Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Just Me

Jodie at Life with Pink Princesses has initiated a new Blog Hop today, where the focus is only on ME or YOU the writer, your likes and dislikes, what makes you tick and what defines you.

Great idea I hear you say, the vast majority of Blogs are focussing outwards, writing about family, society, etc from the point of view of the observer. Something different! In reality though, no one wants to read a Blog entitled "All About Me" - unless you are some uber famous, ultra cool celeb - and then I'm not sure anyone *really* wants to read about you - but it certainly sells magazines. Especially if you exaggerate. At least a little.... or quite a lot. But the occasional inward searching comment from an author can certainly illuminate their writing.

It's actually incredibly hard to stop and think about yourself if you are a busy parent, employed or not. (see, I didn't say "working" or not, as everyone knows stay at home parents work incredibly hard too!! :P ) It seems my every waking moment is focussed on the needs of the family - furry members included. Even those silent hours in the night are all too frequently occupied with insomniac worries about everyone else - except me. 

It can actually be quite scary to focus on yourself, Suffolk Carers recently undertook a survey about the personal health of carers in the county, because it is widely recognised that those who care for anyone frequently neglect their own health and needs. And the same is often true of parents who are not "carers" in the official sense, our anthropological instinct is to focus on our family, often at the expense of ourselves. At a very basic level being a parent is your priority, the rest of you is pushed a little sideways, or morphs into the new "parent-you" by necessity.

So I've spend all day mulling this over, whilst cooking, doing the ironing, feeding the cats, cleaning out the guinea pig, feeding the cats (again) and spending a not-inconsiderable amount of time photo-shopping my youngest son's class "Travelling Bear" into a picture of the Tardis in the absence of any exciting alternative photo opportunities..... Don't ask - but I think the result was pretty good for a first attempt!

1) You see, that's definitely one of the things which defines me. I am pretty competitive. Not in an unpleasant superior way (honest!!!) but just that I love a good competition. Be it a debate, race, test, you name it. I give it 110%. And some. In the face of holidays to Marrakech, Turkey, Disney and Kenya in the Travelling Bear book I got competitive - with a sense of humour. Which brings me neatly to number 2.

2) Sense of humour. Whilst there is definitely an element of "If I don't laugh I'll cry" on occasion, and also times when I can have a complete sense of humour failure (often after several nights of insomnia, see above) I do prefer to see the funny side of most things. This is pretty much normal in our house with a generous helping of quirky family twisted humour. So photo shopping Bob the Bear onto the Tardis had me in stitches, I just hope the teacher gets the joke! (Apparently it's not good enough according to my other half though as I forget to include a fez.)

3)Those of you who know me will be wondering why organisation is not at the top of the list, although really it's more the need to be obsessively tidy. Despite a husband, four children, three cats, and a guinea pig doing their utmost to challenge me on a daily hourly basis with this one, I win through most days. (See, more competitiveness there...) I am also very organised too, but this is second to an inner need for order amidst the chaos. There are many aspects of our  my life (taking control there, it's about me, right?) over which I have no control. Exerting extreme domination over the house and its contents makes me feel SO much better.

4)I am also extremely creative. And practical. I can usually find a solution to most things, and am equally handy with a hammer as a sewing needle. I can't be doing with waiting for assistance (lacking patience should perhaps be another key point here) and will always just get stuck in. Aaaaaand hurt my back/hip/arm/whichever takes the most strain on that occasion. Yes - definitely impatient! I rarely have the opportunities to indulge my creative side as much as I would like, but I'm not fussy about the medium. Clay, photo/image manipulation, designing web pages, sewing, knitting, baking, whatever. Love it.

5)Not sure why I saved it to last - but currently my Blog defines me well.  I love writing (and reading, which inspires me) as I explained here . No matter what I write about, Blogging/writing is something I am doing for myself, and it is something I derive a huge amount of satisfaction from. Perhaps most of all it is MY time that I write in - in the small hours when the children are asleep, whilst they are at school and the dinner is cooking, those precious little snatches of time where I reassert my individuality and reclaim myself in a way nothing else has permitted. Blogging for me is sanity preservation, a unique way of hanging on to that part of me that has been drowned out by my life as a parent and carer. And, most importantly, it allows me to be a better parent and carer as I have an outlet. Somewhere to be me.

This post is part of the “Just Me” blog hop every Tuesday.

Just Me - Life With Pink Princesses

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Alpro Soya "Nut-Gate"

This is copied from my Recipe Resource Blog . 

The Interwebs are currently buzzing with the news that Alpro Soya are now printing warnings of potential hazelnut and almond contamination in their soya products as they are altering sites for production of their dairy free alternative milks. Understandably, there is an outcry as many who avoid dairy products choose soya as their dairy substitute and are also allergic to nuts. Alpro responded to concerns on the Allergy UK website. Certainly their measures sound as stringent as anything any parent of an allergic child can achieve by any other means but there are always those who will be affected. This is a production choice Alpro have made and they may indeed lose customers because of it. However, I sincerely believe the bigger issue is being ignored here.

In an increasingly allergic world there are as many combinations of allergies in individuals as there are allergic people. And any reliance on only one substitute can precipitate issues including new allergic responses. The reliance of the dairy free industry on soya is not a long term option, far too many people have IgE and non IgE responses to Soya - and it is one of the "Big Four" to avoid  according to many health professionals. Certainly Gt Ormond Street Hospital advise going "MEWS free" as an important first step when embarking on exclusion diets. (MEWS = Milk, egg, wheat and soy)

Undoubtedly Allergic Disease is almost epidemic at present with the UK topping the world table of incidence of allergic disease. More about that here, information learned when I attended the All Party Group for Allergy at Westminster this Autumn. We should not be complacent in our careful replacement of major allergens from our own or (especially not) from our children's diets. Fortification of alternatives (e.g. calcium and Vitamin D in milk alternatives) is essential, as is careful pricing of worthwhile products, support for new producers and accurate information for consumers. The fact that yet another producer appears to have caved to the litigation-prevention soft option is not good news. It seems a massive fob-off for those shopping for exclusion diets - avoiding the issue of careful checking and stringent manufacturing processes. Or does it?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Feminism? I prefer Realism!

I watched with interest the new trailer for Goldieblox this evening, the toy taking America by storm. It made me so happy and yet profoundly sad in quick succession and I'll tell you why.

I'm not that old - really I'm not. I might have hit the big 4-0 this year but my childhood (despite assertions to the contrary from my seven year old twins) was not in the "Olden Days". We had TV, most mod cons and even (*gasp*) computers and computer games before I was out of my teens. Yet why does my childhood seem so very, very long ago - especially when I consider my daughter's experiences?

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Education at 3? No thanks.

Sally Morgan, Chair of OFSTED wrote a guest blog post for Mumsnet defending her belief that children should
begin their education as toddlers to be "school ready" at 5. Whilst claiming, in her own words
“The importance of the quality of the provision small children have in early years settings is well documented, but as I found last week in the reactions to a speech I made, the whole topic is quite contentious! "Early years" provision includes nurseries, childminders, nannies, play groups and, of course, these are often part-time and mixed with time at home with parents or grandparents."
She then goes on to see that she would like to see more of
"the 3-18 model is working successfully in many academies up and down the UK."
I strongly disagree with this. Shipping children off outside the home too early can be highly detrimental emotionally, especially to boys. There can never be a "one size fits all" approach to pre school provision and all children are different - and they are all also very, very young. Parents know their children best and choice is always a good thing. Preschools, childminders, family members and - shock horror- PARENTS THEMSELVES are in fact very well placed to deliver an excellent pre school experience in a loving environment. Sadly with the increase in nursery classes at school (which OFSTED actively encourage) taking children as young as 3 the numbers of state funded children attending pre schools (and other settings) is falling - and those wonderful places are closing in alarming numbers.

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Paradox of Social Media

I often think of my life as a Venn Diagram. You know, the social circles which Google + uses to illustrate your groups of friends and your interaction with them, the overlapping sections where you know people from more than one group etc. It sort of works. But I think I need some kind of 3 D version, with options to be just outside each circle, or on the periphery- never quite breaking in to any one sphere. Because that's how it's always felt. It was like feeling I was on the outside, looking in.

After no small amount of consideration I believe this is a casualty of life complexity, life just getting in the way. You see what that simple 2D diagram is missing is the dimension where the space/time continuum shifted sufficiently that I missed that all important first meeting to be part of circle A because someone was ill, or when I couldn't make the follow up discussion in circle B because at that moment I was considering something completely different on topic C after a night of even less sleep than the previous one, and I still hadn't completed the necessary paperwork to access the circle D which was hurtling ahead faster than I could keep up.

It's like plate spinning in a schizophrenic multiverse that you are trying to stay in tune with. And it's not going to happen without a revolution in technology facilitating multi-place time travel with cloning, but that doesn't make it any less lonely.

Social Media as  Window to the World
That's where the internet comes in - for me, it knits it all together, providing that additional dimension which seems to touch on (almost) all areas of my life and keeps me in the loop. Without it I would certainly feel more disconnected and definitely less "complete" as a person. It's like a layer of superficial cling film which keeps me connected to all those circles which make up my life. But the internet can all too easily become something very dark and distorted. This week I have become painfully aware of the dangers on the internet. especially for our vulnerable teens.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Mummy Blogger? P L E A S E ........

Mumsnet are currently hosting Blogfest 2013 .

Although I have been active online and on many forums for the past 12 years I have always avoided Mumsnet to be honest, mainly because whilst being a Mum is most definitely the best job in the world, belonging to a forum focussing further on parenting and the minutiae of day to day life bringing up children is the antithesis of why I use the internet. And I find the notion of "Mummy Blogger' restrictive, patronising and mildly insulting because in Blogging I assert myself, the "me" that exists beyond my role as Mum and the essential part that is often buried deep beneath it.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Was this in the Plan? Blog Hop Post

Steph over at "Was this in the Plan" has started a Blog Hop which I am delighted to participate in!

The Power of Coco Pops!

I've taken the liberty of re-hashing a post I wrote in SATS week this year, because for me it speaks volumes. As a Primary school teacher I have many ideas about how "learning" and "education" works. My second son has forced me to revisit and mostly rethink them. Certainly not "In the Plan" when I planned my family, and perhaps most profound is the "learning" I have done along the way alongside him.

Technology in school - when embracing the future is a step too far.

Our children's school is making the bold move of not even providing iPads in school but adding them to the school "kit" list. It *is* an independent school but I still find the assumption that parents are going to cough up several hundred pounds for an expensive luxury is a little insulting. Christmas is not a big spending spree in this house and our children are pretty fortunate already. If tablet devices were going to replace the extremely heavy sets of textbooks our children lug to school and back each day then I might be in favour, but content available is still very American, and very restricted.

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