Category Archives: Onward and upward

Another project

So, I’ve been plugging away at this parenting gig for a good long time, and I’ve now reached the point where I have children of nine and six. In fact, by this time next week, I’ll have children of ten and seven. Wow – it seems like only a couple of geological ages ago that I was getting up for night feeds. So, for those of you still struggling through the baby and toddler years, my PSA of the day is this: Yes, those rumours about how those stages end really are true. Hang on in there, and some day you too will have children who can eat the same food as you (even if they won’t), make it through most nights without requiring feeding or attention, take themselves off to the toilet and deal with all needed post-excretion cleanup activities, entertain themselves without completely demolishing your front room, and have interesting conversations to boot.

Anyway, one of the things about this age I particularly like is school. Part of that, of course, is the whole thing of having my children looked after for a few hours most days at the state’s expense, but there’s also the fact that I find it fascinating. I love hearing about what they’re learning and what topics they’re working on and seeing what Katie gets for home learning, which is what they call homework these days (Jamie is in a specialised autistic unit and doesn’t get any). And it’s something I’ve often wanted to blog about, except that I can’t think of any particularly pithy observations to make about it – just lots of rambling on about such gripping stuff as the fact that Jamie’s current class topic is Britain from the Stone Age through to the Iron Age whereas Katie’s for last term was Hot and Cold Places and we haven’t had the handouts sent out about this term’s topic yet. All of which, as riveting as it is to me, would be also of interest only to my mother, possibly some other family members, and the occasional Googler for information on what UK children might get set for homework at such-and-such an age.

While this might not seem like such a problem given that it’s not as though I write anything else on this blog these days, I do at least in theory plan to start using it for edgy observations on the state of the world or something. And then, the other day, I suddenly realised the perfect and obvious solution to this problem was to set up another blog for the sole purpose of writing about school-related stuff. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it years ago.

And thus did it come about that I have set up The School Chronicles, where I will waffle on about school-related stuff to my heart’s content while saving this blog for any actual interesting posts I ever get round to writing in the future.

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Project Simplify: Week 1

The first of the five proposed decluttering projects for Project Simplify is (please insert appropriate drum rattles and trumpet fanfares as required)… to declutter my wardrobe

I fully realise that a sizeable proportion of my potential blog audience are probably not all that excited by 'How I Got Rid Of A Bunch Of Clothes' stories and don't want to scroll through masses of photos to get to the bits of the blog they do read, so I'm going to have a shot at splitting this entry for the benefit of those who are reading from this blog's home page and really don't want to look at photos of my underwear drawer.  This shouldn't affect people who are following the link from Tsh's blog, who will get the whole post in one go.  If you are reading from the home page and do have any interest in my decluttering endeavours, just click on the 'Continue Reading' link at the bottom here.

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Resolute flying strawberries

Controversunday, formerly hosted by mmeperpetua, has now been back up and running for the past couple of months on amoment2think's blog.  The topic for this month is 'Resolutions'. 

Controversundays are traditionally on a parenting-related theme, although, now I come to think of it, that isn't specified.  In any case, my main resolution this year not only does not involve my children, they are likely to be the biggest hindrance to its successful implementation.  What I want to do is go all Flylady and get the house fully sorted, decluttered, and organised, reaching the point where I actually have a place for everything and am at least reasonably successful at keeping everything in its place.  See the problem?  Children not only make it extremely difficult to get any tidying done, they are more effective clutter-generators than just about anything else short of an obsessive hoarding disorder. 

However.  I am under no illusion that I will actually achieve this goal as stated, but I plan to do what I can towards it, and, hopefully, I may even be able to instill decluttering ideals into the kids as they grow up.  I have, in fact, already started to do this.  A few weeks before their birthdays, driven to near-despair by their sheer number of accumulated toys, I explained to the two of them that we would have to take some of the old toys to the charity shop to make room for the new toys they'd be getting for their birthdays.

"OK," Jamie agreed equably, and rushed off down the hall to announce the plan to Barry (he apparently sees one of his roles in life as being a go-between to announce the plans of one parent to the other.  On occasion he will do this even when the other parent in question is present in the same room.)  "Daddy?  We have to take some of the old toys to the charity shop to make room for the new ones we're going to get for our birthdays!  What toys can we take?"

"Well," Barry suggested, "how about the box of teddy bears?"

"Though Katie might want to keep some of them!" I called down the hall.  "Better just check with her in case there are any that she still wants."

"KATIE!" Jamie yelled, hurtling back down the hall towards us in full-throttle enthusiasm mode.  "DO YOU EVER WANT TO PLAY WITH ANY MORE TEDDY BEARS EVER AGAIN?"

I hastily intervened to try to paint a slightly less bleak picture of what was involved in decluttering, and, some days later, we all sat down with one of the many boxes in the living room and a bag for the Red Cross shop and started going through to see if there were any toys that both children could agree could go to the charity shop.  To my surprise, we managed to find half a bag's worth, although the kids still insisted on keeping quite a lot of stuff I felt convinced they weren't actually going to play with again.  I say 'the kids', but the problem was, of course, that a lot of the time one child would feel happy to dispense with a particular item but the other child would vote to keep it, and in the absence of an unanimous vote for dispension I didn't feel able to get rid of an item.  Most of the 'no' votes came from Katie, who, in all fairness, is now growing into a lot of the stuff Jamie's growing out of, but who I believe has also been unfortunate enough to inherit my inability to picture a future of doing without a particular item.  However, we have made a start. Meanwhile, I plan to try the old trick of finding a spare corner in the garage or wherever to store some of the excess stuff as a waystation to getting rid of it with a clear conscience if they do indeed never notice that it's gone.

I digress from the general topic of resolutions, though, as it happens, in so doing I am nicely fulfilling my other resolution – to blog more about the children.  I have, over the past year, been dreadfully remiss in recording all those little cute anecdotes that are such fun to read about in years hence, and it's time I rectified that.  The problem, as always, is my perfectionism – getting all the stories arranged into coherent posts with proper structure and endings and funny titles, while not missing anything I should include, always ends up being far too big a project for me to wrap my head around.  So, I need to stop my entirely unsuccessful attempts to do this, and, instead, figure out an achievable way to do the job. 

Here's my plan: Every day, I'll try to record one funny/cute/interesting story about each child.  That's it.  No feeling like I have to collect every story from the past month into one long post, no trying to work it into a theme, just recording what happened.  I won't be religious about it – there will be (plenty of) days when I'm just too tired or have too much on, and I'll cut myself some slack.  But, when I have time, I'm going to aim to write down something funny about each child from the past few days.  If I can't think of any current Cute Stories, I'll pull one from the mental archives – the vast number of unrecorded Cute Moments. 

To smooth my path still further, I'll have one all-purpose title that I can use any time that no obvious title choice presents itself, and thus I won't even have to struggle to come up with titles.  (For clarification, I am editing this to add that I'll still use proper titles when one does spring easily to mind; this is just meant to save me trouble in times when one doesn't.)  The all-purpose title in question will be Hello To The Strawberry, a line that Katie loved coming out with for a short period earlier this year  and that had myself and Barry completely mystified – it sounded as though she was quoting something, but we know of no programme that contains this line.  We never did figure out what it was all about, but I always thought it would be a great title for a blog post.  Well, now it will hopefully be a great title for several dozen blog posts.  In fact, I should probably make it a category.

OK.  So those are my two resolutions – declutter the house, and blog about the children.  On to the more general part of the topic – do New Year's resolutions even work?

For me, they do.  This is entirely a horses-for-courses thing – some people do find it too demoralising to make resolutions and then not keep them throughout the year, and, if that's the way you feel, then, fair enough, New Year's resolutions probably aren't for you.  (Or you could stick to the one my brother-in-law told me he was going to make: 'Play it by ear'.)  As one blogger wrote last January of resolutions, 'I don’t do them because they are made to be broken, and I wish to be whole.'  But that quote got me started on thinking about why I feel differently, why resolutions are a positive force in my life, why the inevitability of the point when I no longer keep to them is a minor enough negative to me to be far outweighed by the positive.  It was a minor epiphany for me, because I realised that, in fact, I don't see those moments of no longer following a resolution as breaking them; I realised that the way I see them can be more accurately described as running down. And I think that's a far more helpful way to think of it.

New Year's resolutions run down.  They lose their power.  They do not last forever – we all know that.  But, when a battery runs down, we don't interpret that as meaning that it's a broken or failed battery or that we should never have used it in the first place or that it is somehow a reflection on us that that battery did not last forever.  We see no contradiction between the fact that that particular battery has run its course and the fact that it was useful at one time and did a perfectly good job of fulfilling its purpose while it lasted.  Thus it is with New Year's resolutions.  Yes, I do find that feeling of a fresh start and a particular time each year for thinking about how I want to improve my life to be an impetus that works for me.  No, it won't last forever.  But while it lasts, I will get as much use out of it as I can.  And, when those resolutions run down, the blog posts I wrote under their inspiration will still be there, the no-longer-used items that I moved out of the house will still be gone, and, even as I lament the passing of those resolutions, I can still continue reaping the benefits of whatever worthwhile things they did enable me to get done.

 

Other Controversunday posts:

Happy New Year – amoment2think

There's No U in "Failer" – The Cheeseblog

Resolutions and Goals – Ginger at Rambleramble

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…and possibly even a song to sing

Several weeks ago, I came across a blogger who runs weekly writing workshops on her blog, Sleep is for the Weak.  On Mondays she posts a list of five possible blogging topics, and people can then pick one (or more) to write a post about.  Two days later everybody who's participated has to list links to all the posts of everyone else who participated, so everybody gets to see what the list has inspired everybody else's creative powers into producing, and everybody's post gets that bit more publicity.  And, of course, everybody gets a list of (hopefully) good posts to read. 

I was torn between feeling intrigued by the whole idea, and recognising the rather obvious fact that, since I was barely managing to find time for one post a month at that point, aiming for one a week on top of all the other stuff on my mental want-to-post-but-can't-find-time list might be just a tad ambitious. As it turned out, I wasn't faced with having to make any sort of decision on the subject at that point, as the blogger who runs it took a few weeks' hiatus from the workshop over Christmas and the latest one has only just been posted.  And I'm going to have a shot at it.  For reasons which, as luck would have it, happen to be covered in the post topic I've picked.

From this week's list of five, I chose no. 3: What steps have you taken this year so far to make a dream a reality?  It's a surprisingly useful question, because it made me stop and think about what my dream actually is.  In amongst all the wishes and hopes and wouldn't-it-be-nice-if daydreams, which one is my dream?

My dream… is to make this blog into one of the really well-known ones – one of the ones that hits Top Mommyblogger lists and that's a familiar name to others across the blogosphere – and to use it for more thought-provoking and informative posts as well as the entertaining ones.  I want to write more posts that look at the controversies of the parenting world, weigh up the evidence even-handedly, distinguish as clearly as possible between myths, uncertainties and facts, and hopefully leave a few people – or more than a few – better-informed than they were before.  And, while doing this, I still want to go on writing about the day-to-day ups and downs of parenthood and anything else that happens to go on in my life.   I want to write posts that will be respectful and informative and interesting and thought-provoking and readable, as well as posts that will be funny and entertaining and poignant and readable.  I want (hell, I'm dreaming, so I'm going to aim high) to write a cross between Mainstream Parenting and Here Be Hippogriffs

I don't expect to get all that much done toward that end in 2010.  But there's a lot I can do to pave the way.

This, of course, is where the writing workshops come in.  Partly because they'll be the ideal way of at least getting a few people coming over to look at this blog – and, hopefully, some of you will like it enough to come back.  But also because sometimes I need a goal to kickstart me past my crippling perfectionism, my reluctance to commit a single word to print until I've planned the entire post in minutest detail, complete with full links and snappy title, and dealt with my entire to-do list into the bargain.  I'm going to have to get past all that, just sit down, and write.  Even if it isn't good.  Especially if it isn't good, because my fear of writing something off-puttingly terrible is one of the hugest things holding me back from blogging more, and I have to get through that and just write.  So that's why it'll be good for me to have weeks when I just make myself pick a post topic from a choice of five and get it written in the next two days.  Forget whether it's perfect, Sarah.  It won't be.  But it will be posted, and that will be a major plus point.

There's also something more indirect that I can do, and that's start dealing with the rest of that mental to-do list.  Sure, one of the reasons I don't blog is because I'm too busy… but another is that that busy-ness is made even worse than it needs to be by all the perceived busy-ness muddying up my head.  It's not just the time I spend on all the things I have to do.  It's also the time I spend feeling that I can't sit down and spend a few minutes blogging because, well, it would be wrong when I have so much else that I should be doing that is, objectively speaking, a higher priority than blogging.  So I don't blog… but a lot of the non-blogging time isn't spent getting the other stuff done, it's spent on fretting over the fact that I should be doing it.

So, to deal with that, I'm going to spend more time on doing the other stuff.  Not by falling into the trap of thinking I have to spend hours on end working through my to-do list, but Flylady style – a manageable bit at a time.  I'm trying to spend at least a few minutes each day working on one of the huge piles of stuff I have to do, and, little by little, it's getting done.  And this frees up enough space in my mind that I can give myself permission to do some blogging as well.  When I spend a bit of time on setting my house in order – literally and figuratively – it leaves me feeling much more comfortable with the idea of spending time on my own hobbies.

So… if you've come over from the Writing Workshop (or from anywhere else), hello and welcome!  I hope you'll take a bit of time to look around and see what you think.  Even better – let me know.  Tell me what you like about this blog, what you don't like, and what bits you disagree with so much you think I'm a complete idiot for even writing them.  Comment on any post you like, current or past – as long as you express your views civilly, I'm happy to hear from anyone of any opinion.  Let me know whether there are any burning topics you'd really like me to blog about (of course, it'll be around 2012 before I get round to it, but it'd still be good to hear your views on what I should write).  Or, if you don't want to make yourself known, just pull up a virtual chair and lurk.  Watch this space, because I aim to make it one worth watching.

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Addendum/erratum: Sorry – I thought all part
icipants posted the list of everybody else's link, but I was thinking of the Carnivals.  For the Writing Workshops, the links are all collected in a Wednesday post on Josie's blog.  You can find this week's post here.  My personal favourite was Dulwich Divorcée's post (and, no, I promise I'm not just saying that because she was the first to comment on mine), but I had tremendous fun reading all the different ones and seeing what different bloggers had made from the prompts.  Enjoy!

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Hot damn, but I’m good

A few days ago, faced with the imminent end of the year and the impetus to rush to get things organised that that usually triggers (Hurry! Hurry! Time running out for anything you want to feel you've achieved in 2009!), I thought it over and concluded that the three things I really wanted to get done before the year ended were:

1. Catch up on my accounts

2. Catch up on my letters and other paperwork at work

3. Get a blog post up for this month.

Which was, of course, like saying that what I'd really like to do right now would be to travel around the world – very nice to daydream about, but not actually anything that's going to happen in real life.

However, I then spent the past few days turning into a whirlwind of speed and efficiency.  Intermittently.  Between long periods of child-watching, website-reading, or just plain torpor.  But I spent my evenings logging on to the work computer (it's set up so that we can log in by remote control) trying to get letters done a few at a time.  On Tuesday, while Katie napped and Jamie went down to the shops with Barry, I blasted through I'm-not-even-going-to-tell-you-how-many-months of bank statement reconciling and ticked no. 1 off my list.  On Wednesday, I spent the day catching up on as much paperwork as possible.  By this morning, I had three letters and half an insurance form left to do.  By 7.30, I was at my desk typing, interrupted only by the need to sign the usual stack of prescriptions and see someone who turned up before surgery as an urgent extra.  Six hours later, after seeing a million patients (OK, we had a couple of no-shows, it was actually only nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight) and phoning five more about various things and checking results and scribbling madly on forms in every spare minute between patients (or while waiting for patients to get undressed, or for the automated cuff to take their blood pressure…), I was done.  Apart from the two visits, which took an extra hour.  And the time to log them onto the computer from home afterwards (we closed at 1.00 for the New Year's holiday.  Theoretically, anyway, though with the number of patients that had been booked and the number who booked in as urgent extras it was in fact somewhat after that, not even counting the extra hours for visits.)  And one incoming letter that I hadn't had a chance to summarise in the notes and had to do from home as well.  But apart from that?  Done.  The pending letters, the extra couple that arose from the day's work, even the darned insurance form.  Done done done.  I drove home for my afternoon off with a light heart.

So, there you have it.  Nos 1 and 2 satisfactorily crossed off my to-do shortlist, and if I can manage to hit 'Post' on this any time within the next twenty-four minutes it'll be three for three.  I can end the year, highly unlike the way I spent almost all of it, bathed in a warmly satisfied glow of achievement.

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