Now and Then…

This week is half term in these parts. Of course this makes no real difference in a home-schooling household – the only difference here is that the Stinker is also home for the week, taking the pressure off me slightly. It means I can spend some quality time with all three of my girls separately. But most of all it means I can spend some quality time with… me!

As I wrote about in Stop, I want to get off! there are some days when I feel like screaming this and having a break. But then I actually get to spend some time alone and it’s not long before I miss everyone.

About a month ago (when we first started home schooling Pickle as well as Poppet) I was desperate for some time off. I actually went through my Facebook friends (it’s a good way to ensure you don’t forget anyone!) to find out how many people I know without children. I was craving some time as the ‘me’ pre-kids.

So, when I realised I had less than a handful of child-free friends I was slightly shocked; it was also a wake up call to the fact that I should stop moaning and be grateful for what I have (as most of the child-free friends would rather like some – have mine!).

After our weekend away, as good as it was, I can’t help thinking about the things I really don’t miss about my pre-kid life:

  • The most obvious is the longing feeling that was always within me – even when I was in my early 20s enjoying singledom, I still desired more.
  • As much as I enjoyed spending time socialising with friends I’ve never been one for small-talk, so I really don’t miss the nights out at noisy pubs trying to shout over the music to be heard by someone you’re really not interested in!
  • Drinking… Last weekend the Stinker and I had a few drinks (he got drunk; I know my limits but definitely drank more than the usual couple of glasses of wine at home). I don’t miss feeling drunk or the costs involved!
  • I love peace and quiet (and certainly crave it at times!) but having it all the time can become quite lonesome. I’ve never been keen on tv (Back to Basics) but I often used to have it on just for background noise – I don’t miss crappy soaps!
  • Worrying about what people think – I’ve always been a bit of a worrier but the more settled I become in my life the less I worry!

So this week I am mostly feeling thankful for what I have 🙂

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Stop, I want to get off!

Having children was all I ever wanted. I always remember those conversations at school, then college, then university, where people asked about your future ambitions.  It always felt like they were expecting an academic or career based answer rather than my response – to have a family.  I often felt that this was not a good enough answer, that I should have been striving for more, but I always stuck to my guns knowing that this was everything to me and no career could ever top it.

I was right and having my three girls in a loving partnership with the Stinker has been everything, and more than, I ever dreamt it would be. If course that does not mean it has all been easy or plain sailing (as I have written about in Feeling Fragile and Back to Basics).

I have to admit there are days when I feel like screaming “Stop, I want to get off!” and wonder what life would be like if we’d chosen less or no children… but I always come back to the simple fact that they complete me.

Since homeschooling I’ve obviously been spending even more time with all three girls.  This was part of the pull of doing it but I’m sure you can imagine how full-on it can be at times! Some days the Stinker returns home from work and I just give him the look and disappear upstairs for some time out! My Saturday morning ‘me time’ is always much needed, even if it is often spent holed-up in our bedroom, like a student, with my music playing and a book with more words than pictures on each page!

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Last weekend the Stinker and I went for a much needed break together to Brighton. We dropped Poppet, Pickle and Piccalilli at nanny and daioo’s house and off we went. Getting stuck on the M25 didn’t even matter because, as I kept reminding the Stinker, of the lack of whinging coming from the back of the car. In fact it was quite a treat to be able to sit ‘shotgun’ for once!

The highlights of our weekend away included:

  • Staying up until 3am knowing no small people would crawl into our bed and punch/kick us in the head in three hours.
  • Eating out not just once but for every meal at the times we were hungry.
  • Playing the 2p games at the amusements ourselves, not having to share the money out fairly.
  • Wandering around with nowhere to go and nobody asking where, when, why?
  • Actually being able to enjoy the extra hour in bed when the clocks went back.

All this said, I did miss my girls and was excited about seeing them when we returned to collect them.

I feel completely refreshed and reconnected with the Stinker, ready to get going again (but I am hoping for another break again soon and I’m sure I’ll need it!)

Where the Wild things are…

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Yesterday we had a wild day – thankfully not the kind of wild where the kids are bouncing off the walls and I’m tearing my hair out. No, we had a day where we reconnected with nature and ‘rewilded’.

Things have been quite ‘wild’ (in the other sense!) around here for a few weeks since we deregistered Pickle from school. The transition for her has been huge: from being in school, where she suppressed a lot of her true self, to being at home where she can totally be her.  At school she was NEVER wild, to the point where it worried us how uncharacteristically well-behaved she was! Don’t get me wrong, she’s not awful but she is definitely our most spirited child. When I used to collect her from school I often used to see her most wild side…

I’d love to say that she now has the most impeccable behaviour and listens to every word I say – actually that’s not true, I’m glad that my girls have strong characters and are able to express themselves, I just wish they’d do it a bit more quietly sometimes!

Part of our concern with mainstream schooling here in the UK was the huge focus on academic outcome and the lack of focus on the ‘whole’ child. Too much time spent stuck indoors, in stuffy classrooms sitting quietly listening. I raised these concerns with the girls ex-school, asking when they were going to be starting ‘Forest school’ sessions again – only to be told there was no time now that Pickle was in year 1! (nb. I am aware that some schools manage these things better!)

We love being outdoors (well, I do and I’m sure that this love rubs off on your kids doesn’t it?!) Being ‘at one’ with nature is so important to me and I really hope to instill some of this in my girls.

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So yesterday we walked, explored, chased sheep (oops!), collected autumn treasures (seeds and nuts), foraged nettles, plantain and dandelion, harvested veg and made our own yummy soup… It felt great spending the whole day outdoors. And yes, we were learning!

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I highly recommend wild days – there is something very grounding about reconnecting with mother earth.

Black holes, Green holes, Muddy holes

My girls love art. They also love getting messy outside. Put the two together and they are in their element!

I don’t like to prescribe what they do in terms of their learning. We are not completely ‘unschooling’ but I do like them to have choice and ownership over their learning – this can lead to chaos with art!

It was lovely and sunny yesterday afternoon and we’d decided we needed a quiet day at home following our ‘adventure’ the previous day. Poppet and Pickle wanted an outdoor activity so I sent them down the garden to collect leaves – mean Mummy I hear you say! They happily took to their task while I settled Piccalilli for a nap. By the time I joined them they looked like two little gardeners, with rakes in hand and a huge pile of rainbow coloured leaves.

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They decided to make a Space scene (as that’s what they had chosen for their topic this month). “Let’s make black holes”, said Poppet, so they busily created ‘green holes’ (as Pickle renamed them!)

They asked my advice and opinion; we discussed colours and patterns; I enjoyed watching them buzzing around the garden looking for the correct colour of leaf… but essentially they made their own creations. They reminded me of the art of Andy Goldsworthy and I felt very proud!

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Today they disappeared off down the garden with the memory of yesterday’s successes in all of our minds…

An hour later they returned… covered in mud! And I mean covered, clothes and all! No art had been created, but a big, muddy hole had appeared and two little girls joyfully jumped into a warm, bubbly bath!

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Good days, Bad days

In our family we have good days, bad days, happy days, sad days… We love this book and the simple message it gives. No matter how much you wish for happiness, no illness, perfection even,  you can’t have them all the time. Life is about opposites and our family life seems to follow this pattern perfectly – why is it that we can’t have two consecutive ‘good’ days?

Yesterday started out with the feeling of a good day – you know the ones where everyone wakes up happy, willing to get dressed and eat breakfast with no squabbles? (I should have been prepared though because Monday had been such a good day!)

There was an air of excitement as we were going to meet some relatively new homeschool friends with the plan of a museum visit and picnic in the park. I thought I’d make it more exciting, so while everyone was happily scoffing their porridge (lots of energy for a busy day!) I checked the train times – 20 minutes was a push but I knew we could do it!

Action stations: lunch in the bag, spare clothes for Piccalilli, who’s recently toilet trained, and into the car for the short drive to the train station. We managed to squeeze into a little space with our big girl car (Piccalilli’s name for the seven seater!) and rush over the bridge to platform 2 to wait for our train. So far so good…

Once onto the train, a kind man moved to allow us to sit together on four seats and everyone chatted excitedly about our adventure. The ticket lady gave the girls special tickets and explained all sorts of technical things about the machine she used and the tickets! The teacher and homeschool mum in me was thinking how great an educational experience this was, but mostly I was just enjoying watching my girls’ excitement and enthusiasm for a day of adventures.

We arrived in the city, checked the return train times (I didn’t want to be stranded!) and set off to find the museum and meet our friends. All still going so well!

I managed not to lose anyone on the walk through the smelly streets (Pickle’s observation but I guess when you live in the countryside the city can seem quite stinky!) They even held hands happily and continued to chat about the day ahead.

The museum was fantastic and the girls had so much fun dressing up as Romans,  making stewed brain and putting on shows for us… Three hours flew by.

Suddenly it turned from good day to bad day, healthy day to sick day, fun day to ‘how on earth will I manage’ day!  Poppet doubled over in pain with horrendous stomach cramps so we went to the toilet, with no luck. She couldn’t even manage to walk so we squeezed her (luckily she’s pretty tiny for a seven year old!)  into the back of my friend’s double buggy and went to the park hoping she’d improve. It got worse. I spent 15 minutes in a grotty public loo with her screaming in agony while I tried to comfort her and hush her in case anyone called the police (it honestly sounded like she was being murdered!) Still no luck.

We squished her into the front of the double buggy this time, so my friend’s girls could clamber on the back (I’d decided it was a carrier kind of day!), and traipsed back to their house in the hope that Poppet would improve after a warm drink and rest. It got worse still! She lay on their sofa screaming intermittently. At one point a kind neighbour even came round to check that everyone was ok because she was that loud! The other four girls had a great time playing (I have no idea how they could focus on their game!)

So I was stuck in the city with a tired toddler (who by this point had a dodgy tummy and had been changed four times!) a tired five year old who had already trekked across the city twice and a seven year old who couldn’t walk. I laughed a lot, mainly thanks to the wit of my new friend – what can you do?  Cry or laugh! It was going to be a near impossible journey home involving a buggy, a bus, a train and a car with the combination of my increasingly difficult three children – who thought adventure was a good idea? Why didn’t I just drive?

In the end I resorted to calling the Stinker to rescue us. Of course he came and is now the hero, renamed Super Dad (Poppet even designed a costume for him today that she’d like me to help her sew!)

I’m not bitter but would love a bit of recognition for my part in the day!!

Footnote: Poppet is fine now. When I was little I occasionally suffered with the same (so I was very sympathetic) and it was never explained but it stopped in my teens.

Back to basics…

Sometimes it feels easier to go with the flow, follow the crowd, keep quiet and just get on with it. But then, at some point, you realise you’ve lost some of what made you YOU!

Having children was always my dream. It was going to be natural, positive and (slightly!) alternative. I’ve never been one to worry about what people think of me so when I thought about raising my own children it was going to be my (our!) way.

But then the Poppet arrived (seven years ago yesterday!) and other influences became overpowering. This, mixed with my diminished confidence,  led me to feel the need to fit in.

I lost my strength to be me as I juggled working almost full-time while trying to be the Mummy I’d always wanted to be. I lost sight of the dreams I’d had to bring my children up in a world without negative influences (like television). I chose the easy option to use these things, sometimes to excess. The Stinker says I shouldn’t worry so much, but I feel that we are now seeing the negative effect of this in the behaviour and attitudes of Poppet and Pickle. I’m not saying they are awful as we’ve always discussed things on tv (especially adverts and the negative influence they have) but they are normal 5 and 7 year old little girls who already want to be like everyone else and fit in with the latest toys and technology. “It’s good to be different” I hear myself saying a lot!

So how do we stop the negativity while still embracing the world we live in? (As much as I really would love to go off and live in a yurt, I do still want some links to the outside world!) Firstly we get rid of live tv, a small but quite monumental step I feel!

Since we started homeschooling Poppet in April I’ve met some (slightly and very!) alternative families, many of whom have taken this step. It makes me feel less odd for wanting to do it. I feel like I can fit in somewhere even if I do want to do things a bit differently. I don’t have to follow any crowds, although knowing some people that are doing the same things definitely helps!

Now to convince the Stinker that he doesn’t need to watch live sport on tv!!


Cold Feet and Conkers

“Autumn days when the grass is jewelled…” I often find myself singing this as I skip down the garden to feed the chickens on these misty mornings – okay, I might not be telling the full truth.  It is true that I often have that song running through my mind, but the skipping part is definitely a long way from reality.

For me autumn is full of contradictions…

I love collecting conkers on a crisp October afternoon – throwing sticks into trees to knock them down, stamping on the shells to pop out the smooth, shiny gems, getting home and drilling holes for family conker tournaments.  Oh, and putting conkers in the corner of every room to deter spiders (does this really work?!).  But I do not love having cold feet while I do this.  Is it me or does it feel too soon to put the winter boots on?  In fact, cold feet seem to be a theme for me at this time of year.  Last night while lying in bed I sent the Stinker a text message telling him of my chilly issue (he was only downstairs but don’t tell me you never text your partner when they’re in the same house!).  His response: ‘Put some socks on’ – sexy!

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Back to autumn… I love the changing colours – they are so vibrant and varied: deep purples (not the band!), rich reds, warm oranges, sunny yellows.  We love our family trips to Westonbirt Arboretum at this time of year kicking through the rainbow of leaves.  I also love the beautiful autumnal skies – early morning sunrise through the fog (I have to admit I don’t see many of these!) and early evening sunsets.  I often wish I was an amazing artist (believe me I’ve tried!) so I could capture those colours forever, but I have to accept they are a beauty to hold in my memory.

If only these beautiful colours were visible every day, but sadly I find this time of year to be dominated by dull, grey days which I’m sure no-one loves.  Linked to this of course is the lack of sunshine (I’m a summer person – give me the sun 12 months a year please) and with that the need to wear so many more clothes.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a naturist, but I am happier in less clothing!  I’d also be happier if I didn’t have to keep sorting out my wardrobe.  I can hear the Stinker questioning this as I do quite like a sort out, but I had only just got my summer wardrobe organised then the colder weather set in!  It’s not that I really care about fashion, but I can’t really wander around in shorts and vest tops in October can I?! Actually, maybe I could – I do love a log fire, but that’s another story!