Swa, ongietan (Thus, perceive)

A few days back I had one of those days where everything you can possibly imagine goes wrong.

It started with me missing my bus and right after it, missing my bus stop which made me walk twice the distance to work.

Yes, I was not happy, but nevertheless I carry on, went to work, walked through those gates with the same enthusiasm of not knowing how my day was going to be – although I do have some sort of idea, but my mindset is always the same: expect the unexpected which is for me a far more challenging mindset and inevitably puts a smile on my face.

As the day went through my enthusiasm dwindled and I finished my working day disheartened and feeling more alone than usual. I just wanted to go back home and find my ground. And settle my thoughts.

When I finally settled and quieted them thoughts I started to follow the succession of events from that day and everything made sense.  The inescapable conclusion was in front of my eyes and it was simple: my time at that work was over. I did not want to see it straight away; as a fact part of my brain was asking, almost shouting for a bit of peace and quiet to process everything, but the other side of the brain was asking for more with a louder voice hence it would silence it.

Once I arrived at this conclusion of game over the subsequent feelings followed suit. “I’m not good at it”. “If I was good at it, probably they would hire me directly instead of keeping me working as a contractor”” I should have taken more chances” “What / when / where did it go wrong?” And I felt tears rolling down my cheeks.

Immediately afterwards I started to think what I am going to do for money; thought again on putting my stuff for sale on how to do it; to catch up with my CV and sort out my pile of papers; apply for part time jobs and juggle everything in between.

You may say “right, tell me something I don’t know already; we all go through that path!”

To what I say: after all that thinking, I realised I did not think about the most important thing: my family. I did not think straight away “well, I can take this time to be there for them, to be more present”. I did not think “now I got this time out I can spend more time with my little one sorting out the patio, playing games or else when he is back from School”.

And that made me feel awful.

At this point I don’t know what made me feel worse: the realisation that I was going to be on the hunt for a job yet again or the awareness that I was running on a hamster wheel and lost sight of what it is important, what truly nurtures me: my family.

It was a slap on both cheeks, I tell you. Hard ones. Sometimes you do need them, so you can re-focus and stop the autopilot and be more attuned to the surroundings. I want to be present once again, and feel the precious weight of that word, and allow life to meet me so I can greet her on the here and now.

 

 

  • Swa (Thus) and Ongietan (to understand, perceive) are both part of what is called Old English Core vocabulary.
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Grabber Revolution

Have you ever got the feeling that if you do not do something it will never get done?

Well, that is how I have been feeling for the last weeks. Let me tell you why.

In front of our house, between our path and the road, there is a stretch of land with bushes and trees (and yes, we already hanged a bird feeder from one tree which faces my son’s bedroom window, so he can see the birds) which in summer is a fresh green natural screen that separate us from the road and in winter is just bare and…yes, wintery.

Because this stretch of land is now bare, I can see everything: twigs, branches, stones, plants, and…. rubbish. Lots of. Bottles. Cans. Wrappings. Pieces of aged polystyrene. Supermarket bags. Lids. Costa Coffee cups. All scattered along this stretch of land which is about 50 metres long. This stretch I must see it every morning when I leave for work, and every afternoon / evening when I come back from work. I have to see it every time I walk along with my son to go to School, or to the park. You get the picture.

I SEE IT ALL THE TIME.And it is annoying. Waking up, move the curtains, look up, look down…and I see litter. Come back from the park…and litter. This stretch of land is trimmed by a quadrille that comes in the autumn to cut the hedge and to trim the trees. But not to clean it.

Hence…. Today was the day when I decided it had to change. Since we are on school holidays and my little one is remarkably better (he has been unwell for almost the entire week) and it is sunny outside (for a change!) I thought it would be a good idea to go out with the grabber, plastic bags, gloves, and woolly hats to pick up the litter. And so, we did.

 

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No need to say that contrary to everybody else’s views and opinions, my little one had a blast of a time. What could be more fun than to go with the grabber and pick up a wrapping, a bottle, a lid? Discover bottles and count how many cans we found?

My little one saying aloud “all this plastic is no good for birds’ mummy! We must collect it with the grabber!” and giggling after every finding, saying “yucky!” more times than I can remember and  watching him separating plastic, tin and glass in some kind of order, pattern only known to him with a scientific concentration was priceless.

We stopped for lunch and afterwards we finish what we started. We brought back into our yard 2 bags full of plastic, about 6 cans and 4 bottles (yes, my son counted it all).Full bird feeder

Our reward was to put some seeds for the birds on the bird feeder and a new feeder, but this one hanging from the hedge, as an experiment.

We ended tired, but happy. I hope this activity helps him to recognise how important it is to put the littler where it should go and helps him to understand that he is responsible for looking after this planet of ours…no matter how small the contribution.

 

 

 

A, a, ants in my arm…

Some days ago, I was reading an article in a teacher’s magazine about singing and how through singing children can develop their vocabulary and learn phonics naturally.

The funny thing is, nowadays children do not sing in school as often as they should. Many mothers I have spoken to say the same. My son, if you ask him if he sang at school or if he had rhymes, he will tell you “no” but he will tell you about the latest hit in his nursery classroom: phonics.

I found out a few weeks back about them when my son was going about “a, a, ants in my arm”. He was repeating it with no rhythm, no melody. Just repeating the phrase and moving his fingers on his arm, up and down.

Me: “Where did you learn that?”

Him: “Miss told us. We watched it on the biiiiiig screen”

Me: “Ahh, I see. Do you like it?”

Him: “A, a, ants in my arm…”

The following day I took him to nursery and I asked one of the teachers and then she told me about a phonic programme they are using in the class room. She told me the three letters they were working on, and she insisted on not going any further than those letters. “Fair enough” was my answer.

Later that week, a letter came from the school, explaining that children in nursery were being taught phonics to “help them and prepare them for reception” and as a reinforcement they were asked to write their name; that it did not matter if they just made a line; they should write their name upon arrival instead of putting their picture up on a board.

You may think well, considering that 50% of the children in the classroom do not have English as the first language, the “ phonic programme” is a way to introduce them to the mysteries of English phonics so it does not hit them like a ton of bricks when they start reception. About writing their name, I suppose it introduces them to writing and literacy.

But let me focus on this phonics thing.

What is the difference between a youtube clip on phonics and sing? Yes, I know…youtube is there, a few clicks away. Whilst you watch the child(ren) with a corner of one eye you can get on preparing something else for the rest of the afternoon.

Voila’! Job done! Children are entertained and hey presto they learn. And you manage to get on with that something else that needs to be done.

I have worked alongside teachers from different schools who would not sing at all. I have been with teachers who would sing just for the sake of it. And children followed, happily as if it was the most natural thing, even those whose first language was not English. Hence, they were learning the mysteries of English phonics without any awareness of doing so. They were properly, not promptly, learning.

When children sing, they are learning to find the accents, the variations in sound, the tone, the beat. The rhymes and verses nourish their imaginations and help them develop they vocabulary. Not to mention that the repetition of these will give them security and confidence when speaking.

And this goes further: when you add movement to the singing, children start to learn about rhythm, timing, helping them to coordinate gross and fine motor skills which in turn will help them at a later stage in life.

You may say that children’s tv programmes do their fair share of teaching. Yes, in a metallic robotic sound (not to mention the accent), covered with songs and a paraphernalia of colours and flashing images. Where the rhythm and rhyme are accelerated, accentuated, and stripped of any natural timbre. Nothing can beat the human voice. Nothing.

And with the human voice comes one of the most beautiful, unique, most powerful by product: Singing. When you sing with will, with joy – even if you are like me that you cannot sing to save your life – children will follow suit. Because children can tell when you are making an effort, when you are confronted with something that takes you out of your depth, but you are doing it with joy. You are role modelling that nothing is impossible.

When you sing you pour your feelings into it, whether you notice it or not. Your mood changes, the way you do an activity whilst you sing changes. Try to sing when you do not want to. It will just not happen. I can tell you even when you are in a group situation and you do not want to sing, somehow the singing becomes contagious and you end up singing and craving more, with a warm feeling inside you. Singing does have a strong social side, unifies, makes you feel part of something. Just imagine how a child would feel, all warm and fuzzy after singing with his peers. An immense shared joy which sets the base for what a social gathering should, could, would be.

Which takes me back to teachers loading any phonic programme / song and leaving the children to listen and watch. What sort of social value would/could a child feel sharing images and sounds – short of calling them noises -? From my observations, children leave the screen either more agitated or confused; in a sort of “back to what we were doing” kind of look.

Which takes me back to the gesture, to the ever so important role modelling. If a teacher does sing, even when she cannot do so like Adele, at least she is role modelling that she is putting effort into it, to do it, to get it right. She is moving her lips and showing how the vowels, syllables and phonemes are done. Perhaps she will be moving hands, standing up right and smiling.

And children are learning. The gesture, the phonics, the nothing is impossible attitude. Naturally.

 

P.S.: During the last week, we managed to put some rhythm and melody to “A, a, ants in my arm” and sounds great. Even some movement and dynamic to it.

Leasing life…

Yesterday afternoon I spend time with my little one outside on the patio. As the weather forecast was notifying us about rainy days ahead, I decided it was a great idea to make the most of the rainy days approaching and re pot / re plant all the small seedlings from tomatoes, butternut squash and verbenas I had wandering around growing silly in rather tiny pots.

All this “let’s plant seeds” started back in March, when I thought it would be a really good idea to get more flowers, but my purse was extremely light due to the lack of coins inside to purchase ready-to-pot plants.

Also, why not make the most of what I already had? I had seeds left from an old petunia which died during winter leaving me plenty of seeds to experiment with and a packet of flower seeds – verbenas in this case – that came with a magazine quite some time ago.

Tomato seedlings (the cherry variety) and butternut squash seedlings came from…yes, a tomato and a butternut squash bought in the supermarket. Since we were well advanced with our planting frenzy why not plant the seeds left?

The small inconvenience was that there were not enough pots to replant in. Since the verbenas were planted in a plastic eggbox and the butternut squash were growing inside an old plastic container (the tomatoes were the lucky ones planted in individual reasonable sized pots) I was puzzled as to how I was going to do it. I looked around and already most of the pots/containers were taken.

And there came my son, bringing with him an old yogurt pot from his sand box. “Eureka!” I said followed by a “thank you” to my son. I was going to use old yogurt pots. My son got the idea and promptly he came with more empty pots and before I could say anything he started to fill the pots with soil. When we run out of yogurt pots, I went rummaging in the plastic recycling box where I rescued a couple of plastic boxes where fruit such as plums, grapes, and peaches came.

So, with a little help he replanted the seedlings.  And thanks to him we recycled the old yogurt pots and boxes, we leased life to these new seedlings leasing life to these pots and boxes we unleashed life, helping these seedlings to expand and to fulfil their existence so to say.

It felt good.