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90th birthday card signed by 6 year old with blog name

Finding Joy in the Hard Times

It’s been rather a long time since I wrote a post for Share The Joy, the monthly linky that the gorgeous Christina hosts over on Ladybug Home. At the beginning of this year I offered to support Christina in continuing to run this lovely linky that celebrates joy-filled posts, and it has been playing on my mind that I have been too sick to do so. Which is why I am so pleased to finally be writing a post that I can link up and share with the Share The Joy Community.

It’s not that I haven’t had things I wanted to blog about, it’s just that I have been so unbelievably ill this year and looking at a computer screen long enough to type up a blog post simply hasn’t been an option. I’ve been suffering from migraines lasting for up to two whole weeks every single month, and it has been hell. Whilst trying to function through such debilitating symptoms I’ve also had the usual string of colds (I’ve got another one now), Little Man had tonsillitis, and we’ve had snow days and Easter holidays too. Add our ongoing battle with the DWP, and you can begin to understand why I simply couldn’t find the time or energy to update the blog.

But, here I am, and it is so very good to be back talking to you all. I love this little home of mine on the internet, and so does Little Man apparently. Recently my Grandma celebrated her 90th birthday and he signed his card from “The Family Patch” rather than putting his own name. Oh how it made me laugh!

90th birthday card signed by 6 year old with blog name

realising i’d lost my blogging joy

But seeing Little Man take so much pride in being part of my blog also made me realise that I had lost some of the joy of coming on here and writing. I have a very small, but truly wonderful, audience and my stats are never going to impress anyone. And so I felt pressure to change that, to make my blog more like a business, so that I could work on brand collaborations and use it as a platform for launching e-products such as courses or books. You just have to look at my plans for 2018 to realise how convinced I was that I needed to make my blog more successful than it is.

There is a reason for this, of course. At the end of last year I still hadn’t had my medical assessment for ESA and so was convinced that they wouldn’t understand how ill I am and insist that I work towards increasing my self-employed hours. And I knew that increasing my client hours was not an option, as I was struggling to keep up with just a few hours a month at that point. So it made sense to focus on my blog, because it’s easier to plan my own time working on the blog than it is when working for clients. But I’ve always been a Hobby Blogger, and have found that the times when I have tried to be more professional about growing my blog have been the times I have felt so stifled that I lost all the joy.

Thankfully the DWP actually accepted how sick I am (for which I am entirely grateful, given how sick I have been of late), and so I’ve been able to focus on simply resting and trying to get through each day as best as I can. And a large part of that is trying to find joy in the hard times, because our emotional health is as important as our physical health, don’t you think?

Share The Joy Linky Sharing My Joy

So how have I been finding joy in the hard times?

Well, first of all I have been creating time and making a conscious effort to nurture myself. I have been doing this in several ways, but the most joyful of these has to be yoga. I have found some truly wonderful yoga teachers sharing videos on YouTube and informational posts on Instagram which have really lifted me out of my funk.

Some of them are created specifically for those with chronic illnesses, making them super easy for me to do from my bed. Others focus on specific problems, such as migraines, neck and shoulder tension, backache etc, all of which I really struggle with. And then there are the Kundalini ones, which are my absolute favourites. I want to write a separate post sharing my favourite yoga finds at some point, because there truly are some amazing resources out there.

Secondly, I’ve been finding things to keep my mind occupied whilst I’m physically unable to get out of bed or leave the house. I have spent a large part of this year either bed-ridden or house bound, and it has been really challenging for me. I like being active and feeling useful, so my emotional health has taken a real beating this year. However I have been learning how to find my joy in the hard times by purposefully seeking out things that I can do. Activities have included colouring books, crocheting blankets, reading (or listening to podcasts if my head is too painful/woozy to look at a page), and planning rewrites of my novel.

crochet baby blankets using aldi chenille yarn

rediscovering myself through lost loves

What I have found through all of this is that despite my fear that my health issues have changed who I am, my passions remain the same. I still absolutely love creating things, which is why I have been drawn towards colouring books and crochet. I’ve even spent some of my birthday money on a bible journal which has beautiful illustrations to colour in, along with some stickers, gesso, and a black fineliner so that I can have a go at painting and drawing my own illustrations in the bible.

I also spent some of my birthday money on novel writing software, to help me bring all my random thoughts, character notes, chapter plans, and drafts into some kind of order. Being able to spend my birthday money on things which support my creativity and ability to find joy in the hard times has been such an amazing blessing.

Talking of birthdays, Tim also bought me second hand copies of the grammar textbooks I had at uni for both German and Russian (at my request). When I left university I had such a lack of confidence in my language skills that I simply got rid of most of my resources and never used them again. But recently I have been spending a lot of time on instagram (it’s so easy to scroll through whilst lying in bed), and I began following some German and Russian accounts.

Over time I began wanting to reply and take part in some of the activities presented by those using instagram to teach their language. I have been using DuoLingo for a while now, but hadn’t actually been in a position of having a two-sided conversation with a native speaker. And it was scary at first. But the more I did it the more I realised that I do have a natural affinity for languages and I’m actually really enjoying the learning process. I even shared a video of myself saying a Russian tongue twister!!

So that’s another way that I have been finding joy in the hard times – I have been reminding myself that even when life knocks you down so often you feel like you cannot possibly get up again, there is *always* something you can still do.

I’d love to hear from you about the things which bring you joy and how you integrate them into your lives. Do you, like me, often neglect the joyful things and have to make a conscious effort to indulge in joyful activities?

FlashSticks German Beginner Pack

FlashSticks Review – Language Learning Resources for the Whole Family

You may remember that a few weeks ago I wrote about Language Learning Resources, in which I shared how my love of languages has led to years of study and how I wished to introduce foreign languages to Little Man from a young age.

In that post, I mentioned FlashSticks as a potential language learning resource, however we had yet to try them out. Luckily, the team at FlashSticks are just as passionate about language learning as I am (in fact that are more passionate than I am by far!) and were more than happy to send us a beginner German pack to try as a family.

FlashSticks German Beginner Pack

For those of you who haven’t heard about FlashSticks, they are colour coded sets of post-it notes which you can stick around the house (or anywhere else, for that matter) and learn new words in your target language through a combination of exposure (seeing them regularly) and context (seeing a word next to the item it relates to).

We’ve been using our FlashSticks for the past few weeks and you may have seen photos cropping up on our Twitter and Instagram feeds. I decided that the easiest way for us to give you a proper idea of how we’ve been getting on would be to create a video… except I forgot that three year olds don’t generally take direction for videos and mostly do their own thing! So Little Man and I had a rather interesting afternoon putting together a review for you and after several takes and a fair amount of editing, we managed to come up with this. Enjoy…

As you can see, we’ve been having a fair amount of fun sticking our FlashSticks everywhere (some are in context, like the numbers and the chair, others are completely random depending on where Little Man chose to stick them!)

We still have a long way to go in our language learning journey, but the FlashSticks have certainly helped get us started and given Little Man an interest in learning more, and that is the most exciting part for me.

If you want to know more about FlashSticks you can find a ton of information on their website. In particular, you may find their app of real interest. It works by providing you with a native speaker pronouncing the word, so that you can hear exactly how it should sound. We haven’t actually tried it, I must be honest, because having spent years studying German and several months working in the country, I don’t feel the need to check how to pronounce basic words. My pronunciation isn’t perfect, but I do know what they should sound like, even if I can’t quite get it right myself. However were I learning a new language, I would most certainly be using the app.

In addition to all of this, you might also like to follow them on instagram and twitter, where they interact with others regularly and provide some fun ways to get involved via social media. It’s through interacting with them on twitter that I have found other language lovers to connect with, such as Lingotastic who are great fun to chat with and really supportive of introducing foreign languages to children.

As I said in the video, we love connecting with others who are on a similar journey to us, so if you are learning a foreign language, especially with your kids, then please do get in touch with us and let us know how you’re getting on!

Fancy trying FlashSticks for yourself? They are offering 10% off to any Family Patch followers who use the code THEFAMILYPATCH at checkout… Go on, have a go!!

Disclaimer: we were sent a pack of FlashSticks for free, however all our opinions are our own!

 

With Russian friends, celebrating Pancake Day

Language Learning Resources – For Those With A Love of Foreign Languages

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I miss learning foreign languages. Just ten years ago I was in Russia, studying for three months as a part of my degree. I had only recently returned from three months working in Germany. And I’d taken a trip to Italy the summer before, with another trip to Switzerland the summer before that. And yet now, I barely speak a word in another language.

With Russian friends, celebrating Pancake Day

Celebrating Pancake Day with some new friends… to this day I still have no idea what the big puppet was about! Note my Lokomotiv supporters’ hat, I still have that.

My love of languages developed pretty much as soon as I was introduced to them. I was lucky in the respect that my secondary school was big on languages. In my first year I learnt Latin and French, and then from my second year I added German into the mix (with Latin being something I took voluntarily in my lunch breaks for a couple of years). I decided to drop French after GCSE to focus on German, but always regretted that decision as I forgot it so quickly. Whilst studying for my A Levels I had the odd class in Italian and Chinese (the latter being the most complicated language I have ever tried to learn!) and then ended up taking Russian, from scratch, at University. I think it’s safe to say that I love languages!

But I never really developed the confidence to just go out and speak the language. Despite developing a really keen ear for languages, meaning that I could understand the vague gist of other languages spoken around me (Spanish, Swedish, Polish etc) based on languages I had studied with similar roots, I just never had the confidence to make much of this skill. And over time what little confidence I once had has dwindled spectacularly.

But I really want that to change. I always promised myself that I would introduce languages from a young age to any children I had, and I feel like I am not really making the most of this opportunity with Little Man. We read some books in German, and we sing some foreign songs, but other than that we don’t really use the language in our everyday lives. And if there is one thing I have learnt about languages is that the key is most definitely in using them regularly and within and everyday context.

Thankfully, with the explosion of resources available online, it is far easier to reach foreign language resources now than it ever was when I was studying. Almost every day I hear some foreign language being played by Little Man, who is a dab hand at finding new things to watch on YouTube – and he never bats an eyelid when the video he chooses is in another language, which makes me even more determined to follow his lead and just start having a go!

So with that in mind, I thought I would share with you some of the foreign language learning resources I have discovered online so far, in case you wish to have a go yourselves.

Books, Games and DVDs

The Bilingual Bookshop is an excellent UK based retailer of foreign language resources in multiple different languages. They currently have a massive sale on with 35% off using the code FB35 at the checkout.

Amazon have international sites where you can easily find books in a range of languages, direct from the country of origin. We’ve personally used the German site for books and resources. You can find a list of the different sites here.

Resources

I’ve heard about Flashsticks through various posts on social media, but have yet to give them a try myself. They are language learning post-it notes, using different colours to denote gender of words. I love the idea behind them (having cut out my own vocabularly words to stick around my house on many occasions!) because we are very visual creatures, and so these are bound to make language learning fun and easy.

YouTube is a goldmine for hearing languages spoken by natives. Let’s just think for a moment about all the bloggers and reviewers that we see on there, and then think about how many others are doing similar in their own native tongue! Little Man has stumbled upon some great kids’ reviewers in other languages and I love suddenly hearing Russian coming from the tab! But one of the things we have most loved about YouTube has been the channels made especially for children – one of our favourites is this Kinderlieder (German kids’ songs) channel.

 

I’m sure there are many more resources I have yet to find, but I hope that sharing these may have given you a few hints on where to begin if, like me, you want to include foreign languages into your everyday lives.