E+E Column: Growing Up

Ever since the inception of my blog, I’ve written a special post every time the kids celebrate a birthday. It’s been a nice way to mark the passing of another year and to reflect on how they’ve changed. This year however, I haven’t managed to do so. Turns out having three kids has made me busier than I  anticipated and I fully intended to write birthday posts for them but didn’t. Now, as I approach Elijah’s first birthday, I thought I would transfer my ramblings about birthdays to the column this time instead.

I can’t quite believe that I have a 6 year old, a 4 year old and very almost a one year old! The years have simultaneously sped and dragged by. Parenthood is funny like that, there’s a certain monotony that can set in but it is redeemed by being offset by bursts of joy, laughter and wonderment as we watch these small folk grow up. In my opinion, the first year is still the most stark example of this contrast. I’m not going to lie, a lot of the time babies are just plain boring. They sleep a lot, they feed, they cry, they poop. Not particularly exciting. And if your tiniest of offspring is prone to crying a lot, tiresome would be a good adjective. But, (and thankfully there is a but) watching the transformation from a tiny bundle that does naught to a moving, giggling, interactive toddler at 12 months is nothing short of magical. At no other time does someone change so much both physically and mentally in such a short space of time. And whilst with the first two I may not have fully appreciated this, third time round, I have mostly been able to fully enjoy all the good and not get too dragged down by the negative aspects of Elijah’s first year.

It feels bittersweet that my last baby is about to turn one. I have absolutely loved watching him change, watching him find his space in the world and in our family. He is such a happy little beast and so full of life. He is non stop, climbing and running everywhere, joining in with noisy shrieking games. He is determined and loves to laugh, discover and generally cause mischief. I feel sad that I won’t experience his baby firsts again but am looking forward to the next set of firsts and hoping they don’t pass too quickly, though know that they probably will. Happy Birthday Eli, we love you!

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(A little late but better than never!)

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E+E Column: Punctuality

Punctuality

Pre-children, one of my pet hates was people being late. I was a stickler for punctuality and was always on time, if not early (at times, ridiculously so). I would irritate travelling companions by insisting on arriving at stations 40 minutes before travelling and would allow three times the standard length of a journey,  just in case. Fast forward six years and now I am in a constant state of tardiness. We are late for nearly everything we do. Even when I think I’ve allowed an excessive buffer of time, we still end up crashing in, flustered and apologising for our lateness. It is not so much of a mystery to me as to why this happens, my three small people not being particularly cooperative at the best of times and certainly having different priorities to me on what is and isn’t important. Nonetheless, this morning as things started to go awry as we tried to get out of the house I thought I’d document the debacle.

I had a simple plan, to do some work and then we’d do some errands enroute to the library and hopefully the baby would fall asleep on the way, thus killing numerous birds with one stone. Sophia took longer to finish her work than I anticipated and then Isaac spent a ridiculously long time eating his snack but finally by 10.30 I had chivvied them into some form of outerwear and to the toilet, had put all the glass for recycling by the front door and put the buggy up. All that was left to do was put a dry nappy on the baby and go. And that’s where it all started to go wrong. I turned my back for a minute and heard the smash of glass followed by crying. Elijah had investigated the big bag of glass bottles to his peril and had managed to cut his finger. I instructed the big two to stay away from the glass, sorted out his finger (just a scratch luckily) and thought I’d sort the nappy, strap him into buggy and then hoover up glass. I went to change him only to discover the dirty nappy was rather more foul than just wet, ran upstairs to find more wipes, changed him and finally got him strapped into the buggy. I cleared up the glass, realised Isaac had no socks on, remedied that and finally we were out the door. I could have cheered!

We pootled towards the bottle bank, me shushing the big ones as they shouted in a sleepy baby’s vicinity, them running around like feral creatures. As we approached, one of them charged past me, propelling the bag of glass into my leg where the broken glass from earlier managed to gauge a chunk out of my leg. I hobbled to the bottle bank, recycled the bottles with their help and realised there was quite a lot of blood trickling down my leg. Luckily, we were next to the GP surgery so I went in hoping they might spare a plaster. The receptionist took one look and managed to squeeze me in with a nurse to see if I needed to go to A+E for stitches (I do love the NHS, they were so great at fitting me in!). Luckily, no stitches were required but I had to go back in an hour for a tetanus shot and to have it properly dressed. Cue a mad dash to do our errands (library, shop..etc), deposited the children at home where luckily Dan was able to keep an eye on them and then back to the surgery to be patched up with a finally sleeping baby in tow. As I caught my breath in the waiitng room, I looked back over the morning and thought…no wonder we’re never anywhere on time! So my deepest apologies to friends and families for my continued tardiness, I expect to improve in 8-12 years time!

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Finally out of the front door!

E+E Column: The Purpose of Growing

A new season of green fingeredness is almost upon us and as I start to make plans for this years gardening, I’ve been pondering a few things. I’ve always had a bit of a utilitarian approach to gardening and with the exception of sunflowers and sweetpeas (they smell so good and are just so prolific), have grown only things that are edilble. I’ve just never seen the point in growing flowers so for the last half a dozen years have stuck quite rigidly to fruit and veg. Growing food for our kitchen satisfies both my pocket and desire to garden, plus it has the added benefit of teaching the children a whole host of valuable lessons about where our food comes from and the natural world. I’ve often wondered why you’d put so much effort and time into a garden that has no use other than to look nice. However, having said that, I do love tulips and daffodils and their promise of warmer and brighter days, so it was on a bit of a whim back in October that the kids and I chose some bulbs and a few weeks later, Isaac helped me plant them in our front garden. Now, as they are shooting up from the cold(ish), weed infested soil, I’m starting to see the merit in this more ornamental side of gardening. I’m excited about watching them, waiting for them to flower. I can’t remember what was planted where and am looking forward to seeing the formation of different coloured tulips and traditional yellow daffodils that Isaac buried randomly all those weeks ago. Although I’ve always known that the joy of gardening isn’t just in the end result, I’ve started to realise it even more this year. So what if we can’t eat them once they arrive? They’ll still brighten the pathway to our door and (hopefully) bring cheer to those that see them. So as I start to include the children in my planning for our little garden in the next few weeks, I’m going to be more open to their suggestions of what they’d like to see in our various pots and baskets. I want to fully embrace every stage of the growing season this year. From choosing what to grow and buying seeds, to mixing compost with old soil to revive it, sprouting seeds and then each and every stage of growth that follows. There is joy and wisdom to be found in each step. This year I’m going to be laid back, I’m going to be patient and I’m going to be flexible. The purpose of growing? I think it is simply to enjoy the process.

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E+E Column: This is Bill

He might have appeared on your newsfeed over the last few weeks and I’m not going to lie, he’s starting to really wind me up. At first, when one of the Bill memes popped up I thought, hey, this is quite funny. But then there was another, and another, and another, until every second item was that pesky stickman. For those of you lucky enough to have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about, a meme is an image, usually with text pasted on, that is meant to be funny and if successful, is spread around the internet at a rate of knots. This one in particular features a crudely drawn stickman with accompanying text; This is Bill, Bill [insert annoying habit that Bill avoids], Bill is smart. Be like Bill. Since the first one appeared, there have been many variations, all along similar lines.

I’m aware that I might just be coming across like a grumpy git but I do have a couple of issues with the use of Bill. First and probably, foremost, I’m starting to take issue with the passive aggressive nature of the memes. If you have a problem with someone or something, surely it’s much better just to be upfront and honest about the issue than to post a sarcastic meme instead. If I was the source of your contention, that would pretty much just poke the bear and rile me up, it’s unlikely I’d pay any attention to the message you were trying to get across. They say honesty is the best policy for a reason. Sure, no one likes confrontation but it is generally much better to talk about an issue than snarkily make comments surrounding it.

Secondly, the Bill memes are losing any humurous appeal due to the sheer volume of them. You know when a child tells the same joke ten times in a row and you have to explain that it’s not really funny when told that many times? Well someone needs to tell the internet the same thing. Yes, it was funny. Now it’s definitely not. The surest way to deflate humour is to overuse the same technique. Use your imagination, people of the internet! So apologies for my ranting column this week guys, I like a good ol’ meme as good as the next person (the baby making a fist still makes me laugh) but let’s have some original material. Let’s work the old grey matter and come up with something that genuinely makes people laugh out loud. Have enclosed what I’d like to see happen to Bill (sorry dude!)…

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(I’ve been really slack at putting the column’s up onto here hence 3 in a week! Will try and revert back to doing it weekly!)

E+E Column: Getting Stuck In

After sticking mostly to YouTube workouts and 3 mile runs and reading nothing more challenging than Harry Potter last year, the last week has seen me running a competitive 10k and starting a book for book club by the formidable Germaine Greer. A marked difference indeed! Whilst both body and mind are feeling a bit weary, paradoxically they are also feeling invigorated as I step outside of my comfort zone and get my teeth into something a bit more substantial.

It’s funny how sometimes, the thought of doing something is more intimidating than actually, well, just doing it. Turns out there is a whole lot of wisdom in the advice of diving in at the deep end. None of this paddling in the shallows for what seems like an age, fretting needlessly about the acclimatisation. And I say this as someone who could make a career out of worrying. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll all attest that laid back is not an attribute that I could lay claim to. I worry, I apologise incessantly, I over analyse. So partaking in the 10k on Sunday without weeks of preparation and starting a heavy going thought provoking text on a relative whim have in very different ways, been very freeing experiences for me!

The run was a physical challenge, one that I was glad to finish in reasonable time and has given me a bit of a taste for competitive running. We’ve already been searching for other local races that we can take part in and although the London Marathon might be a few(!) years off it’s nice to be feeling excited with friends about something healthy and separate from the children.

And the book? Well, it’s great to be using a muscle that hasn’t seen enough action in recent years – my brain! I loved the side of my degree that involved reading challenging political texts, picking apart arguments, deciding what I made of them. In the last half dozen years I’ve read a lot of Dr Seuss, a lot of A. A. Milne, a lot of Shirley Hughes and a lot of Julia Donaldson – talented authors in themselves but not quite on a level with Chomsky or Monbiot. And whilst I may not see eye to eye with Greer on everything she says, I’m very much enjoying reading her theories in The Female Eunuch and very much enjoying discussing them with a good friend.

So my advice this week? If you’re thinking about engaging in a new pastime or starting something new then stop. Think no more. And just do! You won’t regret it, I promise!

E+E Column: Lost Knowledge

On the BBC Devon Sunday gardening show this weekend, the very experienced guest gardener was talking about unconventional gardening tips (such as using custard powder when taking shoots) and what he called ‘moon gardening’ (I think he was referring to the principles of what we now know as permaculture). It got me thinking about all the knowledge that may not be in textbooks but is passed informally from one generation to the next through families and friends and of so called old wives tales. Are these merely superstitions or unreliable archaic bits of advice or is there more substance to them? If so, why don’t they get recognised for the worth they possess?

From mild weather not killing off bugs to only picking sloe berries after the first frost to the full moon affecting children’s behaviour, there are words of wisdom and catchphrases for nearly every situation that you can think of. But, how accurate are they? I’ve always been wary of things like holding a wedding ring over a pregnant tummy to determine the gender of the unborn child but it turns out that ‘red sky at night, shepherds delight’ actually does make sense scientifically speaking – it’s all to do with the concentration of dust particles that the sun is shining through and how this correlates to the type of pressure system present.

In fact, a bit of investigation seems to indicate that a lot of the old wives tales have some basis in science when research has been done. A little bit like thorough information on foraging and eating wild plants, the information and studies proving these things as correct is out there but just not at the forefront of the public domain. So why are we still so derogatory about these ancient forms of knowledge when it turns out that a lot of them hold true? I’m not sure of the answer to that. Perhaps it is an inherent disinclination to believe what our parents or doddery grandparents tell us, a stubborn belief that we know best. Perhaps, folk would rather follow what seems like a more sensible, commercial approach rather than dabbling in folk remedies. The gardener who started me off on this rambling spoke about commercial products overshadowing cheaper and just as effective remedies that can be found in our cupboards. Are we so sucked into the consumerist market driven atmosphere that big business creates that we can’t break free?

Whatever the reason, I feel that is important that this knowledge doesn’t get lost permanently as the generations pass. So whilst I’m not advocating believing everything you’re told at face value, I do think it’s worth listening to the advice of those older and wiser than ourselves, to do a bit of research before we choose the path we take. One day we’ll be the old wives and I can only imagine the endless frustration at being ignored by the younger generation and written off as foolish when trying to dispense some information that we know will help them in whatever situation it is that they are facing. Let’s embrace the colloquial knowledge and (yes, sometimes with a pinch of salt or some fact checking) pass it on and keep it alive.

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