Muddy boots

Muddy boots
Messy hands

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Brown paper packages tied up with string...

It seems to be party season for the children at the moment, with a party each to go to for the next few weekends. This is lovely for them but with it comes the inevitable gift giving.
I love presents and genuinely love the feeling of giving somebody a gift. I also enjoy receiving presents - who doesn't? But...I tend to suffer from 'present angst', in that I so desperately wants to give a present that is just right that I sometimes end up not giving one at all. Then I feel terrible. But, that is another story. For now we are dealing with birthday gifts for children we barely know.
There are several issues for me and one is of consumerism. If my child is attending a party with between ten and thirty children then the party boy / girl will be receiving presents from ten to thirty children, as well as from parents, grandparents etc. The thought of that big pile of 'stuff', half of which may not be wanted, fills me with horror. I would never turn up empty handed but our gifts of choice tend to be books, partly because we are a family of book lovers and want to share the joy, and partly because it is usually appreciated and used or at least re-gifted. If we know the child well we will buy something relevant for them that we know or hope they will like. My children have only ever had small parties but even so the pile of gifts has seemed huge.
The next issue is financial. We are not well off and like many families we sometimes struggle to make ends meet. We don't want to disappoint the children by saying they can't go to a party but when the expectation is to turn up with a proper present, gift wrapped with a card it can be tricky. There have been times (now) when we are counting the days until payday so we can go food shopping, so to buy a present involves spending on the credit card. This ultimately makes things worse. So, do you turn up with nothing, buy on the credit card or... take something homemade?
The issue of homemade or even second hand presents is a tricky one. The word homemade is often synonymous with substandard, undesirable, even shoddy. It doesn't have to be that way though. Even if you are not a 'maker' there are things that can be made, repurposed or re-gifted. It still feels difficult or even slightly shameful though, but why? I make things that people are willing to pay money for, but I still feel a but awkward about giving homemade presents! There are prejudices, snobbery and the idea that people will think you are cheap. Also, just because some people like what you make it doesn't mean everyone will. As for second hand presents, I personally don't see a problem with this if the gift is something that you think the recipient will love. But what would you think if you opened a gift that was obviously second hand? There have been some positive developments in gift giving with the popularisation of charitable donations and poverty busting gifts such as those available through Oxfam. (other charities do this too).
There is a lot of emotion tied up with gift giving. I can remember feeling physically sick one Christmas when a scary relative gave me a nasty brown jumper and I could not say thank you. My mum was great at knowing what I would like, but again I felt a gut-wrenching sadness on a couple of rare occasions that she have me completely inappropriate presents. Maybe that's partly why I agonise so much about what to give people.
It can't just be me that has this problem, and I am sure parents everywhere struggle with birthdays. It would be great if we could all work together to change the focus of gift giving. Here are just a few of my ideas for non purchased gifts (there are loads online so I won't go on forever).
Homemade foodie gifts such as fudge, cookies, chocolate bark wrapped in cellophane or little treat bags. Penny sweets in a pretty/ decorated jar.
A simple notebook covered in pretty fabric or paper and a pencil decorated with washi tape, tied together with ribbon.
A favourite book of yours that you think the recipient would love, with a handwritten note attached.
Handwritten or printed vouchers for e.g. babysitting, cooked meals, cleaning, playdate or other 'services'.
Framed drawings / photos.
The most important thing is that the gift is given with love and not just for the sake of it. Obviously it's a bit different for Children's birthday party gifts but if your child knows them well enough then with a bit of thought you should be able to come up with something together that their friend might like. How about your child writing a poem or story about their friend and framing it? Or any of the above ideas would work if relevant and tailored to the child.
On a final note, we are going to a party tomorrow for a little girl we barely know. Will I be 'brave' and give her something homemade, or will I rush out and use the credit card? What would you do?


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Striking a balance

My little world had been changing recently.  We had the big move to Cornwall back in December and that was a lot of upheaval but the good kind. Mr Green has his new job  which has already expanded and the children have their new schools and nursery.  I have a new part time job in which I get to indulge my foodie passion and experiment with new recipes.  I have the blog which is slowly coming together (I now have some pictures,  woohoo!) And I have my felting.  I have taken the plunge and launched a facebook page and etsy shop which feels both scary but exciting.  I am networking and trying to be proactive.  And finally,  we have a new addition to the family,  a gorgeous baby boy. Ok, no I haven't had a secret pregnancy - he is a gorgeous little kitten who is a furry bundle of love and mischief.  He is already enriching our lives and improving my mental health.  However,  it's very hard to get things done in between cuddles and playtime.


So, although things are going in the right direction I still feel a little like a headless chicken.  I seem to have lost the ability to prioritise and sequence.  It is tempting to keep checking page views on my blog, tweaking my layout, check likes on the facebook page or activity in the etsy shop or editing my listings. And it is tempting to keep cuddling the kitten. 

The house is a mess, Sausage is watching too much tv, we are going to bed too late and I'm not devoting enough time to actually making things.  I need to get organised and feel that I almost need a military precision schedule in order to accomplish all my daily tasks from the mundane to the more exciting.  I have a lot of balls in the air and I don't want to drop any. So I need to become more organised and productive and stop procrastinating.

It would be wonderful to hear tips and advice from my readers if you have any gems of wisdom.  Right,  I'm going to put down my phone and the kitten and start on my jobs. Maybe I'll just make a cuppa first...;-).

Monday, 15 June 2015

Mr Bloom's garden of Eden

We watch a fair bit of Cbeebies in our house and Mr Bloom's Nursery is a bit of a favourite (not just with the kids). I love the fact that there is a children's television programme about vegetables that is successful enough to be award winning and have spinoff shows and live tours. We were very excited to hear that Truro born Ben Faulks (aka Mr Bloom) was coming to the eden project for their green fingers gardening festival.  We love the eden project and visit regularly,  but despite having only just visited during half term for their science event we found ourselves back again yesterday. 

We arrived in time for the last show of the weekend by which time it was fairly quiet.  We bagged some seats,  bought the obligatory delicious ice cream (highly recommended) and waited in eager anticipation.

Pop along and say "'ello"

 Ben appeared in the potting shed promptly at 3.00 pm and began the show with a song. He spent the next 40 minutes engaging children and adults alike with songs,  games and humour.  Sadly he did not have his entourage of talking veggies with him but instead brought out a series of baby veggies complete with dummies and swaddling blankets.  The children took turns babysitting Beverly the cauliflower,  David the marrow and Cindy the pineapple to name a few.

Mr Bloom with David the baby marrow

Vegetables were discussed,  both the growing and eating of them, and a few children were given vegetables to take home.  We marvelled as one boy steadily munched his way through an entire green pepper!

The atmosphere was lovely and children and parents joined in with singing and clapping.  At the end of the show everyone seemed happy. I'm sure there are a few mums whose hearts were a flutter being so close to the twinkly eyed celebrity in his trademark combats and tank top. It's great to see that someone who started out doing street theatre has done so well, and fantastic that he has made kids more interested in vegetables. Does it work? Well, when I asked Sausage what he would like for dinner his reply was...cauliflower!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

All the small things

I try my hardest to be a positive person: I count my blessings and try to model kindness.  I try to solve problems rather than dwell on them. I do struggle to maintain the positivity though, especially when I am tired and hormonal.  I desperately try to use positive parenting but feel very guilty when things go wrong and I shout, nag and become negative.  I try to keep my words kind but sometimes they are not. I want my children to know I love them and believe in them, but there are times when actually they are really annoying,  unkind and rude and I want to hide or run away!

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for more than half of my life (on and off) and can easily feel overwhelmed by challenges.  The challenges seem to be growing at the moment,  especially as we approach the teenage years at the same time as having a preschooler. There is a lot of fighting,  negativity and general bad feeling between the siblings.  This saddens and frustrates me. In order to prevent 'going under' I want to rekindle some good feelings. If I feel better myself I can be more positive around the kids and maybe some of it will rub off on them.  So here is a list of my top 5 warm fuzzy moments from the last week:

1.Whilst on a walk with Sausage he commented on how lovely it was going for a walk together. He stopped regularly to look at plants and insects and was sad when we found a dead bumble bee and this sparked a lovely conversation about bees and why we need to care for them..

2.The other morning Cheese came into my bed for a cuddle for the first time in several years and he has been particularly cuddly and has told me he loves me several times. 

3.Apple, on discovering that Sausage was poorly,  put him to bed, gave him a cuddle and offered to be his nurse.

4.Every time I made something new all the family were really kind,  positive and encouraging.

5.When I went for a blood test Apple and Sausage were both worried that I would be hurt and after reassuring them they were still really kind and Sausage held the tubes for the nurse and was really interested. 

There are lots of other good moments and Mr Green has been lovely as ever. I still really appreciate the fact that I live in a beautiful part of the world and can reach fields,  hills and beaches by walking for a few minutes from the house.  I get to see a huge range of flowers,  plants,  butterflies and wildlife every day.

I really, really want to try and encourage the children to be kinder to each other and to others. I know all siblings argue but I really find it sad when I see how negative and unkind they can be. I want them to have happy, supportive relationships. After reading this post we are going to start a family 'kind club'. Our first mission is to write letters and draw pictures to send to friends and family members we feel we have neglected recently.

We are going to make positive place mats - each of us writes our names and draws a self portrait then hands the paper to each family member in turn. Everybody writes down something good about each person so they end up with positive statements about themselves from all family members.  These can be laminated and used as place mats.

I would love to hear how you find ways to nurture positivity and promote harmony in your families. I'll let you know how we get on.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Sleeping with the lights on

I should be asleep,  or at least trying to sleep instead of tapping away on my phone.  But it is tricky you see, as Mr Green is away with work.  I am lucky as he rarely has to go away, but it is very strange without him. We're a bit soppy and do like to be together (I do find it strange when I hear people moaning about their partners and actually relishing time apart). We go to bed at the same time as each other every night and I genuinely struggle to sleep without him. I think that apart from missing him I must have that heightened state of alertness that you have when it is just you in charge.  And I do tend to fret generally about whether doors are locked and gas rings turned off. I worry a lot so having nobody else to reassure me can be difficult. 

I have Wobble to keep me company and she is noisily chewing something under the bed! Sausage has already been up once and Apple was awake until ten. Small changes in routine can affect the children more than I expect sometimes and the absence of Mr Green from the house is a tangible feeling.  I am very much looking forward to having him back and hopefully tomorrow will run smoothly. I am feeling slightly queasy,  which I desperately hope is due to anxiety rather than the tummy bug that Sausage has just had! Looking after children and animals whilst unwell is not an easy task.

Once again I will look on the positive side and count my blessings rather than dwell on minor issues.  Hopefully I will get some sleep,  not be ill and manage to keep everyone fed, cared for, educated and happy until Mr Green returns. I fear I may be rambling now so I am sending positive,  happy,  supportive vibes to anyone out there with worries or struggles and wishing you all a good night! 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Running to stand still

I am busy! It has been over a week since my last post and I have things I should be doing right now instead of writing this.  It feels strange however not to write now I have become used to regularly airing my thoughts to the world (or the small corner of it that reads my blog).  When I first started blogging I was always nervous about hitting the publish button and it has taken a while to find my voice.  I am still a newbie and have a lot to learn but it feels more natural now.

I have had lots of drains on my time recently which have prevented me from writing.  I am always busy but can usually carve out little pockets of time to write.  The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic however.  I have been away (see this post ) which was fun but also quite emotional. It has taken time to process my reaction to the visit - more on that soon. On my return I had to catch up with all the things I hadn't been around to do (although Mr Green did a great job while I was away). Since then I have had a poorly Apple home from school,  which was tricky because it coincided with Sausage's non nursery days and we had to contend with being stuck in the house for three days solid. Needless to say we all went a bit stir-crazy! Thankfully Apple is now better but Sausage is unwell. Oh the joys of sibling virus sharing!

On a productive note, I have a job! I am currently 'between careers' and trying to really think carefully what I might want to do when Sausage starts school.  Idle pondering does not pay the bills though so I have found a local part time job that fits into nursery days.  It will be busy and at times hectic as the job is a tearoom supervisor and we live by the sea! It is far removed from my previous career jobs but it is only a temporary measure to bring in some pennies.  Hopefully I will feel more useful and start to meet more people. I have already been asked to contribute some recipes to the menu so I will post some on here soon too.  I will continue to create things and attend craft fairs and hopefully improve my skills. I still feel tempted to pop back into education for a while too...

I have been busy preparing for a recent craft fair which I attended but didn't sell much. I am inspired to continue though having received some lovely feedback and some bespoke orders. I can be so self critical and really struggle to believe that I have any talents,  but when people want to buy my work it gives me a spark of hope that maybe my work is desirable.  Maybe my little hobby could turn into something more. I recently read a blog post that highlighted the battle between having big dreams and the regular bouts of self doubt. I will try to maintain a positive outlook.

Among all these things are the mundane realities of laundry,  cleaning, cooking,  admin, dog walking etc. And these jobs mount and grow when you add children into the mix. So, I started this post feeling that I was on a constant treadmill or running around aimlessly,  trying so hard to do everything that nothing was getting done. Clearly I was mistaken as reading through I see I have achieved things and will keep marching on. I must now return to my domestic drudgery after attending my poorly boy who is stirring from slumber.  In the meantime,  why not let me know what's going on in your lives x