The Instant Generation

It was whilst checking my phone for the third time this morning and being impatient at it’s loading speed that I had a flashback to being a teenager with agonisingly slow dial up internet, a family computer and no knowledge of anything beyond msn messenger. And I remember it still being such an awesome thing,  we had the internet!

Roll on 12 years and my children are growing up in a world where the internet is available at the touch of a button, on a variety of devices and there are more social media sites than you know what to do with. So much of our daily life is conducted on the internet from paying bills, banking and grocery shopping to researching rainy day activities, planning holidays and getting involved in political activity.  Just a few years ago, the extent of our virtual world would have been unbelievable. For our children however,  they’ve never known or never will know any different.

And don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a technophobe or technosceptic (I made that one up)! I think technology and the opportunities it gives us is brilliant.  Just take for example the world of home educators. The internet provides a place where parents can go to for ideas,  reassurance,  company and endless resources. Anecdotally I’ve read more experienced home educators saying how much easier or less isolating the internet makes home educating compared to 10 years ago.

But, (there’s always a but) I do think it is important to teach our children to be able to switch off and of the value of the real world and experiencing it fully. I am not one to talk, I still struggle with not checking my phone regularly,  with not carrying it around the house with me. I often find myself immersed in reading something (ironically usually parenting related) only to glance up and realise that one or both of my children would like me to engage with them, and to do so fully.

What a bad example for them, to see me almost surgically attached to my phone,  unable to give my full attention to the people around me. Children have the most amazing skill of living totally in the moment,  of soaking up every little detail of what they are experiencing. I want to be more like them. I don’t want them to grow up to think that the real world isn’t as good as what the virtual world offers. Because it is every bit as good and infinitely better. To get out and interact face to face with other people, to explore our local surroundings,  be it a metropolitan city or rural countryside,  to have to take time and put in effort to complete tasks and challenges. These are important skills and ones that aren’t possible through the internet alone.

The latter point is one I really feel strongly about,  patience. If there’s one thing technology doesn’t encourage,  it’s patience. Everything is instant and easy, just a click of a button away. And I have a theory that having patience is one of the most important traits we can possess. Patience is thinking before we speak,  patience is accompanying an elderly woman home after a fall as she walks at what seems like the pace of a snail, patience is parenting,  endlessly, day in, day out, without reward and often lots of being shouted at and bodily fluids to contain and clean.

Patience is love.

And without love, what have we got? Not much; it is at the foundation of our relationships and of everything good.

The internet is great for a lot of things (blogging for example!) but we need genuine face time in order to nurture and model patience and love in our children.

So that is why I am giving up the internet on my phone for lent. To just use it for it’s intended purpose of calls and texts.  To have to consciously set aside 30 minutes or an hour in the evening to boot up the computer for anything that needs doing. To spend my days 100% immersed in my task at hand, undistracted. To leave my phone at home when I pop to the shops or the park. To prioritise the people I’m with, be it the kids, my family,  or friends, and not do them the disservice of having to fight for my attention with a screen. Will you join me? Are you up for the challenge?

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Eggy maths and rants on honey

A most lovely friend came by tonight to catch up and keep me company during my few weeks of flying solo with the kids, we had a great time although my ramblings may have somewhat dominated the evening (sorry B!) Whilst allowing me some self indulgent waffling I pondered with her the subject of my next blog post, having thought about writing about Sophia’s sudden love of mathematics. However, as things progressed we decided that more interesting was musings on chickens and my (somewhat unsubstantiated) rants about honey. Hopefully, you’ll agree!

We visited our new house today again to take some boxes over and start the moving process. The kids enjoyed tearing round an empty house (and poking in the ash of the woodburner when I wasn’t looking) and I enjoyed a few hours of solitude in the rural Devon countryside, I am definitely looking forward to more of that.  Before we left we had a nose around the vegetable garden to assess the state of things and noticed 3 new neighbours, a nosy cockerel and two hens. Sophia and Isaac were delighted, especially when the former indulged us with a storybook ‘Cock a Doodle Doo!’ It was lovely to see them and got me thinking about chickens.

I am fairly certain that I have almost convinced Dan to get chickens (our other suggestions of a puppy, a few kittens and some guinea pigs have not gone down so well….) I’ve been doing a bit of a research and am torn between buying some hybrid layers and having a reliable egg supply or rescuing some battery hens. The latter feels like the kinder option but the selfish part of me wants to know that if we’re investing in animals we actually get a decent amount of eggs in return. (Hence the first part of this post’s title – trying to calculate how many eggs we’d get a year from an average layer!) Any advice would be much appreciated. Perhaps a few rescue and a few layers would be a good plan to satisfy my philanthropic leanings. Watch this space…

The vegetable garden and greenhouse were of a good size and I’m feeling hopeful that I might be able to grow a large amount of the vegetables we eat if I get on with it as soon as we’re in and stay focused on the task at hand. We’ll be growing everything in raised beds or pots which hopefully will make things easier than my last two growing experiences (in the borders at our current house and on a sprawling allotment plot with friends back in Brighton). Being realistic about what we eat my priority vegetables to grow are potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, herbs and hopefully some soft fruits. Perhaps a tall order but I have lots of seeds and two willing pairs of hands to help, or do I mean hinder?!

This is especially important to me as I’ve been going to the community market at Matthews Hall in Topsham every saturday morning for my fruit and more recently our vegetables as well and this will soon be coming to an end when we’ve moved. I’m gutted as I love the ritual of chatting to the family running the stall and picking my own produce, knowing that it is usually from local farmers and coming straight from farm to me rather than going via a supermarket with all the associated costs (both financial and environmental in terms of carbon footprint). There is something special about markets like this, if you live nearby I’d urge you to pop in – not only will you get some bargains but you’ll be supporting local men and women in their businesses. Every day we hear of local shops and markets getting run out of business by Tesco and the like so we should support what is still going while we can! Another of my favourite stalls at the market sells handmade chutneys and locally produced honey from bees near Haldon Forest.

And so I come to my ranting about honey! After having discovered the aforementioned supply of local honey last year I’ve endeavoured to always get our honey from there since and this was further strengthened by a trip to Tesco and Lidl. We’d run out of honey and had missed the market so ended up in the supermarket looking for some. I wasn’t surprised by Lidl not having any British (or even European) honey but despite a fair few stocked shelves I couldn’t find any honey in Tesco that didn’t say in small print ‘a blend of EU and non EU honey’. Even in the small cooperatives and our local convenience stores I cannot find British or European honey. My disclaimer here is that this is just one Tesco that I checked and I assume products can vary from store to store. I’m also very aware that supermarkets like Waitrose and Marks and Spencer are quite likely to stock British honey.

But that is besides the point (kind of)! It is a fairly well known fact that the future of bees is under threat and although I’m aware that that is largely due to loss of habitat, surely supporting British beekeepers would help towards ensuring their survival. They play such an important part in our ecosystem, we can’t let them just die out. So I guess that’s why I was (naively) shocked at how unavailable British honey is in our major supermarkets.

The bottom line really is driven by profit and profit alone, regardless of what effect that has on the environment and local businesses. I already knew that really but my experiences with honey have made it a reality.

I was going to leave it there with an urging to shop responsibly and locally but I know it’s not that simple. When it comes to the crunch a large majority of families simply cannot afford to shop as mindfully or ethically as they’d like to. The supermarkets have the monopoly on affordable groceries and that really is a sad state of affairs. And I have absolutely no clue what could change and how it might happen to shift the balance back to the smaller and more environmentally friendly food sources. All I know is that it should happen and I suspect that strong communities are part of the solution.

If you’ve any thoughts on the topic I’d love to hear them. Do you consider the environmental ramifications of what you buy or does affordability dictate your choices?

 

Water, water, everywhere..

You would have had to of had your head in the sand (probably on an exotic island halfway round the world) not to have taken stock of our remarkably wet and gloomy start to the year. The media is flooded (no pun intended, oh well maybe a little one!) with pictures of fields turned to lakes, abandoned villages and the seawall at Dawlish alongside theories as to what is behind the unusually severe weather.  Topsham itself flooded last week though luckily a lot of riverfront buildings seemed to.escape with minimal damage. In fact the biggest casualty is the kids favourite park which is littered in debris and closed until further notice much to Sophia’s dismay.

These minor woes are insignificant and pale in comparison to the heartbreak of thousands who have lost their homes and livlihoods. I can’t begin to imagine what they are going through as they start the grim task of assessing what is salvagable (if anything) and building back up their lives. Never mind the fact that the forecast doesn’t seem to be improving anytime soon and water levels might still rise further.

Predictably accusations have started to fly as to which politician cut flood defence spending and whether this is a result of climate change or just some extreme weather, unusual but not unheard of. Whilst all of these are conversations that need to be had I really think it shouldn’t detract from the most important task at present of supporting those whose lives have been devastated, both practically and financially.

When I started to write this post I had intended for it to be a bit of a moan about the weather and talking about some of the activities that have saved our sanity as cabin fever has crept in (puzzles and playdough mostly for anyone who is interested). But I couldn’t write that post. It seemed just too selfish in the face of the bigger picture.

I got an email earlier from the campaign group 38 Degrees offering a way to donate online to a local community based charity in Somerset in order to financially support the flood victims.  Whilst I don’t usually respond to emails like that (our charitable giving tends to be more long term), I couldn’t shake the images from this article of an entire county under water and realised that although we can’t spare much we certainly can afford to give a little. And the more people giving a little, the more that can be done. Maybe you’ll think about whether you can sacrifice some small luxury this week in order to donate?

I’m being slightly inept at navigating their website so I’ll keep my ramblings short and sweet but leave you with the email they sent me and link to donate.

A lot of the UK is under water right now. And more rain is forecast. Homes, farms, and whole villages are ruined. Thousands of people are having a really tough time. [1]

On the ground, local charities are springing into action. They are pulling together emergency accommodation, pumping equipment, blankets and food. They are providing comfort and hope to communities in crisis.

The 38 Degrees office team have been in touch with local charities in areas hit by floods – charities like the Somerset Community Foundation, who are supporting flooded communities on the Somerset Levels. [2]

They’ve explained that 38 Degrees members could help with relief efforts across the UK by raising money quickly for the charities working on the ground. Any cash raised now could be spent straight away on help for flood victims.

Donations now will start helping flood-stricken communities within hours. So please can you help by chipping in to the flood relief fund?

38 Degrees staff will work with local charities around the UK to make sure your donation goes straight to the worst hit areas. Our donations will help families and communities get back on their feet as soon as possible.

Here’s what Mary Hancock, deputy chief executive of the Somerset Community Foundation, said:

“As a community foundation our role is to work with grassroots groups to make sure the relief money is going where it is so desperately needed. Donations from 38 Degrees members would be so valuable right now. We will work alongside 38 Degrees staff and our network of community foundations to rebuild flood affected communities.”

Here’s how donations from 38 Degrees members could help:

– Provide emergency relief grants to people whose homes have been flooded to meet the immediate financial burdens of moving out, pumping and drying, and emergency repairs.

– Help those who face additional financial burdens as a result of the flooding, for example through loss of earnings.

– Support local small businesses, charities and community organisations to ensure their survival and swift recovery. 

– Support counselling and community services to help people cope with the emotional stress caused by the flooding in the short and medium term.

Please can you chip in right now? Make a secure donation by clicking this link:
http:// https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/UK-flood-relief-donate

There are lots of big questions to be answered about how we can prevent flooding in the future. How can we do more to tackle climate change? [3] How can we improve flood defences? And whose responsibility is it to make sure this doesn’t happen again? But right now homes are underwater and families need our help.

Lots of 38 Degrees members have contacted the office over the last few days to say they want to do something about the floods. Sometimes helping means pressure on politicians to do the right thing. Sometimes, it means offering direct help. In this case, it probably means both – but let’s get started by getting cash where it’s needed this week.

http:// https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/UK-flood-relief-donate

Thanks for getting involved,

Becky, Maddy, David and the rest of the 38 Degrees team

PS: Here is a bit more detail on how 38 Degrees will make sure the money gets to those who need it most:

1. 38 Degrees staff will work closely with local community foundations in areas affected by the floods. These organisations have a track record of supporting local communities, and are already getting on with the job of helping those in need.

2. 38 Degrees will only pass donations on to registered charities – that means every penny spent will be subject to charity regulations and audited by the Charity Commission.

3. The office team will provide a report back to everyone who donates, detailing how the fund has been distributed.

If you can, please chip in here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/UK-flood-relief-donate

PPS: One of the things that’s being raised by flood victims is problems with insurance companies. Have you experienced any problems? If so click here:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/flood-insurance-companies

NOTES
[1] BBC News – Severe UK weather continues:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26131604
[2] You can find more about the Somerset Community Foundation here:
http://www.somersetcf.org.uk
[3] 38 Degrees member Kevin Smith has set up a petition on Campaigns by You calling on the the Prime Minister to cut fossil fuel subsidies, not foreign aid, for flood victims’ relief. To sign the petition click here:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/cut-fossil-fuel-subsidies

38 DEGREES Registered Company No. 6642193

What is a doula?

(An aside to begin: Apologies for the fairly mundane post title, in a fit of ridiculousness, I’ve put off writing this post for the last few weeks as I couldn’t think of a good snappy title! I didn’t want to be glib so was trying to find something fitting but eventually gave up tonight and kept it simple.)

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I am doing training to become a doula in March but never actually elaborated on what a doula is. I’ve found from telling people about the training in real life (as opposed to virtual!) that it isn’t necessarily a well known role so I thought I’d write a bit about what a doula is, what they do and why I want to become one.

A doula is someone who offers women practical and emotional support during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. It is not a medical role and does not replace a midwife or doctor. The word doula is a greek word meaning ‘women servant or caregiver’. For me, this sums up the role. It is one of serving a woman during one of the most turbulent and exciting times in her life. Most doula’s receive training of some sort (there is an organisation called Doula UK that acknowledges several courses and has a database of doula’s for people looking to hire one) and have a good knowledge of birth physiology and often breastfeeding as well.

My perspective is that doula’s are on the rise in the UK. I’m not sure I’d heard of them at all during my pregnancy with Sophia (nearly 5 years ago) but I definitely had while I was pregnant with Isaac. I think the rise is probably as a response to the shortage of midwives in the NHS at the moment and the lack of consistency during your pregnancy and birth. Hiring a doula ensures that you will have someone present at your birth who you have met and who you trust to support you and help you achieve (where possible) the birth you want. I think it probably also coincides with an increased awareness of the massive benefits of having a physiologically natural birth and the rising movement of mothers and birth professionals who are passionate about reclaiming birth as a natural process that doesn’t have to be feared and unnecessarily medically managed. A film called One World Birth which was released two years ago shares a quote from Sheila Kitzinger (a social anthropologist and author specialising in pregnancy, childbirth and the parenting of babies and young children) who exclaimed ‘Birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exult in’.

Obviously I have not done my training yet and so cannot speak for the whole community but that is not to say that there is antipathy between doula’s and midwifes or the medical establishment. I think that midwives do an incredible job and can honestly say that all the midwives I encountered during both pregnacies and births in two different trusts were kind, supportive, empowering and just amazing. They all worked so so hard and were so busy and I am truly grateful for all that were involved in my care. Unfortunately though, there is a massive shortage so midwives are overworked and stretched thin on the ground. I think this may be a reason for the increase in mothers hiring doulas. Likewise, we are so lucky to have access to hospitals, doctors and various medical measures which can be needed during pregnancy and birth and I would never scorn or belittle that. However, I do feel that birth is becoming increasingly and unnecessarily medicalised and the main reason I can see for that is a loss of trust in letting the body do what it knows how to do in it’s own time.

Hiring a doula is an additional expense obviously not affordable for all families and this is part of the reason that I hesitated in booking my training. I didn’t want to embark on a ‘career’ that seemed elite or only available to a few. But I found out that Doula UK have an access fund to try and make it an affordable option for all and the price of hiring a doula really depends on how experienced they are and what each individual doula decides to charge.  A friend told me about a charity in America that paid for doula’s to attend women who couldn’t afford to hire them and I loved that idea so was happy to hear that Doula UK seem to be doing a similar thing.

I had to write a reflective piece on why I want to train as a doula as part of my pre course module so I thought rather than rehash it I’d share it here so you can see part of my motivation behind the training. In addition to what I’ve written, there is the added bonus that it fits in with home educating the children, will provide a little extra income for us and gives me an opportunity to pursue a passion separate from my day to day mothering. I’ll leave you with the piece I wrote and if you have any comments or questions plaese don’t hesitate to comment below.

I’ve been thinking about applying to do a doula training course for the last two years but have already been held back for one reason or another so am very glad to finally be doing it. My desire to serve women in this capacity can be traced back to the birth of my second child, Isaac. His birth was just incredible. I found it incredibly empowering and just plain enjoyable. In the months that followed I became passionate about physiologically normal birth and a woman’s right to birth the way she wants, free of unnecessary medical management.

Five months after Isaac was born one of my closest friends gave birth to her second child. Unfortunately, although she was aiming for a VBAC her daughter was breech and she opted for an elective section which resulted in several clots in her leg which left her bed bound and in severe pain for weeks. During this time I went round fairly regularly to try and help out and keep her and her older daughter company. It was whilst doing some cleaning for them one day while they all slept that I felt so happy that I had managed to help facilitate some rest for them all that I felt drawn to serving other woman in this turbulent but joyful period of their lives.

My work voluteering as a breastfeeding peer supporter further cemented this desire, I volunteered in the post natal ward supporting new mothers in their early feeding days and after Isaac was born moved to a community group as I needed to have him with me. The sense of accomplishment after leaving a mother knowing you’d given her correct information and the support and encouragement she needed to continue in her breatfeeding journey was not to be rivalled.

I wrote on my application form about the lack of community support in our current social climate. Although many people are blessed to have family and friends around to help, many more are left to struggle through pregnancy and birth by themselves. Although we cannot replicate a time gone by, I would love to play my part in supporting women during this time. For a while, I worried that I was too young and that potential parents would rather chose an older and more experienced doula but as time has gone by that concern has mostly faded. I feel that I am ready and able to serve women during their pregnancy and birth’s because I am passionate about empowering and enabling women to take charge of their birth and truly own it as theirs.