Top tips for study from home parents!

It was with great trepidation that I stepped back into a University Library yesterday. I’d made the mistake of forgetting it was the end of September and so had to join a long line of fresher’s for a library card ten years after I was a fresher myself, didn’t I feel old amongst all these bright young things!

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I’ve now been working towards my Social Research Masters for three years, I’ve studied on honeymoon, I sat an exam on my due date, another with a five week old Jossy and am now writing my dissertation with a toddler in tow. This is the last presentation of my course and so I have to finish this year, with no opportunity for extension, so I am feeling the pressure a little, but I do think that it’s the time to finish as I would love to broaden my horizons on the work front.

I really feel in the swing of working life and studying from home, so I thought this is a good time to write my five top tips for study at home parents!

1) Be smart about finding time for your studies

I have learned not to pin all my hopes on nap times, as Joss is quite unpredictable and might have an hour today but only twenty minutes tomorrow. What I do now is try to do any university admin, emails, filing and organising interviews during nap time as these are easy to pick up and put down tasks. If I have to read I keep my aim conservative, even if I manage four pages that’s a start. Anything that needs a lot of concentration, extended reading, writing, real hard thinking and theorising, coding my data, I wait with those tasks til I know I will get a good run at them. At the moment this is two nights a week, where I try to do my housework essentials whilst Joss plays and helps me during the day, protecting those nights for work. I arrived at this routine after some guilt and soul searching, I had been trying to do too much and then if Joss woke from a nap I’d feel exasperated and panic I’d never get everything done, the perfectionist in me was trying to have it all, family, study and work and a neat and tidy home, and feeling like I just needed her to have had another ten minutes made me feel crap, now that I structure my day differently I love that time when I hear her chattering as she wakes up refreshed!

2) Find yourself a study space and keep it out of reach!

My study space travels around with me, it’s a box file with my course guide, two key texts, an A4 notebook and a research diary, with pens and post-its. It comes to work, the library, it sits next to the PC at home whilst I work and it sometimes travels further afield to. I always put everything back in the box and put the box up on a high shelf when I’m finished, as I learned to my detriment that anything that Mammy looks interested in is fair game for a toddler (yes, the baby did quite literally eat my homework…)

3) Remove any distractions if you can

There’s a time and a place for procrastinating, and I found that if I wanted to go to bed feeling a sense of achievement I had to close Facebook, stop checking emails and ignore the telephone during protected study time. I quite liked this little meme that a friend on my Facebook study group sent around!study

 

 

 

4) If you’re studying long distance or with the Open University seek out your local University Library

The SCONUL Access scheme may well apply to you, it allows University students to borrow or use books at other libraries which are part of the scheme. I can now pop into town and use the library for an hour even out of office hours with my access card as my library building is open 24/7, I can get out four books at a time and have a quite space for reading when Joss has some fun time with her Daddy. Having a space that’s not used by the family allows me to concentrate better and having the books to hand makes the whole thing more efficient!

5) When the going gets tough…

Ask for help, talk to your tutor and most importantly of all, remember why you’re doing it. When I started I wanted a better career, now my focus is to create a better life for Joss and my family, I am keen for her to develop self-discipline and a good work ethic, an interest in the world around her and I want to lead by example.

Be proud of yourself for undertaking a challenging task, treat yourself when you hit some of your milestones, and plan in breaks, good luck fellow students!

When life hands you over ripe bananas make banana bread!

When life hands you over ripe bananas make banana bread!

I love GBBO, my baking always takes off when it’s on and I remember how therapeutic it is, and how impatient I am!

I spotted bags of bananas reduced to 10p outside the local greengrocer so knocked up a quick banana and walnut bread. Joss was delighted to have ‘cakey’ for breakfast and we’re going to have ours later with custard for supper as it’s been one of those days. I had a shocking day today, I somehow fell off a chair at work – “I’m ok , I’m ok” (I wanted to die of embarrassment), Joss sustained her first fat lip and didn’t want me to go to work today, and I turned up at the local Uni library to sign up as a distance learner but forgot it is freshers week so made a wasted journey.

So this is the recipe for my restorative banana bread:

100g softened butter, plus a little smidge extra for greasing
140g caster sugar
1 egg
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 over ripe bananas mashed
60ml milk
85g chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 160C (fan) and grease a 2lb loaf tin with butter

Mix the butter, egg and sugar, then fold in your flour and baking powder

Add the bananas and walnuts

Mix well

Pour into the tin and bake for one hour or until skewer comes out clean. Enjoy! (or freeze half as we have, it will keep well for a good month)

Small Steps…Amazing Achievements – roleplay

I’m amazed by how early small people pick up on role play and get their own funny little games going!

 

Joss is showing herself to be a very sociable little girl, everything is a phone at the moment and she has some very sweet little chats into a lego brick, my calculator and an old hairbrush…”lo? ello? whoist? hee hee, ello?” She also has an empty giftbag that’s her little ‘handbag’ with an old bank card and keys, hours of fun!

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She’s also started showing real love and empathy with her little toys, including carrying her spider puppet in a dolly sling and cuddling her bears. This week she had a little game going of pretending dolly was crying, and shushing her and stroking her head, it made my heart melt!

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Some new words this week too, I like writing them down to look back on! This week or so we’ve had some rudeys, pump, bump and poo, some practical, keys, cu’umber, brush and card, and some fun, a sheep goes ‘maaaa’ and ‘donwantit’ which also serves to confuse mammy when she does want it, cue little tantrum! And my faves, joining in with the last word in songs, dingle dangle scarecrow with a flippy floppy….HAT! and twinkle twinkle little STAR!

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I really need to tag my blog one day, I decided to get some rough ideas by creating a Tagxedo and this is what it looks like, good to see cloth nappies and slings appearing, chocolate and tea too, what a surprise eh!

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Mammy B and the Scarf of Sheer Determination…AKA How to produce Crap Crafts

Mammy B and the Scarf of Sheer Determination...AKA How to produce Crap Crafts

Man, I know exactly where Joss gets that steely look and determined ‘NO’ from, it’s all me!

I decided to crochet her a scarf for winter forward thinking I pinned ideas to my hearts content, starting in August, you know, so it would stand a chance of being ready on time.

I now have three unfinished and very crappy scarves at my feet, the perfectionist in me said oh just try another pattern and you’ll get it right, the lazy get-it-finished quick me said keep going and it’ll all come together…it didn’t. I am not very good at crochet and I have spent quite a lot of money trying to realise my dream.

What I have achieved is something that fairly credibly passes itself as a scarf, in that it is soft and long, but beyond practicality it truly has no redeeming features! And it’s orange, not the mustard yellow I hoped for, but orange.

I’m currently making some flowers to ‘Jazz It Up’ and I think here my crochet journey will end.

I am however clearly good at making gorgeous babies, not 100% my husband will agree that I’m so good at it we should do it again, but look what we made!

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Fabulous Fashionistas

“Just don’t wear beige, it might kill you!”

I would have totally discounted this TV show, it sounded like it was going to be one of those reality TV fashion shows but I did a double take when I saw the listing and am really glad I did! Did you see it?

I think Channel 4 do some really promising documentaries, and this was definitely substantial as well as stylish. The notion that you have an identity and a valued sense of self at 70, 80, 90+ has been quietened in favour of the ‘little old lady’ and these feisty ladies were keen to campaign and fight back, they have a voice and they want to be seen as well as heard!

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Jean’s turn to working in fashion at the age of 70 was so refreshing and I loved that Channel 4 let this play out without seeing these women as eccentric or kooky, they were simply loving life and embracing all of its colour instead. Gillian’s wise parting words on ageing…”Don’t let it in!” was triumphant, spirited and left me feeling uplifted, inspite of lifes knocks and turns all six women were determined, words like campaigner, artists, fashionable and humourous are not only the domain of the young, and this programme was a breath of fresh air.

Little feet one year on…Small Steps Amazing Achievements

Looking at the fridge display of artwork today and I can’t believe it’s almost been a whole year since Joss created her first piece of artwork! She was just 5 months old when we did this at baby group together. At the time, the words ‘soon they will wear two little shoes’ seemed far far away in the distant future, but how time has flown since then!

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Early evening walks

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I love where we live, lots of greenery and the nicest walk, a 25 minute round trip at its shortest, part of a coast to coast route at its longest,taking in a pretty little marina with small boats and lots and lots of wildflowers.

I always like to stop and look at the big colourful cable wheels, and recently we picked over 1kg of blackberries, now frozen, over a week of evening walks.

We try to do this every night, and twice a day at weekends, this walk is where Alex proposed, where we’ve planned, sometimes rowed and dreamed.

It’s at the top of our street, we live in a small flat – but look at our garden!

I honestly wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world!