Sunday, 30 November 2008
I have always liked Rothko's work, although I discovered yesterday it is only realy a small part of his work I like: the big, red and marroon stuff. There were some half-black, half-white ones that did nothing for me but the huge floating frames react with my brain and produce a wonderful sense of space and peace. I can vividly remember seeing them 'live' for the first time when I was in my teens, having only seen postcards or posters before, and feeling quite spaced out by their size and floating presence.
It was timed entry and we awere a little early to we took afew minutes to wander round the surrealist gallery first. I don't get it, and I hate to say that because it sounds so ignorant and philistine; but I cannot understand how the process works. I cannot imagine how an artist conceives such an idea in their head and then reproduces it on a canvas. As I look at some of these pictures I find myself wondering what it's about, what it's for and what it's trying to say. Very few move me in any way and many of those that touch me I find quite repellent. And yet when I overheard two women admiring a portrait, commenting how much better it was than the "rubbish" in the other gallery, I didn't agree at all. In not understanding, I feel that the lack is mine and that there is more here to appreciate, to grasp and to wrestle with. While modern art itself is not all that important, this has caused me to reflect on how easy it is to disregard that which I do not understand, or does not appeal to me, whether political, religious, personal or artistic.
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Our church are now planning another Ugandan visit in August 2009. Knowing that there would be another trip, I had thought all along that I would go, and I immediately paid my deposit cheque. But I am still undecided. If I am honest with myself, it would be a huge relief not to go. The trip will be just over a fortnight and, while my husband is very willing to let me go, I feel that it is a long time to be away from the family. It is also very expensive, and a lot of the family's money to spend on just me. However, I was convinced it was what God wanted for me and I would love to be involved in the team and the work they will be doing. I'm stuck. Is it fear that makes me feel uneasy about going: do I just need to step out in faith? Or is it a different kind of fear propelling me to go: fear of feeling left out, fear of missing out; am I still listening to a message from God which is past its sell-by date?
Friday, 28 November 2008
Barney - this is not the point!!
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
However, today the children are all still in bed and I have started playing already, although I am still in my PJs (which are brand new, red and white check and I am rather enjoying wearing them!) I know that it will all end in shouting, as we all feel lesuirely and relaxed until around 9:45am and I realise that not everything has been done and if we don't get a move on and clean our teeth, wash up, and tidy our rooms the world will end.
My heart is filled with the dilemma of letting them sleep if they are tired: after all, they don't have to get up for school; and sticking to a structure which I know works for all of us and gets everything done in a calm and orderly fashion.
However, it is still all quiet, so I'll drop in on a couple more blogs before I get them up!
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
A tough way to feel.
I called my daughter back and she hunted for it, but it was lost. However, she did discover a Lego mini figure she had previously abducted. "Sometimes," she told me, sadly, "I just want what the boys have got."
A tough way to feel.
They are such little people and yet have such big emotions. The most apparently trivial of sibling fights are often an outworking of underlying passions. It is hard for me to hear of their jealousy, dislike and irritation. I imagine that in years to come they might say the others got more than they did, were listened to more, understood more, even loved more and I am anxious about whether I manage it the best way, whether I get it right. I hope that by listening to, acknowledging and encouraging awareness of these emotional storms, I am encouraging my children to navigate them more successfully. But I'm never sure.
A tough way to feel.
Monday, 24 November 2008
Last night, I committed myself to one more thing this week, something I really beilve needs to be done; at first it sounded small but will actually will involve my children spending most of the afternoon with a kind friend.
I am teaching an antenatal class one evening and, because I am busy in the late afternoon, I will have to spend some of my early afternoon preparing and so my children will not get the benefits of my full attention.
I have a personal appointment another afternoon, so they will spend some more time with a different friend although I am intending on taking natural history DVD for them to watch so it will be "educational" and not too much trouble for my friend.
I have planned to take them swimming and shoe shopping. My eldest has two deadlines this week, one for a competition and one for an e-mail book club he belongs to, and a maths test. My little girl is taking part in a CBeebies Christmas Special and needs taking to the studio and collecting.
As I try to work out how I'm going to fit all this in, along with keeping the house clean, the children dressed in clean clothes and the family fed, I start knocking things off the list of what we're going to do. So, I don't have to go swimming, they don't need shoes this week; I don't need to have a quiet evening to knit the four hats I've promised for the church fair in less than two weeks.
With the aid of a couple of kids' DVDs I could free up some time to get everything done, but what about the children? What do they actually need? I'm trying to be imaginative and creative about the time I am with them. I've just got some audio books on CD so I can make the car journeys more profitable, I can read chapter books at bedtime instead of the day, we can combine shoe shopping with a poetry tea in a cafe.
I hear myself too often tell the children that I'm in a rush, or that I have so much to do. I have sent the children away more than once even while writing this. I'm not sure what yet, but something this week is going to have to give!
Sunday, 23 November 2008
Here is the wheelbarrow and sack of garden waste waiting to go to the tip after a session in the garden yesterday.My lovely husband has made breakfast, and lunch, and is now doing the washing up! My children and a friend are playing in the lounge.And the cat is still waiting for me to sort out the weather!
Saturday, 22 November 2008
They need to be able to read and write.
They need to be numerate enough to handle shopping, saving, rents and mortgages, figure out if something is a good deal, that kind of every day, useful stuff.
They need to believe in their own ability to learn anything else they need to know.
My sons, especially my middle one, are madly into "Star Wars" at the moment, and we are working our way through the entire saga, in order of production. I must confess to not being very interested in sci-fi, but I need to have some understanding of the plot in order to be able to converse with my children at the moment. My little boy has happily written a number of freewrites on Star Wars and yesterday we pieced them together and polished it up. He checked spellings of names and I showed him how to indent a paragraph. While the subject matter would not be viewed as conventionally educational, the end result was a fine piece of written English, a quick lesson in presentation and a happy, engaged and proud child with something to read out to daddy over our evening meal.
Friday, 21 November 2008
I did my first Christmas shopping this week, thanks to my parents-in-law who had the children for the afternoon. I was a Woman on a Mission. I went with a list of six things, knowing that any more would overwhelm me. From leaving the car to the last ker-ching of the till, I was done in 50 minutes! No dithering, no pondering: I was a present-seeking missile. This compares well with my normal rabbit-in-the-headlights shopping persona!
We are enjoying "Little House on the Prairie" as our current chapter book, and last night Mr Edwards met Santa Claus and brought Laura and Mary's gifts home from Independence.
"They had never even thought of such a thing as having a penny.Think of
having a whole penny for your very own.Think of having a cup and a cake and a
stick of candy and a penny.
There never had been such a Christmas."
I do not think that my children would be overawed by four such small gifts, and I know that I would not. And yet, part of me longs for a Christmas of such joyful simplicity and of such gratitude, for, in Laura's words,
"They were too happy to speak."
Thursday, 20 November 2008
William I had sent a second set of Investigators to the village of Mortlake as he suspected the information given previously was not entirely honest.The villagers of Putney, the Canons of St Paul's and some tradesmen from London had also been called to give testimony. Before the arrival of William's men, all Norman Barons, the Reeve, the man in charge of the taxes on the manor under scrutiny, instructed us all in what we had to say. (Prior to the workshop, they had each been given a little bit of information to learn.):
The Mortlake villagers were indeed concealing information from commissioners by a variety of mean, including hiding a herd of pigs in the neighbouring manor!
The chief examiner was a terrifying figure, intimidating the villagers by speaking first in Latin and then in French before agreeing to use the "uncouth Anglo-Saxon" language. He missed no opportunity to insult the locals, claiming that, when we chose the village idiot, we must have been "spoiled for choice."
The whole event was excellent, although my little girl was so frightened by the Commissioner that she was in tears at the prospect of having to speak to him! (She didn't have to and I spoke her lines!) My eldest was apoplectic with rage at being so insulted and didn't trust himself to speak either, (so I did his part too!) It was a highly emotional experience and I think, as a result, the Domesday Book and the circumstances surrounding its origin will never be dull history for us, but something we have experienced, felt and understood.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
I think they must be beautiful paintings and I would love to see them (and I am kicking myself for not realising that, in fact, “Diana and Acteon” has been in London since 22 October and I could have seen it, twice. It leaves on Thursday.)
One of my favourite paintings in the Gallery is “Bacchus and Ariadne". I first really noticed it on a Home Ed visit with a guide and we were introduced the Greek Myth depicted. The colours are breath-taking and there is so much to see, so much detail in the background characters as they make their drunken procession led, by a cheetah-drawn carriage and the love-struck Bacchus literally falls in love.
Another Titian in the gallery is “The Death of Actaeon". This one is the partner, the prequel, to the one the Gallery is trying to save. I always smile when I see it as I remember my middle son patiently copying it once, capturing every detail.
“Diana and Actaeon” looks fabulous and I really hope that is stays on public display.
Initially I was quite shocked by the price of the paintings, £50 million seems beyond my wildest dreams, and a vast sum of money to pay for a picture, however pretty. On the other hand, it is a tiny fraction of the Health Service budget and, with a British population of 60.9 million, it works out at about 80p per person. So, I have just £5 donated on-line.
Enough for my family, and a little extra for good measure.
Monday, 17 November 2008
Sunday, 16 November 2008
Saturday, 15 November 2008
Friday, 14 November 2008
Apparently, the police had adopted a PR strategy of releasing as much information as quickly as possible in order to reassure the victims of abuse that they could be trusted. They hoped that this would encourage more former residents to come forward with information. Also, it was hoped that this 'tell all' strategy would to prevent the authorities from covering up damaging revelations.
The media then went on to embellish the stories. So, with in a few days, an item 25mm long, which could have been a piece of human skull became, in all the papers, the partial remains of a girl’s skeleton. An underground space has become four torture chambers.
We were told yesterday that, in fact, no murders had taken place, that much of this previously released evidence was misleadint. That no children were murdered is, of course, good news, but doesn’t take away from the fact that terrible abuse went on in this home for many years and there are very many victims coming forward now to say so.
However, what deeply shocked me yesterday as I listened to the report on BBC Radio 4's PM, was the hypocrisy of the media. The very people who have exaggerated this story beyond recognition were having a field day exclaiming, "how could this have possibly happened?" PM's presenter interviewed their own reporter who had been in Jersey to cover the story, although she was not asked if she had embroidered the facts, and I can only assume that she, or someone on the editorial team, is as guilty as the rest of embellishment. An expert author who was then interviewed stated that no news desk would thank a reporter who only reported the facts and did not enlarge the story to keep up with all the other news agencies; instead, they would be 'ticked off'. Journalists are, apparently, highly trained to be sceptical. He went on to say how he had been suspicious of the four torture chambers from the start. Why would you need four? One, he argued, was believable, but not four. If there is a choice between a good story and a true story, he said, they will always chose the good. The implication being that this kind of, well, lying is normal and we were fools for going along with it.
I feel taken for a ride, manipulated, and deceived. I also feel angry that the same presenters who had offered up this story and discussed it with deep concern, were now pointing the finger at everyone but themselves as to how it could have been so misleading. Surely, if journalists are professionally trained to be cynical, this self-same, well-respected presenter should also have known the story had been exaggerated. But the only person being held accountable for this is Jersey's chief of police.
Thursday, 13 November 2008
“Only one", I said.
“On no,” he replied, “take two, don’t listen to your mum, it’s my birthday.” I didn’t wish to cause offence, so the children got two little packets. Still, they helped to keep my little girl quiet in church.
On a Wednesday, there is “Coffee and Chat” after the Communion, so we stayed on, an unashamed bribe for being well-behaved in a long, wordy service.
It was lunch-time when we got home. I briefly contemplated doing something from the afternoon’s schedule first and delaying lunch to let the cake go down a bit, but the children needed some free-time after all the sitting still.
I had made soup and I had made too much, so I filled up my little girl’s bowl without consulting her on how much she wanted. She ate about half, which was not bad really, considering the large portion and the sweets and the cake, but struggled after that. I was impatient, and not keen to deal with the problem of disposing of bean soup - too lumpy for the sink, too runny for the bin.
In the end the situation degenerated to her calling me “an idiot”- her insult of choice at the moment. I have decided that I have had enough of this and, all other methods of reasonable parenting having failed, picked her up to spank her. This is not something I am proud of and I would rather gloss over.
As I did so, her foot caught her bowl - bean soup all over the floor!
In hindsight, it is so easy to see how one thing led to another. In the middle of it I was just plain mad. With incredible will-power I managed not to shout “Look what you’ve done now!” and I got on my hands and knees cleared up the mess. As I reflect, I can see the many opportunities I had to head this one off, but failed to take. I wanted to blame everyone but myself. Sometimes, I just don't want to be the grown-up!
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
The latest assignment was to make view finders and use them to isolate a small piece of a pattern or object and just draw that part. This proved a great hit. The best bit of all was getting mummy to guess where they had used their "zoomers". It wasn't easy.I was impressed with their ingenuity in finding snippets to draw: book covers, decorative boxes and pieces of Lego. I could see this being a fun game on a wet afternoon.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
I stopped. I looked into his eyes. It was around 2:45pm and I realised with shock that I had not noticed him, I had not listened to him, all day. We had been too busy doing all the normal, routine stuff.
I had nagged him, cajoled him, fed him, instructed him, looked at spellings with him, helped him do a worksheet, read to him but I had not heard him. He had his heart set on a Star Wars book and the library didn’t have it. He didn’t want anything else.
How can it be that I spend all day at home with my children and yet days pass when I do not connect with them, when I do not look into their eyes, when I do not hear them?
Why does it feel impossible to fit in piano lessons, which both boys have asked to resume? Why have I only read five chapters in two weeks of the special, girls’ Chapter Book I specially got to read just with my little girl? Why did I only half listen to a request to do some free-writing, maybe later was my response.
What happens to those 24 hours, so that I go to bed exhausted with a to-do list longer than at the day‘s beginning, and yet feel that I have not spent enough time with them?
Monday, 10 November 2008
Sunday, 9 November 2008
My Great-Grandfather was killed in World War I. He was a stretcher-bearer, having been injured in combat earlier in the war, and died just before Armistice Day. He left a wife and four children.
The husband of one of my best friends (they are the parents of my god-son) is serving with the British Army in Afghanistan.
My middle son is attending a Remembrance Day parade today with his Beaver pack.
I find the World Wars, and the current wars, difficult to think of, difficult to comprehend. I have tears in my eyes when I read the work of war poets, when I think of my little boy trying to understand what he is supposed to be remembering, when I think of my Great-grandmother, and the countless women of her generation made widows and the young men dying abroad.
Today, on Tuesday, every year, we must, we will remember them.
Saturday, 8 November 2008
Friday, 7 November 2008
Thursday, 6 November 2008
For example, when I bought this jug:
I saw it in the window of a charity shop as I was mooching about on my own, and straight away I liked it. I made a bargain with myself that if it was more than £1, I would leave it. It was £1.50. So I left it. It wasn't until I was home that I got home the voice in my head screaming "50p! That's all, what are you thinking?" was finally heard. I had to make a special trip into town, all three children in tow and spent £1 parking to buy that jug. And I love it!
So, when earlier this week I saw this jug,
I was faced with a dilemma. It was £3.49. Quite an investment! I don't really need another jug, (after all, I have a nice brown one) but I did like it. I hesitated, I remembered my last jug purchase, and I stepped out of my comfort zone and bought that jug. And I love it!
It's only a little thing. It sounds very trivial, but do you know what, I think I'm growing!
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
"I didn't just want to get things written for my own pleasure; I didn't
just want to hand something in that would satisfy or even dazzle some examiner
or judge; I wanted lots of people to believe what I was saying, to change their
minds and, damn it, to change their behaviour."
Am I allowed to feel like that too?
I am not known as a shy, retiring, quiet person: I have my opinions and I make them known. But I am wary of causing offence, of getting into heated discussion or of haranguing people. I will soften my arguments, present my weakest points and get easily side-tracked, not deliberately, but in an attempt to keep a conversation light. While I have not suddenly found a desire to lose all my friends by mouthing off about controversial topics, reading this yesterday opened a door, just a crack, to what it might be like to write with passion and conviction, to develop a "so sue me" attitude, to trust the strength of my beliefs, to trust that readers can cope with, and maybe even relish, being challenged and that they can always choose to stop if they don't like what they are reading.
I am challenged; I want to write with more conviction, more confidence, more audacity. I wonder what will happen?
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
I also tried to learn to play "Skid" yesterday. This is a computer game on the Children's BBC website that my middle son would play all day if I allowed him. He has got very good at it and can complete all three levels without losing a life. It is part of the Bravewriter philosophy to let your children teach you things, so, much to his delight, I asked my son to teach me to play "Skid". Suffice it to say, it is much harder than it looks. However, I am sure there was much value in the children seeing that I am not necessarily better at everything than they are just because I am older. I also had to bite back a number of times the words, "I'm rubbish" which I encourage the children not to say; instead, I declare, "You're not rubbish, you're learning." It is also a humbling experience to be in the position of learner, of not being able to do something as well as the people around me, to know what I want to do and not quite be able to do it. As a Home Educating mother I think it is vital to keep learning. It doesn't matter what, just to keep that awareness fresh in my mind, how close learning feels to being rubbish, how vulnerable I am when I don't feel confident and how much of the time my learning children must feel like this. Once I've made my eldest a hat, I think it will be time to advance my knitting ability one step further and learn the next technique.
P.S. Check out Julie's blog: I'm thrilled to be featured!
Monday, 3 November 2008
My daughter is, of course, unique and individual and many of my finely-honed, expert parenting skills which I practicie with such brilliance on my two sons fail totally with her - I think it would be fair to say that she has me wrapped around her little finger! Perhaps there is some deep pyschological issue, that I see her as a minature version of myself and cannot bear to see her distressed. Perhaps it is because that she has learned fast that being smallest in a family of five, she has to shout loudest to be heard. Perhaps it is because she is a girl and, as such, a completely different species to her brothers. Perhaps it is because she is number 3 and I am just so much more tired. "Whatever," springs to my lips so much more easily now! And as a parent it is always hard to find the tightrope of "getting it just right" between the chasms of "being too soft" and "being too hard."
The food issue, as I said, has been an on-going one, with all sorts of dark fears lurking at the bottom my consciousness: obesity, anorexia, diabetes ... all the ways I could scar her for life. For her I think it boils down to a simple choice: is the eating (therefore not being hungry or consuming something yummy) more fun than playing with the cat, engaging mummy in an entertaining debate or colouring? I think this has been true all along!
Baby-led weaning largely involves babies learning to feed themselves, picking up, playing with, exploring, tasting and eventually eating their own food. As a tiny one, my daughter would sit in her chair and totally ignore all sorts of healthy goodies placed in front of her. Every so often a doubt would creep into my head: "Maybe she just doesn't know what to do? Maybe she can't see the food? Maybe her pincer grip is not developed enough?" And so, just to check, I would give her one, just one, chocolate button. Like a hawk, her fingers would descend. With expert precision she would pinch the chocolate. With feminine delicacy she would place it her mouth. Clearly more than capable of feeding herself, just very selective about what was worth the bother. As Jo says, she is unlikely to starve herself. The likelihood of her driving her poor mother insane, I fear, may be higher!
Sunday, 2 November 2008
The thing was, she said she felt sick. She didn't look great and felt a little hot so we didn't force the issue of lunch. An hour later, she was complaining of hunger, so I fixed her a snack from her new list of options that we had chosen in the supermarket, typed and laminated and pinned up in the cupboard. She had a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt and then complained of feeling sick.
What would you do? What would a caring and compassionate mother do? What would a wise mother do?
I sat down with her and spoon-fed her the yoghurt. At least I did, until she threw the whole lot - juice, breakfast and yoghurt - up all over the floor, my slippers and my trousers!
I can't say I was patient, kind or sympathetic, but once I'd cleaned her up she got to sit on the sofa with a Disney movie.
At tea-time I suggested to my husband that we didn't force the issue of making her eat. Her response was to dance around the kitchen telling her brothers in a sing-song voice that she didn't have to have any tea!
Am I the world's worst mother for forcing my child to eat until she is sick? Or am I being played for a fool?
Saturday, 1 November 2008
In May, I attended a brief seminar on how to progress in my career as a Breastfeeding Counsellor. The obvious next step was to enrol on the first module of an Educational Studies BA degree. For various administrative reasons, I had to get on with it in 2008 and I had to apply immediately. I am a sucker for any kind of "limited offer - hurry now" approach and was signed up without really thinking it through. (This is familiar: I all too frequently hear the words "I didn't really think it through," come out of my mouth!) Once committed, I could then use my favourite excuse: "Well, I'm stuck with it now so I'd better get on with it," not to think about it any more. There was no way I could not see it through as I had made a bit of a fool of myself last year starting, then withdrawing from and then re-applying to the Diploma. There were plenty of good reasons to do the course: it was interesting and intellectually challenging, it was about something I knew little about so there was plenty to learn, at the end of it I would be qualifed for a salaried role that I could fit part time round my children. I bought the books, I did the required work and I was fully prepared for the weekend workshop this weekend.
However, while I was on retreat, the a thought popped unbidden into my mind: "What if I used the 15 or so hours I spend on Breastfeeding Counselling each month to write ... ?"
I ran a breastfeeding clinic this week and was reminded how much it drains me.
I had a drink with one of my longest standing friends and heard myself say that I wasn't sure that being a Breastfeeding Counsellor is what God wants me to be doing right now.
So the doubts grew, until the fact that I was committed to a course, with a weekend workshop this weekend, did not seem sufficient reason to spend more time and energy walking along a path I am not enjoying towards a destination I don't really want to get to! Of course, I felt very silly pulling out, and very much that I had disappointed people, but I could not continue to be funded for, and to spend time and energy on this study if I wasn't sure I wanted to continue as a Breastfeeding Counsellor.
It took a lot of time and e-mails on Thursday to extricate myself and to explain to my colleagues what I was doing. And then Kathy posted about National Novel Writing Month, and used Heartbreak Hill as a metaphor. Within moments I was mentally set to write a novel and run the Boston Marathon. Then I remembered that I have decided not to run a marathon next year, but maybe I could do the novel thing ....
It took me until Friday morning to reach the conclusion that stepping back as a Breastfeeding Counsellor was partly about being more available for my children, and also it will take a while to notice any extra time as I serve out my current commitments. Then Mrs G. mentioned National Blog Posting Month! Here was something I could do! I post pretty much every day, excluding Sundays, so not much more to add. Focussing on my blog for a month will begin to exercise those writer-ly muscles and, who knows, I may even appeal to some new readers.
So, thanks Kathy and Mrs G. Good luck to both of you, and here I go, posting every day for a month.