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Archive for September, 2010

The homework task for this week on the Taking Charge of Your Life course was to create a timeline of my life. Positive events are marked above the line and negative events below the line. The events should be what I consider important to myself, not what I think others might find important.

I’m not going to post my timeline on here because, well, it’s private! But in general, I realised that there’s been very little negative stuff in my life. Nobody really close to me has died (well, my Granny died, but she was very old and frail and she felt that she was going to a better place, so I wasn’t too sad about it). I’ve never been divorced. I’ve never had a serious illness. In fact, there are only two negative events on my timeline, and one of them is getting my slightly disappointing (to me) GCSE results. It’s hardly deep trauma and grief.

The first high point (apart from being born) is going off to university. I found it tough, going from being a big fish in a small pond to a tiny speck in a vast ocean of intellectual giants. But it was also the most exciting time of my life. I met so many new people, tried loads of new things and felt that I was on the cusp of something great. My world was full of potential. I’d never have imagined then that I’d be where I am now, but I don’t think the route I’ve taken was the wrong one.

The biggest highs on the line are the birth of my two children. They’re easily the best thing that’s happened to me, and my life with them just gets better and better.

This has been a scary exercise in a way, as it brings home the fact that there will be real hardships to come in my life. My parents haven’t died yet, but one day they will. Who knows what tragedies might lie ahead? How will I cope with life as a grown-up? I’ve been very lucky to have the life I’ve had so far. Hopefully I’m up to the challenges of the rest of the story.

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This is kind of part 2 of yesterday’s post. I didn’t include these pictures yesterday because they weren’t related to the food theme, but I wanted to put them up as they complete the story of our blackberrying trip.

The place we went to is known locally as the ‘old road’. It leads off the main road between our village and the next one and is, as the name suggests, an old road. I’m not sure where it used to lead, as now it simply trails off into a path through the woods. There are other woodland trails leading off the road too, and my fearless toddler took great delight in sprinting away at every opportunity.

Here he is racing away into the distance; you can just about see him if you squint! You can also see the way the road has become overgrown: the painted lines must somehow weaken the tarmac, as that’s where the grass and moss seem to cling to the road the most.

This is near the end of the road, where the plants and trees have seriously taken hold. A road that was once straight and defined is now blurred at the edges, and seems to disappear into the forest.

I found the whole place really interesting: a road that was in use in the not-too-distant past, and presumably went somewhere, that’s now closed off and trails away into the woods. Nature is slowly taking over as the man-made element disappears, until one day we’ll no longer be able to tell that it was ever there.

The best bit? If I wasn’t blogging, I’d probably never have found this strange and interesting place, even though it’s right on my doorstep. This idea of ‘living and being in the world’? I think I’m getting there.

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The Gallery – Food

I’m really looking forward to this week’s Gallery as man, I love food! And I’m sure we’re going to see a great variety of interesting pictures this week.

We decided to go out and hunt for food. There are lots of good blackberry picking patches around our village, but it’s not something I’ve tried before. So when a friend suggested that we go blackberrying with the kids this week, my gallery plans fell into place.

It didn’t go quite as I imagined. My friend’s children are experienced blackberry pickers, and her daughter enthusiastically munched her way through plenty of fruit. My son, on the other hand, saw the outing as a great opportunity to sprint off down various forest paths as quick as his little legs would carry him. When he did give fleeting attention to the blackberries, it was only to deposit them in the pot, not to actually try and eat any. We took a detour through the forest, encountering some very wet and muddy patches which made me seriously regret not putting my foot down over the welly issue before we left the house. By the time we made our way home via the park, the toddler was thoroughly exhausted.

This is my son and his favourite little girl. She’s stuffing her face while he contemplates how best to neatly arrange blackberries in a tupperware tub.

Some lovely jewel-like blackberries.

A spider’s web shot that I’m rather pleased with. (It’s worth clicking on this one to see the full-sized shot.)

The complete haul.

He still doesn’t want to eat any! We’ve stored them in the fridge for tomorrow, although I’m doubtful he’ll eat them then either. Even if he doesn’t end up eating them, we still had a great time.

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The official info: Featuring music and sound effects, and 5 interchangeable gears, the colourful Playskool Explore ‘N Grow musical gear centre is an exciting toy. Toddlers can drop the ball through the shoot and press the critter to make the ball twirl and pop out. The 5 interchangeable gears can be tacked and reconfigured for more spinning options. Retails for around £24.99

What we thought: When offered the opportunity to test one of the range of Playskool toys, I chose the Ball and Gear Centre because I wanted something that my baby, who is currently just over five months old, would grow into and get a lot of use out of. He can sit unsupported, although not for very long, and he enjoys sitting in front of this and banging away at the gears (and occasionally having a chew!).

We also tried him on his tummy, which seemed to go down well. This toy is recommended for 9+ months, and I can see that it’ll be better once he can sit by himself and crawl round it, and better again once he can stand up and drop the balls in the top. I thought that my toddler (who has just turned two) might like this toy too, and although he played with it for a while, there wasn’t enough to hold his interest for long. This isn’t a criticism, though, as obviously it is aimed at a younger age group.

Pros

  • This toy appeals to quite young babies, but will hold their interest as they grow. My 2 year old matched the coloured gears up to their matching bases and stacked them all as a tower.
  • It’s bright, unfussy and very sturdy. None of these trendy muted colours.
  • It encourages hand/eye co-ordination.

Cons

  • The two plastic balls are very lightweight, and on our laminate flooring they managed to smoothly glide away under the sofa and into hidden corners as soon as they touched the ground.
  • The music, while appealing to little ones, isn’t so appealing to adults and only has one volume level (pretty loud).
  • This is a big sturdy piece of plastic and doesn’t fold down, so not ideal if you’re struggling for storage space.

In conclusion: This is a bright, fun, good quality toy that would be great for babies from around 9 – 18 months.

Now to the bit you’ve all been waiting for! Simply click through this link here for 50% off Playskool products throughout September and October.

In return for publishing this post and link I received the Playskool Ball & Gear Centre to keep, but have not received any additional payment.

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Popping out to the shops this afternoon, we took the usual route to our village: past the sheep in the field outside our door, over the bridge that crosses the beck and down to the main road. My toddler wanted to take a detour past the library (despite my repeated explanations that it would be shut), so we ended up walking down a street we don’t often pass through.

Suddenly he stopped still, pointed and exclaimed with delight

“Everybody painting!”

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Taking Charge of Your Life. What does it mean? How does one do it? Or, more pertinent, how do I do it?

Today was the first session of the Taking Charge of Your Life course that I’ll be attending for the next ten weeks. It’s run by a life coach and provided by my local SureStart centre. Today we discussed the topics we’re going to cover; the ones that appeal to me most include

  • Who are you? Looking at values and beliefts. How we and others see things.
  • Building confidence and self-esteem.
  • Setting personal goals and getting more out of life.
  • Taking responsibility for your own feelings and actions.

A lot of these concepts seem quite abstract, and I’ll be very interested to learn about the practical tools we might use to achieve these things. We’ve already had some interesting discussions. The class agreed that there was a distinction between ‘the right to be happy’ and ‘the right to pursue happiness’. The former can lead to the expectation that the world owes you a living, whereas the latter implies that if you want something, you have to go out and make it happen yourself. I suspect this is going to be one of the key themes of the course.

The instructor suggested that we keep a journal to record our feelings and how they might be changing, so that’s what I’ll be doing here each Friday, as well as discussing any particular ideas that have inspired or provoked me in the class. We’ll be getting ‘homework’ each week, so I’ll be writing that up here each Thursday. The rest of the week will hopefully be lighthearted, as although I’m quite caught up in the idea of finding myself and defining this concept of ‘being in the world’ at the moment, I don’t want the entire blog to be a rambling, introspective analysis of the self!

That said, here’s my journal for week 1.

What have you learned about yourself? Have you increased your awareness of your personal values?

One of the questions we were asked today is what it means to be happy. As the discussion developed I tried to explain that I find it difficult to pin down goals that I’d be happy to achieve, because there are so many things out there that people do, and do well, that I’m not sure how I can compete. A girl from my school (from the year below me!) was recently elected as an MP. The kids on the X-Factor can sing and dance, and lots of them are only teenagers. There are thousands upon thousands of people out there writing books, publishing poetry, jumping high, running fast or finding the cure for cancer. I often feel that I’m not as good as this person, or that person, and that I’ve already missed my chance to be really successful.

Of course, rationally I know that I can’t do all of these things, but I’m not quite sure how I figure out which bits I really want to do. I know that I’m competitive and that I often look for approval. I need to align the emotional with the rational and stop comparing myself with the best bits of everyone else. But how? And where do I focus?

What would you like to achieve in the short term?

I’d like to have a tidier house. Not sure how I might achieve this, as I feel like I work pretty bloody hard already. Maybe there are more improvements I could make to my systems, but I’d also like more help from my husband. But that doesn’t fit with this idea of taking control and making yourself happy – I’d be relying on him to achieve that goal. So maybe I need to make some money somehow and get a cleaner in myself??

I’d also like us all to eat a healthier diet. That’s a bit vague – maybe I should aim for five a day for all of us (not just the toddler, who probably eats about 5 portions of fruit plus two or three veg most days). And less Diet Coke!

What would you like to achieve in the long term?

Medium term I’d like to be working a bit, both because I want to contribute more to the household and because I want some time to myself to feel like a successful adult again. Long term, once the kids are both at school, I’d like husband and I to both have balanced, flexible careers that mean we can be there for the kids. But I also want plenty of money, enough that we can buy nice things when we want to and get the house all fixed up nicely. Eventually I’d like a bigger house. And I might want to do a PhD or something of that sort. Definitely some kind of study. And I could quite fancy being thin and fit.

Are you increasing in self-confidence?

I think there’s been a big change in my self-confidence in the past couple of years. I left university with my confidence shattered, feeling like a stupid little girl in a world full of grown-ups and academics. I’m not sure what’s changed this year, but I was at a new toddler group on Thursday and I found myself chatting away to people, being animated and chatty in a way that I might not have been in the past. I’ve made new friends via Mumsnet and I’ve jumped into the world of blogging and Twitter. I made a decision recently to start saying yes more, care less about what people think and just go for it. I don’t want to miss opportunities for fear of looking a bit silly. So actually, I feel that I am increasing in self-confidence, coincidentally around the time I happen to be starting this course.

Are you taking on new challenges?

Yup! I’ve started taking an interest in photography (inspired by some of the wonderful blogs I’ve come across, and by taking part in Tara Cain’s Gallery). Just today I applied for a part time job. And this week at SureStart I agreed to organise and run a Sling Meet event there, and to represent parents at their big committee on Tuesday. Next, I start reading Heidegger!

Do you like yourself?

That’s a complicated one. I had a theory once that the key to really becoming a mature adult is escaping the self-loathing that accompanies a normal adolescence and persists in greater or lesser degrees from then on. Sometimes I think I’ve cracked it, but I have those occasional moments of thinking I’m pathetic and disgusting. But don’t we all?

Are you nearer to taking charge of your life?

Not yet. Bring on week 2!

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Goodbye hair

Just a quick note on the blog tonight about the haircut I have planned for Saturday…

This is my current hair (taken just now at 11.00 pm in my hallway!)

Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes quite like my hair at the moment. I especially like the way it’s developed natural highlights over the summer, and that it looks fine with very little work. But I’ve been hankering after a change for a long time, and I’ve decided that I just need to get it over with, get it out of my system, and go for the chop. I’ve been asking around for over a year, and despite the majority telling me that actually, it’ll be deceptively high maintenance, I’ve decided that damn, if I don’t do it now, I’ll always be wondering and thinking ‘maybe, maybe’. The hair is getting cropped.

So, on Saturday at 10.30, I’ll be arriving at the hairdressers with the following pictures:

Eeeeeeeeeep! Wish me luck!

Photos courtesy of Glamour magazine.

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