The Cup-Of-Coffee-And-A-Nice-Sit-Down blog challenge

coffee

It is, as I dare say you’ve noticed, April 2nd. The day following the Easter Bank Holiday Monday. Richard has returned to work; I have temporarily ceased ranting about Westminster’s bid to stealthily reintroduce Work Houses; the children are bouncing around the neighbourhood on space-hoppers; and I have just completed the ironing (well, until tomorrow, when there will be another pile; but for now I am almost giddy with delirious excitement at the very sight of the bottom of the ironing basket – I am housewife, hear me roar…).

I am sitting now with a cup of Tesco Value coffee (47p per jar, Iain Duncan Smith, if you’re reading this, you might want to start making notes) , gubbed laptop perched on my lap with power cable slung over my shoulder and then trapped under a cushion as this appears to be the only way that the power actually gets to the laptop nowadays; and the thought of this blog is niggling away at me like a slug chewing on a leaf of organic lollo rosso.

This is the thing, you see. How on Earth do I make my humdrum existence sound remotely interesting? I am a forty year old housewife with a bunch of friends who are infinitely more interesting than I am. They probably even change their jeans more than once a week. (OK, to be fair, I only have one pair of jeans that would not currently break indecency laws, blame austerity for that, I do. I am looking very much forward to the boys being big enough that I can steal their clothes). People like the lovely Emma of the brilliant blog Part Of Me , who deserves at least a few enthusiastic paragraphs, if not a whole blog post, of her own. People I know who don’t have blogs I can promote, but who constantly amaze me with their resilience, their bravery, their humour in the face of adversity and, in some cases, their astonishing ability to drink enormous amounts of wine and yet still make sense on Facebook.

The Cup-Of-Coffee-And-A-Nice-Sit-Down blog challenge popped into my head whilst trying (and failing) to line up the seams of a pair of Cars 2 pyjamas on the ironing board this morning (see, my life is just thrill after thrill) as a way to stop procrasinating.  At least once a week – let’s make it a Tuesday, shall we? – I will sit and type for as long as it takes me to drink a full cup of coffee. OK, it’s a mug, but let’s not get pedantic about this.

This time, it will be a list of things I intend to write about very soon:

1. Emma’s blog. Because she’s awesome and she has done so much to promote the idea of Baby Led Weaning, amongst other things. I am hugely enthusiastic about the subject, and can (and do) bore the knickers off anyone with a baby of a certain age. Even though my sprogs are well past the weaning stage, I do get asked a lot about BLW so I shall do a little something on this. (This ‘little something’ being to push everyone to Emma’s pages, as she knows what she is talking about).

2. Ranting. I like ranting.  Some of you may have noticed this, if you are particularly perceptive. I think the ConDems deserve a good rant dedicated to them; as do people who say things like ‘Why are you bothered about the Bedroom Tax when you are not in social housing yourselves?’ and ‘There would be plenty of room if all these Muslamic types stopped getting all the big houses alongside their free cars, 42 inch plasma screens, Tivo boxes and crates of caviar’.

3. More ideas on frugal living. Recipes, making-do-and-mending when you have two left hands and no common sense, things like that. (Mr Duncan Smith, do remember to steal an IKEA pencil so you can make further notes on this topic)

4. Captain Calamity and his developmental progress (this shall be a good news blog!), and probably a bit more ranting about State Early Years Education, and what worked for us.

Right. That’s my coffee finished. Off to tidy up the midden we cheerfully call a ‘garden’, and build a den for the boys. One must make the most of these rare days when it is not pouring with rain and several degrees below zero.

 

General ranting. It is good for the soul. At least, it’s good for mine. Short term, before the guilt sets in.

I’ve got odd socks on today. Not that I have OCD or anything, but this does not bode well.

So, this past few weeks, I have mostly been ranting. I have ranted at Richard. I have ranted at the children. I have ranted at my INR nurses.  I have ranted at complete strangers at the bus station. I have, naturally, ranted all over Facebook. That’s why it was invented. Well, for rants and LOLcats.

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I can’t help myself. Seriously. Some people can’t keep their sticky paws out of the biscuit barrel, I can’t stop myself shouting my big gob off when I see something that makes my blood boil. So, in no particular order, here are some of the people who copped it this week. *

*Reading enjoyment enhanced, once again, by listening to this.

1. Mothers who like to tell everyone that they are better than other mothers, because they breastfeed / use cloth nappies / feed their darlings an organic raw vegan diet / have a three year old fluent in Mandarin Chinese / don’t innoculate / homeschool / don’t homeschool. Seriously. Get a grip. You are not better, you are different.

2. Mothers who are sickeningly judgemental about other parenting choices; who insult, demean and upset others under the guise of ‘education’, who then get dreadfully butthurt about other parents deciding to fight back.

3. People who claim to be ever so environmentally friendly whilst driving their Chelsea tractors to a shop / school / club that’s five minutes walk away. Eco credentials typically include: owning a compost bin they never actually use; remembering to turn the 42 inch plasma screen off at the wall at least once a week; having once bought a recycled Christmas ornament made by a co-operative of disabled ex prostitutes in India from the Natural Collection catalogue; and pretending they never shop at Primark.

4. People who claim to never, ever buy The Sun. Until they are doing their cheap holidays, when morals fly conveniently out of the window. I personally cannot think of anything worse than being shoe-horned into a holiday park featured more regularly on Watchdog than TalkTalk with hundreds of other people who buy The Sun.

5. The English Defence League, the Scottish Defence League, the idiot Infidels, and all the other splinter groups formed from a bunch of hateful, racist, drunken thugs who can’t stop fighting drunkenly amongst themselves long enough to form a cohesive group. I don’t even argue with them, I just laugh at them. I am, however, apparently on Red Watch (if the incredibly badly spellzed private Facebook message from some foaming knuckledragger is to be believed). Seriously, I am terrified.

<End rant. This ironing is making no sudden moves to suddenly iron itself, and my odd socks are starting to make me twitch. Normal service will resume soon.>

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Could you spare a moment?

It’s ‘Ask A Favour’ time…..

A very dear friend of mine is currently conducting a survey into perceptions of unassisted childbirth / freebirthing; and if you – dear reader – could spare a minute of your time to give your thoughts, it would be hugely appreciated. You don’t have to be a parent or have any experience of unassisted childbirth, and all responses are anonymous.

Details of the survey are here.

Many, many thanks.

 

And so to February…

It has been a funny couple of weeks. Well, three weeks, but who’s counting?

This post was mostly going to be a Round-Robinesque rattle-off of ‘fings wot huv happened’ in the past three weeks or so, just to get my head back on track. The problem, I find, is that when you don’t write a blog for a few days, you suddenly realise you don’t know how to pick it back up again. So, today I am going to concentrate on being a Dryathlete for Cancer Research UK.

See this, doubters? SEE THIS.

See this, doubters? SEE THIS.

So, today is February 1st. This officially means that Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon is OVER. As you can see from the above, I managed it. I bloody managed it. I did not need a Golden Pass, either. (Of course, much of this is because I do not have a social life to speak of).

At time of writing, my JustGiving page lists my total raised so far at £560.25 (including Gift Aid); which I am absolutely astonished with. Of course, I could not have done this without support and donations from so many of you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having the belief in me to donate to this very worthy cause.

It’s been quite a month; and, to be honest, I am a little sad that it is over. It has proved to me that I am one of these people who really needs a public challenge to boot my bum out of a rut; but, conversely, it has also shown me that I have more willpower than I thought I had. After all, I could have used my Golden Pass (where a paid donation allowed you to drink). Hell, I could have cheated – after all, who would have known if I’d sneaked a vodka into my soda and lime?

I am not going back to the almost nightly ‘Whoops, I have drunk a bottle of wine’ habit again. This is why:

– I have saved an alarming amount of money. Seriously, I had no idea how much money I was wasting on ‘relaxation’. I have money set aside to decorate the boys’ bedroom; and I have treated myself to a couple of items of clothing.

– Drinking makes me depressed. Not the drinking per se, I’m not a sobbing-into-my-wine type; but I have really noticed how not drinking improved my sleep. Seven hours of really good sleep = happy mummy in the morning with a lot more energy, patience and resilience. Yes, I slept after wine – and I got used to how I felt in the morning. I didn’t realise how my sleep was not refreshing me, so I got stuck in a get up, drink too much coffee, have an afternoon slump, need a nap, need wine in the evening to relax so I would sleep at a decent time at night because I’d had an afternoon nap cycle.

– Reading books and knitting. Yes, I am getting old. I am not even sorry. I have always wanted to learn to knit, I never had the inclination nor the motivation to put the wine glass down long enough to learn to cast on. I will write more about knitting in my next blog post.

– 8lbs in weight lost. Seriously. That’s some amount of empty, pointless calories I was consuming. I still have a wee way to go (4lbs) before I am at the top end of normal range, according to the BMI-addicted nurse who did my Over-40-MOT on Monday; but having surprised myself this month, maybe looking into my other lifestyle choices is something I may not be as hopeless at as I thought. Again, more about that in the next post.

And so, dear reader, I leave you with this.

Cancer will directly affect 1 in 3 people in the UK at some time in their lives. Hundreds of thousands of other people – family, loved ones, and friends, are also afflicted by the effects of this terrible disease. Cancer does not discriminate. Anyone can be hit, regardless of how healthy they are.

Those of you who have donated to Cancer Research UK in whatever way – from sponsoring me to stay dry, to handing in unwanted items to one of their charity shops – have helped to further the understanding of many of the cancers that affect so many people’s lives. Survival rates for some cancers are now dramatically improved on what could be expected forty years ago, and Cancer Research UK continue to make real in-roads in research and development of new combatants against the disease, as well as achieving a greater understanding of rarer and lesser-known conditions such as myeolproliferative neoplasms.

You are helping people to live as full a life as possible. You are helping to keep families together. You are helping parents see their children laugh and play without pain for longer. You are helping towards the day when cancer will be cureable. Thank you.

 

Sobriety, pootling and starting the fight for Fin.

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So, we are now eleven days into the hell that is the Cancer Research UK Dryathlon with only twenty one long, sober days to go.

But, is it really the ‘hell’ I thought it would be?

Well…no. In fact, I appear – at my ripe old age – to have turned something of a corner.

I feel brilliant. Seriously. I am sleeping so much better, I am waking refreshed (albeit with hazy memories of some truly bizarre and sometimes rather unsettling dreams) and ready to tackle a hour or so of home-schooling with the Child Made Entirely of Stroppiness And Playstation 2 Addiction (more about this below). The bags under my eyes large enough to bring home the weekly shop are vastly diminished, and I have lost weight. It’s probably water retention, I don’t care. I have discovered that my backside has ACTUALLY CHANGED SHAPE, my wobbly thighs are seeing an improvement in the cellulite (I’m really painting a glamorous picture of myself here, aren’t I?), and I actually did up a pair of size 10 hipster bell-bottom jeans without feeling as though I was about to pass out. It’s all good.

The biggest change, however, seems to be in my overall attitude to life and the little curve-balls it sometimes like to hurl at our heads. I am so much more chilled out about things that, a few weeks ago, would have irritated me to the point of me breaking out in hives, or sent me into paroxyms of indignant rage. Like having my wallet stolen last week, leaving the boys and I stranded in Hamilton until a wonderful friend heard my Facebook plea and came to our rescue; like the latest nonsense from Fin’s nursery; like the fact that I am still receiving eight or nine calls a day asking me about claiming back the PPI I have never, ever, taken out.

I like this new me. She’s rather nice. She’s calm, and collected, and laid-back. She’s stopped getting into pointless arguments on forums. She rather likes peace, and tranquility and reading. (I have just finished Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’, which was staggeringly good. I am now wading through Umberto Eco’s ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ which isn’t quite such an easy read, but oddly compelling, despite me not understanding half of it because it involves psychics and stuff). She likes walking, and being outdoors, and gets far more done in a day than she used to.

OK. I’ll shut up now. But remember you can donate to my Dryathlon sponsorship here.….or else I might keep wittering on about how bloody marvellous I am feeling each day for the next twenty one days.

polytunnel

My new-found energy resulting from the drop in bodily toxins plus some unseasonably mild weather has led to me ditching my old-lady afternoon nap in favour of a bit of old-fashioned pootling at the Community Garden. You know how much I like a good pootle. I thrive on it.

It’s still a little early to be sowing seeds with gay abandon unless you have access to heated cold-frames, particularly as reports suggest that we may be plunged into temperatures of minus 15 celsius by the weekend; and I am saving my seed catalogues for a particularly decadent evening; but there is always work to be done at the garden. Both the outdoor and indoor beds have been thoroughly cleared, weeded and given a dressing of Fish, Blood and Bone. I have left my miniscule sprouts and red cabbage in situ in the outdoor bed for now, by my reckoning they should be ready by 2016. Sadly, all my crop of leeks bolted, and were completely unsalvageable, so have been turned into compost.

I am now on a mission to tidy and clean Polytunnel 1. This is the one we use for sowing and growing on plants for the garden members to buy to plant in their beds, and also for the flowers we use to create hanging baskets and other displays for the village. It’s a busy little place during the season, and one of my favourite places in the World. Having been pretty much dormant for the past three months, it is in dire need of a good clear out; seed and plant trays need washing so we can recycle them for this coming season; and at some point we will need to blast the outside with a water-jet to remove some of the moss and detritus from the overhanging trees that affect the light levels within the polytunnel. I am making good head-way, and very much enjoying just pottering around at the garden. You know, whilst I can. Before we are under five foot of snow.

A group of us gardening, pootling types have set up a Facebook group called Gardening Shenanigans . If you are on Facebook, and fancy a blether about sowing, growing, potting, pootling and generally moaning about the weather, you are very welcome to join us. Just request to join (it’s a ‘Closed Group’ to avoid spammers and general ne’er do wells) and one of the gatekeepers will let you in.

work2

As the children returned to school and nursery, it was time to get Fin back into the routine of working at home. Remember, this is the unruly, unco-operative child who ‘cannot do anything properly’, according to one (and I stress one) of his nursery teachers.

We have started slowly. I am aiming for just half an hour of activities at the kitchen table, anything that engages him for longer is a lovely bonus. The aim is to bring him up to speed with where he ought to be for his age, difficult though it is to find a definitive benchmark for what your average just-gone-four-year-old should be able to achieve without difficulty.

We have surpassed our thirty minute target every day. We have been mostly concentrating on drawing and making patterns, to aid Fin with his pencil control in preparation for starting to write. Just over the course of a week, I have seen improvements in his drawing, with his pictures now actually looking like more than a frustrated scribble. He is writing his own name confidently. I discovered, to my chagrin, that he knows how to type his name, and his brother’s name, and post it to Facebook. He has completed his maths workbook which is aimed at children up to the age of five. He seems happier about going into nursery – his speech at home, and with certain nursery friends, I feel, has also improved dramatically and he is now quite confidently speaking three or four sentences at a time – for the first time, we are hearing about what happened at nursery, about games he has been playing. His stories show a keen sense of humour, a beautiful sense of childish mischief that I do not wish to see stifled.

I await my next meeting with his teacher (the one that feels he cannot do anything properly) with a certain degree of trepidation. She is not happy that I am working with him at home, as she feels that ‘undermines’ what they are doing with him at nursery. It would appear that, to her, learning to write is more important than, first, learning to sit still and concentrate. He is clearly not working to her timescale, and therefore he is a write-off, despite being extremely good at arithmetic, noticing patterns, and anything computer based. (Yes, I hear the screams of ‘autism’ from here – I hear them. She doesn’t. She thinks he is just a ‘bad child’. For the record, I believe he has a degree of Attention Deficit Disorder). It has obviously not dawned on her that he may need to learn to sit quietly and hold his pencil before he can manage the beginnings of cursive writing. I have suggested that she is expecting him to run before he can walk. She fixed me with that supercillious ‘I have a teaching qualification and you don’t’ smile. It would appear that being a child’s parent counts for very little these days. How DARE I profess to know my own child better than she does?

I always want him to know that he is, indeed, smarter than he thinks. I honestly believe he may be smarter than anyone thinks. When it comes to his future, I intend to be braver, and stronger, than I think.

I will be silenced no more.

There will be a more detailed post about Fin next week, I hope, once the Health Visitor has come around for his ‘review’. Next week is a busy week for me, involving the forementioned visit from the HV; my eye-test; my sale of a kidney to pay for the glasses I dare say I need;  my haemotology appointment where I discover whether my bone-marrow is still confounding medical science; and an interview with a lovely St Andrews Undergraduate who is studying the role of community gardens in today’s society.

Honestly, I feel like a grown-up.