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Gardening…

Ok so this blog is supposed about things that make me feel good or allow me to spend time with my family. Well gardening doesn’t make me feel good, I’m bad at it and I seem to kill more plants than I grow. That said, if I keep the garden reasonably pruned it let’s me spend more time outside playing with my kids, or even better lets me send them outside to play while I get on with other jobs. I think the best that can be said about gardening from my point of view is that doing it lets me do other rewarding things later on.

Last week I gave the garden it’s first “haircut” of the year. I started by cutting back the hedge on the road side – this makes no difference to family life but I’m really hoping it will stop the people touting for business door to door from continually knocking to ask if I want them to cut the hedge for me. True to form it didn’t go too well, the cordless hedge trimmer died after 15 minutes and I had to do the rest by hand. Now you’re probably sat there thinking just get a plug in one, here’s the problem. We live on a corner plot, the front garden is probably twice the size of the back and is a triangle with the longest side running along the roadside. The previous owners were devoted gardeners and left us with a beautiful hedge and many many shrubs and bushes. While I would love to have a plug in hedge trimmer, the cable would need to be about 60 meters long to reach to the end of the hedge.

After the hedge was done (and the sweeping up which I REALLY REALLY hate) I had a go at the lawns. We have 2 at the front and neither had been touched since last year. I dug up the huge nettle that appeared last year and the little ones that were spreading from it and generally tried to make the garden look less abandoned.

I’m quite pleased with the results. I still need to cut back the hedge on the garden side and trim all the bushes but I can let the kids go out now without feeling too guilty. As always, when I attack the garden it attacks right back. My nails are shredded and my arms are covered in scratches in spite of the gloves. I think this is one of my main dislikes of gardening; the destroying of my hands.

Anyhow that’s my moan about the garden done. Thankfully the back garden is paved and easier to manage. The back corner is the only planted bit that gives me problems. There’s an ornamental grass that grows huge every year, and a Wisteria that looks beautiful when it’s in flower but drops masses of petals, seed pods and leaves every single year. The only other problem I have with the back garden has nothing to do with gardening. It has to do with small people. 3 days ago I came out of the house after doing some jobs to find my son happily throwing sand from the sandpit over the entire garden. When I told him to stop he turned to his sister (who wasn’t anywhere near he sand) and told her very firmly “No more throwing!” We spent the next hour sweeping up 😀

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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in garden, Parenting

 

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Relaxation = Yoga + Childcare

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Any parent with small children knows that finding time to yourself can be a challenge. 4 years ago I could pretty much do whatever I wanted; stay up late, go dancing or go to the gym. I didn’t have to worry about 6:00 am wakeup calls from bouncy toddlers or who’s going to watch the children if I want to have a night out.
Things are very different now; when we had our second child I became a full time mum, keeping our son in nursery for just one day a week. For a year and a half I was always responsible for at least 1 child and even when I could have gone out to the gym – for example in the evenings or if the grandparents baby sat for a few hours – I would struggle to find the energy to go out and would most likely spend the time curled up on the sofa watching bad TV shows.
Recently though things have been getting better. In January we became entitled to government help with our son’s pre-school hours, reducing the cost of his nursery fees and allowing us to send both our children to nursery one day a week. While I wouldn’t feel happy putting my children into nursery full time I was very glad to be able to start sending our daughter for this single day a week. My son was in nursery part-time from 9 months old when I returned to work, however circumstances meant that my daughter had never been cared for by anyone other than myself or a close relative. At 18 months she was very clingy and always needed her Mummy. This is endearing in many ways but it is also restrictive and if it continued would make it much harder for her when she had to begin school. By slowly introducing her to an environment where she is well cared for by non-family members we hope to increase her independence and reassure her that even though Mummy leaves her in the morning it is only until the end of the day. After the first couple of weeks of tears at drop-off and pick-up (from her not me) she now happily runs in to the toddler room to play and jumps for joy when I collect her at night.
Having both children in nursery has meant that I suddenly have a full day to myself with no-one to look after. Of course it’s very easy to fill that time with all the mundane chores I struggle to do during the week, the washing is always there and then there’s the garden and the dusting to do but in the last couple of weeks I’ve started managing to take a bit of time for myself. I’m finally managing to go to the gym for something other than lunch. Once upon a time I used to do a lot of yoga and dance, so I have started going to the Wednesday morning yoga class. You get to stretch and feel all lovely and achy, and you then get to relax for 15 minutes without feeling guilty. After that if I’m not rushing anywhere I sit in the jacuzzi for 10 minutes as well. It may not sound like much but it is making a surprising amount of difference to my quality of life. I feel more relaxed, I feel less guilty about paying for an underused gym membership, and I am noticing a definite improvement in my figure. Because I’m noticing how much better I feel after doing the Wednesday class I’m encouraged to also do the Sunday night class, meaning I feel even better and am getting something close to reasonable use from my gym membership. It’s good to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that as your children get older you do start to get a little bit of your old life back.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Parenting, Uncategorized, yoga

 

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Sweet treats and bribery

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Like all parents I want the best for my kids, I want them to have a healthy diet but I also want them to be able to enjoy treats. I find well timed bribes can work wonders and we are currently attempting potty training with the incentive of a “bedtime cake” for my son if he manages to stay dry for the whole day.

The problem I have with treats is that I am (slightly) fussy about what my children eat. When they’re older I’m sure they’ll point out my double standards to me – I am not a health nut, I eat chocolate and crisps; at the cinema my favourite pick and mix sweets are the neon green apple cables that are packed full of e-numbers and sugar – however, all that aside I don’t give my kids branded chocolate, they never have crisps or icecream in the house and they only get biscuits occasionally – usually when they have friends to play.

My husband would say I’m strict whereas I would say I’m careful. If we are at friend’s party or playgroup and everyone else is having sweets then of course our 2 don’t get left out. I’m not that mum who insists that her children sit on the side while all the others get cake and icecream, but I do see a massive difference in behaviour when my little darlings are up to their eyeballs in sugar. On the way back from a recent birthday party our 3 year old was manic, he kept trying to reach across to his little sister and consequently wasn’t sat safely in his car-seat; cue a massive telling off from daddy and the admission that maybe they do behave a lot worse when they’ve had too much of sugar.

The compromise I’ve settled on is that we make a lot of our own treats. Gingerbread biscuits, cupcakes, brownies etc. If I know exactly what has gone into something I am happier to give it as a treat. I do have a few blind spots – the food colourings and sprinkles I add to the icing for instance, but I hold my hand up about this and am not trying to pretend my cakes are completely additive free. A major advantage of making your own treats is being completely in control of portion size. I can cut my brownies into toddler sized pieces, use mini cutters for biscuits and – as I discovered this week – make teeny tiny cupcakes in petit four baking cases.

I am completely in love with these tiny cakes as they are a way of giving my children something that is recognisably a cake without worrying about splitting it between them or being tempted to have a bit myself. I got to play at icing them prettily and my son got to shake the sprinkles over them which he loved. Both my children enjoy baking and I find it a lovely rewarding way to spend time with them. I find I can cope with mess much better if I end up with something tasty as a result, than if the only outcome is salt dough squashed into the carpet. Fingers crossed they continue to enjoy baking and cooking as they grow up…

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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Baking, Parenting

 

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