Inspired to…organise?!

Who knew it; apparently whilst spring is the time for cleaning, summer appears to be the time for organising. I have read several posts recently on other blogs about organising or that have inspired me to get my organisational head on. Although the ones I read were about specific subjects (printing and storing photos, sorting out home ed files in preparation for September, detailing the contents of the nature study bags she made her kids), I’m taking a more general, holistic approach to get me out of my summer slump.

First things first. Dan has given me his old phone and I deliberately didn’t install the Facebook app onto it and have limited myself to checking the site only briefly in the evenings when the kids are asleep. It’s been almost 2 weeks and I’m proud to say that it’s been successful. I’ve spent less time looking at my phone when around the kids and wasted a whole lot less time scrolling through useless newsfeed updates.

Secondly, (and boringly) I’m making an effort to keep housework in check, especially garden jobs like watering and cleaning out the chickens. A little, often, works better for me than having a meltdown once a fortnight when I realise the house is disgusting and go on a mad cleaning binge. I’m also trying to get on with knitting projects and get Isaac’s scrapbook finally made.

Thirdly, I’m trying to bring some order/structure/rhythm (call it whatever you like) to our weeks in preparation for September. I’m researching curriculum or lesson ideas, trying to plan a weekly manageable routine that we’ll stick to and trying my hardest to remind Sophia to practice her violin regularly! !

The aim of all of this for me, is to create a more harmonious and productive environment for us all to thrive in. I’m trying to be less of a shouty, irritable Mum (inspired by “Homeschooling with a meek and quiet spirit”) and our mantra of the last few weeks has become ‘talk with love’…a concept my 4 year old is mightily struggling with (preferring ‘scream and shout at anyone who crosses your path’)!

But I’m hoping that come September we’ll have a bit more of a routine (which Sophia and I both desperately need!), a mostly cleaner and tidier home environment and will all be calmer, happier and better at communicating with each other.

Has the summer holidays prompted you to start any new projects or finish uncompleted ones? Or are you just enjoying the gorgeous weather and freedom that August brings?

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The absent minded gardener

This is my fifth year of growing our own produce and embarrassingly,  my biggest shortcoming continues to me my inability to remember to water regularly! I am realising that establishing and maintaining routine, in any area of my life, is something I struggle with and watering plants is no exception. Definitely a trait I need to work on, if only so I have a better return on the hard work I put in in the spring, though admittedly would probably benefit the home education aspect of our life as well.

And so it was that the foliage on my main crop potatoes withered away and we harvested them today before they rotted in the ground. But it wasn’t all bad, we dug up a good amount of potatoes, much to the kids delight. After some advice from our lovely landlady we also dug up our garlic and onions. The former surprised us all by being incredibly successful, my last two attempts have been complete failures. So today we had a mini harvest, behold!

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We now have two empty vegetable beds; one we’re going to share with our landlady and fill with chard and I’m pondering putting some brussel sprouts into the other. Our peppers and leeks are getting slowly but steadily bigger and our pumpkins seem to be taking over their bed and both paths next to it, they obviously love our rubbish soil! The greenhouse is full of tomato plants though the children have been banned from it due to their inability to pick the ripe ones (!) but my biggest success is our pea den, we’ve had copious amounts of peas off it and the runner beans will be ready in a few weeks (I hope).

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Sophia and Isaac relished pulling the onions and garlic up and Sophia asked if we could grow all of our food. I explained that we can grow as much as space allows but that to grow all the food we eat we’d need probably an acre of land (at least) and to spend an awful lot more time gardening than we do now. She was not altogether satisfied but whatcha gonna do? But I was chuffed that she was so excited about gardening and really hope that she takes that passion with her as she grows older.

I remember a home educating friend from Brighton telling me that she had three goals for her kids education that she held onto over the years. Since then, I’ve often pondered what the most important thing that I’d like the kids to take away from their education is. And I’m pretty sure that (beyond the obvious goes-without-saying reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic) it involves them having an appreciation for the outside world, for nature and to hopefully have a fairly in depth knowledge of growing their own food, identifying food in the wild and being aware of food beyond just what you see in the supermarket. I don’t know why this is so important to me but I guess I feel that these skills and this knowledge are in danger of being lost and it’s important to pass it down to the next generation.

So Sophia is going to remind me to water the plants and together we’ll hopefully have another successful harvest to tell you about later in the year. If you’re green fingered, how’s your garden going? Any failures or successes? Would love to hear about it!

Growing Up

The simple matter of a haircut made me rather emotional this week.

Sophia has been bugging me for weeks to get her hair cut. Every day when the time came to brush her hair we had screaming, tangles galore and a miserable girl and frustrated Mum. But I was reluctant. I’m not sure why. I guess she’s always had long hair and when it is brushed and clean, for a few minutes it looked gorgeous, a mane of golden brown hair cascading down her back. The reality though was that within minutes, regardless of whether we tied it up or not, it more resembled the hair of an urchin. She could have had a part in Oliver Twist!

And so, whilst in Topsham yesterday and with a kind friend who offered to look after Isaac, we made a last minute trip to Topsham Hair Design. We’d spoken about it and Sophia had decided she wanted a bob with a fringe. I’d spent a fair while making sure she wanted such a drastic change but she was adamant. And so it was that yesterday she went from this…

sophia old hair

 

to this…

sophia new hair

 

I still can’t get over the difference! But she was right, it suits her and now hair brushing is effortless and quick. She loves it so I’m happy!

What was also pretty cool was that because she was having so much hair chopped the hairdresser kept the ponytail and thinks it will be long enough to donate to Little Princess Trust, a charity that provides real hair wigs to children suffering hair loss. We tried to explain it to Sophia but I’m not quite sure she got it, I thought it was ace though.

I think what made me emotional though was the realisation that she was old en0ugh to make her own decision about her appearance and was confident that it was the right decision. I know it’s silly but you go from making every single decision for your child to eventually trusting them to make their own decisions and hoping that will come to you to guidance when needed. Obviously we’re not at the latter stage yet but it did make me realise how far she’s come. She’s almost five. Five. How did that happen? And she is taking charge of her own appearance, shaping her own personality and following her own interests. And it’s amazing to watch. But also made me slightly sad and nostalgic for the few years that have already gone. It’s true what they say, children really do grow up so fast. I feel like it’s been barely any time since she was a toddler and not much longer since she was a baby. But she’s neither now. She’s a little girl, a child. And a pretty awesome one at that!

So here’s to the future, to watching them grow and become their own people.  A bittersweet journey but one that I’m thoroughly glad to be taking.

The might of big business

I regularly get emails from SumOfUs and 38 Degrees asking me to sign petitions, usually ones that are similar to ones I’ve signed previously but not always. For the last six (ish – perhaps longer) months I’ve been receiving emails about the proposed Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and Europe; a free trade agreement that multinational corporations are pushing heavily. Although I have skim read and signed a petition previously, last week I received an email inviting me to join in the consultation that has been organised by the European Commission regarding this proposal. This meant I actually had to research in a bit more depth as it required a written submission. And what I found out was pretty scary. A good place to start is to watch this video which has been compiled to try and explain in simple terms, what the proposal is and what some effects of it passing might be.

The fact that all the talks have been held secretly and without any media presence means that joe public are completely ignorant of the fact that this partnership might be happening and how it might affect us. There has been virtually nil coverage in mainstream media although the Guardian did write an article on it last year that you can find here if you’re interested.

If you have watched the video, you might agree with  me that the most sinister part of this is the ISDS, standing for the Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement, this is the part of the deal that lets corporations sue governments. Let’s just take a minute to let that sink in…a legally binding agreement that would allow corporations to sue governments if a decision that is made that they deem to not be in their best interests or to affect their profits. This is nothing short of insane. I just can’t get my head round it. Governments need to be making decisions with the best interests of their citizens at heart, not because they are trying to avoid being sued by big business. The cynics out there might say that governments are already not keeping the best interests of the people at the forefront; the privatisation of the NHS, scandal of banking bonuses and the current war on fracking being prime examples. But even if that’s the case, if this all goes through, things would get so much worse.  There are already ISDS provisions in place in some places around the world and according to Friends of the Earth (who have compiled a report stating what they see as the risks of the TTIP going ahead) famous cases include attempts by Vattenfall to reverse Germany‘s decision to shut down its nuclear plants, Lone Pine attacking Québec‘s fracking ban, oil and gas giant Chevron evading compliance with its legal obligation to clean up the health and environment damages resulting from its operations in Ecuador, and Philip Morris challenging tobacco regulations in Australia and Uruguay. 

It’s just absolute madness and we don’t need more of these provisions being put into place; all I can think of is fracking against the will/want of the country, GM crops and just more and more bad news appearing every day. I don’t know whether the state of affairs is worse than it was 25, 50, 100 years ago or if it just seems worse because of our 24 hour a day constant reporting and lightning quick transfer of information. But I do know that we need to fight against big business. They can’t get away with just doing what they want, regardless of how it affects the environment and the people that live in it. I know I quoted the Lorax before but all I can think of is the part of the story in which the Once-ler declares

Well I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you

I intend to go on doing just what I do! 

And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering

on biggering, and BIGGERING and BIGGERING AND BIGGERING

We simply cannot just sit back and let them get on with making money and doing as they please; we need to act. Right now, the only way I know how is to spread the word regarding the TTIP, to join in the consultation and to find a way to make a noise. It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of big faceless multinational corporations, but we need to join together and actually stand up to them. To protect the fields around us, our rights and our children’s future.

You can take part in the consultation right now. It won’t take more than ten minutes of your day. A small price to pay.

Location, location, location…

…or is bigger always better?

A new friend came round today with her daughter and in the course of conversation our varied choice of living abode over the last few years came up. She asked me if I thought living in a bigger space was better for raising children? It was an interesting question and has been playing on my mind as I’ve been pondering the issue of location.

Sophia occasionally asks to  move back to Brighton and today asked to return to Topsham on the basis that she misses her friends. I pointed out that we would be going to Topsham tomorrow and that we saw some friends on Monday and have a date to see some more on Friday so it isn’t like we aren’t seeing people regularly and if that we moved we wouldn’t be able to have chickens and the stream…etc. She was appeased, although she’s such a social creature I don’t know how long for.

I think living in a bigger house with so much outside space definitely makes life easier. There’s more room for the kids to separate if they need their own space, for Dan to work in peace even when we’re having a home day and having such a varied and large outside space for two little ones that thrive outside is amazing.

But is community more important?

I’m so tired of driving absolutely everywhere. I miss being able to walk to the park, the pool, a friends house. Don’t get me wrong, I love our house and our life here but I just wish I could have it all (so so cheesy, apologies!) There’s not really much point to this post, I don’t want to move again but I don’t have an answer to really missing the last two communities we’ve lived in.

What wins out for you? Having friends and utilities nearby or living in your ‘perfect’ area (be that coast or country, mountain or lakeside)?