats. 

There’s no place like home.
Addition: 

What made me flare so badly today? It was a combination of being in the car the previous day for nigh on 6 hours, then staying in the worst hotel we’d ever booked. The Sejours & Affaires clairemarias in Reims.

Here is the brochure photo of the 1 bedroom apartment from Booking.com – this is clearly listed under “facilities for disabled guests”.

And another of the kitchenette

So, we were expecting basic, but clean and functional as a stopover. This was billed as a wheelchair accessible apartment which we double checked by email & relieved confirmation of – this roughly translates to “is on the ground floor & has no stairs”.

This is my photo:

Aside from smelling distinctly of the goat farm (?!), the wall paint was peeling, the cabinets were grubby & the kitchenette and general location reminded me of when Mr Geek & I shared a student flat. In its favour, the WiFi was excellent (so, yes, very much like our flat). We slept on the metal sofa bed which had a mattress approximately the depth of a Kardashian which promptly instigated my shoulder coming out as I turned, my pelvis twisting, & a nasty clunk in my neck that made my hand go tingly. I eventually fell asleep laying flat on my back with my legs in a full lotus to lock my hips in place.
My magic touch with hotels was missing on this one. By the next morning, I wanted my Ruby Slippers. 

My Ruby Slippers Are Defective

Today 

  • I didn’t want to move when I woke up in Dante’s 7th circle of joint pain hell.
  • I didn’t want to keep down breakfast
  • I didn’t want to sit in the car for 3 1/2 hours to Calais
  • I didn’t want to wake up regularly gasping as we braked & my back flew into spasm
  • I objected to paying extortionate prices for toll roads that had appalling service stops 
  • I didn’t want to lay curved into a contorted angle on the train whilst it rocked me side to side & scattered my ribs
  • I didn’t want to remain in the car for a further 2 hours to drive home (see waking up above)

I didn’t want to travel on a flare day. But I did. And now I’m home in our bed set up just for us having had a bath in my lovely accessible bathroom and a cuddle with the cats. 

There’s no place like home.
Addition: 

What made me flare so badly today? It was a combination of being in the car the previous day for nigh on 6 hours, then staying in the worst hotel we’d ever booked.

Here is the brochure photo of the 1 bedroom apartment:

And another of the kitchenette

So, we were expecting basic, but clean and functional as a stopover. This was billed as a wheelchair accessible apartment which we double checked by email & relieved confirmation of – this roughly translates to “is on the ground floor & has no stairs”.

This is my photo:

Aside from smelling distinctly of the goat farm (?!), the wall paint was peeling, the cabinets were grubby & the kitchenette and general location reminded me of when Mr Geek & I shared a student flat. In its favour, the WiFi was excellent (so, yes, very much like our flat). We slept on the metal sofa bed which had a mattress approximately the depth of a Kardashian which promptly instigated my shoulder coming out as I turned, my pelvis twisting, & a nasty clunk in my neck that made my hand go tingly. I eventually fell asleep laying flat on my back with my legs in a full lotus to lock my hips in place.
My magic touch with hotels was missing on this one. By the next morning, I wanted my Ruby Slippers. 

A Spa Day … with the kids

Thursday was mummy’s turn to choose the activity for the day. Mr Geek had been very vocal about wanting to return to one of the German baths during our stay, so we’d done a little research on which one would be most suitable for all of us.

Note: the photos on this post of Vita Classica are from the Therme website as they do other permit cameras inside (good thing too!)

3km from our hotel was the Casseopeia Spa which had excellent reviews & welcomed children. It was “textile free” which would mean letting it all hang free, but when in Rome etc. I started searching for more information on accessibility, but discovered that it is currently closed for refurbishment until October. Bum. I did a little more searching and found an alternative spa in Bad Krozingen called Vita Classica.

Interestingly, many of the reviews on TripAdvisor bemoaned the priority given to those with disabilities… cue cartoon style double take. Although mildly concerned that it might be a bit clinical, and rather relieved that they require bathing suits in the Therme (families cannot enter the sauna area other than Saturdays when it is “family day” as that area is textile free), we decided to give it a whirl. Just to double check, I used the Spa’s online chat facility to make sure I could get in.

The spa was about 8km from our hotel in Schallstadt, so I suggested that we make use of the amazing network of super smooth cycleways and get on our bikes. I’m feeling super confident that my wheelchair bike is up to roaming further from our base & this was an excellent test for the battery life (we ended up through a few interesting navigation decisions riding over 20k during the day which added to a battery that had already done a good few km during the week, taking the range of 1 of the two lithium batteries to just under 30km!).

Our fears about the spa being clinical were unfounded, although disabled facilities are indeed located 1st and there are a good number of prominent accessible changing & showering rooms. On entry, you can either take your own wheelchair in, or leave you chair & make use of one of the poolside chairs which means your chair stays dry!
There are a number of pools with most having a temperature of 34° (one has a temp of 29°, and another at 36°)

A static hoist is available for one of the ‘Blue Room’ pools which doubles as a water therapy pool (at 34°), and a mobile hoist is available if required. As the kids were keen to move between pools, we opted for Mr Geek lifting me from the chair onto the pool steps & bum shuffling down into the water with my waist float strapped on, then reversing this process to get back out.

Through the blue room is the ‘hot pool’ at 36° where we spent a good 30 mins just floating with Mr Geek massaging my neck whilst the girls enjoyed the calm. It’s too warm to swim, so instead you just floating about allowing the warm water to soothe everything. One mildly worrying thing of note was there was  need for them to have a sign printed stating no sex in the pool or showers! How many times does that need to have happened to warrant a metal sign?!?

The two outside pools were slightly cooler at 34° (and outside, so felt cooler) and were more invigorating. The first was a round pool with a variety of jets that slowly floated you around in circles. The jets ranged from weird tiny bubbles that turned the water fizzy, to stand up jacuzzi bubbles, to a lay down full body bed of bubbles (Beanpole & TinyPants made a request to remain there indefinitely. Nice try kids). I was particularly taken with this pool & happily floated in circles in the fizzy warm water for ages. The added weightlessness from the bubbles served to allow me more movement and I could gently cycle my legs releasing my hips & back. 

The second one outside pool was more of a round robin massage pool with shoulder water jets, sit & stand jacuzzi bubbles, a gentle rapid, and massaging waterfalls. The bubbles & jersey are cycled so not everything us on at once and people move around on the sound of a bingbong noise. It was in here, that I experienced a waterfall massage on my lower back & hips – by using my float & Mr Geek holding me, the water fell directly onto my lower back & pelvis at such a rate the my then dislodged SI was battered back into place with an audible clunk that we heard over the noise of the falls! It was deliriously good.

The weather began to turn & knowing that it would take a little over 30 minutes to cycle back, we headed out to get changed.

By the time we left it was starting to shower, but this slowed so off we went. We even had time to stop for a quick family by the river selfie because we DEFINITELY WERE NOT LOST.

In fact we were. We failed to follow a simple cycle route so ended up going all around the houses which was all fine and dandy until it rained. Properly rained.

Wet, cold, and looking like I’d entered a wet tshirt competition, we arrived back at our hotel with two very angry children who were placated by dinner & as much ice cream that they could stomach (a lot) and all was right with the world again.

So a spa day and a cycle on Leonardo with this view totally balances out the horrible weather and my left hip popping out after TinyPants climbed onto the bed for a cuddle spawning a whole night of tens & no sleep. But seriously, look at this view!