Friday, 28 February 2014

Time for Glasses

When Miss C was four months old I noticed a movement in her eyes that didn't settle.  That began a journey of several thousand miles (back from the Falkland Islands) for specialist eye tests and the diagnosis of Nystagmus as a result of Albinism.  Glasses became a part of Miss C's life.

When we moved to Wales we went to the opticians to get Miss C's glasses fitted and they advised that we have eye tests for the other three.  It had never occurred to me to have the children's eyes tested.  They had never had any problems seeing things as far as I was aware.  Vaguely I remember having eye tests at school, but it's not something that seems to happen anymore.

I was very glad we agreed to the eye tests - since they were free it seemed silly not to.  As a result of the eye tests we discovered that while Miss A has perfect vision in one eye the other was limited.  We would probably not have realised, since the perfect eye compensated for the lack in the other.  However, by catching the problem when she was small we have a good chance of strengthening her vision.  Apparently if you begin treatment before a child reaches 7 there is a lot more they can do.

You may wonder how a child who can't read can have an eye test?  Well, it's different for a baby, obviously - you'd need to talk to an optician for a real explanation, but they uses lenses and lights and measure the reflections & reactions, I think.  For a child who can talk they use images in different places on a board to watch where the child looks and ask them what they can see.  For a more articulate child - Miss C aged 2 and a half was just able to do this recently - they use stylised pictures in the same way they use letters for adults: a boat, a flower, a house etc.  This final style of test is much more accurate, apparently.

Visits to the opticians have become a matter of routine for the entire family now.  Miss C has to see her specialists at the eye hospital every six months, while Miss I, Mr J and Miss A all have regular check ups at the optician in town.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to book the three of them in for their routine checks all together first thing on a Saturday.  This kind of scheduling is vital when you have a large family.  Leaving the two younger ones with Daddy, we trooped into the opticians at 9am just after they opened and one by one the children went through the tests - Miss I and Mr J with letters, Miss A with pictures.  Each of them had new photos taken of their eyes and Mr J was deeply fascinated with the optician's explanation of how the eye worked and what each part did.

Then came the analysis.  Miss A's eyes are continuing to improve steadily, which is great news, although her 3D vision is still pretty poor (she saw a man sliding down a hill rather than a car).  Miss I's vision remains fine, much to her relief.  Mr J, on the other hand, much to his utter delight, has be prescribed reading glasses to use when his eyes are tired.  I have never known a child to be quite so excited at the prospect of getting glasses.  He's rather disappointed that he doesn't have to wear them all the time, and was even more disappointed when he had to wait for the glasses to be made.  He's been desperate to take them into school, but as I only picked them up from the optician Friday before half term started he hasn't been able to yet.  Fortunately the novelty hasn't worn off.  He puts them on with an attitude of great importance and I expect on Monday morning when he goes back to school he will either be wearing them or will have them in the case ready to put on when he gets to class.  I guess he does look rather cool.

As a result of all of this, I have become a vocal advocate for children having eye tests.  As Mr J's reaction confirms, glasses aren't the trauma they were when I was growing up and if you can help to improve your child's vision by catching any problems early it has got to be worth doing.  I wonder, however, how many people are like me and never considered taking their child to see an optician.  Have you?


Thursday, 13 February 2014

My Fictional World Meme

As many people will know, I am a big fan of books.  In fact, at the moment I'm trying to ration my reading time a little until I'm on top of the housework.  However, that doesn't mean I can't take some time to write about my favourite books!  That's why I'm quite happy to take part in a Book Meme started by Reading Residence  What would you answer?

What were your favourite reads from your childhood?
I always loved St Clares and the Secret Seven, but my all time favourite stories were The Chronicles of Narnia.  I can't tell you how many times I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
There are always those books that defined your teen reads and stay with you – what were yours?
I discovered SF when I was a teenager when I picked up my dad's copy of Dragonflight by Anne McCaffery.  I never looked back.  Then I found David Eddings and my love of Fantasy books was rekindled.  I also learned to love Jane Austen from my mum.
Who are your favourite authors currently?
Elizabeth Moon and Jim Butcher are my absolute favourites.  I still enjoy a bit of Austen and McCaffery and have discovered Matthew Reilly thanks to my husband.
Which 3 genres do you gravitate towards most often?
SF, Fantasy and Chick Lit
Can you choose your top titles from each of those genres?
SF - Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series is brilliant (Girl's SF, my husband would say - although it's far from 'girlie' with plenty of death and mayhem)
Fantasy - Elizanth Moon's Paksenarrion series is my favourite, but Jim Butcher's Fury Series is excellent too.  Both full of power, sacrifice, honour and incredibly intricate plots.
Chick lit – Katie Fforde's Love Letters is very sweet.

And your least favourite genres?
I don't do horror at all, or what I call fake Fantasy (Vampires etc!)
Of the many, many fictional and fantastical worlds, where would you most like to visit?
I'd quite like to visit Anne McCaffrey's Pern.  I love the idea of modern dragons, fighting to protect humanity in a beautiful but hostile environment.
Everyone loves a villain, right?! Who would make your favourites list?
You know I don't think I do like any villains.
Share the books that have had you sobbing?
The book I always get a bit teary reading is called the Princess by American writer Lori Wick.  It's about a girl who agrees to an arranged marriage with a Prince who is still grieving his first wife.  Such a beautiful story about self-sacrifice and finding love when you'd given up hope.
And let’s end on a high! Which books leave a smile on your face, and maybe elicit a few laughs?!
I love Terry Prachett books.  My favourite is Snuff, which does often occasion a giggle or too while being pretty deep in  places.  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is another one I can't resist frequent smiles while reading.

I shall tag Orli, Just Breathe and Awkward Ancestors to join in the fun!

So please share, grab the badge, tag a few more, and pop over to Reading Residence and link up so we can explore each other’s worlds.  If you don't have a blog then comment below on a couple of the questions if you like.

The Reading Residence

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Comfort Food on a Dismal Day

The winter days continue damp and dismal, the nights are dark and the wind howls down the chimney, stirring the fire to leaping flames  - and all thoughts of salad flee from my mind.  (To be honest they were never that deeply ingrained in my mind in the first place.)  As the snow falls - yes, it snows here because we're almost 1000 ft up -  it's time for some good homely hot food, preferably of the stewed and stodgy variety.  Chicken casserole with dumplings is my husband's current speciality and I am quite content when he suggests it for dinner.

However, when I was a child my favourite 'winter' meal was called Star Wars Stew - I'm pretty sure the idea comes from the Brownie Recipe Book of the time.  Basically it was just a sausage casserole, but made with whatever was available in the cupboards.  The thought being that when you got in late from the 'movies' and you could throw everything together in a matter of minutes from what you had to hand.  My husband recoils at the very idea of it but I have great hopes of winning the children over one day.  Actually I'm probably fooling myself since they won't eat most of the ingredients let alone a strange combination of them!

Here's the recipe - such as it is:

Ingredients (Apart from the sausages, it's all pretty much optional depending on what you have in your winter stores!)
8 large sausages - fried until browned
1 tin oxtail soup or a good quantity of gravy
1 tin of potatoes
1 tin baked beans
1 tin sweet corn
Onion - frozen or fresh
Any other tinned or frozen vegetables you fancy - peas, carrots etc.

Once you have browned off the sausages, chop into good sized chunks (quarters works well) and fry with the onion.  Add all the ingredients together into a big saucepan.  You may wish to quickly boil any frozen vegetables before adding.  Cook over a gentle heat for about ten minutes until simmering.

(You can even cook it on the top of the wood stove if you're suffering from a power cut like we did yesterday - assuming, of course, that you are blessed with such a device.)

Serve with bread and butter - a fresh crusty loaf is wonderful if you can manage it.

So, what do you think?  Am I as strange as my husband thinks for hankering after my childhood favourite or does it sound like a delicious warming meal after a busy day?

This post was inspired by a competition on the Co-operative Electrical website for winter warmer recipes and was written as an entry for the competition.