Sunday, March 31, 2013

CHOCOLATE, TREES AND EGGS

We found some twigs from the garden, painted them white, arranged them in a pot of soil and decorated them with Easter paraphernalia.

Et voilĂ  our first Easter Tree. It was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise, especially for my 3 year old daughter.
 

It was my mum's idea - I was joking with her as we made it that we channelling our Pagan roots and making a symbol of fertility to sit in her window.

Looking at my 3 high-energy kids that drive me to the point of insanity regularly she replied: "I hope not!"

But seriously, we did sub-consciously make a Tree of Fertility. A symbol of the real meaning of Easter. The Pagans carried out Easter rituals such as decorating trees and eggs in the vibrant spring sunshine colours in order to encourage fertility in the soil for the seasons ahead. That was their way of blessing the land and encouraging good harvests.
 
 
 
For Pagans, who were around thousands of years before Christianity, Easter time is about the rebirth of the sun and celebrating the wonder of nature. It's about a goddess of fertility called Eostre who is depicted with a rabbit's head and the symbols of eggs and rabbits.

These fertility symbols have become so intrinsically linked with Easter that we no longer question why we surround ourselves with them, or why images of the Easter bunny (the modern day translation of the Goddess Eostre) are everywhere.



Goddess Eostre

The word Easter shares the same root with "east" and "eastern," the direction of the rising sun.

The blossoming of spring is a life-renewing time of the year for us all, when winter has finally passed (hopefully once this cold snap ends) and the sun is born again.

Meanwhile, a different type of Easter involving a man's murder and resurrection is taken very seriously here in Catholic Ireland.

On Good Friday the pubs are closed, no drink is taken and people won't eat meat - as a mark of respect for the anniversary of Jesus' death.

Everyone is supposed to go to church to listen to men in cloaks talk of sacrifice. Hours and hours of church sermons to sit through, if you like that kind of thing.

It makes me somehow feel alien in a country that I've embraced as home. It makes me question the origins of the Christian belief system.

Read up about the history of Easter and you'll discover it is widely believed that the early Christians only embraced Easter after they realised it was such a big celebration in the Pagan calendar. In a bid to convert them to christianity, they merged the Spring Equinox to coincide with Christ's resurrection. They worship the SON at this time of year, not SUN like their Pagan ancestors.
 
 
 
The more you research this, the more you find that 'son' and 'sun' are interchangeable as historical symbols of renewal and spring equinox. Consider for one minute, the coincidence of Easter being exactly 9 months prior to a very famous December 25th celebrated birth date? A natural life cycle.

Easter might represent the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the religious, but its origins derive from the annual "crossification" of the sun through the vernal equinox (Spring), when the sun is resurrected as the day begins to become longer than the night.

There's so many similarities that you can see why Easter is a special time for everyone, even if most of us and kids are only interested in chocolate eggs and Easter egg hunts.

So this weekend, I'm embracing my dormant inner Pagan, tuning into nature and celebrating the glory of the EGG. And relaxing in the spectacle of my kids stuffing their faces with chocolate and decorating trees as the sun shines brighter in the sky once more. 

 
 
 
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If you want to read more about this, check out these links....





 


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Friday, March 22, 2013

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT PARENTING

There are days when I reach a nadir in parenting. Days like today, when the screaming has driven me demented for hours. 

Some mums can honestly put up with the biggest heap of badness from their kids and still think the sun shines out of their petite little peachy arses. 

Me? I KNOW my kids are the most annoying kids in the world. I'm not sure if Mr Sun has been anywhere near their titchy arses since the days they were born. 

My ears are ringing after an onslaught of screaming today, but at least it's given me the motivation to write a blog post that's been buzzing around my head for ages. 

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT PARENTING

1) The non-stop "Maaaaawwwwmmmm I want this! Give me that!" No matter how many zillions of times I have repeated ad nauseum how we politely ask for something, and be nice to someone, ditto for basic manners such as 'please' and 'thank you', I still get the rudest Divas and Devils screaming at me until my ears bleed every day. 

2) Screaming. Did I mention how much my kids scream at me? Is this normal? Perhaps I'm just really sensitive to unpleasant sounds - yes, the sound they use to torture war criminals. It feels like I'm locked in a bizarre social science experiment gone wrong.

3) Bedtime. The frontline of my daily warzone with the kids. The end is in sight - a few hours of no kids, but to acheive this utopian dream I have to go to hell and back. I can just about cope with their whims and whines throughout the day, but come 7 oclock I want them to miraculously disappear and give me my well-deserved downtime. No such luck. They resist, they use their favoured annoy mum technique: screaming and loud aggressive noises, they strip naked and streak through the house, knowing that I have nothing to grab hold of once their slipperly little bodies are unclothed. They bemoan the dark, they bedhop like it's an Olympic sport and then fight with one another until the little one asleep is now awake. Bedtime started at 7pm tonight. My little 3 year old girl has only just given into sleep at 9.30pm. Fun and games.


I love it when they finally go to sleep


4) Threats. The number of threats I used tonight to try to get my aformentioned 3 year old to sleep. No playing with her bestfriend tomorrow. No holiday on Sunday (as if I'm not gong to take her away with me). No ballet class (which I've already paid for). I HATE using threats. Bribes too. After I've said them I feel like crap. I'm not that kind of person. At least I thought I wasn't until I had kids. 

5) Anger. Whoah where did that come from?! The explosions from nowhere. Both me and the kids. Crikey blinking moses! It can really catch me off guard. I honestly never shouted in my life before my kids drove me to the brink of my sanity. I hope that once the stresses of the early years dies down, so will the propensity to shout at them in frustration.

6) Patience. Luckily I'm a very patient person, but lately I've been tested to my very extreme. It took half an hour to leave somewhere this evening because my little girl decided to scream in a corner. Bribes and threats came out. Pleading. Distracting. Hugging. Shouting. My whole arsenal of mummy tricks but nothing worked saved for grabbing and carrying and hauling into the car. She screamed for the next hour, oh such joy. 

7) Thick skin. To put up with screaming when there is very little you can do to stop it. To put up with 'I hate you' 10 times a day, just because you asked them to put socks on. To spend 3 hours battling them to bed. There is a lot of wasted time in parenting. Don't tell me this is the best years of my life. We have pockets of loveliness, me and my kids, but there are also times when I need to lock myself in my bedroom and take a few deep breaths. 

8) Lack of privacy. Forget ever going to the bathroom alone again. If you should so much as attempt to close the door it will be greeted with the door being kicked in and lots more SCREAMING. Privacy and solitude is what I crave most in my life nowadays. 

9) Poo. Yes, it's all about poo in those early days. Seasoned blog readers will recall a story I told about chewing a fingernail in the car only to discover it had poo underneath it. The source was never identified. It could have been any one of 3, seeing as my duties as a mum stretch to Bumwiper-in-Chief pretty much all the time, primarily at meal times I'm called to carry out this unpalatable action. The few times I've forgot to wash hands before racing out the car has lead to rather unpleasant after shocks. 

10) The non-stop nature of it all. They are basically my 3 full time jobs, keeping me constantly on my feet, even when I was struck with cold earlier this week I never stopped, but the end is in sight. My girl is 4 soon and starting school in September and my youngest is nearly 2. Plus there is prospect of work on the horizon. I may yet escape this relentless madness and find myself writing lovely things about them once I get to see them less.

 

Addendum: After posting this last night I thought of a few extra things I hate about parenting (isn't that always the case?): Defiance (speaks for itself); picking up everything they throw on the floor; asking them to do something until I'm sick of my own voice and their wilful destruction of our house/toys.

Phew, I think I've got everything off my chest now...



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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

MAKE YOUR OWN MEMORY QUILT


I've been saving the best of my little girl's first clothes for nearly four years. Given that she's 4 in June, that's a LOT of clothes to hang onto. 

Recently I was trying to declutter and I came across the 4 bags of 'memory clothes'. I needed a rainy day to start my project. In the end, I caught a nasty cold on St Patrick's Day so I was housebound, but with the kids still around, that meant sadly no bed rest for mummy. 

So I decided to give myself something to focus on - other than my sniffles and sneezes. 

I made a beautiful 'memory quilt' in 3 days. I am thrilled with it. I can't stop looking at it. I think I even love it more than my daughter who I made it for. I sat with it around my shoulders this morning, relishing in its cosy, soft warmth and the memories of Tegan wearing those clothes.

I'm actually thinking I might make one for myself now - from all my favourite old clothes and a snuggly blanket. 

And for mums on a budget (ie no money) like me, the good news is that it cost NOTHING! Yep, a big fat nada, zero, zilch. Used from recycling old materials, such as clothes and an old unused blanket. I'm not a seasoned maker of things, I just make things up as I go, but somehow it turns out nice...

Will I tell you how?

Here's what you'll need:

  • Sharp scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Piece of card cut into a square: 7&half inches x 7&half inches
  • Old clothes
  • Sewing machine
  • Pins
  • Blanket (make the squares fit to the size of the blanket)

1) Cut the squares up using the cardboard template. 


2) Iron squares flat (they sew better). This is the first time my dusty old iron has been out in years!



3) Pin pieces together, making sure the right sides will face out when they're stitched (see pic). Start in short rows - I did vertical rows of 5 to begin with, then sewed all the rows together. I used white thread for this, but it doesn't matter, whatever you have.

 


4) Use a small stitch on your sewing machine to make sure all the pieces are tightly fitted together. Make sure when you're joining rows together to pin the joints of the squares first, so they don't end up miles away from each other. It doesn't matter if the odd square isn't in perfect alignment, it adds to the charm of the quilt (a lot of mine didn't end up in perfect alignment because I used lots of different types of material, often the stretchy material overspills the cotton and fleecy squares).

5) Lay patchwork on top of blanket, ideally leaving around an inch to fold edges over and sew a neat edge. Amazingly, my squares and blanket fitted perfectly, I honestly don't know how as I hadn't measured it beforehand.


6) Fold the edge of the blanket over and pin to secure in place on the patchwork side. Corners are a little tricky, I had to snip mine and then fold over each other.




7) Sew along the edge, making sure you catch the patchwork edge so it's secured to the blanket. I used pink thread for this, so that it would blend in with the pink blanket.



8) Once the edges are stitched (go over corners a few times if you had to cut out some bulk), pin across the middle rows. Then sew in between the rows to fully secure the patchwork quilt to the blanket. The idea is to keep the two flat when you do this so that there's no excess/gather between the blanket and the quilt. This 'quilts' the blanket.

 


 9) For the quilting effect, I sewed a zigzag stitch along every second row of squares. I like the look of zigzag stitches and it doesn't seem to matter if it's not neat. I didn't sew around every square because I couldn't be bothered. If I get a notion to finish it off some day, I might sew around every square but for the time being it's held together very well and looks great. 

10) Cut all the excess pieces of cotton that stick out. Ta da, finished. It looks great and it's a lovely keepsake of a child's favourite clothes. And it's warm and soft too. The kids love it! Me too!






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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SPILLAGES GALORE!

I've a 22 month old in the house who insists on drinking from a cup.

This means regular pools of liquid on the dirtiest floor known to woman.

Coupled with two other clumbsy young kids spilling everything and using the floor to store all their stuff and my house is a wreck and a wasteland.

As I write, I'm looking at the remains of the dinner next to me and all the kiddie junk scattered on the floor and wondering when my fairy godmother will materialise and magic them away, cleaning the house for me so I can put my feet up and relax with the new episode of the Mentalist (please be on RTE player, please be on RTE player).

It's been a testing week.

Here in our lovely little corner of Ireland, we've had 4 seasons this week.

Sunshine and clear dramatic skies. Red glowing vistas and leaves blowing around again. Daffodills struggling to keep their heads on, wondering what on earth is going on.


 
Icy wind and then snow. Cue husband springing into action with a bag of salt, leaving massive clumps of white salt all over our front path (and naturally our hallway and downstairs floors when we stepped inside). The path outside our house still looks like we have snow, when the rest of Ireland is basking in sunshine.

Yes we live in a strange micro-bubble.




It's one of those weeks where I can't be bothered. There's just too much to do. Another spillage, throw a towel on it. Stuff on the floor, kick it in a corner.

The washing machine is stinking because of all the wet, manky towels sitting in it.

The other day I left a towel used for mopping up milk sitting in the washing machine for 5 days! After a few days of sniffing around wondering what had died in my utility room, I located the source of the stench. One mouldy, rancid towel locked inside the washing machine. Straight into the bin, no rescue for that poor mouldly towel.

Who knew that milk in a confined moist space could grow life so quickly?

These are the daily joys of a stay at home mum. That and bum wiping and stepping into unexpected puddles of wee when only wearing socks, but I'll go into that another day, perhaps when I put a bit of energy into potty training my nappy-allergic 22 month old.

So this is a snapshot of my life, ending in me losing it bigtime over dinner when my 5 year old told me he hated me for the 10th time today. Mealtimes are stressful at the best of times!

And there's just only enough patience a mum can have!

Yet to look at them, they're just little angels.

 



But the devil has power to assume a pleasing shape, right? [Hamlet]





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Monday, March 11, 2013

HOW MUCH OMEGA 3 TO GIVE KIDS?

Suggested Intakes of Omega 3
Various sources

Up to 12 Months
Breastfeeding women should aim to consume at least 300mg of DHA daily, according to the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids, because of its importance in baby's eyesight and mental development. Breastfeeding mothers taking omega-3 are able to pass a decent supply through breastmilk for their babies. Formula-fed babies may obtain Omega 3 from an enriched formula or babies younger than 1 year of age can be given up to 500 mg daily.

Ages 1 to 4
Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4 years old can have up to 700 mg a day in their diets.

Ages 4 to 9
Children between the ages of 4 and 9 years old should be given 900 mg every day.

Ages 9 to 13
Pre-teens need to consume 1200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids every day.

Age 13+
During adolescence, there are a number of hormonal changes taking place, in particular a hormone called androgens can cause acne, but Omega 3s help to inhibit the production of androgens and therefore combat acne. Teenagers should take 1600mg a day.

Adults
People prone to depression are encouraged to take at least 1000mg Omega 3 every day, particularly those high in EPA. Normal healthy individuals should still be consuming a target of 650 mg Omega 3 daily.

Warning: For all ages and conditions, an upper limit of 3000 mg a day is recommended, because a side effect of too much could be a thinning of the blood.

Source: US Food and Nutrition Board, the Food and Drug Administration, www.livestrong.com

Foods
Here are the foods that are very high in Omega-3 (in order of strength):
Flax Seeds, Walnuts, Salmon, Sardines, Soybeans, Halibut, Scallops, Shrimp, Tofu, Tuna.

An average 185g tin of Tuna (skipjack, packed in water, not oil as this drains Omega 3) contains up to 2700mg of omega 3, of which EPA is 700mg and DHA 2000mg. So if a child eats a tuna sandwich with 20% of a tin, they would get 480mg omega 3, 140 EPA and 400 DHA. The US Department of Agriculture's website recommends an upper limit of two full cans of tuna per week for pregnant or breast-feeding women because of its mercury content.

A average 3oz portion of cooked salmon provides 1564 mg of omega-3, including 349 mg of EPA and 1215 mg of DHA. A 3 oz.

A 6 oz. serving of sardines packed in oil contains around 1680 mg of omega-3 acids, including 800 mg of EPA and 860 mg of DHA.

A 4oz serving of Mackerel (smoked or canned in water) contains around 1673mg omega 3, of which 1195g DHA and 653g EPA.


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WHICH OMEGA 3 PRODUCT IS BEST?

WHICH PRODUCT IS BEST?

CAPSULES

1) Minami MorEPA Chewy (& Vitamin C) 60 softgels
Price: €21.99 (36c per capsule)
Flavour: Orange
Recommended age: 5+
Amount of DHA: 56mg per capsule
Amount of EPA: 254mg per capsule
Kids verdict: "Yummy, just like oranges"
Mum's verdict: Their favourite - I have to hide them so they don’t eat all of them at once! They are expensive, but the kids love them and they are the highest in EPA and have vitamin C as well.

2) It's a Paradox (45 soft capsules)
Price: €14.99 (33c per capsule)
Flavour: Lemon
Recommended age: 5 years +
Amount of DHA: 240mg per capsule
Amount of EPA: 240mg per capsule
Kids verdict: "Ok, taste quite nice"
Mum's verdict: Took some getting used to the sharp lemon taste, but they like them now. Expensive but I found a pharmacist selling them at an introductory half price. Also contains small amounts of Vitamin D and E. There's a lot of fancy packaging (a screw-top tin inside a nice box) - I’d prefer them to keep the packaging simple and put more chews in as 45 doesn’t go very far.

3) Boots Kids Chewable 30 capsules
Price: €4.99 (16c per capsule *most economical*)
Flavour: Orange
Recommended age: 3+
Amount of DHA: 29mg per 1 chew
Amount of EPA: 116mg per 1 chew
Kids verdict: "Nice, easy to chew"
Mum's verdict: Also contains vitamin A, C, D & E so an all round multi-vit for your kids. Not a bad amount of EPA per capsule considering cost. Kids do seem to prefer orange taste.

4) Minami MorEPA Mini Junior 60 softgels
Price: €21.99 (36c per capsule)
Flavour: Strawberry
Recommended age: 5+
Amount of DHA: 54mg per capsule
Amount of EPA: 245mg per capsule
Kids verdict: "Nice, can I have another?"
Mum's verdict: High in EPA like its sister product but might not appeal to some kids as they look like adult Omega 3 tablets and you have to bite through the hard skin which takes a while to be chewed and swallowed. Not fishy taste though. Label needs to be clearer as age not listed on the packet.

5) Equazen eyeQ Children's Chews 60 capsules
Price: €11.99 (20cents per capsule)
Flavour: Strawberry
Recommended age: 3+
Amount of DHA: 29mg per 1 chew
Amount of EPA: 93mg per 1 chew
Kids verdict: "Bit sweet but OK"
Mum's verdict: Shiny packaging that catches your eye first in pharmacies. But the DHA value is low. Equazen sister product is a liquid bottle which contains the same amount of Omega 3, costing €14.99 for a 200ml bottle.

6) Bassets Early Health Plus Omega 3 (30 chewy pastilles) + ACD&E Vitamins
Price: €7.79 (26c per pastille)
Flavour: Orange & Lemon or Summer Fruit
Recommended age: 3+
Amount of DHA: 100mg per pastille
Amount of EPA: 6mg per pastille
Kids verdict: "Like jellies"
Mum's verdict: Surprisingly quite a bit DHA in a product that looks and tastes like sweeties.

7) Cleanmarine Krill Oil for Kids 60 capsules
Price: €9.99 (16c per capsule)
Flavour: Orange x
Recommended age: 2+
Amount of DHA: 11mg per capsule
Amount of EPA: 24mg per capsule
Kids verdict: "Tastes like prawns, skin hard to chew, yuk"
Mum's verdict: Krill is a deep-sea fish that looks like a prawn - claimed to be the 'next generation’ Omega 3 and meant to work faster and better than fish oil in the body so the child needs less. The DHA/EPA scores are very low, but it does contain vitamin E and A as well. Claims no fishy aftertaste, but you can taste prawn. Kids take an instant dislike.

8) Haliborange Kids Omega 3 capsules 45 (with vitamins ACD&E)
Price: €6.99 (€15c per capsule)
Flavour: Orange or blackcurrant
Recommended age: 3-12 years
Amount of DHA: 84mg per capsule
Amount of EPA: 12mg per capsule
Kids verdict: "Nice"
Mum's verdict: For a product aimed at such a wide age range, it should have more EPA. It’s more like a multi-vitamin with low DHA.

9) Lil Critters Omega 3 Gummy Fish (60)
Price: €9.99 (16c per capsule)
Flavour: Sugary gummy bears
Recommended age: 3+
Amount of DHA: 16mg
Amount of EPA: na
Kids verdict: "Sweets!"
Mum's verdict: An American company with a big marketing budget. You can't miss the Lil Critters in pharmacies as most have big, colourful stands at point-of-sale. Don't believe the hype, they are NOT "an excellent source of DHA" as it says on the packaging: 16mg is nowhere near a therapeutic dose - and EPA must be so low it isn't even listed.

LIQUIDS

1) Boots Omega 3 liquid (200ml)
Price: €4.99 (12c per 5ml serving)
Flavour: Orange
Recommended age: 6months+
Amount of DHA: 190mg per 5ml spoonful
Amount of EPA: 260mg per 5ml
Kids verdict: "Tastes like fishy oranges"
Mum's verdict: A liquid that I ended up mixing into a multi-vit syrup they were taking because they didn't like it on its own (it's made from anchovy and sardine oil so quite fishy). Not a bad Omega 3 count but you have to give a large spoonful to reach that.

2) Haliborange Kids Omega 3 Syrup 200ml (with vitamins ACD&E)
Price: €5.99 (€15c per spoon)
Flavour: Orange
Recommended age: 3-12 years
Amount of DHA: 150mg per 5ml spoon
Amount of EPA: 75mg per 5ml spoon
Kids verdict: "Nice, creamy"
Mum's verdict: Made primarily from cod liver oil so there's a lot of Vitamin A. Still, it has a good balance of other vitamins, even if it has a low EPA.

3) Paradox liquid Omega 3, 6 & 9 (225ml)
Price: €17.99 (€40c per spoonful)
Flavour: Lemon
Recommended age: 7+
Amount of DHA: 425mg per 5ml spoon
Amount of EPA: 425mg per 5ml spoon
Kids verdict: "Yuk, oily"
Mum's verdict: Not just from fish oil, also derives Omega 3 from olives, tastes like a fruity olive oil. Also contains Omega 6 which all the experts advise to avoid. Quite expensive but a good amount of EPA and DHA.

4) Eskimo Kids Omega 3 (210ml) + Vitamins D&E
Price: €18.95 (€45c per spoon)
Flavour: Tutti Fruity or Orange
Recommended age: 1-12years
Amount of DHA: 280mg per 5ml teaspoon
Amount of EPA: 410mg per 5ml teaspoon
Kids verdict: "Tastes fishy and greasy"
Mum's verdict: It contains vitamin D and E, so that's good, but also contains 510mg Omega 6 per spoon from the rapeseed oil, and 1400mg Omega 9, which I’m told my kids don’t need extra of. I had to try to disguise the taste.

5) Abidec Multivitamin Syrup with Omega 3 150ml
Price: €9.50 (€31c per spoon)
Flavour: Lemon
Recommended age: Children aged 1-5
Amount of DHA: 25mg per 5ml spoon
Amount of EPA: 15.8mg per 5ml spoon
Kids verdict: "Euwgh"
Mum's verdict: They don't like the lemon taste. Whilst it's good to get an all round multi-vit into their bodies, the traces of DHA and EPA are minuscule and will barely scratch the surface of their brains.

UNDER FIVES

1) Minami MorDHA Minis 30 softgels
Price: €11.99 (40c per capsule)
Flavour: Strawberry
Recommended age: 6months + (however doesn't say this on the packaging)
Amount of DHA: 241mg per capsule
Amount of EPA: 33mg per capsule
Kids verdict: "Sweet but nice"
Mum's verdict: They're a good solution because my youngest was able to chew and swallow these from age 1; great for growing bodies and brains as they're very high in DHA. Label needs to be clearer as no age range listed on the packet.

2) Paradox Omega Babies 105ml bottle
Price: €11.95 (23c per squirt)
Flavour: Tasteless oil - to be mixed into food or bottle
Recommended age: 6 months +
Amount of DHA: 175mg per 2ml squirt
Amount of EPA: 175mg per 2ml squirt
Kids verdict: Sour face pulled when tasted on its own, didn't notice when I added to drinks or food.
Mum's verdict: A simple squirt added to food and the little ones don't notice.


Breakout box:

Omega 3 is broken down into two crucial parts: DHA and EPA.
DHA, short for Docosahexaenoic Acid, has an critical role to play in very early development - pregnant women are now encouraged to take Omega 3 supplements for this reason - and all through early childhood as children develop rapidly.
At about 5 years, EPA, short for Eicosapentaenoic Acid, becomes the more important omega 3 because of its benefits for learning and concentration. Most of the fish oil treatments for ADHD rely heavily on EPA.


Next page Suggested Intakes of Omega 3
>>>>


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OMEGA 3 BRAINFOOD FOR KIDS

I've spent a lot of time researching Omega 3 supplements and their positive impact on children in the last year.
A version of my article was published in The Examiner on Friday, Brainfood for Children.
I wanted to share with everyone the rest of my research which was too long to be published in the Feelgood section.
I feel this is an area that is not taken seriously by parents and one that can make a massive difference to children's health.
Brainfood for kids

Research proves that fish oil tablets can boost a child's brainpower - but with so many products on the market, how do you know which one to choose for your child? Amy Vickers investigates

Children need Omega 3 for every stage of their development. It boosts their brains, strengthens their immune systems and lifts their mood. It is also claimed to improve behaviour, reduce anxiety and helps to improve language. Sounds too good to be true - yet scientific research continues to show impressive results.



As a parent, you're told to feed children oily fish twice a week, but this is easier said than done. Children like to eat plain foods with most baulking at the sight and smell of fish.
So how do we sneak these essential Omega 3 fatty oils into their bodies? Supplements is the simple answer. But with so many of them on the market, it's a minefield choosing the right one for your child. Do you go for the cheapest? Do you go for the highest in DHA, whatever that is? What's the difference between Omega 3 and 6? Why are some €5.99 and some €22? And how much Omega 3 should my child be taking anyway? In this article, I'll aim to explain all this.
One fact is certain, unless your child is a big fish eater, they are not getting enough Omega 3 to nourish their growing brains and bodies. When we learn something new, our brain cells try to send messages to each another but if the pathways aren't fully formed, children can end up frustrated at not being able to do something. To work to their full potential, brain cells need ongoing nourishment from Omega 3s (salmon & tuna are good examples) but if children are consuming too many Omega 6s (the oils and margarines found in crisps & biscuits) their brains can become sluggish, which can affect concentration, learning and behaviour. It's now known that up to sixty percent of the brain consists of fat, located in the membranes of neurons as well as the protective layers that cover them. Scientists have proven that as Omega 3 (and specifically DHA in the brain) is consumed and dispersed to the brain, the better the neurons can communicate.
If your child struggles to sit still for five minutes and has behavioural issues, it could be that their brains are malnourished of essential fats. When my eldest was starting school I worried that he wouldn't be able to sit still and absorb the teaching, so I decided to try him on a high strength Omega 3 product aimed at 5 year olds. I looked around at all the deluge of products and I was baffled by the amounts of DHA and EPA. Which one of these was more important for a hyperactive and sometimes oppositional child?

It turns out that a product high in EPA is good for getting them to learn and concentrate, especially if they have hyperactive tendencies - recommended in a dose of 500mg a day at around the age of 5. For under 5s, DHA is the one to focus on because it lays the foundations during the early years of rapid mental and physical development and can help to stabilise their nervous system. That's why many baby milk manufacturers are now adding DHA to their formulas.

I also discovered that you should avoid supplements that contain high doses of Omega 6 and cod liver oil, because today's kids already have a lot of these in their diet. Omega 6 is a bit like salt in that kids need a little of it, but too much is bad for their health. Thirty years ago parents were advised to give their youngsters an unpalatable spoonful of (vitamin A-rich) cod liver oil but now kids get a good supply of vitamin A from fruits and vegetables and too much can cause toxicity in the body.

After six months of trying every Omega 3 supplement on the market, talking to experts, reviewing all the scientific research and watching my three children develop rapidly after taking it, I wanted to share my findings from this research project with other mums. I'm not a scientist, just a busy mum-of-3 who has stumbled upon something lacking in modern diets that has made a difference to my kids. Most of my friends are now giving Omega 3 to their children with noticeable improvements. My ranking system is based on the listed nutritional values of EPA and DHA, relative cost per dose and the taste reactions of my own three children.

Our anecdotal study - and those of my friends giving Omega 3s to their kids - shows that pure Omega 3 supplements are best, particularly those high in EPA, if you have a child struggling with concentration. I watched my energetic boy turn into Picasso almost overnight, able to sit down and concentrate far better than I'd ever expected.

We also found that kids prefer a capsule - this was unanimous from my friends also. It's easier for them to pop it in their mouths and continue playing. Chasing them around the house to coax them into taking a spoonful of oil isn't much fun - and they gag when it's disguised in their juice. The capsules are also fresher: leading brand Minami, which makes MorEpa, refuses to make a liquid version because they claim that if air gets into the oil it breaks down the Omega 3 potency.
Unlike oily fish such as tuna and mackerel, supplements are harvested to be mercury-free (mercury is bad for children) and not all of them are made from fish oils - some are made from algea and olives. Sometimes the cheapest isn't the best, and don't believe all the hype on the bottles as often the packaging is quoting a "daily dose" which can be several capsules and still not provide a decent quantity.

As a general rule, it is advised to give your child around 500mg of Omega 3 every day; toddlers can take up to 700mg a day and this can go up to 900mg a day for 4 to 9 year-olds and 1200mg for pre-teens.
It's worth remembering, that children won't be harmed by Omega 3, they will only benefit. The upper limit of 3000mg is so high that it’s unlikely to ever be reached.

Breakout box:

Omega 3 is broken down into two critical parts: DHA and EPA.
DHA, short for Docosahexaenoic Acid, has an critical role to play in very early development - pregnant women are now encouraged to take Omega 3 supplements for this reason and it is recommended all through early childhood to support children's rapid development.
At about 5 years, EPA, short for Eicosapentaenoic Acid, becomes the more important Omega 3 because of its benefits for learning and concentration. Most of the fish oil treatments for ADHD rely heavily on EPA.


See next page....





COPYRIGHT AMY VICKERS 10-3-13

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

TIME OF TRANSITION

Today I am announcing the relaunch of The Daily Muttering as Mama Dynamite.

It is big, bold, brave step, but I think I'm finally ready for a dynamic change.

What's prompted the change? Well, there's been a big shift in me over the last year. 

My five year baby bubble has lifted, thank god, and I've found myself in quite an unexpected positive place. 

It's a place where I'm starting to live life to my full potential. Where I'm finally saying "I can do anything" and I've stopped limiting myself by past beliefs that humble is better than confident. 

I used to think that 'confidence' was a dirty word. Now I realise it's something I need to embrace if I want to progress in life. 

I've come full circle, from shy child, to bolshy student, to humble adult and now to confident parent. 

It's very liberating. And authentic. Yes, I feel I'm being more authentic to myself - and challenging myself to strive for better.

I want to be dynamic. I want to be that person. I want to take a new journey with this new, exciting, energetic blog name.

To me Mama Dynamite is aspirational. I'd love to channel that dynamo energy inside me, and allow me to flourish. 

Earlier this week, I sat down with my paints and a canvas and started to paint 'Mama Dynamite' so I would have something unique for my background. It took about 2 hours to come up with this download from my brain:




So bye bye The Daily Muttering, you served me well. For the 14 months I was writing you, I loved how you helped me to find my voice. When I started The Daily Muttering I wanted to get back into journalism, to write daily (sadly I failed the daily bit) but I didn't take myself too seriously (hence negating everything I wrote by calling it a muttering). 

But as time went on, 'muttering' became a heavy anchor dragging me to the bottom of the sea. Rather than setting me free to swim the ocean, it held me back. When I wrote a poignant piece of poetry about my baby [eg Precious Hands] I felt that I wasn't giving it the presentation it deserved by putting in on my muttering blog.

I don't want to mutter anymore. I want to sing my words from the rooftops and stop apologising for myself.

I want to say YES instead of no. To free myself from my old self-limiting concepts and make better things happen. 

I always said that I might change the name when I stopped being a mutterer. Here's what I wrote when I first launched the blog in Jan 2012:

From About Me on The Daily Muttering
So here I am, embracing confidence, putting myself out there more than I've ever been, and giving the blog a more relevant name for its content.

All this week, I've been struggling to say the name Mama Dynamite out loud to friends (for fear of ridicule I think), but everyone has loved it. I'm hoping the name will take me to a new headspace where that insecurity no longer bothers me.

It's a bit scary but seeing as it's Mothers Day in Ireland today, I'm buouyed up, floating in dreamland, riding the "we love you mummy" wave. Have I used enough sea metaphors yet?!

I'm looking at the stormy sea from my kitchen window, seeing all kinds of metaphors for life, enjoying the fact that it's my special day.

I finally feel that my voice is valid, which feels just great.

So here goes.... click Publish... now it's done..... eeeek, I'm out there. I hope you like....

Here's my final message to all you lovely hard-working mums out there:




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Monday, March 4, 2013

REVIEW: FAMILY CAR CITROEN C4 GRAND PICASSO

#REVIEW##REVIEW##REVIEW##REVIEW##REVIEW#

For those expanding their families and wondering how to fit all the baby seats in the car, here's the lowdown on the best-value 7-seater family car on the market.

We had to upgrade cars after we had our third child. Because our estate car just wasn't big enough.

Since we bought the car last year, two of my friends have also bought the same car. We're like car triplets!

It took us a full year of reseach into 7-seaters before we finally took the plunge and bought our Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. We're a bit slow thorough like that.

Some days my mama wagon is often filled with a kid in every seat.
Apart from the driver, of course.





We settled on the Citroen over the Ford S-Max, which were our two favourites, because of price, safety, reliability and comfort. It ticked all the boxes.

Citroen is loads cheaper than the S-Max and in Ireland, the tax is about half the price. By importing from the UK, we saved a couple of thousand Euro off the Irish price, probably the most expensive car prices in Europe.

So here's the good, the bad, the ugly on this car...

THE GOOD

So much space. We thought our old Volvo estate was big before we a) had kids b) got this. Oh. My. God. The difference. This makes the Volvo seem tiny inside. It's like a tardis, because it doesn't look that big from the outside but inside it's lovely and roomy. There's no gearstick in mine so the whole middle column is a massive storage space for bags and the hubby has even customised a basket for the space so I can store hats and drinks: all those little things that normally end up scattered on the floor of a family car (if you don't have a handy basket like this).


 
 
 
 
It fits 3 child seats comfortably in the back - we used to have 2 toddler seats before we moved onto the next stage seat and they all had plenty of space. We use rigid seat belt extenders for fastening the seat belts between the seats. They save my sanity every time I'm fastening them all in.
 
There's plenty of leg room too for the times when we have 4 adults and 3 kids in the car (which happens when we take my parents out for day trips). It's lovely for us to all fit in one car.
 
 
 
 
Plenty of space in the boot for buggies and luggage. Love the fact that there's space under the boot seat for wellies and shoes (see stuffed Ikea bag under back flap).
 
 
 

It's great to drive too. Very smooth. I never thought I'd be a fan of automatic cars, but when you're a mum with 3 kids in the back, anything to make your life easier is a massive bonus. Suddenly not having to use the left side of my body for changing gear was a revelation - my left leg and left arm were suddenly free of having to make cumbersome gear changes, so I could pass biscuits back to my kids in the back to stop their screaming at junctions. Houray for labour saving devices like automatic cars!


THE BAD

The boot latch is half-automatic and half-manual, which means it's often man-mandled and gets stuck - it's a known weak point of the car. Two of my friends have had their boot latch replaced at E80 a pop. One of my friend's husbands now compares the sensitive latch to a women's special bits - it should be approached with care and a delicate, light touch!


THE UGLY

It was only after a few months and noticing a self-imposed scratch on the back bumper that we realised it was made of plastic! Some of the more rounded parts of the car are fashioned from plastic, rather than metal.

Closing the boot can feel a bit tinny and the back of the seats  (also hardened plastic) is getting scratch far too easily (but then I do have 3 kids that refuse to look after anything nicely).


OVERALL

I love it. It's changed my life. I just throw in loads of kids and off we go. The kids love sitting in the boot best. I love not having to drive very hard, just foot down, steer and go.

The best thing is that because it's only 1.6c and low emissions, the tax is among the lowest you'll get for a family car. However, I still pay E390 a year.







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Friday, March 1, 2013

TESTING TESTING

Am I brave enough to be Mama Dynamite?

Why Dynamite?

Well, it's dynamic, positive, catchy, explosive and says more about what I'm trying to acheive from the blog, rather than The Daily Muttering.

Will the two exist side by side? Will I migrate content from The Daily Muttering to Mama Dynamite?

It's a very confident step. Am I ready for it yet?



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BLOGBLESSSING: PRECIOUS HANDS

Today's post is brought to you via the Irish Parenting Bloggers Group, a group I am honoured to be involved in. 

It's spring and we're celebrating new life, the cherry blossoms are turning pink, the daffs are singing in the wind and new buds are bursting from every plant. And two of our members are having precious baby girls.


Trees turn pink to celebrate baby girls being born

There has been a series of 18 posts in 18 days: a Virtual Mother Blessing for two of our members with 2013 babies. 

I am the last to post. Last but not least, I hope. 

My gift is a poem written in the dead of night, when trying to get my baby back to sleep (at least night wakings are useful for something ;-)


*****
Precious Hands

You'll never have hands so small again
Perfectly formed, so full of flesh
Grasping mine tightly, pure innocence

You'll never have a body so small again
Pudgy limbs, cuddled in my arms
Surrendered entirely, a warm woozy trust




You'll never have skin so soft again
Thrilling my senses, my favourite cushion
Nuzzling and rubbing, orgasmic flesh

You'll never have hair so fine again
Smoother than silk, who needs scissors
Blowing in the breeze, like dandelion seeds




You'll never need me as much again
Disturbed from sleep, in pain or fear
Clinging for dear life, adrift in time

You'll never want me so much again
I'm freezing time HERE, holding you longer
Saving this snapshot, precious hands holding mine








*****

Irish Parenting Bloggers can be followed on Twitter using the hash tags #ParentBlogsIE or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/IrishParentingBlogs

Here's all the other bloggers taking part:
The Nest 
Mind the Baby
Wonderful Wagon
That Curious Love of Green
Debalicious
My Internal World
Awfully Chipper
Go Dad Go
The Dare Project
The Clothesline
Dreaming Aloud
Kate Takes 5
Ouch My Fanny Hurts
Pomp
Musings of a Hostage-Mother
Wholesome Ireland


My post cryptically carries the letter M.  



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