Sponsored video: Flavour of Home.

The new Knorr “Flavour of Home” campaign has got me thinking about how we changed our meals for the better in this house. Not long after milk intolerance hit the household, Max made the bold step into proper home cooked food for the family every day, with meals always eaten together around the table and mealtimes becoming part of the fabric of our family and household. It was something profoundly new for me; my parents ate separately from us most of the time and the first few years of having children involved meals around a little table for them and a later, post work, meal for me and Max. He was used to a very different way though, having always had meals with his dad, brother and step mother through teenagerdom and combined with finally taking over the cooking, he made dinner time change for the better.

Meal times have been something very special to us over the last 10 years and the more recent melee (and I use the word advisedly) of evening activities has punctured our routine and made them less regular, something that affects us all. For years the nightly sit down together to chew our food and chew the cud, chat about current affairs and practice times tables was as much part of our routine as tucking people into bed. We had our ‘dinner winner’ award for best table manners and much of our family closeness came from those conversations around the table. You can smooth out a lot of angst, argument and anxiety over a family meal.

The meals have always been the heart of it. Unlike me (functional food, as quick as possible) Max really likes to cook and he puts plenty of effort into texture, flavour and ingredients. There are so many meals here which are part of what makes us a family; the particular blend of chilli spices, his way of making Mediterranean couscous, the Ragu he has perfected over several years, the curry created especially to deal with cashew, mango and milk allergies plus a girl who hates onions. Everything is familiar and recognisable and we’d be lost without them. Those tastes are part of the family.

The girls often talk about how, once the leave home, they’ll need a set of ‘special daddy blend’ spice jars and a recipe book to recreate all his foods for themselves – I’m happy to oblige but I’m hoping we can lure them home more often by offering free food and a regathering around the table. It’s bad enough at the moment now that we can only sit down together twice a week but when people start leaving, it will be awful. :(

knorr

Knorr has recently conducted some research into how flavour can affect our sense of well being, bringing comfort and contentment and showing how it is deeply connected to our emotions and feelings. Home cooking (I’ll glide over the research saying ‘mother’s cooking’ here!) brings back memories of childhood and feeling loved and cared for. Their team of over 300 chefs from all around the world, bringing together the tastes of 48 nationalities with the individual dedication and personality of home cooked meals.

This video is a rather lovely tale of a girl working far from home and her reaction when unexpectedly, she starts eating a meal cooked by her mum. I can just imagine the reaction if my girls suddenly found themselves served up the chilli they have grown up eating, or the ragu that is a staple of the our week, just when they least expected it. It would, undoubtedly be the greatest taste on earth. The taste of home.

Find out more on the Knorr website.

Sponsored by Knorr.

Willpower and me. Ways round my rule breaking habits.

I spend an awful lot of time coming up with ‘sensible’ ways to reward myself, my children and the family in general for the mundane nature of life these days. This is mainly because I have an awful lot of NOT SENSIBLE ways of rewarding that I really need to break as habits.

  • I let myself have the odd bundle of diamonds on Hay Day for being a good girl and doing all my work – while conveniently forgetting I’m robbing my own real life farm savings pot while I play.
  • I use up 3 balls of yarn and buy another 3 to finish the project but pretend I’m not actually buying more yarn at all because if I have to finish something I need it. This means the money I spend doesn’t count.
  • I’ve stopped running because I ‘don”t have time’ and I make myself feel better about this by having a quick snooze’.
  • I eat chocolate to make myself feel better about getting fatter. (Sigh).

I am, of course, much better at telling people (by which I mean the girls) how to live than living that way myself.

  • Don’t play in app purchase games, play Animal Crossing.
  • Find something to use instead of buying more and make it a design feature.
  • Get off your bum and go for a run.
  • Have a drink and a piece of fruit first and then have chocolate if you really need it.

Willpower can be a problem. I’m a natural good girl but a shocking ‘minor rule’ breaker and if someone sets me a rule, I have a tendency to break it for the sheer hell of it. So I have to set my own goals and rules and stick to them rigidly; once I’m off the plan, I’m off it like a ten tonne barrel rolling down a mountain.

So….

  • I’m excellent at staying on a diet, but dreadful once I have a day off. Effectively, it’s over.
  • I’m great at not buying yarn right up until I do. Then… buy more storage. Quickly.
  • If I have a round number in a bank account, I keep it there. Use some, it all goes.
  • Following a list? Brilliant. Miss a deadline? Disaster.
  • Don’t know where to start? I just DON’T START.

I made the mistake recently of allowing Amelie to try to save up for a holiday by doing a certain number of jobs per month; she was brilliant for a few week and then collapsed and has had to be nagged ever since. It’s not arduous, vacuuming the house once a week and reading 3 books a month but MAN, is she lacking in willpower :( She’s the same (like I am) in so many ways. Unless her room is perfect, it is a total mess. Unless she starts reading on the first of the month, she doesn’t start at all till the 22nd. Unless she is doing really well at gym with a goal to hit, she has to be dragged there. No amount of carrot or stick seems to work particularly well for either of us.

So, rather tongue in cheek, I’m considering a programme of reverse psychology on myself. I’m not entirely sure how well it will work, since I can only see it working if at least 50% of me has no idea what is going on, but it has to be worth a try. (And I’m usually so tired, that seems potentially achievable!)

My new to do list is going to be something like as follows (I take no responsibility for anyone following my advice):-

  • Buy chocolate and eat it as soon as I’ve been for a run. I will get fitter, I shouldn’t get fatter.
  • Stop playing app games but have a go at something like bingo sites with free sign up bonus; small advantage, I might even win something.
  • Put my money into something I can’t take it out of without a fight with an admin centre far, far away but put a tiny amount each month into a reward pot and use it to….
  • Buy yarn. Because I really can’t think of a way of curing myself of that particular problem. I’ve tried. I failed. C’est la vie.

Piece of cake.

Invented another muffin: fudge and apple. Josie made them.

Actually, yes; cake anyone?

This is a collaborative post.

 

Watching our Solar System by Live Feed in a Safe Environment.

I’ve just done a quick check to find out what the schools our kids go to are doing to help kids experience the eclipse tomorrow. The answer, unsurprisingly and in keeping with a lot of other schools, is they won’t be allowed to be outside to feel the world go dark and hear the birds stop singing because it is too dangerous and they can’t guarantee the kids won’t look at the sun.

About which, you could say a million things and I’ll settle for these:-

  • The sun is there all the time and they can stare at it and blind themselves any time they like. Generally they don’t, given even the biggest idiots in the word tend not to be a massive fan of pain and blindness.
  • Most of life has the potential for extreme danger, not least being in large public buildings, filled with unpredictable hormonal people and adults who may, in the light of recent media attention, be there because contact with minors is something they like for the wrong reasons.
  • Walking to school is extremely dangerous. Possibly too dangerous to risk. Perhaps they shouldn’t do it. So is going in a car. Or on a bike. All have potential for maiming and death.

But the point that I think is the most damning indictment on this is the following:-

  • Schools are about education, learning, life skills and growth from child to autonomous adult. To shield our children from any possible danger or responsibility for themselves through their schooling is to deny them the right to learn, accept responsibility for themselves and grow into adults.

It’s not rocket science.

  • Don’t stare at the sun.
  • Buy some special glasses to view it.
  • Take fleeting glimpses even when taking precautions.
  • Don’t look at it through any sort of camera lens.
  • Follow good guidelines.
  • Don’t improvise equipment and think it will do. Sunglasses are not good enough.

This is an amazing event. They happen rarely and are an extraordinary event to experience. The earth goes still and dim, the birds cease singing and a hush falls that is eerie even if, as in the case of the 1999 one, it is cloudy.

You cannot experience that in a classroom by live feed. You cannot learn the skills of watching one safely by a list of instructions you don’t get to try out in a classroom with drawn blinds. It is beyond shocking that this is being tied up as a danger instead of an important teaching opportunity.

Use it. Rebel. Keep them off school and make a pinhole camera. Sit still and feel it.

But for the love of Mother Earth, don’t let them be sat in a classroom watching an amazing event, one that has been seen as a portent of doom through the ages, instead of walking on the ground and feeling it happen.

I honestly despair.

If you more or less obliterate Peterborough, it can be quite pretty.

Everyone pray for light fog ;) And some common sense.

Don’t blink. 

I don’t know what I’ve written in previous Mother’s Day posts. Tears, pain, joy, gratefulness, love. 

The whole caboodle. 

Mother’s Day is best sidled up to when someone is missing. It’s not about gifts or even about being special. 

Perhaps it’s about remembering the duties. Perhaps it’s seeing the space or choosing not to. 

They all did special things for me today. I was out, doing something I needed to do that will mostly benefit most of them. I could tell you but they are a pile of words I don’t have tonight. Words I need to do better. 

The simplest gift was this. 

?

He made it at nursery early in the week, told me about it and gave it to me with huge excitement. 

The best bit though was the telling. 

“‘Mummy, I made you a secret card!”

“Did you? Does it have a flower on it?”

Cue total wonder in his face…

“Yes!” 

Being a mummy is magic. But while I can get away with still being magic, I’m happy to pull the stunts. ?????

Sponsored Post: Working Mum?

Long term readers (are you still there?!?!) will know I’ve been an unconventional working mum for a long time. I’ve always been at least partly at home with my children and fitted working in around them – or sometimes the other way round. I was asked to write about a course that aims to help mums change from employment to self employment. Lizz has produced a video which is at the bottom of the post. I’ll admit, I found some of it painful and difficult and provoked a defensive feeling in me. I’ve not had to go ‘out’ to work for a long time on a daily basis, partly because I feared the impact of it on the girls but that doesn’t mean that I’m unaware of how guilt and anxiety can play on people who have to do so. Nor should anyone feel they HAVE to stay at home either. We are all different.

I’ve written recently about how I’ve had to change my own personal circumstances to suit our changing needs; it has pushed me hugely out of my comfort zone in all sorts of ways. For one thing, learning to work for other people again has had some massive challenges after being self employed for so long and for another, we’ve discovered that any idea I initially had of ‘going out to work’ to earn the money the family needs is a pipe dream I can’t achieve alongside a family business that depends on Max and just one staff member. There is no such thing as an ‘average’ day and if staff illness, a technical hitch and a contagious child alongside 3 hospital appointments can all happen at once, you can guarantee they will.

I’ve had to accept that what I need to do is find a hybrid working life of part time, flexible and with understanding clients – and that hasn’t been an easy start. 5 children and a business take more ‘running’ that 2 working people can manage.

That’s far from the biggest challenge for me though. I’ve had to put my precious rainbow baby into nursery and leave a ‘slightly unhappy’ child in school. This is so far from what I believe in that it has been painful; I was that over-zealous home educating stay at home mum who thought I had it all sussed. I built the business when hardly anyone else did similar. I was successful, clever, go-getting and possessed of an energy that created success – and I did all of that with 4 little home educated girls at my knees. Intimidating much?

I know I hacked a lot of people off back then. I didn’t mean to. I just felt I had it right. And, if I’m honest, I still do.

I’m far more accepting and understanding that things can change now, that circumstances weave in a way that makes leaving work hard – or leaving the school system hard – but I’ve not changed my opinion, even if I don’t practice what I preach. I still think that home with a parent is the best places for little people to be. I don’t rate school at all. I have a slightly higher opinion of good early years provision. I don’t think I can venture an opinion on what it feels like to have a burning drive to have a career and work somewhere full time because I have simply never felt that way.

My children live roughly in the model I grew up in – one working parent and one parent who works from home. It’s all I can imagine. Our current ‘2 parents working 3/4 of the time each in an ever changing balance’ barely feels manageable. I honestly can’t imagine us both being out all day every day.

From being in the position of my ideal – and indeed what the focus of this post is about – I’ve found myself spun into a position I don’t really believe in. I know Josie would be better at home with me and I’m absolutely sure reception is not a place I want Bene to go. I appreciate and understand that some people are absolutely best suited to a full time workplace life and far from critical of people who choose it. But it isn’t for me. I know, all the time, that even with a fairly flexible balance, we are all short changed by me not being a perfectly balanced work at home mum.

I worked for myself from when Fran was really small. I found very quickly that I needed a challenge, a target, something to work on. Full time parenting of a baby or toddler was not for me and I found it tedious, lonely and fulfilling. Doing party plan, weight loss consulting and a number of other thing was perfect for me. Owning my own small business and driving my own success would have been brilliant – if it hadn’t spiraled out of my control by being (at the time) too successful. But I always liked being home with my children. I’m absolutely sure, with all the imperfections it produced, that was better for them.

We were probably right at the end of large-ish young families being able to live on one professional wage. We certainly couldn’t do it now and both of us earning has become a necessity if we want the kids to have the opportunities that are making them remarkable people. Every time I see a face fall because I can’t just sit down and listen to them RIGHT NOW, I feel guilty or frustrated. I feel as if I am always thinking ‘I could do x,y or z better if I had time’ and that includes parenting. But I have to remind myself I’m doing my best and I’m here more than I might easily be if I had made other choices. Perfect would be one happily and perfectly fulfilled full time parent and loads of money-  the reality is we do our imperfect best.

This last year the older girls occasionally let themselves in; it happens rarely enough to be a novelty and I’m glad it didn’t have to happen earlier in their life. They don’t seem to mind but they prefer to come home to a parent. This year I’ve been more stretched when it comes to being at every school event and ever pick up but I know one of us can always go and collect a poorly child if needs be. This year I’ve had to ask Josie to stay in school when she doesn’t want to but I’ve been able to flex that to a single day at home with me a week while I work alongside her. It’s a balance, a stressful balance, but it more or less works for them.

This is a sponsored post about the impact having 2 working parents can have on children. The video upsets me because I don’t particularly enjoy knowing something will press the pain buttons of people paddling to manage on just the other side of the fence I’m paddling madly on. I’m uncomfortable with it having a ‘neglected’ feeling because I’m not about making people feel guilty particularly and I don’t know that pulling on heartstrings and pushing guilt buttons is a good thing. I know that full time workers bust a gut to make sure they meet their kids needs. I do know that at least one of my children currently feels a bit like the child in the video and is trying her hardest to understand why she isn’t getting the life her older sisters got. However, Mums 30 Day Business actually about finding a way to change the situation if you and your children are not happy with the status quo. Sometimes it takes something uncomfortable to make us do that. That’s what Lizz wants to achieve with her video; the metaphorical kick in the backside to challenge the people who aren’t happy into doing it differently. She’s been there and done it and changed her life to one better suited to her family and wants to help people do the same. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

10963712_649978715130445_205565079_n

The irony is, here I am sitting at my desk during half term, writing a work post while my kids entertain themselves upstairs. Working from home, working for yourself – that’s tough too. Life has to be about balance.

What would be the perfect balance for you? Would you rather work for yourself or do you prefer working out of the home or for someone else? Is the video a realistic interpretation of what being a ‘latch key’ kid can feel like? Were you one? Is it fulfilling enough to make everything else in a family secondary? Is it mostly about the money and not choice at all? Tell me?