Juggling all the aspects of my life with some baking, writing and good old fashioned ranting thrown in

Monday, 30 April 2012

Nearing the end...

I suppose the title of this post could be seen as slightly more morbid than intended. To clarify, I am nearing the end of my second Open University course, AA100 (The Arts: Past and Present). It's quite exciting to think that once I've completed the final assessment, I'll be a third of the way through my degree. 

This course has been very interesting in places but not really my cup of tea in others. I very much enjoyed looking at historical texts and learning about philosophy. I did not enjoy analysing art. Don't mistake me, I like looking at art. I enjoy thinking about, and perhaps discussing, what the artist was thinking or what message they might be trying to convey. But analysing art in an academic sense simply bores me. University essay questions don't seem to ask how a painting made you feel and, for me, that's entirely the point of art. 

For my End of Module Assessment, I have chosen to answer a question about pilgrimage and sacred places. It will involve looking at Stonehenge and Glastonbury, two places that have always fascinated me. I may not be a pagan or believe in ley lines but I can appreciate the mysterious wonder of Stonehenge and the cultural and historical significance of Glastonbury. 

Once this course is over, I have a few months free of studying before my next course, Creative Writing (A215), begins. I plan to read as many novels as possible over the summer to get some inspiration for my own work. I have already been asking around for recommendations as I don't want to just read something that I would usually pick up off the shelf. I really want to expand my tastes to give me a wider view of fiction. 

Studying with the Open University is proving to be a great experience. It's keeping my mind active while I'm at home with the Little Monster and forcing me to do something that does not involve childcare and housework. It gives such a good sense of achievement when essays come back with good marks. It really is something I would recommend to anyone who wants to extend their education, whether it be for a career or merely for one's own sense of fulfilment.  

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

"You've Got Mail"

WARNING: This post will contain spoilers from the film You've Got Mail

I am currently watching one of my favourite romantic comedies: You've Got Mail. I utterly love it. Its hilarious one moment then moving the next, just as any good romantic comedy should be. There are also no wedged in sex scenes, which I deplore in any film. It has a wonderful soundtrack, something that can make a good film great and, in this case, a great film fantastic. I find myself singing along to The Cranberries and getting up to have a little dance to Rockin' Robin. 

I do think this film says something about modern life. We seem to be far more comfortable talking to strangers that we cannot see or shake hands with or enjoy a cup of coffee and a sticky bun with. I recall reading some startling statistic the other day about how many relationships start online now (I now can't find where I read this so I shan't try and quote the statistic since I can't back it up). Of course, there's a sinister side to internet relationships. The person you're talking to isn't necessarily the person, or even the gender, that they are claiming to be. Their motives could be far from forming a happy relationship. We're constantly being reminded to be vigilant about people we and, far more worryingly, our children are communicating with. Of course, we need to be careful. I don't put my real name, my address, my phone number or even my date of birth on the internet.

Its this very idea of anonymity, which can appear so scary, that can also be the beauty of online communication. I may not put personal details on my blog but I do feel free to write anything I want. Years ago, I had an online friend who I only knew through talking on some social networking site and MSN. She did not know me and I did not know her. We did not plan to meet and I think we both knew that this friendship could only be so deep when we'd never met in person. There is something about physical contact, even if it is just a handshake, that makes someone seem much closer. We need that, as human beings. I like blogging, I like twittering and chatting to people I don't know. It's interesting and enjoyable. But I know that if I didn't get a kiss from the Other Half or a hug from a friend, online communication would not fill that need. This online friend and I eventually openly admitted that the best thing about this friendship was that we could tell each other about all our problems and admit all of our faults because we had the privacy of anonymity. It was practically therapy. I would tell her about things that I couldn't tell anyone else and expect nothing more than sympathy and maybe advice. She couldn't interfere in my life. She couldn't gossip about me, expect maybe to people I didn't know and how could that possibly matter? And she did the same.

I think my favourite thing about blogging, other than having an excuse to write whenever I feel the urge to, is the wider perspective that blogging communities give. I read blogs from people that I would, in all probability, never meet out in the real world. Perhaps not during my lifetime, but there was a time when people only knew those who they lived close to or went to school with or worked with. That could be quite a large number of people but nothing like the number of people we can now potentially talk to, grow close to, even fall in love with.

I've never had an online romantic relationship. I've also never personally met anyone whose online relationship has led to marriage and babies. But they do exist. I can see the appeal. In reality, I am shy and self concious. Online, I am not. Nobody can tell if I'm embarrassed or nervous. It doesn't matter if I haven't straightened my hair or put on my best clothes. I suppose I'm lucky that the Other Half was previously my best friend before we started dating. He'd seen me blush a million times (I do so at the mere idea of being embarrassed), he knew I'm nervous around strangers and in strange situations and he'd seen me on days when I simply hadn't put the effort into my appearance.

As I type this, Meg Ryan is almost crying as she has just discovered that Tom Hanks is actually this amazing man that she has been chatting to online. Somewhere over the Rainbow is playing as they embrace and, of course, live happily ever after.

I feel like I should end this post responsibly. Please don't meet up with anyone from the internet on your own. Don't hand out personal details. Don't assume anyone is who they say they are. Sorry to end on a downer but the unfortunate reality is, these things must be considered.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Post-Easter Post

This Easter was a bit boring really. There are a few obvious reasons for this. Firstly, we were silly enough to think that we could leave buying Easter eggs until Good Friday. Unfortunately they were almost entirely sold out. We ended up having a few Creme eggs and I have a chocolate bunny sitting in my fridge just waiting for me to munch it up. I'm not complaining about our lack of chocolate. It's more the lack of variety. I had been hoping to get my Little Monster a an egg that included a very sweet little breakfast set. I've walked past them so many times during grocery shopping and always thought "I'll buy it later". I must remember this mistake next year.

Secondly, our kitchen is tiny and has no window and very little ventilation. This makes it impossible to actually make a full roast dinner without steam and the smell of roasting meat filling the entire flat (this stops being appetising and becomes unpleasant very quickly). So instead, we had slices of turkey from the supermarket deli counter warmed up with gravy accompanied by mashed potatoes and cook from frozen vegetables. It was nice but not the same as a proper roast dinner. Thirdly, now that we live far away from family, it was just the three of us. Don't misunderstand me, the Other Half and the Little Monster are my favourite people but I see them every single day. It would have been nice to socialise with some other people on this special occasion.

I did manage to keep the Little Monster happy though. I finally mustered the courage to let her use glue. For this first attempt, I decided very simply sticking pre-cut shapes onto a pre-cut shape would be best. She thoroughly enjoyed it and this was the result: 

It's only foam shapes glued onto a piece of card that I cut into an egg shape (badly) with a pipe cleaner poked through the top but she loves it and that's what really matters. I tried to explain that we have eggs at Easter because baby birds come from eggs at around this time of year so it's a symbol of life. I realise that this only part of the explanation of Easter but I thought that the Christian Easter story would mean absolutely nothing to her. She has no concept of death yet and, while I don't believe in guarding children from such things, I think two years old is a bit early really. 

Now that Easter is over, its time I started up my diet again. When I tried before, for two weeks I counted calories and was very strict with myself with food and exercise. This worked and I lost a reasonable amount of weight so I decided that I could carry on without being so strict and counting calories. It quickly deteriorated after this point. This time, I'm going to stick with my strict regime until I have reached my target weight. I'm not planning to starve myself or anything. I will just eat the correct amount, rather than stuffing myself with pastries, chocolate, ice cream and all those other naughty treats I keep having, and exercise more. I only want to lose about two stone, which will put me in the middle of the ideal BMI range rather than over the overweight line. So wish me luck and I shall probably have updates in later posts. If anyone has any dieting tips, I'll gladly hear them!

Monday, 2 April 2012

The right way to give birth

I was directed by a friend to Charlie Brooker's latest column. I'm not usually a fan of his (although I do enjoy his little rants on 10 o'clock live) but, since my friend had recommended it and the subject was babies, I gave it a read. I have to say, I mostly liked it. It's nice to hear a man, particularly a man who generally isn't publicly sentimental or emotional, talk about the wonderful experience of becoming a father. Plus I think he managed to get the balance between being funny and being heartfelt just right.

However, just one sentence did immediately remind of something that's always annoyed me a little bit. Mr Brooker mentioned that he fails to "comprehend why any sane 21st-century human would refuse an epidural". He is not alone in suggesting which methods of child birth are the right methods (or in his words, the "sane" methods) and I'm fairly sure it was just a funny aside anyway. So I'm not about to start a rant against Charlie Brooker. However, it did remind me of all the unsolicited advice on the "right way" to give birth I received from both parents and childless people during my pregnancy. I must say, advice on this subject from people who have no experience of it was a little more annoying than from those that have been through it or at least witnessed it. Many mothers-to-be have also sought my advice on this subject since I gave birth. Just as with any advice regarding parenthood, my advice is always "Well, this is what I did and it worked for me so maybe that's something to consider but really you should go with what you want or what works well for you". Of course, there are certain things that I would just describe as right or wrong. For example, and without going into this too much, I am against any form of smacking or hitting children and I am for feeding children fruit and vegetables. But with most parenting issues, I strongly believe that, as all parents and children are different, people should go for what would be best for them and their children. 

I also advise doing extensive research on various methods and ideas. While I was pregnant, I looked into childbirth methods for the majority of the first 6 months. Me and my husband (I do think fathers should have some say in this, although the person actually giving birth should maybe get the deciding vote) decided that I would aim to have a water birth using gas and air in a hospital. I say "aim" because one can never accurately predict what's going to happen during child birth. As it happens, everything went well and I think having a water birth with gas and air worked well for me. I'd probably choose it again if and when I have a baby again. 

The comments I got when I told people about my birthing plans ranged from enthusiastically positive to insulting. Some people thought it sounded wonderful. Some thought it sounded utterly stupid and crazy - why wouldn't I want to make birth as painless as possible? Some thought I must be some kind of hippy who didn't believe in medicine (I asked these people what they thought gas and air was. In one case, the response was actually "yeah but it's not like real drugs". Yeah, I'm clearly the crazy person in that conversation). Some people asked why I wanted gas and air at all, they believed that childbirth was something to be experienced without any kind of medical interference. Some asked why I wanted to be in a hospital rather than in the comfort of my own home. I think only a very very small number of people actually bothered to ask me why or how I had made my choice. The truth is the idea of having an epidural scares me. I have a huge problem with needles, never mind one being stuck in my spine. Added to that, I have looked into many cases of an epidural causing paralysis. Yes, the likelihood of this happening is slim but it does happen. I liked the idea of a water birth. It sounded relaxing and I thought that could really help. As it happens, I did find it relaxing and that did really help. I wanted to be in a hospital because I knew I wouldn't feel comfortable at home. If something went wrong, I wanted to have medical assistance to hand. 

I am in no way saying that because a water birth worked me, that every pregnant woman should have one. For starters, I know that, at least in some hospitals, you cannot have a water birth if you are labelled as "high risk". Some hospitals don't even have the facilities to give the option of water births and even if they do, it's possible that one could turn up at the maternity ward in labour to find that all of the water birthing facilities are in use already. The midwifery team at our hospital of choice would not arrange a home birth for a first time mother so I wouldn't really have had that option unless I wished to do so without a midwife present. Other factors could lead women to have very different births plans than mine. Some women may be much happier with having injections, some women may have cultural or religious reasons for particular choices, some women may not be comfortable in water and some women may feel more secure with a doctor performing the birth rather than a midwife. 

My conclusion is this: childbirth is, in my opinion, the most personal experience there is. Therefore, how you go about that should also be a personal choice. There is no "right way" to give birth. It's your baby, not your neighbour's, not your best friend's and not your mother's. Do your own research. Look into your options and make your own decision.