E+E Column: Make, do and…mend?

A passing conversation in the hairdressers got me thinking this week. I’d gone in for some colour so knowing it would be a long appointment, I took advantage of being child free for a few hours and took my knitting and Harry Potter (not sure which is more embarrassing really!) Reading felt a bit antisocial when the occasion arose so I happily got on with my knitting – I’m currently working on a shawl with wool I bought with birthday money back in June…maybe it’ll be done by Christmas?! Anyway, as always, I digress. One of the hairdressers commented on me knitting and soon we got into a conversation about how these days, it’s cheaper to buy a machine knitted jumper or hat than it is to knit it by hand. Funny how things go really, not that long ago, knitting was often for the thrifty and those perhaps a bit hard up and now it’s seen as a leisurely pursuit of the elderly or middle class. Despite it being more expensive than buying mass produced in the shops, I maintain that it is the superior option – you can’t beat a lovingly crafted hand knit in my opinion.

The conversation moved on to the disposable culture that we live in and I’ve been pondering it since. When things break or technology grows ‘old’, we are so quick to bin and replace. Whilst convenience has it’s place, are we losing skills and a more sincere appreciation of our possessions? Socks no longer get darned, shoes aren’t re-heeled, plugs don’t get rewired, tables often not resanded and varnished. How much value are we placing on these items that we buy and often dispose of when we can’t be bothered to maintain or fix them? I’m guessing not much. And I think it’s quite sad actually.

We work hard to earn a living and instead of treating our earnings with respect, being careful with how we spend them and making sure we invest in things that’ll last, we throw away money on shoddily made items and things that may be a quick fix for a problem but will cost us more in the long run. And what are we teaching our children? That if things get broken, we’ll instantly replace them? Not much of an incentive to take care of their toys! Apologies if I sound high and mighty. I am more than guilty of a lot of what I’ve just said. Today I bought a coat in a well known high street shop (that I won’t name, but let’s just say it isn’t Armani!) for less than £30. I am pretty sure that it won’t last more than one winter, but in the present moment, I wasn’t able/willing to buy a more expensive one. (Plus have you tried coat shopping with three children, one of whom is strapped to you?! Not an easy task.) I guess I just want to think a bit more about how I treat my things and about what I chose to buy. And maybe next time something breaks, I’ll have a go at fixing it (or rope in Dan or my parents to help) rather than taking it to the tip and replacing it. There is a high possibility that this could result in an ever growing pile of ‘things to fix’ in the garage but at least my heart’s in the right place! I’m going to embrace the old age adage ‘make, do and mend’ – are you?

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And so it goes…

I was reminded today by the wonders of technology that I have published a post on this date on facebook for the past two years. Although that in itself was enough of a reason to write a post(!), one of them got me thinking as well. Last year I wrote about sleep deprivation and added my humble contribution to the discourse on solidarity in parenthood, on building each other up and supporting each other, on celebrating diversity rather than letting it divide us. But two years ago I wrote rather more of a mundane ramble about our goings on and rereading it made me feel a bit je ne sais quoi as I could have written it this year and it would pretty much all still be valid.

I wrote about Dan’s ME being bad after a period of wellness and it taking us by surprise, of having amazing home ed days and feeling like a high achiever and of having awful days where everyone is grumpy and the TV is on a lot. I also wrote about preparing for a solo trip to Brighton with the kids to visit old friends and for a very special young man’s birthday, something I’ll be doing again this weekend (hurray!) The only difference two years on are a different house and an extra child in the picture.

Life seems to continue in cycles and rhythms over time, things change but not often in huge earth shattering ways. And I guess this realisation has me wondering that if we’re experiencing the same feelings, events and occurrences season after season, what’s the point? A spiritual answer for me would be to point to Jesus. I believe he has a plan for my life and even if I can’t see how the mundane ins and outs affect the bigger picture, there is a bigger picture. One day I might see what it is, or maybe I won’t. But nonetheless, it is there and I just have to trust in Him and keep living in a way that I think would honour him.

Alongside this is a reminder that I think everyone, regardless of faith, can take on board. That the point isn’t to necessarily keep blindly striving towards some end point or goal without looking at the scenery but to enjoy life day by day as it comes. The finish line might hold some incredible reward or it might not. But the race itself should be fully embraced and entered into just for the sake of taking part. It’s easy to get bogged down into the routine that your life entails, whether that is your job, parenthood or hobbies and to start finding it all a drag. I am prone to occasionally stopping, taking stock and concluding that my life consists of nothing more but washing dishes, doing laundry, ferrying small people around and preparing food. And in those moments, I can get quite grumpy! But if I shake off the ‘woe is me’ feeling and dig a bit deeper, I can also remember a baby waking me up with a heart melting smile, a sister and brother holding hands as they walk down the road, a delicious meal, an evening spent laughing with my husband and friends, some work accomplished that I’m particularly proud of or a new weightlifting goal reached.

I know I’ve written about taking pleasure in the small things before and I really don’t want to be repetitive, boring or start to sound like a motivational speaker but I do think it is so important. If you’re feeling a bit stuck right now, why not stop what you’re doing and think of three things that happened today that made you smile. I bet you’ll feel much better for it! Mine are: Sophia and her friend putting on a ‘show’ with the help of her friends Dad, cooking a new recipe that we all liked(!) and the look of pride on Elijah’s face as he stood unaided for one of the first times. It’s the little things that make the journey worthwhile, it really is.

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E+E Column: Autumn, Good Morning

It might just be because I’m one of those annoying eternally optimistic people but every time a new season starts to creep in, I remember why I love the corresponding time of year and get excited about what that particular season holds. Every season is my favourite whilst in the midst of it! And so it was as I drove down the A380 today, that I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty in the changing colours of the leaves of the trees lining each side of the road. So I thought I’d write a bit of an ode to the incoming Autumn in an attempt to cheer up those that are less than happy about the darker days and colder weather (my daughter included!)

I write this after hearing rain beating down on the windows all evening as we’ve stayed tucked up inside with a roaring fire in the hearth. And that, in itself, is one of my favourite things about Autumn. Having a good excuse to stay inside in the warm, curling up with the kids and watching a movie with hot chocolate, playing board games with friends, doing lots of knitting to keep the heads and hands of loved ones warm and cooking lots of roast dinners (definitely not a meal of the summer!) And yes, the Summer might bring lazy days on the beach and prosecco on the quay side but the Autumn will bring windy walks by the canal and cider by the fire.

It also brings with it Bonfire Night. The last few years we’ve found ourselves at Topsham Rugby Club for their Guy Fawkes Night bonfire and fireworks display and I suspect we’ll do the same this year. I remember last year, being absolutely freezing and starting to regret standing around, heavily pregnant, in the dark and cold with two small children, feeding them hot chocolate from a flask to keep going, when suddenly, the sky lit up with dazzling colours. In my mind, there is nothing to cheer low spirits like some good fireworks. The combination of noise, exploding bursts of colour and excitement filling the air is unbeatable. Isaac was particularly enthralled last year, I’m looking forward to it again in just a few weeks.

Finally, and I do apologise in advance for saying the dreaded ‘C’ word in October, but in Autumn you can’t help but avoid the beginnings of excitement as Christmas looms on the not-so-distant horizon, especially if there are small, over-excitable people in your household. After a mild panic at the beginning of December last year, I’ve started shopping already so I can hopefully avoid any more festive meltdowns. It doesn’t help that all three birthdays of our children and Christmas fall within 12 weeks of each other. Not the best planning…

So really, what’s not to like? Staying warm and dry by the fire, the beauty of changing leaves, fireworks and gorging on early mince pies. That’s not bad going for a season that tends to get a bad rep if you ask me! In the words of Sophia’s favourite song from her old Steiner playgroup; Autumn, good morning, Summer, good night.

05.10.15

E+E Column: Green Fingered Blues

I can’t remember whether I’ve already bored you all poor readers with my ramblings about how much I like gardening. If so, I do apologise. But to recap, I’ve been dabbling in growing my own fruit, vegetables and flowers for the last six years to varying degrees of success. My highlight was probably last year when, living in a converted barn, we had the luxury of a rather large vegetable garden with raised bed and access to a very nice greenhouse. For several months we had a good supply of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, salad, beans, peas, apples, plums and pumpkins grown mostly by my own fair hands (with the help of some smaller and much grubbier ones), just a stones throw from the house. Unfortunately this year hasn’t been quite the same…

When we moved back to Topsham last October, the only regret I had was losing such a lovely big garden. In our current house, we have a small courtyard-style back garden and a smaller paved front garden with an ivy problem (more on that later). Nevertheless, I was determined that I would embrace ‘urban gardening’ and would utilise all my previous knowledge to create a wonderful space. I had visions of ridiculous amounts of terracotta pots overflowing with homegrown goodness, of small potted fruit trees dotted around, of some gorgeous garden furniture. I was going to transform the garden.

One year on however, this dream hasn’t quite been fulfilled. I’ve converted a gravel bed (or the town’s largest cat litter tray) to lawn, planted some flowers in the front garden and grown a handful of vegetable plants in big pots (mostly inherited from my parents) to not much success. We had a few meals worth of potatoes, a handful of strawberries, a spattering of peas, a good supply of salad (but let’s face it, it’s takes a lot to go wrong with growing salad) and finally, after much ripening, some tomatoes. Not quite the Eden in Topsham that I had imagined!

I’m going to play the baby card once more and say that we would have probably got a lot more done if it wasn’t for the cute little distraction that he has caused this year. But I have high hopes (again) for a better year next year. In fact, so optimistic I am that we purchased 3 bags of daffodil and tulip bulbs a few weeks ago for our front garden. Sophia and I got to work yesterday weeding and I decided to finally tackle the dreaded ivy that has engulfed our front wall and was creeping along threatening to do the same to our neighbours. There is something very satisfying about ripping huge amounts of dead ivy to little, by little, reveal the lovely stone wall underneath. Until that is, you turn around and see the massive pile of ivy that now has to be disposed of! As this is a continuing project, I am reminding myself that sometimes, things have to look worse before they can get better. So I’m publishing a photo of the embarassing mess that is my front garden in the hope that the shame will be enough motivation to get on with bagging it up and driving it to the tip! And hopefully, come Spring I can show you a lovely little paved garden, free from weeds with brightly coloured flowers, welcoming in the sun. Watch this space…

28.09.15

Year One, a month in

The wonders of modern technology tells me that I tried to start writing this post 21 days ago. Eesh. I’ve been so busy the last few weeks that I just haven’t found the time to sit down and finish it. I wish I could say I’ve been lovingly filling the children’s days with educational activities and learning moments of joy(!) but that’s not really been the case. I’ve been juggling the baby, home educating Sophia, occupying Isaac, housework, going on holiday, trying to fit in some workouts and doing some social media management work for three clients that I have unexpectedly (but excitedly) gained in the last month. Life is full right now. But definitely in a good way. My only moment of woe is in the neglect that this blog and my knitting are facing. I can’t even knit whilst doing stuff with the kids now Elijah is cruising, grabbing and taste testing everything – I fear my yarn would meet a sad, dribbly, demise fairly quickly! But given that the last seven months have flown by in the blink of an eye, I know that before long I’ll be able to brave getting it out again so I’m not too worried – third time round, I’m just trying to embrace every moment of his babyhood as I know it is so fleeting and will be gone before I know it (sob).

He's on the move!

He’s on the move!

Anyway, as always, I digress. Apologies! My point of writing this post was to muse on our educational plans and goals for Sophia this year. She is currently still our only child of compulsory school age and would be in Year One if in school. To recap, she is a pretty fluent reader, loves anything craft or nature related, is learning violin and has taken to basic maths and science pretty well. She is most definitely a starter though, she is keen to give anything and everything a go but not always consistent at finishing tasks and projects. Last year we followed Wee Folk Art for two terms and completed their Harvest Time and Spring B’s kinder curricula but missed out the Winter Wonderland term due to Elijah being born.

I spent the summer trying to decide what to do this year but a month in, still haven’t really figured that out. I guess we fall halfway between structured learning and unschooling but I’m leaning towards wanting a bit more structure. Unfortunately Wee Folk Art only offer their kinder curricula and I think she’s ready to move on from that but still a bit young for the Easy Peasy Homeschool or Ambleside Online curricula, both ones that I’m interested in but I think are probably just that bit too structured for someone who is still only five.

This first month we’ve been flying by the seat of our pants a little but it seems to have worked. Every week I’ve made some time to do some maths games or workbooks, to do some comprehension and handwriting work and to try and address a bit of history. Our weekly home ed group is looking at the Victorians so we’ve been looking at that at home which is going little by little, but sinking in I think. We spend plenty of time outdoors and seem to have a lot of conversations about what is happening in nature during the different seasons so for now natural sciences are being covered as well. A lot of the latter is happening by revisiting our books from last year’s Harvest Time book schedule, lots of simple scientific books about why the leaves change colour and the like. I’m trying to encourage her to practice her violin regularly and am not worried about her reading as she seems to have her head in a book every time she has more than a minute to herself!

A bit of historical dressing up at Keswick Museum

A bit of historical dressing up at Keswick Museum

Re-reading that, I feel encouraged (as is so often the way when you write things down). I think we are probably doing plenty for her age and the amount she learns from informal conversations is astounding, she really pays attention when we’re talking about something she’s interested in and is apt to recalling information days or weeks later. I think for now, we’re likely to continue as we’re going – following her lead at times and also drawing out day trips to continue the learning at home. Next week we’re going to Dartmouth Castle and a fortnight after we’ll be heading to Wheal Martyn (the UK’s only china clay museum) so I’m looking forward to those trips immensely.

I have to remind myself that not only is she only five but that I also have two other little people at home that need my attention. Isaac is not like Sophia was at almost four, he needs to be outside, running and shouting, he is not keen on sitting still at the table (unless he’s drawing which he’s surpisingly good at and really enjoys!) We were hoping to start going to the Natural Learning Group at Embercombe regularly but so far Dan has had the car on Tuesdays. However, I think we’ll make it this week which we’re all looking forward to. In the future, when Isaac and Elijah are older, I suspect we’ll revisit the Wee Folk Art books and activities for them and I think by the time she is 7 or 8, Sophia might be ready for a bit of a timetabled approach to home education. I will look at one of the curricula I mentioned earlier when we reach that point. We’ll also start reading ‘Our Island Story’ when they’re all a bit older as a bit more of an in depth introduction to British history.

Isaac in his element

Isaac in his element

In the meantime, Lynn Seddon of Raising Little Shoots has released a nature curriculum called ‘Exploring Nature with Children‘ which looks amazing that I’m planning on purchasing.  My amazing Mother has also told me about some geography resources and I’m looking into Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography which looks great at slowly easing ourselves into geography as a formal subject. I’m planning on starting the latter in Spring and the former next September I think.

So, I think I’ve fairly extensively summarised our plans for this year and the future. As ever, this could all change but it’s good to have a plan laid out somewhere, however vague it might be! I continue to enjoy home educating (mostly – we all have rubbish days where I postulate that boarding school could be a good option!) and from our perspective, it’s still the best choice for our family. I would love to hear what educational choices you’re all making for your children and how it works for your family.

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