Project Inspiration, colour and daily mixes #littleloves

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After a few dull weeks, I felt that this week I got a little of my sparkle and zest back, I was parenting solo again but this time it was much easier and more relaxed.  I used my time wisely this week and as well as a lovely family day on Saturday, I’ve enjoyed lunch with a friend on my day off and a trip to the hairdressers which always makes me feel a little more confident.  Our bathroom is being done this week and its all gone very smoothly so far, just a little more tiling to do and then the nice little finishing touches.  I am really looking forward to relaxing in our new bath, I’ve bought a luxury bubble bath to celebrate!

READING

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I’ve read lots this week, I finished A Boy made of Blocks and would highly recommend it, its written with strong characters whom you can easily relate to and it ends well.  As Mr S has been away I’ve been reading to both children in bed, so that’s Flat Stanley with Little Man and Harry Potter with Little Miss.  Finally I’ve been reading some magazines, a home magazine for inspiration for accessories for the bathroom and ideas for our next project our bedroom, it’ll just be a coat of paint and a few new accessories and the Simple Things magazine which is my monthly treat, its a lovely read.

WATCHED

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On Saturday I watched the footage and saw the pictures of the Womens’ March around the world. It looked inspiring and empowering and was a great peaceful and powerful response globally to Trump’s inauguration and his policies and actions.

I do enjoy Call the Midwife so was delighted with its return on Sunday evening, its the perfect way to end the weekend although I’m sure like last series I’ll end up in tears over the story lines.

MADE

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Feeling a bit low last week, I decided I needed a bit of colour in my life this week, I’ve fresh flowers in the house and bought a selection of lovely brightly coloured fruit and vegetables.  I’ve made some Mexican rice with bright peppers, casserole with the deep oranges of sweet potatoes and squash and a bright fresh fruit salad, with mangoes, kiwis and pineapple.

WORE

As well as injecting a little colour into my menus I also tried to add a little colour to my clothes.  It was only in little ways, fancy coloured underwear, a scarf, a belt or bag but it did perk me up in these grey, foggy days.

HEARD

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Now I have Spotify I find myself listening less to radio and using Spotify in a variety of ways.  This week I have been listening to my daily mixes, they’re good and are introducing and reminding me of some really good music to match my tastes.

AND FINALLY

We have no plans again this weekend and with Mr S having been away, I’m sure he’ll want a quiet weekend locally.  This suits me fine as I have a few jobs to do around the house and in town.  I also fancy trying a new recipe and have promised a baking session for the children too.

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I’m linking up with the fantastic  Morgana at http://coffeeworksleeprepeat.com for Little Loves and am looking forward to reading hers and her fellow contributors Little Loves of this week.

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My working mum dilemma

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This post is about my current work dilemma, it is not should I work or not, I enjoy working and want to continue working part time, its trying to decide what I want such a role to look like.  Late in the  last school year, I finally accepted a promotion to a senior position as a member of the leadership team in my school. I say finally, because I have been at my school for many years now and have been invited to apply for senior positions before. I never did as I was either undergoing fertility treatment, going through the adoption process or had a young family. As anyone who works in education will attest, it’s a demanding and consuming job and at these times, it was an easy decision not to apply for the promotion as I would not be able to do the senior job it as I would want to. Fortunately, I never felt the need to prove myself or climb the career ladder and was genuinely happy being a classroom teacher. When I returned to work after my adoption leave I worked 2 days a week and this has gradually increased as the children went to school and I have taken on additional duties to support the school. Over the last few years,  I have negotiated to work 22 hours a week over 4 days in school. This being teaching, I easily do another 10 hours a week at home and there is the constant thinking of work, checking emails etc.. The hours have been key to me being able to work, my employers have been very supportive and flexible and I do all the school runs except for one afternoon which Mr S does. This is so important for me, I need to have that daily contact with the children’s school as one child has a full time 1:1 TA and I need to liaise with her for feedback and to work together to provide the best support. My working hours  can make for some crazy school runs, gates open at 8.45am, I settle the children in their classrooms, run to my car, drive across town and then lead a school assembly at 9am, at the end of the day, I am always running out of work and hoping all the traffic lights are green, there is a parking space nearby and be expectantly waiting at the classroom door. I am so grateful to my employers to allow me to work as I do and one of the reasons I took on my position this year, which was negotiated on my historical working hours was to show my support to them. However, I was still unsure whether I could truly commit to a senior position and asked for a provision that all parties would  meet by Easter 2017 to discuss the situation and to mutually decide if I continue in post or return to teaching and a full time appointment made. I am conscious that this time is approaching and its nearly decision time. I genuinely don’t know what to do, there are some aspects of the job which are great, working with colleagues on their professional development, supporting a NQT, helping to design our curriculum and doing some innovative work with our SEN students, however there are frustrations, meetings, meetings and meetings, exasperation at the bureaucracy and protracted decision making prevalent in education, though I should add this is mainly external and the one which I was always worried of, the pressure of being a part time senior member of staff, the never ending to do list and my professional motivation to try and do it all. As a teacher, I will always take work home but I recognise that work is creeping into home life more and more.

At the start of this year after a pretty manic Autumn term, I began to reflect on my life and started to attempt to work out who I am and what I want to do. I am working through a self help book, I think its one of the few I’ve ever read called Designing Your Life. Rather than just reading it I am doing the tasks too and its helpful, I don’t have the answers yet but its enabling me to understand why I do what I am doing. For example, I didn’t realise the effect of my Dad’s unemployment in my teenage years and I think my strong work ethic comes from this difficult time. Mr S is self employed and I’ve always felt it important that my permanent job balances the unpredictability of his, a strange logic given in the 19 years we’ve been together he has always had plenty of work and no periods of instability, yet I think my job helps give me the security I crave. My job is not simply about stability though, I love teaching and I cannot think of another career I would like to pursue so my work design is not about finding me but finding a balance. The balance is not simply from work, aside from my little family I would like to spend more time with friends and my wider family, go to the gym, run for longer and more often, be creative etc.. but I need to create that time. I don’t think there’s a magic formula for the perfect balance, it’s what suits you and your family needs best at the time and compromises will always have to be made.

A Boy made of blocks, skinny jeans and Bruce Springsteen Little Loves

This week is a culmination of the last two week’s Little Loves, I had nearly finished last week’s when I got a really bad migraine which meant last weekend was sleep and sickness.  As the last thing I can do is look at a computer screen when I have a migraine, the post simply waited in the drafts box to be finished.

There are some weeks which no matter how you try to tart them up, simply are hard work and a bit dull, that’s been this past fortnight.  Mr S has been working away so I’ve been parenting solo, normally  I’m fine with this and quite enjoy a little extra time to myself in the evenings but these past weeks work has been really hard, its been dark, cold and miserable, I’ve been running around making sure everyone is at the right place at the right time and most nights I’ve simply crawled into bed once everyone is asleep, exhausted.  This is so not me, here’s hoping sparkly me returns very soon.

Read

I finished Marian Keyes’ Making It Up as I Go Along.  It was just like reading a conversation with a friend and was the perfect antidote to the busyness of the first week.

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I also downloaded one of the new Richard and Judy book club books, A Boy Made of Blocks.  This is quite personal to me as I work with ASD children and young people and witness first hand the effect of the diagnosis on the family.  I am really enjoying this book and the presentation of the young son is typical of ASD, too often the child with ASD is portrayed in books or films as a savant or simply having a few quirky behaviours when the reality is more challenging and harder to understand .  I love that the book is set in Bristol where I grew up and  there’s some nice Bristolian humour and references in it,  its also the first book I’ve ever read where the main character’s surname is my maiden name which is not particularly common.    A book full of personal coincidences!

Watched

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I rarely switch the tv on when Mr S is away, I prefer music and reading in the evenings.  Our exception was on Wednesday, when after school we all cuddled up for a movie night with popcorn and a few Christmas chocolates to watch Zootopia, we have seen it before but I like the character of Judy the Rabbit, she rocks.

Made

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In the first week, I was Queen of the Lists, we are having our bathroom refurbished next week and I had a day in big town to achieve quite a few different jobs all over the town for the work.  It felt a bit like Challenge Anneka, shop, google map directions to the next stop, shop, google map etc.. all in the time deadline of the school day 9 -3pm.  When you live quite rurally you have to allow travel time for big town shopping visits, so it was very tightly organised but all completed, even if not the most exciting of trips out.

I have also made a lot of comforting food this fortnight, its been so cold and miserable so we’ve had lots of casseroles, veggie shepherd pie, homemade soups etc..  I use the slow cooker a lot and its lovely to come home to a kitchen full of delicious smells.

Wore

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George Skinny Jeans. Definitely not me as I’ve been wearing mine with thick jumpers and boots.

 

In the first week it was all about the scarves.  I do like a scarf and I had a couple for Christmas from friends (they know me well) so I was showcasing them.  This week its been about skinny jeans.  My quest in life is to find the perfect pair of jeans, I’m quite small so it has to be petite ranges but even then the leg length is difficult to get right.  I haven’t worn jeans for ages and seem to have a uniform of leggings and tunic / skirt.  However when I was in big town I went to Asda and passed a huge display of jeans, I measured some against me and when they were ok tried them on and to my surprise and delight found a pair of dark denim skinny jeans which fit beautifully.  I am so happy with them and the best thing they were a bargain £10!

Heard

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Over the past fortnight, there has been a lovely Book at bedtime on Radio 4.  Its part of their Reading Europe series and is A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard. The title is a little misleading as its only been in the last episodes that there has been a death, its more of the author’s memories growing up in Norway.  It is a little gem of an autobiography and well worth a listen or read.

I also caught up on Bruce Springsteen’s Desert Island Discs on Wednesday morning.  Little Man woke me up at 4.30am but whilst he went back to sleep, I couldn’t and decided to put my time to good use by catching up on this recording.  Springsteen came across so well with some great music choices that it was a really entertaining listen, even at a ridiculous time of the day.

And finally

I’m not sure what are plans are for this weekend.  I was poorly and the children had a few events last weekend so its family time, but I’m just not sure what that will look like.  A lot of local places close in January so we have to be creative, beach walks and hot chocolates, a trip to the skate park or a film at the cinema. I’ll be so pleased when Spring arrives with more opportunities for things to do.

I am linking up with the lovely Morgana at  http://coffeeworksleeprepeat.com and all her marvellous bloggers to share Little Loves.

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Clubs, hobbies and interests

Yes, if like me you’re a child of the 80s here’s the classic line and opening sequence from Why Don’t You shown every holiday week day morning.

In today’s press there has been an article about the cost of children’s clubs, in the article one mother had calculated that she was spending £550 a month on extra curricular activities.  This figure caught my attention, how could anyone spend such an amount on a child’s hobbies?  Curious I decided to work out the costs of the clubs our children do.  We have two children, Little Miss does guitar and choir at school and attends ballet, gymnastics and Brownies in the community, Little Man does football, cricket and Beavers.  That is 8 activities a week.  Whilst all are paid termly, I calculated that we are spending £20 a week in total for these 8 activities, which I think is a reasonable price especially as all clubs take place within a mile radius of our house, so there are no transport costs. In a small town like ours, clubs and societies are our entertainment particularly in the winter and equally as popular for adults as for children.   They are also a vital community activity bringing generations together, at cricket club on Saturday morning (its indoors at present) there were 6 adults supporting the Under 8s and 9s coaching session and most parents watched and chatted on the benches.  So many of our clubs are run by volunteers passionate about their interest and I hope that the children will continue to pursue their hobbies throughout their school years and into adult life,  helping as they have been helped.

I try to avoid being tiger mum and have enrolled the children only in clubs that they have asked to do, I also think that they are doing enough clubs and would not want them to do any more at present.  It is important to preserve some time for us as a family and to keep a school afternoon free for relaxing, playing and having a friend over for tea.

Despite the headlines, I think clubs and hobbies are an important part of a child’s social, physical and emotional development.  An opportunity to enjoy sport and hobbies and meet new friends in a safe and friendly environment.

New year, new term, new books #littleloves

This week saw the new year and the return to school.  I’m one of those people who is happiest at home on New Year’s Eve and we spent a quiet evening in before enjoying a beach walk and morning treat at a local cafe on January 1st.  We were all back to school on Tuesday but it’s been a shock with the early starts, we’ve all been so tired this week.

Read

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One of the things I always wanted to share with my children was my love of reading.  Fortunately Little Miss is an avid and confident reader and we share a delight in good books.  We were both really excited that Grandma and Granfer bought her the illustrated version of  Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone and this week as we have settled back into our routines, we have been reading it together snuggled up on her bed.  I love that I am able to share her enjoyment as she discovers Harry Potter for the first time and cannot wait for all our Harry Potter chats over the coming years.

Watched

On Monday, our last day of the holidays we went to the neighbouring town to watch Moana in the independent cinema.  It’s such a treat to see a film in this cinema, it’s been refurbished and is in immaculate condition in a 1950s style with lots of original features.  I really enjoyed Moana, the strong female lead, the diversity, its legend theme rather than a love story and the amazing scenery.  I also decided I want to rock like Moana’s granny when I’m older!  Watching Moana was a really nice way to spend the last afternoon of what had been a special holiday.

Made

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I am incredibly organised and like to finish everything off for the season.  I made our 2016 photo year book this week and am just awaiting its delivery.  Every year I consider doing it monthly to make it a little easier but end up reflecting on the full year at the end of December.  I love to take photos and it was difficult choosing my favourite photos, I think there are around 180 photos in the album, but as that’s only around 3 a week I don’t think that’s too bad considering the number of photos on my iPhone.

Wore

An uninspiring category this week, simply lots of layers as it’s been freezing.  I haven’t been anyway near the sales so no new purchases to enjoy and model.

Heard

I like a a little theme for my listening so on New Year’s day I listened to some new year tunes.  Happy New Year by Abba, New Year’s Day by U2 and Queen of the New Year by Deacon Blue.  The Abba track is such a lovely song and the words very prophetic, it talks about changes 10 years from now when neighbours become friends, the 10 years on is 1989, one of the most momentous years of the 20th century.

And finally, we’re looking forward to a quiet weekend, we have cricket club on Saturday and then we’re off to big town to choose the tiles for our bathroom renovation and possibly some bowling, an ‘incentive’ (bribery) for the children to counter the boredom of a tile showroom.

I’m linking up with the lovely Morgana and her gorgeous contributors for #littleloves at http://www.coffeeworksleeprepeat.com

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Christmas Memories 2016

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Today, I have tidied away our decorations, filled in my Christmas planning book and reflected on Christmas 2016.  It was fantastic and made very special by our holiday to Lanzarote where we could just focus on our little family and have fun together, with no other pressures.  The more Christmases I experience the more I look for the true values and sentiments of the season.  I do think I held steady to my beliefs this year, I bought from local shops, only buying what was needed and took great care in my present buying.  My favourite present given was to my Mum and daughter, I sent some of Little Miss’ favourite old dresses to a lady who creates a keepsake from them, they both love their rabbits and the story of them.  Our family received one of the most thoughtful and fun presents this year, a family advent calendar, my friend chose 24 presents and labelled them with our names and the date so we could take turns in opening them.  My presents included a coffee at a favourite cafe, lovely samples of expensive toiletries etc..  It was an incredibly thoughtful and a delight to open every day.

Below are my highlights of the season, interestingly most of these were community events with very little cost (except the holiday)

1. Carol concerts and the Nativity.   We attended two carols by candlelight services, one for beavers and the second for school.  They were beautiful and a delightful mix of traditional and contemporary music choices.  Both made me focus on the spiritual side of Christmas and the peace which accompanies such reflections.  The nativity was incredibly sweet, Little Man wore a tea towel on his head as part of his inn keeper costume.  It was as every nativity should be, it was with sadness that I realised that was probably my last as it’s only Key Stage 1 who do the nativity at the children’s school.

2. The Christmas tree festival.  In our town this festival just gets bigger and better. It’s the opportunity to see 45 decorated trees, do Christmas crafts, listen to live performances, dress up in nativity costumes.  It’s truly magical and a real treat.

3. The Christmas Market.  The market is one of the highlights of the year.  The main Street is closed and beach huts brought in to become alpine sheds.  There is live music all day performing different styles of music, from sing along carols to glam rock Christmas hits.  This year there was a crafty and artisan theme to the stalls and I bought a few decorations.  There are also lots of charity stalls for local causes ad it is just an occasion to meet friends and enjoy hot chestnuts and a warming drink.  We had a fish and chip lunch after our visit, which was a perfect end to the trip.

4. Advent calendars.  I was totally won over by the Lego advent calendars this year, the children loved them and as they were not allowed to open them until they were dressed the morning routines became so much easier in December.  I justified the cost by simply deducting the price from my Christmas budget.  Little Man has already asked Tommy the elf who arrived with the calendars if he can have another next year.

5. Tommy the elf.  Our little elf is just pure magic and my favourite new family tradition.  Tommy rocks x

6. The kindness of neighbours. In my Christmas Day post I explained how our neighbours set up our Christmas for us and filed our fridge with all the necessities.  Their help meant that the children may just believe for a few more years.

So this has been Christmas 2016, I am already looking forward to 2017 and have noted a few ideas to follow up. I believe it’s never too early to start planning!