31 Oct 2011

Bamboo Clothes - soft, breathable and eco-friendly too!

From This....
I happened upon a website a few weeks ago advertising clothes made from Bamboo. Excuse me? Bamboo?
Now, I'm a progressive sort of gal, we have strand-woven bamboo flooring in our house that's hard as nails and beautiful to look at. Bamboo is a grass and grows much faster than hardwood and so is more easily replenished and can be harvested more often. It's also more water-resistant than wood such as oak.
Okay, so flooring.. but how are you going to make it into clothes? Apparently, bamboo fibre is produced from the raw materials of bamboo pulp. It's then made into fibre through a process of crushing and mixing with caustic soda, a low impact chemical.
It has excellent wicking properties for sports and performance clothes,  because it absorbs and evaporates sweat in seconds, which means bamboo clothing will keep you dry for much longer.
Bamboo fibres also have a special microstructure that remains present in textiles. Thanks to this microstructure, bamboo clothing has a thermo-control, staying cooler during summer and warmer through the winter. In fact, it's been proven that, during hot weather, clothes made from bamboo will keep you two degrees cooler than those made from other fabrics.
To this.. (unshaven husband modelling BAM
 top & socks)
Bamboo clothing is anti-static, so it doesn't cling and it cuts out 98% of harmful UV rays. If that isn't enough, it's apparently also anti fungal, so it keeps your clothes fresher for longer - no more smelly socks!
Alrighty, then, I'm convinced to give them a whirl. I explored the website, Bamboo Clothing or BAM, and as I was in the market for some new socks, ordered three pairs for myself and a natty looking long-sleeved black polo-top for my husband, smart enough to wear for 'Dress-down Friday' at work. And best of all, not too expensive.
Wow, was I impressed. The socks are FAB. They feel nice and weighty in the hand but fit beautifully and are sooo soft. My husband's top is also really soft, doesn't crease and the fabric feels lovely next to the skin.
So on to the washing machine test. No problems there at all. Tumble dried? Brilliant.
I am planning to buy my husband some running tights and I might even splash out on some underwear for everyone. I am obliged to get some socks for my 12 year old son who I caught walking off with a pair of mine that I hadn't opened.
The range isn't huge at the moment, but I'm sure that will change in time. But if you're into sports, (unlike me) they have a great range of baselayers and other activity wear.
One more group of people that Bamboo fabric is good for - those with allergies, because of the lack of harsh chemical treatments in the fabric. The fibre is smooth and round, so is a non-irritant. This last point brings me to a very special set of people who could benefit - those with sensory issues that arise from autistic spectrum disorders and similar problems. Many people like this find scratchy, rough or itchy clothes intolerable so this maybe one solution for them.
To check them out for yourself, visit: http://www.bambooclothing.co.uk/
This is not a sponsored post - it was written for no incentive, because I was genuinely impressed. However, those nice people at BAM did send me a pair of socks when they'd seen it to say thank you. Which was very nice of them.

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26 Oct 2011

Ritalin, talking therapies and what I think our kids really need

On the Mumsnet blogger site there was a piece by MP Pat McFadden about the increase in prescribing of ritalin. I wrote about it on my www.specialneedsjungle.com blog, but as it's something I feel so strongly about, I'm reposting it here.
Ritalin, talking therapies and what I think our kids really need…The Health Minister, Simon Burns has said that the chief medical officer and the NHS medical director are planning to write to clinicians to remind them of the full range of NICE guidelines on conditions—including ADHD—that affect children’s mental health. It came in response to an adjournment debate called by MP Pat McFadden on the rise in prescriptions for children of the drug methylphenidate (Ritalin, Equasym etc) used to treat people affected by the symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity. These symptoms affect behaviour and the ability to learn and as well as being found in ADHD, are also co-morbid in young people with autism, Asperger Syndrome and other similar development disorders.
Mr McFadden made a plea for the Minister to carry out a proper, comprehensive review of the use of these drugs involving professionals from the medical, psychology and teaching fields, as well as the families of those who have been prescribed the drugs. He asked the Minister, “Will he commit his Department to carry out a proper research project into the use of the drugs, including the age of the children receiving them? Secondly, in the light of the huge growth in prescriptions, will the Government carry out a proper review of practice in the field, as called for by the Association of Educational Psychologists, before the new guidance comes into effect in 2013?”
Mr Burns said he himself had a family member who was successfully being treated with Ritalin. “Across hospital and primary care, the prescribing of drugs for ADHD increased by around 12.5% between 2007 and 2010, the latest four years for which data are available, and by around 6% in 2010 alone. Prescribing in primary care alone increased by 22% in that four-year period, reflecting a significant shift in prescribing activity from a hospital setting and into primary care. Looking back further, one sees that prescribing in primary care has tripled in the past 10 years.”

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22 Oct 2011

The Things We Take For Granted (well I do, anyway)

We have been spoiled, I realise that now. Let me explain. Our dishwasher isn't working. It took me a few days to realise that the reason the dishes were coming out greasy was that the water wasn't heating up.
What to do? Get it fixed or buy a new one? It is seven years old, after all and was in the house as an integrated appliance when we moved in.
£400 for a new one or equivalent spec or £163 to get it fixed including a 12 month support contract. I went with the latter, strangely enough. After all, the contract with the repairers says if they can't fix it, they'll replace it new for old, so I can't lose.
c. Tania Tirraoro. All rights reserved
But they're not coming to fix it until Tuesday so I have been having to WASH UP BY HAND! I know, for many people, this is what they do every day, but when you're used to just bunging plates into the dishwasher it has been a rude awakening. It's so time consuming, and you have to do it after every meal or you run out of dishes or room to stack them on the drainer (no, I'm NOT drying them too).
Technology has revolutionised our domestic existence in so many ways. There is no worse moment for me, appliance wise, than when the washing machine breaks down. There are three grubby males in this house who produce copious amounts of dirty clothes. And yet, my grandmother's generation managed without washers and dryers. Took them all day though, but then looking after house and family was their main job - and no-one lambasted them for it. Mind you, working mothers get it in the neck too, so you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. I am lucky that I can work from home and have the best of both worlds, but that is only because of technology and the internet.
We had a power cut the other week. I was unable to get online! Imagine! Much of my work relies on the internet but with the power out, I felt strangely free. I read a magazine. It was Mslexia, a women's writing periodical so I still felt it was work-related, but still. I worried about the fridge-freezer though, if the power didn't come back on. There was the dog's frozen minced tripe in there and it stinks at room temperature. It's not that pleasant when it's frozen either.
The children moped about. No Xbox. No Minecraft. No Electric guitar (mercifully) though of course, the acoustic still worked. Oh, boys, look at this, it's called a book. You don't need to plug it in!
I started off this post saying we were spoiled. Actually, perhaps that is not accurate because it compares what we have now to what we had twenty or thirty years ago. Times move on. Clever people invent stuff that become a daily part of our lives. Not everyone has a dishwasher but a large percentage of the population do. In another thirty years, I might look back at 2011 and think, oh poor us, we didn't have flying cars or world peace and the eradication of poverty. Okay, those last two are not that likely, but flying cars? Hmmm...

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19 Oct 2011

In memory of Sonia, my friend.

Sometimes news knocks you sideways.
Today, just as I was driving home from lunch with my husband and feeling pretty pleased that I'd found a pair of black jeans that actually fitted me, I received a phone call.
My beautiful friend, Sonia
It was from the partner of an old friend, Sonia Robinson, who has been battling breast cancer for the past few years. He was calling to tell me that she had lost the fight earlier this month. She was just 46.
I have known Sonia since I was 19, more than half my life. We met when we were assigned rooms next door to each other in Halls of Residence in Tooting, South London. She was from Birmingham and two years older than I. I was from Warrington, an immature, know-nothing teenager.
We became friends, even though on the face of it we had nothing in common. We would sit on our respective window-sills and talk through the open window or go for a drink in the Student bar. Sometimes we would go up into the centre of London for an evening with very little money to spend, but we always had fun. On my 21st birthday, Sonia plaited my hair tightly into two so that by the evening my poker straight hair would have waves for our evening out. Times spent with her were always easy. When you did something questionable she would give you a 'look' but you knew that you were not judged.
That friendship has lasted 25 years. We were not in each other's pockets, and our contact through most of that time has been sporadic as we got on with our lives and families in different parts of the country. But we always sent each other birthday cards when we could - our birthdays were two days apart.
We were the kind of friends that could speak or see one another after months or years of silence and pick up where we left off. Still, I feel a pang of guilt, wishing that I had been more in touch in the last couple of years. The last time I spoke to her she said she was tired but recovering. Since then I have thought of her often, but always at times when it was too late in the evening to call or when I was out doing other things and something brought her to mind. I must call her, I would think. Now, it's too late and I am angry with myself for not being more organised.
Sonia had a son, who is now grown. She also had a daughter, who is the same age as my eldest son. I pray for them. I lost my mother when I was 38 and that was way too young. She was also taken by the evil that is cancer. To lose your mother when you are not even grown is unthinkable.
To me, Sonia was always a wise, stoic person. She knew how to have fun but I sometimes asked myself when decisions came up in my life, what would Sonia think of it?
She had a beautiful smile and there was a regalness about her that I admired. She had the most amazingly expressive eyes that could say so much with just a glance.
Her partner told me that she was cared for by a hospice in Birmingham called the John Taylor Hospice that included Macmillan cancer care. Just as I was starting to write this post, the doorbell sounded. It was a young man from Macmillan, looking for people to sign up to give monthly. It seemed like a sign, so I immediately invited him in and signed a direct debit monthly pledge.
I'll be sending an additional donation with my card to Sonia's family that will go to the hospice itself. I'm told they cared for her with dignity and that is all we can ask for when our moment comes.
I recently read a book about dying. The book, by Raymond Moody had charted many thousands of near death experiences, where people have been revived to tell similar stories of being met by loved ones, of seeing a bright white light at the end of a long tunnel and going through an all-encompassing life review. When I read that, I resolved to live my life so that I would not be ashamed at my own life review, whenever that happens. I am sure that Sonia's will have shown the love that she had for her family and the happiness that she gave her friends, like me and that her loved ones that had gone before were waiting to take her into their care.
My thoughts and prayers are with Sonia's family. Her partner of so many years, Trevor, told me she was at peace. I believe him.
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18 Oct 2011

How do your children see you?

Have you ever wondered how you children see you? My 13 year old was watching Disney's "Good Luck Charlie" the other day and pointed at the slightly eccentric but savvy and lovable mum and said, "She's just like you."

"What do you mean?" I enquired.
"Mad," he replied. Mad? MAD?
"I think she's a cool mum. She's always one step ahead of her kids," I said, defensively (Yes, okay, I have been known to watch it with him).
My son, teenager that he is, rolled his eyes and gave a derisive snort.
Am I mad, I wondered? Okay, so I sing along in the car to the sound coming from his headphones, but this is a deliberate way of illustrating just how loud he must have them. I laugh at my own jokes even when no one else does. And I do silly dances in front of him when the music from his "Disney & ketchup" programmes are on. But this is because it amuses me to see him squirm and I wouldn't do it if he had friends there. After all, what's the point of having kids if you can't have a little fun at their expense now and again?
This got me wondering what my younger son, who's 12, thought of me. I know he thinks his Dad is 'soft as a pillow' because he's kind and softly spoken and lets them get away with stuff. I called him into the room.
"Son2," I said. "What do you think of me?"
He gave me an uncertain look, clearly wondering if the truth was required. Apparently, it was. "You're shouty and stern," he said. Then seeing my hurt expression he quickly added, "But a nice person and... a good bloke. Is that it? Goodbye." And off he went back to his techno-lair, also known as his bedroom filled with geeky stuff.
So, what am I to take from this? Mad, shouty and stern but a nice person and a 'good bloke'. I suspect the last bit was just because son2 couldn't think of anything else to say.
I think I'm okay with it. After all, we can't both be soft as a pillow - someone has to lay down the law and make sure stuff gets done in a timely fashion. Sometimes that means being a bit sergeant-majorish, but that's what parenting is all about - giving your kids boundaries as well as loving them to bits. They're not going to like it when they're pulled up about things, but I'm not their mate, I'm their mother. It's in the job description. They may have special needs but I try to treat them as normally as possible. And I don't think that being like the Mum is "Good Luck Charlie" is a bad thing to be at all.

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10 Oct 2011

My new book for Special Educational Needs

In October 2011, I published a book aimed at helping parents with SEN statementing. It's available on AmazonUK & WH Smith among others as a paperback and an ebook. Here's the press release:
A mother of two autistic boys from Farnham, Surrey has published a new book aimed at helping other parents navigate their way through the special educational needs jungle.
While there are other books about the SEN system available, this book, by the creator of the www.specialneedsjungle.com website, Tania Tirraoro, takes a parent-to-parent approach, explaining in detail how to prepare an application for a statutory assessment of special educational needs.
Tania said, "Since I started my website in 2008, it's become clear how daunting parents find the SEN process. Many parents of children with ASDs or dyslexia are affected by the conditions themselves and need help with organising and getting started on their applications. I've helped many parents with their applications and I realised that what they need is not an overview of the whole system that you find in other books, but a basic 'how-to', written in an accessible way. That is what I hope I've achieved."
The book has a foreword by SEN campaigner and former parliamentary candidate Maria Hutchings, who famously hand-bagged Tony Blair during the 2005 election over the closure of special schools. It also contains a section on what to expect if you end up at an SEN Tribunal by experienced SEN Advocate, Julie Maynard.
Maria Hutchings said, "I only wish that I when I was going through the statementing process striving to get John Paul the right education, speech therapy and respite for the family, that I had read this book. Being the mother of two children on the autistic spectrum, Tania has a deep sense of empathy for what it feels like when you have to fight for everything to ensure your child’s future. Tania captures that deep sense we all have as mothers and carers, to do the very best for our precious children."
The book takes parents through the process from a very personal viewpoint with examples from successful applications and relevant quotes from the SEN Code of Practice and Education law.
Tania said, "I've been through the process twice and my boys, who both have Asperger Syndrome, now have access to the kind of education they need to help level the playing field in their future lives. ASD is a lifelong condition and they will always battle the difficulties of their Asperger's, but because I had the ability to present their cases methodically, they got the help they need. Why should other children not have the same as my boys?"

About the Author:

Tania Tirraoro is an author and journalist and has already published two women's fiction novels, This Last Summer and Sweet Seduction, one as an ebook, the other available as ebook and in paperback. She is a former television and radio journalist, having worked as a reporter and news presenter for Meridian Television and NBC/CNBC, and BBC Radio Berkshire among others. She also works as a press consultant for three heart rhythm charities.You can find the SEN site at www.specialneedsjungle.com.
Tania's author site is at www.taniatirraoro.com
She also has a blog at http://notasadvertised.blogspot.com
Twitter: @TaniaLT  @SpcialNdsJungle
Tania Tirraoro can be contacted at info@specialneedsjungle.com
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2 Oct 2011

Trying out "The key to the fountain of youth"

Call me gullible but I received a marketing email the other day from Biovea, from whom I usually buy my Melantonin.
It was pushing a supplement called Hyaluronic Acid, not be be confused with Hydrochloric Acid, which is something very different...
Anyway, this Hyaluronic Acid is apparently also known as the 'Key to the fountain of youth'. Hmm, I thought, I could use a bit of that.
I read the blurb. Apparently in a Japanese village where people usually live a long time and often have perfect skin into their 80's or even into their 90's their diet is rich in a starchy vegetable which is particularly high in HA. A pharmaceutical company in Japan began R&D on a pill supplement containing HA. When they tested the pills on one thousand individuals, around half of them reported smoother skin and even improved eyesight.
Okey dokey, I thought, tell me more....Hyaluronic Acid is plentiful in our bodies when we are born, but its levels gradually recede over time, which may be a big part of the ageing process. Hyaluronic Acid occurs in the deeper layers of our skin known as the dermis and it appears to help keep the skin smooth because of its water retention qualities. It's claimed that HA appears to help maintain collagen levels.
Furthermore, the blurb went on, HA makes up about eighty percent of the human eye and is, apparently, a sort of shock absorber to the retina, which helps to prevent trauma to the eye.
That clinched it for me as I have a rare retinal disease called Punctate Inner Choroidopathy which leads to scarring on the retina and some loss of vision. Great skin and better eyesight? AND it's on sale?
But before I hit the order button, I looked it up on the internet. It's approved by the FDA and is used in other forms injected into arthritic joints and as a dermal filler. I couldn't find anything particularly bad about it, so I decided to give it a try.
Well, mine arrived this week and I have been taking it religiously. I shall update you on whether I am appearing so youthful that people are mistaking me for my sons' older sister.
If your interest is piqued, I got mine from here.
PS, I have no connection with Biovea, other than as a long-time customer.
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