Thursday, 31 July 2008
Two of the reasons given for subscribing to RSS feeds were that it will save me time and mental energy. Anything that will do that has to be a Good Thing. But part of me wonders if it will just eat up more of my time. If it becomes so easy to read other people's blogs all in one place, will I not spend more time sitting in front of my screen rather than intereacting with my family?
I guess that's a question of how much I can discipline myself. While I was away in both Swanage and St David's, I blogged from public computers and only had half-hour sessions. This made for hasty e-mail checks and dashed-off posts. But it also made me wonder how long I really do spend on the computer every day if a half-hour burst seemed so rushed?
The ideas about RSS feeds also made me feel suddenly a little insecure: would more people read my blog if I had an RSS feed? So now it feels like something urgent to sort out and understand. Instead of allowing myself to use the tool to help me, I quickly turn it into a stick to beat myself with, (and you don't even have an RSS feed...!)
So I have subscribed to three blogs by RSS feed and I have put it on my 'to do' list to see if I can do it on this one; perhaps I will find out how in 'Blogging for Dummies' which I still haven't read! And I am a tiny bit proud of myself for this little foray deeper into the world of blogging. Thanks Jennifer for encouraging me!
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
I have to confess that my perfect garden experience would be much more peaceful - a glass of chilled white wine, a good book or a good friend and maybe a plate of summery pasta, like the Puttanesca I shared with Gina on Monday.
While sitting in the garden yesterday evening as dusk fell, my husband and I were treated to our first bat sighting of the year. The bat swooped in and made circuit after circuit over our garden, yummying up all those insects living in my carefully cultivated long grass. My middle son thinks it was a Long Eared bat, although he didn't actually see it and his opinion is based on the frequency of my flapping arms as I demonstrated this morning. I think it is more likely to be a pipistrelle, so my next project is to beg a bat detector off my friend, the Education Officer at the Park ,to measure the frequency of its squeak as this will, I understand, provide a more conclusive identification.
It would seem my garden is providing a valuable environment for all sorts of life!
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Earlier in the week we had been treated to the sight of a peregrine falcon flying directly over our campsite, harried by a pair of crows. It was the crying of the birds that alerted us to the trio as they flew over. Again, this was a first for us, seeing a peregrine.
As we packed to leave my middle son raced up to me, face glowing with excitement, with a lizard in his hands. We rapidly unpacked a jam-jar (to keep it in while we looked at it) and a field guide (to indentify it, it was a common lizard) - a blessed end to our holiday.
Closer to home, I spent yesterday evening, under the direction of my dear friend Gina, wrestling to begin to get some control in my garden. We were very lucky last year to have the opportunity to purchase a stretch of land behind our garden, thereby doubling its size. I have grand plans for the land and hope to create a friendly place for wildlife, inspired by the book 'How to Make a Wildlife Garden' but I suffer from a dire lack of knowledge, skill or motivation! The only thing that has really taken off so far is the meadow, which is just over-grown grass. The only problem is that it's a little difficult to distinguish from the rest of the over-grown grass! The idea was to have formal beds near the house, gradually becoming wilder in the distance. Gina did wonders last night and is still talking about what we will do in the Autumn so I am greatly encouraged. I don't know what the local wildlife thinks of it but I am hoping it will get their seal of approval. I saw the zebra spider again today, so he at least, must like it!
Monday, 28 July 2008
After I had given up trying to help, his dad took him for a stroll up and down in the sea, listened to all the things that were wrong and the storm passed (Well done, you!)
For his birthday, we gave his a penknife. (I am still not sure about the wisdom of this, but he is only allowed to have it with adult supervision.) He wants to whittle wooden animals to make a shoe-box zoo. My sister-in-law suggested that he begin practising on soap bars and, extending that idea, I thought he might like to practice on a carrot while we were camping. He was very excited, found his Whittling book for guidance, and set to. He was soon very frustrated. It was much harder that he had anticipated and he proclaimed his attempts 'rubbish'. His goal was to reproduce one of the items demonstrated in his book, first go. I suggested that this might be setting the bar a bit high: how about 'I practiced whittling for ten minutes,' or 'I improved my whittling technique.' After a while he gave up, reluctantly admitting that his technique was about 'thirty times better' than when he had started, but this was not good enough for him.
It makes me sad to see him make life so hard and yet I am learning to accept his nature and to honour who he is.
Reflecting on this, sitting amongst our camping equipment, loads of washed and un-washed laundry, piles of books, maps and story CDs from the car, I am wondering about my own goals. Perhaps I should try:
'I will wash, dry, fold and put away 4 loads of washing,' instead of 'Everything that got dirty or slept in is clean'.
'I decluttered for half-an-hour,' rather than 'There is no clutter in my house'.
'My children are happy, healthy, clean, fed and engaged,' rather than, 'I am a perfect mother.'
'I enjoy blogging and some people enjoy reading my blog,' rather than, (oh no, I'm almost too embarrassed to say,) 'My blog has hundreds of readers/is internationally famous/is the best blog in the whole wide world!'
Sunday, 27 July 2008
This is the view I woke up to this morning; I think it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We were sorry to be leaving. Six hours in the car has brought us home to proper mattresses and the electric kettle but away from the space, the peace and the beach.
Whenever I get back from a holiday I always notice all the things that need sorting out around the house, especially as I try to cram books back onto overloaded shelves and survey the weed-ridden, drought struck garden. It's often a time when I feel overwhelmed and go into planning and list-making overdrive. I think I might print myself a copy of this photo and pin it up over the computer to remind myself that Caerfai Bay is still there, still peaceful, still beautiful, and perhaps to pour myself a draught from the feelings I bottled in St Davids.
Friday, 25 July 2008
The pace of life has become snail-like and worrying about my training for an up-coming half-marathon, September's curriculum, how to develop my writing, how to eat better, lose weight, deepen my spirituality and generally be a better person seems distant and even irrelevant. I have realised that this is the first time my family have been away, just the five of us, ever. We have holidayed with friends and extended family before but never just us. We are enjoying each other's company and cross words are far fewer than at home.
I suspect that there is a connection between the two - between the relaxed pace and the enjoyment of being together.
It feels good, I wish I could bottle it!
Sunday, 20 July 2008
It has been very windy, so much so that the boats to Skomer Island have been cancelled for the last two days so we haven't seen the puffins yet. Our tent stood up to the wind though, which is a great relief.
We have come into St Davids today to go to Choral Mattins at the cathedral. It's not our usual style of worship but I think it will be something special to experience. Yesterday, we visited Pembroke Castle, the birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty. Henry VII's uncle is the namesake of my middle son so he felt a particular connection.
We have drunk a lot of hot chocolate, read a few chapters of Harry Potter, the children have ridden around on their bikes and the adults have eaten hummus and Doritios. We've found time to ponder some of life's deeper questions too, revealing some of what's truly important to the younger members of our family:
If you were a hermaphrodite, what kind of bike would you have?
Which would kill you most, and iceberg or a shark?
Thursday, 17 July 2008
I'll be back near the end of July.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
'Discovering bits and pieces of peculiar, idiosyncratic importance in ordinary
metropolitan landscape scrapes away the deep veneer of programmed learning that
overlies and smothers the self-directed learning of childhood ... and enables
the explorer to navigate according to landmarks and inklings and constellations
As we were having a cup of tea in the garden yesterday, my friend Joya, my eldest son and I were delighted to see a zebra spider scuttling across the table. I didn't know it was a zebra spider but my son recognised it at once and dashed off to get 'Garden Wildlife of Britain and Europe' to find out more. For a while we watched it as it jumped over the gaps in the table until it learned that it could reach and, despite our cheering and encouragement, it completely gave up jumping. In an effort to make it perform its entertaining trick again, I gently tapped the table in front of it. It then jumped straight onto my finger! I did not react like a calm, collected naturalist but I embarrassed myself by squealing jumping back and I dropped it, (although once we'd finished laughing at my antics, we found it on the chair and continued to watch.) I am still impressed as I consider this tiny creature both at its intelligence, demonstrated by its learned behaviour, and its considerable eyesight. I don't know what it thought my finger was, but it quite clearly saw me and decided to jump on me! It was only little, but I had the distinct sense of contact with another sentient being.
Sunday, 13 July 2008
After all his adventures the hero, Eragon, has defeated the evil Shade. A rite of passage for him, through it he accepts his destiny and becomes ready to fulfill his role as a Dragon Rider. The final chapter held some words that really spoke to me:
'He had lost much that was dear to him, yet fate had given him rare and great
gifts; for the first time, he was proud of simply who he was. As if in response
to his brief self-confidence, the Shade's smothering blackness assaulted him
anew. His indentity trailed into the void as uncertainty and fear consumed his
perceptions. ... He fought against the Shade's sinsister thoughts, weakly at
first, then more strongly. He whispered words of the ancient language and found
they gave him enough strength to withstand the shadow blurring his mind.'
I am not thinking of those adult, rational, re-considerations of a choice or of direction, but of those insidious doubts, the 'demons', that snake out from the dark recesses of my mind in lonely or stressed moments and threaten to swallow me.
I would like to learn to 'words of the ancient language': perhaps some of Philip Yancey's, ' I am not yet made perfect and I am already forgiven'; perhaps the love notes sent me by my husband and children; perhaps making a note when someone offers me upbuilding or encouraging words; perhaps even my own assessment of a job well done. I would like to be proud of simply who I am.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
I sat up and took notice. She expressed a thought that lurks in the darkest corners of my mind and that whispers in the despair of the awful moments of being a mother. The decisions I make so carefully for my children: religion, education, the toys they play with and the food they eat; the reflex behaviours which erupt from my own insecurites, phobias and plain old bad temper; how will they influence, even damage, my children? Is it enough to do the best I can with the information I have and the personality I am? And what else is possible?
To hear this expressed by a prominent and respected woman in the bright sunshine on national radio made me think, 'Do all mothers feel like this?' This came as a huge relief. Perhaps it seems obvious, maybe we all think it and I guess the truth is that we will never know the answer.
Friday, 11 July 2008
For the last six years we have spent a week in the summer in the same luxurious converted barn which shares a pool with the five or six other holiday cottages on the farm. I realised this morning that all three of my children have learned to swim in this pool.
The year my eldest learned to swim he had begun to understand the dangers of not being able to swim and did not want to get in the pool at all. We managed to coax him in by measuring him against his father and comparing where he came up to and where the water came up to on dad's stomach, demonstrating that he was, just about, in his depth. With this security he was eager to jump in and play. Before long, he was swimming.
My middle son is a very different build to his older brother and even at a comparable age he was out of his depth. We showed him how he could touch the bottom and jump up to get his head above water and he kangarooed around the pool quite happily. He wanted to learn to swim independently and when he thought no-one was looking began to swim across the corner near the steps, not too far from something to grab hold of. When he was a little more confident he began to swim along the length of the pool, right by the edge so he could stop and hold on when he needed to. I could see the determination on his face and his desire to set himself progressively harder challenges until he was swimming boldly.
My daughter has been happy to swim with her 'woggle' (a noodle shaped piece of foam) for a long while, or if she is held. But as soon as I let go she would stop paddling and sink. It has taken many, many widths of the pool with dad's hands just touching her stomach, to give her the confidence to go it alone and she is justifiably very proud of her achievement.
Reflecting on these experiences I can see two truths. My children have all learned to swim in very different ways and have needed very different help from us because they are unique individuals. Also, they have needed security, safety, before they have been able to cross the line. My job is to apply these truths as I parent and educate them.
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
We had fun yesterday on our quick visit to Swanage. While I blogged the boys read in the library and my middle son was eager to show me the pictures of peregrine falcons and capercaille he had found. Afterwards, we bought chips from adjacent chip shops and decided which we liked best. The seagulls congregated greedily around us waiting for scraps. I mused about whether they would be so interested if we had apples, or apple slices wrapped up in white paper? How do they know that we've got chips?
We had a beautiful view of a buzzard as it glided over the road and landed on a telegraph pole. My middle son was particularly impressed, likening it to golden eagle.
During the rain yesterday we started a thousand piece jigsaw of 'Kings and Queens of England and the United Kingdom'. The boys occasional placed a piece with a comment like, 'Chainmail, must go around here,' or, 'I recognise you, you're Henry VIII's son.'
My eldest has read the delightfully entitled 'Why is Snot Green?' I now know that there are four ways to be struck by lightning, including being splashed by electric charge that has grounded near by! He was insistent that I should never wash-up during a thunderstorm as apparently this is dangerous. (I can add that to my reasons not to wash up!)
In the face of such enthusiatic and voracious learning, I am still happily planning September's curriculum. I'm not sure why. Despite being the adult, I think it is me that needs the security blanket!
Monday, 7 July 2008
I decided not to go to the library to do research on the topic but instead just
kept asking myself what I knew about it. What did I have available from my own
experience? What did I know about it? Did I have some experience with
this topic that I could articulate so that other people could recognize it as a
real experience? ... to say, in effect, " I don't know the answers either. I am
simply a catalyst, simply somebody who wants to articulate for you things that
you already know but might get a better grip on if there are some words for
In a moment the blurriness focussed. This is what I would love my blog to be, what I aspire to, and what I love in the blogging of others. The feeling in my gut when I read something that puts into words what I has sensed, suspected, felt but had never drawn out before, never examined before, is very special. I hope that as I blog more and find my writer's voice, this is what this blog might become.
Friday, 4 July 2008
'conversations at home revealed the children as persistent and logical thinkers, puzzling to grasp new ideas.'There are times that I find my childrens' questions exhausting and I feel like Mrs Butler, but at the same time I marvel at the pondering and contemplation that brings forth these questions. I delight in the passages of intellectual search and the puzzling to grasp new ideas. I love the belief that the world and its inhabitants should make sense and I often find that what I have taken for granted or never considered does not make sense at all.