Friday, 28 December 2012

Five Things for Friday: Family Life Edition

-1-

My youngest child is the clown of the family. At 2.5 years old, she does everything and anything she can in order to get a laugh from someone else. Unfortunately, my older children do not have discerning tastes when it comes to humour, so toilet jokes rule the day. Specifically, she has recently taken to calling me "Mummy Butt". 

I'm not too fond of that nick-name, to be honest.

So after a few days of asking her to stop, she occasionally reminds herself by coming out with, "No say butt?" and every time, I have to confirm this fact.

But this has severely limited her joking material. A two year old only has a couple of jokes, and I've taken one away! Don't worry, she came up with a replacement. 

Whenever I do something she approves of, such as helping her on the toilet, or serving food, or tying shoes, she'll say "Good doggie!"

At least before, I was actually human.


-2-

Yesterday was another daughter's birthday. She is now six years old! She has to use TWO hands to show her age! It's a breakthrough. As you can imagine, having a birthday so close to Christmas can be quite hectic. Ever since I found out her due date (the 1st of January, actually, so hurray for not going overdue!), I stressed about how to make her birthday memorable and separate from Christmas itself.

Our birthday traditions don't change for her, for one thing. She still goes out shopping for her own presents with birthday money (usually with just Dad, but we've had to be flexible on this one from time to time), she still gets to bake her own cake and eat the "first bite". (birthday kid takes a bite out of the cake before cutting) A banner or balloons or some such are put up. We usually forego birthday wrapping paper and either use plain paper or pile everything up on the table with a cloth covering it all. (I'd like to say this is because we're just so good at being green but it's mostly due to laziness!)

The day after Christmas, we take all the decorations down. We put them up during the first week of December, so we don't mind the mad rush to put them away straight after Christmas. This gives us a small break between two celebrations. 

Birthday parties are best in early January, after the flurry of family visits are out of the way.

Yesterday, I asked her if her birthday felt special, and she said yes. She quite likes her birthday being so close to Christmas, because she gets a mountain of presents by the end of it all! The rest of the year seems a bit hum-drum, of course, but at least she won't ever feel like her birthday was lumped in with Christmas. I heard stories of people's birthdays being forgotten, or presents combined into one "big" present, or a present wrapped in Christmas paper.... I mean, if it was no big deal, kids wouldn't carry those memories into adulthood, right? I didn't want that to happen to my daughter.

So far, so good. I look forward to making the same effort for many more birthdays to come!


-3-

We rent. Due to house prices, the way banks lend, being a single income family, and our family size, we'll probably be renting for a long time to come. As such, house decor has never been high on my list of priorities. 

A few years back, my friends came up with an AMAZING surprise while my husband and I went away for a short weekend break. They looked after our kids while at the same time repainted our living room! We had talked about painting the lower half of the wall a lovely chocolate brown for several years, but never really got around to it. These friends called in some more people and completely blitzed the house in 24 hours. It was jaw-dropping! I still smile thinking about it.

On a sad note, we moved out of that house a little over a year later, and the landlords wanted the walls back to off-white. Repainting the walls was a little bit heartbreaking but also just plain ANNOYING. The brown was really nice! It may not sound as good as I'm describing it, but it really gave the house some character, in a quiet sort of way.

We painted the house after moving most of the furniture out of the way, but it was highly stressful in a stressful situation (is moving EVER simple?!).

So this house has all white walls, except for in the kids' bedrooms, and we're keeping them that way. The girls' bedroom has one garishly pink wall - fine. My son's bedroom as a bright yellow wall - also fine. We've put a few pictures up and that's that.

But the rest of the house is bright white. Well, bright white from about 4 feet from the floor and upwards. My toddler views the walls as her blank canvas, and grubby hands make marks all along doorways and around light switches! 

I digress. On one wall, there was a lovely centrepiece of pretty wallpaper just on the part that jutted out around the (gas) fireplace. When we first moved in, it was in pretty great condition. Two years later, not so much. There were gouges and scratches and peeled bits of paper and it finally succeeded in driving me just crazy enough to do something about it.

Last night I started pulling it down, and 24 hours later, it's over halfway done. I do a little bit at a time, encouraging the kids to join in, and soon there will be more bright whiteness staring me in the face.

I will not succumb to the temptation of painting colour on the walls. I will keep them white. 

I may, however, buy some sort of vinyl sticker motif to put on the walls; at least they come off easily!












-4-

In about a month, I'm going back to the States for a visit! I've lived in England for 13.5 years, and have only been back ONCE. Isn't that crazy? Well, I mean, the cost makes it difficult, but still! Since I've been married, my husband has been to the States like 5 times or something. HE'S NOT EVEN AMERICAN. LIKE ME. I AM AMERICAN.

Okay, so most of those times he went for work. I'm still not letting him off easy.

The main reason I'm going back is to visit my friend and help her with her new baby. She's pregnant with her eighth! She'll need all the help she can get! I haven't seen her since she moved back to America about 6 months ago? I can't quite remember. Anyway, it's been a while! And my other friend, who also moved back to the States but over a year ago, is coming along to help with the baby too, and it's going to be a reunion! I'm super excited!

Hopefully, I'll be able to see family, too, but I don't know... direct flights between the two cities are hard to find, which is silly. The other flights had 2 or 3 stop overs and took 12+ hours to reach the destination. A direct flight would take 3 or 4 hours. Bah!

I'm kind of scared to leave my kids for 11 days, because I'm still breastfeeding my toddler and don't want to forcibly wean her. I have a feeling that she'll pick right back up from where we left off, but who knows, y'know? We'll see. She has Daddy and all her older siblings, so she'll be ok. Me? I'll probably be a wreck by the end of it, but at least I'll be comforted by a brand new baby to hold. Aaaahhh.


-5-

Y'all remember my Living Chemical Free series? Well, I thought I'd mention a new hair wash alternative that I just tried today.

Eggs.

Yup. Just crack that baby on your scalp and you're good to go!

Okay, not really.

You use the egg yolk. I just did it all in the shower, straight up. I cracked the egg into my hand, let the whites dribble through my fingers down the drain, and agitated the yolk in between my palms just like soap. I was surprised at how big the yolk is - way more to it than a blob of shampoo!

As I scrubbed it into my hair, the yolk left a white residue on my hands. Weird?! I don't know if the white was the grease coming off or what, but that was not the colour I expected.

Today my hair was pretty gross; I can't remember the last time I washed it, but probably a good week ago at least. I needed two eggs to get the job done thoroughly! (I just feel the need to mention here that I actually shower much more regularly than I wash my hair....)

So two egg yolks destroyed the oil slick on my head and left my hair tangle-free and soft and lovely. Hurray!

It doesn't smell of anything. My hair smells like hair. I was ever-so-slightly concerned that my ultra-hot shower would cook the egg on my head (which is silly, because I don't like my showers hot enough to scald my skin), so out of paranoia I turned the heat down to more luke-warm ish. 

I gotta say, I LOVE THIS. How easy is it to crack an egg, right? No prep work, no extra thought, no concoctions to brew up. Crack, plop, done.

So yeah. Try washing your hair with an egg. See what happens.

I also washed my 9 year old's hair with apple sauce today, because apparently it's good for dandruff and that child has dry skin issues. I didn't want to bathe her scalp in chemicals, so this seemed like a good alternative. FYI, make sure your homemade applesauce is skin-less. Those little pieces of apple peelings are not easy to wash out! However, I think it's been worth it because her head looks flake-free. I will update on that later.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Singing

I really enjoy singing. I used to perform in a Gilbert and Sullivan society, but when we moved to our new town (2 years ago, so not really new anymore) I had to give that up. Life got busy, and I didn't really want to commit to singing in a big production again, but I missed the singing part.

Currently, my only singing outlet is through church. I recently performed Whistle Down the Wind at a "Musical Extravaganza". It had been a while since I sang solo in front of an audience, and the adrenaline made me shaky for the first few bars! Once I got into it, I felt confident and happy up there. Good thing, too - my pianist forgot his music and had to improvise during the song! That meant an unexpected pause in the music where I had to sing a cappella. Gulp! It actually sounded like we did it on purpose, so the performance worked out fine.

Fast forward a month, and I've been asked to sing a duet with a friend during our church's Carols by Candlelight service. Funnily enough, the piece we are singing is called Candlelight Carol. It's a beautiful song. I am also singing with our church choir, which is incredibly fun also.

I have gotten the taste for singing back. I love the challenge of learning a new tune, getting the breathing right, the timing and dynamics. I have very little musical training - I stopped taking piano lessons after a few weeks at the age of 10 or so, and I played the clarinet for a couple of years during middle school. I know how to sight read, but can't actually name the notes without going through that old mnemonic device: Every Good Boy Does Fine. I'd like to be a tad more knowledgeable on the subject! In fact, eventually, I'd like to learn how to be a choir conductor, and coax beautiful music out of a group of willing subjects. (someday...)

Unfortunately, there aren't any amateur choirs in the area that I can join. They either don't exist, or are full up. I am a Soprano, and it seems like most women who sing are sops. Maybe not, but every choir I've been has been Soprano-heavy. My friend - who is in the Candlelight Carol duet with me - is an Alto (her voice is simply gorgeous, I feel lucky to sing with her). She would like to join a choir but can't either, and we recently had a conversation bemoaning our lack of singing opportunities. We want songs that are challenging and interesting and just plain HARD to sing! It's more fun that way.

So we hit upon the idea of this: Who cares if we can't join a choir or sing in a concert? Let's just SING.

We are going to get together once a month and learn an amazing song, get it perfect, and see where it takes us. Maybe nowhere. But maybe life will take us in interesting directions, and we'll get the opportunity to perform a song that we've already practiced and polished. Fun, right? Singing for the pure joy of it. I like the sound of that.

My friend is musically trained and has a love for opera. So.... we are going to learn the Flower Duet from Lakme.




Gulp! High, or what?!

But I love a challenge. I'm really excited to try!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Drumroll, please!

Yeesh, I can't even GIVE stuff away! Clearly, my finger is not on the pulse of what's popular or trending on Pinterest or whatever.

That's ok, because Zelda benefits! By virtue of being the only commenter who actually wanted to be entered into the giveaway, she wins!

Zelda, email me at raisin3cookies [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk as soon as you can!

Merry Christmas to you all.

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Giveaway!

So, after making my daughter's needle felted playscape, I had so much fun that I wanted to make another one. I considered making one to sell in my Etsy store.

But every single time I make something to sell, the joy of actually making it gets sucked out of me and I can't do it anymore. It's kind of baffling, but there it is.

Then I hit upon a GREAT idea: a giveaway on my blog! Hurray! I get the fun of making something, and the excitement of giving it to someone who wants it.

After thinking about it, I decided to make a little stream with a gnome house and bridge leading to a field of flowers.




The gnome is dressed in gender neutral colours, so the recipient can decide if it's a boy or girl gnome.


Little gnome has many beautiful flowers to enjoy in the field, whilst picnicking or just taking a stroll.


The bridge is a great location for fishing, or perhaps a game of Pooh-sticks.


Taking a stroll....


Such a beautiful day!


There isn't a lot of detail, since it's my second attempt at this playscape thing, but I might come up with a few more things before it gets sent to its new home.


Like, maybe a toadstool or two wouldn't go amiss? 



Little gnome surveys his/her domain. A gnome's eye view, if you will.

===============================================

So! Who wants to enter the giveaway?

I was thinking about the "rules" of the giveaway, and cast my mind on other blogs I've visited (with many more readers than I have!).

They ask for entries by way of:

1. "Like" the blog on Facebook -- I don't have a page on Facebook for my blog
2. Visit their Etsy store and come back with a favourite item and why -- My Etsy store is defunct
3. Tweet or Facebook message about the giveaway -- How would I even know you did that? I don't know how to check up on these things...

Okay, so for the less blog-savvy blogger, here's my simple rules of entering the giveaway (one entry for each item, please leave separate comments for each thing you've done):

1. Leave a comment here on any additions you think I should add to the playscape. I reserve the right to steal your ideas as I see fit!

2. "Follow" the blog. (link should be on the sidebar to the right)

3. Mention the giveaway on your own blog, leaving the link to the blog entry in your comment.

I hope that sounds painless enough!

The playscape itself is smallish (6"x12", I think?) and very lightweight, so I'm happy to send it internationally.

I wish I'd thought of doing this two weeks ago, because now it'll be too late to send to anyone in time for Christmas! Oh well!

Giveaway is open until Thursday morning, 9am GMT. I'll try to get it sent out by this weekend!

Good luck, everyone.

Disclaimer: This playscape is probably best suited to children aged 5+, simply because I don't know how robust it will turn out to be! I've attached the bridge and gnome house to the base as best as I can, but I've never done this before so it might not last long under rough playing conditions.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Needle Felted Playscape

One of my original gift ideas for my two year old was a hobby horse. It seemed simple enough to make, but the more I thought about it, the more I fretted over the giant STICK attached to the horse head. (hello, weapon) And I couldn't just make a horse head and give that as a gift. I'm not trying to evoke images of horror on Christmas morning.

Clearly, other people don't see a problem with the stick feature of a hobby horse, but I kept imagining scenarios of it being used to reach high places, whack other people, put eyes out, etc.

So that idea was scrapped.

Through googling, I happened across this idea of felted playscapes. From what I can tell, a felted playscape is just a nature scene come to 3D life, with little creatures thrown in for good measure. Many of the pictures I found were like works of art, they were so beautiful.

I haven't needle felted anything in a while, so the concept fully captivated me and I got to work!

First of all, I went the lazy route and didn't wet felt the base. I don't mind wet felting, but it meant that I wouldn't be able to get started straight away on the fun stuff (flowers, tree stump, etc) and it also meant that I couldn't make the base as big as I wanted because my bamboo mat is tiny.

Anyway, I cut out a 12"x12" piece from an old acrylic sweater/jumper. It was a lovely shade of green, so if it peeked through the wool it would match nicely.

I just poked the wool straight through the fabric, added details and voila!

Water, grass, lilies, tree stump, a little duck house, cattails, etc

Another view
Tree stump, little duck saying hello!

The "back" view

Lily pads and flowers

 This book was the inspiration.

I'm really happy with the results! I might add a few more flowers here and there, and the tree stump needs roots, I think. I also want to make Momma duck, but unfortunately little Daisy duck is pretty big! I'd have to make Momma HUGE.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Homemade Christmas Gifts

This year, I am trying to keep Christmas simple by making most of our gifts to the children. My husband is tasked with making a marshmallow shooter and miniature bows and arrows. He's also giving me some great ideas for our 9 year old's time capsule kit.

Other presents include a photo album for each child, with pictures from the past couple of years. I'm hoping to start a new tradition in this gift, and make a greater effort to photograph them doing various cool/fun/interesting/seasonally appropriate things throughout the year so I have a nice array of photos to print in November. Every year, they should have a retrospective of things they've done and how they've grown. I am not going to great lengths for these albums - they aren't scrap-booked or anything; it's literally just pictures inserted into ready-made slots in a cheap album. That'll do. The kids LOVE looking at pictures of themselves, and often accost me while I'm at the computer in order to flick through our digital files. Now they'll be able to look at real pictures any time they want! And in ten years, they'll have a stack of photo albums to treasure. In an ideal world, at any rate.

Starting from my youngest, I made her some slippers:






The tutorial is found here, on a blog I truly adore. That woman's creativity knows no bounds and her sense of humour is a treat.

I ran into a snag with these slippers which nearly made me cry. The ones pictured are my second attempt; the first set were made out of gorgeous satin, gold fabric that shimmered and seemed perfect for ballet-style dressing up shoes. Unfortunately, I was working from scraps and must have cut the fabric in the wrong direction because it completely unraveled at the seams when I tried to insert the elastic. At that point, the shoes were halfway made and it was very disheartening to have to start all over again.

In the end, however, I think it worked out for the best, because these new slippers are made from warm fleece which is entirely necessary in our house over the winter. Laminate wood flooring downstairs makes for very cold toes! My youngest is the only one in the house without a pair of slippers to pad around in, so as long as she actually likes to wear them (who knows with toddlers), it'll be great.

And no picture yet, but today I started on a needle-felted playscape, based on a story she adores called Come On, Daisy!. There's an entire series of Daisy books with beautiful paintings and an adorable duckling who gets into a bit of mischief, but always comes right in the end of course. I've started the playscape on a scrap of a green jumper, 12"x12". The plan is to create a watery scene and Momma and Daisy duck to live there. I might add a frog or two, and hopefully I'll figure out a way to make a felted cave or tree stump for the ducks to live in. It's all very experimental, but luckily the recipient is two years old and thinks everything I do is amazing! I really love to needle felt, so I'm excited. It's also a departure from sewing, and I've been doing a lot of that....

For my five year old daughter, I put together a sewing kit out of notions and fabrics that I already had on hand. My inspiration came from this cute tutorial. I didn't have all of the stuff to make the box (plus the font she used on her pdf file was REALLY hard to read, so I gave up on that real quick!), but I did have a zippered pencil case thingy with Hello Kitty plastered all over it. It already had the elastic holes that could be useful for holding more than just pencils and erasers, so I ironed some fabric to a bonding agent to stop it fraying, and hot-glued it to the front of the case.


(the ribbon thing is supposed to be a heart!)

I then just dug through my sewing things, and grabbed some cute fabrics and itty bitty thread reels.



The tutorial I linked to also had some ideas for a needle book and a pin cushion. They were cute, but I seek to simplify, and so I took some pre-cut hexagons in my stash, sewed them together and stuffed it. Viola! Pin cushion in 5 minutes or less.



The needle book was a bit trickier, because I don't have actual felt sheets on hand, but I do have a bunch of fleece. I tried to cut a square of pretty fabric and fleece but that took me several tries to get it right and the fabric got smaller and smaller.... Got there in the end! I sewed a tiny tiny seam down the middle of the book on the outside in order to encourage it to stay shut when lying flat. And that was it!



I'm going to make a little certificate/coupon thingy that entitles her to sewing lessons from momma. She is the type of kid who thrives on attention (I know all kids do, but she takes it to a whole new level), so this sort of gift will send her into fits of joy.

Interestingly, some of my sewing notions are really ancient. In the picture above, next to the thimble and thread, there is a white-handled metal hook thingie. I'm unsure what it is, but it MIGHT be an old-fashioned seam ripper? My nine year old was helping me put this gift together and we both agreed it was pretty so it needed to be added to the kit. But what is it actually for? Who knows.

The blue ribbon still has the price tag attached: 9d, which was 9 pence in old money. I don't understand British old money AT ALL. But it's fascinating that the ribbon went unused for so long, and now my five year old will likely cut it into small pieces and scatter it in the winds. Thank you for buying it so long ago, whoever you are!


This little girl of mine will also be getting a dream catcher, to catch all those bad dreams she keeps having. I don't have any pictures of it, but just imagine a spider web made by a drunk spider, adorned with random beads and feathers, and you get the idea. It's not my best crafting work, but kids are generous with praise so I'm not worried!

My son will be getting some cool books about a boy turned superhero, and the aforementioned marshmallow shooter.

My eldest, in addition to the time capsule kit, is also getting an artist's pencil and notebook holder. I found this tutorial, which made it seem super easy, and off I went.

The trouble is, I started the project at 11pm, when I was too tired to function, and didn't bother measuring anything accurately. The corners aren't square, and the outer fabric I used was this very pretty black velour that shifted under the presser foot of my sewing machine. Oh, and I didn't pin anything, either. Clever!

But it turned out ok.






It's very soft and tactile, which is fun, and I know for a fact that she likes the inner fabric because she recently used it to make a bag! The pencils are proper artist pencils with different hardness or whatever it's called, and there are a few extra pockets sewn in for her own custimisations. I made the flower on the front cover out of the lining fabric and used a bead in the middle to cover up the stitches. I'm really excited about this gift, because she loves to draw and is really keen to get better at it. Plus, it's one thing to be given a set of pencils and a pad of paper, but quite another to have a cute little home for them as well! Yay.

My husband - who doesn't read my blog so I can say whatever I want, haha! - is getting a leather phone case made by me (no pictures, but I should really do that soon), some deodorant scented with his favourite cologne (he's noticed it works! I'm sucking him into my hippy ways, one day at a time), and a cunning hat, NOT knitted by me. Because I am not a knitter. I mean, I know the basics and have made a few things in my past, but it's just not my "thing". Some of us are knitters, some of us are not. I am not, and that's ok! It means I can pay my friends to make me things and I can enjoy the feeling of handmade items without the frustration of losing count, dropping stitches, and messed-up tension. Hurray! And honestly, it's worth the money to not have to deal with all that hassle.

Most everyone else will be getting a card, or a photo album which will be sent to the grandparents.

------------------------------

As much as I love the idea of simplifying Christmas, making gifts is quite time consuming and stressful. I should have started earlier in the year! Something to bear in mind for 2013, I guess.

And yes, the kids know they are only getting a few presents this year. They are okay with this, and acknowledge the wasted money, time, effort, and resources that go into buying toys that get forgotten about by February and thrown into the bin by summer. When I asked them what they even got for Christmas last year, they couldn't remember! It's ridiculous how much stress I pour into buying them gifts when it is essentially dross a few weeks later.

So yeah. Few gifts, made with love, and hopefully useful and fun for longer. We'll see on that last point....


(I've also been making some gifts for my daughter's birthday, which is two days after Christmas! More to come on that on another day.)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Rambling about Cognitive Dissonance


cognitive dissonance

noun Psychology .
anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like,

Okay, so  anyone who has delved into the world of ... well, any opinions expressed on the internet whatsoever, knows that lots of people think differently on every single topic imaginable.

Sometimes I agree with both sides of the vast divide between opinions, and it often makes my head hurt.

I have read convincing arguments that home education is a bad idea. The article linked is short, and pretty simple in the points made, but I think there are certain underlying factors that mean home education is not a good idea for every single person on the face of the planet. I get that.

In fact, I get it so well, that I have sent 2 of my children back to school. I'm not enamoured with school, nor do I think it's the be-all and end-all of a child's life experience. (does anyone think this, though?!?) School provides resources and exposure to ideas that I can't give my kids at home. Most home ed families would agree on that point!

I have also watched and read arguments in favour of educational reform and child-led learning that make absolute sense to me. Our brains are not wired to accept facts and figures at the rate other people decide. We are not vases waiting to be filled up with the carefully apportioned knowledge the government has deemed appropriate for certain age groups. Life just doesn't work that way.

But my five year old daughter is a total extrovert and was unhappy with our home school groups. She didn't like being different from everyone else at church, and is very satisfied with the notion that she is a "school kid, too". That makes it sound like we were closeted away at home all the time! We were often out and about, but there's a rather small home ed population in our area, and we had to drive long distances for certain activities.

My eight year old son has autism. When we first moved to this area and decided to home ed, my husband and I both felt that a change of town, house, church AND school would have been too much for him to bear. The only change we had control over was school, so we kept him home. It was the right choice at the time, because he adjusted to the change after a couple of months with minimal behaviour disruptions.

Academically, both kids are doing fine, as far as I'm aware. They aren't mega-geniouses at the top of the class, and they aren't bottom of the heap, either. They learned different things at home than they learn at school according to the National Curriculum. That's ok. I didn't follow the National Curriculum anyhow.

My nine year old is still at home. She has a very transient interest in school, and will sometimes say vague things like "I might like THIS school" but she isn't set on it like the other two were.

So we do some child led learning, and I prod her if I feel like she isn't doing any learning for too many days in a row. But I mostly try to bite my tongue and work on my "striking while the iron is hot" skills. She recently has shown an interest in WWII, the diary of Anne Frank, and we have talked about the social implications of the War. She has done a fair amount of reading on Ancient Egypt and started noting down cool different hieroglyphics.

This all sounds rather more impressive than it actually is, I'd wager. If you blink, you'll miss it. Because she isn't being assessed or tested or measured, who's to say it's going in? Then again, who's to say it isn't?

At the end of the day, I believe school works for some, and doesn't work for others. I think home education has the potential to be something great in a person's life, and something that limits him/her academically and socially.

It's kind of hard to hold both of these ideas in my head at the same time; to not only hold them in my head, but live them out every day. I walk my children to school, depositing them in an institution that is modeled after a factory and is dedicated to churning them out in pre-packed boxes, all neat and tidy. I go back home to a house full of random conversations, learning based on the flavour of the moment and simply have no control over what my child will take interest in. (to be fair, that last one is true for all kids, everywhere)

Which will work out best? Will my so-called unschooled daughter find her feet? Will she learn everything she needs to know to live life as an adult? Will her self esteem and social skills survive intact? I ask the same questions of my schooled children.

Parenting is a bit like conducting a long-term science project. I add a bit of this, stir in a bit of that, take notes on what went wrong and aim higher for next time. I don't really know what the end result will be, but when you think about it, it isn't my project at all. I'm just the facilitator, watching my child spread wings and fly.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wanting to be strong

I joined the gym a month ago. I've been going three times a week, for four weeks, so it's only 12 sessions.

I'm lifting weights. I want bigger muscles. I was joking about this today, about how my husband - who sits at a desk all day and hasn't exercised regularly in years - is much stronger than me. His biceps are much larger than mine, and that just isn't fair, right?

A friend asked me, "why do you want big muscles as a woman?", and I wasn't sure what to say.

I don't want to be a body builder, or look like a man. I just want to be stronger. I want to see evidence of the hard work I've been putting into strengthening my body.

This world we live in, this "westernised" society sees femininity as smallness. Women go to the gym to shrink; men go to get bigger.

I don't want to shrink. I want to be substantial and tough.

Because I'm tired. I'm tired of being battered by images and words and ideas that tell me lies.

That tell me I'm not pretty enough.

Or that I'm not skinny enough.

Or that my path in life isn't worthwhile.

Or simply that I don't count, because I'm a woman at all.

Perhaps the reason why I want to be strong, is because it will instil something of that durability into my mind and heart.

Oh, I know that I am a child of God. I believe that my womanhood is something to cherish and that I am not, nor will I ever be, a second-class citizen to my Heavenly parents. On good days, I know that the amount of adipose tissue I carry around under my skin is not a measure of my worth. The length of my hair, the style of my clothes, the cleanliness of my house -- these things mean nothing.

But on other days, I am just tired. I feel weakened by the onslaught, and I don't want to look critically at my body anymore.

So I lift weights. I focus on strengthening the muscles I have been blessed with, and I watch in awe as they respond to the challenge. I am getting stronger. My body is a beautiful orchestra that works in complex synchronicity. And when I see myself in this way, the voices that tell me otherwise disappear.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

My little boy was baptised today


A few hours ago, my second-born child entered the waters of baptism, following the example of the Saviour.

He was thoroughly versed in the 'whys' and 'hows' of baptism, and was happy to make this step in his life. My husband and I are happy he's taken this step as well; we believe it is a saving ordinance and one that will give him strength and protection throughout his life.


The service itself is quite short; usually a talk or two is given on the subjects of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. These are great topics, but when preparing for my son's baptism, I felt a different approach would work better.

He is a big fan of the scriptures in Acts that refer to the armour of God. So I themed a short talk on that:


I glued a picture of his head onto card and added a cartoon body with some strategically placed velcro. As I talked about each part of the armour, he stuck a little picture onto himself. By the end of the talk, he was fully prepared to live a life of faith!

“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth”

“have on the breastplate of righteousness.”

“your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace”

the helmet of salvation

the sword of the Spirit, or the word of God

“Above all, taking the shield of faith”


He really enjoyed sticking the bits of armour onto himself! Hopefully it will be something he will remember as he grows up, and in the meantime he has the chance to play with it whenever he wants now. (at least until the pieces get lost or broken, which is inevitable in this house!)

I love that kid.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

She's a School Girl!

First day of school, with her packed lunch and everything

Second day of school, in her official school logo cardigan and a cute skirt
Well, she seems to have enjoyed the first day of school, so that's good.

She spent the rest of the day literally attached to me - she held onto the hem of my skirt and I had to drag her along as I walked around the house. So..... maybe she is feeling a little conflicted? Hopefully she'll feel more confident as time passes.

I do miss her when she's gone, though.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Back to School

Last week, I sent the school applications to the county council.

Two days ago, I got a call from them saying they had an opening for my 5 year old at BOTH schools we requested.

Yesterday, we toured the school closest to our house.

Today, we decided to go for it! I spoke to the school and she is starting on MONDAY.


She has 1 school skirt and 1 pinafore. We are going to have to do some serious shopping tomorrow!

I'm kind of dizzy at how fast this change has come about. I sent the paperwork off and expected a good month or so before hearing from the powers that be. Now, within the space of a week and a half, our entire family life will be different.

I am at peace with this choice, although it's taken me some serious thought and tossing-and-turning before I've come to that conclusion. It will be ok. Good, even!

She will have something special and important that's all her own, which is something she needs. She'll get to  be her own person outside of the family. And when her brother finally gets a place (he's on the waiting list), she'll be able to show him the ropes!

I'm happy for her.

And if it doesn't work out, she can always come home again!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Angst, and Worry, and Dread, Oh My!

My kids want to go back to school. We have been home educating for nearly 2 years, and it has been good. We have enjoyed each other's company (most of the time) and learned a lot. Our family is closer than ever before, and we have great friends. Our lives are happy, on a very fundamental level. I love it.

But the eight year old and five year old don't really remember school. The five year old has never even been to school. She in particular is very keen to try it out and see what it's like for herself. The eight year old feels like he would "learn more" in school, despite my attempts to remind him of all the things he's learned at home so far!

All this time, I have said that we should be flexible with the children; home education OR schooling don't have to be a permanent situation. So now, I suppose I need to keep my word.

My nine year old remembers school and wants nothing to do with it. When I first floated the idea to her, the immediate reaction to the thought of returning to school was a very strong NO WAY. She doesn't like being forced to learn what's on the syllabus and she doesn't like having to ask permission to use the toilet. She enjoys learning at her own pace and is probably the most motivated self learner of the bunch.

It looks like we will be a part-time home ed family now. I would love to get the kids into a flexi schooling arrangement, whereby they attend for 3 days a week. I think that would be a great compromise.

I'm not sure how this will all pan out. Maybe they will flourish in school. Maybe they will hate it. Maybe they will feel better because they aren't so different from most of their friends anymore. It's difficult to accurately find the root of their desire to school, but no matter.

They will go. I will have my first- and last-born at home during the day, and we will find many things to do together. This time of more one-on-one togetherness might be just what my 9 year old needs right now.

Deep breaths. Change and growth are good things. This will work out just fine. At least, I hope so.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Gymming it Up

I just changed a noun into a verb, in the title up there. Thanks for the tip, Calvin. (oh, and also Shakespeare)


So today I went gymming. I gymmed. For the first time in over a decade, in fact!

You'd think I was going through a midlife crisis or something. I've stopped eating sugar and meat, I've joined the gym and next week I'm going to begin a personal challenge of meditating for 40 days (no, not nonstop. just consecutively!).

But I don't feel like I'm grasping at straws, trying to reclaim a lost youth or whatever. I'm still totally young and nobody will convince me otherwise!

In fact, I feel like I'm finally coming into my own - and scientific research backs me up! Apparently, the human brain doesn't fully mature until you reach your 30s and even 40s. Wild, huh? Makes me realise that our youth obsessed culture is REALLY backwards in so many ways!

So anyway, back to gymming. I was pretty nervous, considering I've never really been into the whole gym scene before and I haven't been physically active on a regular basis since quitting roller derby late last year. Yikes! It's been a long time! Even so, I was pleased to see my blood pressure is perfect and resting heart rate is within the bounds of normal-for-someone-who-doesn't-work-out.

The gym is up the road, a literal five minute walk from my house, so that's really awesome. The trainer dude who went over my goals with me was really encouraging and was pleased with my squatting technique (or is it form? either way it's kind of an odd sentence right there). I attribute that to my time spent in roller derby where squatting was a way of life. A burning, killer way of life! You try to squat non-stop for an hour while also trying to knock other people off their skates. Not an easy task.

So my goals are to build up core strength and do some heavy lifting! Yes, none of that pansy 20 curls with a 5lb weight for me. I'm going for the heavy stuff. Today I lifted a 14kg kettle bell fifteen times, which doesn't seem like a whole lot, but I felt it by the end, I'll tell you! The gym dude wrote up a personal fitness programme which should take me an hour to complete and give me some major back and abdominal strength, along with legs, arms and cardiovascular health.

I am really excited! I told the kids that my goal is to lift them up with a single pinky finger. They decided that would make me a super hero so I am now looking forward to becoming Super Mum with a super hero costume consisting of my pyjamas. Save the world in my pj's? What more could a girl ask for?!

Three times a week, from 7am-8am. By the end of the year, I'll have been gymming for 40 sessions, which is a good start to forming a lifelong habit.

I am pleased that my health isn't bad right now. Considering my lack of physical exercise, it's almost a surprise. I can't count on that forever, though! Life won't always be easy street; old age will come and with it a whole host of issues that could have easily been avoided if I was active in my younger years.

This is my personal future investment. I know that eating right and exercising isn't the magic panacea for perfect health that it's made out to be. Life throws curve balls and challenges come to all of us, but this is a good thing for me, right now.

Well, since I am financially committed for the next 12 months, it better continue to be a good thing for me for a long while to come!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Macmillan Cancer Support Charity Event

Macmillan Cancer Support provides practical help for those people afflicted with cancer and their families.

This charity is especially dear to the hearts of many people in my church community, because unfortunately there are many members that have either died of cancer, are currently in remission, or are facing ongoing treatments. Macmillan has helped every one of them.

Today we had a "hot chocolate" morning. Macmillan stages a country-wide charity drive that they call "The World's Biggest Coffee Morning."  Obviously, being LDS, we don't drink coffee, so we provided hot chocolate instead!

But the real stars of the show were all the cakes. People made cakes, bought cakes, and ate cakes. For a couple of hours this morning we had the perfect excuse to chat, munch and donate.


In fact, we took in over £150 today! I am so excited about this, and really proud of everyone who took part, especially my children.

I temporarily lost my mind and encouraged everyone to bake their own cakes for the day. We went through a recipe book, made a list and went shopping.


 The oldest, age 9, made a carrot cake. She pretty much did the entire thing, I just read through the recipe with her. I topped it off with a ginger and lemon glaze after she went to bed. This recipe could have been cut in half, it was so HUGE. Massive, heavy, dense cake. She was on cloud nine when people asked for the recipe! It was a big hit.


 My gap-toothed, nearly 8 year old made sugar cookies. Lots and lots of them. The reddish-pink ones were iced by himself, and the purple ones were iced by his sisters. The little children in attendance gobbled them up!


My five year old made a lemon cake with her daddy. We have specific nights of the week where each child is allowed to stay up past their bed time and have special one-on-one time with their parents. It's usually Dad who spends time with them, because he's not around as much as I am! She really enjoyed baking with him and was very proud of how the cake turned out.


The baby of the family will not be left out. I neglected to choose a recipe for her before we went shopping, but she grabbed a boxed cake mix with Peppa Pig plastered all over it. Those little white squares on each cupcake are sugar rice papers of Peppa Pig's face. She is especially proud of the chocolate icing on top, and when I asked her later what she thought of the cakes, she just said "CHOCOLATE." Thatta girl.


I got in on the baking action, too, despite the fact that I don't eat sugar any more. Glutton for punishment? Maybe. I used to enjoy baking and even had a blog devoted to it, but now I find it more fun to watch other people bake. I was disappointed in my creation, an apple flan, because the pastry didn't turn out right and the apple topping was watery. People had a hard time getting it out of the pan, too. Oh well. At least I wasn't getting judged on it.


And just for fun, some out-takes: