Monday, 29 July 2013


I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring the books “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent” written by Tom Hodgkinson.  I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 20 – The anti-nuclear family – LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE

We have this dream that families are these nurturing glowing cosy cuddles, your place of sanctuary against the world.  In reality, too often the family is just a small group of people who happen to live in the same house, and are often isolated and hostile to one another.

Could it be that where in times gone by, work was done co-operatively – making, mending, growing, cleaning, cooking – where now it is done by nobody, or by just one resentful person.  Families used to work together, now they are uncreative, and home is about crashing out, chilling out, zoning out, anything but engaging with one another or the world. 

We produce these wonderful children to make our family, and then farm them out for others to look after, while we work to pay the person to look after them, and buy them things that they don’t need.  Instead, get the children engaged in “work”.  Get them gardening, making things, decorating things – it doesn’t need to be perfect, just creative. 

Tom also strongly suggests avoiding family days out – costly and full of strife.  Better to spend some one-to-one time with your children, getting to know them, giving them full attention.  Or make the family bigger – not by having more children yourself – by inviting others to spend time with you.  More adults and children spending time together means that the children take off and entertain one another, and the adults get some quality time too. 

DH Lawrence has the best advice of all for child-rearing, “Leave them alone”.  This makes looking after the children much less like work, and you are more likely to enjoy the time you spend with them, than if you are constantly trying to entertain them.  We over-schedule our children, and make them dependent and expensive.  Surely we would do better to just let them play and create.

How does this match up to the ink-spots-and-grass-stains life?

Just let the children be.  It’s a fine idea, and I am a huge advocate of unstructured play and creativity, but sometimes you need to be a little more present than that, to stop them from accidentally killing one another (C likes to put the beanbag on top of Bug and sit on it.  She doesn’t like it so much and screams.  I don’t like the screaming, but at least when she’s screaming I know that she can breathe.  I usually step in and make him get off.).    I also think that they need some structure and support to give them ideas for their creativity.  With no structure at all they start to roam, and usually head for some sort of trouble, but a simple “invitation to play” where some interesting resource is set out, or you sit down and make something with them, gives them lots of ideas.  Then, when they are engaged in their new ideas and play, you can slope off and get on with something else.  I’m also all for getting the children involved with the housework – mine are certainly involved with cooking, which they both love, and C adores hoovering. 

As for the nuclear family being a bunch of people living in the same house who don’t like one another very much, and family days out being a no-no.  Not here.  We live in the cuddly dream.  The children are still of an age where nothing beats a day out with mummy and daddy, and as luck would have it, Daddy and Mummy have similar interests and thoroughly enjoy a day in one another’s company too.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Money making schemes coming together.

How do you go about setting up two businesses from scratch?  How do those "Apprentice" folks start out?

Both my sisters have been visiting recently, and I've had a chance to really talk my plans through.  I've bought my two domain names (no websites yet, but the domain names are waiting there for when I'm ready.

The plan is:

  • Make as many things as possible over the next few months, a whole variety of designs and types of crafts and merchandise.  Once I have half a box-full, set up the first website and start selling, also selling on e-bay and/or etsy.  Aim to have a full box full of stock by mid-November and attend at least one craft market before Christmas.  I visited one today to check out the kind of thing on sale, and I think it would be a good place to start.
  • In the meantime, also boost the amount of writing I'm doing and sending off.  I've mentioned that I'm available and keen for work to a couple of contacts who used to send commissions my way.
  • Over the next two years while the children are starting pre-school try to build on these bases.  With the crafting business, go with Alan Sugar's "smell what sells" principle.
  • When I hit the £5000 turnover mark, that's the time to set up a business account and make sure that everything is organised properly so that I'm paying appropriate tax and business rates etc.
  • Once both children are at school in two years time I can aim to be working for five hours per day, five hours per week, and would be intending to earn at least £250 per week.
Let's see how that goes!  I'll be posting regularly on here so you'll be able to see how the plans progress.  I really want to make it work so that I can work at home and be there for the children when they come home from school and during the holidays.  Plus the fact that after four years of staying at home with the children, I really can't imagine the idea of working for somebody else again on a long-term basis.  Hubby and I also have other plans in the cooking pot for the future, which need to be woven in to all these other plans....  Just so much to think about.  Now I feel as though I'm raring to get going and make things happen, and even though I still have the children at home, I do think that I can do it.

Anybody got any hints to help when starting up a craft-or-write-from-home business?

Monday, 15 July 2013

I finished it!

I started this jumper way back in March/April.
I posted on it here and here back in April.
I've finally finished it!  

It does help a lot that the end of last week I was incapacitated somewhat.  A very nasty bug bit my ankle and for some reason my entire foot decided to swell up so I had to sit on the sofa with an ice-pack.  Being forced to sit still meant that I got a lot of knitting done, and yesterday completed the jumper.  I'm really pleased with it, and can see it getting plenty of wear, though the rib means it hugs my curves a little too much, so I'd better get on with losing some weight!  This is my first adult sized piece of clothing, I'd definitely give it another go, but my next knitting project is going to be learning some cable techniques, so I'm knitting a jumper for one of the children.  Plenty to do before then though, as I'm in the middle of another craft project, which you'll have to wait for a future post to find out about!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Invitation to...

An "invitation to..." is a very simple way to structure play or creativity for your children.  

You set up some resources and just wait and see what the children do with them.  I'm still quite a beginner at this idea and you can find a lot more inspiration at the following sites:

The Imagination Tree - info on what an "invitation to play" is and some great ideas and answers to questions.
This Pinterest Board has seriously loads of ideas.  It isn't about copying the idea, it's about getting inpiration.
Teach pre-school - some great invitation to... prompts, plus some more links!
Learn with play at home - a great idea for inviting number play.

This week I've tried the following invitations:

A big pile of plant pots, a large tub, and a hose nearby (sunny weather - hose essential!).
 The children ignored the tub and the hose, but made castles with the plant pots.

A piece of drain pipe across the swing frame, with a couple of toy boats, and the hose.
The children used the hose to wash the boat down the drainpipe - great fun!

A tray with some poster paints and paint brushes, some paper of different colours, and the pine cones, feathers and sticks which they had collected on a walk the previous afternoon.
The children painted the twigs and pine cones, and have all sorts of ideas of what they will use them for.

Thursday, 11 July 2013


I'm writing a series of blog posts exploring the books "How to be free" and "The Idle Parent" written by Tom Hodgkinson.  I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 19 - Live Mortgage Free; be a Happy Wanderer - SHARE YOUR HOME

A major setback to doing what you want to do, what will make you happy... is debt.  Once you have it, you really need to keep paying for it - otherwise bad things start to happen.  Mortgages are based on the idea that ownership is good.  If you rent, you're paying money and will never own anything, but if you buy, then you can own something after a very long time, and paying more than double the cost of the thing that you are buying. We aren't even very sensible about it.  Instead of borrowing enough to have a small home, we tend to borrow as much as we can only just manage to pay back, so that we can have a bigger house - leading of course to having to work harder in order to pay it back.

Renting is cheaper.  The rent may be slightly more than you'd pay in a mortgage for the property, but you don't have to worry about maintenance, or boilers or anything like that - that's for the owner to sort out, so you do save money.  It has got more expensive lately though, as more and more people struggle to get "on the housing ladder" more people are requiring property to rent, so rent goes up.  It would be better to keep rents lower and leases longer - then  more people would feel more secure renting.  If you didn't have the fear that you could be chucked out at any moment, then you would feel much happier to rent, you might be able to actually plant fruit trees, set up the garden properly and do a bit of maintenance yourself if you thought it would be worth your while.

How about squatting?  Just occupy an empty building.  What about communal living?  Get together with a group of friends and rent or buy a building together - who says that every family or couple needs to have their very own home?

Buying a cheap house in the middle of nowhere is cheaper than buying one with good links.  If you've less mortgage then you've less reason to need to be in commuter-ville.  Buy a smaller house too - less work to pay the mortgage, less maintenance, less cleaning.  Why not become a vagabond or wandering tradesman?  The answer to that is that governments don't like it.  They think that somebody who wanders must be in need of a "back to work" programme, or is a scrounger.  It doesn't occur to them that wandering might be a choice for freedom, and that these wanderers are often actually scrounging nothing, but work their way from place to place, but with no fixed abode.  Do they worry that this creates chaos?  That because these wanderers are wandering, the government have no way to collect their taxes?

How does this match up to the ink-spots-and-grass-stains life?

We have a mortgage.  Of course we do.  We're middle class.  We also have a house that's bigger than we need in a very nice place.  Hubby works like crazy to support the mortgage.

We're looking to change it.  First we need to gradually rid ourselves of some of our unnecessary stuff.  Then we need to buy a place in the middle of nowhere - the house doesn't need to be so big - with a bit more land.  Then we can work on an alternative and more pleasurable way of life to service the hopefully now smaller mortgage.  Then Hubby can stop the work he doesn't enjoy.  Good plan?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Progress on the Model Railway

Progress with the model railway is slow.  
This is a good thing.
It's teaching me to be patient.  It's also teaching C to be patient.  
We're working on it a tiny bit at a time, but it will look awesome.
The most recent updates are that we are very close to completing the "Manor Farm House" and "Farmworkers Cottage", both cardboard cut outs that need glueing together, from Metcalfe Models.  This week we made and added the chimney pots, and then it's just the roof ridge tiles.  The buildings are currently pristine and just like all the other Metcalfe Manor Farm Houses.  When we get on to modelling the landscape in the middle of the track, we're going to make them look a bit more realistic, adding a name sign, some drainpipes, some flaking paint or ivy, some dustbins and a garden - but that's all a long way down the line.
The other thing we've just got done last week is finally added scatter material on to our landscape.  I bought some from the Model Railway shop at the North York Moors Railway Depot in Grosmont.  I was disappointed ten minutes later when I found a wider variety at a lower cost in another model railway shop across the road!  The next job we've to do on the scenery is to make some fencing.  C can't put any sheep on his meadow until we've got some fencing to prevent them wandering across the railway!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Back to business.

As a stay-at-home-mum you can sometimes feel that you spend your entire time cleaning and tidying and shouting at the children.  Of course, we sometimes enjoy the idyll of craft activities, baking and lazy days in the garden that working mums assume that we get up to, but sometimes you really feel that you are just there to clean up and be ignored.  You sometimes feel that you aren't doing anything to contribute to the family bank balance either (though in many cases the amount you'd actually keep after you've paid the childcare bill would be very low even if you were back at work), which can be especially hard if your spouse is working hard at a job that he doesn't enjoy.

time to try and make some pennies.  You never know, it might just make me feel less like a glorified slave to two small tyrants, and more like the talented goddess that I used to think lurked within.

Not easy though.  Firstly, the cleaning still needs doing, and no matter how I harangue gently encourage them, they are still a bit little to take on the bulk of the housework.  Secondly, they still require a lot of attention.  Thirdly, I still want to be doing all those domestic bliss things like baking and gardening and craft activities, both on my own and with the children.  Fourth, well... I'm just out of practice!  It's going to take some self discipline.

So those are some of the areas I need to tackle first.  Here are some things I'm trying to make happen:

  1. Straight after breakfast and teeth we start doing the housework - together - up until no later than 9.30am.  If it isn't done by then it won't get done that day (unless Hubby takes it into his head to do it?!).  That way I don't feel like the cleaner, and I get to teach the children how to do some of these chores.  Happily.
  2. From then until lunchtime is children time.  We'll do the crafts and the baking and the playing.
  3. After lunch, while Bug is napping and C is playing quietly in his room is "work time".  I must not spend time doing things for Scouts.  I must not do laundry, ironing, surf the internet, get on with the gardening or anything unless it's work-related.
  4. Later in the afternoon I can spend a bit of quality one-to-one time with each child, and then get them out in the fresh air - time to do a bit of gardening. 
  5. In the evening I go for a walk with the dog - time for thinking and me-time, and then do Scout tasks.
  6. From 9pm both Hubby and I down tools and head for the sitting room - time for something good on the TV and some crafty hobbies.
Since returning from holiday I've been focusing on the after lunch slot.  I've not done anything to earn any money yet, but have been trying to reinstate some discipline by working through an outdated Writers Bureau Creative Writing Course.  Hubby signed up for it at least a decade ago and never got further than the first assignment, so I'm working my way through the self study.  Today I've been learning about writing letters to the editor and filler material for magazines.  The time slot isn't always available though.  C sometimes still needs to nap, but will fight it every time, so if I think he's desperately in need of a sleep the only way to achieve it is for me to get into bed with him and give him a cuddle, which invariably leads me to drift off too.

In the next few months I would ideally like to start making a bit of cash through both crafting and writing.  So those are the two strands I'm going to be working on.