Lent and the Year’s Intentions

 

Today is the first day of Lent and I have been considering whether I should give up or take up anything. My mum and sister always give up chocolate, and I have joined in a couple of times. But I always feel that giving up something like that kind of misses the religious connotations of the period. Instead, I am going to take up being thankful. It is something I try to do anyway – recognise the blessings in my life (which are many) – but focusing on it specifically for a set period will hopefully help me appreciate what I have even more.

I don’t especially intend to share moments of thankfulness on this blog – there’s enough people out there keeping thankfulness diaries already. But you may get an update a few weeks down the line.

Lent also feels like an appropriate moment to re-visit my intentions for this year:

Be Mindful of Food Choices

Avoiding meat for most meals and making more considered food choices is going ok, but is probably the one I have been doing worst on. I have slipped up a couple of times and ordered things with fish in at restaurants, because I forgot I wasn’t supposed to. And Mr Techno always provides a meat-based meal when he cooks on Tuesday evenings. And there was a pack of bacon open in the fridge that needed eating, so I did add that to my pea and goats cheese salad. But I’ve still managed to cut way down on meat consumption, going from eating it almost everyday to just once or sometimes twice a week.

We’ve also made the switch to getting milk and juice from our local milkman. Along with the veg box we have had for years, this is helping us reduce our reliance on big supermarkets and cut down on packaging waste. Hurray!

Buy Only Secondhand Clothes

Tom is beginning to grow out of his 12-18 month wardrobe, so I’ve been having to buy him a whole bunch of clothes. So far we’ve scored everything we need secondhand, though I may need to get him some vests new, as I’ve been struggling to find enough in the right size. He needs more pjs too, but is otherwise set for the next few months and I’m pretty confident I can find him some secondhand (it is lack of money, rather than availability, that is holding me back currently).

I did get a new pair of walking boots at the very beginning of the year, but have allowed myself this as a) it was Mr Techno’s Christmas present to me and b) I really needed a good quality, good fitting pair which is difficult to achieve secondhand. With luck these will last me at least 10 years, where as a secondhand pair would be unlikely to have so much life left in them.

I’ve also developed a minor obsession with wearing men’s vests over leggings, but have kept to my promise and bought a few on ebay rather than getting them new. I tried to take a selfie to show you my favourite, but my selfie skills are sadly pants, so you will have to do without. I know this will be a great disappointment!

 

Get Outdoors Everyday

And, of course, we are still getting outside everyday. I don’t think we have had a single day this year when we haven’t got out, even if it is just the walk to nursery, or a potter round the garden (sometimes in the dark with a torch just before bath and bed). My new job and our lack of family time recently has meant we haven’t explored as many new places as I had hoped, but we have discovered a new park and gone on a trip to Epping Forest, so some progress has been made. We also have a camping trip in Wales planned for this summer (I have to go anyway to run a course on repairing old floors and the site we are using is right on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, so was far too good to pass up!)

 

Anyone else giving something up for Lent? Or taking on a new challenge?

A New Challenge

As I mentioned in my New Year’s post, I am taking on a new challenge this year – a new job. Or, more accurately, an additional job.

When I went back to work, when Tom was 6 months old, I went back to essentially the role I had been doing before he was born. But I had a new job title and a slightly adjusted role profile. This is because my original appointment was actually as a year-long maternity cover and I found out I was pregnant about 7 months in (proof, should you need it, that the rhythm method does not work). So the lady I was covering and I decided to split the role between us when I returned, each doing three days a week.

This has worked well up until now. But back in September, shortly before beginning jury service, I saw an advert for a job doing a very similar role, for a complementary organisation, for just one day a week. I had a chat with Mr Techno and we agreed that I should apply. I was interviewed in October and was actually given the job a few weeks later. Various scheduling difficulties have delayed my start date, but I’m now due to start next week.

To be honest, I have slightly mixed feelings – the role itself is similar to what I do currently, and the organisation is very interesting. I work in the heritage sector, which is not exactly well paid, so the decision to take the role was less about finances and more about career development. But it will mean an extra day at nursery for Tom, taking him up to 3 days a week. He’ll still be at home more than half the week, but only 3 of those will be with me. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky to have that much time – so many parents have to work full time. And now that Tom is older we hope he will be getting more from the nursery experience than when he first started.

Of course, this will impact on our outdoor time – we’ll continue to walk to and from nursery on the days I work, but it doesn’t leave much time for more imaginative adventures, especially with the dark evenings. Having said that, Tom has now dropped his morning nap, so we have more time on the days we are home to explore new places.

Anyway it will be interesting to see how it all works out. I am excited and nervous in almost equal measures at the moment – waiting for our new routine to start is almost worse than making it work will be.

I just have one question remaining. When the hell am I going to find time to do all the washing?

Intentions for a Greener New Year

Happy 2016 everyone! 2015 was a good year for us – we got to watch Tom grow from a four month old baby to a 16 month old toddler; a journey that has included him starting nursery, learning to crawl and then to walk, and begin to say his first words. I went back to work and Mr Techno was promoted. And we enjoyed some wonderful adventures in the great outdoors.

Like a lot of people, I’m very wary of New Year’s Resolutions, especially those that require me to give something up, or take up something I don’t enjoy (going to the gym springs to mind…) I have more sympathy with those that involve taking up a new challenge, and thought of doing something like that for this year. However, there is already a new challenge on the horizon which is likely to change our daily lives a bit – I can’t say more now as it is not yet finalised, but should have more news for you soon!

Until I know what impact this change will have, I don’t want to commit myself to further new challenges. So instead of resolving to do something new this year, I thought I would put together a short list of things we already do, which I intend to explore more deeply.

1. Be Mindful of Food Choices
As I explained in a previous post, I try to reduce the impact that our food choices have on the amount of waste we produce. However, I definitely used to be more mindful of where our food comes from. There was a time when the only meat I ate was the pigs my parents raised, or the game shot by my father-in-law. In both cases, I knew exactly how the animal/bird had been raised and how it had been died. In the case of the pigs, I even knew their names. But my parents no longer keep pigs, and I let pregnancy cravings alter my diet to the point that meat is now on the table most days. Since that excuse was exhausted long ago, it is more than time for me to reassess the amount of meat I eat. As a result, I intend to reduce this by only eating meat if someone else is cooking for me. Admittedly, this is less admirable than it might be, as Mr Techno cooks dinner once a week. But I feel it is a commitment I can sustain, whilst anything more is likely to test my resolve too far in the long run.

2. Buy Only Second Hand Clothes
As a university student, I made a commitment to only buy clothes that were either second-hand, or produced ethically. Realistically, that meant only second-hand clothes, as new ethical fashion tended to be a bit beyond my budget. But over the years I have slipped a bit, using the excuse of my changing shape (weight loss, then pregnancy, then post-baby weight not shifting) to buy the odd item of new clothing. I intend to go back to my original commitment, buying all of my clothes and most of Tom’s second hand (some things, like vests, I struggle to find enough of, so have to buy new). The exceptions will be underwear and shoes – underwear is hopefully obvious, and I tend to wear my shoes into the ground, so need them to fit well and be in reasonably good nick, something that can be hard to find second hand (I have tiny feet).

3. Get Outdoors Every Day
Making this pledge a few months ago, and then starting this blog to help me stick to it, has really transformed my life in a way I wasn’t expecting. I feel calmer, happier, fitter and more energetic than I did before. My bond with Tom has deepened as we spend quality time together outside, away from the electronic distractions at home. Mr Techno and I talk excitedly about where we will explore next, instead of letting lethargy get the better of us and make us stay indoors. I intend to build on this good work by continuing to explore the places local to us, but also by venturing further afield. We hope to take some camping trips come spring, and, as Tom begins to need less sleep, we want to take more day-trips to places outside of London. The new challenge I mentioned earlier in this post will have an impact, but one that I think we can work around.

So bring on 2016 – a year that will hopefully be as good as the last, if not better. A year that I hope will be greener in more ways than one. I can’t wait to get started!

 

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Weekly Report: w/c 19/10/15

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Last week didn’t get off to the best of starts. Mr Techno had Monday off, so we all headed to Spitalfields Market to try to get ahead with some Christmas shopping. Sadly we were uninspired by the selection, returning home with only some (yummy) brownies from Konditor and Cook. The shopping trip took up time we would normally have spent on Wild Time.

Wednesday was much better, despite being a drizzly day. I wrapped Tom up in waterproofs and rain footies and we had fun in the garden in the morning and the playground on the afternoon. See my post on playing in the rain for more.

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Thursday and Friday were our normal walk to nursery and back via the park routine. We saw the sun coming up over the park in the mornings, and, in the evenings, were fascinated by the flock of parakeets that live in the sycamore trees. Great clouds of them kept making a break from the trees to swoop over our heads, cheeping madly.

What with jury service and work stress, I’ve been a bit of a hermit the past couple of weeks. This weekend I aimed to change that, so we spent Saturday with some friends, one of whom lives near Victoria Park. Although it was a little drizzly, we had a great walk through the park, finishing back at Soph’s house for tea and soup.

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Sunday we had a couple of Mr Techno’s friends, who he has known since primary school, coming round for dinner. There was no food in the house, so Tom and I walked to the supermarket (about half an hour) via Leyton Jubilee Park. We stopped on the way back for a picnic lunch, then enjoyed some running around.

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I’d planned to go for a walk on the Marshes in the afternoon, but Tom fell as we were heading out the front door, and bust his lip. Poor thing was obviously in pain and upset by the fall. Once I had cleaned him up, it was a bit late for a long walk, so we just headed back to the park for a while.

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Verdict: so-so

Barriers to Wild Time #1: Time Poor Parents

We are lucky in this house. I’ve been able to go back to work just three days a week and Mr Techno’s flexible working pattern means he’s able to cover one of those days, meaning Tom is only in nursery two days a week. So we have a lot more time than the average family where both parents are working (only having one Wildling helps too).

That being said, the recent intrusion of jury service into my normal routine has meant that time has been at a premium around here. Giving me the opportunity to experience time poverty first hand (every cloud and all that).

It has been a real challenge making time for wild time. We’ve had to get a bit creative and allow for a bit of compromise. Here’s a few things that have helped us make time to get outside:

1. Wild Time on the Way Home

Tom and I have developed a regular routine of walking home from nursery on the days he goes there. It takes about half-an-hour. With a bit of pre-planning, I’ve been able to adapt our route to go home via our local park. Once we get there, we park up the buggy and spend thirty minutes to an hour exploring, playing and practicing Tom’s walking. It’s just a small change to our regular routine that means we still get time outside, even on our busiest days of the week.

Baby in grass

2. Moving Meals Outdoors

One of the best things we’ve tried is moving regular care-giving activities outdoors. Meals are the obvious choice, as long as it’s not raining (soggy sandwiches being no one’s idea of fun). So we’ve been setting up a high chair outdoors and enjoying some family time in the garden (aka tiny patch of concrete our neighbour grows tomatoes in). Even Mr Techno got involved the other day (though note the phone in one hand…)

Alfresco Baby

3. Making Use of Morning

If your house is anything like ours, mornings are a hectic time. Everyone has to get fed, dressed and out the door in time for work or nursery. And Tom has perfected the art of waiting til I have him in a nice fresh nappy, dressed and ready to leave, before unleashing a monster poo that puts us straight back to step one. So I’m a bit reticent to suggest anything that might make mornings even busier. The thing is though, that I find leaving the house just a few minutes earlier each day really does make the rest of my day calmer, easier and less stressful. Instead of dashing Tom to nursery, jumping on the tube and going straight to work, we spend just five – ten minutes in the park, greeting the early morning dog walkers, breathing the air, and listening to the birds. Tom doesn’t even leave his buggy, but the extra minutes of quiet and calm put us both in a better mood.

Morning Baby

So that’s it: three tips that have helped us get outdoors, even on the busiest days. What about you? Any tips for how you incorporate wild time into your daily routine?