30 June 2007

Frightening strangers and broken appliances

I had a strange formal introduction to Maarja, my brother’s fiancĂ©, today. My electric went down and I had to ring for help, feeling terribly female as I did so. So with Morgan naked in the sling I fled to my Dad’s house with hair all askew and baby spit down my trousers. I unlocked the door there, got inside, took Morgan out of the sling, grabbed the phone and… realised that there was a pretty young woman standing there looking bemused. *blush*

She was lovely about it actually, and obviously we realised right away who the other was. I text Paul to apologise for bursting in on her and he laughed at me and said she “appeared unperturbed”. I must have looked wrecked.

I worked out what the problem was though, our dryer has died and cuts out the whole of my downstairs power when I try to use it. I was getting through a lot of washing (one load on the line, one on the radiators and one in the dryer) today, so I think I’ll have to call that a lost cause. The rain has started again. :(

More chicken care stuff and my lettuces (argh!)

The chickens have cut down their usual laying (one a day each) to one a day, if they can be bothered. Partly I suspect because they don't like being so blinking wet, and it HAS been awful weather (for chickens at least). I'm starting to see the wisdom of keeping ducks instead?

I'm sure they will be back to normal soon, but I've been learning about what chicken poop should look like just for the sake of general health care. It is normal, in case you are worried about them. Very very rarely we have a bright yellow (think newborn baby) poop, or a green one, both of which are sometimes caused by the hens having too much green stuff in their diet. They can be signs of illness though, so at least now we know.

We have also learnt another important fact about chicken poop. It is far too strong to be used directly as a compost and should be rotted first. We had the run standing on the grass for a while and now we have a scorched patch, so the waste definitely needs to go in the compost bin for a while first!

In other news, my lettuces have been eaten - first by slugs and then finished off by the Fat Ladies who are no longer scared of the screen and hopped right over it. Ah well, there are still some interesting happenings in my veggie bed - the carrots look great, and the tomatoes are flowering. :)

22 June 2007

Weeds are just good plants in bad places :)

The weeds in my garden are looking glorious. I've been identifying the species and we have some really lovely plants out there - Evening Primrose (and lots of it), Rosebay Willowherb, Herb Robert (with the gorgeous bright red leaves), Creeping Jenny (edible when cooked). We're adopting a general policy of minimum interference.

I had to remove some Common Ragwort, with apologies to the beautiful bright red Cinnibar moths who like to lay their eggs on it, because it is poisonous and I don?t want the children to get ill from it. And we mowed the lawn, because the long and prickly grass that likes to summer there is too hard for Morgan?s feet and she loves to play on the grass. We in any case don?t mow the lawn more than three or four times a year. Otherwise we have just let everything go, with great results.

It is certainly an education, seeing what is out there with no effort on my part at all. I was hoping that the poppies would come back, but not yet - on the other hand we have our first appearance of some purplish candytuft, which we did not plant. I might help the end wild patch along by planting a butterfly mix, especially since we were given a lot of wildflower seeds by the BBC at the Springwatch event.

The policy of letting life get on with things also solved the aphid issues with the roses. I spent a few days out there carrying unwilling ladybirds from the hedge to the rosebush and then watching the dratted bugs just sitting their and not eating a single green invader. After a while I got bored of that pursuit and then suddenly one day the aphids were gone and the rose was coming into bud for the second time. One good thing about this rose (a three year old bargain from B&Q), it is very hardy, and just keeps on flowering and flowering no matter what happens to it.

I am just enjoying the sunshine, and the colour, and the life.

21 June 2007

Cause and effect

The new sweet baby game we are playing is bouncing. Morgan looks at me, standing there and grinning, I nod my head and bounce in my seat… And she bounces on the spot laughing her head off! It is the cutest. Her other favourite things to do are drumming (on anything) and doing baby gym - being tickled, thrown, rolled around or swung. Oh, and she comes to me when I call her.
She is eating banana, cucumber, avocado, red pepper, steamed carrot, apple, toast, pasta, gnocchi, pitta and pear. She still won’t eat lettuce or potato (I offered it again today so I’ll wait a bit before trying again!).

Jenna is still pretty hyper I think, but she isn’t eating anything unusual and I just can’t figure it out. I’m trying to keep my patience with her but I’m still pretty tired and stroppy myself, which isn’t fair on her because that isn’t her responsibility. The afternoons are the most trying so that’s the time I’m trying to get outside with her where there are less reasons to stop her from whatever she wants to do.

There is so much going on and I’m so busy and happy running around with the girls and keeping them occupied that I’m struggling to keep up with the boards.

20 June 2007

Learning and other stuff

Jenna has discovered the world of Where’s Wally books – and she’s really rather good at them. She’s much faster than me anyway, but perhaps her eyesight is just better. We certainly learnt a long time ago not to argue with her about something she says she has seen. She’d be there on my back saying, “aeroplane!” and nobody else could see it for the longest time, but she was always right.

She was so funny with one of them though; on the beach. She was giggling at all of the funny things she could see, telling me stories about the characters, and then she pointed to one man and said, “oh no – he’s got sunburn – he hasn’t got any sun cream on!” Just goes to show how quick they are to make connections. Sometimes talking to her I can forget just how little she still is.

Today we have discovered another food that Morgan does NOT like. Baked potato. She loves all kinds of things and eats quite a quantity but the potato at lunch at soft play today she wasn’t impressed with.

19 June 2007

The good things on a peaceful week

Another funny from Jenna today… She was singing quietly in her comfort corner. “She’ll be coming round the mountain,” so I joined in with her game. Obviously I wasn’t welcome, because she stopped and glared at me and said, “There’s no need to copy!”

That put me in my place! She’s singing all the time this week, just everything she knows and even joining in with things she hasn’t heard before. It’s the loveliest sound, the music of a small child who is totally contented with her life. She was joining in my Beatles album this afternoon, trying to make out the words to Lady Madonna. Given the subject of the song I spent quite a while having my own private giggle about that one.

We are… Centred, again. For want of a better way to put it. Life is really, well, simple. For now.

18 June 2007

How can it all change so fast?

Morgan has learnt a new game over the last couple of days – she pokes her cheeky little pink tongue out at anyone who pulls faces at her. You can tell she knows how clever it is from the massive grin on her face and the (very very funny) chuckle… Jenna taught her how, the first of many things that no doubt I will regret Morgan knowing! So, lesson one, being cheeky. :)

Jenna got some water in her ear when I was washing her hair on Saturday and since then has complained on and off that her ear hurts. So a trip to a nice nurse today, who said it’s nothing major and that the next couple of days will clear it up. No antibiotics (thank goodness) and plenty of rest. But it bans Jenna from swimming, so I’m very glad that I didn’t tell her she was meant to be going this afternoon.

We had such a lovely weekend in the end, really easy and pleasant. Morgan is always better when out of doors, and we’ve been busy all weekend lol. The car helped us get to Nottingham and for some longer walks, and we had a Father’s Day picnic with the Dads’ group – with Jenna chasing a frisbee for hours and Morgan crawling around on the grass.

I think we’re back to normal. I suppose this is how it goes now with two mobile peoples! All up and down.

Bad weather and chicken feed!

The chickens are not my friends. It has been blisteringly hot, followed by extended periods of thunder and lightening - not that it seems to bother them apart from that it is very wet and they are getting a bit muddy. These birds just don't have the brains to stay inside!

With all their feathers plastered down they look for all the world as if they have been plucked.

Our latest lesson in chicken keeping has been the preparation of food. We had pellets for them until I ordered the wrong kind of food this time, the second bag of food we have bought in fact. We have mash. Does it tell you anywhere online how to prepare mash? It does not.

Basically it can be fed dry or wet. "Wet" means you pour the same again in water (boiling) over it, stir, and serve when it has cooled. They appear to REALLY LIKE this. I have also read passing suggestion to cooking the mash over a low heat with vegetable scraps added, and wonder if this is perhaps a way to get my Fat Ladies to eat carrot (which so far they totally reject in favour of, well, anything else). I have not risked one of my two non-peeling teflon coated pans to find out.

So, apart from the news that we have sproutings that may be carrot and that the lettuces are starting to look like lettuces... My garden is, more or less, surviving.

15 June 2007

Why I'm not good at gentle discipline but NEED to be

Things seem better today, slowly pulling out of the attitude problem of last week. It really came to a head yesterday before I realised just how childishly I was wallowing in self pity. I am impatient, angry, stubborn. I am not at all a naturally gentle person. I need positive peer pressure, and grace far beyond, to go against my negative traits. I believe I can change. I want to change.

I’m working on it.

Today I’m doing well, with both of them. And feeling good about being here with them. I’m totally holding back the occasional frustrations – it’s called self-control and I think it’s back on top!

Jenna has already had a good nap today (without any coercion) and we’ve already had a good walk today. Lunch is next on my list, and I’m confident I can manage that without a hitch. It’s strange actually, sometimes weeks later people will read my diary and ask how something is going and I won’t even be able to remember how crappy I felt or how upset I was about something. That’s how fast things change around here.

14 June 2007

Knowledge, power, and the heart of a mother

It’s tempting sometimes to be satisfied with what I know. To tell myself that now I have particular knowledge and skills it will be better, easier, more like I think my life should and could be. The self-congratulation slips in and I think I have *done* something – and by my informed approach to questions I have *arrived* at something. And it can be that way, it can be easy, it can be good. Just knowing can and does sometimes change everything.

But I have not arrived, the knowledge for the most part has barely changed one single part of how I behave. I am still a person who for all their understanding can be at the most basic hurdle, lost. Lost with motherhood, lost with discipline. These basic things – keeping my patience when I’m tested – these things I can fail at whilst still keeping so many other rules about how I should behave! I am still only hoping and pushing forward for a real and permanent change, a change to who I am and the building of good character.

Knowledge is not really power. Being informed is only being informed. It has not of itself made me a better person than I was yesterday. This week I am drowning.

I know what to do, how to handle things, how to make decisions with what I have. I’m still only clinging, exhausted, to the rock – waiting at any moment for the inrushing tides to overwhelm me and take it all back to the depths. I’m clinging to what I know but on its own it isn’t enough.
Nothing is truly wrong, There isn’t a problem apart from my attitude. I don’t want to try, I don’t want to respond, I can’t be bothered! A painful view of myself to face and to fight. Knowledge is empty without action. Attitude is what really drives us – and although I hope that my attitude can and will be informed by research and common sense, I need to change my heart first.

The heart is the source of our power as mothers, not the head alone.

13 June 2007

The stone collections and trying to improve my temper

We’re still trying to get back our equilibrium. Getting out of the house even though there aren’t any activities going on, just to be OUT. We went to our second story time this week, and to the park in the rain. Whenever we are out of the house Jenna comes back with little stones that she has collected (often as a “present” for somebody). I tried to ask her why, and she told me, “I like stones, they have colours on them. And I like them because they are mine and I can pick them up and keep them.”

I’m keeping away from the computer as much as I reasonably can without suffering from lack of gentle parenting support. It seems to me that it makes me more impatient – I don’t deal very well with being interrupted this week and being interrupted is just part of being a parent. So I’m not doing things that make me feel disturbed when I’m then needed right away.

I can’t tell in the middle of it whether it is getting better or not – I think it must be, as the temptation to hit out is subsiding and that’s always a good sign. I’m not cut out for this.

11 June 2007

Protecting Jenna and argh moments

So far Jenna has talked about nothing but the wedding and how much fun she had. She keeps telling me how gorgeous Sam looked in her princess dress (totally true, she is stunning). She was especially enamoured with the idea of eye makeup… “Sam had pretty eyes, they were pink!” Strange what they notice, I think she has seen people in makeup so infrequently it just stood out for her.

She also told me that “that lady kept stoking my hair” in a very disgusted adults-are-strange tone of voice. I have no idea which lady she meant – very few of the older women could keep their hands OFF her little fluffy blonde head! I told her (with my child protection officer hat on) that she doesn’t have to let anyone do anything she doesn’t like, and if an adult is bothering her or touching her and she wants them to stop she should tell them and then tell me. She laughed and told me that the lady was “only being nice – I don’t mind.” She’s so innocent. So so innocent and fragile. It makes me quite afraid for her that she should have to lose that some day.

We are getting lovely grown-up manners from her too lately, she doesn’t talk like a two year old. She says, “of course I will” and “my pleasure darling” and “it’s not a problem [pbloblem, she says]”. It’s lovely. And I keep being told (about things that used to frighten her) “I’m a little girl now, I didn’t like it when I was a baby but I’m bigger.”

Today we had a big scare on her behalf though. She always runs right to the toys in Boots but this time I couldn’t see where she was and she obviously realised she couldn’t see me either and did EXACTLY what I tell her to if we get separated. She stood very still and yelled for me at the top of her voice. I was there in a second but it had visibly shaken her. I hope she learns from it though and stays a bit closer from now on.

10 June 2007

Balance and friendships

Oh the wedding was perfect, so beautiful and I can’t believe how many nice memories it brought back. It was nice to know that I can still manage the role of friend properly – OK so I say this fairly often – but it does feel sometimes like I always have to choose between roles. It was good to be Morgan’s attached mama and also Sam’s bridesmaid, and not get either job terribly wrong.

The major concern was whether Jenna would disrupt the service and she kind of did! She yelled halfway through because I was blocking her from getting to Emma. I realised that it was ME being disruptive and not her, she went to Em and all was fine. Strangely I think that people didn’t really notice. I was hyper-paranoid about it (wanted to cry in fact) but the only people who mentioned it thought it was sweet and funny and hadn’t seemed annoyed.

Morgan was THE advert for the breastfed baby, contented and sociable – smiling at everyone and actually asking to have cuddles with total strangers, funny little thing. She has only taken three feeds today, which has been so convenient but slightly worrying. I guess she just is taking more at one sitting because I’m certainly noticing the letdown more (and more frequently too), must be my body adjusting for her needs.

This evening was nice too, the girls behaved impeccably at the reception and are now totally flaked out! Can’t wait to see the pictures…

7 June 2007

How we started keeping chickens

It was just over a year ago, I think, that we first had the idea. Only God knows what posessed us, perhaps it was visiting the Happy Hens and feeling fed up that we didn't have room for a goat (they were selling a pair of kids as pets and we so longed to take them home with us!). Perhaps it was part of my desire to have a "real" garden - one that produced things, one that helped us to be truly part of the world in more than a passive consumer sense.

Whatever the reason, we were a little late in the year really and it just didn't happen. I started looking up everything I could find and became totally fascinated with these amazing animals (yeah OK, birds). I started looking at breeds that wouldn't mind being in our backyard, breeds that didn't mind being handled, breeds (importantly) that didn't need too much attention.

It isn't wise to try to keep one hen on its own (they pine, as communal birds they can't be lonely) and we read that the ideal number to start with would be four as you should apparently expect that a couple won't settle in or will die in transit. We weren't having that. If birds die in transit, we said to ourselves, then they mustn't be being transported very well. No failure for us (lol) and certainly no risk of having too many to care for because we only had the money for a medium rabbit hutch and that would have to accomodate them.

Two it was. Looking for suppliers of other things (food, bedding, grit) we found someone who would sell us two hens - luckily of our preferred variety - Rhode Island Reds crossed with West Sussex. If you picture in your head what a chicken looks like, these are they. Utility birds, gingery brown and slightly speckled with white, fat but not too large, feathery and downy and bright in the eye. We loved them.

Delia and Pippin came back to our house in a large cardboard box with holes in the sides, tied up with string and resting on my lap. The baby cried all the way home but they didn't seem bothered and contentedly explored their new home with a little timidity but mostly just the brazen curiosity that is part and parcel of these creatures' personality.

Three months on and they are properly into their first season of laying - we deliberately chose chooks that had just started their first laying season, young birds with a good long life ahead of them (hopefully). To start with we would have an egg every couple of days, but now we have two a day almost every single day. We've eaten a lot of eggs, and learnt a lot of fun trivia. Did you know that a chicken can run at 8mph? Or that chicks take 20 days to hatch, but if the fetilised egg is not warmed up it will remain in stasis and not develop? How about that even with their wings clipped they can fly just over four feet in the air from a good run-up? (We were told they could not do this!)

So, there you have it. We are the owners of some lovely egg-laying pets, and the hobby is only growing in popularity in this country.

6 June 2007

Toddler gardening explored and why I'm growing things

Small people and vegetables. I guess they don't always mix perfectly. Like today, Jenna and her friend from next door dug up both of my two little potato plants. They were so excited with the game of digging and so delighted by the results that they pulled the lot out. We have a bowl of really teeeny potatoes, and some very sad looking plants. I think a second crop might be the order of the day...

I can't find it in me to be cross about the digging incident because, well, it displays the second most important reason for me planting a garden at all (the first being trying to do my bit and be more self-sufficient)... I want my children to grow up with a knowledge of green growing things and a joy in being out of doors and being part of nature. And, I suppose, that is all they were doing. Maybe as time goes by she will know why it's better to leave them a little longer, but for now she is pleased enough (and has learnt something about root crops) just from her little experiment. Science, free range style.

I hope that as lazy as I'm inclined to be, and as desperately bad as I may be at gardening, my children can have something like what I had as a child. Our whole summers were out of doors, and most of our winters too. Dens, climbing, treehouses, sliding, water games, planting and harvesting, making strange concoctions with flower heads that we REALLY wanted to be perfume, running around, making mudpies. It sounds like some surreal and impossibly perfect paradise for small humans. It was.

It is all too unfashionable too, to create that kind of childhood in a world of alternatives that take much less time and energy. Oh I can SEE the temptation... But then I would lose something too. Don't we all go into motherhood thinking that we can get right what our parents got wrong without neglecting what they got right either? This was something that my mother gifted me - a love of green things.

I wish it was easier. I wish I had a natural talent for it, or a bit more knowledge at least. Maybe when I've satisfied my thirst for other knowledge I'll have time to read about gardens! Or maybe by the time I get round to it I'll already have learnt a lot more from my amature hit-and-miss approach. Between then and now at least I can console myself with this idea, it isn't just about the end result, it's about what you put into it in the here and now.

I'm growing too.

5 June 2007

100th Diary post!

We had a good weekend in the end, really good in fact. I'm pretty proud of the ammount we've just got done! But I can't say I'm entirely happy - I guess I'm just feeling a bit distant from my babies today. Jenna is making me crazy, she keeps crying at *everything* especially when I won't let her do something. And she keeps making Morgan cry on purpose so that she can kiss it better.

Morgan is cruising and keeps on trying no matter how many times she falls over - the main problem is that she falls over a lot. And I have to pick her up a lot. She wants to go down, and up again, and down, and up again. I remember this being the hardest stage with Jenna. Maximum hassle for minimum feedback.

So it's just riding it out I suppose. I don't feel down in myself, just a bit frustrated and blah with everyone, like I'm struggling to connect. Got to get through it, because like every other stage it will pass (and like every other tough phase, it's essential for them to go through it!).

3 June 2007

More gardening

So today we have done some more gardening, tidied the hedge up, and finally put a stake in for the leaning willow tree. It's lovely spending time out there as a family and I'm so proud of my green growing things.

The chickens are still fine, but a little noisy. Perhaps it is the irritation of being able to see all my huge leafy plants and not being able to get at them - I can't believe how much has survived my amature gardening this year. Peppers, tomatoes, chives, cucumbers, even a tiny courgette seedling that I spotted today... I don't think the peas will make it though, they look a little burnt. At least there is time to start off another lot before the year gets away from us much more.

I had my first crop today too! I suppose it's my second crop, but since the first is the massive basil taking over my kitchen sill I think it deserves recognition for being my first OUTDOOR crop. I planted a sprouting organic potato about six weeks ago and today we dug up a couple of tiny potatoes! We're hoping for more in a few weeks and I'm so pleased with the experiment I might even plant some more (we always have sprouted potatoes lol).

We had another strange egg; just a little lopsided with a greater curve on one side than the other. You don't see those in the shops... It all gives us so much pleasure - to see *real* things in our world.

2 June 2007

The Good Life?

So, finally all of the rest of my tiny organic seedlings went in and the vegetable bed is looking, well, finished. It remains to be seen whether I will really grow something but here's hoping! I can't wait to see what comes out of it.

Jenna helped to plant the last row of carrot seeds, but I confess I got a little arsey and took the trowel back when she started trying to dig up one of the few surviving pea seedlings. She didn't seem bothered, and shamed me by giving me a kiss and running off to play on the swing. *blushes*

The chooks in the meantime are being kept at bay by the mesh sheet with bells attached. They seem wary.

One of them managed something amazing yesterday - an egg with no shell at all. It feels like jelly with only a thin membrane and is just starting to dry up and look shrunken. Reading online it seems normal, if slightly unusual - and it just happens every now and again. When I found it I thought I must have done something dreadful and one of The Ladies was dying!

The squishy egg -

My wildflower meadow (yeah yeah OK so they're weeds) -

1 June 2007

Still not co-sleeping, not sure how to feel!

Morgan is still sleeping mostly in the moses basket this week - I kind of miss waking up next to her but I don't miss being kicked! She still comes in to climb all over me first thing, and that's a bit of a pain as ever, but it is always great to see her little cheeky smiling face.

We went to buy a hoover this morning, so my floors can finally be clean enough for Morgan to spend more time playing and less time being washed. Dad took us, and then we went into town to have some lunch with my mum who was really fed up. It has been a really full, busy day. And I like days like that!

Also, Morgan is cruising now, in a little clumsy cute way. She falls down more often than not, and cries in frustration. But I've learnt not to move her away as that only makes her more cross. Jenna is fascinated, but also very confused as to why she isn't allowed to "help"...