Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Easter


To be honest, I don't really bother much about Easter. Its the 2nd chocolate holiday of the year (first obviously being Valentines). I hate marzipan so simnel cake is out. I hate hot cross buns. I love chocolate, but can eat it any day of the week any week of the year.  Easter is now up there with Christmas and Halloween as another commercial extravaganza. Ba humbug.
As a kid, we had the Easter Bunny who delivered an egg - 1 egg per child. Just 1. Perfectly normal, acceptable, suitable and all that was necessary. We also got an egg from a neighbour and a couple of relatives. That was it. Easter was for chocolate eggs.  I remember one Easter being sooooo excited to discover that the Bunny had delivered a Creme Egg Easter Egg and was devastated to discover that it was hollow inside, bar the 3 ordinary Creme Eggs within - I had full expectations of this monsterous egg being filled with fondant. Anyway, I digress. There were no cash alternatives to a chocolate egg. No clothing vouchers or record tokens (for the older child who was too cool for chocolate eggs - who in their right mind thinks they are too cool for chocolate? These people need to have a quiet word with themselves! I am showing my age here with the mention of a record token...).  No toy substitutes. No new outfit. You got chocolate or nothing. Like it or lump it. I liked it thank you very much.
It was while I was at work last Sunday that the sheer ugliness of holiday hit me.  I was scanning obscene amounts of moneys worth of chocolate.  Many a customer spending in excess of £50. On CHOCOLATE. One customer actually spent £73.98 on Easter eggs and the little chocolate rabbits (you know, the really sickly chocolate ones wrapped in gold at at about a fiver for a mini rabbit).  I expect to get my weekly messages to feed us for that or preferably less! And it's not just eggs, no no, there are also the vouchers or clothes or other guff. When did this happen???
As I said, I don't really bother much. I have bought an egg for both my nephews (which my sister will probably eat, as I did with the eggs Kiddo received for his first 3 Easters, but shhhh!) and a Thornton's egg for Kiddo with his name on it. And that's about as Easter-y as I get.  The past 2 years, my parents have taken Kiddo to roll his egg on Easter Sunday to either the Cup and Saucer (which sits in the shadows of Stirling Castle) or to the small grassy 'hill' at the foot of the Wallace Monument in Causewayhead, which is handily situated right beside a fantastic ice-cream shop. Coincidence? He rolled a hard boiled one the first year and his chocolate one last year (which my Dad also had a shot at rolling, and rolled it too hard causing it to break, so they had to just eat it!).  It's becoming a little family tradition, one I hope continues, as Kiddo loves it.  I do believe my Mum used to roll her eggs on Easter with her family at the Cup and Saucer, but as kids, never did my sister or I roll any eggs of any sort down any bloody hill!  There is a certain comfort in traditions, especially if they are personal to your own family.  I know of a family who have a competition every year decorating hard boiled eggs and the winning family gets the coveted trophy. I have loved seeing  the photos on Facebook each year. The themes gone for and the results have been sp-egg-tacular! * I'll get my coat...*
So the other day when my Mum informed me that Kiddo had asked her who the Easter Bunny was I thought I'd better get him caught up on all things Easter. Our conversation went like this:
(Disclaimer : I am not Christian, and I am explaining my understanding of Easter to a 5 year old!)
Me : What do you know about Easter?
Kiddo : Its when you get lots of chocolate
M : Ok, do you know who the Easter Bunny is?
K : Ehm, not really.
M : Right. The Easter Bunny is a special rabbit, or maybe he is a hare, I'm not sure, who delivers a chocolate egg to children on Easter Sunday. Just like Santa does at Christmas.  You know, when I was about 5, I was sure I saw the bunny when he came to my house.  I remember waking up just in time to see the tops of his long ears disappearing down the stairs. (True story! When I was about  5, my bed faced the door and the top of the landing. I remember thinking that I saw the bunny ears. On reflection some 30 odd years later I realise that it was my hazy just awoken state and the corner of the banister coming into focus. But still, it's a good wee story for Kiddo.  Another true story is about the time I saw the tooth fairy - I'll save that one for when Kiddo gets his first visit...ooh...suspense!)
K : Really? Cool! Why does a rabbit bring me eggs?
M : Well! Let me tell you (delightfully warming up to my theme). A long long time ago,  people didn't have calenders and clocks for telling the time, they used the moon and sun. They could tell the time of day by where the sun was in the sky, where they were in the 'month' by the shape of the moon and the full moon, and the 'year' by the seasons. Have you heard me mention the Equinox?
K : Uh-huh
M : The Equinox is a time that the day and night are the same length. It's dark for the same amount of time that it is light, and then the days get longer as we move towards summer. In these old days, people celebrated the Equinox as the start of spring.  It was a time when lots of animals had their babies - birds laid eggs and the rabbits and hares had lots and lots of baby bunnies.
K : Hmmm, did they have chocolate eggs then too?
M : No, we h...
K : Bo-rrrinnngggg!
M : Do you want to know the story or not?
K: (Sighs) okayyy
M : We have chocolate eggs now to represent all the birds laying their eggs and new chick hatching. Some people also boil real eggs and paint them bright colours and fancy designs. We can do that if you want?
K  : Nah, maybe another day
M : Fine.  The Bunny is actually believed to have come from Germany a few hundred years ago.  Many people celebrate this time of year still, but most people don't celebrate on the Equinox, they celebrate on Easter. Which has possibly evolved from Eostre or Ostara.
K : How?
M : There is another story around Easter. It was called Eostre/Ostara but was changed when the country was Christianised - but that is a story for another time. The Easter story goes, now I'm remembering this from my school days, so bear with me, there was a man, called Jesus. He was a pretty special guy and plenty people liked him, but others didn't.
K : Why?
M : Ehm, not quite sure. Anyway, he sadly died. But before he did, the people that didn't like him were really mean, and stuck him up on a cross and carried him through town.  As I said, he died, and  his body was put in a cave.
K : Did he turn into a skeleton and paleontologists found him?
M : No, not quite
K : Ugh! Did the people have chocolate?
M : No! Can I continue?
K : (nods)
M : Right, well, apparently, there was a miracle and...
K : Whats a miracle?
M : It's a bit like magic, but not quite
K :  Oooh
M : And Jesus came back to life, and managed to roll the stone away from the front of the cave. It's called the resurrection. It's the reason that eggs are rolled down hills on Easter Sunday - it's just like the rolling of the stone. And before you ask, no the stone was not made of chocolate!
K : When's Easter again?
M : Sunday
K : Will I get my chocolate egg then?
M : I suppose so.

Suffice to say, Kiddo isn't really all that bothered about Easter either, other than getting a 'healthy dose' of chocolate.
I don't do anything special for Easter, never really have and doubt we ever will. I prefer to acknowledge the Equinox and what meaning it holds. But hey, each to their own. I find it interesting though when folks comment on the changing date of Easter each year and how it is either "early this year" or "late" - it is the same as it has been since Easter was invented as a date to celebrate : The first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring/Vernal Equinox. This year's first full moon since the Equinox (which fell on 20th March) is on Saturday 4th April.

There are so many fun crafts that this holiday/celebration/time of year lends itself too. Pinterest is loaded with suggestions that I'm keen to try.  I used to like making the bonnets when in primary school (although am not entirely sure of their significance), but as always, as soon as I try to engage Kiddo in anything craft related, start suggesting we get painting or gluing, he switches off.  Crafting is really not his bag - does anyone want to lend me their child to play at making baskets, painting eggs or sewing cotton stuffed animals?  I have got him into making chocolate cornflake nests and fill them with mini eggs - photos will follow once he actually makes them!

How ever you are spending the weekend,, be it on an egg hunt or family competition, or at church, I hope you have a wonderful time.

x

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Busy Week

It's been a wee while since I updated the blog on what we've been up to, so here is a look at the past week :

1. A trip to Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh - Hubby not been in almost 15 years and Kiddo was desperate to show him the time machine and the 3D movie.
2. Borrowed books from the library - 2 Lego books, the world's 100 most disgusting things, a Batman story and a children's cookery/science book = a happy boy.
3. Outdoor learning - back to the woods!  At the start of the year we had a 6 week forest school block, which the kids loved, so the group has decided to continue with the outdoor learning. We have now joined in with the older group.  The kids got a great fire going and made bread to toast over it (as well as marshmallows, obviously). Kiddo wasn't interested in the fire or the bread making, not when there were trees to climb and new friends to make.  After we were finished up, Kiddo and I took a walk through the park, around the boating lake.  A friend had told me that the frogs were spawning just now (please excuse my dodgy photography):
 The white dots are spawn (tried using fancy instagram filters to make pics clearer...)

I promise there is an actual frog in the middle of this photo!!!

4. Kiddo celebrated his 5th birthday...                   

...and I made him a cake...
5. We opened up Kiddo's own bank account.
6. Watched the eclipse, or at least Hubby and I did.  Kiddo could not have been less enthused. Initially we thought we would watch it from the canal side, hoping the reflection in the water would be suitable, but the water was far too choppy and glare far too bright.  Pinhole thing made using cardboard from butchered cereal packet worked well though:
  Tadahh!

7. PLAYED WITH LEGO. Solidly. For an entire week whenever we are home.  This was the sight that greeted me at 7.30am yesterday :

8. Had a birthday dinner in Pizza Hut, and a very grown up civilised coffee (milkshake for Kiddo) in my favourite coffee shop in town.
9. Visit to the Helix Park and Kelpies :

10. Attended the hustings for the local Scottish Greens.  When I say 'attended' I mean, Kiddo and I helped set up the hall. He proudly wore his Vote Green badge pinned to his shirt and held a friend captive for around 45 minutes to tell her all about dinosaurs. Are you going to be a paleontologist when you grown up? she asked. "No, I AM a paleontologist!" He was in his element and thoroughly annoyed that we had to leave (I wouldn't let him stay for the actual meeting. If I knew he would sit and listen to what was being said, then fine, but that wouldn't happen).
11. Saw in the Spring/Vernal Equinox.

Its been a busy one, could do with a wee holiday.  Speaking of which,
12. we also this week, booked our first family holiday.  We're off camping in style. Gypsy style, in a vardo!!!! Be still my beating heart.  To say "excited" would be an understatement!
(not exact wagon, this image was found on Flickr)

This week looks to be a busy one too with 2 play dates, a trip to the zoo, a craft home ed meet (theme is Native Americans this month), outdoor learning in the woods, and for me, a jaunt through to Auld Reekie to a street poetry class with a friend that will definitely be followed with a glass or 2 of vino.

Can't wait.

x

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Happy Mother's Day


Mothering Sunday : the floral holiday.
This is the day that mum's up and down the country get treated to breakfast in bed, a card and gift, generally the most expensive bunch of flowers outwith St Valentine's Day.  And today I am no different, except minus the flowers ( I prefer plants rather than flowers - plants live on while cut flowers die.  That said, around 8 or 9 years ago we gave my Mother in Law an orchid at Mother's Day and that thing is still going!!! My Mother in Law is like the plant whisperer).
For the past 5 years I haven't been fussed with Mother's Day (for me, not for my Mum/Mother in Law, they always gets their cards and flowers). It's just another commercialised day to inflate prices and force people to spend money "to show your mum you love her". For the past 5 years I have been met with raised eyebrows and confused expressions when I answer the "what did you get?" questions with, "An extra cuddle" or similar.
This year is the first that Mothering Sunday has been embraced - and led by Kiddo himself. Hubby filled me in on the back story :

Kiddo had seen the adverts on the TV and in shops regarding Mother's Day and mentioned it 
"Dad, Mother's Day is soon and I want to make Mum a card and get her flowers"
"Ok, we can make her a card on Sunday when it's just you and me, and Mum is at work. How does that sound?"
"Great, now, the first thing we need to do, is go to Funky Pigeon dot com"
"!!!"
(Really, Kiddo is not feeling the crafting bug at all. Hubby was all prepared for an afternoon of glue, glitter and mess)
As with most of Kiddo's ideas (this is where he takes after me I think), he was all excited about the idea of making a card and buying flowers, but the reality was somewhat different. "We'll do it later". 
Would the Junior Procrastinator please step forward...

On Friday, I was getting the messages and as we passed the card section, Kiddo decided that he wanted to buy me a card for Mother's Day. He went over (I busied myself with the magazines), picked a card he liked and put it in the trolley. Done!
On Saturday we went into town to get flowers for the Mothers (mine and Hubby's) after having breakfast in bed - Mother's Day arrived a day early round ours; Mother's Weekend???
This morning, I was wished a "Happy Mother's Day" by a very excited 4yo, given an extra squashy cuddle (read : almost strangled) and served breakfast in bed.  Now, the home made waffles with maple syrup and the mug of coffee were both made and served by Hubby rather than Kiddo, because Kiddo wanted to share breakfast in bed with me. I could really get used to this.
My boys know me so well. The card Kiddo picked was not a "Mother's Day" card, but a general card picked from the card section and one that he liked. It is perfect for a tree hugger like myself - well picked, Kiddo!

(I lov yuoo)

The flowers were not a realistic purchase at the end of the day.  But as Kiddo had been talking about Mother's Day to his Dad, Hubby decided to get me a gift from our son. Since my imagined fantasy of lovingly home made and crafted macaroni necklaces and pasta shapes decorated 'jewellery boxes' will forever remain in my head, my gift was purchased. And I love it: handmade journal (with handmade paper!!!) and a beautiful scarf.
Yip, my boys know me well.

Happy Mother's Day to all Mamas out there and to your own Mamas.  Whether you get the biggest bunch of flowers, a home made present, breakfast in bed or simply a big hug and "I love you", today is our day. Enjoy it.


x


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Women


What is it to be a woman?
Depends to whom you speak.
We are defined by many a stereo type.
So many labels, from 'bitch' to 'weak'

The Girly Girl
Loves glitter and pink,
cocktails and shoes.
Doing lunch
But too vacuous for political views.
Cute, pretty and sweet,
Carefully waxed and shaved.
Immaculately turned out
Always well behaved.
Flowers, cupcakes and jewellery
What girly could want more?
Well maybe perfume, a manicure 
And cash to spend on clothes galore.
To be blonde is to be dizzy;
What a crock of shit.
Judged purely on asthetics
Ignoranance and derision that won't quit.

The Feminist
Strident in her man-hating endevours,
Burning her bra and chucking her razors.
Masculine, barefaced and plain,
Docs, dungarees and blazers.
Politically astute.
Fighting for equality for man and woman.
But listening to some opinions,
we're still considered a 2nd class human.

The (Yummy) Mummy
With either a rich husband to support her
Or enjoying the benefits of the State,
the SAHM's life with her brood,
Benign TV and lattes must be great.
No stress of a 'real' job or financial contribution,
Not really independent.
This is not the 1950's.
A housewife's life is hardly resplendent.
Ah, but the working mother;
She feels guilty and worries about dropping the ball.
Whats she complaining about?
She's got what women want; she's got it all!
Mothers are constantly under scrutiny
Regardless of what they do.
We're all pretty much winging it
So keep your critique, thank you.
.
The Slut
Enjoys good sex and a good time,
The decisions made are hers.
Presumed to be promiscuous,
Once the name calling occurs.
Short skirts and heels,
Banter that's flirty
Does not automatically mean
She's "up for it" and "dirty".
1 lover or 20
or even a hundred more.
The number is irrelevant; she's not
A tramp, slag or whore.

Now, none of these descriptions
sound remotely appealing.
Women are so often portrayed in a negative light,
The names and language used are highly revealing.
How about jugdement then:
Too fat, too thin, too young, too old,
Too sexy, too frigid, too drunk, too nice,
Too bossy, too coorse, too emotional, too cold?
Too opinionated, too high maintenance,
Too head strong.
Too masculine, too feminine,
Hair too short or too long.

What is it to be a woman?
Are we so easily defined?
Such limited scope for being yourself,
Time to leave the confines behind.
We are all individuals, free from the mold
Of stereo type and prescription
And of doing what we're told.

Thankfully us Gals are strong and
To the patriarchy, we will not kowtow;
Misogyny does not fly.
Lets celebrate being a woman. Now!
(Maya) Angelou, (Gloria) Steinem and (Betty) White:
Inspirational women.
(Nicola) Sturgeon, (Hilary) Clinton and (Anna) Wintour
Glass ceiling? Smashed by these women.
(Caitlin) Moran, (Ellen) DeGeneres and (Tina) Fey
Articulate and hilarious women
Beyonce, (Lena) Dunham and (Emma) Watson
21st century women.

Independent, confident and smart;
Labels I will take.
Positive adjectives please;
Is it really so hard? For Fucks sake!

To be a woman is:
To be yourself in all your glory.
This is your your life.
This is your story.

Image from here

x
Lissa Orr, 2015

International Women's Day 8th March 2015
@womensday
#PaintItPurple  #MakeItHappen #womensday #IWD2015

Monday, 2 March 2015

Simplify 2 : Periods

image found here
It comes to all us women (and our poor suffering partners and Dad's of teenage daughters...), that time  when "Flo comes to town". Yep, call it what you will : On, painters are in, on the rag, Liverpool are playing at home, on the blob (actually, the first and only time I have ever heard it referred to as such, was when Lily Allen was on The Graham Norton Show and mentioned her period being called "on the blob" during an interview with Miriam Margolyes.  I had an involuntary physical reaction to the immediate imagery this phrase conjured! So, moving on swiftly...), menses, moon, gushing, time of the month, that time (in exaggerated hushed tones), dabs, period, periods, monthlies, usuals, menstruating, girl flu, doo-dahs, shark week, etc etc; we all live with it.  As much as it can be inconvenient and a nuisance, it can also be a relief (I'm not pregnant!) or a curse (I'm not pregnant!), and at times a right pain in the neck, well not the neck exactly. A pain in the lower stomach, yes. A pain in the lower back, sometimes. A pain in the boobs, now and again.  A pain the rest of the household has to endure (in my home anyway), oh dear Godess, yes!

So how does having a monthly cycle, whereby we know when we are "due on" need to be simplified? Well in a number of ways possibly.

1.  Lose the stressing. Accepting that it is nothing to be embarrassed/ashamed about and having your period is not 'dirty'.  This is not something I personally struggle with, but I remember being embarrassed when I was young. Also in some cultures, it is viewed as dirty.

2. Keeping the pantry stocked with suitable chocolate essentials, in a manner similar to a well stocked first aid kit, will serve to placate the bitch within.
In the couple of days before I'm due to start, my chocolate cravings are epic. My personal mantra is :
A Mars or 2 a day, keeps PMS at bay!
And please, don't anyone suggest that a banana or brocolli will set off all those happy endorphins identical to those replicated by chocolate. I completely refute the science on this one. I have yet to eat a banana that can satisfy in the way chocolate can. Seriously, don't mess. Only chocolate will do. End of.

3. Ditch the tampons.  I invested in a Mooncup about 2 months before I became pregnant with Kiddo, so about 6 years ago now.  It cost me £17, and I can hand on heart say that I have used it every single month (except pregnancy and those few months postnatally) since.  The reason I made the switch (after about a year or 2 of swithering whether or not to) was down to:
i. discovering that tampons, as well as the cotton they are made from being treated with bleach and other toxins that I really didn't want 'down there', were also drawing all moisture not just mentrual blood, causing a dehydration of sorts, thus causing/increasing my horrendous cramps.  The tiny fibres in the cotton can also come away from the tampon and remain within the body.
ii. environmental factors - used tampons are thrown away in those smelly buckets to landfill sites or flushed away down the loo. Except that away doesn't exist. Our used sanpro has to go somewhere.  Plus using and basically wasting cotton to make disposable tampons didn't sit well once I thought about it - cotton requires ridiculous amounts of irrigation and pesticide control
iii. cost ( since I started used using the £17 mooncup, I would have spent £117 on Tampax).




4. Washable pads - yes I did just suggest that! As much as I love like my mooncup, it is not 100% perfect. I have learned never to insert it when in the shower as the leakage within 5 mins of getting out the shower requires a further shower (although i don't know why), I have never swam whilst wearing it (fear of leakage), but despite very little leakage (just a little now and again on particularly heavy days), I have continued to wear either a pant-liner or an Always pad which really defeats the purpose of the points I made in i-iii. I don't know if it is a security thing; maybe Claire Rayner's raving about 'wings' in my early teens has seeped into my psyche more than I realised.  But in terms of simplifying, I am now ready to give reusable pads a go.  I had considered this when I first got my mooncup but never actually did anything about it. Moontimes sell lovely washable pads, and no , they are not like the massive cumbersome saddles the school nurse used to issue if you were unfortunate enough to be caught out unprepared! There are loads of patterns online for making your own too - and with wings!!!! So, I have decided to give that a try too.

Talking of all these sanpro options, one thing we need to remember though ladies is that having our period is a luxury. Yes, truly it is. So luxurious is our bodily function, and our extravagant need to use products (menstrual cups, tampons, pads, washable or disposable), that they are taxed. Every time you purchase sanpro, you pay VAT for that luxury item.  The rate of VAT was reduced from the full rate of 17.5% (as it was at the time, the full rate is now 20%) in 2001 to 5%, but Sanpro remain  "non-essential" goods. Incidentally, men's razors are not taxed.  There is something we can do about it though.  There is an E-petition against Tax on your period. Please take a look and sign it if you think your period shouldn't be taxed.

5. I don't know, and can't speak for anyone else, but when I'm 'on', all I really want to do is hunker down with a hot water bottle, endless mugs of tea, a pile of books, a multi-pack of mars bars and alternate between the bath and my bed. Ideally with a giant 'Do Not Disturb - unless you are bringing food' sign for 3 days. To be warm, rested, peaceful, hydrated and nourished (obviously by chocolate) The reality is a multi pack of paracetamol, and a life that carries on as normal. The only difference being that I am crabbit - Hubby can testify to that (although generally he finds it amusing if I am going off on a rant - unless of course I'm bitching at him or Kiddo.  I am grateful for his sense of humour, and ability to alleviate my tense moods by making me laugh), I'm not just crabbit, I'm proper snarky with a potty mouth to boot (the source of Hubby's amusement), and zero tolerance for the majority of mankind with whom I come into contact with (not all, just most...) over roughly a 3-5 day run. In my defense, this is outwith my control. HORMONES!!  I don't actually know how I survive at work sometimes. No, to be fair, I'm not sure how some of the customers do. It would seem a big toothy smile and impeccable manners are my saving grace.  In all seriousness though, I find that as I am getting older my cycle is changing, particularly in relation to my moods, energy levels and general feeling of well being (or lack thereof). I do feel a need to address how I react to these changes and respond in a more respectful way to the needs of my body.
Most of all though, I am extremely grateful that I am under no contract with Mother Nature to go roller skating, cycling or horse riding or wear white jeans when all  I would rather be at home in my jammies.

These days I imagine that most of us get get on with life as normal and tolerate our period when it comes and don't really think too much about it (yes I've made a sweeping generalisation here, I am not talking about ladies with  pregnancy or health matters in mind). For me personally, it is an area where I can make some changes in my life for the better. Changes such as the combination of  Mooncup and washable pads (for my peace of mind) : Cheaper in the long run, more environmentally and body friendly, and changes to what I need physically and emotionally ie taking time for proper rest and peace.  I know chocolate and paracetamol are not ideal so I am researching more herbal and traditional methods of combating pms and cramps, which is fascinating and hopefully helpful. I will share if my findings are fruitful.

Image found here
x