Sunday, 28 September 2014

My little designer / engineer

I just had to post this today, partly because it's so awesome, and partly because he asked me to.

C spent some time this morning painstakingly following the instructions to build the "angry man car" and police quad bike.  The "angry man" has carried out some type of burglary, there are bank notes, a gold ingot and a crow bar in the boot of the car, but I don't think the police quad bike has a powerful enough engine to keep up with this chunky off-roader.   Hmm, I'm digressing.  He followed the instructions all by himself.

In the afternoon, after returning from a crazy wild children Spiderman themed, cake and sweetie fuelled melee of a birthday party, he disappeared up to his bedroom, apparently to play with the angry man car, and his new awful plastic toy Spiderman was going to help him.  Delightfully, he then came downstairs with this creation:

He'd designed and made this desk workstation all by himself (unless Spidey was whispering in his ear).  It's got a phone, computer monitor and cup of coffee, as well as a fire extinguisher under the desk and a swivelling chair!  Isn't he awesome?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Making money from home

I think its safe to say that I'm a full-time mum.

C has now started school, and Bug is at pre-school all day on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  I'm still responsible for getting them to school and picking them up, I'm walking the dog twice a day, I'm doing all the cooking, laundry and housework, and I have Bug on the days that she's not at pre-school.  

Here's how a typical Monday looks:
  1. Get up at 6.30am and do my exercise DVD for 30 minutes.
  2. Get the children up at 7am, and encourage the getting dressed, getting breakfast, brushing teeth and getting out of the door process.  At the same time I get washed and dressed, get a laundry load on, have some breakfast, wash the dishes and make sure everyone has what the need for the day.
  3. Leave the house at 8.15am.  Drive to the village where school is, and walk through the village to school (we all get some exercise and the dog gets a walk).
  4. At 9am say "bye" to C, and begin the walk back again with Bug and the dog.
  5. Home again by about 9.45, a little later if we've done any errands while out.
  6. I spend an hour doing laundry and housework, while Bug either helps me or does some colouring or playing on her own.
  7. Now I spend an hour with Bug.  We play a game, do some reading or craft, then have lunch.
  8. At about noon, Bug goes for a sleep (or if she's not asleep after an hour, she gets up and plays in her bedroom).  I now have two hours to do some work (more on that later).
  9. At about 2pm I get Bug up, we have a cuddle, and then I persuade her to have a practice on her bike.  She's a little reluctant at the moment.
  10. At 3pm we head off back to the village where school is, and collect C from school.  The children have a snack in the car and we go to the woods.  We walk, and they play on the playground.
  11. At 4.30pm we head home.  Once there at about 5pm we settle down to do C's homework while Bug does some drawing.  I cook the dinner and supervise the homework.
  12. At 5.45pm it's dinner time.  Hubby is still working out his work routine, so is sometimes here for dinner, sometimes not.  After dinner it's time for pyjamas, teeth, a story and bed.  Hubby or I will do the dishes while the other supervises the children - unless he's not back yet, in which case I wash the dishes and supervise remotely!
  13. 7pm-ish the children are in bed.  I now have some time to work again, until 9pm when it's time to stop and Hubby and I have an appointment with the TV and whichever show we are particularly into at the moment.
On a Wednesday and Thursday in theory I have the whole day to get down to work.  In reality by the time I get home from school drop off/dog walk it's already at least 9.30, and I'm leaving again by 2.30pm at the latest.  I also still do laundry and housework on these days, as well as squeezing in a grocery shop, and a swim for me (a new luxury, to go swimming without the children once a week!).  So in reality, I don't get that much more time for working than on any other day.

So what can a stay-at-home mum do when she decides its time to start earning some money, and she basically has a maximum of about 4 hours a day in which to do it?  Here are some of the things that I'm trying, and I'd love to hear what you're doing too:

  • The first thing I've embarked upon is i-writer.  There's a list of articles required, and you choose one that you want to write and get on with it.  Once submitted, if the requester likes it, they'll approve it and give you a rating out of 5, and you get paid.  To begin with you only earn a couple of dollars for a 500 word article, but once you've done 30, if your average rating is above 4* you can access "Premium" articles, at about $5 for 500 words, and once your average rating is above 4.6* you can access "Elite" articles at about $8 per 500 words.  Yes, the pay is appallingly low (it takes me about an hour to research and write a 500 word article), but at least it's definite money for the work, and I also count it as good practice.  I'm definitely honing my writing skills and learning lots of good things along the way.  I've worked pretty hard on this for the last month or so, and am currently a Premium writer.
  • I've also signed up to a couple of market research websites.  They send you links to surveys.  You complete the survey and get paid for each one you complete.  Again, the money is poor, but it's better than nothing.
  • I've written to contacts I had for freelance writing prior to having children, to let them know that I am available and keen for work.
  • I've added Google ad-sense to this blog.  (At time of writing it doesn't seem to be working, but we'll see).  Again, not a high earner, but any income stream that requires little or no effort from me has to be a good thing.
  • I'm going to set up an etsy shop to sell my hand-crafted items, and get on with crafting a few more, which I'll also flag up on Facebook, by setting up a Facebook page for my craft business.
  • I'll write other articles on subjects that I'm confident with, and submit them to various appropriate magazines.
  • I might even finish one of my books!
  • Towards Christmas I'll make sure that I have enough craft stock to have at least one stall at a craft fair.
  • Once I've done that, and if things are selling okay on Etsy, then I'll set up my own website.
So that's where I'm going at the moment.  Ideally I can just gradually build up my earnings, but since the house in Scotland is still not sold, I'm getting a little anxious to show some substantial income as soon as possible.  Then I have to remind myself that actually I'm still a full-time Mum, and there are only so many hours in the day.  I could perhaps earn a bit more if I ignored the kids and didn't do any laundry or housework - but I'd be the one sitting in a house with fighting children, piles of laundry and mess everywhere, and I don't think I could manage it.  So I'll just have to keep plugging away, and do what I can, when I can, and hope the money starts coming in.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Alex Salmond - where did he get that chip on his shoulder?

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, and leader of the "Yes" campaign in the Scottish Independence Referendum taking place next week has been repeatedly hawking the phrase "Team Scotland".  Over the past twelve months Mr Salmond has been pumping up the anti-English rhetoric, mocking opponents and patronizing journalists who ask questions he can't answer.  Where did he acquire the very large chip on his shoulder?
Alex Salmond wants share of Royal baby
image from 

Salmond's start in life was nothing unusual.  He was one of four children, living in a council house in Linlithgow with his civil servant parents.  While he attended Linlithgow Primary School and then Linlithgow Academy he was quiet and hardworking, but also joined in with the fun.  He suffered with asthma, and was often off school, gazing out of the window at the swing park below.  Could he be jealous of the "Eton elite" and "incompetent Lord Snootys" that he derides so eagerly?

One former teacher suggests that the arrival of the BMC car factory in nearby Bathgate might have been a contributing factor.  English workers arrived talking about how they were going to "civilise the Scots" which wouldn't have gone down well with local young Scottish boys.

Alex Salmond, despite his asthma, was desperate to play football.  He followed the Hearts of Midlothian team, and took delight in memorizing facts and figures about the game.  His first trip to England, aged 17, was to watch a game between Hearts and Wolverhampton Wanderers.  Hearts won the game, but lost on aggregate.  Salmond was never selected to play football at school, though he has continued to follow both Hearts and Scotland, and often turns up to matches.
Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland.jpg
image from wikipedia

While personal attacks and word games are part and parcel of political wranglings in the 21st Century, Alex Salmond seems to take this to extremes.  He appears to pillory and marginalize those who disagree with his views.  His debating style is aggressive, constantly interrupting and hectoring his opponents, as seen in the recent televised referendum debate.  He can also give the impression of being overbearing, arrogant and patronizing.  Just days ago Alex Salmond handed a bag of Liquorice Allsorts to 26-year-old Daily Telegraph journalist Ben Riley Smith, and called him "son", simply because he was unable to answer the questions which the political reporter kept posing.

According to psychologists, the kind of behaviour where one person feels the need to put other people down, and criticize them or make personal attacks, is either a remnant of our predatory behaviour known as Rankism (Robert W. Fuller, PhD), or it's a sign of low self esteem.  The person making the attacks lacks confidence in their own position or ability, and compensates by putting others down to make themselves feel better.

Could Alex Salmond, by reverting to school playground polarized politics, be playing out his own lack of self-esteem?  Does he feel out of his depth in a political system largely built around English private schools and Oxbridge academia?  His own early political career involved being elected in a mock election at primary school by promising free ice-cream and half days, and then being elected as an office bearer in their University branch of the Federation of Student Nationalists, on the basis of being one of only two paid-up members of the Scottish National Party.  He's climbed to the top of the playground climbing frame, and is clinging on shouting "I'm the King of the Castle, and you're the dirty rascals" - is this really how we want the politics of our country to be decided?


Monday, 8 September 2014

Learning about the seasons

The best way for children to learn about the passing seasons is to spend time outdoors... often.
Find a place (or a few places) that you like and are easy for you to get to.  Try scheduling a regular time each week when you can go there, perhaps after school or on the weekend.  In Britain many "country parks" are managed by the local councils and free to park and enter, but you could also try forestry commission sites, or invest in membership of the RSPB, the National Trust or English Heritage, Cadw or Historic Scotland if they have a suitable location near to you.
Just roam.  Follow a marked trail or follow your nose (or the dog).  Play hide and seek among the trees.  Take a wildlife identification book or card, maybe birds one week, wild flowers the next, and trees the next.  See what you can spot and identify.  Go on a wild-food foraging expedition.  Make sure that you're all suitably dressed and go throughout the year, whatever the weather.  Watch the changing seasons and how the place changes.  Take photos, collect twigs and acorns, blackberries and feathers.
 We've recently moved to Herefordshire, and have discovered Queenswood Country Park.  It's just a mile or so from C's new school, and while not strictly on our way home, it's only a minor detour.  It's 123 acres, of which 47 acres are an arboretum with over 1200 rare and exotic trees.  There are three way-marked trails, all under three miles, so more than suitable for little explorers, who delight in following the trail marker posts.  It also includes a National Trust shop, free parking, a cafe and ice-cream shop (just for treats, not every visit!) and a brilliant adventure playground.  

C has Forest School at school every Monday afternoon starting next week, so will already be suitably dressed for whatever the weather can throw at us, so I think we'll aim for a Monday after-school trip to Queenswood each week (with a flask of hot chocolate for cold days).  Today they played for half an hour, and then we followed the Badger Trail for forty minutes.  I asked them to look out for signs that Autumn is coming, and they obliged me with oak leaves turning brown, blackberries and beech mast.  And the waggy-tailed-one wishes she could learn to climb trees so that she can better chase those squirrels!
I also love some of the seasons activities and printables that you can find on Enchanted Learning.

How do you engage with the changing seasons where you live?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

We're in!

Sorry for the slight break in transmission.  I have been awash in a sea of boxes, trying to keep on top of two children who are tired and excited and nervous and uncertain and need a lot of attention and cuddles, trying to earn a little bit of cash through freelance writing (more in a future post) and all the other paraphernalia that comes with moving.  Hubby is still in Scotland for another couple of weeks until he's worked his notice, but we are here and ready to roll with our first day of school tomorrow.

So... we're in.  And it's beginning to look a little more like a home.  Here's for the big reveal.  Sorry not to have included a picture of the outside of the house.  I forgot that bit!  Basically it's a wooden clad barn conversion, on the end of a terrace of four.  At the front is a lawn with a fence around it, and to the rear is a gravelled yard with a fence around it.  The garden is pretty dull and desperately needs some work.  I'd like to make it a more pleasant place to be, a place for the children to play creatively, and a space where I can grow things.  All without making any permanent changes, because we might only be here for six months and it needs to be returned to its current state when we move out.
Here's the sitting room.  It's looking quite cosy but I still haven't found half the cushions, we haven't hung any pictures yet (not sure if we're allowed), and there are still a couple of boxes lurking at the back.  Also we don't appear to have an aerial, so may need to get a free-sat box or something like that so that we can watch some TV.

The hallway fills me with dread.  There are still a lot of boxes here. 
oops, blurry shot.  Here's one end of the dining room (still plenty of boxes in evidence).

and here's the other end of the dining room - it's a study!  Hubby and I are going to share a desk and computer... eek, I'll have to start tidying up after myself!

The kitchen actually looks like a kitchen.  We just have one more box and a bit of sorting out to do.

without this room, the rest of the house would be a lot messier - its the shoes-and-coats-and-laundry-and-dog-and-downstairs-loo-room.  A couple of boxes left in here, but they are mostly bike stuff for when we get a shed (the bikes are currently under a tarp outside).

Bug's bedroom is about four times the size of her last one.  She's all unpacked, and already making a mess.

the other half of Bug's bedroom. 

C had priorities when we moved in.  Grandma, who was trying to put the bed together, kept being asked to shift the mattress, or whatever else was in his way, so that he could set up his "cafe".  He's now all set up and loving his new bedroom. 
The bathroom is enormous.  A small family could move in here and we'd barely notice.

The master bedroom is now all unpacked, though it's pretty cluttered.  I used to have a large built in wardrobe and a spare room for storing all my craft paraphernalia, clothes for the children to grow into, bedding, spare towels, and other assorted bits... there's no storage here, so I have them stashed all over the bedroom!

Now I just need to get the children settled into their new school and pre-school, get a routine established, get my husband settled in, start earning a bit more cash for my work and sell the house in Scotland.  Then we'll be all ready to make the most of our new life here.  There's plenty of countryside.  Today we came home laden with blackberries, elderberries and apples from our walk... yum!