Valuing what you do

While Laurence and I both do paid work, there’s no question mark attached to the fact that he is the main earner and I am the primary caregiver. It’s a set up we discussed and chose together when Talitha was a baby and, for the most part, it works well for us. If one of us is at times disgruntled with our earning mismatch, it’s always me. I’ve come to realise that that’s partly because I don’t always value what I do.

I found it amusing, then, to take SunLife’s ‘Mum Salary’ quiz. Apparently my mum salary works out to £75,545! It calculates your salary based on average salaries from occupations that mothers’ jobs are most like.

It’s meant to be a lighthearted bit of fun. After all, many of the jobs they mention are probably taken on by fathers in many households, especially where mothers also work outside the home. However, it drives home the serious point that mothers should consider life insurance too. We may not bring home a paycheck but our work does determine the family’s finances.

I was surprised three years ago when we were buying a house when our financial advisor recommended that I purchase life insurance. Earning only a small fraction of what Laurence does, I felt that, financially at least, he’d be fine should the worst happen but of course I do make a contribution even if I don’t get paid for it. From that perspective, it’s interesting to see what this quiz throws up.

Of course, there are bigger questions to ask around why we value work based on payment and, beyond that, why we reduce people to figures. Those are questions for another day. In the meantime, have look at the quiz and see what you think.

Brought to you by SunLife


38 weeks pregnant with baby number three

It’s weird to think that I’m less than two weeks from my guess date. I’ve stopped calling it my due date because at this stage in the pregnancy it’s unhelpful for me to get too fixated on a date.

Talitha was born at 40+13 and Ophelia at 40+3 but that’s no real predictor for when this baby will arrive. I realise, though, that last time, because I expected a baby two weeks “late”, Ophelia felt early. This time, I think I’ll struggle if I go on that long. Two weeks is not a long time. Four weeks seems like it is. Then again, in the grand scheme where this child is a member of our family for life, what’s four weeks?

I am feeling impatient, though. I had a massive growth spurt a few days ago and feel enormous. The midwife was surprised to find my baby as low as possible and told me her head is in my hips, which is frankly I already knew.

Looking back on posts I wrote around this time with my first two, all of my babies have descended and engaged around 37 weeks. I feel like I wasn’t this impatient last time but I have a post from then literally called “Suddenly Impatient“. I was certain I’d never experienced Braxton Hicks before but, reading back, I did! How did I forget all this?

I am so glad I wrote it all down because it’s helping me makes sense of Ophelia’s sudden clinginess. She wants to sit in our laps and even be spoon fed a lot of the time. Talitha has become extra cuddly too. Their world is changing but they can’t quite articulate how they feel about it.

I can’t, either. I go to bed most nights hoping that this will be the night I wake with surges, strong and steady. Yet the reality of looking after a newborn is still a little daunting. We are stepping out into something both familiar and unknown.

38 weeks pregnant-2

I’ve re-read Katharine Graves‘ book, The Hypnobirthing Book and have been practising her relaxation techniques on my own and with Laurence. It still amazes me how effective they are, more so now because they’re so familiar. I mostly sit on my birth ball when we’re at home, both because it’s more comfortable and because it helps me avoid slouching and encouraging the baby to go back to back.

We’ve finally not just settled on but fully embraced the baby’s name. This is new territory, struggling to agree on a name. Talitha’s name was chosen before she was conceived. We stumbled across it in the Bible and joked that if we ever had a little girl, we would call her “little girl” which is the Aramaic Jesus uses when he raises Jairus from the dead. Ophelia is a name that has kept coming back to me over the years. I fell for it from the Natalie Merchant song and we both loved its pretty but slightly haunting quality. Both names were settled long before this stage in pregnancy.

In the end, Talitha has helped us choose a name. Out of all the names she heard us discuss, there’s only one she liked and she has point blank refused any other we suggest. While we’ve talked about “the baby” in this pregnancy, she’s referred to her by name.

Now, though, we feel settled that she’s right. Unless there’s been a mistake on the scan (I kid that Laurence is hoping) that’s the name. We can’t wait to say it freely.


This Homeschooling Life – What June looked like

It’s time to reflect on another month of home education. As we come to the end of the school year, a lot of friends have asked how we’ve found it. I have learned so much this year about balance.

I started the year flitting between going to loads of home ed groups and outings, and just staying in. I’ve learned so much about the value of self-direction but have also become more confident about when and how to offer structure and support.

I worry less about what other people are doing and simply enjoy seeing both my children grow and develop. We’ve had so much fun together.

This Homsechooling life - June

That’s despite me not feeling great a lot of the time these past nine months from first trimester sickness to pregnancy exhaustion and mild depression to now being less mobile. In that time, they’ve each become a lot more independent and helpful. And they’re so into playing together!

There have been “recognisably” productive periods and weeks where we’ve completely gone with the flow. I imagine there’ll be even more of that dance once baby number three is here. My guess date is in a couple of weeks but who knows, eh?

Friends have asked whether we plan to “take a break” over the summer holidays. What we do is actually really low key and informal so I don’t think we really need a rest. The things we do are things that the girls want to do.

Certainly, I don’t intend to do anything that involves planning – mostly because I’m about to have a baby! – but we’ve reorganised the playroom to allow the girls to reach for what they want to do. I either lend a hand or encourage putting away after. Clearly I didn’t do enough of that over the weekend, though, because I’d like to show you what we’ve done to the room but it’s a bit too messy for me to take pictures right now!

Talitha’s drive to learn to read has seriously intensified over the last month. I think it’s been a huge revelation to her that she can read quite a lot. It’s something I’ve noticed for a while but for some reason it’s only just occurred to her that this is a thing – a thing she’s really excited about.

This Homsechooling life - June-10

We’re almost done with the Alphablocks Reading Programme. I did an introduction post back when they sent it to me a couple of years ago but I’ll do a proper review of that at some stage soon.

I don’t at all think this is the approach for every child or even that every child reads at a certain age but Talitha has loved those magazines and I often have to tear her away from them so we can go out. She still prefers to do them with me (a time together thing, I think) but now that she can read most of the instructions herself, I can sort of dip in and out with her while playing something else with Ophelia.

I also ordered the next batch of Oxford Reading Tree books (marmite for both kids and adults, I know!) and she’s loving powering through those while realising she can read other books too. Reading to her little sister is now a favourite activity.

What’s just as brilliant is hearing Ophelia “read” in return, which mostly involves looking at the pictures and making up her own stories! She can recognise her name and Talitha’s and loves repeating what we say when we read books, which is like the toddler reading equivalent to stopping to look at every flower and insect on a walk around the corner – cute, fun but slow!

Talitha did a home ed class with The Animation Workshop. Together, in three hours, the group made this cool stop motion animation telling the story of St George and the Dragon. She especially loves spotting her name in the credits.

The girls’ drawings have been really interesting to observe over the past month. Ophelia has suddenly gone from scribbling to drawing faces and actual things with a clear idea of what she’s drawing. Laurence is often pointing out to me that Talitha is using perspective and including new details. I must admit, I’d often just look at her pictures thinking they’re cool but not really knowing why. She got an Usborne drawing book for her birthday, which she’s a bit obsessed with. It seems she’s building on ideas she’s already been developing, which is fascinating to see.

It’s interesting seeing her handwriting develop too. I’m conscious that I haven’t helped her much with this at all and while her letter formation looks solid, her technique often isn’t the most efficient. At this stage, I don’t feel that matters much but she’s been asking to learn to write in cursive and, knowing how I’ve benefited from it (writing more quickly and thinking more creatively in cursive) I’m considering finding something she can follow if she wants to give it a go. This month she’s written a lot of thank you cards for her birthday. We still have a few more to do.

We gave the Mathematics Enhancement Programme a go as I mentioned we would last time and got through the first term of reception in a couple of weeks partly because I didn’t ask all the practice questions because it was all stuff she’d already conceptually grasped simply through real life. I’m inclined just to keep encouraging her to play with our Spielgaben set and offering the resources that come with that when she wants more input. Ophelia is now solid on her colours, having been mad on learning them a month ago, and is obsessed with counting everything.

fantastic mr fox - instagram

In June, we read Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. It’s such a page turner! We have started C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. While she really wants to know what happens next and is highly engaged with the story, I’m actually not sure whether we’ll manage it because she’s finding it scary. It’s hard sometimes to know when to encourage her to keep going or just shelf something for later on. She’s also been a bit unwell lately which always prompts her to requests audiobooks so we’ve been listening to Paddington Bear.

This month has involved making the most of Laurence being around more by going on outings I would have struggled with on my own. We camped on a goat farm just after half term and met up with my friend Jess and her kids at Barrington Court, a beautiful Tudor National Trust property.

This Homsechooling life - June-9

This Homsechooling life - June-4

This Homsechooling life - June-6

We also enjoyed a look around Bristol’s Victorian attraction, Brunel’s ss Great Britain. The girls loved running in and out of cabins and looking at the lifelike wax models.

This Homsechooling life - June-8

This Homsechooling life - June-7

A ticket allows you a year’s access so we’ll be back to take it in at our own pace too. It seems an easy place to take them on a quiet day midweek when the baby’s here, regardless of the weather. It’ll also be a useful outing depending on whether we dig more into history over the coming year.

Kids yoga_

Other highlights include lots of gardening, an intro to yoga via Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube and enjoying birthday presents like the sewing kit below.

This Homsechooling life - June-3

Ooh, and this is why it’s good that I take photos, I almost forgot that a huge deal this month has been watching our caterpillars become butterflies! Hopefully, this will become a yearly tradition for us.

This Homsechooling life - June-2

Do you home educate? Please do consider linking up any post about something you’ve been up to below. All approaches welcome! x

Other posts in this series:

May
April
March
February
January
What I loved about our first “term” of home educating
November
October
September
This Homeschooling Life – the very beginning

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Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Laura who blogs at Side Street Style
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up



Five ways to make your home more kid-friendly

My own personal brand of nesting has less to do with cleaning the oven (though, yeah, should really get on that some time) and more to do with making our house as accessible as possible for the children before the baby comes. A little organisation goes a long way and making small changes not only aids their independence but hopefully means less stress when getting to grips with looking after a newborn again. In this vein, I’ve been gathering ideas for ways to make various rooms in our home more child-friendly.

Child seat and stool in the bathroom
This won’t be a change for us as we’ve had them for a while but now that two-year-old Ophelia is out of nappies, I’m really grateful that our in-build child seat has made the toilet an appealing alternative to the potty. With the stool, she can get on to the toilet on her own as well as wash her hands. Of course she still needs support with both these tasks but now that I’m less able to get on the floor or lift her, it’s an appreciated addition to our bathroom along with some extra accessories .

Water dispenser
We bought a glass mason jar dispenser last year and (when I remember to refill it) it’s been brilliant for the girls fetching their own water. They love using it. Ophelia can mostly use it on her own though sometimes Talitha helps her. I even think they drink more water as a result.

Labeling boxes
While I try to regularly declutter so they don’t have an overwhelming number of toys and to have things displayed on shelves because out of sight is out of mind, we have boxes for multiple objects like puzzles, games and duplo. Labelling them has meant that the kids know where things are and are more likely to find ways to entertain themselves. It’s also made clean up easier for all of us.

Visual checklist
I’m terrible for remembering to remind them to brush their teeth and use the loo when we’re leaving the house. It often feels like enough to remember myself! So we’ve pinned up a visual checklist of stuff that has to be done before we go out and before we go to bed. We’ve had it for a while now and so far they are loving it and it’s actually making life run much more smoothly. The drawings means that even Ophelia knows what’s on there and loves getting things done so she can tick them off – most of the time, anyway!

Make your home more child friendly

Accessible clean up
My kids are still at the stage where they enjoy cleaning – as long as it’s self-chosen! So if they spill something, they’re happy to wipe it up. We use old rags instead of kitchen roll and store them in a low drawer so they can access them as they need then put them in a bucket underneath the kitchen sink, ready for the wash.

Have you made any child-friendly changes to your home? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Teaming up with Tesco for these insights


37 weeks pregnant – full term with third baby

A few days ago, I hit the 37-week mark. Full term. Really all it means is that this is the final stretch. The baby could come any day or it could be another five weeks. I’m holding on to the statement on my hypnobirthing CD, Katharine Graves’ reassuringly intoning, “Baby will come when baby is ready. Baby knows best.”

At the same time, I’ve gone from feeling not even marginally ready for the birth to fighting back impatience. The clothes, nappies and blankets are all washed, dry and put away. The birth bags are packed. Everything is gathered for the home birth. Birth preferences have been written, printed and laminated.

Though I’m still tired, I’ve suddenly had a lot more energy. It’s timed beautifully with becoming heavy, stiff and sore. Pelvic girdle pain still isn’t nearly as severe as it was with Talitha but it’s becoming the theme of most days just the same. I know osteopathy would help as it did last time but I can’t realistically fit it into the budget. Luckily, it’s annoying rather than debilitating.

37 weeks pregnant-4

Part of me wonders whether my intermittent desperation to have this baby comes from a desire for distraction. While the children certainly occupy my mind, there’s still space to panic about what’s happening in the world outside, whether it’s Brexit, the terrorist attack on Istanbul or distressing situations in my personal life that I can’t mentally escape but also can’t address right now.

I’m reminded of how important it is to make time for peace, to hold to quiet, to simplicity, to give the things I’m worried about over to God and to remember to keep loving, whatever that means.

37 weeks pregnant

I’ve been getting lots of practice surges this time around. One evening they were so powerful, I wondered if things were really getting started. Then things trailed off. I’ve heard from lots of mothers that this is common for third pregnancies. This could go on for weeks yet.

A doula friend reminded me that it’s all doing something, even if it doesn’t seem it. She also reminded me that feeling impatient in this last stretch is itself a way of getting ready.

The girls are both so aware of the baby now. Talitha loves seeing her move my tummy. Both speak so sweetly to her. Talitha keeps asking if she will get to see her coming out. I’ve made no promises but we’ve packed the kids’ bags and they’re happy with either option of staying or going to someone’s house. Ideally, it will happen at night and they’ll be asleep but we’re prepared either way. Now, if someone asks Ophelia about the baby, she’ll point to the bump and as we have friends who’ve recently had babies, she seems to be connecting my changing form with the reality.

Speaking of reality, I think I’m still in denial about what it’s going to mean to have a newborn again, while caring for my older two. I wonder if this is the brain’s way of protecting the family.

I can’t worry about it anymore because I can’t really remember what it was like, adding a baby last time. Even though I rationally remember how hard it was, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace that amid the chaos, life will carry on. And it will.

———–

Read more updates from this pregnancy with baby number three:
34 weeks pregnant
31 weeks pregnant
28 weeks pregnant
25 weeks pregnant
22 weeks pregnant
20 weeks pregnant
18 weeks pregnant
16 weeks pregnant
12 weeks pregnant


Ten ideas for solving summertime bedtime battles

It seems that a lot of people are struggling with getting the kids the bed at a decent hour now that the summer is here. I won’t at all pretend we’ve cracked it. Some nights are a dream and others are a lot more challenging. I thought I’d pool together a few thoughts on what’s been working for us as well as suggestions from other families. Please do chip in with your own (and leave behind anything listed here that’s not helpful).

1. Declutter
We’re all impacted by the environment we sleep in and kids are no different. Could it be time for a teddy cull? Is the bookcase overflowing? A bit of decluttering may make for easier settling in the evenings. It may not be possible to ban toys from the bedroom, especially if the room makes for prime storage space but even reorganising how things are laid out can help.

2. Blackout blinds
Is the room dark enough? The evenings are confusingly bright at the moment. It could be worth considering black out blinds or curtains to help children wind down.

3. Earlier bedtime
It may sound counter intuitive but sometimes going to bed earlier can make for faster bedtime routines, later waking up times and even better quality sleep. This is certainly true for my two-year-old. I think, realistically, a ridiculously early bedtime of 6.30 or even 6pm suits her perfectly, though that’s often not achievable for us. At the very least, starting bedtime early can mean we finish it around the time we originally wanted to so I’m not stumbling downstairs at 9pm, frustrated that I don’t have much of the evening left to do my own thing.

4. Later bedtime
And now I’m going to suggest the opposite! I know a lot of families who opt to let their kids stay up until they naturally want to go to sleep and they find this works well for them. They avoid bedtime battles and the kids sleep in later. Obviously, this only works if you don’t have commitments the next morning and it could mean swapping your adult-only evenings for adult-only early mornings.

5. Cool down
With the warmer weather at the moment, could your kids actually be feeling the heat when they’re trying to unwind? Children’s rooms are often the smallest in the house and therefore most likely to trap warmth. Cooler pyjamas, opening windows, lightweight bedding and even a fan could sort that out.

6. Essential oils
Some people swear by a drop or two of lavender in a bath or a chamomile spray in the bedroom before bedtime.

7. Exercise
Are the kids getting some time to run off some steam earlier in the day? Extra points for physical activity taken in the outdoors.

8. Light
Is it too light? Too dark? Could switching from a blue night light to a red one help your littles? It might be worth playing around with this a bit to see what works best for them.

9. Staggering bedtimes
If you have more than one child, putting them to bed together can make for dreamy synchronisation. Other times, they may just keep each other up. We find this is sometimes the case here. Five-year-old Talitha might be keen to go to sleep while her two-year-old sister is anything but. They share a room so it can be tricky. We’ve been considering letting Talitha stay up while we put Ophelia to sleep and giving her a lamp to read by until we can be free to tuck her in.

10. Accepting that this too shall pass
Sometimes, nothing works and the only way around a battle is not to play your part in one. Blink and things will change. The Summer solstice is almost here and, without wishing the summer away, you can hold on to the fact that Autumn and earlier nights are on their way.

Over to you, do you have any ideas to add?


Now she is five

Somehow my first baby turned five last weekend. Like, she was this tiny newborn I was learning to breastfeed and then – suddenly! – she became this CHILD with all these ideas and opinions.

Talitha's 5th birthday-7

As I’ve mentioned before, Talitha is currently obsessed with dinosaurs so it was no surprise when she requested a dinosaur party for her birthday. Her favourite is triceratops so we asked Cakes by Rachel Clare to put one on top of her cake. Can we just take a moment over this cake, though? How amazing is it?!

I always find baking a cake the most stressful part of organising a party so opted to buy one this year and it’s practically a work of art! Rachel even made it gluten-free and with goat’s butter. Inside was the lushest chocolate cake too.

Talitha's 5th birthday-8

I was pretty nervous about throwing her a party this year as I knew I’d be bang on 35 weeks pregnant. A friend pointed out the power of the number five for our family that weekend: first child turning five, five weeks until the baby who’ll make us a family of five is estimated to be due.

Talitha's 5th birthday

So we made things really low key by only inviting a few friends and having a ready made craft. I got these dinosaur moneybox painting sets from Hobbycraft for a mere £1.50 a pop and they seemed a hit.

Talitha's 5th birthday-4

We also played musical dinosaur statues, got the karaoke machine out, had a picnic on the kitchen floor (it was raining outside) and played pass the parcel.

Talitha's 5th birthday-3

With the party over, we went to lunch with family and the weekend was made extra special by having cousins stay the night. I must admit, it’s taken some time to recover from it all but I’m so glad we said yes to a small party this year.

Talitha's 5th birthday-5

Every year feels like such a big change but five really does feel it. I’ve seen such a leap in the way she reasons and works things out and even in the way she argues with me. I won’t pretend I’m always thrilled with that last bit but it’s fascinating and healthy all the same.

I love getting to know her and look forward to seeing what this next year is going to bring her in terms of growing, changing and finding her place as the eldest of three children.