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Archive for February, 2010

I read a heartfelt plea this morning from a woman on a site who was feeling really down, she wrote :

“Feeling really low today. Had a massive argument with my eldest daughter last night over something really stupid. It was here turn to empty the dishwasher and she was sitting at the table doing her homework. She kept saying “I’ll do it in a minute”, and this minute went on for an hour and a half. In the end I lost my temper and said fine I’ll do it myself then. She then stormed off upstairs muttering under her breath, and at this exact point the younger two starting arguing over something trivial. Well I really lost it. I shouted, screamed, I was so angry with all of them. They don’t have much to do around the house. They take it in turns to empty the dishwasher and make their beds in the morning and that’s it. I remember having so much to do as a child to help my mum and I never resented it. One or other is always arguing, nobody wants to help and everything is such an effort. To be honest I feel totally taken for granted. Even though my youngest has just started flexi-schooling and I do have 3 days each week without the children I fill it by cooking everything from scratch, baking, cleaning and making sure that they have a warm, lovely home at the end of each day. Hubby and I rarely get any time on our own and I feel resentful and restless with life. I am starting to question my role as a full time mum, especially as my eldest said some pretty hurtful things last night. To be fair, I was so angry that I said some dreadful things too. Feeling like a really rubbish mum at the moment.
Obviously this morning the younger two have been a bit despondent, but the eldest hasn’t even acknowledged me apart from to say she has a play rehersal after school so won’t be finished until 5pm.
Sorry for the ramble, but just feel totally fed up today.
Hope everyone else is having a better day”

It made me register on the site and reply to her! Because it’s a case of yet another Mum who thinks that she is there to be a personal slave to her kids and I DON’T AGREE!!

I replied “I just registered in order to reply to your message here … I wanted to send you a great big cyber-hug as I REALLY relate to feeling taken for granted by children and I only have one! Also recognising a woman who needs some down time ….

I wholeheartedly believe it is our job as mothers to create children who will become independent, capable, functioning adults in the world. That means they pull their weight! Your children sound incredibly lucky in that they’re getting away with the bare minimum of household helping and that you do 98% of everything for everyone!

My suggestion is that you STOP and take a gentle look at what they are learning about life from your example, and I really do say this with a LOT of love and understanding as I have done it too.

I suggest that a child, watching an exhausted, overstretched, underappreciated woman tearing herself in half trying to be “perfect” so everyone has the cozy home experience is teaching their child that “I don’t count”, “my needs are unimportant”, “my despair that no-one helps me will never be heard”, “my standards are hard for even me to reach” …. and that young women grow up to believe that when they are mothers, it will be the same for them, and young men grow up thinking that’s what women do….

Perhaps it’s time for a family sit down, and a working out of a weekly rota? So that everyone gets a job each day, and everyone (including Mum) have a day off all jobs. This rota can be the idea of the children if the meeting is carefully steered – ie by it starting out with Mum’s exhausted, this is what she’s done this week – how many of those things do YOU think she did just for her? As it dawns on your children that all you ever do is aimed at pleasing them, they will see how selfish their own thoughts are, and then may feel inspired to do jobs : There are plenty of household jobs you can rotate each week :

– Lay the table, loads and empty the dishwasher,
– Hoover the downstairs,
– Hoover the upstairs,
– Clean the bathrooms,
– Mop the kitchen floor,
– Deal with pets,
– Hoover out the inside of the car,
– Wash the car,
– Dust,
– Empty the bins,
– Gather the dirty washing together

My son who is 9 always deals with the table and the cat, and the other jobs he does from time to time. No pocket money is involved as I will not pay children to be a part of the family. Half an hour a day for each child to do chores is NO BIG DEAL!

It sounds as though you need some YOU TIME. By having this support, grumpily at first though it may be, you will be creating better young adults, and then that gives you time for the candle-lit bath you deserve.

Good luck!”

What do you think about creating the adults of tomorrow? Isn’t it better that jobs take a little longer but that the children DO them so that they learn? Yes, they need down time, but SO DO WE!

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It’s rained cats and dogs here this winter.

In fact, think vertical tsunamis and you’ll be about there. Andalucia’s largest lake, Lake Iznájar, has filled from practically empty to four metres below full and it’s a 999,000 hectolitre immense body of water so … yes, we’ve had LOTS of water.

That’s a good thing. Andalucia is considered a very dry place. The locals moan relentlessly “nos ruinamos” (we’re ruined), because we’ve had droughts every year for, well years, so you’d think that the entire community would be leaping for joy.

So not happening.

It’s causing chaos.

The olives can’t be harvested because the ground is so claggy you can’t walk in it let alone get a car through it. And now the sheer force of the rainfall is washing away the hillsides, trees attached, because there’s no underplanting policy in Andalucia ever since the grants stopped. Prior to that, the people used to intercrop their olives because they were paid to do so.

And, the latest thing that’s going on is the mountainside roads are being washed away from beneath by new “arroyos” or naturally created watercourses, being made by the incredible torrents of flash flood rain careering off the hillsides.

The thing is though, you can’t see that that’s what’s happening from the road – all you see is little and not so little cracks in the tarmac. You’d have to step off the road to notice the causes.

You’d have thought though (and I know nothing about road building), that sod-off great big cracks all along the cliffside of a 20km stretch of hillside road would tell the road people that “something’s not quite right” wouldn’t you?

(Excuse me while I laugh a kind of hysterical, demented laugh) ……

The local Spanish carefully thought out solution has been to pour glue in the cracks because “clearly there’s no reason why the road would be cracking so we’ll just glue it back together”.

A day later (and another 40 litres of rain later too), the cracks reappear, along with a noticeable “dip” in a long stretch of the road. The crash barrier (where there is one) has dropped a foot or so, and the tarmac has definitely slumped downwards.

No problem! Along comes Enrique and Manolo with a dump truck of left-over tarmac and they tip it into the dip – loading possibly a ton, maybe two tons of weight on top of what is patently obviously a stretch of road that is already not coping at all.

A few days later, we have exactly the same thing happen again – more huge cracks, and the “new” area of road sinking. And yes, Antonio and Francisco come this time and put a HUGE quantity of tarmac onto the road to level it out again, completely ignoring the fact that the crash barrier is now leaning so far away from the vertical position it used to have that it’s horizontal and two feet lower than the road.

Then four nights ago we had yet another storm of biblical proportions. The road is now three quarters of a metre lower than its partner that hugs the hillside.

Finally on Monday, driving my son to his kung fu class, I witness Enrique, Manolo, Antonio and Francisco standing around a set of makeshift traffic lights, Orange Cone Disease having taken over the world, where they are scratching their heads and smoking heavy black tobacco cigarettes. The truth has finally dawned. This is not a “stick a plaster on it and no-one will notice” state of affairs. They are, it is apparent for all to see, going to have to do a PROPER JOB. And they don’t like that one bit.

And said PROPER JOB is going to cost them thousands of euros, thousands of hours of disruption and possibly even road closures which will have incredible repercussions to anyone who needs access (like me) to Rute on a regular basis.

Zack and I think that Nature is trying to make new water-causeways all along the stretch between Iznájar and Rute. In which case, they’re now likely as not going to have to make a bridge, or several, to maintain a road link between the two towns. And how they’re going to do that, on a cliffside stretch of road, with their allergy to doing a PROPER JOB, is frankly causing those of us who would have done it well in the first place, great amusement.

I’m afraid I have to put this Bernard Cribbins song in at this stage … it’s poetic … !!

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My second tip on this :

PLANNING!

The best way to get it wrong is to look at the clock, say “oh shit”, and ferret around in the freezer / fridge / cupboad for something to slap on the table within half an hour where kids are concerned. Trust me, I’ve done it too many times!

There rarely is something properly nutritious and well balanced hanging around unless you

    planned for it

.

Now I found this step incredibly difficult because it involves structure, and I am not a person who has a very structured life. But nevertheless, it is actually incredibly liberating, sitting here this morning, knowing that I have sausages and home made fishcakes both defrosting in the fridge, ready for lunch and supper today, with salmon steaks coming out later today for tomorrow’s supper.

Wednesday as yet is unplanned but before this morning is out, I will have the entire week’s eating plan created – mine included.

Why?

Because it takes ALL The stress out of meals for 7 days with a small amount of effort and focus now. It allows me to shop specifically therefore minimising waste, and having a plan for a “use it up” soup for Friday or Saturday means that whatever hasn’t been gobbled up becomes a deliciously nutricious and filling soup at the end of the week.

Try it. Try a week’s menu plan and see if your bills become lower, your supermarket / market experience becomes more focussed, and also that your own diet becomes healthier as you think about what you need to balance your food.

.

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Zack and I were talking today about food.

He has a pretty good understanding of what’s great (apples), and what’s not great (chewing gum).

But he started asking questions that needed a great metaphor. And, thanks to my Highest Self, the perfect answer plopped in. Fires.

Zack loves fire, so I asked him what we needed to create a really good fire.

“Wood!” he said. We thought about wood for a while, and thought of it as being the really important, life sustaining foods that keep us going through the days and through the nights. Then I asked if he could think of anything else we needed.

“Paper? Metal?” came back.

The Paper we equated to cakes, biscuits, chocolate – ie foodstuffs that are known to give you a very quick “buzz” of energy, but nothing sustaining.

The Metal, which quickly morphed into Metals and Plastics, became the crud. Hot dogs, poor quality burgers, processed breads & cakes, shop bought junk basically was called Metal, and then things with ingredients we’d never heard of that were mostly letters or numbers became the Plastics.

Very quickly, Zack was able in his own mind to sort food into groups that gave him a very clear idea of how much or how little they would help / harm.

My intention in finding a metaphor was to get away from “good” food or “bad” food, because I don’t believe in the purist idea that you can NEVER have a cake or a chewing gum. I simply wanted Zack to find a way of mentally grasping the volumes of each food that were cool.

And he totally has got it.

We need mostly wood, but the paper to get us going, and metal could damage the fire if you’re not careful with it and too much plastic is really gross and gives off terrible gasses. …..!

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I have a very simple solution to this now and I feel smug about it, because it’s taken me 9 years to realise what I needed to do all along.

Tip No.1 : I batch cook.

This reality initially involved me sitting down with Zack and asking what he really liked to eat. When I heard Toad in the Hole, Fish & Chips, Pizza, Scrambled eggs on Toast, Baked beans, ice cream, chocolate brownies … I thought I was a really bad parent on the food front.

So I then asked about which vegetables he liked, and out came a list including peas, carrots, broccoli & beans. Then I asked about salad ingredients so we added avocados. Then I asked about fruits and nuts and my healthy eating list grew longer and longer.

I then decided that as there were so many vegetables that Zack really didn’t like, I would start to be sneaky. Here started my batch cooking thinking.

Batch Cooking :

It takes me 20 minutes to make home made burgers, whether I make 6 or 60. So why not make 60 at once, and freeze 56?

Our home made burgers are 50% pure minced beef, and the other 50% is wizzed up mushroom, onion, pepper, garlic, celery, carrot, fennel, cauliflower, leek … in fact whatever is in season or left over in the fridge – many ingredients of which Zack wouldn’t naturally choose to eat.

I mix the meat with a very pureed vegetable mush, squeeze out any seriously excess liquid, and add two eggs, nutmeg, mixed herbs, a bit of salt and pepper, and then I form them into burger shapes and freeze them on wide open trays in my chest freezer.

Overnight, they are like bricks which I can then bash to dislodge from the tray and store in plastic bags in the freezer. I take them out of the freezer the same morning I’m going to cook them so that they can defrost thoroughly first, and then I fry them in a bit of fresh olive oil until they’re well cooked but not well done!

In that way, I know my son gets a faceful of vitamins and minerals without even realising they’re there!

I do the same with fishcakes. He loves fishcakes, so again I batch cook them 50 at a time, simmering good quality cod in a court bouillon of water and herbs until fully cooked. I then add that to previously cooked and mashed boiled potatoes and add in LOADS of freshly chopped parsley, nutmeg, marscapone cheese or yoghurt that’s left over in the fridge, and then also a bit of salt and pepper. Roll them into flat fishcake shapes and open freeze as above.

Ditto with spaghetti bolognese sauce, stews, curries, chillis etc. Why make for today only when you can make ten times the quantity and have the food in the freezer for a day when you just don’t feel like cooking and would otherwise turn to junk?

Another great side effect of batch cooking is portion control. If you know the quantities that are healthy (remember the stomach is the size of a grapefruit – so that’s enough volume!).

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As a single parent, it’s incredibly easy to mentally justify quick food. There’s so much to do right? And there’s simply never EVER enough time to do it all. So we set about looking for short cuts.

Mine are relatively simple – I don’t iron what you don’t see – my bed sheets for instance – I couldn’t care less if they are ironed or not, as long as they are clean. Ditto for Zack’s. Then there’s working out all the things I can do while waiting for Zack to finish Kung Fu – I never go to Rute without a full list of shopping or researches or writing that needs doing so that that hour is optimised.

In fact, I would say that I optimise my entire life so that I have as much spare time as I can possibly manage!

However the area where many parents, not just single parents, in my view get it completely wrong, is around food.

Breakfast cereals packed with sugar, midday snacks ditto, then a diet of pasta, pizza, hot dogs, burgers, nuggets, scampi and chips.

I honestly didn’t believe that diets like that truly existed until I watched the video here of Jamie Oliver at the TED awards. Seeing that one woman being confronted by her family’s weekly diet on the kitchen table was just horrifying.

Yes, Zack does have pizzas, and he loves scrambled eggs or baked beans on toast. But my goodness when you see a film like this and watch children failing to identify tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines and mushrooms… well, it makes you realise that our children are not being supported by their parents to have food intelligence.

Take a look at Jamie Oliver’s video yourself, and ask yourself if you’re being true to the needs of your children’s bodies to make them strong and healthy … it takes 21 minutes, but it’s well worth watching.

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It’s later, and the chiropractor I swear to God cracked everything.

It bloody hurt, but not as much as it has in the past.

But I’m now apparently moving relatively speaking upright.

That’s good isn’t it?

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