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Resourceful Shelly

Adapting as life goes by

Limiting our children’s screen time during the six weeks holiday… yikes…

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So my fourteen year old son pulled an all nighter on his computer.  He is not the first child and no doubt he won’t be the last. Even my generation tried that on.  Pah, who didn’t try and hide their portable black and white tv with the dodgy aerial under the bed covers after lights out?   He has this habit.  The same habit as many.  Mum goes to sleep.  Mums get tired.  Son gets back out of bed and puts his computer on.

6am in the morning.  I hear the click of the keys coming from his bedroom.

“Have you been asleep at all last night?” I asked.

“Yes, of course I have.” He fibbed.

“Are you sure?” I rub my temples. Noting his tired face. “You’re never up this early.”

“I’m missing my sister.  She’s back today.” He fibbed once again.

He never misses his sister that much.  He normally does anything he can to avoid her.

He’s never up at 6 am.  He’s a teenage boy.  Teenage boys sleep and my teenage boy is no exception. Well they sleep the day away if they’re given the chance.  Sleep the day away and don’t want to sleep at night.

“Right, off the computer.” I order.  He knows he’s got no choice.  I drink my coffee, he goes back to bed and I go to a car boot for a couple of hours.  I picked up a great door curtain for just £2 – another job, waiting to be done.

I got in and he was still sleeping.  We’re two weeks into the holiday and screen time is driving me potty.  A constant battle.  The average child having access to 7 devices.  So different to when I was a child (1980’s kid) and we had the telly  with limited childrens programmes during limited hours.  A Sega Mega drive shared amongst the entire family and videos when the parents could afford them.  Kids today have so much technology and my children are no exception.  They don’t have to share with each other as they have a lot.

So first week of the hols.  We went on holiday.  No wifi so the kids had no technology.  24 hours they went cold turkey and were grumpy.  But after the 24 hours I found their personality’s had resurfaced and their souls were no longer on their hard drives or in cyber space.  Their faces looking much more relaxed and they became human as they began living reality and not virtual reality.  Second week of the hols, I’m busy with appointments and washing and unpacking.  The kids got back into their old habits.  I’m now on week 3 and enough is enough.  We can’t have 4 more weeks living online.

I know I’m not alone with my concerns for my sons cyber addiction.  Many parents are in the same boat.  Children wanting to spend all day either on laptops, tablets, computers, phones or game machines.  Cyber addiction is serious.  It releases the same chemicals into the brain that are released into the brain of gamblers.

Enough is enough.

So I woke him up, by hoovering his bedroom and banging a few pans. Harsh I know but I wasn’t up for a repeat performance and gently coaxing him out of bed with an explanation would never have worked. Gave him his lunch and sent him and his siblings to the park.  Alone.  Time to give me time to think.  How to break the screen time.

We know as parents that children spend too long on devices.  We don’t need experts to tell us that they spend too long.  We think about the impacts on our children’s wellbeing in the long term – but we don’t need preaching at.  We know.  But for many of us, if we’re honest.  Devices are easy.  We’re getting on with jobs, they’re on the device.  We’re having an off day, they’re on the device.  Maybe while working in the holidays they’re on their devices. Lots of children, we don’t have more than one pair of hands – they get on those devices.  Poorly parents they’re on devices.  No two households are the same.  So devices are not up for judgement.  We lose control because we can’t be in two places at once, we’re not super human and before we know it, they’ve spent the entire time on the device.  Here are some ways I’ve thought of to encourage our children to get off their devices.

Younger children are generally easier to control on the devices.  Children from 7 – 12 need more coaxing.  Teenagers it’s practically impossible – they need a push.  Many of us don’t have oodles of money or time to take them out constantly.

  1. Drop the teenagers at the swimming pool – passes time, you don’t have to be there unless you want a swim yourself.
  2. Look at the jobs that you have to do around the garden.  Perhaps they can help you paint a fence or chop the hedge.  The family who plays together stays together.  The family who does jobs together bond together.  Encouraging team work.  They’re going to grumble.  Let them grumble but get a job done.
  3. Send them out of the house.  They might complain they’re bored.  But give them the gift of boredom.  We had boredom as children, boredom gave us initiative skills.  My son told me he was bored. I replied “boring people are bored, find some excitement.” Of course you might want to help with this by giving a few props or suggestions.
  4. When you go shopping, take them shopping.  If they complain.  Give them a choice.  Go shopping or go outside.  Obviously that’s more applicable to teenagers.
  5. Similarly when you go to the corner shop, take them with you, they might grumble but even at work we’re told to take regular breaks from our screens.
  6. If they’ve spent a long time on their devices.  Take them out for a walk.  Walks cost nothing and it’s great time for them to chat.  Time together.
  7. Go out for the afternoon.  Leave the phones at home.  Keeps the grown ups off them too.  We know we’re just as guilty.  And yes there is the saying “Do as I say, not as I do.”  But it’s good for us too.  Builds up the interaction.  Forces our attention where it should be.
  8. On the car journey, ditch the devices.  There is nothing up with windows or a game of eye spy.  It’s old, it’s retro, they’ll grumble, argue, maybe drive you mad.  But should we really be interfering with communication.  Even grumbling and arguing is communication, it’s how we all learn.  It’s not always about having an easy journey.
  9. Back to retro.  Invest in retro games.  Board game after dinner.  You’ll be surprised how quickly they stop grumbling and start enjoying something new.
  10. Bikes, rollerboots, swing ball, badminton sets.  Most have something in the shed or garage.  Get them outside regular.
  11. Books.  Encourage reading or hobbies such as drawing or photography.  Again, it’s getting children outside, it’s taking them away from devices.

I know I’m not alone with children addicted to the screen.  I hear the children chatting and laughing at the computer screens.  Their friends are all doing exactly the same.  But like I say, no two families are the same and families face many challenges.  And we’re not going to get rid of devices all together.  So it’s just about breaking that day up.  Computers and games are fun for children, it’s the way we have evolved.  But sometimes I have concern that the generations are moving us forward so that the film ‘Idiocracy’ where life is ruled by virtual reality and energy drinks becomes reality.  We don’t need the experts to tell us this.  We just need to coax our children to get off the devices as much as we can.  So they don’t look back at childhood and remember nothing but graphics and communicating via Skype.

Final tip:

If you have a child pulling technology all nighters.  Work out how to turn off the electrics to their bedroom sockets.  It worked for us last night.  I don’t doubt that when my son tries that trick again.   He’ll be dumbfounded.  Why won’t the computer just switch on?

 

 

 

 

 

Can you really make an income while being a Stay at Home Mum???

FullSizeRender (3)As of the 14th June I was made redundant from my day job as a Receptionist for a local company.

I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason and I very much enjoyed my time with the company. However, I had felt a little stifled. I’d been with the company several years.  It was a lovely job in the sense that it meant I could study and work around my family.  However, here I am with a very good Honours Degree in English Literature. A Degree that I worked very hard to achieve while facing adversity and still working. I knew I wanted to do something else, something a bit more challenging, but I also very much love being a mum. I like having a job that fits around my family. And, I’m not ready to give that up.

I’ve taken a few weeks to apply for jobs which has resulted in being offered a job. But the job I got offered was a Post Graduate Job as an English Teacher – in China!!! Lovely opportunity for somebody without a family.

The job market isn’t proving easy. For many jobs in the area (small town) I’m seen as over qualified. The part-time jobs don’t seem to be catering for somebody with high qualifications. It made me think about something my Nan said to me when I was a teenager.

“The problem is that we encourage our girls to have a decent education, you get that decent education and then you have children and if you stay at home it all goes to waste.”

Her words haunted me. I do disagree to a point as no learning is ever wasted and we never know just when it might be useful – children and teenagers do grow up. Plus there is such a thing called learning for passion.  But yes we don’t appear to have too many skilled jobs that work around our children. I thought how we do live in the age when we do have more choice, more options to go out and keep our careers. These normally involve working full time. But throw in a health condition into the mix and you do have to realise your limits in how much to push your body – working part time and parenting three is enough.  Becoming ill again is not an option. Plus as a parent I’m more of a let the heart rule the head type of person. I genuinely adore being around my family. I like the challenge of being in employment but I love to be home being mum. I have never and don’t want to start now missing a thing.

I’ve been told many a time. But you have teenagers..

But and there is a but…

I’m a single parent of teenagers and a tween. Teenagers and Tweens still need parenting and I can’t be in two places at once.   Teenagers still need a routine, Drs appointment, Dentists etc… Teenagers still get poorly. Employers or colleagues are not always understanding. The dilemma for most of us. Worse if you don’t have a back-up.

I’m making money writing which is very good – opinions in magazines.  But as a wise business person once told me “you need more than one leg to your stool.” Besides, as most of us are aware it is only the lucky few who can make a very good living out of writing. That’s not to say I’m not confident or think I can’t do it. I think I can. But Writers are like Rock Stars – for every talented person who makes it there are many talented who don’t. Yet Writers can’t give up, if it’s something you do no matter how hard you try you just can’t give up. Believe me I’ve tried several times. I’ve actually boxed up my work and said I will never look at it again. But it always comes back out. So we write and we write for very little.

I’ve been accepted with Nottingham Writers which is proving to open doors. But to start with those writing projects including having short-stories put into anthologies are done without profit. And of course, writing a book is a lengthy process.

And I’m living now. I’m living now with three dependents. The pressure is on. So I need a job, a job that means I can still earn money while pursuing my writing goals. Something with flexibility. Something fun. Something opposite to writing. Something that I’ve always liked other than writing. Something that will give me the ability to socialise and give me a sense of purpose and enthusiasm.

Then Holly and Phil made a great show on ‘This Morning’ talking about the mums who are making money for a living by working at home. Using social media. If they work hard, quite a sustainable income.

I looked at the options. My own mother worked selling Tupperware. I myself worked as an Avon Rep before the birth of my daughter. It was before social media and internet shopping really took off – so door to door canvassing was successful back then. I was in the Presidents Club, I had a very good round and my hourly rate was not bad at all. But Avon in the area is saturated. As is Younique, Herbal Life etc…

Then I thought about Body Shop at Home. How I’ve always like the product, how I can easily enthuse about products that I actually buy. How my daughter will see it as fun and something that she can join in with. How I nearly signed up years ago but the town still had a shop. The shop has now gone – same as many of our town centre shops.

Today I’ve had my talks with a Body Shop Manager and decided I have very little to lose, fabulous products to gain and the experience to see whether I really can build a business to fit around my writing commitments, my family and one that will enhance my health. 30th July I will be open for business.

I will keep you posted on whether you really can make a living while balancing the home.  Whether you really can make a living having fun.

As the saying goes “A change is as good as a rest…”

And whether I fall or whether I fly – it’ll no doubt be a new experience.

https://www.facebook.com/Michelle-Body-Shop-at-Home-Party-Rep-151285951961645/?r

 

 

The Fire Child – Psychological thriller book review…

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We’re approaching the six weeks holiday and for those of us lucky enough to be spending those weeks at home with our families, we can kick back, wind down a bit and find a bit of time for ourselves (depending upon the age of children).  What better way to do that than to treat ourselves with a new book.  A book which carefully interweaves a few deathly facts.  Here is my latest recommendation:

The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne.

 All opinions regarding this book are entirely my own. I have received the book free from the Mumsnet Book Club.

Thank you to the Mumsnet team for allowing me to read and review another one of their great choice of books. I thoroughly enjoyed the last one:-

‘The Forgetting Time’ by Sharon Guskin… Bookreview/resourcefulshelly

And this one has proved to be just as good. I  enjoy a Psychological Thriller, something that makes you have to sit and put the pieces together, keeps you on the edge of your seat and as the cliché goes, makes you read in one sitting. This book did that.

The story follows the strong and independent Rachel. A girl from the council flats of East London.

“A girl who escaped reality by reading.”

I felt a strong connection with Rachel. Her working class roots and her ambitious temperament. Life deals cards. We hear the odd inkling in the story of a girl who is a survivor. But the book doesn’t reveal all until the very end. It shows and doesn’t tell. A successful technique to keep us reading.

Early in the novel we see the established relationship between Rachel and her new husband David Kerthern. An attractive, slightly older and wealthy man whose admiration for Rachel is evident. He can see her strength and determination. And rather than working against her he sees that her poverty-stricken background gives her an edge. She is smart. Although from different society classes he has a real appreciation. A whirlwind love affair and the result… Marriage after just three months.

I certainly questioned at the beginning. Is this too good to be true? The man of her dreams, an affectionate stepson and she’s living in and gained a beautiful property in Cornwall with mining history that is secluded.  The girl has come along way from home.  It must be too good to be true. After all David has been married before to a lady who died just two years previous. Left with a young son. I couldn’t help but think that he was after a quick replacement to take care of his son while he spent time working away.

Throughout the novel it is evident that the story is to be told through Rachel. First person narrative making us feel close to the character. However there is a rotation too. Some of the chapters are told through David but not in first person, they are told in third person narrative so that we keep our distance but gain valuable clues. Which works, as David isn’t particularly a warm character. Rachel has warmth – her story and the way she behaves is from her heart. David is a business man. A business man whom Rachel is smitten with and she’s very smitten with his son.

A son Jamie whose behaviour takes a sharp change towards Rachel. In the beginning he is affectionate but very quickly his behaviour becomes sinister. As you will read in the blurb (so I’m not giving too much away) he tells Rachel:

“You will be dead by Christmas.”

Chilling words.  But as outlined. Rachel is smart so she begins digging into the past. And that’s how the story gains a momentum. Jamie’s erratic behaviour, David proving to be defensive against help for his son, Rachel questioning why?  What is the mystery surrounding Jamie’s dead mother?

The end of each chapter reminds me of a soap opera, ending at a poignant point.  Unlike a soap opera you do not have to wait until the next day or the next week. You can rush to the next chapter.  Perfect for our long summer (Hopefully not too much rain).

I enjoyed the structure of the book. Each chapter starts with a picture from the mining industry or the desolation of areas within Cornwall, which adds to the atmosphere. We are able to envisage more clearly scenery surrounding the content of the book. The chapter headings also give the time element and countdown of:-

“You will be dead by Christmas.”

Starting with:-

178 Days before Christmas.

I felt that this gave a Diary type feel which is always easy to follow. We’re reading in one direction and that’s forward. However, the back story is shown through various techniques such as finding letters etc..

Again, with a review I’m trying very hard to not give the story away. It is worth picking up the book yourself and piecing together whether the marriage between Rachel and David is in fact a lie and a façade.  What has happened to his dead wife?  Is she in fact alive?

To conclude, it’s a hair-raising of a novel written by S.K. Tremayne and one that will certainly lead me on to buy ‘The Ice Twins’ a no.1. Bestselling novel that has been released previous. I’m looking forward to that.

The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne. Published by Harper Collins and is available for £12.99.

 

For more blog posts, book reviews and motherhood ramblings please follow the link:

https://www.facebook.com/resourcefulshelly

 

Single parents benefits shaming….Enough is enough…

FullSizeRender (5)Cheryl Prudham – the controversial mother of 12 has done it again. Her outspoken nature has taken her from our screen starring in ‘Benefit: Britain’s Most Shameless Mum’ To the settee of ‘This Morning’ directly in front of the lovely Holly Willoughby and silver fox Philip Schofield. And what a fuss it has caused.

Holly and Philip both with their agenda. A tv crew in front of them and no doubt the remit was to shame the newly single mother. Can I say I thought she looked pretty good considering the amount of children she has had. Personally I think if I had any more than my 3 I would not be sat on the settee looking so groomed and polished. Most mothers who are single or have experienced being a single mother no doubt sat with their heads in their hands as they watched the show.

Cheryl who originates from Kent but lives in Skelmersdale has been boasting how she wants to find a sperm donor for baby number 13!!! This starting point is where I question and I really question:

WHY DOES ANYBODY WANT 13 CHILDREN IN THE FIRST PLACE?

We often talk about the difficulties of raising children. Most of us doing the talking do not have 12! We have 1,2,3,4… possibly 6! But I certainly don’t know any with 12. I think this is something that we need to remember. Large families who are in receipt of large amounts of benefits and deemed as making this a career choice are not a lot  in the entire of the country (you are always going to get pockets of areas) than the media portrays.

I’m not even thinking about the benefits at this point. I’m thinking about the handicap. The difficulties getting out of the door on time. The constant juggle.  Making sure everybody is clean, fed, haircuts, Dentist appointments, Drs appointments, homework, housework, keeping up with schooling, hobbies, interests, quality time with each child and the list goes on and on.

Yet she sat on that settee with no doubt in my mind that she can cope. She has chosen to have them so I guess she must cope. She has proved spending large quantities of money on her children. That is money on her children. I guess that’s better than not spending on children. I couldn’t help but think ok so it’s shameless to keep having children when you can’t afford them, but is she some sort of super human being? I think with that brood of children, I’d never manage the family food shop. Where does she keep it all? How many shopping trolleys does she have to take?   How many children cling onto the trolleys? It all sounds a bit like torture to me – than a luxury lifestyle.

Not only does the majority of the country despise her and she knows it. But she isn’t hiding away either. Showing a ton of strength when many of us would have crumbled. While we cringe into our coffee cups and stare open-mouthed, there has to be an element of admiration for such balls. She genuinely doesn’t care what people think about her. Or does she?

Is her attitude a fight back from prejudice and discrimination?

What has led her on the path to have so many children?

She says she loves having children and is addicted. Is that through feelings of wanting to be loved? While everybody hates her does she see her family unit of love and protection? People do things for a reason, what is her back story? I can’t help feeling that there is much more to it than a business plan. After all with such a ballsy attitude there is no doubt in my mind that the girl is capable of earning money in many other ways, ways that don’t have such big out-goings.  Has she ever been told that she can do more in life?

Times are tight. Single parent families struggle. Families struggle. We’re all trying to survive and I don’t doubt that Cheryl Prudham is trying to survive. Maybe she thinks her outbursts will give her a celebrity status? Maybe if I was her I’d be hoping for just that. It’s certainly one way of coming out of the benefits system.   Her survival is shown through the fact she is working 16 hours a week so that her benefits are not capped. With 12 children I don’t know how she has the energy to get out the door for 16 hours a week.   But then again, it’s a way of escaping the chaos.

Cheryl Prudham’s biggest fall down is not her single parent status or the hours that she works as she doesn’t make up the rules. Therefore she is right when she says that she isn’t doing anything wrong. Single parents where the youngest child is under the age of 13 are not expected to work outside of school hours. It limits choice of job options but that is the current guidelines. Those guidelines are there for a reason and they are there for protection of a single parent and their children. After all, as I’ve said before, life is more than the now. It’s about the future and raising our children the best we can with the choices we make and have. It is more the fact she wants more children when she can’t afford to have more.  Her fall down is that she wants to spend a vast amount of money on a boob job.

But as most of us single mothers/fathers or mothers/fathers who have been single know. It isn’t like that.

  • We don’t pop out more children when we don’t take care of the children that we have.
  • We do the best we can to work the hours feasible.
  • We take into consideration how our work hours will impact on our homes and care over our children.
  • With our limited funds we try to stretch them by being resourceful, shopping in charity shops, bargain shops, bargain supermarkets and generally struggle to make ends meet.
  • We don’t have oodles of money in the bank, we probably don’t even have the luxury of an investment/mortgage for our future. We’re living for the now and providing for the now.
  • We juggle our jobs while attempting our own DIY and try to live thrifty.
  • Our battle is to try to parent our children as though we are a two parent family with a job. Ultimately the choices we make is for the benefit of our children. We want to raise children who are of sound mind and emotional intelligence.

All a single parent is trying to do is make the best out of a difficult situation.

Therefore I feel pity for Cheryl Prudham as I wonder what has taken her to a point in life that there is no getting away from.  She’s 33 and if she has another child she’s likely to be dependent upon the benefit system for many many more years. That is stilted ambition.

This Morning have given us the opportunity into the insight/snapshot of a person’s life.  However, it’s time to stop focussing on the negative side of single parents and to start focussing on the positives. It would be wonderful if Holly and Philip brought to their couch a single parent who they can praise. One in receipt of some benefits many are and indeed many double parent families are too yet trying very hard.  But then again, that wouldn’t cause such propaganda.

With every gramme, ml, second… Each spillage and splatter… I showed love… Home made cake v Shop bought…

13227233_1716646405218886_3053412486319180899_n.jpgI’m no Mary Berry… This is only the second birthday cake I’ve ever made for my children.  I’ve always thought about it.  But because they were younger I thought they’d appreciate the brightly coloured character allure from the Asda shelf.

However, this year I’ve been dishing out much advice to my children.

“Effort over grades. I will love you whatever the grade but please make the effort.”

It got me thinking this year about me always “thinking” about making a birthday cake.  I’m no Mary Berry.  I don’t have the time. The results  going to be far from perfect.

But I thought would listen and take note of my own advice.  Slightly adapted of course.

Effort over outcome.  Effort over perfection.  You only learn by giving things a try.  Let us give this a shot.  I’m certain my son will love and appreciate the effort.  It’s ok not to know, but it’s never ok to not try.

And as for the time.  Two teens, one tween, Max the Guinea Pig, a house, a garden, a job, various projects.. a boyfriend and general life.  Time is not likely to go on my side.

So I got up bright and breezy, tackled the ironing pile, sifted through many cookery books, wrote my shopping list, shot down town for petrol, back home, picked up rubbish for the tip, trip to the supermarket for the weekly shop and cake making ingredients – which are more expensive than actually buying a cake… Home to put the shopping away, taxi’d my son to town so he could spend the afternoon out at the cinema and going for something to eat as a birthday treat with his mates.  And while he was away… I decided to try my beginners luck and whip up a cake. And they say being a Mum is an unskilled job… They also say if we want to do something, we will find the time.

A Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake…

I couldn’t have attempted a more complicated recipe – unless it was a Christmas cake.

I set to work on the triple layer cake.  Rushing through weighing the ingredients, pre-heating the oven, putting the unused ingredients back into the cupboard, finding the mixing bowls.  Dusting off the electric cake mixer.  And the sponge was ready to go into the oven.  Few that bit wasn’t too messy.  At this point I’d only knocked over the large bottle of Vanilla essence, managed to lose half to the kitchen floor, quickly threw a towel over it. Loaded and put the dishwasher on.  Time to chill in the front room for half an hour and watch an old  of Sex and the City.  Now that I’m 38 I can appreciate the box set so much more.

Half hour done and if I do say so myself.  Three great sponges.  All I needed for them was to cool down on the wire rack – in speedy time.  Time started to go against me as I started to make the filling and the frosting.

This was when it started to get messy.  Throwing the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl, using the electric mixer and adding the entire contents of a bag of icing sugar… Poof a cloud of smokey icing sugar whirled around my kitchen then splatters of cake mix started artistically sticking themselves to my kitchen work top and tiles – pretty much everything in sight.

Not to be deterred I started to build the triple layer cake thinking how gooey the mixture looked.  Perhaps it would set.  The hard part, getting the frosting around the sides of the cake, letting it drip from the top and near enough throwing bits on the sides.  I told myself how I’m sure it would all be ok in the end.  The cake certainly wobbled unsteadily like a jelly.  I put the decorations on the top, threw on some sprinkles.

Voila.  I was done.  Chaotic kitchen.  With the hope the cake would set in the fridge.  Off I went to pick my son up, I was still covered in cake mix and icing sugar.

My son was in good spirits as he walked through the door.

“Have you baked me a cake?”

He asked as we were greeted with the lovely, sweet home baking scented kitchen.  I pretty much did a skip to the fridge.  Then didn’t know whether to laugh or not.  The layers had all slid off each other.

“I sort of did.” I said as I showed him the plate which resembled a bit of a mess.

“It’s still good, I bet it tastes nice.” He said while I started rebuilding the cake and put a skewer in the top.  Like a… erm… professional.

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With every gramme, ml, second, spillage and splatter, the cake was made with love… Effort and time over shop bought.  I’d put effort in.  Effort over outcome.  Learning ready for the next one.  No doubt I’ll be attempting a chocolate one for my chocoholic eldest sons birthday.

After a busy day my boyfriend came round to help me (or more likely take over) clean the kitchen which he said resembled something from a cocaine party.

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But they all really did love and polish off big slabs of cake.  Therefore I’m living by the theory that the best tasting cakes don’t always look the most perfect.

 

 

 

Standing up for our children when they don’t get the GCSE option they deserve…

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It has been a busy time in our household at the moment.  The youngest child going through her SATs, as she finishes my eldest will begin his GCSE’s.  The middle has chosen and been given his options to start his GCSE’s in September.  Therefore with all of the talk and the hype of SATs and GCSE’s my brain is frazzled just keeping the brood – fed, rested, motivated and stress free.  It’s not frazzled enough however to not stand up for my child when he nearly didn’t get a GCSE option of his choice.

It’s difficult when you’ve got three children who you are trying to support in their ventures and stages of life.

Last week my middle child came home from school completely devastated.  He’s a creative child. Very artistic and has been running his own Graphic design business since the age of 12.  Yes at just 12 he set himself up.

I’d done the thing that many of us parents do and realised his love of designing and really got it together to provide him with a gaming laptop.  Very quickly he turned the gaming laptop to profit by designing channel banners on You Tube.  Over the past 18 months I have seen his orders soar and realised this is his gift to compliment Art.  The school that he attends recognised his Artistic talents.  Now he doesn’t go to a school that has a big Art specialism.  It’s an all boys school and typically in gender fashion therefore focuses on the Academics and Sports.

Naturally for my son he wanted to take up Graphic Design for GCSE.  He told me that he had to make a choice.  Art or Graphic Design because the work load is tremendous for both and he’d been advised not to take both at the same time.  So he picked his options and chose Graphic Design.  I was slightly disappointed as I imagined my son at Art College, long hair, ripped skinny jeans and holding an art pad with a camera around his neck.  But I respected his choice telling him that when the day arrives and he finishes GCSE’s that Art could be explored and possibly photography.  I thought how it would be a wonderful combination with Graphic Design.  Art is a gift and when somebody possesses such a gift I believe it should be practised.

Therefore it was with delight when the school picked my son out and said that really he should take up Art for GCSE.  His Art teacher wants him on the course.  I spoke to the teacher and explained my sons preference.  The teacher then explained the theory that I live by:

“Do what you love and it will never be too much work.”

So that was it.  I thought how wonderful that my son would be able to take up both.  My dream of seeing him produce traditional Art work alongside technological Art work was to be going ahead.

That was until last week when my son came home and said that the school had accepted him for Art and not Graphic Design.

I wasn’t having it and I did a massive promise to my son that I would get him on the Graphics course.  I was straight on the phone to the school, left three messages, tossed and turned all night, played scenarios in my head of how I was going to have to pull him out of the school and into a school more beneficial to him.  I was questioning how a boy could be running a small little enterprise single handed and managing the financial side like a professional – not be put on Graphic Design GCSE?

The next day.  I turned from laid back individual to tigress as I defended my little cub.

I explained that I was taking this as far as I could take it.  It would be going to the governors, I would be speaking to the local paper, I had contacts with journalists, I wanted a meeting, I would be pulling my son out of their highly sought after school and how they were holding him back from pursuing his dreams.  I wanted a meeting, I had a portfolio and incomings and that I wanted to see the standard of work they expected at his age.  I was so confident that he would excel it.

You see it turns out it was an error.  The school had taken results from his cookery and woodwork components that make up DT.  He hadn’t done any Graphics since year 8.

Fortunately my tossing and turning was a mere hiccup.  One hour later the Headmaster was on the phone and informed me that my son would be on Graphic Design.  The school listened and for that I’m grateful.

It made me think  how as a mother or parent we should know our children the best of all and if something gets in their way we turn into a tigress.  I’ve done this so many times and not just for their academics.  We make the promise and we get the result.  A big result, my son saw me stand up for him and for that told me he loved me.  What a massive reward?

If as a parent we don’t stand up for our child then who will do it for them? Parenting does make us stronger.

All in all it was a successful 24 hours, that went from tears to joy.

Art and Graphic Design.  Two GCSE options that I’m looking forward to following.  I might learn something new.

 

The picture is a short cover design my son designed for me ready for me to self publish a short story.

 

My daughter is disappointed with first SATs test paper…

22009_10153312919344248_156741583211426683_nMy daughter walked through the door and slung her bag down on the settee…

“Have you had a good day at school?” I greeted her. Glass of milk and biscuit on the side.

“No, it has been really bad..” She said.  “I didn’t finish my paper, I ran out of time…”

Her disappointment was evident on her little tanned face.  She had spent her weekend playing out with friends and spending time with me in the garden.  We’d decided she’d worked hard enough.  What will be will be.

“It doesn’t matter” I shrugged.

I genuinely meant it.

There has been so much uproar surrounding the SATs tests and how they put our children under too much pressure.

But I know that my daughter has tried her best.  She has spent her time practising the papers for 20 mins each day.  She’s tackled the homework on her own and the questions that she hasn’t understood she’s asked for help.  She’s also been attending extra classes in the morning before school – she’s done this off her own back.  So I know she wanted to try and I know she has tried her best.

As a mother who has put older children through an 11+ which I see as more pressure.  With the 11+ it’s a pass or a fail. Their secondary school choice is dependent upon it.  But it was clear with my daughter that the 11+ system was not going to be the right choice for her as it was for her brothers.  I totally believe in the right school for the right child and protecting our child’s mental health.  It’s not healthy to push them too hard beyond their limits.  It’s also not healthy to push them to pass a test which they could then move into a school that isn’t right for them and they constantly struggle.

But the SATs I feel more laid back about them.  I see them as just a measure as to what our children are up to now.  I’ve explained to my daughter it’s effort over grades and she has certainly put the effort in.  Therefore as a parent how can I grumble?

“They’re just a measure…” I explained to her.  “Just a measure as to what you are up to.  When I was child there were always tests.”

I’ve turned it around that the measure will show her strengths and weaknesses, therefore what she’s weak on can be worked on.  I think it’s a healthy way to look at it and a way that won’t discourage her from learning.

SATs are just a measure.  A measure that will guide our children on so that they move on at the levels they need.   And we need to remember that they are only an academic measure.  They don’t measure all of the other skills that will push our children on in life.

For my daughter it’s her humour, her have a go attitude, her physical energy, independence, her drive and her ability with people.

My daughters school teacher has a sign on the wall…

“It’s OK not to know,  never ok to not try.”

She’s tried. I’m happy. I also think…

“Pah, not finished the paper, it doesn’t mean the other questions haven’t been answered correctly, she was clearly taking her time…”

So for any nervous parents who are going through this week with their youngsters.  Just remember.  It’s just a measure.  Their entire futures are not dependent upon it.

Unlike my eldest who is preparing for his GCSE examinations.  The pressure is on but thankfully he’s taking them in his stride.  You see he’s used to tests, test such as SATs.

 

Madonna – 57 years young… A hit back at the critics…

IMG_1553Most of us have seen the picture of Madonna plastered all over social media and throughout the tabloids.  Most of us will have seen the abundance of negative comments coverage and comments.  No doubt most of us have an opinion of some sort.

“She shouldn’t be doing it. She’s 57.”  “Put them away Madge.”  “We don’t really want to see it.”  “She’s attention seeking.”

Firstly. She’s Madonna and yes she’s 57 – she doesn’t hide her age.    Her toy boy lovers show that she’s not scared of it or slightly intimidated.  She can comfortably be the older person in a relationship.  Madonna is known for her boundary breaking.  Always has broken down boundaries and always will do.  It’s therefore not surprising that at 57 and with coverage that she’s had over the decades that right now she’s going to explore the taboo subject of women and ageing.  Something that stars such as JK Rowling have stood up for her with in the past.

I don’t know about you but I hear about the subject all of the time.  “It’s much harder to get a job as a female once you’re over forty.” “Women of a certain age should not wear short skirts.” “Women shouldn’t have long hair once they’re past thirty.”

Women should basically give up, lose their personality, destroy their soul and conform to what is seen as socially acceptable.  Socially acceptable and backward.

Not only does Madonna break down the ageing boundary but she breaks down the taboo subject of women ageing and their sexuality.  I’ve spoken to many ladies who have told me that fifty is a difficult age for women.  An age when they start to feel invisible.  Therefore I’m surprised at the amount of negativity.  Madonna’s antics this week have definitely not shown a woman in her fifties as invisible.  She’s been far from invisible.  She’s stood there loud and proud, boobs , bum, thighs on full display.  Brave and strong as a warrior.

Not because this is an outfit that she wants to wear for everyday.  But because this is an outfit that says something more than the actual outfit itself.

And she’s not backed down to the criticism.  As she boldly confesses that she’s done it as a political statement.  An intelligent woman she would have known that the outfit would have caused a stir and it has.  It has proven the very point that she wanted to prove.  We are an ageist and sexist society.  The comments down right degrading to a performing legend and women in general.

While no doubt people will have scrutinised her body from top to toe nobody would have been able to pick fault with her toned and tight figure which as we’ve seen over the decades has been achieved through exercise regimes that have worn many a body guard out.  No doubt I would imagine her plentiful sex life has contributed.  So instead the only fault to be picked on is ‘age’ and the fact she’s a woman, a strong and powerful woman with the attitude that is acceptable in men but not in women.  Does anybody say that Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzeneggar should put their toned and honed physically fit bodies away? Or do they admire them?   This to me that shows the prejudices and fears of many.  The dislike of strong women.  The dislike of a woman with a body just like Madonna.

She’s Madonna.  She doesn’t need to do a Kardashian and try and seek attention.  She’s not in the beginning stages of a career.  She certainly doesn’t need the money.  She knew exactly what she wanted decades ago and she got all of that.  Whatever Madonna does she will get attention because she’s Madonna.  From washing her car with her small children, to her gruelling exercise regimes, her highly active sex life and latest toy boy lover.  Madonna has never backed down and would we really want her to? If she did what society tells her to do and she conforms she will be nothing short of dull and defeated.  She is ahead of her time and one day we will look back and thank Madonna for yet again breaking another boundary.  She is not saying dress like me or even look like me.  She’s taking a stand for women everywhere.  For young women who will one day be older and for older women everywhere. We just can’t see it yet.  It takes a while for people to cotton on.  It’s new and it’s something we’ve never seen before.

I’ve grown up with Madonna.  I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t in the spotlight.  Age 9 listening to her latest records.  I shared a bedroom with much older sisters.  There was no way I was going to get away with not listening to Madonna.

Early teens listening to her sexualised tunes ‘Hanky Panky’ wondering what the fuss was about with ‘Like a prayer’ and ‘Papa don’t preach.’  Watched her films with her poor acting.  Poor acting or not, she’s a woman who displays a fearless attitude that as a woman I completely admire.  She’s going to do what she wants and nobody is going to stop her.

I’ve watched her constant keep up with the times.  From her thirties, to her forties to her fifties and no doubt she’ll reign through her sixties.  A complete mix of sexual hedonism, creative talent, outspoken behaviour and downright ambition.  There is no doubt that she was and will remain the original girl power.  Girl power that was invented well before the Spice Girls and has clearly outlasted them.

Now what we have is a woman who is not just showing girl power.  She’s showing the sexuality and pull of a female in her fifties. She has said in the past that there comes a point when a woman will choose her body or her face and she will always choose her body, her body is important to her. Her physique certainly doesn’t gross me out.  In fact, quite the opposite she inspires me to get out there to exercise more.  Also, she makes me think fabulous.  Sex appeal can be achieved as you head towards sixty.  Something that is needed as even Hollywood are slated for not having enough older sexy women.  Madonna is a performer, we don’t need to copy or even emulate her but what we can take away is her lesson  that is showing nothing short of Woman Power.

We loved Tina Turner rocking in her mini skirts at sixty.  We therefore should love Madonna if she’s still wearing leotards at sixty.

Image captured from yesterdays New Day Newpaper.  They fold today after 50 Episodes of their paper.  An entirely different blog in the making.

 

 

Parents… Do you neglect your own nutritional needs?

13043542_1129804410411111_1569446050436458844_nResponsible parents ensuring that their children’s nutritional needs are met are often running out of the door in the morning to go to work and forgetting to start their own day right.

Rush… Rush… Rush…We often forget to slow down.  Three meals a day we preach to our children.

“You must eat breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day.” We say as we’re rushing around getting ourselves ready for work.

A dash of lipstick, a bit of mascara, a flush of blusher.  On the outside we’re looking pretty healthy thanks to the war paint.  Last minute signing of planners,  handing out the lunch money and dealing with any other last minute requests.

Then we get out of the door.  Many parents driving their children to school, hitting the traffic, feeling the road rage, finding a parking spot.  By 9 am we’re sat behind our desk at work or whatever other profession we’re in.  We’ve depleted numerous of our own resources and not fuelled ourselves – perhaps our stomach is grumbling.  But we need to start our day job, wait for the 10.30 coffee break and tuck into a sugary snack.  By this time we’re in desperate need for the sugary snack.

It doesn’t need to be like that.

WE CAN SLOW DOWN.  WE CAN TAKE TEN MINUTES TO EAT BREAKFAST.  WE CAN FUEL OURSELVES UP.  WE CAN START OUR DAY BETTER AND WE CAN THEREFORE BE MORE PRODUCTIVE.

While preaching to our own children we need to love ourselves enough to look after our own needs.

And one of the best ways is to start the day with something that is tantalising enough for us to eat.  Something tasty that’s low in salt, low in saturated fats, low fat yet high in fibre and wholegrains.

Wholegrain – we’re told to eat more, they’re good for our heart.  Fibre – eat more they’re good for our gut.

Sown and Grown breakfast cereal is a new range of muesli and granolas.  They are gently baked in small batches and made from 100% British grains.  We’re therefore supporting our own British market.

Available in Sainsbury’s/ RRP £3.95 450g tubes.

They are high in fibre, wholegrains, low salt, low fat, low saturated fat.

Not only are they great for our bodies, refuelling us, making our day start right and therefore less stressful and more productive.  But the cereal is available in fabulous high quality tubes, that fit nicely in spaces without taking up vast quantities of space, with lids that retain the freshness.  And the great tubes can be reused by the creative and resourceful amongst us, to grow herbs or store little items around the home – crayons, small cars, buttons etc…  They also make great planters for herbs or plants.  We all love something that has a multi purpose.

So next time you’re tempted to skip breakfast, remind yourself of the example you’re setting to the youngsters in the house.  Take ten minutes, sit, enjoy, refuel and look forward to a more productive day.

Thank you Sown and Grown for sending me such a fabulous breakfast. I will be buying more.

 

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