Thursday, 31 July 2008


Well, despite the odd sticky weather followed by the rain, we have been celebrating Lammas today. For those who may not know, this is a modern Pagan festival, deriving from the Anglo-saxon 'loaf-mass' festival celebrating the first of the grain harvest. Now, we haven't been growing any grain sadly, but we have been harvesting more of our own crop, so this year it has had a real significance for us, more so than in previous years.

So, we have baked a traditional Lammas loaf, which I have to say I was quite impressed with, if I do say so myself! Here it is:

We also did some Lammas pictures - of wheat, bread, flour and other appropriate items and then wrote some Lammas poems. This was my daughter's poem:

Harvest Grain Makes Bread

Oh, harvesting wheat makes flour,
Flour makes bread,
We eat bread.
More and more wheat is harvested
With a combine harvester
And ground into flour.
Flour makes bread,
We eat it in the morning
And in the evening too.
Sometimes it's fun to eat it at teatime.

And this was my son's (I'm not sure he quite got the whole Lammas theme!):

If Somebody Wants To Sit At Teatime

If somebody wants to drive a car,
If somebody wants to have a break,
If somebody wants to colour, just get the crayons.
If somebody wants the pens, just draw with them.

All in all a creative day. I'll have to check if there are any flour mills near enough to us to visit for next year.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Work is one the toughest issues to work out satisfactorily I think. If only it was easy, or even relaively easy, to find work that paid enough to live on and that you could be passionate about. But despite great efforts, we have found it hard to be paid for our writing work meaning that one or both of us has to find other paid work to pay the bills. Ideally, this would involve us both working part-time and both looking after the children part-time, but realistically that has been hard to achieve. How to find 2 jobs which co-ordinate hours-wise and pay-wise with each other has proved impossible so far - though we're still looking out. So now that my husband is looking for a new job, again we have the dilemma of how much to compromise? It would be great even to just get a job which paid the minimum we need to live and gave him some hours free but this would probably be a 4 days a week job and we can't seem to find any of those at his level of work either. It seems to be full time or nothing.
Now that I've been out of the workforce for almost 6 years there's no way I can earn enough to keep the family, but surely I can earn more than my just-above minimum wage home-working job? Probably but then I'd have to find someone to look after the kids while I did it which would kind of defeat the whole object. Maybe I'll sell a book one day!
Inevitably, there is always a disadvantage with any job - either it involves travelling away from home, or it involves a commute, or it's too little money really, or it's for an unethical commercial business. Where to compromise? And how much? Maybe one day we'll get this issue sorted out. I hate the way it become central to our lives when it should just be a peripheral thing. Our life and our family are the most important things so how come jobs always loom so large? Oh yes, paying the bills, that's why.

Saturday, 26 July 2008


I'm struggling to find inspiration for cooking at the moment. There's so many things to think of - obviously the nutritional value of the food, the variety of dishes cooked, what the children will and won't eat, what suits the weather (been too hot for anything heavy this week) and trying to stick to a budget. And that's before you consider the organic, fair-trade, local, seasonal and wholesomeness aspect of it all. I find that trying new recipes often results in waste when the children reject part of it and also adds to the cost of the weekly shop due to having to buy specific new items. I have been trying to cut our costs and increase our nutritional benefit by finding recipes for things we often buy ready-made such as tortilla wraps and making them instead. This sometimes works out well and sometimes doesn't - the wraps went down very well and they're quick and easy to make but home-made hummus has never really worked out and I'm not sure why. Even I can taste that it doesn't taste like shop-bought hummus and while home-made things are usually better, somehow my hummus, no matter whch recipe I use, just isn't as nice and the children won't eat it.

I need some new ideas or else some children who aren't quite so picky. It's not fair, they used to eat anything when they were tiny. In fact, up to the age of about 2 and half, both of them would eat exactly what we had but gradually both of them got pickier about certain aspects of food - having things separate and not mixed, no sauces are the main things, but they mean no stews, soups, hotpots, lasagnes etc which makes things tricky. They do eat healthy food just not a very big variety of it and no mixed dishes. Well-meaning people say I should just serve what we're having and if they don't it then they go hungry, but I think this is rather draconian and probably counter-productive. I remember people trying to force me to eat things I didn't like as a child and it never actually made me eat them, it just created tension around meal-times and food issues in general which I'm not going to do for my children. Meal-times should be a relaxed, social occasion. Also, knowing my children, they'll just not eat, be hungry and then throw massive tantrums because they're hungry until I have to get them some food. That strikes me as a situation in which everyone loses. And tryign to starve a child into submission is pretty much tantamount to child abuse I think and certainly the opposite of respectful. I'm hoping this is one of those phases that they'll gradually grow out of.

Another thing people say to me is that if you breastfeed and then do child-led weaning, the child will grow up eating anything and be a great eater. Well, I'm here to tell you that 'it ain't necessarily so'! We did all that with both of them and both of them are picky, in their own different ways, of course, so don't try to tell me it's something I did to them!

Monday, 21 July 2008


This week I'm meditating on 'balance'. Balance is something I feel to be very important in life and often when something is wrong, it is because something or other is out of balance. I'm a very up and down person mood-wise, so trying to find that elusive balance is a key part of my meditations anyway. And this week I want to re-connect with ideas of balance, how to achieve it and how to discuss it with children, so I'm making it a theme.

I've also been wondering if there can be a negative side to balance. This isn't an idea I've previously entertained, but today I'm wondering if trying to maintain balance in my life can stop me committing too deeply to any one thing? And is so, is this a good or bad thing? Another negative side to balance is feeling a pressure to balance things - like when you feel you're juggling too many balls in the air at once and are terrified you'll drop one. Is there an optimal number of things in life to keep in balance before just trying to keep balanced knocks you off balance itself?

Or am I just thinking too much again?

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Living Woodland Day

We've just had a really good afternoon out at the kind of event I'd been hoping we'd start finding when we moved here, and now finally we have! It was a small local Living Woodland Day in our local woods on the common. We had a good time finding it spotting the computer-printed arrows pinned to trees through the paths and there was a charcoal burner there, people with foot-powered pole lathes and other wood-carving and craft items, people from the local eco-volunteers groups, a man making a replica of a Roman tile found on the common and people carding and spinning wool. The kids loved it. My son especially was fascinated by the wool-spinning and kept going back to have another go. It was quite tricky for him as it was treadle-powered and you needed to have quite a bit of co-ordination as well as enough power in your legs but he just loved it. We came home with bits of wool in our pockets spun by each child.

I joined the local society to protect the common and met the person I just sent off my subscription to to join the society to protect the local country park! We came home armed with leaflets about local events and guided walks in the woods as well as conservation information and the history of the area. I started feeling like we really belong here, as if I'm putting down roots in the immediate locality and feeling some connection with the countryside here.

I find it hard to articulate just why I feel so good about today: this was what I envisaged us doing with the children and as a family when we moved here. It felt like getting involved in the local community and learning about the local land and history. It felt like a family outing with a lovely walk in the woods, some learning, some fun and becoming part of it all somehow. Now we know about other such events that are taking place and particular places of interest to visit on our next walks.

This is particularly timely as I have been questioning the idea of 'belonging' this weekend - mainly due to feeling alienated from some places/groups/people that I had thought myself part of, and wondering why I even have this feeling of wanting to belong at last. I'm not a 'joiner' and I never have been. I am a confirmed introvert and not fond of groups of people, but since having children I've felt the need to put down proper roots, become part of a community. I'm still pondering the form this will take. I have tried to be involved in things before and it's never gone well so I'm cautious. I don't like to put all my eggs in one basket and join one thing and put my all into that one thing. I prefer to be part of different things in different areas of my life, but I don't really have time and energy to spare to do lots of different things right now. And yet, dipping a toe into lots of different things doesn't really satisfy that urge to belong. Maybe I just need to keep looking.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A year today!

It was one year ago today that we finally moved to this house after a a horrendous trying-to-move process that took about 18 months, so it's time to reflect on what we have achieved during this time.

We wanted: a smaller, friendlier place to live with it's own character that wasn't just a suburb of London; to get involved in a local home educating community; to get an allotment; to grow things in our own garden; for the children to have more space to play in; to have more space in the kitchen for baking and eating as a family around a table; more green space easily accessible; to make friends.

We are still getting used to the town but it is smaller and friendlier - people aren't often shot round here which is an improvement, plus we're not too scared to go to the local parks and playgrounds due to drunks and junkies and anti-social teenagers.

We now regularly see around 6 or 7 home educating families and are getting to know them. This suits us better than going to groups at the moment.

We have an allotment which we finally got in March (forgot to take my camera there today) and which the kids are now enjoying. We've also had a nice crop of potatoes from it.

The garden is long and narrow which is a difficult shape to take advantage of, but it has provided the children with space to run around, play football, skip, ride bikes, do gardening and have a playhouse. We've also had a good crop of garlic, onions and strawberries from it, as well as growing herbs, runner beans, tomatoes, raspberries, carrots, sprouts, apples, pears and cobnuts. It will take a while for the trees we've planted to grow taller but the garden looks much better and is such a fantastic thing to have. Unlike our previous tiny patch of grass, this garden is enclosed, away from traffic and I can let the children out there unsupervised without worrying they will get run over. This is how the garden looked when we moved in:

And this is how it looks today:

We have a kitchen table and we bake and eat as a family. Despite much less helpful public transport, we have been getting out and about much more and maybe we are slowly making friends.

We've also done loads of small but vital jobs round the house including getting a water butt, compost bins, bike shed, putting up shelves, getting an oven which actually worked, getting the boiler replaced and so many other things which sound trivial but which have contributed to the running of our household so much. I'm so glad that we no longer live in a 1 and half bedroom flat with 2 small children and a cat, with no space for a table to eat and draw at.

It's been a tough and busy year involving me doing a lot of things I really dislike and really stretching me beyond my comfort zone practically the whole time, but things seem to be settling to a new equilibrium now. We have space - both physical and mental - to think beyond the immediate and to make tentative plans for the future. The children are thriving - my daughter can now ride a 2 wheeled bike, skip, read and write, make complicated art items involving scissors, glue and sellotape; my son can now ride a two wheeled bike with stabilisers, use scissors, write some letters and numbers, recognise some words including his name, help baking.

It's been a massive year for all of us.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Sigh, one of those days!

We really and truly had 'one of those days' yesterday. I'm never sure what kicks it off - if it's the children pushing me further than I can go, or if it's me being short on patience due to tiredness, hormones or something else, or probably a combination of both. My daughter argues, my son is cheerily defiant and non-compliant, things get broken which I have to clear up and one or other of the children manages to fall off something/tread on something sharp/bang some part of themselves on something hard about every 2 minutes. My daughter has hysterics about something completely trivial regularly throughout the day.

And it all adds up to a big crisis of confidence. Can I really do this home education thing? Not the education part, I'm pretty cool about that, but just being with the children so intensely non-stop. I start wondering if it would be better for the kids to be away from me if I'm going to shout at them and be horrible. But surely, my inadequacies is no way to make such an important decision about their education? And also, after they have been away from me (with their Granny) for a couple of hours, they are all over me as if they haven't seen me for days! My son tells me 'I cried for you, Mummy, when I hurt my foot,' and I'm overcome with remorse for not having been there.

I suppose it was all just a bad day. People whose children are at school must have them too? So, deep breath and start another day with a blank slate. At least children don't hold yesterday's bad mood against you.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Learning with Singstar

OK, I know Singstar Rock! is probably not generally considered a tool of natural parenting but desperate times call for desperate measures and my husband had gone to a gig and my daughter was rather cross (BIG understatement) because he had gone before tea. So, I got out Singstar Rock! and performed many a tune for my sometimes amused, sometimes bemused offspring. Just like a campfire - kind of.

It was my son's turn and he chose Smoke on the Water, a big favourite of his. While I was singing, he turned to his sister and asked why the video was all black with no colour? I was mentally preparing an explanation of how it was an old song and that colour TV was relatively new, when my daughter said to him, knowledgeably: "because black and white is more Rock!"

And the scales fell from my eyes and I realised she was right, many of the more modern videos on Singstar Rock! are also in black and white. One of which is The Bravery's An Honest Mistake which was my daughter's choice next, and it was then that I realised how little we pay attention to images once we have learned to read, if there is writing available instead. True, I was following the lyrics printed on the screen, but realistically I know the words off by heart now. And yet, I still wasn't watching the complicated images of the video like the children, completely undistracted by the words, were. There is surely a lesson here, though I'm not quite sure what precisely. So I followed it up with some rousing pop-punk in the form of the Offspring, always a favourite in our house.

And all this after a perfect morning out at the allotment. Finally, it is falling into place. As I had always imagined, the children asked to go, happily cycled there, enjoyed doing weeding, mulching and digging up potatoes before cycling home, tired but happy, despite my son being unable to cycle the last little bit due to his 'legs being too hungry'. We have turned into the Waltons. Hurrah!

New home for my blog

Well my blog has a new home and a new name to reflect all the changes in my life in the last year. My old blog and all the posts I made on it are still online and accessible here but all posts from now on will be on this one.

Now the children are starting to grow out of their babyhood, I feel more able to think clearly and deeply again and will be using this blog as a way of musing about how family life works, the funny things children say and do, and reflecting on how being a mother has changed me.

I hope that anyone who has previously read my blog will stay with me in this new start.